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This Week in the World

This Week in the World | 02.25.18

  • Syria
By: Alex Voisine

News out of Syria throughout the course of the past week has been painfully grim; over 500 people have died following a bombing campaign by the Syrian government in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. Eastern Ghouta is controlled primarily by rebels; groups fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, it is also allegedly a base for terrorist organizations, which has allowed the Syrian government to continue bombing Eastern Ghouta despite a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire. The resolution was unanimously approved by the Security Council, including by countries like the United States, Russia, Kuwait, and China. It called for a complete cease-fire except for bombing campaigns that are intended to strike terrorist organizations. Because of the presence of terrorist organizations in Eastern Ghouta, the cease-fire has been effectively ignored and bombing has continued, killing an estimated 24 people since the cease-fire was passed. The Syrian government is currently being backed by Iran and Russia, both of which, along with al-Assad, have declared they will continue fighting against terrorism in places like Eastern Ghouta.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has harshly criticized the UN Security Council’s inability to pass a cease-fire that can be both enforced and worded in such a way that would prevent the continued bombing of Eastern Ghouta and allow for humanitarian aid to enter. “Security Council resolutions are only meaningful if they are effective. Eastern Ghouta cannot wait. It’s high time to stop this hell on earth,” said Guterres at an opening session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, nearly 3 days after the passing of the cease-fire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an apparent effort to ramp up humanitarian efforts in Syria, ordered a daily, 5-hour cease-fire in Eastern Ghouta. The cease-fire, which would start on Tuesday, February 27th, would allow bombing to continue, as long as it doesn’t occur during the 5-hour window. Unsurprisingly, both members of the Security Council and the international community alike have condemned the Russian cease-fire proposal, instead encouraging a more permanent cease-fire. It is still unclear if the daily 5-hour cease-fire will actually materialize.

  • Italy
By: Alex Voisine

Italians will head to the polls on March 4th to elect a new prime minister, in an election that is being viewed around the world as yet another test of the rising tide of populism. Polls suggest that Italians are divided over the 6 leading candidates, and will thus not elect a majority. If that’s the case, the candidate with the highest percentage of votes will be forced to form a coalition government with other political parties, much like what’s going on now in Germany, following the election of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Take a look at the 6 candidates below… who would you vote for?

Matteo Renzi: Leader of the center-left Democratic Party (Partito Democratico), Renzi actually resigned in 2016 after voters rejected his proposed changes to the Italian Constitution. Despite this, he is supported by many left-leaning Italians, and his party is regarded as a moderate force in Italian politics.

Emma Bonino: Bonino heads the liberal party Piú d’Europa, which is progressive, pro-European Union, and will likely join in a coalition with Renzi’s Partito Democratico if he is elected.

Luigi di Maio: An interesting figure in Italian politics, di Maio leads the Euro-skeptic and populist party known as M5S, or Movimento Cinque Stelle (the 5-star movement). The party was founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, and has harshly opposed European Union fiscal policy. Though M5S has softened its tone leading up to the elections, if di Maio is elected, a strong Euro-skeptic message will be sent across Europe from Italy.

Silvio Berlusconi: Described by some as the Trump of Italy, Berlusconi has been elected prime minister three times before, but was banned from politics for six years after being convicted of tax fraud. Deeply embedded in the right wing of Italian politics, Berlusconi is also the leader of the Forza Italia party, a nationalist party that has joined forces with the historically racist and xenophobic Lega del Nord (Northern League) party.

Giorgia Meloni: Also running from the right wing of Italian politics, Meloni heads the Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party. Giorgia is running in a right-wing coalition including Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, la Lega del Nord, and Noi con Italia (Us With Italy). Meloni identifies as a Euro-skeptic.

Matteo Salvini: A member of the Italian Parliament since 2004 and the leader of la Lega del Nord, Salvini has advanced an anti-immigrant and Euro-skeptic agenda, in keeping with the politics of the four-party coalition mentioned above to which his party belongs. Historically, la Lega del Nord has been an outwardly racist political party, opposing immigration and a hardline version of Italian nationalism. Though it has toned its message down, any coalition involving la Lega del Nord is sure to have severe impacts on Italy’s immigrant and refugee policy.

  • Somalia
By Alice Hakvaag

A deadly double-car bombing occurred last Saturday in Somalia. One car was near the presidential palace in Mogadishu, another was by a hotel. 38 people were killed with dozens more wounded. Shortly afterwards, a gun battle occurred near the palace in which five members of the militant group al-Shabab were killed. Al-Shabab later took credit for the car bombs, saying that they were targeting security forces near the palace.

Al-Shabab is a radical youth group that promotes the Wahhabi version of Islam. Most Somalis, in contrast, are Sufis. Somalia has had a struggling national government for the past 20 years, which allowed the al-Shabab group to acquire territory. Mogadishu has re-taken government control from al-Shabab, which al-Shabab is trying to reverse.

Last October, a truck bomb went off in Mogadishu. The government said it was al-Shabab’s doing, though the group never took credit for it. When speaking about Saturday’s attack, the said that five of their own fighters were killed, along with 35 soldiers that were guarding the palace.

  • India
By Alice Hakvaag

Indian actress Sridevi Kapoor passed away on Saturday at the age of 54. Originally reported as a heart attack, the forensic report released says that her death was an “accidental drowning.” She was found in her bathtub with alcohol in her system. Known simply by Sridevi, she was a Bollywood superstar who started her acting career at age 4. When she was 13, she was cast as an adult woman avenging her lover’s death. She worked on movies in five different languages, with her Bollywood debut in 1979. She went on to star in a string of commercially successful films and a television sitcom. She took a brief break from acting, returning in 2012 in English Vinglish. In 2017, she starred in her 300th film, Mom.

Within Bollywood, she was loved. Sridevi was considered by producers the first of the few actresses that could star in a movie without a male support and have the movie be successful. The film Himmatwala was one of the biggest blockbusters in 1983, which cemented her place in Bollywood and established her as a lead actress. She was also known to be a talented comic actress with “a killer comic timing.” She received critical acclaim in multiple state film awards starting in 1981. She was repeatedly nominated for Best Actress awards from Filmfare and state film awards.

Sridevi took an eight year break from acting, but her return performance proved she still had her star power. She is the only Bollywood actress to have come back from a hiatus so successfully. In 2013, she was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honor, for her contributions to Indian entertainment. Since her death, several Bollywood stars have poured out their support for her family, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he was “saddened” by her passing.

  • South Korea
By Rachel Elliott

The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games closed Sunday after weeks of athletic trials. But the games this year seemed to be more than just competition. Going into the opening ceremony, tensions between North Korea, South Korea, the US, and the world were high, though had fizzled slightly from previous months after the North and South prepared to march, unified, into the Olympic stadium. The two countries also competed in hockey as a unified team.

Norway ended the games with the top medal count, earning a whopping 39. Germany and Canada, winning 31 and 29 medals respectively, followed as the top earners. This year also marked the first time an African nation was represented in bobsledding. But the games were not free from politics. After a doping scandal, Russia was banned from the games. Athletes from the country competed under the title “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” The group won a collective 17 medals. The closing ceremony was a bright event, featuring k-pop performances and another unified march from North and South Korea. Olympic president Thomas Bach highlighted the games as a way to build bridges and bring people from around the world together. The next Winter Olympics will take place in 2022 in Beijing.

  • China
By Rachel Elliott

The Communist Party in China moved to abolish term limits this week on presidents and vice presidents. The move would allow current President Xi Jingping to stay in power beyond his second term, which will end in 2023. Previously, the constitution banned candidates from ruling for more than two five-year terms.

While the move towards a more authoritarian government would seem to provoke international concern, few countries have spoken out. The White House reasserted their belief that term limits are necessary in the U.S., but stated that China should do what is best for them. The proposal must be finalized in the Chinese parliament. They are expected to approve the move.