Following a series of accusations against Russia for meddling in the U.S. elections and contributing to the election of Donald Trump through the dissemination of falsified news stories, in September, lawmakers in the United States mandated that a Russian news network, called RT, must register with the U.S. government as a foreign agent. RT, which has had correspondents in the United States for many years, was recently pegged as a contributing agent to Russian interference in the U.S. elections in January. Ever since, lawmakers have been trying to find a way to regulate RT, which has been called a “state-run propaganda machine” by the U.S. government, with an agenda oriented towards serving the interests of the Russian government. Registering as a foreign agent in the United States means regularly disclosing information about an agency’s “financial arrangements,” while providing detailed reports about the information that the agency publishes. Though registering as a foreign agent would not give the U.S. government the ability to control what RT publishes, it would require that any news published by RT denotes that it originates from Russia. In theory, it is meant to inform U.S. media consumers about the source of the information they are consuming. However, the bipartisan mandate was met with frustration on the part of RT executives. “I wonder how U.S. media outlets, which have no problems while working in Moscow, that are not required to register as foreign agents, will treat this initiative,” said RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan back in September.
On Sunday, October 9th, Russia announced that it is considering imposing restrictions on U.S. media operatives in Russia, in retaliation for the restrictions imposed on RT. “Everything that Russian journalists and the RT station are subject to on U.S. soil, after we qualified it as restriction of their activities, we can apply similar measures to American journalists, American media here, on Russian territory,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said in an interview. There was no distinction made about whether or not public and/or private media companies would be targeted in Russia, but regardless, the threats to restrict U.S. media in Russia and the targeting of RT in the U.S. clearly signals an escalation of tensions surrounding the role of foreign media in the U.S. and Russia.
With the falling prices of oil, many countries around the world whose economies are oriented around the exportation of oil are facing serious economic problems. But Algeria, which derives 97% of its export revenues from oil, is facing security issues and a level of popular unrest that other oil-exporting countries have fortunately avoided. In fact, there is growing concern in Algeria of a civil war. According to Global Risk Insights, Algeria has lost 30% of its total budget to falling oil prices, was forced to implement severe budget cuts, and has expended nearly all of its national sovereign fund in the past two years. Algeria has also used up the vast majority of its oil and gas reserves, and it is estimated that by 2030, it will have no more oil and gas left to export, forcing it to find another way to fund a large portion of its national budget. To add insult to injury, the tourism industry in Algeria has faltered recently, as has foreign investment.
In addition to economic hardship, Algeria is also facing political chaos. The Panama Papers revealed that Algeria’s ruling elite were mismanaging the country, and the bad health of the current president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, means that a transfer of power may occur soon. Because of the dueling powers of the Algerian military, the ruling party (National Liberation Front, FLN), and the secret services, it is unclear who will take power in the event of a sudden death of the president. With an increasingly disenfranchised public, economic difficulties, and frustration with the ruling elite, Algeria is faced with a set of conditions that may be indicative of civil unrest and prolonged internal conflict. It is up to the Algerian government to defuse the tension amongst ruling political factions, while ensuring that Algerian citizens do not continue to feel disenfranchised and disillusioned. The last major conflict in Algeria was the Algerian War, which lasted 8 years and resulted in the independence of Algeria from France, at the expense of an estimated 1.5 million lives, according to Algerian historians. Many fear that the younger generation of Algerians, who did not live through the Algerian War, have forgotten the horrors of civil war, which may make them more inclined to resort to violence in order to express their growing frustration with the Algerian government.
The first ever LGBTQ art exhibition hosted at a government-run museum in Asia is currently taking place at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, Taiwan. The exhibition features the works of a variety of Asian artists, and is focused specifically on the representation of LGBTQ individuals in post-war China. While Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage in 2017, many Asian countries nearby have yet to adopt similar measures. China, for example, has yet to legalize same-sex marriage, though in 1997 China rescinded its law banning homosexuality and declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 2001. Despite a slowly growing tolerance for the LGBTQ community in Asia, there still remains very little public support, especially on the part of national governments. The exhibition in Taiwan is thus a significant milestone.
The exhibition, titled “Spectrosynthesis,” features artists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Singapore, and ethnic Chinese artists based in Canada and the United States. It is co-sponsored by the SunPride foundation, an Asia-based non-profit that seeks to increase visibility for LGBTQ individuals through art. The founder of the organization, businessman Patrick Sun Kai-yit, says that the exhibition title is a combination of the words spectrum and photosynthesis, and is meant to “shine a light on the LGBTQ community’s rich and diverse history.” The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures and even a short film called Life and Death in Venice, created by Singapore’s Ming Wong. While the exhibition is mostly symbolic and doesn’t denote any changes to laws in surrounding Asian countries, it does indicate a growing visibility for members of the LGBTQ community in Asia.
Targeted violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar in the past few months has resulted in significant migration to neighboring Bangladesh, prompting Home Minister of Bangladesh Asaduzzaman Khan to call for a visit to Myanmar to discuss how best to deal with the influx of refugees. According to the UNHCR, about 510,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh, which is already dealing with a significant population of internally displaced individuals as a result of rising sea levels and the flooding of coastal settlements. Bangladesh does not seem to have the capacity to absorb the hundreds of thousands of fleeing Rohingya refugees, and has thus initiated a diplomatic mission to repatriate the Rohingya who have crossed the border into Bangladesh. Obviously, repatriating the Rohingya will have little effect if the violence continues in Myanmar.
On Monday, a boat carrying roughly 100 Rohingya refugees capsized near Shah Porir Dwip, on the southern tip of Bangladesh, killing 12 people, with many more still missing. The boat sank in the mouth of the Naf river, which separates Myanmar from Bangladesh. On September 28, another boat carrying roughly 80 refugees capsized, and 23 were confirmed dead. For those who are lucky enough to reach Bangladesh, the situation is still fairly grim. Makeshift refugee camps have been constructed, with the help of the United Nations. “Hosting a huge number of Myanmar nationals is a big burden for Bangladesh,” said Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “We’ve given shelter to them only on a humanitarian basis.” The district of Ukhia, where many Rohingya have established themselves, had a population of 200,000 before the influx of refugees, meaning the Burmese Rohingya outnumber local Bangladeshis 2 to 1, according to USA Today. Though recent efforts to repatriate may result in some Rohingya being sent back to Myanmar, in the absence of an effort to stem the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar, migration could very well continue anyway.
Amid increasing violence and economic instability in Venezuela, many companies have decided to stop doing business with Venezuelan companies, fearing the fallout of a business deal compromised by increasing instability. The latest company to stop doing business with Venezuela is Argentine Airlines, which was one of the last airlines that was still flying to Venezuela. Indeed, dozens of airlines have refused to fly to Venezuela, citing political instability and security issues, as well as disputes with Venezuelan officials and concerns over the safety of flight attendants and pilots. The lack of air traffic into and out of Venezuela has effectively isolated Venezuela even further. The Panamanian airline Copa is one of the few airlines that still flies into Venezuela, and the president of Copa has assured customers that Copa will not “abandon the market in Venezuela.”
On Friday, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro met with Turkish president Reccep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss economic and energy ties. With a notable degree of sanctions placed on Venezuela by the U.S. to punish Venezuela for its refusal to allow international institutions and foreign governments to help ameliorate the economic situation, the agreement between Turkey and Venezuela may allow for a slight degree of revenue to enter Venezuela via Turkey. Maduro also visited Russia and Belarus earlier in the week to strengthen military ties.
The Nobel Prizes are a set of awards given to influential scientists, writers, thinkers, leaders, and academics in a variety of different categories each year. The awards are given by a range of Swedish and Norwegian institutions, and are an enormous honor. Previous award winners include: Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Barack Obama, Juan Manuel Santos, and Malala Yousafzai. A number of the Prize winners this year are immigrants, and indeed 33 of the 85 American prize winners are immigrants. Since 2000, 39% of Nobel Prize winners residing in the United States have been immigrants.
Here are the winners of this year’s Nobel Prizes:
Nobel Prize in Physics: Rainer Weiss (Germany/USA), Barry Barish (USA), Kip Thorne (USA). The three scientists are recognized for their work with gravitational waves.
Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Jacque Dubochet (Switzerland), Joachim Frank (Germany), Richard Henderson (Scotland). The three scientists are recognized for their work in the development of of cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.
Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine: Jeffrey Hall (USA), Michael Rosbash (USA), Michael Young (USA). The three scientists are recognized for their research about the different mechanisms of the circadian rhythm.
Nobel Prize in Literature: Kazuo Ishiguro (Japan). Ishiguro is recognized for his world-renowned novels that “uncover the abyss beneath our illusory connection to the world.”
Nobel Peace Prize: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). This organization is a coalition of NGOs around the world dedicated to enforcing the United Nations nuclear ban treaty, and is being recognized for its efforts to put forward a treaty-based prohibition of nuclear weapons.
Nobel Prize in Economics: Richard Thaler (USA). Thaler is being recognized for his application of psychology to market behavior, which has helped gain a deeper understanding of how human psychology impacts economic decisions.