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Weekly News Digest for February 12, 2021

Compiled by Kelly Dobso, Trinity Gates, Stephanie Cannon, Michael Banks, and Jessie Bowers


Breaking News:


Protests in Myanmar Surge Amid Crackdown

During the week after a military coup in Myanmar, a new wave of arrests has taken over the country. On February 10, the new government arrested a close aide of Myanmar’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In response to the continued arrests, hundreds of thousands of protestors around Myanmar have gathered to show their anger against the ousting of a democratically-elected president, leading to an increased police response of rubber bullets and tear gas. The junta has also drafted a cybersecurity law that would allow the government to access user’s Internet data, a move that many human rights groups warn could be used to control dissent.


Following the latest round of detainments and the shooting of a protestor, US President Joe Biden issued an executive order that imposed sanctions on 10 individuals and 3 companies involved in the coup.


Biden Cancels Funding for Border Wall

In a letter addressed to Congress on Thursday, Joe Biden announced that the initiative of former President Trump’s border wall was "unwarranted and no further tax dollars will be spent on the wall.” This comes after a two-year construction initiative in which the Trump administration declared a state of emergency in 2019, allowing him to bypass Congress and use military funds in its construction. This is the latest of Biden’s executive orders that roles back the former president’s agenda, but the precedent of dispelling undocumented people from immigration centers amid the pandemic still stands.


U.S.-Iran Tensions Increase Over Sanctions

On February 7, President Biden stated that sanctions on Iran will remain until they stop enriching uranium. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hit back and argued that the state will not return to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement until the sanctions are lifted. Since then, Iranian leaders suggested that they may be forced to build a nuclear weapon if sanctions are not removed; however, Israeli intelligence indicates the production would take at least two years.


North America


Biden Administration to Review TikTok

President Biden ordered a review of Trump’s efforts to ban TikTok in the United States and asked a court to postpone a legal hearing. The Biden administration will evaluate national security threats from Chinese technology companies regarding user data concerns. Press Secretary Jen Psaki asserted that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is reviewing the app for said national security threats. Due to the review, the selling of TikTok from ByteDance to Oracle and Walmart was put on pause.


Asia and the Pacific


Chinese and Indian Armies Pull Back from Ladakh Region

After months of clashes, Indian and Chinese troops began to withdraw from disputed portions of their border in the Ladakh region on February 10. The standoff began in May 2020 when Indian government officials accused China’s military of crossing its border and building tents and guard posts in India. The clashes escalated to verbal and physical attacks, escalating tensions in the region.


China Bans BBC News

The Chinese government has banned BBC News from operating within its territory. The move follows Beijing’s latest arrest of an Australian journalist, Cheng Lei, earlier this week for spying charges. The Chinese government cited that BBC failed to meet broadcasting requirements and it damaged ethnic unity. BBC has published a series of reports on the concentration camps and treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.


Africa


Liberian Women Still Wait for Promised Action On Rape

During the announcement of his 2021 initiatives, Liberian President George Weah declared rape within Liberian borders to be a national emergency, vowed to improve support for survivors, and will move to strengthen the country’s prosecution system. This announcement was launched after a three-year-old was attacked by a 15-year-old high school student in August of 2020. The attack sparked public outrage and led to three days of protest in the capital.


However, since its announcement, there have been very few steps taken in President Weah’s ambitious promises. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) actions have remained off the Liberian political agenda. Rates of sexual violence soared during 14 years of back-to-back civil wars in Liberia that completely upended the nation’s society. However, despite 17 years of peace, the continuously high rates of SGBV may be attributed to cultural impunity owing to the weak prosecution system.


Rebel Blockade Triggers Aid and Food Shortages in the Central African Republic

A weeks-long rebel blockade of the main trade route into the Central African Republic (CAR) has completely disrupted humanitarian aid operations in the country which has triggered mass food shortages and price inflation. The rebel group, Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), is attacking the route to restrict trade into Bangui and force the government to the negotiating table. As of February 5, 2021, over 1,500 trucks are currently blocked at the Cameroonian border. Among the blocked vehicles, 500 of them contain humanitarian supplies such as medicine and food. As the blockade continues, CAR’s government is looking at having to create alternative routes from the Congo-Brazzaville to Bangui.


Europe


U.K. and E.U. Tensions Rise over a New Northern Irish Trade Protocol

Last week, the E.U. enacted Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol that was built into the Brexit deal and was met with push back by British and Irish officials. The E.U. commission triggered the clause to impose controls on exports to Northern Ireland, specifically to prevent COVID-19 vaccines from being exported out of Ireland and into Britain through Northern Ireland. This could create a significant dip in vaccine availability in Britain and has stirred conversations surrounding “vaccine nationalism” among European leaders.


Nazi Concentration Camp Workers Prosecuted

Earlier this week, a 100-year-old former SS concentration camp guard that worked at the Sachsenhausen camp for three years was charged. He is accused of aiding the murder of 3,518 people during his time there. Because of his age, prosecutors have argued that he may not be fit to stand trial and the courts are now considering whether or not to proceed with the trial as planned. The indictment follows a series of charges including a 94-year-old secretary from the Stuttoff concentration camp who was charged for complying with the murder of 10,000 people. These criminal prosecutions are the latest attempt to bring the last members of the Nazi generation to justice to ensure accountability amid the rise of far-right groups throughout Europe.


Latin America and the Caribbean


Colombia Grants Legal Status to Venezuelans

President Iván Duque of Colombia announced that his administration will be granting legal protection status to nearly one million undocumented Venezuelan migrants. More than five million people have fled Venezuela since 2015 with Colombia taking in the largest share of migrants at approximately 1.7 million undocumented Venezuelans. The legal protection status being granted will last for 10 years and will allow undocumented immigrants to “normalize to life in Colombia,” as Duque said in an interview on Tuesday. This decision facilitates the undocumented population of Colombia to receive job opportunities, seek permanent residency, and get access to health services. Duque and his administration are being praised by the UN High Commission for Refugees for the announcement.


Peru Begins its COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

The Andean state received 300,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine this past Sunday and has begun its vaccine campaign. This comes at a critical time in which the state is undergoing a second wave of the pandemic, amassing a total of 1.2 Million confirmed cases and 42,000 civilian fatalities. The government has deemed that military, security guards, and election officials will be given priority of the vaccine ahead of the general election scheduled for April later this year. Economists are calling this a critical step for upper-middle-income states who are battling the dilemma of using limited funds for COVID-19 vaccine acquisition or maintaining hospitals and healthcare infrastructure.


Middle East


Woman Saudi Activist Released from Jail

Saudi Arabia released Loujain al-Hathloul from jail after being detained for three years on Wednesday. Ms. al-Hathloul was known for challenging the ban on women driving and other legal restrictions. She was arrested for allegedly communicating with Saudi dissidents, foreign diplomats, and journalists; however, many governments and human rights groups argued the detainment was politically motivated. The activist will still have to serve three years of probation and a five-year travel ban, forcing her to remain in Saudi Arabia.


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