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Weekly News Digest for October 31, 2020

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


Breaking News:

Chile Approves Constitutional Reform

Citizens of Chile voted in favor of a new constitution by a wide majority of 78% representing 6 million people. The process will be facilitated through a Constitutional Convention where new representatives will be elected by the people. This move comes after months of protests began in October of 2019 over rampant inequality, bringing a host of abuses by Chilean law enforcement. Elections for the convention will begin on April 11, 2021, leading to nine months of deliberation on the language of the new constitution.

UN Watchdog Confirms Iran is Building Underground Nuclear Facility

Inspectors from the United Nation’s atomic watchdog confirmed Iran is building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after the previous one exploded this summer. In addition, the inspectors found that Iran is stockpiling amounts of low-enriched uranium. Per the JCPOA, Iran is allowed to produce certain amounts of uranium for non-military purposes, but the report notes the state has been exceeding the set limit. However, the amount of public information given is limited as the UN deems it “confidential”. The UN will release a subsequent report in the following weeks.

Record New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Rising in the United States

As of Friday, the United States surpassed its record number for single day case increases, logging more than 99,000 new cases. The previous record, logged only one day earlier, was 90,000. Current projections suggest that a best-case scenario will yield at least 243,000 deaths from COVID-19 by November 21, where more than 228,000 have already died. Currently, the virus is spreading at a near exponential rate across 47 states.

North America

Huawei CFO Continues to Fight Against Extradition

A Canadian judge blocked attempts to dismiss portions of Meng Wanzhou’s argument as part of her extradition case. Meng, CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, was arrested in 2018 for misrepresenting the company's business in Iran, with the United States accusing her of fraud leading the HSBC investment bank to break sanctions against Iran. The decision to block the dismissal allows Meng to fight back, claiming that the United States misled Canada by omitting key components of the case which would undermine the allegations of fraud. Meng maintains that she is innocent and intends to continue fighting the case in Vancouver while under house arrest. The United States government claims that Huawei is a national security threat due to its ties to the Chinese government and People’s Liberation Army.

Police Killings Rate in the United States One of Highest in the World

The United States in 2019 rivaled the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq in police killings at a rate of 46.6 per 10 million residents. Countries with comparable levels of police brutality are often described as “police states.” With the killing of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia, police have killed 874 people in 2020, 28% of which were Black. Protests have resurged across the country just ahead of the Presidential election.

Asia and the Pacific

China Announces 5-Year Plan

The Chinese government unveiled its plans to grow its economy by focusing on technology over the next five years. The Communist Party’s Central Committee met on October 29 to discuss the importance of sustainable growth and the development of a strong domestic market. Through these measures, China hopes to become a leader in innovation. Based on this announcement, economists believe that China will likely spend more in R&D, education, new infrastructure, AI, and data centers.

Typhoon Molave Hits Vietnam

Following weeks of harsh weather, Typhoon Molave slammed into central Vietnam on October 28. The storm’s torrential rainfall led to landslides and flooding, leaving more than 60 people dead or missing. The region is preparing for another tropical storm this weekend, as Typhoon Goni races toward the Philippines. Scientists say that the increase in the number of typhoons and hurricanes in recent years is due to global warming.

Australia Prepares for Natural Disasters

A royal commission inquiry analyzed the causes of Australia’s Black Summer bushfires, leading to a report of over 80 recommendations the government should consider in order to prevent and lessen the effects of future large-scale natural disasters. These recommendations include improvements to national response efforts and more collection of climate data. The recommendations also include improving the coordination between local and federal authorities and the use of consistent terminology regarding threats, evacuations, and sheltering orders.


Guinea’s President Conde Wins Controversial Third Term

On Saturday, President Alpha Conde won a controversial third term after changing the presidential term limits while in power. Cellou Dalein Diallo, the opposition candidate, will appeal the results of the election and submit a complaint to the country’s Constitutional Court. Protests broke out against the results and sparked a violent backlash by security forces. Amnesty International reports ten were killed after police fired live rounds into a crowd and condemned the authorities’ use of violence.

Trump Threatens War Over Ethiopian Dam

During the announcement of normalization of ties between Israel and Sudan last week, Trump commented that “ [Egypt] will end up blowing up the dam, and I said it and I say it loud and clear… they’ll end up blowing up that dam. And they have to do something.” Trump threatened the situation earlier this year as well by directing the State Department to suspend aid to Ethiopia over the lack of progress in the dam dispute. Since the threat of war, Ethiopian officials have condemned Trump’s comments. Ethiopia’s Former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn responded on Twitter saying “the man doesn’t have a clue on what he is talking about.”

The dam dispute has been a leading issue between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Egypt and Sudan are worried that the dam will create water security issues. For Ethiopia, the dam is aimed at alleviating state poverty and providing a source of power for the nation. As of now, a resolution has not been reached between the three states.


Terror Attack in Nice, France

Three French citizens were killed in a knife attack that took place at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France this week. President Emmanuel Macron has opted to take a stronger stance in order to preserve national security, which will include deploying 3,000 to 7,000 troops to protect public places across the nation. Little is known about the assailant at this time, but the national response echoes that of recent terror attacks. Macron’s stance against Islamic extremism hardened this week, disregarding international distaste after countries like Turkey have called for a boycott of French goods after the government’s crackdown on radical groups and increased deportations.

Labour Party Suspends Jeremy Corbyn

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued a reporting outlining how the Labour Party had improperly dealt with anti-Semitism under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. Jewish leaders, including lawmakers in the party, have experienced anti-Semitic language on social media and party meetings. The EHRC has found the party in violation of the Equality Act, mainly under three breaches which include political interference in anti-Semitism complaints, failure to provide proper training to deal with such complaints, and harassment. The report alongside complaints specifically directed at Corbyn has led the Labour Party to place Corbyn under suspension and investigation for the foreseeable future.

Germany and France Lead the Way as Europe Braces for a Coronavirus Winter

As Europe soars with surging coronavirus infection rates, France and Germany return to partial lockdowns. Both Germany and France have announced a four-week lockdown starting October 31st, in an effort to curb rising numbers in both countries. With this new lockdown, non-essential businesses, restaurants, and bars will be closed but schools and workplaces can remain open. In France, infection rates are outnumbering their neighbors, and city curfews have led to massive traffic jams as some urban residents retreat to their country homes. In Germany, the government and biotechnology company BioNTech are testing a vaccine. A plan is underway to establish sixty regional vaccination centers, rendering Germany the first western country to utilize vaccines for the coronavirus on a mass scale.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Evo Morales’ Arrest Warrant Annulled

A judge in Bolivia annulled the arrest warrant for the former President who faced allegations of sedition and terrorism. The case showed that due process had not been followed, where Morales had not been served with necessary paperwork. The move comes after Bolivians elected socialist candidate Luis Arce. With the inauguration of Arce, Morales intends to leave his exile in Argentina on November 9th.

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Flees to Spain

Former political prisoner and opposition leader Leopoldo López escaped Venezuela toward Spain, eventually intended to head to the United States and continue his efforts to dismantle the Maduro regime. López has been hiding in the residence of the Spanish ambassador to Venezuela since 2019 when the Supreme Tribunal issued a warrant for his arrest regarding his political activism.

Middle East

Russia and Turkey Escalate Tensions in Syria

Russian forces conducted air raids in Syria on Monday, killing dozens of rebel fighters in the Idlib province of northwestern Syria. The attack targeted a large Turkey-backed group, Failaq al-Sham, violating a truce set in place by Russia and Turkey earlier this year to deter more violence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to the Russian airstrikes by noting it as an indication that “Moscow was not looking for lasting peace in the region.” Erdogan also floated a possible new military operation to remove Kurdish forces from the northern border of Syria. Turkey has long opposed the Kurds, who were once backed by the United States under President Obama, as Erdogan perceives the group as terrorists and a threat to Turkish sovereignty.


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