Haitian migration towards the United States has been on the rise as the island nation battles poverty, violence and political instability. | Photo Credit: AP Photo/Felix Marquez

Jan 17: The US Coast Guard pulled 176 Haitians from an overloaded, unseaworthy boat approaching Florida’s coast last Monday (Jan 10). A former Syrian colonel was sentenced to life in prison by a German court last Thursday (Jan 14) for atrocities committed in Syria under the Assad regime. Uganda reopened its schools last Monday (Jan 10) after 83-week closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

North America:

  • Former Haitian senator and key suspect in the murder of Haitian President, John Joel Joseph, was arrested by Jamaican authorities last Friday (Jan 14). The murder of Haitian President Jovenal Moise happened last July. While Joseph was arrested in Jamaica, the Constabulary Force did not comment as to whether the arrest was requested by the United States (US) Federal Bureau of Investigation who has also been investigating the murder. Some other people who were also arrested with Joseph are currently being determined if they are his family members. 
  • Protestors took to the streets last Thursday (Jan 13) in a North Carolina city after an unarmed Black man, Jason Walker, was shot by an off-duty police officer. The officer, Jeffrey Hash, was driving with his wife and daughter when they approached Walker. Hash opened fire moments later, resulting in Walker passing away due to gunshot wounds. The circumstances as to why Hash shot Walker is still under investigation. 
  • In an interview with US public radio station NPR last Thursday (Jan 13), US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned that there are only a few weeks left to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal before Tehran’s advancements become too difficult to reverse. Blinken mentioned that Iran could soon be able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, especially since they have broken out of their constraints under the agreement. 
  • The United States Department of the Treasury sanctioned five North Koreans last Wednesday (Jan 12) for allegedly procuring goods for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile-related programmes. This comes after North Korea launched six ballistic missiles since September 2021. Hence, the treasury noted the DPRK’s violation of multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR). However, the DPRK criticised the US’ move and fired at least two ballistic missiles just hours after doing so.
  • The US Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s vaccine mandate last Thursday (Jan 13). It was President Biden’s effort to require employees at large businesses to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. However, on the same day, the top court allowed the federal government to proceed with the mandate for most US healthcare workers. The court with a conservative majority explained that the Biden administration overstepped its authority by planning to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) rule. President Biden has since expressed his disappointment in blocking the mandate which could potentially save lives. 
  • In light of the surge in Omicron variant cases in the US, President Biden announced last Thursday (Jan 13) that the federal government will double its order of rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests which will be free for Americans. This comes amid rising concern about the easily transmissible Omicront variant, resulting in medical facilities being overwhelmed and a shortage of staff. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest update last Wednesday (Jan 12) reported that the US currently has over 750,000 cases per day. 
  • The US Coast Guard pulled 176 Haitians from an overloaded, unseaworthy boat approaching Florida’s coast last Monday (Jan 10). They were around 40km northeast of the Bahamas when they were spotted. There were no basic life-saving equipment or navigation lights. While there were no lives lost, 10 people were hospitalised as they had symptoms of dehydration. This incident comes amid a spike in migration from Haiti as many Haitians have been fleeing the crisis-stricken country. 
  • Officials from the US and Russia held security talks in Geneva last Monday (Jan 10) with the aim of defusing tensions over Ukraine. Moscow and Washington’s relationship is currently at a low point due to Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine. Despite the meeting, diplomats on both sides were pessimistic over the prospects for progress. 
  • Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced last Monday (Jan 10) that he tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time. The positive result came shortly after two of his cabinet secretaries reported positive as well. Mexico is currently experiencing its latest wave of infections fuelled by the Omicron variant. President Obrador mentioned that his symptoms are mild are will remain in isolation until he gets well. However, he has been accused of irresponsible behaviour as he did not wear a mask while speaking to journalists a few hours before his announcement. He also complained of congestion, citing that it was simply the flu. 
  • A statement by the US White House last Monday (Jan 10) revealed that President Biden spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed regarding the conflict within the country. This move reaffirmed the US commitment to work with the African Union (AU) and other regional partners to help resolve the conflict. Concerns were raised about civilian deaths in recent air raids. Both leaders discussed how to speed up the dialogue towards a negotiated ceasefire, which could improve humanitarian access across Ethiopia. 
  • The US imposed a new round of sanctions on Nicaraguan officials last Monday (Jan 10), the same day Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was sworn into office. This move was to increase pressure on President Ortega and his wife over accusations of state acts of violence, disinformation and targeting of independent media. Hence, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken explained that the US, along with other democracies, will continue to call out the Ortega-Murillo regime’s ongoing abuses. The US will also deploy diplomatic and economic tools to support the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights in Nicaragua. 

South America: 

  • Argentina recorded its highest electricity consumption level last Friday (Jan 14) due to the historic heatwave the country is currently experiencing. According to Argentina’s official National Meteorological Service, some towns have heated up to 45 deg C. Both the heat and a prolonged drought have hit Argentina’s crops. However, there is hope that temperatures could drop in the upcoming week which will cool the crops, animals and people. 
  • COVID-19 cases in Brazil doubled last Thursday (Jan 13) as compared to cases in the previous week. However, experts believe the actual number could be higher due to a shortage of tests and unreliable systems for reporting and public disclosure of data. Despite the spike in the number of cases caused by the Omicron variant, resulting in strains on the country’s hospital system, President Jair Bolsonaro continues to downplay the situation. He has been hostile towards restrictions and spread misinformation about COVID-19 since it started. 
  • The United Nations (UN) human rights agency reported last Thursday that at least 78 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2021. Additionally, more cases are still being verified. The issue of violence against human rights defenders, environmentalists and community activists has become a big challenge for Colombian President Ivan Duque’s government due to international criticism and demands to stop the killings. 
  • Colombia’s Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez said last Tuesday (Jan 11) that its consul in Haiti received threats after attempting to give aid to 18 former Colombian soldiers. The soldiers were arrested as part of an investigation into the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise last year. However, Ramirez did not provide further details regarding the nature of threats or who made them. 
  • In light of the surge in COVID-19 cases in Chile, they started administering the fourth dose of vaccines last Monday (Jan 10). This is the first Latin American country to do so as the Omicron variant has been resulting in a rise of cases. Those with weakened immune systems will be the first to receive the shots and will be extended to everyone above the age of 55 this February. 

Asia Pacific:

  • North Korea tested a suspected ballistic missile last Tuesday (Jan 11), less than a week after what was confirmed to be a hypersonic missile test. The launch came as North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un’s pledged to bolster national defence this year, despite renewed international calls for denuclearisation.
  • China and Iran announced the launch of a 25-year cooperation agreement between the two nations last Friday (Jan 14), during a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian. The agreement which was signed last March entails economic, military and security cooperation between the two countries. The meeting also had Minister Wang reiterate China’s strong interest in renewing the 2015 Nuclear Deal as well as reaffirming its position on the United States (US) unilateral sanctions on Iran, saying the country was to blame for continual difficulties, due to its pulling out of the deal and reimposition of sanctions in 2018, under the Trump administration. 
  • Five new corruption charges have been laid against ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on top of five existing charges of corruption last Friday (Jan 14). The new charges, each punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine, include the hire, purchase and maintenance of a helicopter. The Former President has been detained since last February following Myanmar’s military coup. The charges have been criticised by Aung’s supporters and rights groups as an attempt to justify the military’s political takeover and prevent her return to government. 
  • The death toll following the political unrest in Kazakhstan was raised to 225 last Saturday (Jan 15), of which 19 fatalities were that of law-enforcement personnel. Violence had escalated during clashes between security forces and anti-government protestors after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered troops to ‘fire without warning’ last week. 
  • Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia last Sunday (Jan 16), following the federal court’s decision. The unvaccinated sportsman had been held in detention, following the rejection of his visa for a second time. A previous exemption that would have allowed his entry was overturned. The Australian government had since declared that his entry into the country would be a threat to public health. Djokovic’s entry attempts had sparked an outcry from the Australian public over safety concerns and criticism against the government’s initial exemption. 

Europe:

  • Protests erupted in various cities across France last Saturday (Jan 14), in response to a new law that would impose restrictions on those unvaccinated against COVID-19. The bill, which is still being debated in Parliament, prompted thousands to flood the streets, with reported calls of ‘no to the vaccine’ or ‘freedom for Djokovic’ – the unvaccinated athlete who had to be deported from Australia. France’s measure to deactivate the government-issued ‘health passes’ of those who have not received a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was also put into place last Saturday (Jan 14). The decision is part of France’s efforts to battle the recent wave of Omicron infections. 
  • Calls for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation grew after he was revealed to be attending weekly parties hosted by his staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The reports detailing Johnson’s activities since 2020 mounted in the past week, with Johnson apologising in Parliament on Wednesday (Jan 12), for attending a “work event”, and subsequently to Queen Elizabeth II on Friday (Jan 14) for attending a party on the eve of her late husband, Prince Philip’s, funeral. Investigations are still ongoing as to whether the gatherings were knowingly held against the law, during the nation’s previous lockdowns.
  • Russia was accused by US officials last Friday (Jan 14) that Russian “influence actors” trained in urban warfare have already begun to fabricate provocations in both state and social media platforms. They have since denied the US allegations that it has plans to carry out a “false flag” operation as a pretext for a broader Russian invasion into Ukraine, dismissing the allegations as “unfounded”. Currently, more than 100,000 Russian troops have amassed at Ukraine’s border. Ukraine also accused Russia of being behind the cyberattack on government agencies, last Friday (Jan 14). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has since proposed diplomatic discussions between himself, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin to address Ukraine’s increasing security issues, despite the recent talks involving NATO and the US proving unsuccessful in swaying Russia’s position. 
  • Ethnic Serbs on Kosovan soil were banned by Kosovo from voting in Serbia’s referendum last Sunday (Jan 16). The bill, if passed, would make amendments to the Serbian constitution with regards to how officials such as judges and prosecutors are elected. The change would take steps towards an independent judiciary, a requirement for governments part of the European Union (EU). While Serbia continually refuses to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence in 2008, its opposers including the US, United Kingdom (UK) and the EU mission urged Serbian Prime Minister Albin Kurti to retract his decision on the vote. However, President Kurti claimed the ethnic vote in Kosovo would be against Serbia’s constitution, which was backed by 76 out of 120 deputies within Parliament. The ramifications of the decision may be seen in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections this April.
  • Thousands of protestors gathered in the streets of Amsterdam, Netherlands, last Sunday (Jan 16), in opposition of the country’s increased COVID-19 measures and vaccination campaign. Demonstrators marched with banners and yellow umbrellas, chanting anti-government slogans and playing music, causing traffic obstructions. The country’s new measures came in response to the recent wave of Omicron infections across Europe. Similar protests have erupted across several European countries including France, Germany and Hungary, in response to increased COVID-19 restrictions in the past week. 

Middle East: 

  • Iran’s permanent representative to the UN mentioned last Friday (Jan 14) that the country is looking for channels to pay its dues to the organisation. Due to sanctions by the US, Iran has been unable to access funds in its overseas accounts. This has resulted in Iran’s voting rights in the UN being suspended over late dues. 
  • Envoys from Turkey and Armenia held their first round of talks last Friday (Jan 14) in an attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord. The accord was never ratified and ties have remained tense since. Additionally, the countries have been at odds for many issues, particularly the 1.5 million people who Armenia said, were killed in 1915. Despite their tensions, both countries said the talk was “positive and constructive”, signalling that ties could be restored and bordered reopened after decades of animosity. The special envoys also exchanged preliminary views regarding the normalisation process.
  • Two civilians were wounded last Thursday (Jan 13) after a rocket attack on Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. At least four rockets targeted the US Embassy where three struck within the perimeter and another hit a school located in a nearby residential complex, injuring a woman and a girl. An Iraqi military statement said the rockets were launched from the Dora neighbourhood of Baghdad. There has not been any immediate claim of responsibility for the attack yet. The US Embassy has been repeatedly targeted by rocket attacks since Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in a US drone attack in January 2020.
  • A former Syrian colonel, Anwar Raslan was given a life sentence last Thursday (Jan 14). Raslan is the highest-ranking official so far to stand trial for atrocities committed in Syria. He had been accused in 2019 by German federal prosecutors of complicity in crimes against humanity. Before he sought asylum in Germany in 2012, Raslan was in charge of an office in Syria’s notoriously brutal secret service, Branch 251, in Damascus. He was accused of being involved in torture, murder, aggravated deprivation of liberty, rape and sexual assault. This is the first criminal trial focused on war crimes in Syria and marks the first step towards justice for countless Syrians who suffered under President Bashar al-Assad’s government. 
  • Lebanon’s transportation unions called for a “Day of rage” last Thursday (Jan 14) in which truck and bus drivers blocked roads and highways with their vehicles, urging the government to help them cope with skyrocketing fuel prices. This move was to paralyse the country and pressure authorities into subsidising fuel prices and providing financial compensation in light of the surge in expenses. Though Lebanon’s head of land transport unions said that Prime Minister Najib Mikati would compensate the drivers, nothing has happened yet. 
  • Two Israeli officers were accidentally killed by one of their own troops during a security patrol near their base in the occupied West Bank last Wednesday (Jan 12) night. The officers were misidentified and mistakenly killed by a soldier who thought they were possible Palestinian attackers. The exact circumstances of the incident are currently under review by the military. 
  • Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian held high-level talks in Qatar last Tuesday (Jan 11) after visiting Oman. Amirabdollahian and the emir discussed the latest developments in Vienna where negotiations are continuing to restore the nuclear deal with world powers through lifting US sanctions and scaling back Iran’s nuclear programme. They also talked about ways to improve bilateral relations, which is a priority for both nations. 
  • A migrant protest outside a shuttered UN community centre in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, was violently broken up by security forces last Monday (Jan 10). The migrants had camped outside the centre since October, seeking protection following a massive crackdown on refugees and asylum seekers, demanding better treatment by Libyan authorities. Hundreds of protestors were arrested and the site was smashed up after troops came overnight. Those detained were sent to a detention centre in the nearby town of Ain Zara while others managed to flee. At least one migrant community leader was shot during the raid. 

Africa:

  • A report by the United Nations (UN) human rights office last Saturday (Jan 15) revealed that at least 108 civilians had been killed in the Tigray region in Ethiopia since the start of 2022. The report detailed numerous attacks on civilians as a result of air strikes, allegedly carried out by the Ethiopian air force in Tigray. The UN expressed alarm at the “multiple, deeply disturbing reports”, including attacks on a private minibus, an airport, and a camp for disabled people. The strike on the camp was reported to have killed 59 people. UN officials called for both parties to put a stop to the 14-month conflict, and for Ethiopian authorities to abide by international law in verifying that targets are military personnel, and not civilians. Failure to do so “could amount to war crimes”. Attention was also called to the desperate food, medicine and fuel shortages as areas of Tigray become inaccessible to aid groups. 
  • Somalian government spokesman Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimmu was rushed to hospital last Sunday (Jan 16) after being injured in a suicide bombing believed to be targeting him as he left his residence. It was not the first time a senior media advisor to Somalian Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, was targeted in an assasination attempt. According to activists in Mogadishu, the attacks were politically motivated as a result of the escalating power struggle between Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmaajo, and Prime Minister Roble. According to a report by the UN early last year, clashes between the security forces supporting each side resulted in as many as 10,000 people to flee their homes.
  • Thousands of Malians took to the streets across the country, on Friday (Jan 14) to protest strict sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) over delayed elections. The rally was staged by Mali’s military government who enouraged citizens to do so. Sanctions include imposing a trade embargo on the nation, and shutting ECOWAS member countries’ land and air borders with Mali. The move came as Malian officials expressed wanting to hold elections in 2025 instead of in February this year, a proposal that was subsequently urged against by the UN.
  • Uganda reopened its schools last Monday (Jan 10) after a 83-week closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown since March last year is now the longest in the world, and is feared to have created a lasting toll on educational gains in the past decade. According to UNESCO, the shutdown interrupted the in-person education of 10.4 million Ugandan students, and remote learning was an option for a privileged few. A third of students may not even return to the classroom, and many took up jobs to support their families during the pandemic. Thousands of schools as well, are not expected to reopen due to financial stress. Still, returning students and teachers have reacted to the re-opening with joy and relief. Additionally, Education minister John Muyigo had said any school demanding fees above pre-pandemic levels would be sanctioned.
  • Nigeria lifted its ban on Twitter last Friday (Jan 13) after the social media platform made various agreements with Nigerian authorities, including the opening of a local office in the country. The ban had been in place since June last year, after Twitter took down a post by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari which threatened to punish regional sectionists. The move prompted telecom companies to block access to users in Nigeria. According to President Buhari, Twitter agreed to “act with respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation is built”, and to appoint a representative to engage with Nigerian authorities. 
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The IAS Gazette is a news site run by undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Management’s International Affairs Society (IAS). Founded in 2018, it traces its roots to The Capital, a now defunct bimonthly magazine previously under the IAS.

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