You can find our international newsletter with important updates from around the world here.
Ireland, Enthusiastic About Gay Rights, Frets Over Abortion
25 May, the citizens of Ireland will head to the polls to vote in a referendum
whether to overturn a 1983 Constitutional amendment that outlawed abortion in
the country. This referendum, if passed, would allow abortions for women up to
12 weeks pregnant and would put Ireland in line with the UK’s laws on abortion.
The vote for the referendum is so close that the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps cannot predict
what the outcome will be.
Trump Backs Away From Demand for Immediate North Korean Denuclearization
Trump is softening his tone on North Korea, announcing Tuesday that he would
accept a phased dismantling of the country’s nuclear arsenal, a departure from
his earlier demands that North Korea immediately surrender all nuclear weapons
unilaterally. This comes during South Korea leader Moon Jae-in’s visit to the
White House to discuss how to move forward with Trump’s and North Korean leader
Kim Jong-un’s upcoming meeting.
European Parliament Testimony Criticised
On 22 May Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the European Parliament about recent data breaches surrounding the company. Some MEPs were disappointed in how the talks went, citing Zuckerberg’s avoiding of certain questions. This is mostly due to the unique format by which MEPs are allowed to ask questions, a system that departs from the U.S. Congress which Zuckerberg testified in front of earlier this year. All MEPs speak and ask questions and Zuckerberg does not respond until the end, thereby allowing him to pick and choose which questions he answers.
Macron French Reforms: SNCF Workers Vote Down Changes
into train strikes, SNCF workers have rejected French President Macron’s offer
to reform the rail system. The strikes have been taking place twice every five
days for the past two months, and a refusal of the latest reform package means
these strikes will continue until a favorable package is given or until the
rail system’s workers tire out, as some have already begun to do. Participation
in the most recent strike was only 14%, perhaps showing that Macron is not the
only one ready to end the strikes.
Published by Lucia Lombardo
Mark Zuckerberg to Apologize Again, This Time to European Parliament
chief executive is set to testify in front of the European Union Parliament
today, 22 May, to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica data breach and to take
questions from MEPs. This full session meeting comes after outrage from some
MEPs that the Council of Presidents was originally going to hold a closed-door
meeting where Zuckerberg would testify. Expect to hear tough questions concerning
political news on timelines and debates on privacy. Mr. Zuckerberg will
continue his European tour this week by meeting with French President Macron on
Pompeo: No Alternative to Iran Deal
21 May, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to impose harsh sanctions
on Iran once the US pulls out of the nuclear deal, which prompted a response
from the EU's foreign policy head, Federica Mogherini. Mogherini blasted
President Trump and the US for deciding to pull out of the nuclear deal, saying
there was no alternative and condemned Pompeo's sanctions threat. The US
decision to pull out of the JCPOA, as it is officially called, will continue to
create waves around Europe and the world in the coming weeks.
Venezuela Election: Maduro Wins Second Term Amid Claims of Vote Rigging
incumbent president Nicolas Maduro easily won re-election on Sunday 20 May
after his main opposition called for a boycott of the elections due to claims
of corruption. Maduro has served one 6-year term and will now be in power
through 2024. His presidency has seen the worst inflation Venezuela has ever
experienced, largely due to the recession the country fell into when oil prices
dropped and Maduro authorizing the printing of new money, leading to inflation
rates of over 2000%. Maduro won about 68% of the vote, or 5.8 million votes,
while his opposition, Henri Falcon, took only 21%. Falcon has called for new
elections due to what he calls rampant corruption in the country's independent
elections council, the National Electoral Council.
Little-known Law Professor Put Forward as Italian Prime Minister
Parliament has set forth a nominee for Prime Minister, a law professor named
Guiseppe Conte who is relatively unknown outside of Rome. The rival populist
parties in parliament, 5Star and League, confirmed that they met with Italian
president Mattarella to ask for his approval. If Mattarella approves Conte, a
confidence vote would be held in parliament this week or next to confirm Conte.
Conte has taught at Yale University, New York University and at Cambridge but
has no real political experience.
Experimental Vaccinations Begin in DR Congo
On Monday the WHO began administering doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to health workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after an Ebola outbreak began there earlier this month. As of now the WHO says that the conditions for declaring a public health emergency have not been met and seem optimistic about containing the virus before it spreads to the capital, Kinshasa. 26 people have died out of 45 reported cases so far, which include health workers. This experimental vaccine was developed during the last Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016 in West Africa that killed over 11,000 people. Although the drug has not received official approval, it was shown to be effective in its limited testing during the last outbreak. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-44194065)
By Alex Horin
Rohingya crisis: UN sees 'ethnic cleansing' in Myanmar
The United Nations Human Rights chief has stated that was is happening in Myanmar is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. In a statement claiming the current affair in Rakhine was "clearly disproportionate", Zeid Raad Al Hussein urged Myanmar to put and end to the "cruel military operation".
Cambodian leader threatens ban on opposition party
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has threatened to dissolve the country’s main opposition party if they continue to back their detained leader, Kem Sokha. Prime Minister Sen claims that Kem Sohka is a traitor, having apparently claimed to be able to win the upcoming election through American help, and continued support would make the party traitors as well. A member of the party stated they “can’t participate in an election that isn’t free and fair”
North Korea warns US faces greatest ever 'pain and suffering' if harsh sanctions approved
North Korea has warned that the United States will “pay due price” after Washington proposed further sanctions. The sanctions would see restrictions to oil supply and a ban on North Korean textile exports – the country’s main source of revenue. However, the resolution would need unanimous backing from the Permanent Member states, with Russia voicing opposition to tougher sanctions.
Pope Francis calls for Catholic Church to defend rights of immigrants
During a visit to Colombia, Pope Francis has called for the church to promote dignity among all persons, including immigrants and those vulnerable in society, and reiterated the Churches obligation to help such individuals. These comments come not longer after it was made public that President Trump planned to repeal he Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Brexit: deportations of EU citizens soar since referendum
Around 5000 EU Nationals have been deported from the UK since the beginning of the year, an increase of 14% from this time last year. This comes after a leaked Home Office memo detailing harsher restrictions for European migration to the UK after Britain leaves the EU. Human rights advocates have claimed that many of the removals are in fact illegal, and will be challenged in courts.
By Zohra Abdullah
Trump team met with Russian lawyer during campaign
The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Junior, in the presence of his son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after she promised him information about Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. said the woman failed to provide any substantial information about Clinton but wished to talk about the Magnitsky Act instead. Ms Veselnitskaya is best known for her campaign against the act. She has links to the Kremlin and represents state-owned companies as a lawyer.
Big in Japan: How the EU pulled off its largest trade deal
A free trade deal was closed between the EU and Japan after the four-year long negotiations were concluded between Japan’s agricultural minister, Yuji Yamamoto and European Commissioner for agriculture, Phil Hogan. The point of contention over the weekend turned out to be soft cheese. It was eventually decided that the EU would reduce its market access demand for soft cheese in exchange for almost complete market access for hard cheeses. This deal comes after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the TPP and took up protectionist policies instead.
Merkel condemns ‘brutal’ Hamburg protests
Angela Merkel condemned the riots against the G20 summit in Hamburg. She said there was no justification for the brutal attacks on police. Ms Merkel said she welcomed the peaceful protesters but condemned the violence. A police spokesman said the riots in the Schanzenviertel revealed “a new dimension in the kind of violence aggression shown to police”.
Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency barely functioning after drain of resources
Brazil’s conservative cost-cutting government has had debilitating effects on the agency charged with protecting indigenous people, the National Indian Foundation, Funai. As funds have been cut nearly in half, Funai has been forced to close down several regional offices. The lack of presence of the state in the form of Funai has been associated with the slight increase in rural land-based conflicts. Climate scientists have said this will have disastrous effects on indigenous reserves that the government is trying to remove from protection as well.
By Zohra Abdullah
Police, protesters skirmish in Hamburg as G-20 makes city site of global discord
Protesters and police clashed in Hamburg ahead of the G-20 summit in the city. Riot police used water cannons and pepper spray to clear the anti-capitalist march. The protest reportedly involved anarchist militant groups. Meanwhile the police used smoke bombs in order to prevent the crowd from moving downtown to where Chancellor Merkel is hosting foreign leaders. The protesters held anti-state and anti-inequality signs, drawing on Hamburg’s tradition of left-wing activism.
Russia steps up spying efforts after election
Current and former US intelligence officials say they have noticed an increase in Russian presence since the election. According to Steve Hall, retired CIA chief of operations, Moscow could be seeking information about Trump’s administration, which is new and still unpredictable. Russians spies have reportedly tried to gain employment at places with sensitive information, yet the State Department has not stopped issuing temporary duty visas to suspected intelligence officers and has continued to do so after the findings of Russian meddling in the US election.
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/06/politics/russia-steps- up-spying- efforts-after- election/index.html
Turkish opposition’s long march against Erdogan
Turkey’s feeble opposition is conducting a walk from Ankara to Istanbul. Thousands of protesters are joining CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on his 450-kilometre walk to Istanbul. The lack of a crackdown against protests is somewhat unprecedented in recent years. The government is perhaps aware of the probability of further criticism and protests if this protest is disrupted. The protest is against the government crackdown on civil society following last years failed coup attempt.
French police evict 2,000 refugees and migrants sleeping rough in Paris
More than 2,000 refugees from the streets of Paris have been evicted to temporary shelters in school gymnasiums in the presence of riot police. This was the 34th police evacuation of refugees in Paris since 2015. Aid workers have warned for the need of a long term strategy for housing asylum seekers rather than undertaking repeated emergency action. The number of refugees in Paris have increased since the closure of the Calais migrant camp last October.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/07/french-police- evict-2000- refugees-and- migrants-sleeping-rough-in-paris
G20: Trump and Putin meet face to face for first time
US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have met for the first time at the start of the G20 summit in Hamburg. Russian media said the pair is expected to meet again in the evening for an hour. On Thursday, Mr. Trump called on Russia to stop “destabilising” Ukraine. While European leaders have been seeking and open international trading system, the Trump administration has pursued a protectionist strategy.
By Zohra Abdullah
MEPs to call for measures to ensure products last longer
Typical consumer products have a very short life expectancy, leading to a waste of money, energy and resources. MEPs want to set criteria for how long they should last. They also want to encourage consumers towards repairing broken products rather than replacing them immediately. They call for providing better information to consumers about longevity so they can compare the price more appropriately. This is a part of a larger mission towards an environmentally-friendly, low-waste, circular economy.
Downing Street ‘not aware’ of Trump drop-in plan
The U.K. PM’s official spokesperson said, “I am not aware of any plans for the president to visit the U.K. in the next few weeks,” amid reports that Donald Trump could drop in to see Theresa May while he is in Europe. Trump is visiting France for Bastille Day celebrations on July 14. He is expected to see Theresa May while on an unscheduled stop to one of his Scottish golf courses. The Sunday Times reported that confirmation would come less than 24 hours before the visit to avoid protests. Trump’s state visit to the U.K. was previously cancelled due to protests against it, after he tweeted against London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s response to terrorist attacks on London Bridge.
Donald Trump’s CNN wrestling tweet sparks fresh outrage
Donald Trump tweeted a video of himself wrestling with a man on whose face the CNN logo was superimposed. The tweet has been criticised for not only targeting CNN but also freedom of press in general. White House Security and Counter-terrorism Adviser Thomas Bossert said that he hopes no one would take the tweet as a threat.
German bus inferno killed 18 in Bavaria, police say
A tour bus crashed into a lorry and ignited in South Germany, killing 18 people and injuring two. The bus driver was killed while the lorry driver survived. It is unclear how the crash happened. Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed sympathy for the bereaved relatives. The victims were pensioners heading to Italy for a holiday. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said rescuers were delayed by “gawpers” who were driving slow.
‘India violated border ahead of Modi’s US visit to show Washington it can contain China’, says Chinese media
China’s state-run media has accused Indian troops of violating the disputed India-China border during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to US to meet President Donald Trump. India claimed China had intruded in Sikkim to build a road and Bhutan too refused China’s claim that’s its road construction in Sikkim was “legitimate.”
By Zohra Abdullah
Iran says ISI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ‘definitely dead’
Iran’s state news agency said the Islamic State’s leader leader is “definitely dead.” The announcement was made by a representative of the Quds Force. Russia had previously said that its forces might have killed Baghdadi in an air strike in Syria. Washington said they had no information to corroborate such reports
German parliament votes to legalise same-sex marriage
Germany’s parliament voted in favour of same sex marriage and granted same-sex couples full rights, including adoption. There were 393 votes in favour, 226 votes against and four abstentions. Chancellor Angela Merkel said she voted against the move based on her personal beliefs but hoped that the result would lead to greater cohesion.
African migrants are reaching Europe with tales of kidnap and torture in Libya
Libya is being described as a “torture archipelago” that has left migrants escaping for Europe.Slave markets, abuse, rape and detention have become rampant in both government-run facilities and by militia groups. The EU provided Libya’s UN-backed government with $215 million to improve the conditions. Rights groups have criticised the EU response in light of abuses by the government.
Man tries to ram car into crowd at Paris mosque
A man has been arrested for trying to drive his car into a crowd outside a mosque in Créteil on Thursday. He was not able to get past protective barriers and no one was injured. The driver reportedly said he wanted to avenge attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and Champs-Elysees. He wss not under the influence of alcohol. He tried to flee but was arrested later.
White House council for women and girls goes dark under Trump
The council created by President Obama in 2009 has been defunct under the Trump administration. It was created to monitor the impact of policy changes and liaise with women’s groups. White House spokeswoman hope Hicks said that the White House is evaluating the best positioning of the office going forward. This comes to light after Trump’s vulgar tweet claiming MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
By Zohra Abdullah
Russia-Iran sanctions talks hit new hiccup
The sanctions bill against Iran and Russia has divided opinion in the US Senate. Democrats sought assurance that House Republicans will not water it down after what the GOP has billed as a simple fix. Democrats have raised repeated concerns that the White House plans to push House Republicans to dilute the congressional review provision to make it friendlier to the president. Republicans denied this as the reason for the holdup.
Muslim Ban: US sets strict rules for visa applicants
A leaked state department cable shows partial enforcement of Donald Trump’s travel ban is set to come into force today. VISA applicants from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen must prove a relationship to a “close” relative already in the US to be eligible for a US visa. AS close relative is defined as immediate family member. Cousins, grandparents/grandchildren, nephews, in-laws and other extended family members are not considered. The same requirements, with some exceptions, hold for refugees.
Security lockdown in Hong Kong as Xi Jinping marks anniversary of handover
Hong Kong has been placed under unprecedented security lockdown as Chinese president Xi Jinping arrived in the city. Prominent Hong Kong democracy activists were arrested after they staged a sit in. Xi said he wanted to work with “all sectors” of society. Protestors also stormed a statue jut outside where Xi is set to give a speech. The government meanwhile blanketed the city with red and yellow banners welcoming Xi. Police have also banned a planned vigil to :mourn” the demise of the city by pro-independence Hong Kong National Party and have warned journalists that they will be ejected from any event if “conduct is unrelated to reporting duties”
Mafia gangs moe to Germany as business hits hard times in Sicily
Sicilian mafia clans are moving north to Germany due to poor economic conditions in Southern Europe and an Italian government crackdown on organised crime.Nineteen suspected drug traffickers were arrested in Villingen-Schwenningen on 21 June, with €4m worth of goods and money. Italian police suspected that profits from drug trafficking were used to buy weapons in the Balkans.
Cardinal Pell: Vatican treasurer denies Australia sex offences
Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has denied any wrongdoing after being accused of sex offences in his native Australia. He has taken a leave of absence from the court. The Catholic Church has faced a damaging series of allegations relating to sex abuse by protests. Pope Francis had created a commission in 2013 to deal with such allegations. Cardinal Pell, who is one of the Pope’s closest advisers and one of the highest-ranking officials in the Catholic world, is now facing such a trial.
By Zohra Abdullah
Global cyberattacks: What you need to know
A massive ransomeware attack hit businesses around the world, causing them to shut down their computer systems. The worm infects computers and locks down hard drives. It then demands ransom in the digital currency of bitcoin in order to release it. Even if victims pay, they won’t receive their files back. Up-to-date Windows computers are safe from this attack but one out-of-date computer can infect other connected computers. Ukraine has taken a particularly heavy blow. Banks, government offices, the postal service and Kiev’s metro system were experiencing problems. There were also problems with the monitoring system of the Chernobyl nuclear power.
Trump: Obamacare repeal bill ‘will be great, if we get it done’
U.S. President Donald Trump said after party leaders delayed a vote on the legislation on Tuesday.
“…I think we have a chance to do something very, very important for the public, very very important for the people of our country that we love,” he added, before asking reporters to leave the meeting. Several conservative and moderate Republicans opposed the proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, as it is commonly known.
Eu fines Google €2.4Bn over abuse of search dominance
The European Commission issued a €2.4Bn antitrust fine for manipulating search results. At the end of a seven-year investigation, the EC concluded that the search engine had given “illegal advantage” to its own shopping service. EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager said Google left consumers without “genuine choice.” Shares in Google’s parent company, Alphabet, fell 1 per cent after the announcement. Google said they are considering an appeal.
Venezuela Supreme Court attacked from helicopter
A police helicopter was stolen and used to drop four grenade and fire shots over the Supreme Court building in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro called the incident a “terror attack.” No one was injured as the grenades failed to detonate. Opponents on social media accused the president himself of trying to justify his crackdown against Venezuelans seeking to block his plans to rewrite the constitution. The attack has been described as a “confusing incident.” The government said they have identified the perpetrators.
China launches new warship type to boost military strength
Beijing took an increasingly assertive stance by building a new type of warship in order to modernise its military. Beijing reasserted its indisputable sovereignty over parts of South China Sea after the Trump administration vowed to prevent China from taking territory in the region. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims in the region. China also launched its first home-produced aircraft carrier in April.
26 June 2017
by Meghan Lowther
Martin Schulz attempts to pull Angela Merkel into the impending campaign
As the September elections in Germany approach, Social Democrat candidate Martin Schulz challenged Angela Merkel’s strategy of “don’t say anything, don’t take up a definite position on anything,” saying that her strategy from previous elections wouldn’t work in September. Schulz claims that Merkel is actively avoiding the spotlight to allow poll numbers to speak for themselves, and discourage overall turnout. Schulz is gearing up for the brunt of the campaign, addressing problems with strategy and turnout
Tories and DUP reach deal to support Theresa May’s government
The agreement, worth 1 billion pounds of funding, will form a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party and the Conservatives to support May’s government. The deal provides a financial support package to Northern Ireland, and in return, the DUP will “support the Conservative government on votes on the queen’s speech, the budget, and legislation relating to Brexit and national security.” Northern Ireland has been a focus in the Brexit talks because of the need to discuss the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in terms of trade and migration.
Trump snubs 20 year tradition of Eid dinner
The White House has held an Eid dinner to celebrate the end of Ramadan every year since the Clinton administration. Mr. Tillerson refused a recommendation from the State Department’s office of religion and global affairs to organise a celebration, and President Trump has previously been criticised for anti-Muslim rhetoric, including a call to start surveillance on US mosques. Brief statements were released by both Mr. Tillerson and President Trump.
Why Berlin covets the ECB presidency
French President Emmanuel Macron has a vision to remake the Eurozone, but the question of what Berlin would demand in return hangs in the air. Angela Merkel’s opening ask is control of the European Central Bank, and Berlin’s dynamic of providing most of the funding gives them the power to make this demand. Support for the euro is strong in Germany, but many Germans feel that they cannot fully trust the ECB because they fear a repeat of the debt crisis in Southern Europe and Greece. While concerns of German dominance are ever-present in the EU, controlling the ECB would carry a deep symbolism, and some political insiders in Germany are against this move.
By Meghan Lowther
Arab States have sent
Qatar a list of 13 demands needed in order to lift sanctions
The list of demands was announced after urging from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Qatar’s neighbours to make their demands “reasonable and actionable.” The demands stated that Qatar must reduce ties with Iran, close a Turkish military base, and shut down media broadcaster Al Jazeera. Qatar was also asked to pay an “unspecified sum” in compensation, sever all ties with the Muslim brotherhood, and stop funding extremist groups specified as terrorists by the United States. There has not been an immediate response from Qatar about these demands, but the time limit to complete all 13 is ten days from 23 June.
Brexit: UK offer on EU citizens a good start, says Merkel
During a two-day EU summit on Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the United Kingdom’s plan to ensure the rights of EU citizens in Britain post-Brexit as “a good start,” but there were “many, many other questions.” The proposal grants EU migrants that have lived in the UK for five years a new UK settled status, which would allow them to stay in the country, access education and other benefits, and allow the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK to continue living in the country after negotiations have concluded. The exit deadline is 30 March 2019, and Friday marks the 1 year anniversary of the Brexit vote.
A year after a
divisive vote, doubts are mounting in a town that voted for Brexit
The port town of Tilbury was one of the most decisive towns on the Brexit vote, registering more than 72% for Leave. One year after the vote, the town’s hope for a Britain free from the European Union has been replaced by confusion, anger, and fear at the state of British politics. There is still significant support for Brexit, but many residents of the town have come to the realization that the vote was “for a black hole” and there has been growing backlash to Theresa May’s policies that some say represent the opposite of the initial promises. As the negotiations officially commence this week, more and more Britons want to find a compromise between being in the European Union and cutting most ties to the rest of the continent.
US Senate GOP health
bill provides tax cuts for the rich
After the release of a draft of the Senate Republican bill to “repeal and replace” the health care law set in place by President Barack Obama, a debate has arisen between the Republicans, who claim that the bill eliminates job-killing taxes, and the Democrats, who countered that the bill contains extensive tax cuts that would strictly benefit the wealthy and upper middle class at the expense of poorer Americans. On Facebook, Obama stated that “The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It's a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.” The Senate Republicans did not release any analysis or cost estimates along with the draft.
By Zohra Abdullah
Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Iraq’s Mosul ‘blown up’ by ISIL
The Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul has been blown up. The Iraqi army blames ISIL for its destruction while armed groups accuse a US-led coalition air raid. US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian told Reuters, “We did not strike in that area.” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the destruction of the mosque was a “declaration of defeat” by ISIL. Iraqi officials hoped to capture the mosque in time for Eid. The fall of Mosul, which is currently under the control of armed groups, would mark the end of the Iraqi half of the “caliphate.”
Prince Harry says no royal wants to be king or queen
Prince Harry of the U.K. told US Magazine Newsweek that he doesn’t think any royal wants to be king or queen. He also said that the royals were doing it “for the greater good of the people.” The interview gained both sympathy and criticism, as he implied that the privileged positions of the royals were ones that they only took on because they had to. He also talked about his experience with his mother’s death, getting counselling and walking in her funeral procession.
Trump says he doesn’t want a ‘poor person’ in cabinet roles
U.S. president Donald Trump said in an Iowa rally, “Somebody said why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy?”, “Because that’s the kind of thinking we want.” Trump added: “And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?” He also made fun of the Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff who lost this week’s election to the South Carolina congressional seat. He said that the Democrats” spent $30m on this kid who forgot to live in the district.” He avoided any discussion of the scandals surrounding his presidency.
Russians targeted 21 election systems, U.S. official says
A U.S. Homeland Security Department official told Congress that 21 U.S. state election systems were targeted in the 2016 presidential race but only a small number were breached and there was no evidence of vote manipulation. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Kremlin orchestrated an operation to in favour of Donald Trump. Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, voiced skepticism, saying only a small number of votes in key battleground states would need to be altered to tip the scales in an election.
By Zohra Abdullah
Reporters face 70 years in prison over anti-Trump march
More than 230 people, including 2 journalists were arrested after the inauguration day protests against Donald Trump in the United States. They were arrested on felony rioting charges. A few of the journalists had the charges dropped. On April 27, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia returned a superseding indictment which added additional charges. One journalist, Alexei Wood, faces a total of charges amounting to 70 years. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has expressed concern that police pepper sprayed protesters who were already detained and posed no threat to the officers. Investigations by the DC Mayor’s also revealed indiscriminate use of riot weapons against protestors by the police. Around 18 U.S. states have considered bills to curb protests by introducing severe penalties.
May drops key manifesto pledges from Queen’s speech
The Queen gave her speech today, opening the Parliament. She announced a pared-down legislative programme for the delivery of Brexit. The government will deliver eight bills for the completion of Brexit. Meanwhile, Theresa May’s minority government has dropped key Tory manifesto pledges, including the expansion of grammar schools. The speech made no mention of Donald Trump’s state visit, indicating that it has been postponed.
Soldiers shoot suspected terrorist dead at Brussels railway station
A suspected terrorist was shot dead by soldiers at Gare Central in Brussels. The man caused a small explosion in his suitcase and was shot dead when he approached a soldier. The federal prosecutor’s office spokesman Eric Can Der Sypt has said that the incident is considered a terrorist attack and confirmed that the suspect was killed. There were no casualties in the incident. After the incident, the station and the near by Grand Place were partly evacuated. Brussels has been on high alert since 18 months when it was found the ISIS militants responsible in the November 2015 attacks in Paris were based in Brussels.
Saudi king ousts nephew to name son as first in line to throne
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has named his son, Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince, replacing his nephew. The change in succession comes in the context of the diplomatic offensive against Qatar and the continued war in Yemen. Bin Salman has been central to the changes. By contrast, the former crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef has been increasingly marginalised. He has been a more traditional U.S. ally but was given little face time with Donald Trump during his visit to Riyadh.
By Zohra Abdullah
Otto Warmbier: student dies days after being returned from North Korea
Otto Warmbier was arrested in North Korea for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel lobby. Following his trial, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour. However, on 13th June 2017, he was returned to the US in an unresponsive state. Yesterday, he passed away in a Cincinnati hospital. The announcement was made by his parents, who said he was surrounded by his family when he died. US President Donald Trump said, “Lot of bad things happened, but at least we got him home to be with his parents.”
Barclays charged with fraud in Qatar case
Barclays has been charged with fraud over transactions during the 2008 financial crisis. Four former executives are incriminated in the case, including former chief executive John Varley. The charges relate to “advisory” fees paid to Qatar and “unlawful assistance” relating to a £2bn loan advanced to Qatar. Barclays received £7Bn from Qatar in 2008, which helped the bank avoid a government bailout. The Serious Fraud Office conducted an investigation after Barclays contested the fine imposed by the Financial Conduct Authority regarding the failure to disclose the arrangements with Qatari investors.
Qatar FM: We won’t negotiate until blockade is lifted
Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has said that lifting the blockade against Qatar is the precondition for negotiations to move forward. Despite the hit in tourism and tfood imports, Watar’ energy exports remain unaffected. Qatar is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The minister also said Qatar would rely on other states, such as Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran.
First Turkish journalists go on trial over alleged coup support
Nazli Ilicak, Ahmet and Mehmet Altan are the first journalists to go on trial following last year’s coup attempt in Turkey. They had been held without trial since September. They are accused of having contacts with the Gülen network. Thousands of professionals were dismissed from their jobs or arrested in the aftermath of the coup. They face a possible life imprisonment. The trial is being witnessed by the British consul general, members of the American and British bas associations, representatives of several European consulates and human rights and press freedom watchdogs.
European Court blasts Russia ‘gay propaganda’ law
The European Court of
Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s “gay propaganda” law encourages homophobia.
The law was adopted in 2013 and bans the promotion of homosexuality among
people under 18. The law includes punishment of up to 5,00 roubles (£67)
whereas businesses and schools can be fined up to 500,000 roubles. Homosexuality
was decriminalised in 1993 but prejudice continued. The case in Strasbourg was
regarding three gay rights activists who protested against the law. The court
rules that the law had no legitimate purpose in public interest and ordered
Russia to pay damages between Eur 8,000 and Eur 20,000.
By Zohra Abdullah
French polls: Macron’s party wins clear parliamentary majority
French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La Républic en Marche, along with its MoDem allies have won more than 300 seats in the National Assembly of France. The President’s pro-EU and business friendly plans are now free to play out. Both the conservative Republicans and the Socialists have experienced a major setback, with the Socialists recording their lowest tally ever. Far-right National Front (FN) party leader Marine Le Pen has won a seat in the parliament for the first time.
Lithuanians ‘sleep peacefully’ thanks to German troops
German troops have arrived in Lithuania. The move was decided at a NATO summit in Warsaw last year. Countries in Eastern Europe have long feared that NATO countries would not trigger Article 5 to defend them. The two NATO forces are officially under the command of the Lithuanian army. Even though the soldiers avoid mentioning any particular threat, tensions have grown over Russia’s aggressive policies.
One dead, ten injured as van mows down pedestrians in in London ‘terrorist attack’
A man ploughed his van into pedestrians who were leaving Finsbury Park mosque in London. One man was killed and 10 people were injured. UK Counter-Terrorism Police Coordinator Neil Basu said the attack has "all the hallmarks of a terrorism incident" but added that it was not being treated as a hate crime yet. London Mayer Sadiq Khan has called the incident a "horrific terrorist attack on innocent people." Mr. Khan announced that extra police would be deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan.
Muslim girl ‘killed after leaving mosque’ in Virginia
A Muslim girl was abducted and killed by a man identified as Darwin Martinez Torres in Virginia on Sunday. She was last seen with a group of Muslim teens after having an early meal on Sunday morning when the group was confronted by a motorist. TJ Wright from Fairfax county police has said that the case is not being treated as a hate crime. Two-separate fundraisers have raised over $50,000 for the victim’s family.
Huge forest fires in Portugal kill at least 60
Forest fires have affected central Portugal and left at least 60 people dead. Portugal’s prime minister Anónio Costa has declared three days of national mourning. Several hundred firefighters were deployed on Saturday in the Pedrógão Grande municipality where the fire started. Spain dispatched two water-bombing planes while France sent three aircrafts. The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, tweeted: "My thoughts are with the victims in Portugal. I commend the bravery of the firefighters. Eu civil protection mechanism activated and will help."
Australian escapes from Bali jail through 15m long tunnel, poice say
Indonesian police have launched a search for 4 men, including a an Australian, after they were believed to have escaped from Kerobokan prison in Bali through a 15-metre tunnel. Shaun Davidson from Perth was sentenced to1 year for immigration offences. He had 15 days left of his sentence, after which he would be deported and arrested for the warrant on drug charges against him in Perth. Last week 76 inmates escaped Jambi jail in Sumatra after flooding caused the prison's walls to collapse.
By Zohra Abdullah
Finland’s open door roils its politics
The increase in the number of migrants in recent years is raising the question of identity in Finland. Conflict rose when The Finns, a member of the ruling coalition, put an anti-immigration leader in charge, whereas Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has been sympathetic to refugees. There have been protests against “the Islamization of society” organised by far-right protesters in Helsinki. Suuad Onniselkä, a teacher at the school where the protests were held, has accused The Finns party of allowing people to be openly racist. Finland has also experienced an increase in hate crimes. Jussi Halla-aho, the blogger turned MP and MEP who has been elected the leader of The Finns party, was convicted for inciting ethnic hatred in 2012 through his blog.
Muslim groups in Germany at odds over planned anti-terrorism march
Muslim activists in Cologne organised “’Nicht Mit Uns” or Not With Us to condemn acts of terror and violence carried out in the name of Islam. However, the country's biggest Islamic organisation has refused to participate in the demonstration, saying, “Demands for ‘Muslim’ anti-terrorism demonstrations fall short” as they stigmatise Muslims by holding them accountable for terrorist acts. The demonstration has been intentionally organised during the month of Ramadan, in light of the several attacks carried out during Ramadan. However, the group has said, “fasting muslims can not be expected to demonstrate for hours under the midday sun”
Doctors: Ex-North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier has severe brain injury
22-year-old Otto Warmbier was a student at the University of Virginia when he was arrested in January 2016, after being accused of trying to steal a political banner from a North Korean hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour. He has now returned to the U.S. in a persistent vegetative state that North Korean doctor’s described as a coma resulting from botulism. However, Warmbier’s parents do no believe this claim and doctor’s have found no evidence to support it. While no signs of injury or trauma were found on his body, doctor’s could not provide a specific cause for Warmbier’s current state.
Kindergarten bomb was homemade, suspect died in blast
A bomb blast at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China killed eight people, including the suspect on 15th June 2017. Police said that the suspect, surname Xu, left school because of a nervous system disorder. Materials to make a homemade explosive device were found at his apartment. The blast occurred before the school day was over and no students or teachers from the kindergarten were injured, according to local authorities.
Facebook reveals AI use to block ‘terrorist content'
Facebook announced that they were using Ai, including image matching and language understanding along with human reviewers to remove objectionable content from the site. “We want Facebook to be a hostile place for terrorists,” said the blog post. This technology was already in use to block child pornography. The UK interior ministry welcomed Facebook’s efforts but said technology companies needed to go further. Facebook had previously announced they were hiring 3,000 additional people to review content that is reported by people.
By Zohra Abdullah
Europe is roaming-free
Europe’s decade-long mission to end roaming has finally been won. Calling roaming a “market failure”, President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat, on behalf of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, issued a statement saying that this step is towards a more integrated Europe and about making people’s lives easier. The battle to end roaming has not been an easy one. Even though Switzerland has been left of the ruling, several networks are extending their roaming-free coverage to Switzerland.
Romanian government collapses, prime minister refuses to resign
Social Democrats (PSD) and the Liberals (ALDE) withdrew support for the government due to its failure to implement the program that helped PSD win the elections. The program included tax cuts and salary hikes. However, PM Grindeanu said that he is being held accountable for policies that are to be implemented in 2018 or later and refused to resign for the same. He accused party leader Liviu Dragnea of trying to seize power. He also said that he will resign only when he is ensured that President Klaus Iohannis would appoint a new prime minister from PSD.
European Parliament ‘panic’ at cost of new building
The Paul-Henri Spaak building in Brussels has been in need of renovations for a while. The administration has now suggested the need to tear down the building or refurbish the existing one. The existing building took over 1 billion euros to complete and was acquired by the parliament for 303 million euros. MEPs reportedly suspect that the cost of the project would spiral out of control and have asked for more details on the potential options. The move was also criticised by MEPs in yesterday’s plenary session in Strasbourg. A decision to rebuild the parliament building, due to the high amount of taxpayers’ money involved, could fuel
A fire at Grenfell Tower in London left 12 people dead and many hospitalised. The tragedy has brought the community together in support of the victims and those who lost their homes. The local council said they were overwhelmed with the donations and could not accept more. Some have suggested that staying awake for an early morning meal before fasting for Ramadan may have saved the lives of many people when the fire broke out. Meanwhile, the question of how the fire spread so quickly remains. Residents of the building had reportedly raised concerns over the safety of the building. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he would be “demanding answers” about oversight.
During a practice for an annual charity baseball game against Democrats, a man identified as James Hodgkinson opened fire at a park in Washington, where 20 Republican House members and two senators were present. Among those injured is Republican Whip Steve Scalise, who remains in critical condition. The gunman died from his injuries later in the day. Congressmen Ron DeSantis and Jeff Duncan said that the man had earlier walked up to them and asked whether the practising team were Republicans or Democrats. As the man started shooting in the open field, the victims had nowhere to hide and the only thing separating them from the shooter was a chain-link fence.
By Zohra Abdullah
Trump Weighs Vetoing France’s African Anti-Terrorism Plan
The Trump administration is considering the use of Veto against a French Security Council Resolution that would empower an African counterterrorism force, according to U.S. officials. The point of contention seems to be the funding of the force. The United States has objected to passing the resolution through the UN, but supports the initiative. Meanwhile, French diplomats have argued that UNSC has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in support for a U.S.-African anti-terrorism force in Somalia and should also support this mission.
U.S. Senate Narrowly Backs Trump Weapons Sale to Saudi Arabia
The U.S. Senate voted 53 to 47 in favour of a $500 million sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. The opposition to the sale was led by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and was also joined by a few Republicans. The opposition focused on Saudi’s lack of concern about civilian casualties in Yemen. All of the factions involved in the Yemen conflict have been accused of war crimes, including recruitment of child soldiers. Human rights organisations have been critical of America’s support of Saudi Arabia.
Tories close in on deal to save beleaguered May
Even though Theresa May inches towards closing a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, the coalition is already facing criticism. Former Prime Minister John Major has warned that the deal would be views as “the government paying cash for votes in parliament” and would have implications for the Northern Ireland peace process. Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that the Labour party was ready to provide “strong and stable leadership” if May’s negotiations for her “coalition of chaos” do not succeed.
European Parliament courts controversy by sitting in judgement
In recent months, groups in the EU Parliament have drawn attention to rule of law issues in member countries and questioned respective MEPs about the same. For instance, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán was questioned about education reforms and Romania about corruption. Next in line is Joseph Muscat, who is going to be questioned about corruption scandals in Malta. This has created tensions between political groups. When the ALDE group persuaded others to grill Orbán in the plenary, the EPP added media freedom in Czech Republic to the agenda and put the liberal-aligned ANO2011 party on the line of fire. European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has welcomed the move of talking beyond “fish and finance” to discuss “fundamental values and the rule of law in Parliament.”
Emmanuel Macron says door to remain in EU is open to Britain
As focus shifts to a softer stance on Brexit following Theresa May’s lose of majority in the UK elections, French President Emmanuel Macron has signalled that the decision to leave the EU could be reversed if the UK wished to do so. He also said, “As negotiations go on it will be more and more difficult to go backwards.” Meanwhile, Theresa May said that she was determined to succeed with Brexit but hoped for a “deep and special partnership” with the EU.
By Zohra Abdullah
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny arrested and sentenced following Russia Day protests
The leader of the Russian opposition, Alexei Navalny, was arrested yesterday, 12th June, outside his home before he could join the Russia Day protests against corruption in the centre of Moscow. He had called to move the protests from an authorised location to Tverskaya Street, which was also the site of Russia Day celebrations. The move was made after “humiliation” of protestors and the denial of equipment for the protests. The authorities had previously warned that this move was unauthorised and action will be taken against those who don’t obey the law. Riot police also arrested many protestors. Mr. Navalny has been sentenced to 30 days’ administrative arrest.
Turkish detainees could lose right to European appeal
Turkey’s Preseident Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to reinstate the death penalty, which was abolished in 2004 in order to meet European Union standards. This puts the tens of thousands detained after last July’s failed coup at risk of death penalty. The European Court of Human Rights, which remained sympathetic to the detainees, was the last hope to safeguard their rights. As Turkey signals a retreat from its European Union membership bid, reinstating the death penalty would end its membership in the Council of Europe. For the human rights lawyers of Turkey and their clients, this would be the end of their struggle.
Update on Gulf Crisis
The tensions in the Gulf region are mounting. Pakistan had reaffirmed its commitment to Saudi Arabia and Israel has backed GCC states. UAE has further condemned Qatar for “internationalising the crisis with its brothers.” Meanwhile, Morocco has decided to send food products to Qatar, in order to support the country in the holy month of Ramadan. Oman has done the same. French President spoke to the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who is leading the mediation effort between Qatar and Arab states. Qatar’s FM announced that Qatar is willing to negotiate with other Arab countries.
May and Macron plan joint crackdown on online terror
The UK Prime Minister and French President will launch a joint campaign on Tuesday against online radicalisation. I will create legal liability for tech companies, which have to remove inflammatory content. May’s plan for further regulation of the internet was criticised by Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, who said further state censorship was not the answer. Meanwhile Macron’s party has gained a sweeping majority in the French Parliament.
Panama cuts ties with Taiwan in order to side with China
Taiwan is left with only 20 diplomatic allies in the world as Panama has refused to cut its diplomatic ties with Taiwan and moved to Beijing. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister David Lee has said that Panama yielded to Beijing for economic reasons and Taiwan has been deceived. While Panama has given no reasons for the shift, China has been investing in the country and the Panama Canal remains a crucial shipping route.
Indonesia's Military Chief Gen. Gatot Numantyo Says ISIS Cells Are in 'Almost Every Province' of the Country
Indonesia’s military chief Gen. Gatot Numantyo has said that sleeper cell networks linked to the ISIS group have a pervasive effect in Indonesia. The neighbouring country of Philippines remains locked in a battle with militant groups over the city of Marawi. The secular nation of Indonesia has observed a shift towards intolerance, evidenced in imprisonment of former governor Basuli Tjahaja Purnama on a blasphemy charge.
By Zohra Abdullah
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has called for an unauthorized protest against fraud.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had previously acquired permission to hold a rally at a different location but has decided to move the protest to Tverskaya Street at the heart of Moscow, on Russia Day. His decision came after authorities allegedly tried to humiliate protesters and firms refused to provide speakers and other equipment required for the protest. Authorities have warned that the protest in Tverskaya Street is unauthorized and action will be taken against those who break the law. The protest will also test the support of Mr. Navalny for next year’s elections where he hopes to unseat President Vladimir Putin.
Qatar’s Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi claims that Qatar’s economy will not be harmed by GCC sanctions
Qatari finance minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi has said in an interview that the sanctions imposed on Qatar by other Arab states will not harm Qatar but the countries that imposed the sanctions will lose money and business will be damaged. He said that Qatar will respond to the sanctions by importing from Turkey, the Far East or Europe and will take the opportunity to diversify its economy further. Despite the fall in the Qatari riyal, he assured that Qatar’s reserves and investment funds are more than 250% of the GDP and there is no reason to be concerned.
Trump’s state visit to Britain put on hold
US President Donald Trump has said that he does not want to visit the UK if there were large-scale protests against him. According to a Downing Street adviser, the conversation took place over the phone in recent weeks. The state visit is now on hold. Trump’s decision came after he misquoted London Mayor Sadiq Khan and criticizing his response to recent attacks against London. Mr. Khan called on the UK Government to cancel Trump’s invitation. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed Trump’s decision in light of his comments on Mr. Khan and withdrawal from the Paris Climate Deal.
Ukraine’s president celebrates first day of visa-free travel to EY
“The visa-free regime for Ukraine has started! Glory to Europe! Glory to Ukraine!” tweeted Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday. He announced that the measure “symbolizes a final breakaway of our state from the Russian empire.” Visa liberalization talks began in 2008 and the legislation was approved in May.
EU countries refusing to take refugees from Germany
Government figures requested by the far-left Die Linke party have shown that European countries have failed to take back tens of thousands of refugees who have claimed asylum in Germany. Many migrants enter Europe from Germany. In case they are refused asylum in another country, they can be returned to their first port of call.
Brexit-Lite back on the table after British election results
Ukip leader Nigel Farage told BBC that a Norway-type situation of leaving the EU but remaining in the single market may be an option of Britain now. As Theresa May has lost her majority in the parliament, she needs to pursue a soft stance on Brexit now, according to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. Meanwhile, Conservative chancellor Philip Hammond had has also echoed Labour calls for a “job-first Brexit.”