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Weekly News Digest for September 10, 2021

Compiled by Kelly Dobso, Trinity Gates, Dinah Gorayeb, Austin Myhre, and Charlotte Smith


Global


COVAX Reduces Forecast for Available COVID-19 Vaccines

COVAX, the United Nations-backed program, reduced its expected forecast for COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year from 1.9 to 1.425 billion doses. The vaccine program is aimed at tackling global vaccine inequality by ensuring low-income countries reach their targeted vaccination rate. In recent months, vaccine production stalled due to India suspending jab exports, issues with manufacturing AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax, and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations.


North America


Texas Governor Abbott Asserts That Texas Will “Eliminate All Rapists” in Response to Abortion Law Criticism

On Tuesday, during a press conference, Texas Governor Greg Abbott defended the new Texas law, which effectively restricts most abortions by barring abortions once the heartbeat of the fetus can be detected (around six weeks) without exceptions for instances of rape or incest. Governor Abbott asserted that Texas will aim to aggressively arrest and prosecute all rapists in an effort to “eliminate all rapists from the streets.” This remark sparked criticism from those arguing that the new law is the biggest curb on abortion in the United States since the Supreme Court deemed abortion access constitutional over 50 years ago. Additionally, Abbott’s comments garnered the disapproval of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center’s CEO, who stated that the mission to end sexual violence is not as easy as Abbott proclaims. Furthermore, in response to this law, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it will not allow violence against those attempting to obtain an abortion in Texas while it looks for avenues to dispute the law.


Asia and the Pacific


China Offers $31 Million Aid Package To Afghanistan

On Wednesday, China announced that it would donate $31 million worth of aid, including food and coronavirus vaccines, to Afghanistan. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized that China would work with countries in the region to help Afghanistan rebuild as well as fight terrorism and the drug trade. In response, Taliban officials highlighted China as Afghanistan’s most important partner. Although China was among the first major powers to establish contact with the Taliban, China has yet to formally recognize the Tablian-led government. On Monday, United States President Joe Biden affirmed a similar sentiment, stating that the U.S. was “a long way off” recognizing the Taliban.


Africa


Nigerian Region Experiences Phone & Internet Shutdowns

In Nigeria’s Zamfara region, network companies have followed a government directive to shut down internet and phone communications. This order was issued in an effort to help crack down on ransom-seeking kidnapping and looting behavior that has been causing instability in the region for the past few weeks. Last week, 73 students were kidnapped from a Zamfara area state high school. This ban is being used in conjunction with new military operations that are leading raids to identify and capture kidnapers as well as other criminal gangs. Many citizens in this region overwhelmingly support this shutdown and renewed efforts from the state to crack down on crime.


Europe


Trial over 2015 Paris Terrorist Attacks Begins

The trial to prosecute 20 men who were purportedly involved in the Paris terrorist attacks in November of 2015 began on Wednesday, almost six years after the deadly incident. The sole surviving attacker according to prosecutors is Salah Abdeslam. The trial will include Abdeslam alongside alleged accomplices. Ten Islamic State Extremists carried out the shootings and suicide bombings that occurred at the Bataclan concert hall, killing 130 and wounding 500 others. These events left France united in mourning over the loss of lives; however, it also produced feelings of fear and anger leading to continuing discourse over Islam’s presence in the secular country.


Influx of Afghan Refugees to Greece Fuels Tension with EU

With Greece bearing much of the pressure to house Afghan refugees, Greek officials began installing patrol units and surveillance systems to halt any more refugees from entering the country. Moreover, Greek officials demanded that the European Union provide further support in this crisis. However, the European Union asserted that any support payments must be linked to the creation of an independent monitoring authority to prevent Greece from illegally rejecting refugees. In light of Afghanistan’s recent government collapse and takeover by the Taliban, the EU is trying to strike a balance between preventing significant refugee intake and ensuring that funding does not go towards controversial methods of keeping the refugees out, such as building fences along borders. Because of Greece’s proximity to Turkey, where many Syrian and Afghan refugees flee, it has withstood the largest influx of refugees of any EU country. As such, Greece attempted to implement some of the strictest border policies, despite criticism from human rights groups and tension with EU officials.


Latin America and the Caribbean


Pro-Bolsonaro Voters Rally on Independence Day in Brazil

On Tuesday, September 7th, and Brazil’s Independence Day, President Jair Bolsonaro called on his supporters to protest the country’s Supreme Court. Just a few days before, President Bolsonaro had announced, “I have three alternatives in the future: being arrested, killed, or victory,” referring to next year’s Presidential elections, and continued on to say, “You can be sure the first option, imprisonment, will not happen.” President Bolsonaro has sought to portray Supreme Court Justices and other powerful critics as underhanded villains who are setting the stage for the return of former leftist President Lula, who has surged in the polls after the annulment of graft convictions and the restoration of his political rights. His supporters even called for the dissolution of the Supreme Court, supporting President Bolsonaro’s speech against a justice of the court leading investigations that have jailed some of his allies. One person at the event said, “We need to shut down the court,” and, “He wants to govern but the court won’t let him.”


President Bolsonaro has led one of the world’s most chaotic responses to the coronavirus pandemic, in a country that was once seen as an example of vaccinations. Unemployment, hunger, inflation, interest rates, and inequalities have all risen since Bolsanaro started office. Further, an intense drought has greatly reduced water levels at hydroelectric stations. The Supreme Court has opened several investigations against President Bolsonaro, including inquiries into a vaccine procurement corruption scandal and the President’s quest to discredit Brazil’s voting system. This resulted in much of the electorate against President Bolsonaro, who continues to attack the voting system and institutions of Brazil.

Nicaraguan Prosecutors Order Arrest of Former Vice-President

On Thursday, September 9th, prosecutors ordered the arrest of award-winning novelist and former Vice-President under President Daniel Ortega, Sergio Ramirez. In 2017, Ramirez, who won the Premio Cervantes, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world, is accused of “incitement of hate” and “conspiracy,” charges that have been used several times in the arrests of political opponents and candidates set to run against Ortega in November’s election. Ramirez was an official in the Sandinista government that came to power in 1979 and was vice-president under Ortega from 1985 to 1990, however, he fell out with Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1995 and retired from politics soon after.

The Nicaraguan government has already accused 34 political opponents, including seven presidential candidates of “plotting against the state” by using a law approved by the Parliament in December. This has prompted the European Union and the United States to establish sanctions and visa restrictions on Nicaraguan officials, with the White House saying the “upcoming polls have lost all credibility.” Among the allegations, Ramirez is also accused of receiving money from the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation, which is accused of money laundering and undermining national sovereignty.

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