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Weekly News Digest for August 9, 2020

Compiled by Kelly Dobso


Breaking News:

Beirut in Humanitarian Crisis after Massive Explosion

Beirut was stunned by a devastating explosion on August 4th, reportedly due to ammonium nitrate stored near the port. The extent of the catastrophic event is vast: hundreds have died, 5,000 were injured, and 300,000 people are now homeless. Global support and donations poured in for Lebanon, where they have already been experiencing food shortages and poverty.

A Handful of Countries Suspend Extradition Treaties with Hong Kong

Germany, France, UK, Canada, and Australia have suspended extradition treaties with Chinese-controlled Hong Kong amid postponed elections and the issuance of a security law for an extension of jail time for those arrested under accusations of subversion, or an attempt to undermine a political system. The passing of the law comes months after pro-democracy protests through Hong Kong and aims to criminalize common actions taken by activists.

An extradition treaty is an important aspect of international law: it imposes “dual criminality”. Under the treaty, countries outline what crimes are punishable in both jurisdictions. The overarching purpose of extradition laws is to prevent serious offenders the capacity to seek refuge in another country to avoid legal persecution. For the case of Hong Kong, the UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab worried that “anyone extradited to Hong Kong from Britain could be sent on to mainland China with ease”.

A Second Wave of COVID-19 in Europe

Countries in Europe, who recorded drastically lowered new case numbers the past few months, are now warning of a second wave of COVID-19. Cases throughout the region have been increasing since mid-July. In Belgium, a country with high population density, the government eased restrictions in June, but shortly after saw a spike in cases. Officials quickly reinstated restrictions for social gatherings and mask regulations. The German government is also cracking down on COVID-19 regulations, citing elevated confirmed cases.

North America

Another Week of Failed Stimulus Negotiations

This week, Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a stimulus package deal yet again. The Democratic platform, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is arguing for a $3.5T bill that includes the extension of $600 per week for unemployment benefits. Republicans are aiming for a bill around the $1T range, including “legal protections for employers against virus-related health claims from workers” and reduced unemployment benefits. The previous bill expired at the end of July, which issued larger unemployment benefits and a federal moratorium on evictions.

Microsoft in Talks of Buying Chinese-Based App, TikTok

Amid growing scrutiny of the Chinese-based TikTok by President Trump, Microsoft announced it might buy out the app. On August 6, Trump issued an executive order banning TikTok in 45 days if it is not sold to a US company. Trump and his administration argue that the app “captures vast swaths of information from its users” and want to prevent espionage. September 15 is the deadline for a company such as Microsoft to buy out the app.


Al Jazeera Offices Raided by Malaysian Forces

On August 4, Malaysian forces cracked down on Al Jazeera and two other media outlets by raiding their offices and seizing computers. Al Jazeera was creating a documentary highlighting the mistreatment of foreign workers in Malaysia during the pandemic. Government and enforcement officials hawkishly deny all claims of discrimination and unfair practices towards foreign workers.


Sixteen Dead after Attack on Camp for Displaced Persons in Cameroon

Boko Haram, an Islamist group, is suspected of killing sixteen people on August 2. The attack occurred at a camp for displaced persons in north Cameroon near the Nigerian border. A grenade was thrown into a group of sleeping people. The number of injured people as a result of the attack is unknown.

Crackdown in Zimbabwe: Over Sixty Activists Arrested

Zimbabwe has been experiencing anti-government protests and the rise of criticism for the country's political and economic issues. As a result, the government has been under fire for allegedly violating human rights by persecuting and arresting those in opposition. As of August 3, over 60 opposition members and activists have been arrested. The threat and prevalence of dissent by the Zimbabwe government has caused members of the opposition party, the MDC Alliance, and investigative journalists to go into hiding to avoid unwarranted arrests.

The Stark Reality of Under Testing Highlighted After Africa Records One Million Cases

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa have reached one million. Concerns for the continent are rising as numbers increase due to overwhelming the weak healthcare systems. Throughout the continent, other health issues that combined with the virus can be fatal are vast: malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and Tuberculosis. However, public health officials warn that the actual numbers of cases is 10 to 100 times higher than recorded due to a lack of testing, inaccessibility to health facilities, and poor infrastructure.


Anti-COVID-19 Protests in Berlin

Protestors filled the streets in Berlin to voice their opposition against the imposed COVID-19 regulations aimed to slow the spread of the virus. According to German police, 17,000 people attended the protest and did not wear masks. Police are reportedly filing charges against the organizers of the event for knowingly not abiding by social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Latin America

Coronavirus Cases Soar

Latin America reached 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on August 3. Brazil and Mexico are two of the largest contributors to these numbers; however, smaller countries such as Colombia are recording numbers in the ten thousands each day. The region is home to around 640 million people with inflated rates of poverty, state instability, and a high prevalence of COVID-19 high-risk factors such as diabetes and obesity. Taking these factors into consideration, COVID-19 could have a drastically fatal impact on the region if not taken under control.

Middle East

Attacks on Afghan Prison

On August 2, the Jalalabad prison, which holds Taliban and ISIS inmates, in Afghanistan was attacked reportedly by ISIS. The day prior, the Afghan intelligence agency killed a senior ISIS commander outside the city. The 30 militants entered the prison after using a car packed with explosives to open the front gate. The prison guards and militants got into gunfights which resulted in the deaths of three ISIS fighters and 21 others. Around 1,025 escaped prisoners were captured, but the Afghan government is unsure how many prisoners are still on the run.


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