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Weekly News Digest for February 18, 2022

Compiled by Kelly Dobso, Trinity Gates, Dinah Gorayeb, Austin Myhre, and Charlotte Smith


North America


Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau Invokes Emergency Powers to Halt Trucker Protests

On Monday, the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, invoked rare emergency powers to combat the growing number of “illegal and dangerous” blockades across the country after police learned of violent threats. A few hours before the announcement, police in Alberta seized a truck full of firearms at a protest near the United States-Canada border and arrested 13 people who intended to cause harm if attempts were ordered to “disrupt” the blockade. PM Trudeau said that the emergency powers will not include the military; instead, the decision can bar people from gathering in certain locations, prevent the use of crowdfunding websites for illegal purposes, and punish companies whose trucks are used in the protests. The emergency declaration will be limited to the city of Ottawa, the center of the convoy protests, and other areas across Canada where protesters erected blockades that cause critical disruptions. The decision follows the rising prospect of violence by protesters against police if attempts were ordered to “disrupt” the blockade.


Asia and the Pacific


Indian Government Bans 54 Chinese Apps

Over the past few years, tensions between China and India have risen steadily, especially amid physical standoffs in the Ladakh region. This week was no exception, as India cracked down on China’s influence in the country. On Monday, India’s Information and Technology ministry ordered app-hosting companies like Google to prevent users from installing 54 apps created by Chinese companies. The ministry claims that these apps posed threats to both national security and individual privacy because they transfer user data to Chinese servers. In addition, many of these apps were rebranded versions of previously banned apps, indicating the difficulty of eliminating China’s digital presence in India.

Moreover, India has struggled to shut down Chinese-controlled financial companies that offer instant loans through mobile apps in India. Then, on Wednesday, India’s tax authority raided the India-based offices of Huawei, a Chinese technology company that has also faced scrutiny by United States officials. Last year, India’s tax authority investigated Chinese mobile companies Xiaomi and Oppo for allegedly not reporting roughly $1 million in income. The tax authority claims Huawei employees frequently violate tax laws; the Chinese government slammed these raids as an effort to suppress Chinese firms.

The EU Files High-Profile Trade Lawsuit Against China

Today, the European Union filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China. In the suit, the EU alleges that China is utilizing a legal mechanism called “anti-suit injunctions” in an unethical manner. Essentially, the practice involves using domestic courts to hinder international companies’ ability to sue Chinese companies for their illegal use of technology intellectual property. Ultimately, it allows Chinese technology giants, such as Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi, and ZTE, to use foreign technology and intellectual property at a fraction of the price without much recourse.

Over the past few years, the Chinese supreme court and National People’s Congress have established a framework for its companies to receive discounted technology licenses. Then, its domestic courts block any foreign lawsuits, almost in a concerted effort. The EU factors this into an extensive campaign by the Chinese government to transfer vital 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile technologies to China and manipulate international intellectual property protection laws in its favor. In the suit, EU officials claimed that they previously challenged China’s behavior in multiple forums to no avail. China has not yet released a statement, but this suit will undoubtedly further strain the already shaky relationship between China and the EU.


Africa


Summit Between EU and African Countries Brings Up Big Issues

This week, 27 European Union officials met with 40 of their African Union counterparts for a summit, the first since being postponed in 2020, to strengthen their relationship and address problems. Major topics on the agenda are vaccines and trade which have been at the forefront of Africa’s concerns throughout the pandemic. The EU plans to offer packages that will boost health, education, and stability across Africa. These packages will equate to around 300 billion Euros and are aimed to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative. However, these relationships are tense, given much distrust and a severe lack of interest from African countries that allege injustice by European and wealthy nations in hoarding vaccines and protective equipment. To date, only 11% of Africa has been able to get the coronavirus vaccine; and, West Africa continues to see foreign forces occupying the region.


Europe


Western States Concerned over Further Russian Troop Buildup on Ukrainian Border

Western states are increasingly concerned about escalation after Russian forces, according to U.S. officials, increased the number of battalion groups from 83 to 105 at the Ukrainian border. Russia also reportedly placed 500 military aircraft and 40 combat ships near Ukraine and the Black Sea. Many western states responded to the military buildup and possibility of an invasion through press conferences, meetings, and embassy closures. In a joint press conference between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Zelensky on Monday, Scholz claimed that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are non-negotiable, and “any further military aggression” by Moscow would face heavy consequences. Amid worries of an invasion, the United States closed its embassy in Kyiv and relocated it to Lviv, closer to the Polish border. However, in contrast to U.S. intelligence reports, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims that Russia is only attempting to intimidate Ukraine, and there was not a significant increase in Russian military presence on the border.

Moscow has responded to the West’s concerns in various manners. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated to President Vladimir Putin that Moscow should still attempt diplomacy despite the west ignoring Russia’s security demands regarding Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO. Russia also promised to withdraw some troops; however, an unnamed senior U.S. official claimed that Moscow sent an additional 7,000 troops instead. Some military analysts speculate that Russia’s military buildup could be used to destabilize Ukraine’s economy by getting western states involved. However, others believe that Russia could attack at any moment since Moscow has deployed around 60% of its ground combat forces and over half of its air forces near Ukraine.


Latin America and the Caribbean


Deadly Mudslides in Brazil Kill Over 110

A devastating landslide hit the Brazilian city of Petropolis after heavy rains flooded the streets, houses, cars, and buses on Tuesday night. Located in the hills above Rio de Janeiro, the city known as the “Imperial City,” for being the gateway of Brazilian monarchs in the 19th century, is now being described as a “war zone.” According to local authorities, rescue workers have been searching for any survivors since Thursday morning, as the death toll rises to 110. With dozens still reported missing, firefights and volunteers continue to scramble through remains. Amid the rising death toll, 134 people are still missing, and 300 have been relocated to shelters, mostly in schools.

Videos posted on social media from Tuesday’s rains showed the city filled with violent floods sweeping cars and trees away, shops inundated, and the city in a “state of disaster,” according to the city hall, who declared three days of mourning for the victims. The rescue mission has been temporarily called off after alarms ran across Petropolis warning of more heavy rain on Thursday night. This week’s rainfall has been the heaviest in nearly a century, with the Tuesday rains already exceeding the average of the entire month of February.


Ex-President of Honduras Arrested Over Drug Charges

Juan Orlando Hernández was arrested on Wednesday over drug charges shortly after the United States requested his extradition to prevent him from leaving. He immediately surrendered to police, although he denied the charges. He is accused of being involved in a drug-trafficking ring, which included his younger brother, Tony Hernández, who was sentenced last year in the United States to life in prison. During Tony Hernández’s trial, prosecutors accused Tony of receiving $1m from the famous drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to pass the money to Juan as a bribe.

During his presidency from 2014 to January this year, Juan Orlando maintained he did “everything in his power to fight drug trafficking” with the support of the U.S. administration under President Trump. However, under President Biden’s government, his relationship was strained after the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that Juan Orlando was “committing or facilitating acts of corruption and narco-trafficking, and using the proceeds of illicit activity to facilitate political campaigns.” Juan Orlando denied the accusations and said they were “based on statements provided by convicted drug traffickers” who were “out for revenge.”


Middle East


Conflict in Yemen Intensifies As UN Aid Runs Out

The conflict in Yemen is worsening as January saw the highest toll in civilian casualties in the past three years; over 650 civilians were killed or injured by air raids and arms fires. Since December, the United Nations has scaled back or closed nearly two-thirds of its major aid programs due to a lack of funding, despite the number of combat zones multiplying. In addition, the UN’s World Food Programme reduced food rations for eight million people. Now, due to “unprecedented” funding gaps, these eight million Yemenis could lose all or most of their food aid starting in March. Furthermore, funding shortages could strip 3.6 million people of safe drinking water and end programs to quell gender-based violence.


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