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Weekly News Digest for October 3, 2020

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

 

Breaking News:


President Trump Contracts COVID-19

On Friday morning, President Trump tweeted that he had contracted COVID-19. Trump and his wife Melania Trump test positive after Hope Hicks, a close aid, tested positive on Thursday night. As the viral death toll has passed 200,000 in the United States, this brings uncertainty to how the administration will approach the public health crisis. It is unclear how many people the President has been in contact with nor who brought the virus into the White House inner circle. Trump interacted with Vice President Biden and many others during the recent Presidential debate.


New Beginnings in Belgium with the Formation of a Coalition Government

Belgium finally agrees to a coalition government, bridging differences between seven political parties after years of stalemate borne of a migration-fueled revolt in 2018. This coalition brings together linguistic and cultural divides that have created disarray in recent years. This plan keeps far-right movement from gaining more traction in the region. The primary goal for this collaboration between several political parties is to pass a budget and offer a COVID-19 recovery package to the public, giving aid and providing support to their economy. Government officials are watching with caution as the range of political parties threaten the stability of the coalition, which could fall apart if one party pulls out.


Israel-Lebanon to Negotiate Maritime Border Disputes

Israel and Lebanon have agreed to hold negotiations for the first time in 30 years over their maritime border dispute. The United States was asked by both states to mediate, and the talk will be hosted by the United Nations. The border dispute remains over an 860-square-kilometer area in the Eastern Mediterranean near Israeli natural gas fields. An agreement would provide economic benefits to Lebanon amid their economic crisis by solidifying their country’s access to natural gas reserves.


North America


Tax Documents Suggest President Trump Dodged Federal Income Taxes

Documents obtained by the New York Times show that President Donald Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes for 2016, paying no income taxes over 10 of the preceding 15 years. The news breaks in the midst of his reelection campaign, an IRS audit, and public unrest. The Trump campaign maintains that the President has paid thousands in taxes over the years, but fails to acknowledge the distinction between federal income taxes and other sectors. Public interviews suggest that the Trump base is unmoved by the news.


Greenland Ice Sheet Melts at Fastest Rate in 12,000 Years

Studies show that the Greenland ice sheet is melting at a rate unprecedented since the last ice age, 12,000 years ago. As one of the largest ice sheets on Earth, this melt event will lead to rampant sea level rise, continuing to exacerbate the symptoms of climate change. 2020 is predicted to be the hottest year on record, with projections showing continued global warming until 2100.


Canada Sanctions Top Belarussian Officials

Joining the United Kingdom, Canada sanctioned President Alexander Lukashenko, his son, and six other government officials in order to uphold democratic values. Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne expressed support for the people of Belarus, vowing that Canada will stand in solidarity with the “struggle to restore human rights and achieve democracy.”


Asia and the Pacific


Hong Kong Arrests on China’s National Day

More than 60 protestors were arrested by police on October 1. Police accused the protestors of participating in an unauthorized assembly in Causeway Bay. The arrests were meant to stop the crowds from gathering as Chief Executive Carrie Lam hailed the city’s “return to peace” following China’s new security law. The arrests on October 1 are the latest in a series of arrests of Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors.


Protests Erupt in India

The Bhim party, known for championing human rights in India, protested the gang-rape and death of two Dalit women. The Dalits are the lowest-ranking caste in India. One victim’s family accused four high caste Hindu men of the crime, but the police have yet to charge them.


Japan Begins to Ease Some Travel Restrictions

Japan started easing travel entry restrictions on October 1 for travelers, excluding tourists, from countries including Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam. Prior to the updated guidelines, the Japanese government had denied travel to the country for people from 159 countries and regions due to the pandemic.


Australia Approves Controversial Oil Project

The Australian government approved the development of the Narrabri gas field, with the developers needing to meet “strict conditions” before construction could begin. This field could provide up to 50% of the state’s demand for gas, but critics of the project say that drilling wells would threaten wildlife and increase greenhouse gas emissions.


Africa


Dozens of Women Accuse Aid Workers of Sexual Abuse

In recent interviews, 51 women described incidents of sexual abuse during the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2018 to 2020 by men working as international aid workers. They described being coerced into sex in exchange for a job, and terminated their contracts when the women refused. Thirty women described their abusers as employees of the World Health Organization, but others worked for organizations such as Oxfam, UNICEF, and Médecins Sans Frontières. The World Health Organization announced it will conduct internal investigations and reaffirmed their “zero tolerance” policy.


First Woman Appointed as Prime Minister in Togo’s History

On Monday, Victorie Tomégah Dogbé was appointed as Togo’s prime minister, making her the first woman in the country’s history to hold the position. Her appointment follows the resignation of the former prime minister, Komi Selom Klassou.


Europe


E.U. Begins Legal Action Against U.K.

The E.U. is pursuing legal charges against the United Kingdom after the Parliament pushed legislation that places a hard border in Ireland. This course of action was decided by the European Commission after the British government ignored the E.U.’s request to abandon the bill by the end of September. The bill overrides the Brexit withdrawal agreement by allowing British ministers to make key decisions on Northern Ireland trade without having to consult the E.U.


Europe’s COVID-19 Second Wave

Experts and governments in Europe are sending a mixed message in response to rising coronavirus cases. Some experts have observed that Sweden may be close to achieving herd immunity as the virus is “running out of steam.” Other countries have begun to look at Sweden’s“light” touch approach which allowed the virus to work its way through the population without full lockdowns. This approach may be attractive due to its ability to support economic operation.


Conversely, the U.K. has extended its travel restrictions and mandated a self-quarantining period to three Caribbean islands, Poland, and Turkey. The British government is attempting to control rising coronavirus cases as thousands of students across the U.K. have been isolated at their universities. In Spain, Madrid has reverted to full lockdown, where only six people are permitted to gather indoors with restaurants and bars only permitted to operate at 50% capacity. Germany and France have followed similar policies as well


Latin America and the Caribbean


Argentina Accused of Election Interference in Bolivia

The interim government in Bolivia has accused Argentina of supporting the election efforts of former leader Evo Morales who is currently in exile in Buenos Aires. These accusations have been supported by official complaints to the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS). While Argentine President Alberton Fernández maintains that the international policy toward Morales was a “racist coup d’état,” the European Union and OAS maintain that the Morales government attempted to interfere in the elections.


Fuel Shortages Lead to Protests in Venezuela

Hundreds of protests have erupted in response to power cuts, fuel shortages, and water scarcity. Protestors accused the government of diverting resources to Caracas, the capital city, while neglecting the interior. While the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing resource scarcity, poor management of the oil industry along with U.S. sanctions have led to economic collapse and restricted production.


Mexican High Courts Push Forward Investigation into Corruption of Former Presidents

The Mexican Supreme Court upheld President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s referendum on investigating his predecessors on charges of corruption. The decision came at a close margin of victory, with six favorable opinions and five dissenting, with chief judge Arturo Zaldivar expressing that this offers a “historic opportunity to give a truly democratic sense to the mechanism of popular consultation,” referring to the referendum.


Middle East


Kuwait’s Highly Respected Emir Passes

Kuwait’s Emir, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who was widely respected and known for promoting peace, died on Tuesday. He served as foreign minister from 1963 to 2003, then took the role of prime minister. The current crown prince Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Sabah’s brother, will succeed him as emir. Once in office, Nawaf will choose the next crown prince and prime minister.


Turkey Prosecutes Six Saudi’s over Khassoghi Murder

Turkish prosecutors have indicted six Saudi’s over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Istanbul consulate in 2018. Two of the suspects are facing life sentences, while the other four were charged with tampering evidence and could serve up to five years in jail. The indictments follow the overturning of death sentences by a Saudi court in September, a move that essentially ignored MBS’s alleged involvement in the murder.


Trump Administration Floats Idea of Closing Embassy in Iraq

On Saturday, Secretary Pompeo told Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that the United States will withdraw from the Baghdad embassy if Iraq did not deter militant attacks on Americans in the area. Iranian-backed groups have attacked the embassy and Iraqi bases hosting American troops since Trump ordered the killing of Iranian commander Qasam Soleimani. The reversal in diplomatic efforts could harm Iraq, as the United States has assisted in battling the Islamic State in Baghdad since 2014.



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