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Weekly News Digest for August 15, 2020

Compiled by Kelly Dobso


Breaking News:

Israeli-Emirati Diplomacy and the Plan to Annex the West Bank

On August 13, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established a peace deal to normalize diplomatic relations. Historically, Israel has had difficult relationships with Arab countries. The UAE is now the third Arab country to recognize Israel, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. President Trump, presidential candidate Joe Biden, and Secretary Mike Pompeo hailed the significant achievement. However, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly stated on Thursday that he is still “committed to annexing parts of the West Bank”, marking the agreement as temporary.

Lebanese Government Resigns

Amid a massive humanitarian crisis, the Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his cabinet. The recent explosion that rocked Beirut has caused waves of backlash and criticism of the government. Protests erupted prior to the government stepping down, calling for their resignation due to their knowledge of the ammonium nitrate being stored at the port for years. Plans have not been set in stone regarding further steps for an election.

Russia: We Have a Vaccine

On August 11, President Vladmir Putin declared that Russian scientists have approved a vaccine for widespread use. The vaccine will be administered in the following weeks to teachers and healthcare workers, and later to larger sums of Russia's population. The announcement by Putin has sparked global criticism on the validity and ethics of the vaccine as it has yet to finish clinical trials.

North America

Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Chooses his Vice President

On August 11, Joe Biden announced that he has chosen the California Senator and former presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, as his running mate. The news breaks after months of speculation on who the former vice president would choose. Stacey Abrams, Susan Rice, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms were some of the prominent names considered for the position.

Kamala Harris as a VP pick has caused widespread criticism amongst progressives due to some of her policies as the attorney general of California such as denying gender affirming surgeries to prisoners and the strengthening of marijuana criminalization laws within the state. However, in recent years, she has gained popularity through her effective questioning in the Senate hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr. If Biden wins in November, Harris will not only be the first woman vice president, but also the first person of color to fill the role.


Dozens Dead After South Sudanese Soldiers Clash with Civilians

An encounter between South Sudanese soldiers and civilians has left 70 dead and many others wounded. As part of a peace agreement between the governing and opposition party, soldiers must conduct disarmament missions within parts of the country. Civilians in the northern area of the state opposed this move and anger against the soldiers spread rapidly as an army base was violently attacked on August 10.

Al-Shabab Militants Killed after Shoot-out at Somali Prison

In Somalia, riots broke out at the Mogadishu prison after al-Shabab fighters attempted to escape. According to some reports, detained militants from the al-Shabab Islamist group acquired pistols and grenades that were snuck into the prison. Other reports are unsure on how the weapons were taken, with some arguing the militants disarmed a warden and stormed the armory. Five guards and 15 militants were killed in the attack.


A Worsening Second Wave of COVID-19

Europe is currently battling a second wave of COVID-19 with record breaking numbers of new cases. Many states in Europe such as France and Germany lifted their lockdown restrictions in May after a substantial decrease in cases. Now, in France, Germany, and Spain, daily cases have reached over 1,000 and active outbreaks continue to emerge.

States within the European Union have begun reissuing restrictions. Germany has issued a partial travel ban on cities in Spain due to rising infection numbers. Brussels issued a mask mandate on August 12 for everyone aged 12 and older. France updated their mask mandate to also include busy outdoor areas. Greece issued curfews for restaurants and bars in their tourist cities.

Authoritarian Crackdowns After Belarus Presidential Elections

On August 9, the presidential election was called for the incumbent Alexander Lukashenko. Protests erupted throughout the capital as protesters filled the streets to oppose the election results, arguing that the win was due to vote-rigging. Authorities have violently cracked down on protesters and arrested over 6,000 people. Opposition leaders, including presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, have fled the country due to the violence and numerous threats. The European Union is threatening sanctions against “those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results” in the Belarus government.

Latin America

The Criminalization of Catcalling: A Win for Women

The President of Costa Rica signed the “Law Against Street Sexual Harassment” on August 10. The law describes a six-month jail time sentence for offenders who harass another person in public spaces “made through words, noises, whistles, groans, and gestures to another person without their permission.” A minimum eight month jail time was established for those who chase or corner a person with sexual intentions. Prior to this law, legal punishments for harassment were given only a few days of jail time.

COVID-19 Deaths in Brazil Exceed 100,000

This week, Brazil officially recorded 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and the rates of infection are not slowing down. Since June 22, the country has recorded 50,000 deaths related to the virus. Despite these numbers, many cities are reopening shops and restaurants. Critics have been calling out President Bolsonaro’s failure to respond appropriately to the threats of the pandemic.

Middle East

Afghan Government Agrees to Release Taliban Prisoners

After recent weeks of peace talk negotiations, the Afghan government has agreed to release Taliban prisoners, the main concession sought by the militant group. Both parties are expecting the prisoners to be released within the next week. Official intra-Afghan peace talks may begin as early as next week. If a deal is agreed upon, the 19 year Afghan war will come to an end.

Floods Devastate Yemen

A devastating flood has caused significant damage to the state of Yemen this week. Houthi rebels are reporting that 130 people have died and 260 homes destroyed. This occurs in the midst of a major humanitarian crisis resulting from a ruinous civil war, drastic food insecurity, and the growing threat of COVID-19. The flood added to this crisis and has further displaced over 160,000 people within the state.


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