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Weekly News Digest for September 12, 2020

Compiled by Kelly Dobso & Karan Pol


Breaking News:

Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited Diverts $18 Billion to Myanmar Military

A new Amnesty International report reveals that the secretive conglomerate MEHL has been bankrolling the Myanmar military, including those allegedly responsible for atrocities against the Rohingya people and other minority ethnic groups. The board of the company is entirely composed of active and retired senior military officials. The company has a wide-ranging portfolio, dealing with mining, manufacturing, banking, and much more.

The report comes as two Myanmar military deserters claim on video that they were ordered to take part in indiscriminate killing and rape of Rohingya Muslims in 2017. The two soldiers are believed to be in Hague working with the International Criminal Court.

MBS Walks Free After Court Ruling for Khassoghi’s Murder

A Saudi court established a final ruling in the killing of Jamal Khassoghi, a journalist with the Washington Post who critically covered the state's government and human rights abuses. The court faced backlash after overturning life sentences for five of the defendants and reduced the punishment to twenty years.

An official from the United Nations, Rupert Colville, condemned the courts handling and argued a lack of transparency and accountability. Other critics point out the court decision did not conclude who ordered the assassination, with officials of the UN arguing there is “credible evidence” linking Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to the killing.

Western United States Bathed in Red: Historic Wildfires Continue to Blaze

Wildfires covering California, Oregon, and Washington have killed at least eight people, leading to destroyed homes and the evacuation of thousands. Nearly 100 fires are currently active in the region, spanning millions of acres of land. Photos from the region show red and orange skies dropping ash to the ground below, completely cutting out sunlight. With these wildfires raging for weeks now, it is unclear when the destruction will end.

North America

Trump Admits to Downplaying the Threat of COVID-19

In an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, President Donald Trump admits to knowing the danger of the novel coronavirus weeks before the first confirmed American death. Trump claims that the goal was to avoid a public panic. One can read the interview and more in Woodward's latest book, “Rage.”

WE Charity Winds Down Operations in Canada

Through months of scandals, the international development and youth empowerment charity is decreasing operations in Canada. The organization cites low donations and political scandal as the impetus for this change. However, connections to Prime Minister Trudeau’s family muddy the statement, as WE has paid the Trudeau family hundred of thousands of dollars since 2015. Former Finance Minister Bill Morneau resigned in August over connections to this scandal.

Asia and the Pacific

Taiwan Expands it Defensive Capabilities in the Face of a Rising China

Taiwan hopes to create an alliance to defend “freedom, safety, human rights and democracy,” in Asia as Chinese pressure on the state increases. In her statement at the 2020 Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue, President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized that “Taiwan stands at the forefront of defending democracy from authoritarian aggression.” Taiwan has increased its defense budget in this context and enhanced its domestic production capabilities in establishing a strong stockpile of military equipment.

COVID-19 Cases Spike in India

India overtook Brazil in total positive cases on Monday reaching 4.3 million cases, remaining second only to the United States. Death rates, while low, are consistently rising. In spite of these developments, Prime Minister Modi has shifted his attention toward economic resuscitation by resuming underground train services and planning to re-open the Taj Mahal.

Afghanistan Vice President Amrullah Saleh Survives Targeted Blast

Vice President Saleh’s convoy was targeted with explosives this week rendering 10 confirmed casualties and 16 wounded. No party has yet taken responsibility for the bombing, with a Taliban spokesperson denying involvement. The attack comes ahead of peace talks scheduled between the Taliban and Afghan officials. VP Saleh escaped the blast with only minor injuries.


Another Fatal Al-Shabab Attack Targets Military Outpost

On Monday, a truck bomb in Somalia resulted in three deaths and three people injured including a wounded U.S. soldier. The attack occurred by a military outpost in southern Somalia, an area that was recently taken from the Al-Shabab terrorist group. In recent weeks, the militant group has ramped up attacks on locations such as hotels and prisons.

South Africa Economy Experiences Largest Economic Recession in Half-Century

South Africa’s GDP has shrunk by 50% in the second quarter of 2020, marking the sharpest contraction of the economy since 1960. COVID-19 continues to have devastating effects on the second largest economy in Africa with the hardest hit sectors being construction, manufacturing, and mining.


Fire Destroys Greece’s Largest Refugee Camp


The Greek island of Lesvos was placed in a state of emergency after a fire wrecked a refugee camp, causing thousands of migrants to flee. The refugees have been evacuated but are not resettled in another camp; as of Wednesday, they were sleeping in fields outside of towns. The state of emergency was enacted in order to mobilize forces to support and assist migrants.

The EU responded with words of solidarity and support. France, Germany, and the Netherlands have agreed to admit some of the 13,000 displaced migrants, while local Greeks are arguing their opposition to the construction of new tents and camps.

Johnson’s Newly Proposed Bill Halts EU-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has proposed the Internal Market Bill which aims to rewrite a section of the withdrawal agreement by delegating power to UK ministers for modifying rules related to trade from Northern Ireland. The bill, as it currently stands, will be enacted on January 1 if the UK and EU cannot approve a trade deal.

The EU’s recent statements have been strongly disapproving of Johnson’s proposed bill. The European Commission Vice President, Maros Šefčovič, contends the adoption of the bill would be an ‘“extremely serious violation” of the withdrawal agreement and of international law’. The EU argues it is a breach of international law, while the UK asserts Parliament is sovereign and the issue in hand relates to domestic law, therefore within the states jurisdiction. The obtrusive discord between the two groups lays out a potential costly legal battle in the following months.

Latin America and the Caribbean

European Union Deploys an Election Expert Mission to Bolivia

In a statement on Wednesday, the European External Action Services detailed a deal in which the European Union would provide €2 million to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to “ensure that elections abide by international principles for democratic elections.” With Former President Evo Morales fleeing to Mexico following claims of electoral manipulation, the military is currently a major arbiter of political power.

Venezuelan Democratic Alliance Announces It Will Not Renounce December Elections

The five opposition parties that compose the Democratic Alliance have stated their intention not to renounce their runs for the next parliamentary elections. Hope for Chane President Javier Bertucci announced that the coalition opposes “victory by violent shortcuts” and that they would stand in unity.

Middle East

Bahrain to Normalize Ties to Israel

On Friday, President Trump announced that Bahrain will establish complete diplomatic relations with Israel. The agreement makes Bahrain the fourth Arab state to normalize connections with Israel. The Palestinian Liberation Organization denounced the Arab states and attests the agreement ignores the Israeli military occuption of Palestinian lands in the West Bank.

Aid for Beirut Destroyed After Subsequent Fire

A month after the Beirut explosion, a massive fire has broken out at a damaged warehouse where oil and tires are stored. An aid organization had also been storing thousands of food parcels at the warehouse as well. The extent of destruction and the cause of the fire remain unknown. No injuries have been reported.



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