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Weekly News Digest for January 29, 2021

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

Breaking News

Citizens Show Up for Navalny, Facing the Russian Government

Alexei Navalny, a notable Kremlin critic, was detained shortly after arriving in Russia after a five-month stay in Germany to recover from a nerve agent allegedly carried out by the Kremlin. He was placed in pre-trial custody, sparking protests across the nation. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalanya, as well as other members of Navalny’s team were among the 3,300 arrested across Russia.

With nearly 40,000 people showing up in Moscow and protests occurring in over 100 cities, these protests were the largest forms of opposition since anti-government gatherings in 2019. Representatives from the E.U., the U.K, and the U.S. embassy in Moscow have condemned the detention of protesters. On the other hand, the Russian government has expressed plans to fine major social media networks for failing to remove posts organizing the anti-government protests.

Farmer-Led Protests in India

Since November 2020, farmers have been protesting in New Delhi, India. Demonstrators have been demanding the reshaping of the agricultural sector in India through the repeal of recent farming laws. These laws are seeking to minimize the government’s role in the farming sector to allow more private investment, but farmers are afraid that corporations would take advantage of the new policies.

Although the protests have mainly remained peaceful, they have recently increased in violence and have caused heavy traffic disruption. Although the government has tried to meet with protestors, the demonstrations are likely to continue into the near future, as the government has not indicated that it plans to repeal the new policies.

The U.S. to Restore Aid for Palestinians

On Wednesday, President Biden announced that the United States will restore humanitarian aid and assistance programs for Palestinians that were previously cut under the Trump administration. Biden reiterated his support for a two-state solution and his administration's goal to reopen diplomatic channels to the Palestinian leadership. The U.S. embassy for Israel is said to remain in Jerusalem.

North America

Climate Change Named a Top National Security Concern

On Wednesday, President Biden signed executive orders aimed at addressing climate change with the overall goal to move the United States from fossil-fuel-powered economy to clean energy. Biden paused the leasing of land for oil and gas extractions, promised to double offshore wind energy, and transition all federal vehicles to electric cars. Further, under the new policy, the United States will conserve 30 percent of its land and water in the next decade. The executive order set climate change as the center of foreign policy and national security for the first time in the country’s history.

Biden Tackles Economic Crisis Through Executive Orders

On January 22, President Biden enacted several executive orders aimed at alleviating the economic crisis. The first executive order tackled worsening food insecurity throughout the country by expanding food stamps and allocated additional food assistance for each student whose schools are closed due to the pandemic. The second order created a plan to increase the minimum wage for federal employees and contract workers to $15 an hour. Increasing the wages for federal employees is the first step for a nationwide $15 minimum wage policy that Biden hopes to implement in the upcoming $1.9 trillion stimulus.

Asia and the Pacific

Increased Tensions Between India and China

Last week the Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the disputed Sikkim state along the Himalayan border. Although Indian officials have sought to downplay the event by calling it a “minor face-off, this clash is the latest example of China’s efforts to intensify pressure against India by encroaching on its territory. Although no one died in the fighting, both sides had injured soldiers.

This skirmish is the latest fighting between the two sides in a battle to build infrastructure along the border known as the Line of Actual Control. Fighting in this region in June 2020 led to the first fatal confrontation between the two countries since 1975, leading to increased tensions in the region that will not likely decrease in the coming months.


Nigeria's President Buhari Fires Armed Forces Chiefs

Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, in a surprise move, has fired the heads of the nation’s armed forces whom he appointed when he first took office in 2015. Following the surprise firing, President Buhari also tweeted the names of the replacements. Buhari gave no reason or context for the firings and subsequent replacements. This comes as Nigeria continues to grapple with widespread insecurity throughout the nation, including the long-running Boko Haram insurgency and rampant kidnappings.

Nigeria’s powerful governors and National Assembly have long called for the replacement of the heads of Nigeria’s armed forces as Boko Haram continues to stage attacks despite the government stating that the Islamist militants had been defeated. The inability to control Boko Haram has subsequently allowed other Islamist militant groups to become bolder. Under President Buhari’s leadership, clashes between farmers and cattle herders in the country’s central region have also worsened and kidnapping gangs in the north-west region operate with almost a free hand.

Kenyan Mansur Mohamed Surur Charged in the U.S. over '$7m Smuggling Ring'

Federal prosecutors in New York stated Mansur Mohamed Surur was part of an "international conspiracy" responsible for the slaughter of more than 100 elephants and dozens of rhinos. It allegedly amounts to an estimated $7.4m (£5.4m) amassed over seven years. Some exports were hidden inside "pieces of art such as African masks and statues", court documents allege. Money was paid to and from foreign customers by "international wire transfers, some which were sent through US financial institutions", prosecutors say. Surur was arrested last year in the Kenyan city of Mombasa and extradited to the US to face trial in New York. He also faces charges of money laundering and drug dealing.

He and three others - Amara Cherif from Guinea, Moazu Kromah of Liberia, and Abdi Hussein Ahmed of Kenya - are accused of agreeing to illegal ivory sales with buyers in Manhattan, as well as others in southeast Asia. They are all now in the US except for Mr. Ahmed who, according to the US Department of Justice, remains a fugitive. Phone calls and messages in which three of the four men allegedly discuss pricing and payment methods with a customer are cited in court documents. It is alleged that their network was based in Uganda but involved other countries - among them the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, and Tanzania.

Central African Republic Kill 44 Rebels Who Surrounded the Capital

Officials in the Central African Republic say government troops have killed 44 rebel fighters who had surrounded the capital, Bangui, in an attempt to overthrow the new administration. A government spokesman told the French news agency that the soldiers had captured the village of Boda with the help of Russian paramilitaries. There is no independent confirmation of the government's claim, which comes days after it declared a state of emergency to fight the rebels, who control two-thirds of the country. The rebels dispute the validity of President Faustin-Archange Touadera’s re-election last month.


Protests in the Netherlands over COVID-19 Curfews

Nearly 400 people were arrested earlier this week during riots to protest a government-imposed COVID-19 curfew. These protests, although unauthorized, were initially peaceful but turned violent when participants began looting shops, setting cars on fire, and started throwing small items like stones at police. A coronavirus testing center was also set on fire in a small town. Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned the violence and said that rioters will be persecuted. Far-right politicians have criticized the government’s inaction and blamed looting on immigrants.

German Neo-Nazi Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murdering Politician

Walter Lübcke, who functioned as a Christian Democrat governor and was a notable pro-migrant figure, was killed in 2019 by a far-right sympathizer Stephan Ernst. Ernst who is said to have been motivated by racism and xenophobia was sentenced to life in prison, and a second man known as Markus H was assigned an 18-month jail term for a firearms offense in relation to the crime. This trial was significant and telling of the rise of far-right politics in Germany, demonstrated largely by the far-right Alternative for Germany party becoming the biggest opposition group in the German parliament. The verdict also follows an attack perpetrated by a far-right gunman last month that killed two people after he failed to break into a synagogue.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Venezuela Touts ‘Miracle’ COVID Cure Amid Ongoing Border Crisis

On Sunday, President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela made a televised announcement stating that he has a ‘miracle’ solution that will conquer new strains of the virus. The Venezuelan government has released no scientific evidence or publication on the nature of said remedy, and Maduro refused to name the scientist responsible, leaving scientists at home and abroad skeptical. This comes in the wake of a claim Maduro made to the Pan American Health Organization in October that Venezuelan scientists discovered a molecule that nullifies the replication capacity of the new coronavirus. He has not commented on either phenomenon since.

Venezuela has been less hard hit by coronavirus than neighboring Brazil, but experts speculate that this is in part due to sanctions placed on Maduro’s government in the wake of an ongoing border dispute with Guyana. Earlier this month, Maduro issued a presidential decree reasserting the state’s claim to parts of Guyana’s maritime waters resulting in the seizure of two Guyanese fishing vessels by the Venezuelan government. The Organization of American States, as well as newly-elected President Joe Biden, are condemning Maduro’s actions.

Food Insecurity in Jamaica Double what was Anticipated

In a recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Services (USDA ERS), an approximate 400,000 Jamaican citizens are food insecure as an impact of COVID-19. According to the World Food Program, containment and social distancing measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 are a root cause to the issue, rather than the supply-side restrictions USDA ERS predicted early on in 2020. As a result, the government is targeting production-based strategies that have reflected in 2.5% growth of the agriculture and fisheries sector in recent months.

Middle East

Protests against Poverty and COVID-19 Handling in Lebanon Continue

This week, people in Lebanon have been protesting the complete COVID-19 lockdown imposed by their government. The Lebanese people are arguing that they are not receiving enough financial assistance and need food. Further, the strict lockdown prohibits people from leaving their homes unless they are an essential worker, thus removing many sources of income.

Lebanon’s economy has worsened throughout the pandemic with their GDP experiencing a decline of 19% with heightened inflation and massive job losses and unemployment rates. Estimates depict that half of the population lives under the poverty line, and a quarter are living in extreme poverty.



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