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Weekly News Digest for October 17, 2020

Compiled by Kelly Dobso, Karan Pol, Trinity Gates, and Stephanie Cannon

 

Breaking News:


Trump Administration Accused of Placing Political Appointees at CDC to Control Information

Two political appointees placed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June have no public health background, tasked with “keeping an eye” on the CDC director according to multiple sources. Senior CDC staff report that these appointees’ roles are unclear, prompting scrutiny from congressional investigators after evidence of interference in CDC scientific publications, guidance documents, and web postings.


Brazil’s COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 150,000

The Brazilian Health Ministry reports the death toll surpassed 150,000 cases, ranking as the second-highest caseload by volume behind the United States. Similarly, Brazil trails behind Peru for COVID-19 deaths per capita, standing at nearly 72 deaths per 100,000. President Jair Bolsonaro continues to flout social distancing guidelines and reject local lockdowns, even after repeatedly contracting the virus himself.


Iran-Backed Militia Groups Propose Conditional Ceasefire Against United States

Iran militia groups have agreed to a ceasefire against U.S. forces in Iraq if the Trump administration announces its withdrawal of troops. Tensions between Iran, related militia groups, and the United States have increased after Trump ordered the killing of Iranian General Qasam Soleimani. Since then, the United States threatened to close their embassy in Baghdad if attacks from the Iranian militia groups did not secede, and imposed sanctions on Iranian banks last week. The Trump administration has not responded to the proposal.


North America


Eight Million Americans Enter Poverty Since May, No Stimulus on the Horizon

Since the CARES Act expired, a $2 trillion stimulus to the American economy, the number of those in poverty has increased by eight million. A similar study has found that these changes have disproportionately impacted Black Americans and children. With hundreds of thousands of Americans still filing new claims for unemployment insurance benefits, it is clear that an improving job market is not benefiting all Americans. This study comes as negotiations on a second stimulus check have stalled.


Canada Invests $20M in Small Nuclear Reactors

The Canadian federal government announces a $20 million investment in the nuclear industry in context of its 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emission target. These small modular reactors, to be developed by Terrestrial Energy, can be built in one location, transported, and assembled elsewhere allowing for more flexible deployment. The investment will preserve 186 jobs and create 52 new co-op placements. This investment comes as the Canadian government is also looking to recycle nuclear waste.


Asia and the Pacific


Anti-Government Protests in Thailand

Anti-government protests have increased over the past week in Bangkok, as pro-democracy protesters call for the release of over 20 activists arrested during a police crackdown. The government had attempted to prevent the protests on Friday by issuing an emergency decree banning large gatherings. Two protestors were charged with committing “an act of violence against the queen’s liberty” when they yelled at a royal motorcade.


China Accuses the US of Undermining Peace in the Taiwan Strait

After the USS Barry sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, China accused the US of undermining peace and stability in the region. The US claims that the destroyer made a “routine Taiwan Strait transit,” denying that the destroyer broke any international laws. Although the US does not have formal ties with Taiwan, it is required by law to defend the island.


Prime Minister Sadyr Zhaparov Becomes Kyrgyzstan's President

Following protests over disputed parliamentary elections, Kyrgyzstan’s president resigned. The protests began over accusations of vote-buying in a parliamentary election on October 4. Even with authorities nullifying the vote, the unrest continued. The president’s resignation left a vacancy in the government, allowing Prime Minister Sadyr Zhaparov to fill the role of acting head of state Friday.


Africa


Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro on Fire

Africa’s tallest mountain has been ablaze since Sunday when a fire began at a rest stop for climbers. The combination of dry grass and strong winds has worsened the situation and poses a threat to the diverse ecosystem. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to dozens of endangered animal species and endemic plants and risks further damage if the fire is left uncontained. Firefighters and local volunteers have been fighting to slow the spread of the fire, and helicopters were deployed for the first time on Thursday.


President Trump Calls to Withdraw Troops From Somalia

In meetings with top advisers, President Trump has demanded a plan to withdraw the near 700 troops stationed in Somalia. The Pentagon has begun drafting plans with discussions involving the broad Defense and National Security apparatus. Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi has announced appreciation for American troops, requesting that forces combat the militant group known as al-Shabaab.


Rwanda Government to Begin Exporting Cannabis

On Tuesday, the Rwandan government approved the cultivation and export of cannabis. The state joins the competitively growing market of cannabis and aims to increase its export earnings. The decision received backlash from citizens as cannabis remains illegal for medical and recreational uses within the state.


Europe


Boris Johnson Facing COVID Criticism Throughout the U.K.

Europe surpassed the United States in coronavirus deaths leading local governments across the nation to reassess their coronavirus policies and restrictions. Major cities like London have banned people from different households from gathering indoors, but schools and restaurants are remaining open alongside businesses in the hospitality sector unless dictated otherwise by local authorities.


Scientists have criticized Johnson as the U.K. records the most coronavirus deaths in Europe. Politicians across the state have expressed frustration with public health standards. are inconsistent across territories. Scotland specifically has imposed very strict coronavirus restrictions. Top medical advisors have advised a short, “circuit breaker” lockdown as a minimal response to rising cases; however, Johnson appears to be stuck between the Conservative Party which has argued to keep the economy open, especially as the Brexit deadline approaches.


Marian Kotleba Jailed in Slovakia

Leading neo-fascist politician Marian Kotleba was sentenced to four years in prison. This conviction follows his use of a neo-Nazi symbol, but his conviction also finds him guilty of founding, supporting, and promoting a movement and ideology focused on suppressing civil rights and democratic freedoms. This decision has been a blow to the far-right movement in the country and threatens the People’s Party Our Slovakia’s membership in the E.U. and NATO. Other groups, specifically human rights organizations, have viewed this decision as a major win because it exemplifies the judicial and democratic process properly working for the country after years of dwindling confidence in the current system.


Latin America and the Caribbean


Thousands of Argentines Protest Lockdown Measures

After 200 days of quarantine, citizens have taken to the streets as the economy crumbles and democratic institutions falter. The lockdown has led to massive job loss amidst widespread corruption and infringement of constitutional and individual freedoms. The unrest has led protestors to speak out against the effective dual presidency of the country, where President Alberto Fernandez serves largely as a figurehead while true power lies with Vice President Cristina Kirchner and the think tank Patria.


Bolivian Presidential Race Tightens with Potential for Dispute

Polls show a tightening race between the two main presidential candidates, with a large contingent of undecided voters. The socialist candidate Luis Arce is polling six points ahead of centrist candidate Carlos Mesa. The winner of the election will require at least 40% of the vote and a 10 point advantage to avoid a second round. The interim conservative government under President Jeanne Áñes has accused the Argentinian government of interference while attempting to prosecute former leftist President Evo Morales.


Middle East


Israel to Resettle 2,000 Ethiopian Jews

The Israeli government approved the resettlement of 2,000 Ethiopian Jews, a stark contrast against activist demands for 8,000 admittances. The approved plan backtracks on Netanyahu’s 2015 agreement to bring the remaining 10,000 Falash Mura, those who are descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity but still identify as Jewish, to Israel. The government has received criticism from the Ethiopian Jewish community. Pnima Tamano-Shata, the Ethiopian Israeli minister on immigration and absorption, acknowledged the backlash by stating “I think we need to bring everyone here as soon as possible, but unfortunately we only received a budget for 2,000 people at this time.”


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