Weekly Report July 17 2020 — CANVAS

 

Coronavirus

The United States reported more than 75,600 new cases on Thursday shattering its previous single-day record. It was the eleventh time in the past month that the record has been broken, and the number of daily new cases has more than doubled since June 24th. Elsewhere, India became the third country to see more than one million total cases, joining Brazil and the United States. Brazil passed two million cases, adding one million cases in a month.

 

United States

 The United States is steadily increasing its case count, repeatedly shattering its daily virus count record. On Thursday, the U.S. daily record hit 75,600 new cases, with the number of deaths also increasing. This week, the Trump administration announced that it is considering a sweeping ban on travel to the United States by members of the Chinese Communist Party, based on the same statute in the Immigration and Nationality Act that inspired a travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries.

 

China

The U.K. has barred the use of Huawei’s 5G equipment in its high-speed wireless infrastructure, marking a victory for the Trump administration. The U.S. government is also purportedly considering a sweeping travel ban on Chinese Communist Party members amid worsening relations. The CCP has 92 million members, and enforcement would be unclear. Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General William Barr has accused Hollywood and U.S. tech firms of bowing down to Beijing in order to do business in China. Barr further alleged that the Chinese government was able to access Apple phones though the company had denied similar access to the US government, emblematic of an emerging “double standard.” In the race for a coronavirus vaccine, a state-owned Chinese company is boasting that its employees, including top executives, received experimental shots even before the government approved testing. The Chinese economy is also growing again after its worst three-month period in decades, indicating good news for global coronavirus recovery.

 

Hong Kong 

U.S. President Donald Trump has ended Hong Kong’s preferential trade status following China’s decision to impose a new security law. Hong Kong is expected to be treated the same as mainland China, meaning its goods will be subjected to increased tariffs. Trump also signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act passed by Congress, which would introduce sanctions on banks doing business with Chinese officials responsible for the security law. Meanwhile, China has moved to dramatically increase tax rates on Hong Kong residents, prompting bankers and professionals to mull leaving the financial hub. TikTok recently announced that it would withdraw from Hong Kong to avoid complying with government requests for user data under the new security law. However, the app is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that will still operate in Hong Kong. Additionally, many virtual private network (VPN) operators are now removing or limiting Hong Kong servers to avoid turning over user data to authorities under the security law. Amidst a new outbreak of coronavirus cases, Hong Kong will impose the most stringent social distancing measures the city has seen since the start of the breakout.

 

Myanmar 

Fresh fighting between government forces and the rebel Arakan Army in Myanmar’s Rakhine state made more than 3,000 civilians flee villages over three days. These refugees join a tide of 200,000 civilians living in Buddhist monasteries and crowded camps. Myanmar is set to hold its third general election in nearly six decades on November 8. The Fourth Session of the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference is also scheduled to be held in August to discuss the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, and further talks on forming a federal Union are planned after the election. Ahead of the election, a group of interfaith leaders are appealing to all ethnic armed groups and political parties to work for peace and democracy. 

 

Zimbabwe 

Zimbabwe is now among the four most food insecure countries in the world alongside Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan. Along with high inflation and an economic recession, there is increasing political instability and civil unrest; Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga is now reportedly being prepared to assume authority, as President Mnangagwa has lost much popularity.

 

Chile

Struggling in the grips of the pandemic, Chile announced on Tuesday that it will widen emergency support for middle-class citizens hit hard by the economic shutdown. Some theorise that the pressure of the health crisis will have implications for the country’s market-led economic model, and may shift it to become more socially democratic. The pandemic has revealed many inequities in the country.

 

Iraq

On the 16th of July the United Nations and The International coalition Religions for Peace held an online discussion for the key signatories of a landmark Interfaith Statement on the Victims and Survivors of ISIL. Participants condemned ISIL’s ideologically-driven acts of terror and reaffirmed their commitment to support survivors of crimes perpetrated by ISIL terrorist fights in Iraq. Meanwhile, two businessmen have been convicted of a £4.9million bribery plot in order to secure oil contracts following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The Central Criminal Court in London found them guilty of “conspiracy to make corrupt payments.” Both men will face sentencing next week. On the ground, however, Iraq’s Prime Minister has instituted measures, such as  security force supervision of border guards, to help curb corruption and bribery.

 

Libya

The Libyan civil war continues to escalate. Already exacerbated by international backers, the civil war could soon have a new actor, as the Egyption President, on Thursday, said they “will not stand idle” against threats to national security and could arm Libyan tribes against the internationally recognised government in Tripoli. The GNA is based in Tripoli, supported by Turkey, while Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. Libya is a major gateway for migrants, and a recent report shows that Libya has seen an increase this year in kidnappings and torture of migrants by militia groups, who extort ransom payments from desperate family members.

 

Syria  

British aid worker Tauqir Sharif has been released on bail after spending more than three weeks in detention by the dominant armed group Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham. Sharif was arrested on June 22 from his home along the Syria-Turkey border for “mismanagement of humanitarian funds and its use towards projects that sow sedition and division.” Sharif will appear in front of a military court in 15 days. Meanwhile, judges announced on Thursday that a British-born woman who was sent to Syria as a schoolgirl to join the Islamic State can return to the UK to challenge the government’s removal of her citizenship. Shamima Begum, left London in 2015 at only 15 and married an Islamic State fighter; she was discovered in 2019 in a detention camp in Syria, however, Britain stripped her of citizenship on security grounds. 

On the 10th of July, the UN Security Council approved aid deliveries to Syria through only one border crossing from Turkey, a day after the six-year-long humanitarian operation officially ended. Russia and China vetoed an extension of the original aid mission, halving the amount of aid, reducing the aid provided to almost 1.3 million syrian people.

 

Lebanon 

On the 9th of July, the Lebanese attorney general’s office filed criminal charges against Neshan Der Haroutiounian, a Lebanese-Armenian TV host, for his remarks about Turkish President Erdo?an. In the filing it is alleged that Der Haroutiounian’s remarks critical of Erdo?an in a June 10 episode of his “Ana Heik” (“I am Like This”) talk show violated the Lebanese penal code, which criminalize harming ties to a foreign country and inciting sectarian strife. Furthermore, a Nigerian domestic worker has arrived back in Nigerian following being detained for six-weeks in Lebanon on charges of theft and attempted murder. Ariwolo Olamide Temitope documented her abuse by former employers in Lebanon. The family has been blacklisted by the Lenabese labor ministry.

 

Palestine 

On July 9th, hundreds of Palestinian women participated in a rally in besieged Gaza to protest Israel’s proposed annexation of the West Banks. The rally was organized by the “Popular March Against Annexation” where protests called on international actors to take action. Some signs read “#StopAnnexation No to Annexing the West Bank.” The rally paid tribute to Palestinian women killed and imprisoned by Israeli forces. The UK and France have both made calls this week to drop the annexation of the West Bank as it will contravene international law. Moreover, a social media post that accused Google of removing Palestine for all online maps has gone viral. However, Google responded stating that there has never been a ‘Palestine’ label.

 

Russia 

Intelligence agencies in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada have alleged that Russian hackers have attempted to steal valuable private information about a coronavirus vaccine. The alleged culprit is the same hacking group blamed for American election interference four years ago. British officials have also said that they are “almost certain” that “Russian actors” sought to interfere in the U.K.’s general election last year. Additionally, following Vladimir Putin’s win in Russia’s national referendum, a new wave of raids and arrests targeting journalists and Kremlin critics have spurred fears of opposition crackdown.

 

North Korea

South Korean prosecutors have launched an investigation into Kim Yo Jung, Kim Jong Un’s sister, over Pyongyang’s move to blow up a liaison office last month. The complaint was filed by a lawyer, who said that Kim “used explosives to destroy” South Korea’s “quasi-diplomatic mission building that served the public interest.” A recent report by the U.S. government’s Congressional Research Service has found North Korea is developing nuclear arsenal to evade missile defenses.

 

Iran

Protests break out on the streets of Shiraz and Behbahan following the Supreme Court death penalty sentencing of three young men who were arrested during the November 2019 protests. The three men were arrested on charges of “enmity against God” through acts of arson and vandalism.” Iranians have also taken to social media to voice their opposition to the sentencing using the hashtag “Don’t execute” that topped Twitter trends in Iran and reached 4.5 million retweets worldwide. Further, last week, Iran executed a former defence ministry employee convicted of spying on behalf of the US’s Central Intelligence Agency. Reza Asgari worked in the aerospace department of the Iranian ministry and retired in 2016; however, in the last years of his service he was accused of selling Iranian missile information to the CIA. Additionally, on the 14th of July, two men convicted of a 2010 bombing at a military parade in northwestern Iran that killed 12 spectors and injured 75 more, were hanged.

 

Nicaragua 

The pandemic continues to be met with silence in Nicaragua, leading Nicaraguan doctors to declare that the population is fighting both the virus and its own government. Doctors who have been outspoken about the government’s failing response face intimidation and punishment. On Friday, the United States Treasury sanctioned President Daniel Ortega’s son for alleged ties to drug trafficking.

 

Sudan

Sudan and Egypt raise alarms as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) starts to fill up. Sudan and Egypt are both downstream from Ethiopia on the Nile, and worry this project will hurt the livelihoods of people who rely on the river for cultivation. Earlier this week, talks between the three nations over the $4bn dam project ended without agreement, Ethiopian officials said.

 

Venezuela

A report, published by the UN Human Rights Council, revealed that gold, diamond, and bauxite mines in Venezuela’s Amazon region are controlled by criminal gangs, and that Venezuelan military forces have not only failed to intervene, but have also participated in much of the violence and criminality. The UN has urged the Venevuelan government to dismantle the gangs involved. Off the coast of Venezuela, the US Navy is challenging what it calls Caracas’ “excessive maritime claims in international waters,” by carrying out another “freedom of navigation” operation on Wednesday. The Venezuelan government denounced the move as an “inexcusable act of provocation.”

 

Bolivia

Thousands in Bolivia defied quarantine restrictions on Tuesday to march in an anti-government protest, inspired largely by grievances about health and education policies and widespread layoffs. Many attendees chanted in favour of immediate elections in hopes to oust interim President Jeanine Anez. The current elections are scheduled for September.