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This Week in the World

This Week in the World | 9.16.19

Hal Conte September 16, 2019

Illustration credit: Peter Naktin

Russia

By Hal Conte

President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party saw sweeping losses as voters took revenge over economic stagnation and a rise in retirement ages last year, with the main opposition Communist Party gaining seven seats and smaller parties six of the 38 won by United Russia in 2014. The Moscow election was preceded by procedural irregularities and a decision by the electoral commission to block over two dozen opposition candidates from running, which resulted in weeks of demonstrations by middle-class liberal as well as communist activists claiming fraud. Putin himself is still widely approved of by Russians, with an approval rating of over 60 percent, however, that is one of the lowest so far during his time as president.

Israel

By Hal Conte

Facebook banned a party propaganda bot from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud after it repeated hate speech claiming that Arabs wanted to annihilate all Jews. The bot’s message also claimed that voting for parties that would empower “the left wing” would allow Arabs to enter the government, where they would have genocidal influence. In recent days, Netanyahu has been criticised across the globe for his plan to annex the Palestinian West Bank, which while a popular policy with a majority of Israeli voters ahead of next week’s election, has been described as “dangerous,” “racist,” and illegal by both Arab states and European countries. His party alliance nonetheless maintains its lead in opinion polls.

France

By Hal Conte

Climate activists who stole portraits of President Emmanuel Macron from schools and town halls to be paraded upside-down during protests against last month’s G7 in Biarritz are facing a trial in Paris. “Group thefts” of the portraits carry a five-year prison sentence, and currently eight activists, some as young as 23, are being prosecuted for stealing 128 of them. Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of Macron’s leftist opponents in the France Insoumise party, said that he supported the actions of the protestors. The “march of portraits” was intended to highlight the French President’s alleged lack of action on climate change ahead of the summit meeting.

Somalia

By Hal Conte

A drought in Somalia may cause the starvation of two million people unless action is taken to stop it, the United Nations claimed on Thursday. The country has been affected negatively by the effects of climate change and in recent years has seen a wave of over 360,000 refugees into Badioa, capital of the country’s southwestern state, fleeing al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda offshoot which has been attempting to topple the government for over a decade. Currently reliant in part on donations, humanitarian aid is currently funded at less than half of what would be needed. 14 percent of the country’s citizens are wrecked with crisis-level food insecurity.

Belgium

By Hal Conte

The newly announced commission to lead the European Union in Brussels, headed up by Ursula Von Der Leyen, has been skewered for its announcement of a government portfolio titled “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life,” an all-encompassing super-ministry which deals with issues of migration and security. Critics, including Human Rights Watch media director Andrew Stroehlein and various liberal parliamentarians, have described the name as reflecting an extreme-right and even fascist world view by treating refugees as a threat to the continent, a key plank in the Islamophobic and anti-Semitic “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory adopted mass shooters from Christchurch, New Zealand as well as Pittsburgh, PA.

Cuba

By Hal Conte

US social media multinational Twitter suspended all major Cuban media outlets on Thursday, including Granma, the newspaper of the Communist Party, and the personal account of ex-president Castro. The suspension took place the instant the country’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, began to deliver a speech on diesel fuel and electricity shortages caused by American sanctions, and ended once the speech had concluded. The government blamed the suspension on an orchestrated action to censor the event by the corporation , which has a policy banning what it claims is manipulation of the website.

Indonesia

By Hal Conte

Colossal climate-change accelerating forest fires similar to those widely reported in the Amazon have criss-crossed Indonesia in recent weeks as officials have unleashed water-bombing helicopters and thousands of police in attempts to stamp out the blaze. The number of areas likely to be on fire – or “hotspots”- leaped from 861 to 1,619 in just one day. Smoke from the fires has been so severe that the environment ministry from neighboring Malaysia slammed the Indonesian government as “in denial,” and is planning to seed clouds with chemicals in to reduce the toxic smog. Currently, both countries, like many in southeast Asia, have some of the worst air quality globally, which has in some cases led to thousands of deaths.