- United States (US) Department of Homeland Security said last Monday (Aug 8) that it had ended a Trump-era policy known as “Remain in Mexico”, which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in US immigration court for their immigration status following a Supreme court ruling in favour of President Joe Biden’s bid to scrap the policy. Asylum seekers will no longer be enrolled under the programme and those currently waiting in Mexico will be allowed to enter the US to wait for their scheduled court dates.
- Mexican drug cartel gunmen have burned more than two dozen convenience stores and blocked roads with blazing vehicles in western Mexico in retaliation to a military operation aimed at a meeting of gang bosses last Wednesday (Aug 10). Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that there was a shoot-out between Mexican security forces and unspecified criminal elements in Jalisco and Guanajuato.
- Salman Rushdie, the author of the novel “The Satanic Verses” which drew death threats from Iran’s leader in the 1980s was stabbed in the neck and abdomen by a man who rushed the stage in New York last Friday (Aug 12). Rushdie was flown to a hospital and underwent surgery requiring to be under ventilator. Police have arrested the attacker Hadi Matar and he is awaiting court proceedings. No motive has been determined for the attack.
- Firefighters in Cuba have brought the oil depot fire in Matanzas under control after a five-day blaze last Wednesday (Aug 10). Officials have described it to be the worst fire in history and it has destroyed 40 per cent of the Caribbean island’s main fuel storage facility and caused power outages. Matanzas is known to be Cuba’s largest port for receiving crude oil and fuel imports and they stored them in 10 tanks to generate electricity on the island. Officials did not state how much fuel had been lost in the fire and cautioned residents as far as the capital of Havana 130 km away, to wear face masks and avoid possible acid rain from the large plume of smoke that the fire generated.
- The United States (US) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided Former US President Donald Trump’s home, Mar-a-Lago last Monday (Aug 8). According to a warrant unsealed last Friday (Aug 12), agents were directed to seize “all physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed” in violation of laws related to the handling of government documents. The warrant indicated that the statutes related to espionage and obstruction of justice were the foundation for the search. Convictions under these statutes can result in fines or prison sentences. Both Trump and some Republicans allies have been critical of the agency and called on the Department of Justice to provide greater transparency on why it was conducted.
- Thousands of Brazilians marched the streets last Thursday (Aug 11) over fears that President Jair Bolsonaro would not respect the outcome of the upcoming October’s election, and remain in power. President Bolsonaro tried to introduce printed ballot papers to replace the current electronic voting machine system last year but the proposal was defeated in congress. A citizen’s manifesto, inspired by a 1977 declaration denouncing Brazil’s 1964-1985 dictatorship was signed by a million Brazilians, warned that the country’s democracy is in danger.
- Paraguay’s vice president Hugo Velazquez Morez has said that he would resign this week, following accusations of corruption by the United States (US) last Friday (Aug 12). The US ambassador to Paraguay, Marc Ostfield, announced that Velazquez was added to a corruption list for allegedly offering bribes to a public official. Velazquez maintained his innocence and vowed to fight the allegations. Velazquez was expected to run as a presidential candidate for the Colorado Party in next year’s elections but he dropped his candidacy shortly after the accusations. Juan Carlos Duarte, a former prosecutor and a close associate of Velazquez was also included in the list. As a result of the resignations, Velazquez, Duarte and their immediate family members are banned from entering the US.
- Argentina’s central bank raised key interest rates to a new high of 69.5% last Thursday (Aug 11) in the effort to combat out of control inflation. This came just as inflation hit a 20-year high of over 70%, and forecasted to peak at 90% by the end of the year. The bank expects the rate hike to lower inflationary expectations for the year. Argentina’s economy minister, Sergio Massa, the third person to hold the post, intends to calm inflation by using a conventional approach by reining in money printing to fund government spending.
- Venezuela and Colombia have appointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last Thursday (Aug 11) in an effort to mend diplomatic ties. This came days after Colombia’s first left-wing president, Gustavo Petro pledged to improve diplomatic ties with Venezuela. Armando Benedetti, a former senator, was assigned with normalising diplomatic relations. In addition to exchanging ambassadors, a full reopening of the 2,000 km border between the two countries is in the works.
- The governments in Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia backed the continuation of Pedro Castillo’s presidency in a joint statement last Saturday (Aug 13). Since coming into power last year, Peruvian President Castillio has survived two impeachment attempts and is under six separate criminal investigations, one of which is the obstruction of justice in the firing of an interior minister.
- South Korea’s president Yoon Suk Yeol announced on Friday (Aug 12) that he will pardon Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong of his conviction in bribing Former President Park Geun-hye in a corruption scandal that led to the downfall of Park’s government. Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and other business leaders will also be pardoned. Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon said that the pardons were directed towards overcoming South Korea’s economic crisis through encouraging business activity underlining Samsung’s sway over the country’s economy and technology exports. Lee expressed his gratitude for being given an opportunity to start anew.
- Sri Lanka granted permission last Saturday (Aug 13) for a controversial Chinese research vessel to dock at Hambantota port, despite security concerns raised by India. The Yuan Wang 5 is described as a research and survey vessel that was originally scheduled to land last Thursday (Aug 11), but was deferred after India expressed concerns over the vessel’s presence.
- Thousands of people took to the streets in Bangladesh in protest last Monday (Aug 8)] as fuel prices rose by more than 50%. Bangladesh’s energy minister, Nasrul Hamid found the increase in fuel prices to be inevitable given the global market conditions, and denied accusations of economic mismanagement by the government.
- India criticised China’s decision to block United Nations (UN) sanctions sought by India and the United States against Abdul Rauf Azhar, the deputy chief of a Pakistan-based extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad last Friday (Aug 12). India said that Azhar was involved in planning and executing numerous terror attacks such as the 1999 hijacking of an Indian airlines aircraft, the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and 2016 attack on an Indian air force base. China’s official at the UN, said that they are putting the listing on hold to have more time to study the case.
- Severe flood in South Korea’s capital Seoul has claimed the lives of nine people as the city was bombarded with record rainfall in 80 years last Tuesday (Aug 9). The heavy downpours submerged some of the streets and buildings, trapping people in flooded apartments and stranding cars. The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters said that at least 5 people died in Seoul, 3 in the neighbouring province of Gyeonggi and one in Gangwon.
- Sean Turnell, an Australian economist who served as an advisor to ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has testified in court for the first time last Thursday (Aug 11) since his arrest last year. Turnell was tried on charges of violating the country’s official secrets law and is now held in it’s main prison in Naypyitaw alongside Suu Kyi. A legal official familiar with Thursday’s proceedings said that Turnell denied those allegations and pleaded not guilty. The judge adjourned the proceedings until this week when Suu Kyi is expected to testify.
- Endorsing Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, US President Joe Biden signed the US “instrument of ratification” on Tuesday (Aug 9). The senate backed the expansion of the Cold War alliance 95-1.
- The United Kingdom (UK) faces the danger of running out of monkeypox vaccines, revealing that they had a little over 8,300 doses left last Tuesday (Aug 9). Shipments of 100,00 doses will only resume in September. The World Health Organisation had declared monkeypox a “public health emergency”, as did the US just last week.
- UN officials expressed alarm last Friday (Aug 12) as the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, now under Russian control, has been shelled by both sides. UN Secretary General António Guterres said such conflicts could “lead to disaster”. The US have also called for it to be a demilitarised zone, to which the Russians rejected saying it would make it susceptible to terror attacks.
- The Latvian parliament designated Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” last Thursday (Aug 11) maintaining in a resolution that “Latvia recognises Russia’s actions in Ukraine as targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people.” They added that Western nations should ramp up contributions militarily, financially, diplomatically, and increase humanitarian efforts to bring an end to the conflict.
- The European Space Agency began discussions with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to make use of its launchers last Friday (Aug 12), as Russia stopped space relations with Western nations. Other contenders to plug the gap left by Russia are Japan and India. The Russian pullout has led to positive headwinds for SpaceX as multiple entities from Northrop Grumman to Starlink competitor OneWeb have placed orders for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
- Lithuanian Deputy Minister was sanctioned by China on Saturday (Aug 13) for visiting Taiwan. Beijing has also cut off engagement with the Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Agne Vaiciukeviciute’s office. Lithuania’s cozying-up to Taiwan has resulted in a drastic drop of imports to China, with trade almost reduced to zero.
- An Iranian satellite was launched from a Kazakhstan base in tandem with a Russian rocket last Tuesday (Aug 9). This signalled the start of the Iranian-Russian “strategic cooperation” according to the Iranian ICT minister. Anonymous western intelligence officers alleged that the satellite would be used to contribute to Russian war efforts in Ukraine. The Iranian Space Agency has since denied this, declaring complete control of the satellite “from day one”.
- The ceasefire last Monday (8 Aug) between Palestinian militants and Israel has continued to hold, after days of violence that has taken lives on both sides. At least 47 Palestinians died, including 17 children, after 11 days of conflict. Israel made the first move, in response to what they said was threats from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Palestinian militant group.
- A Palestinian gunman opened fire on a bus in Israel last Sunday (Aug 14) as pilgrims were returning from prayers near the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. At least eight people have been injured, with a pregnant woman in critical condition. This comes after Israel had conducted preemptive military operations in the Gaza Strip. The gunman has since turned himself in.
- Rival Shia groups squared off in protests as Iraq faced a leadership crisis last Friday (Aug 12). Incumbent Moqtada al-Sadr had called on the judiciary to dissolve parliament by next week’s end, after months of not being able to form a majority government despite winning the most votes in the latest election (10 Oct, 2021). His opponents insisted on honouring the previous election and forming a government based on it.
- The Egyptian cabinet has approved plans to ration electricity and save natural gas that it will export to increase foreign reserves, it announced last Thursday (Aug 11). Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, Egypt has suffered from a foreign currency shortage because global commodity prices have increased, tourism has collapsed, and borrowing has become more expensive. Lighting will have to be turned off at the end of working hours, as well as street lighting.
- Ethiopia completed the third phase of the filling of its mega-dam reservoir on the Blue Nile last Friday (Aug 12). This could exacerbate tensions with neighbours Egypt and Sudan further downstream. Egypt depends on the Nile for 97 per cent of its irrigation and potable water, while Ethiopia said that the dam was necessary for generating electricity to its population.
- Chad and more than 40 opposition groups have signed a historic peace deal in Qatar last Monday (8 Aug). They also aimed to launch a “national reconciliation dialogue”. However, the main opposition group, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), has rejected the accord completely.
- As the Mali government refused to give flyover rights to a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission, Germany suspended its operations in the country last Friday (Aug 12). They expressed that they would only support the mission if it had the support of the Malian government. The mission they are currently executing is the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), a peacekeeping force established to boost security after the Tuareg rebellion of 2012.
- 21 civilians and six police officers have been killed in clashes as citizens protested against the Sierra Leone government’s perceived incompetency in managing rising living costs last Thursday (Aug 11). Protests are not seen to be normal in the country. The protestors called for the resignation of the president, Julius Maada Bio.
- At least 15 were killed in Burkina Faso as a vehicle drove over a hidden explosive last Tuesday (Aug 9). This happened in the Bam province where people are often targeted by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS). While rescue operations were ongoing, a second explosive device was activated, killing those present. No group has taken responsibility for the attacks yet.