- The US Army announced the killing of senior Al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar in Syria last Friday (Oct 22). The strike did not cause any other known casualties. It was done during a drone strike which came two days after a US outpost in southern Syria was attacked. However, it is unsure as to whether the strike was a retaliation to the attack. However, a US Central Command spokesman said this move will disrupt Al-Qaeda’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks on the innocent.
- Officers from the US Intelligence issued new warnings last Friday (Oct 22) about China’s plans regarding artificial intelligence and advanced technology. If successful, it could give Beijing the military edge and possible dominance over healthcare and other essential sectors in the US.
- US President Joe Biden told a town hall last Thursday (Oct 21) that the US will defend Taiwan should they be attacked by China. His assurance signals the US’ departure from a longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity”. President Biden added that the US-Taiwan relations are guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, to which they will support and commit. Additionally, the US will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo.
- Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed last Thursday (Oct 21) that the country will be launching a standardised COVID-19 vaccine passport which will include a QR code for scanning at travelling points of entry. This will render it more convenient for vaccinated citizens to travel. The proof-of-vaccination certificate will have a Canadian identifying mark and will meet global smart health card standards. An individual’s name, date of birth, and COVID-19 vaccine history will be included in the certificate, which will commence from Nov 30.
- The US House of Representatives voted last Thursday (Oct 21) to charge the longtime political advisor Steve Bannon, who worked for former US President Donald Trump. Bannon will be charged with criminal contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena from a committee investigating the Capitol riot on Jan 6, 2021. The committee in charge of investigating the riots is seeking testimony and documents from Bannon regarding his conversations with Trump, Republican members of Congress, and other key figures days before the Capitol riots. They are especially interested in the meeting between Bannon and Trump’s supporters at a hotel in Washington DC, a day before the riots.
- A report released by the Human Rights Watch last Thursday (Oct 21) accused the US immigration authorities of abusing asylum seekers. It consisted of events that happened between 2016 to 2021, where federal agents had physically, sexually, and verbally abused the asylum seekers. The report shows insights into several serious complaints that immigration officials have received in recent years.
- The US, Britain and France condemned North Korea’s testing of its “new” Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) last Tuesday (Oct 19) at the United Nations (UN), ahead of a closed-door Security Council meeting. They hoped for existing international sanctions to be more effectively implemented. However, North Korea defended their actions and accused the US of having double standards when it comes to the testing of weapons. The remaining 2 members – China and Russia – of the UN Security Council (UNSC) did not make any statement about the issue.
- The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) report published last Wednesday (Oct 20) found out that governments who have made ambitious pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions are still planning to extract twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 as compared to 2015. This comes 10 days before the COP26 climate summit which aims to accelerate actions towards achieving goals made during the Paris Climate Agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The report also stated that countries have put aside more than US$300 billion (S$404.4 billion) in new funds towards activities requiring fossil fuels, more than that towards clean energy.
- US Secretary of State, Anthony J. Blinken, announced last Monday (18 Oct) that the top US envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad will be stepping down from his post. This comes less than two months after the US withdrew from Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to take over the country. Blinken thanked him for his service to the American people while announcing Khalilzad’s resignation.
- Former US President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit in court last Monday (18 Oct) to block Congress from obtaining White House records regarding the deadly Capitol riots on Jan 6. The committee requires the documents to investigate how a mob of Trump supporters stormed that Capitol building on Jan 6 in attempts to stop the certification of Biden’s win. However, Trump is requesting the courts to declare the committee’s request as invalid and unenforceable.
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited an Indigenous community last Monday (Oct 18), alongside Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir. This came after the discovery of more than 200 unmarked graves of children who died at a nearby church-run Kamloops Indian Residental School. PM Trudeau hoped to work with the Indigenous communities on addressing historical wrongs. He also apologised for going on a holiday on Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and ignoring an invitation to visit the Indigenous community.
- The US White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced last Monday (Oct 18) that the State Department and the FBI are attempting to locate and free a group of Christian missionaries who were abducted in Haiti. A notorious Haitian gang have been accused of kidnapping the US missionaries, including 12 adults and five children – the largest reported kidnapping recently. The group consisted of 16 US and one Canadian citizen. They were taking a bus back after visiting an orphanage when the kidnappings occurred.
- Barbados elected its first-ever president last Thursday (Oct 21) to replace Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, stepping away from its colonial past. Dame Sandra Mason, 72, will be sworn into office on Nov 30, marking the country’s 55th anniversary of British rule. Dame Mason has been appointed as the former governor-general of the island since 2018. She also served in the Barbados Court of Appeals. Prime Minister Mia Mottley maintains that the decision was not a condemnation of the country’s British past.
- Haitians mounted a nationwide strike on the streets of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince last Monday (Oct 18) to protest against worsening insecurity and gang violence after the abduction of a group of Christian missionaries. 12 adults and five children, 16 who were from the US were on a missionary trip before being kidnapped by local gang 400 Mazowo, who demanded US$1 million (S$1.35 million) for each person. This kidnapping highlights the kidnapping problem that plagues the country, where more than 600 kidnappings were recorded in the first 3 quarters of 2021. The FBI has confirmed their role in trying to get the Americans back to safety.
- A Brazilian Senate State released a report last Wednesday (Oct 20) to recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with crimes against humanity and jailed over his handling of the country’s Covid-19 pandemic. His alleged misinformation and downplaying of the virus has cost Brazil 600,000 lives, the second-highest death count aside from the United States. The final draft of the report recommends the populist President be charged with nine separate offences including charlatanism, incitement to commit crimes, the propagation of pathogenic germs, and crimes against humanity. The President was quick to reject the accusations, insisting on his innocence.
- Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso ordered a 60-day state of emergency last Monday (Oct 18), in response to a surge of drug-related crimes. During these 60 days, the military will be executing drug and arms confiscation operations in nine of the country’s 24 provinces. Lasso estimates 70 per cent of violent deaths in the province of Guayas to be related to drug trafficking. Additionally, the measure was introduced weeks after a prison fight in the port city of Guayaquil left 119 inmates dead.
- Iran is set to sign a 20-year cooperation accord with Venezuela when President Nicolas Maduro visits Tehran in the coming months. According to Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, a joint economic cooperation commission will be formed to finalise the details of the agreement. Iran and Venezuela are both major oil producers and have cooperated closely in the oil-exporting cartel, OPEC. This move appears to be in retaliation to Western sanctions imposed upon Iran. The agreement follows a 25 year deal between Iran and China, with Iran eyeing a long-term agreement with Russia.
- A 45-day mass gathering ban was pushed through congress last Wednesday (Oct 20), as thousands took to the streets in El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, in protest of controversial policies enacted by President Nayib Bukele. By legalising Bitcoin, many demonstrators fear it will bring instability and inflation to the country. They also protested his anti-democratic practices and accused him of using authoritarian means to tighten his grip on power. Legislator Johnny Wright Sol of the opposition party Our Time critiques the ban saying, “This is apparently a decree that is disguised as a coronavirus prevention measure, but which is really aimed at one kind of gathering,” as cultural and sports events remain untouched.
- Colombia’s most-wanted drug trafficker, Dairo Antonio Usuga, also known as “Otoniel”, has reportedly been arrested by authorities last Saturday (Oct 23). Otoniel became head of the Gulf Clan, previously known as the Usuga Clan, after its previous leader – his brother – was killed by the police almost ten years ago. The gang, 1,200-men strong, was labelled as the country’s most powerful criminal organisation. The capture of the head of Colombia’s largest drug-trafficking gang is a huge win for President Ivan Duque, whose country is the world’s leading cocaine exporter.
- Malaysia denied claims that it may join Abraham Accords and normalise relations with Israel last Wednesday (Oct 20). Foreign Minister of Malaysia, Saifuddin Abdullah, mentioned that they will not stand with the Israelites and will firmly support the Palestinian and their agendas. The Abraham Accords is a joint statement between the United States (US), Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to engage in diplomatic ties with each other. Malaysia will continue contributing financial aid as well as political support to the Palestinians.
- Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar criticised citizens last Wednesday (Oct 20) for their attitude towards the environment. Citizens dumped their rubbish in drains and rivers, clogging their drainage systems, resulting in the inability to drain excess water due to downpours causing flashfloods in certain areas. The Sultan has since urged all residents to be more responsible when disposing of waste as the Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB) has been allocating RM6 million (US$1.44 million) for drainage maintenance every year.
- Floods and landslides struck Nepal and India last Thursday (Oct 21), resulting in around 200 people perishing. Many were washed away and separated by floods while roads and towns were destroyed. Due to intense deforestation and climate change, extreme weather is getting more volatile yet common. Nepal reported having 88 deaths and high casualties from high rainfall resulting in floods. In the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, 55 people are confirmed to have died last Thursday (Oct 21) due to the floods. State Disaster Secretary S. Murugeshan mentioned that the number of deaths could still be increasing as missing people have not yet been accounted for. Officials have deployed search and rescue teams to aid stranded individuals.
- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte took full responsibility for the extensive drug war happening in the Philippines last Thursday (Oct 21). The United Nations (UN) has been breathing down their necks to investigate the allegations of drug suspects’ murders and Duterte’s anti-drug campaigns. More than 6,000 people have been killed by the police and many drug abusers were shot dead by anonymous gunmen. Police claimed that these deadly drug operations were acts of “self-defence”. Many of the officers involved were either demoted or suspended from duties. Human Rights senior researcher, Carlos Conde, deemed this war on drugs as an “illegal, murderous policy”. Around 6,191 people were killed in the anti-drug operations in July 2016.
- The US nuclear envoy, Sung Kim, urged North Korea to stop its missile tests and resume nuclear diplomacy last Sunday (Oct 24). This comes after Kim visited South Korea last Saturday (Oct 23), amid North Korea missile tensions. Kim met with South Korean officials to discuss the situation after North Korea fired its first underwater Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) in two years. Denuclearisation talks between the US and North Korea have been at a standstill as both countries are unable to come to a compromise. North Korea mentioned that they will only continue negotiating if the US removes its hostile policy, which includes sanctions. North Korea also claimed that the SLBM tests are for self-defence purposes with no intention to hurt or harm any state.
- A UN human rights report published last Friday (Oct 22) showed that thousands of troops and heavy weapons were being moved in the north and northwest of Myanmar. This has resulted in the UN to fear of “mass atrocity crimes” in Myanmar as the troops gather in the north. More than 1,100 people have been killed since the coup took over in February this year. UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews, believes that the junta is likely to be committing crimes against humanity. He drew parallels to the military strategy to carry out the genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017 with the current actions of the coup. Andrews also urged countries to discourage the junta by cutting their financial supports and supply of weapons, citing that the military forces have cast a quarter of million people out on the streets, detained and tortured people including children.
- The European Union (EU) strengthened ties with Taiwan by choosing to engage in investment plans last Thursday (Oct 21), causing China to be upset as a similar agreement was established between the EU and China last year. An EU lawmaker insisted that the bloc’s trade office in Taipei be renamed the European Union Office. However, China has since demanded the EU to stop their actions which are perceived to have undermined its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry shared their gratitude and hopes to progressively deepen ties with the EU.
- The European leaders paid tribute to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, last Friday (Oct 22) as she plans to depart from office. Leaders gathered in Brussels to watch a two-minute video on the special summit highlights of Merkel. They also honoured her with a gift reflecting the Europa building where meetings are usually held. European Council President Charles Michel described Merkel as “a compass and a shining light” in the Europe project. Merkel embodied and believed in a united Europe. Her diplomatic skills and cool temper also brought compromises to many difficult and complex issues.
- During the EU summit last Thursday (Oct 21), European leaders pressured Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to fall back in line. While bloc members are expected to respect common rules and values, Poland has been imposing their self-interests and values at will, resulting in its financial assistance from the EU being withheld. The EU’s executive committee can start the infringement procedures or the suspension of payments from the EU on Poland. If this conflict is unresolved, it could lead to the biggest institutional crisis for the EU after the UK’s decision to leave in 2016.
- Greece pledged last Tuesday (Oct 19) to link Egypt to the EU’s energy market through an undersea cable that goes across the Mediterranean. This will benefit both countries as they now have a diversity of energy sources especially with the rise in costs of natural oil, coal and other forms of fuel currently. The rising costs have affected businesses and the cost of living. Greece is still continuing to seek energy cooperation with Turkey, Israel, Egypt and across the Mediterranean.
- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused Brussels and Washington of trying to meddle with their political elections happening in April 2022. Orban announced last Saturday (Oct 24) that the fate of Hungarians is in their own hands, no matter what the media, US or the EU says. For the first time, Orban will be facing a united front of opposition parties. Orban steps up his pre-campaigns by showering electorates with handouts, including tax rebates for families. The opposition party rallies to draft new constitutions, reduce corruption with more checks and balances, introduce the Euro currency and allow freedom of media.
- Saudi Arabia announced its plans to reach “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2060 last Saturday (Oct 23). As one of the world’s largest oil producers, this is the first Green Initiative Forum by Saudi Arabia. However, there is yet to be an indication Saudi Arabia would be slowing down their investments in oil and gas, or relinquish sway over energy markets by moving away from the production of fossil fuels. The Crown Prince has also pledged that they will plan 450 million trees to rehabilitate huge swaths of degraded lands by 2030.
- UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, says the discussion between the Syrian government, opposition, and civil society groups over constitutional reforms have been a disappointment. The groups involved were unable to make any progress, which has been the sixth round of talks regarding the issue. While they were able to agree on allocating constitutional provisions, they were unable to come to a consensus.
- Syria executed 24 people last Wednesday (Oct 20) after charging them with starting wildfires last year, which killed three people and burned thousands of acres of forests. The justice ministry announced that their actions were an act of terrorism, resulting in death and damages to the state infrastructure as well as public and private property. Other individuals involved were also sentenced to hard labour for life, temporary penal labour, or jail sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years. They had confessed to having meetings to plan the fires between September and October last year. There were a total of 187 fires affecting 280 towns and villages.
- Several London-based human rights lawyers have filed a complaint last Wednesday (Oct 20) to the British police accusing senior government figures in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of being involved in war crimes in Yemen. The group calls for individuals to be immediately arrested if they enter the UK. They largely focus on three events – a 2018 air attack on a school bus in northern Yemen, a 2016 aerial bombing of a funeral in the capital, Sanaa, and the alleged torture and murder of civilians in Aden.
- At least 11 people have been killed after a Syrian army shelled the residential areas of the rebel-held city of Ariha in Idlib province last Wednesday (Oct 20). This comes after the bomb attack on the same day on a bus carrying troops in Damascus, Syria’s capital. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) confirmed that four children died in the attack. The region is the last part of the country that is not under the control of the Syrian government.
- A bomb attack on a bus carrying troops in Damascus, Syria has resulted in the deaths of at least 14 military personnel and three wounded. This is the deadliest bombing in the capital in years. The attack occurred during peak hours where people were heading to work and school. While two explosive devices went off, an army engineering unit was able to diffuse the third device.
- The European Commission’s report published on Tuesday (Oct 19) signalled that Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union (EU) has “come to a standstill”. This comes after the EU accused Turkey of having serious democratic shortfalls after consistently ignoring their recommendations last year. The bloc has been concerned about Turkey’s lack of sufficient democratic checks with regards to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.
- The lead judge of the Beirut Port blast, Tarek Bitar, has scheduled interrogations with former ministers Nouhad Machnouk and Ghazi Zeiter last Tuesday (Oct 19). Both current sitting members of parliament are to be interrogated this Friday (Oct 29). Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hasan Diab also has a pending interrogating this Thursday (Oct 28). Additionally, two other ex-ministers Ali Hasan Khalil and Yousek Finianos have been issued arrest warrants. While all four former ministers have repeatedly filed legal complaints to remove Bitar from the investigations, it has either been rejected or still pending.
- Several hundreds of supporters of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, a pro-Iranian former paramilitary force, flooded the streets of Baghdad last Tuesday (Oct 19) to protest against fraud at the recent parliamentary elections. They gathered along the street which led to the entrance of the high-security Green Zone where the US embassy, other diplomatic missions, and government offices were. The protestors were also against the US and their normalisation of ties with Israel, demanding all US forces to leave the country.
- The Damascus Gate in and surrounding streets in occupied East Jerusalem was violently raided by Israeli forces last Tuesday (Oct 19), leaving 22 Palestinians wounded and 25 arrested. The forces were seen arresting and assaulting young people last Monday (Oct 18) by beating, chasing, raiding, and firing tear gas and sounding bombs at crowded. Medical staff were also attacked in the process. This happened while Palestinians were gathering to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday in a public space.
- A fire broke out at Kuwait’s Mina Al-Ahmadi oil refinery last Monday (Oct 18), causing several workers to suffer from minor injuries and smoke inhalation. Those who were taken to the hospital have since been in stable condition. The Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) said their operations were unaffected and the fire was brought under control quickly.
- Nigeria’s security adviser Babagana Monguno announced last Friday (Oct 22) that their security forces killed Malam Bako, the new leader of the Islamic State in West Africa Province’s (ISWAP). This follows the death of the group’s previous leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the previous week. However, there is no confirmation of Bako’s death from the ISWAP or through independent verification.
- Authorities in Eswatini have banned protests last Thursday (Oct 21) in response to a surge of pro-democracy rallies against the last absolute monarchy in Africa fuelled by the stark inequalities in the country. The ban came in light of regional envoys from other Southern African countries arriving in the kingdom attempting to ease rising tensions. Formerly known as Swaziland, the country has been rocked by periodic protests for wider political reforms. Nurses have refused to treat police officers accused of shooting their colleagues during a rally last Wednesday (Oct 20). Some internet services, like Facebook, were temporarily shut down last week in response to the unrest.
- Protests broke out in Sudan last Thursday (Oct 21), with those supporting the transitional government congregating in the streets of its capital, Khartoum. Simultaneously, rival pro-military protesters gathered outside the presidential palace calling upon the military to seize power. According to estimates, protestors of both factions number in the hundreds of thousands. The relationship between military generals and the Sudanese pro-democracy groups has deteriorated in recent weeks over the country’s future that has led to ongoing competing rallies. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said 37 people were injured in the protests, although both sides cautioned their supporters to refrain from violence.
- Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble have reportedly ended a dispute that delayed the country’s upcoming elections last Thursday (Oct 21). The initial dispute was sparked by the government’s handling of the disappearance of a female spy, Ikran Farah, in June. This led to the appointment of parallel intelligence chiefs and security ministers. The two leaders mentioned that “The leadership have agreed to accelerate the election process by calling on the federal member states to start the election of the [lower house of] parliament in the next couple of weeks.” They also agreed to leave the case of the missing female intelligence agent for the courts to decide.
- Hundreds of school students adorned in their school uniforms marched into the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) parliament building to demand higher pay for their teachers last Thursday (Oct 21). The teachers have been on strike since Oct 4, in protest of issues like salary and retirement age. Students in uniforms could be seen chanting “We want to study” as they stormed the parliament. Jean-Marc Kabund, the first vice president of the National Assembly, who left as they arrived, spoke to the students peacefully.
- Benin lawmakers voted to legalise abortion in the West African country last Wednesday (Oct 20). The amendment was passed after heated debate and strong opposition from some lawmakers. Prior to this amendment, abortion was only legally allowed in limited situations such as rape or incest cases, if the mother’s life or child’s health was severely threatened. The Minister of Health Benjamin Hounkpatin describes the measure as a form of relief for females facing undesired pregnancies and are forced to undergo illegal or unsafe abortions, putting their lives at risk.