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Weekly News Digest for September 5, 2020

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

 

Breaking News:


China Conducts Military Exercises During US Visit to Taiwan

In a sign of support for Taiwan, Keith Krach, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday to attend a memorial service for former President Lee Teng-hui. During this visit, Taiwan said it had to utilize fighter jets to track Chinese aircraft that crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait. China’s defense ministry said its military was conducting military exercises in response to the “current situation” and to safeguard China’s “national sovereignty.”


UN Accuses Maduro of Crimes Against Humanity

An investigative panel from the United Nations issued a 411-page report accusing Venezuelan President Maduro and high-ranking officials of his government of crimes against humanity. The extensive evaluation counted around 3,000 cases since 2014 amounting to various human rights abuses: killings, torture, and sexual violence. The investigators declared there is reasonable evidence to believe that ‘Maduro, the interior minister, the defense minister, and the directors of Venezuela’s security and intelligence services “ordered or contributed to” the arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and torture of critics and extrajudicial killings’.


The destructive report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva next week. The foreign minister of Venezuela responded to the allegations on Twitter by arguing it was “a report plagued by falsehoods… and controlled by governments subordinated to Washington.” The investigative panelists called for an investigation for determination of individual responsibility in either a national or international jurisdiction.


Eyes Turn to Europe as Coronavirus Cases Spike

The World Health Organization has issued a warning to European nations as surging coronavirus cases are observed. The regional director, Hans Kluge, noted that “Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region” as 300,000 new infections were recorded this week, exceeding previous records set in March.


Governments are desperate to avoid large-scale lockdown as seen earlier this year, it is becoming difficult in nations like France and Germany where the summer holiday season has increased mobility among young people who are likely to carry the virus while being asymptomatic and recover with no long-term consequences. Members from the European Union Scientific Advisory Panel have urged governments to encourage citizens to take personal responsibility to curb the rising numbers.


North America


City of Louisville Pays $12 Million to Family of Breonna Taylor

In a historic settlement, the city of Louisville Kentucky paid $12 million and committed to sweeping police reforms. The city is establishing a housing credit program to incentivize officers living within their jurisdictions while requiring more stringent oversight on search warrants. Mayor Fischer maintains that the city is not admitting wrongdoing in the agreement. This comes in context of the broader Black Lives Matter movement and the push for police reform.


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies at 87

Appointed in 1993 as the second woman in the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg died Friday due to complications with metastatic pancreas cancer. With less than 50 days before the Presidential elections, the question of her replacement brings deep concern for Democrats. President Trump has already tweeted, urging Republicans to fill the seat “without delay.” This situation invokes the failure to appoint Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016, when Senate Republicans blocked Garland’s nomination by refusing to hold hearings.


President Trump and CDC Director Clash Over COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline

Director Robert Redfield predicted wide availability for the COVID-19 vaccine by mid- to late-2021. The timeline contradicts President Trump’s promise of 100 million doses being distributed by the end of 2020. In response to the dispute, the President said, “No, I think he made a mistake when he said that...That’s incorrect information.” While a vaccine may be developed by November of December of this year, a significant level of immunity will likely require six to nine months of distribution, according to Director Redfield.


Hurricane Sally Ravages the Gulf Coast

Hurricane Sally hit shore as a Category 2 hurricane, causing widespread damage in its wake. At least two deaths are attributed to the storm, while storm surge and extreme winds brought extensive property damage. Sally comes weeks after Hurricane Laura killed at least 27 people in Louisiana, destroying water infrastructure. A prediction from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows 19 to 25 named storms, nearly double the usual frequency. There are 19 named storms as of September 17.


Asia and the Pacific


Sri Lanka Government Names Suspect in Oil Tanker Fire

On Thursday, a Sri Lankan magistrate ordered the court appearance of the captain of the oil tanker that caught fire off Sri Lanka’s coast. The demand came after Attorney General Dappula de Livera directed police to name the captain of the MT New Diamond as a suspect. The country is seeking $1.8 million from the ship’s owner. Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva claimed the clean up will need an “international effort.” Two Russian anti-submarine ships and four Indian ships are assisting in the cleanup of nearly 2 million barrels of oil.


US Banning Tik Tok Downloads Due to Concerns of National Security

Tensions increase in relationship between the United States and China as the Trump administration announces the ban of TikTok and WeChat downloads in the US. The administration claims the companies pose a threat to national security, as the apps collect large amounts of user data. In the statement issuing the ban on Friday, the administration has threatened fines of up to $1 million and up to 20 years in prison for violations of the order.


China-Australia Relations Bitter as Chinese Firms Turned Away

China’s foreign ministry warns that Chinese companies are losing confidence in Australia after the Australian government recently turned several Chinese companies away due to national security reasons. Relations between the two countries are tense, with Australian journalists pulled out of China following the arrest of Australian journalist Cheng Lei, and the Australian police accessed emails and messages of Chinese diplomats amid an investigation of foreign political interference.


Africa


Libya’s Prime Minister Calling it Quits

The UN-backed leader of Libya’s government, Fayez al-Sarraj, announced on Thursday that he plans to resign by the end of October. Al-Sarraj is the head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) which rules over eastern Libya, while the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, controls the southern part of the state.


Peace talks have advanced between rival groups with progress for agreements on ceasefires and the beginning of a “preparatory phase” for the unification of Libyan institutions and new elections. Al-Sarraj aims for a peaceful transition of power, with the next prime minister finding an effective solution to the country’s civil war.


Violent Protests Erupt as Ivory Coast’s President Cleared to Run for Third Term

The Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council ruled the incumbent president, Alassane Ouattara, can run for a third-term in office, overturning the two-term limit set by the constitution. The council also prevented several of Ouattara’s opponents from running, including a former president and a former rebel leader. Violent protests have broken out amid alleged corruption and election interference and have resulted in 15 casualties.


Europe


Fires at Greek Migration Camp Prompts the Setup of Temporary Tents in Lesbos

The aftermath caused by four Afgan arsonists a week ago at Europe’s largest migrant camp has left 12,500 people homeless. While the Greek government was quick to move primarily women and children from the devastated Moria camp and resettle them to a makeshift camp in Lesbos, much criticism and chaos have ensued as living conditions are poor and locals are unhappy with this interim solution. Many critics and locals are looking to the rest of Europe for a long term solution to support refugee camps in Greece, especially in the middle of a pandemic, as well as the reassessment of current E.U. migration policies.


Brexit Tensions Persist as Transition Period Comes to an End

With the Brexit transition period coming to an end, the tension between the E.U. and the U.K has increased as Borris Johnson proposed a bill to Parliament last week that would rework major parts of the Brexit withdrawal treaty, prompting legal action to be discussed among the European Union. This reassessment has been particularly destabilizing in Northern Ireland, as it threatens the viability of the free-trade agreement established through previous negotiations. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (and by extension the E.U.) relied on previous agreements to preserve the easy trade and psychological ties that have been delicate, but well preserved following the Northern Ireland conflict. If there is no trade deal by December 31st, tariffs and border control will be applied to U.K. goods entering the E.U. and vice versa, creating severe economic impacts on relatively every sector in both economies and by extension the E.U./U.K. relationship.


Latin America and the Caribbean


Mexican President Requests Referendum on Corruption of Predecessors

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has asked the Senate to investigate the theft of public resources since 1988. With the referendum suggested to take place in mid-2021, corruption of previous administrations will likely fill future campaigns. Lopez Obrador states that “neoliberalism left millions of victims,” criticizing those to the center and right. Critics of the President suggest a diversion of attention from the pandemic, economic strife, and pervasive gang violence.


Barbados Cuts Ties with the British Crown

Governor General Dame Sandra Mason announced the state’s shift to a Republic, leaving behind the former parliamentary constitutional monarchy. Dame Sandra called on the nation to leave behind its colonial past, aiming to complete this transition by November 2021. The move brings to question how other Caribbean nations will address their relationships with the Crown.


Middle East


The United Nations Refuses to Let MBS Walk Free

On Tuesday, leaders of states met with the UN Humans Rights Council after Saudi Arabia’s court reduced sentences for those involved in the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The court also failed to address who ordered the killing, despite evidence pointing to MBS. A statement coordinated by 29 states demanded further accountability and transparent prosecution for “all those responsible accountable”. The group also highlighted other violations such as torture, arbitary detention, and sexual assault in an effort to demonstrate a pattern of human rights abuses.


Iran Executes Wrestling Champion

Navid Afkari, a national wrestling champion, was executed on Saturday in an Iranian prison. He was arrested in 2017 for allegedly stabbing and killing a water supply company employee. After his arrest, the case was condemned internationally, arguing that Afkari and his brothers were targeted due to protesting against Iran’s Shia theocracy. World leaders have responded to this atrocity, claiming that it is consistent with Iran’s efforts to “silence opposing voices”.



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