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Weekly News Digest for August 29, 2020

Compiled by Kelly Dobso and Karan Pol


Breaking News:

First COVID-19 Reinfection in Hong Kong

Hong Kong scientists report the first reinfection of a COVID-19 patient, four and a half months after his first bout. While experts and the World Health Organization warn that extrapolation from one case is difficult and that reinfection may be a rare and low-impact risk, it is unclear how the pandemic will develop.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Steps Down Over Health Concerns

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned on Friday morning, citing health concerns. Suffering from colitis, Abe has had to leave public office previously due to the disease. Upon the announcement of his resignation, Japanese markets recoiled with the Nikkei closing down 1.4%.

Abe leaves as the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in history. With the Liberal Democratic still in control of both houses of parliament, the next PM should come from the same party.

Maduro Abuses COVID-19 to Suppress Dissent

Venezuelan security forces and President Maduro are cracking down on dissenting voices using the novel coronavirus. The Human Rights Watch reported that Venezuelan authorities have targeted dozens of journalists, healthcare workers, and any other parties critical of the government’s pandemic response. Security forces entered the home of Darvinson Rojas, a freelance journalist and activist, under an “anonymous tip” reporting a coronavirus case. Soldiers harassed his family and detained Rojas for nearly two weeks after seizing his cellphone and computer.

The public fears to cooperate with healthcare professionals, as those that test positive are sent to mandatory isolation centers where food is scarce, conditions are dirty, and detention lasts weeks at a time. Oxygen tanks are shared between patients and the bodies of those that die are sometimes not retrieved for hours at a time. These conditions have led to rapid spread as roughly 350 deaths and 42,000 cases are shown in the data although these are likely undercounted due to a lack of testing.

North America

Police Violence, Protests, and Terrorism in the United States

On August 23, Jacob Blake, a black man, was shot by police officers seven times, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. In the broader context of police violence, this shooting further exacerbates the divide between law enforcement and black people. It is unclear the context of the altercation between the police and Mr. Blake. Third-party video shows officers yelling for Blake to drop a knife, but no knife is visible on video. The person recording reports that the officers were wrestling, punching, and tasering Mr. Blake before the video begins.

The shooting sparked a wave of protests across Kenosha, Wisconsin. As these protests turned violent, two people were killed and a third seriously wounded by a young, white male. 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested the following day with the charge of first-degree intentional homicide, where multiple armed counter-protestors are shown fighting with protestors and shooting. This news comes as Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth explains community requests to deputize citizens in response to the protests.

Canadian Finance Minister Resigns

Amid an ethics scandal that may implicate the Prime Minister, Finance Minister Bill Morneau tendered his resignation on Monday. In the face of the pandemic and an economic crisis, the administration is facing further scrutiny from the public as well as the opposition party. Multiple family members to PM Trudeau are linked to the ethics scandal in which the WE charity provided speaking fees or reimbursed travel expenses.

CDC Changes Asymptomatic Testing Guidelines

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has changed testing guidelines for asymptomatic people, even if they have been in close contact with positive patients. These changes puzzle healthcare professionals who maintain that testing these asymptomatic cases is imperative to a successful pandemic response. Senior health officials disclose that these changes are the result of political pressure from the Trump administration.

Asia and the Pacific

Police Rewriting History: Democratic Decline in Hong Kong

Hong Kong police have been accused by lawmakers Lam Cheuk-ting and Ted Hui Chi-fung of rewriting the facts of 2019 pro-democracy protests. Masked men, suspected to be triad gangsters, attacked protesters in Yuen Long, injuring dozens. Police today claim that the violence occurred “between two evenly matched rivals” and deny their slow response. The two lawmakers were arrested on Wednesday, along with 14 other pro-democracy voices, in the wake of the recent national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong.

Delhi Police Accused of Human Rights Violation

Amnesty International has levied allegations that Indian police “committed serious human rights violations” during religious riots in Delhi earlier this year. Reports show that police beat protesters, tortured detainees, and even took part in the riots with Hindu mobs.

Violence broke out between the two groups after a controversial citizenship law, resulting in the deaths of more than 40 people. The Amnesty report shows that Muslims were disproportionately targeted during the riots, with some police officers supporting the violence. The police forces deny any wrongdoing.


Ousted Malian President Freed from Military Detainment

President Keïta was released from military detainment on Thursday, nine days after the coup d’état. The military junta forced him to resign amid increasing conflict and economic uncertainty within Mali. The former President's liberation comes a day before the regional summit to determine the steps toward a transitional government and election date. Currently, the junta is arguing for a three-year transitional government with a soldier as the head of state, while the opposition coalition, M5-RFP, argues the leader should be a civilian with a one year transition.

Polio Eradicated from Africa

This week, states of Africa celebrate an enormous public health victory in eliminating wild polio, a virus that predominantly affects children under 5 years old. The virus spreads through contaminated water sources and can lead to debilitating paralysis. This feat was accomplished through a massive vaccination campaign starting in 1961. Currently, 95% of Africa’s total population is immunized, thus reducing new possible cases through herd immunity.

Cases of polio are now limited across the continent. There are a few cases left to be treated for a different strain of polio in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Angola. However, wild polio is now exclusively found in Afghanistan and Pakistan with only a few hundred cases left.


Putin Threatens to Send Military Forces to Belarus

Protests continued three weeks after election results showed a controversial landslide win for the incumbent Lukashenko. Russian President Vladmir Putin announced military forces are ready to be deployed to Belarus “if necessary”. European leaders have worried about the possible intervention from Russia and the repeat of a conflict similar to the invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

German Doctors Confirm Poisoning of Navalny

The prominent Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny, was airlifted to Germany this week to receive treatment after an alleged poisoning that caused him to fall ill on a flight. German doctors confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent. The targeting of Navalny is consistent with previous high-profile attacks on Kremlin opponents. According to the hospital, he is in serious condition but there is “no acute danger to his life.”

Latin America and the Caribbean

Famous Brazilian Lawmaker Accused of Murder Plot Against Husband

Flordelis dos Santos de Souza is a famous lawmaker in Brazil who had a successful gospel singing career prior to running for office. Her husband, Anderson do Carmo, was shot 30 times in their home in June 2019. Prosecutors are now charging de Souza, six of her children, and one granddaughter in the murder plot and assert that one of her biological sons killed do Carmo. De Souza currently holds parliamentary immunity due to holding public office, but arrest warrants have been issued for the others involved.

Brazilian Army Exacerbates the Burning of the Amazon

The “Green Brazil 2” plan, meant to curb the spread of wildfires in the Amazon, has only exacerbated burning. The Brazilian Army, which administers the policy, is focusing on promoting projects that allow ease of access to protected areas, opening the rainforest to further exploitation.

Reports show that the environmental agency is no longer using satellite maps to locate deforestation sites and the heads of illegal logging, mining, and farming operations are no longer being penalized for their actions. Experts suggest that, soon, the rainforest will be unable to generate enough rainfall to sustain itself rendering this deforestation irreversible across two-thirds of the Amazon.

Middle East

Floods Devastate Afghanistan

A major flash flood devastated many towns in Afghanistan causing destruction to 1,500 houses, a growing death toll, and an unknown number of injuries. As of Thursday, the death toll has reached 151 with rescue workers attempting to recover more victims out of the debris. Civilians are stating that the government has not sent resources or monetary aid while food and water remain critically scarce.

United Nations Nuclear Inspectors Allowed Access to Iranian Sites

Iran has agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access two former nuclear site locations. The agency has speculated the usage of these facilities amid Iran’s previous denials of enty. The agreement was established on Wednesday but an official date for the inspection has not been finalized.

The United States voiced opposition to the ruling, accusing the United Nations of “standing in the company of terrorists," attempting to initiate snapback sanctions under Resolution 2231, the foundation to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The UN Security Council rejected the move, citing American exit from the JCPOA in 2018 rendering the United States a non-participant to the deal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argues that, while the United States is no longer a party to the agreement, due to its status as an original signatory, it should remain a participant.


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