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Weekly News Digest for February 5, 2021

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

Breaking News:

Coup Takes Place in Myanmar

Myanmar’s armed forces have taken over the country’s government, declaring a year-long state of emergency. Commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power following claims of widespread fraud in the country’s general election which resulted in a landslide victory by incumbent Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

In response to the actions by the military officials, President Biden threatened to reimpose sanctions on Myanmar, condemning the military’s seizure of power from the civilian-led government. Members of both the Democratic and Republican parties are calling for consequences and denouncing the military takeover.

Navalny Sentenced to Nearly 3 Years in Prison

On Tuesday, Alexei Navalny was sentenced to thirty-two months in prison by Russian authorities. After the sentencing, protests across the country with mantras of “Russia without Putin” and “Freedom” erupted, and nearly 1,000 people were detained following the estimated 9,000 people arrested over the weekend. Nearly 10 diplomats attended the hearing after repeated concerns from E.U., U.K., and U.S. officials, and representatives from the U.K. and the U.S. over the treatment of Navalny, protesters, and journalists in past weeks.

Biden Reduces U.S. Involvement in Yemen

On Thursday, President Biden rejected the Trump administration's foreign policy by ending logistical support, including arms sales, for Saudi Arabia in the Yemeni civil war. The previous policy backed the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, despite Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombings and killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden also announced there would be an increase in diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict that resulted in a humanitarian that has left millions without food and displaced portions of the population.

North America

Biden's Stimulus Passes Budget Resolution Stage

The Senate passed a budget resolution for Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. The bill was debated and amended throughout the night of February 4 and ended with the Senate voting 50-50. Vice President Kamala Harris acted as the tiebreaker for the Democrats and successfully passed the bill. It will head to the House of Representatives to be ratified, where Speaker Pelosi argues it will be pushed through in the next two weeks.

Asia and the Pacific

Tokyo Olympics Organizers Unveil Rules

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympic games have unveiled rules meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the event planned for July. The new rules included a mask mandate throughout the event and prohibitions against singing and dancing during the celebratory events. Other rules included the banning of high fives, handshakes, and hugs.

Despite the new rules, polls from around the country indicate that up to 80% of citizens want the games to be postponed or canceled. Fears of the virus have been fueled by a recent surge in cases in Japan which led to a state of emergency in Tokyo and several prefectures in western and central Japan.

Bushfire in Australia Destroys Homes

Government officials are working to protect millions of residents from a bushfire in Western Australia. The fire has already destroyed at least 71 homes and burned nearly 20,000 acres. Officials have set up three evacuation centers to hold residents who have been forced to leave their homes due to the fire.

The evacuation is complicated by a community-wide lockdown following the identification of a COVID-19 case in a hotel in Perth. Although the lockdown is set to lift Friday evening, the imminent danger of the bushfire in the outskirts of Perth is leaving officials faced with the challenge of safely evacuating residents in time.


Somalia al-Shabab Militants Attack Afrik Hotel in Mogadishu

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on the Afrik Hotel that resulted in nine fatalities. At least five people were killed in the attack at the Afrik Hotel, which began with a car bomb on Sunday. Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble said in a statement that among those killed was a former military general, Mohamed Nur Galal.

The militants targeted the Afrik Hotel likely because it is known to be a gathering place for Somali government officials. At the time of attack, a local police captain confirmed that a number of lawmakers and senior military officials were inside the building. The violent siege comes just weeks after former President Trump ordered the withdrawal of some 700 troops who had been supporting local security forces against militant groups, including al-Shabab. There are fears the withdrawal could lead to further instability in the country, which is due to hold elections next month.

Fugitive Ex-Leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Vows ‘Extended Resistance’

The former ruling party in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray is committed to “extended resistance” against the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, according to an audio message purporting to be from its leader. The recording was posted on Facebook by media outlets affiliated with the former ruling party the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has fought the current government since November 4th.

Abiy claimed victory in late November after his forces captured the regional capital Mekelle. Abiy’s government says the TPLF provoked the conflict by attacking army bases in Tigray and that the government is sending aid. Since the start of civil unrest, thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from homes and there are shortages of food, water, and medicine across the region of more than five million people.


Iranian Diplomat Convicted of French Bomb Plot

Assadollah Assadi, a former Iranian diplomat, was given a twenty-year prison sentence in Antwerp, Belgium. He was found guilty of planning to bomb a French rally for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled opposition group. Three other people were also found guilty in association with the planned attack. An Iranian foreign minister has criticized Assadi’s arrest and sentencing claiming that it is a violation of international law under the 1961 Vienna Convention.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Mexico Deals with Migrant Crisis as Vaccine Supply Dwindles

Mexico will no longer be accepting families who have been designated for ‘expulsion’ from the U.S-Mexico border holding facilities under a Trump administration directive. The unwillingness of some Mexican states to accept families could potentially lead to an increase in the release of parents and children into the United States, and there is an ongoing conversation between the Biden administration and Mexican head of state Andrés Manuel López Obrador about the need to strictly enforce humane policies at the border.

Tension is also mounting in Mexico as the country runs out of COVID-19 vaccines. A government registration website crashed for the third day straight, and shipments of the vaccine will not reach Mexico City until the middle of this month. Authorities have said they are still working on getting enough server capacity to handle the number of people attempting to register. Mexico has received only about 760,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and has only about 89,000 of those left, many of which are earmarked for second shots.

Sought-After Russian Vaccine Reaches Latin America

Several governments have negotiated multimillion-dollar transactions for their state’s to receive the sought-after Russian vaccine, Sputnik V. Out of 17 states to receive the new vaccine, six of them are from Latin America in large part due to a diplomatic mission from Argentina that sent aides to Moscow and translated hundreds of pages of scientific research into Spanish. Argentina began vaccinating with Sputnik this past December. Meanwhile, Mexico announced the purchase of 24 million Sputnik doses on Jan. 25 in what is considered a critical move towards progress in Latin America for COVID-19 vaccine coverage.

Brazil to Receive Seven Billion Dollars in Compensation for Dam Collapse

Vale Mining has settled on seven billion dollars in compensation to the state of Brazil after a dam collapsed at one of its mines and killed 270 people in Brumadinho, Brazil. The dam, which collapsed in January of 2019, buried dozens of homes and resulted in a toxic wave of sludge polluting local river systems in the state of Minas Gerais. While the amount to be paid was less than what the state government initially demanded, state officials are calling it the biggest settlement in Brazilian history, and a win in avoiding a lengthy suit in Brazil’s notoriously slow court suit.

Middle East

Israel-Kosovo Normalize Relations

Israel and Kosovo established full diplomatic ties over Zoom on February 1. Kosovo will be the first Muslim-majority country to open an embassy in Jerusalem. Kosovo is the latest state to normalize ties with Israel through the Abraham Accords, brokered by the United States under the Trump administration. The southeastern European state follows Sudan, Bahrain, Morocco, and the UAE in signing the peace deals.

Iran Receives Sputnik V Vaccine

The first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Iran on Thursday. The 500,000 doses are the first vaccines to land in the country and the government is in talks to import more from China and India. Iran’s current level of COVID-19 cases are relatively low; however, doctors are expecting a fourth wave at the onset of the Iranian New Year where people travel around the country to visit family.


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