VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, EU, Russia and Africa), 3 – 18 August, 2019
US expected to give Huawei another 90-day export license: ARS technical, 18 August 2019

Back in May, the US government placed an export ban on Huawei barring US companies (and companies using US-origin technology) from doing business with the Chinese tech giant. Because Huawei still has customers to support in the smartphone and cellular infrastructure business, the US Department of Commerce gave Huawei a 90-day exemption on the ban, allowing it to support its existing customers. That 90-day license was issued on May 20, 2019, so it expires this Monday, August 19.

According to a report from Reuters, the US Government is just going to kick the can down the road again and give Huawei another 90-day extension to support its customers. Sources tell Reuters the deal is "expected" to be renewed this weekend, pending a call between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Click here to read...

Planned parenthood faces critical decision after abortion-referral restriction upheld: CNN, 17 June 2019

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday denied Planned Parenthood's request to reverse its order allowing the Trump administration's Title X abortion clinic-referral restriction to go into effect -- a blow for abortion rights activists after the organization threatened to pull out of the federal family-planning program over the rule.

Last month, an en banc panel of 11 judges on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the court's prior ruling to temporarily allow the Department of Health and Human Services rule to go into effect. The rule would prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from discussing abortion with patients or referring patients to abortion providers. The following week, HHS told Title X recipients that the new regulations would go into effect despite the pending legal challenges. Planned Parenthood then lobbied the court to reconsider its decision. Click here to read...

US officials, lawmakers push Trump to take tougher stand on Hong Kong: CNN, 15 August

President Donald Trump has been asking his advisers how unrest in Hong Kong is likely to unfold, according to senior administration officials — and some are warning that without a firmer US position there could be a bloodbath. That includes national security adviser John Bolton and senior officials at the National Security Council. The White House and Trump have also heard from lawmakers, including those close to the administration like South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham that inaction or caution in calling out China could end poorly.

Trump's response to Hong Kong's ongoing violence has remained largely muted, the officials said, in part because of concern about ongoing trade talks with Beijing. But with growing Republican frustration on Capitol Hill about his reticence, the President has shown flickering signs of adopting a firmer tone on China. On Thursday morning, Trump once again appealed to President Xi Jinping's pride, tweeting that "if President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. The President's restraint in warning Beijing comes as China's ambassador to the UK warned Thursday that his government won't hesitate to intervene in Hong Kong, and Beijing maintains its build-up of troops on the border of the former British colony.

On Wednesday, Bolton issued a warning to China that it risks global wrath if its crackdown takes a more aggressive turn. Click here to read...

Fact-checking 2020 candidates on gun control: CNN, 13 August 2019

A primary topic on the minds of voters as Democratic candidates flocked to the Iowa State Fair this weekend was gun violence. Just a week removed from the twin shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, candidates discussed what they would do as President to address gun violence and how they would bolster gun control.

On Saturday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was asked if she was concerned with the political backlash she might face over her support for a ban on assault weapons. Warren said she was not worried and argued that a majority of National Rifle Association members support the measure. Click here to read...

‘Greenland belongs to Greenland’: Denmark says selling world’s largest island to US is absurd: CNBC, 18 August’

Greenland is not for sale and the idea of selling it to the United States is absurd, Denmark’s prime minister said on Sunday after an economic adviser to President Donald Trump confirmed the U.S. interest in buying the world’s largest island. “Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told the newspaper Sermitsiaq during a visit to Greenland.

Trump’s is due to visit Copenhagen early next month, when the Arctic will be on the agenda in meetings with Frederiksen and Prime Minister Kim Kielsen of Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory. Click here to read...

Seized Iranian tanker leaves Gibraltar despite US pressure: The New York Times, 18 June 2019

An Iranian oil tanker held for six weeks after being impounded left Gibraltar on Sunday, days after the authorities there rejected a request from American officials to turn the vessel over to them. A marine traffic monitoring site showed the tanker, the Grace 1, leaving Gibraltar’s waters. Iranian and Gibraltar news organizations confirmed that it had departed.

Grace 1 was seized on July 4 by British marines and Gibraltar port officials who asserted that the tanker was carrying oil to Syria in violation of a European Union embargo. Iran soon detained a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entryway to the Persian Gulf that is a conduit for about 20 percent of the world’s crude oil.
The decision to release the Iranian ship was seen as a sign of easing of tensions between Gibraltar, a semiautonomous British territory, London and Tehran. A confrontation between Iran and the West, particularly with the United States, has escalated in recent weeks. The ship’s departure also raised expectations that Iran, in turn, would relinquish the Stena Impero. Click here to read...

Deadlocked Serbia and Kosovo rebuff western call for compromise: Irish Times, 14 August 2019

Serbia and Kosovo have rejected a call from western states to make compromises that could help restart EU-brokered talks to normalise their relations. Negotiations broke down last November when the Pristina government imposed a 100 per cent tax on imports from Serbia, in retaliation for Belgrade successfully lobbying to keep Kosovo out of Interpol, the international police organisation.

With help from its main ally, Russia, Serbia is intent on blocking its former province from international forums, while Kosovo insists that it will not lift the tariff until Belgrade recognises its 2008 declaration of independence. Click here to read...

Europe in crisis mode, Germany's in trouble: Andy Brenner: Fox Business, 17 August 2019

Europe's largest economy is in trouble as Germany Opens a New Window. A decline in exports dampened the German economy, which shrunk by 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2019. “Germany is in terrible shape with negative GDP this week and with their expectations looking for another negative GDP in the third quarter, the Germans are going to be forced to open up their pockets and do fiscal stimulus,” NatAlliance global fixed income head Andy Brenner told FOX Business' Liz Claman on Friday. Click here to read...

No-deal Brexit could deepen Europe's shortage of medicines – experts: Reuters, 12 August 2019

As the Oct. 31 deadline for Britain to leave the European Union approaches, health professionals are warning that shortages of some medicines could worsen in Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Britain’s food and drink lobby warned last week that the country would experience shortages of some fresh foods if there is a disorderly no-deal Brexit. Pharmaceutical companies have expressed similar concerns about medicines, and some have reserved air freight capacity to fly in supplies if needed. But the impact on medical supplies will also be felt beyond Britain. About 45 million packs of medicines are shipped from Britain to the rest of the bloc every month, in trade worth nearly 12 billion pounds in 2016, according to a British parliament report.

Experts say some disruption is inevitable if Britain leaves the EU without a deal. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will lead his country out of the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal if the EU refuses to negotiate a new divorce agreement. Some drugs might not have the required regulatory approval by then to continue being brought in from Britain. About 1 billion packs go in one direction or the other each year, industry data show. Click here to read...

Russia softens stance in foreign investor case, frees Frenchman: Reuters, 15 August 2019

Russia softened its stance in a high-profile legal standoff that has shaken foreign investors when a court on Thursday freed jailed French private equity executive Philippe Delpal from custody and placed him under house arrest instead.

Delpal was one of several executives at private equity group Baring Vostok, including U.S. citizen Michael Calvey, who were detained in February on suspicion of embezzlement, an allegation they flatly deny. They say the case against them is part of a vicious corporate dispute over control of a Russian bank.

Thursday’s ruling comes days before President Vladimir Putin is due to travel to France next week to hold talks with President Emmanuel Macron, at which Delpal’s fate is likely to be discussed. Click here to read...

Kremlin says it is winning arms race against U.S. despite rocket accident: Reuters, 13 August 2019

Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency, has said that the Aug. 8 accident occurred during a rocket test on a sea platform in the White Sea, killing at least five and injuring three more. It has pledged to keep developing new weapons regardless, portraying the men who died in the test as heroes.

US President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Monday the United States was “learning much” from the explosion which he suggested happened during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile vaunted by President Vladimir Putin last year. Russia, which has said the missile will have an “unlimited range” and be able to overcome any defenses, calls the missile the 9M730 Burevestnik (Storm Petrel). The NATO alliance has designated it the SSC-X-9 Skyfall.

A senior Trump administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, said Washington was not prepared to say at this point whether it was a nuclear explosion but believed it did involve radioactive elements. Click here to read...

Stalin’s shadow won’t disappear until criminal case launched against him – investigator’: Russia Today, 8 August 2019

A former high-ranking investigator is fighting for a criminal case to be launched against Joseph Stalin, insisting that the legal evaluation of the ex-Soviet leader’s crimes is the only way to finally end his cult in Russia. Igor Stepanov, who used to be a major crimes detective, addressed the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigative Committee, saying that Stalin must be considered “an organizer of mass killings, meaning genocide of Orthodox clergy and other citizens.”
His accusations are based on an NKVD (the USSR’s secret police) order from July 1937 to repress former kulaks (wealthy farmers deprived of their property), ex-convicts, and other “anti-Soviet elements.” The paper, which was signed by Stalin himself, includes the precise number of those to be purged, with 82,700 to face firing squads and 193,400 to be sent to labor camps. Among those persecuted were around 20 of Stepanov’s relatives, most of whom were priests.
His plea has been rejected by several local investigative bodies already, but he persistently appeals the rulings. He says he will go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to see that justice is served. The official said the explosion could represent a potentially significant setback to the Russian program although it remained unclear whether it was caused by a launching failure. Click here to read...

Thousands of communists rally for fair elections in Moscow: Russia Today, 17 August 2019

A throng of left-wing activists gathered in the heart of Moscow, demanding fair elections and social justice. The rally took place on the heels of massive opposition protests that have been hitting the city for three weekends.

The Communist Party (KPRF) demonstration, sanctioned by Moscow authorities, kicked off at noon on Sakharov Avenue, a spacious, usually busy place that’s been temporarily pedestrianized by police. Attendance at the rally initially seemed modest, with around 500 protesters turning up, but more people joined as the day progressed.

Aside from KPRF, there were also members of smaller left-wing groups who chose to join forces with the larger party. Moscow police estimated that over 4,100 people attended the event. Click here to read...

Russia may ‘gradually’ adopt 4-day work week to decrease unemployment: Russia Today, 13 August 2019

A shorter work week will give Russians extra time for their families and to pursue their interests, without losing any pay, a senior lawmaker says. The measure is also expected to reduce unemployment.

The ruling United Russia party supports the idea of adopting a four-day work week, the deputy speaker of the parliament’s lower house, Andrey Isayev, said on Tuesday. He explained that the measure will allow workers “to take more time off and spend it with their families,” as well as investing time in education and taking better care of their health. A shorter work week will also decrease unemployment, he added.

The four-day work week was previously suggested by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and endorsed by the nation’s largest union group, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions. Click here to read...

Not YouTube's business: Russian telecom watchdog tells Google to stop promoting unsanctioned rallies: Russia Today, 11 August 2019

Russian regulator Roskomnadzor told Google it must curb use of its video platform YouTube for promotion of opposition rallies, after sanctioned protests in Moscow ended up with some activists being spurred to take illegal action. The regulator said “a number of structures that operate YouTube channels have been purchasing YouTube advertising instruments (i.e. push notification) to disseminate information about unsanctioned (unlawful) mass gatherings” in Russia. Some users of the platforms, who never subscribed to said channels, received such unsolicited messages, Roskomnadzor (RKN) said.

Google, which owns YouTube, was notified that it should stop such use of its platform or face consequences, the Sunday statement said. The company did not immediately respond to the allegations. A claim that YouTube had been used to promote unsanctioned rallies was also made on Saturday by Senator Andery Klimov, who chairs an ad hoc commission on state sovereignty protection and foreign interference prevention. He said Russia’s “foreign opponents” tried to manipulate opposition activists and convince them to take part in an illegal demonstration earlier on in the day.

There was a sanctioned rally in Moscow on Saturday, where tens of thousands of people showed up to protest what they see as an attempt to suspend opposition candidates from the upcoming city council election. The event went smoothly, but after it was over some of the attendees, according to reports, proceeded to protest during a walk to the city’s center in what the police called an unsanctioned protest march. Some 130 of those people were detained. Click here to read...

Experimental ‘isotope & liquid-propellant’ engine blast kills five Russian nuclear experts – Rosatom: Russia Today, 9 August 2019

Five staff of Russia’s nuclear corporation Rosatom were killed and three suffered serious burns in the blast during a test of a liquid-propellant engine that resulted in a brief spike of radiation around the military testing site.
The Rosatom engineering and technical team was working on the “isotope power source" for a propulsion system on Thursday, when the accident happened. The blast caused a background radiation spike, which quickly returned back to normal. “As a result of the accident at the military firing range in Arkhangelsk region during liquid reactive propulsion system tests, five employees of the state corporation Rosatom were killed,” the company said. Three military and civilian specialists remain in serious condition, but their injuries are “not life-threatening”. Click here to read...


Mozambique Peace Accord Is Signed, Paving Way for Elections: The New York Times, 6 August 2019

Mozambique’s president and the leader of the country’s main opposition group signed a new peace accord Tuesday, pledging to end years of violence and facilitate elections in the fall.

In signing the Peace and National Reconciliation Agreement, President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade said they would peacefully participate in Oct. 15 elections. Portuguese news agency Lusa said the signing ceremony in Mozambique’s capital of Maputo was witnessed by five African heads of state, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Thousands of Maputo residents also attended the ceremony in Peace Square, including many children wearing T-shirts printed with the phrase “Ultimate Peace.” Click here to read...

South Africa puts initial universal healthcare cost at $17 bn: Reuters, 8 August 2019

South Africa published its draft National Health Insurance (NHI) bill on Thursday, with one senior official estimating universal healthcare for millions of poorer citizens would cost about 256 billion rand ($16.89 billion) to implement by 2022. The bill creating an NHI Fund paves the way for a comprehensive overhaul of South Africa’s health system that would be one of the biggest policy changes since the ruling African National Congress ended white minority rule in 1994.

The existing health system in Africa’s most industrialised economy reflects broader racial and social inequalities that persist more than two decades after apartheid ended. Click here to read...

WHO says no new Ebola cases in Goma, vaccinates over 1,300: Reuters, 11 August 2019

The World Health Organisation has vaccinated over 1,300 people who potentially came into contact with the Ebola virus in the Congolese city of Goma, it said on Sunday, helping contain what many feared would be a rapid spread in an urban centre.

A year-long Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has killed at least 1,800, the second biggest toll ever, and efforts to contain the virus have been hobbled by militia violence and some local resistance to outside interference. Goma, a lakeside city of nearly 2 million people on the Rwandan border, has been on high alert over the past week after a gold miner with a large family contaminated several people before dying himself. Click here to read...

Southern Africa: SADC Summit 2019 - Summit to Open New Doors for Kiswahili in SADC Region: allAfrica, 12 August 2019

The 39th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Tanzania this year is expected to open up chances for the Swahili language to spread to other member countries of the bloc.

To be held at the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) in Dar es Salaam on August 17-18, the meeting will be chaired by President John Magufuli. Thereafter, he will become the Sadc Chairman for the next one year, to August 2020. In that regard, Tanzanians hope that Dr Magufuli will deliver his speech in Kiswahili - thus drawing and holding the attention of the leaderships of the 16 member countries of the regional bloc.

Observers say there is a real possibility of a special resolution being made to promote use of the language in the SADC countries. In and when that happens, it would add to ongoing efforts to teach the language in more African countries. Click here to read...

Uganda says malaria prevalence surges, cites climate change and refugees: Reuters, 14 August 2019

Uganda said on Wednesday it had recorded a 40% surge in the incidence of malaria, attributing the increase to a range of factors including a refugee influx, climate change and a decline in the use of protective nets.

The development could heighten public health fears already stoked by an Ebola epidemic which briefly spilled over from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has killed more than 1,800 people. Click here to read...

Sudan just got a step closer to full democracy; big obstacles remain: CNN, 17 August 2019

After almost nine months of violence and wrangling, Sudan came a step closer to a civilian government on Saturday when opposition leaders and military generals signed a power-sharing agreement in the capital, Khartoum. The choice of a fearsome commander on the signing table, and the absence of women who played a crucial role in the protest movement, show that obstacles still remain in Sudan's path to full democracy.

The agreement follows protests that toppled 75-year-old dictator Omar al-Bashir, ending his 30-year rule over the northeastern African country. Under Bashir's iron grip, an entire generation grew up in the shadow of war, where the threat of torture in infamous "ghost houses" was never far away, and press freedom nonexistent. Click here to read...

SADC urges US, EU to lift Zimbabwe sanctions: Africanews, 18 August 2019

New SADC Chairman, President John Magufuli, has appealed to the international community to scrap sanctions against Zimbabwe, saying the country has already opened a new page and is ready to move forward.

Speaking during his maiden acceptance speech after assuming the SADC chairmanship, the Tanzanian Head of State said when you chop a hand from the body, the whole body gets affected. The problems that face Zimbabwe, literally face all countries in the region. “Zimbabwe has been under sanctions for years, but we need the world to understand that when you chop a hand, the whole body gets affected,” he said. Click here to read...

US-China trade war, Brexit uncertainty pose risks to Africa’s economic prospects-AfDB boss: Africanews, 18 August 2019

The US-China trade war and uncertainty over Brexit pose risks to Africa’s economic prospects that are “increasing by the day,” the head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) told Reuters. The trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies has roiled global markets and unnerved investors as it stretches into its second year with no end in sight.

Britain, meanwhile, appears to be on course to leave the European Union on October 31 without a transition deal, which economists fear could severely disrupt trade flows. Click here to read...

Over 330 migrants rescued off Libyan coast: Africanews,
18 August 2019

The Libyan navy announced on Sunday that it had rescued 335 migrants and rescued the body of a person in separate operations north of the capital Tripoli as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean. “A coast guard patrol rescued 57 illegal migrants on Saturday on a wooden boat 40 nautical miles north of Zouara, including 17 women and nine children,” General Ayoub Kacem, the Navy’s spokesman, told AFP. Click here to read...

Zimbabwe sanctions: SADC calls on US and EU to drop policy: BBC, 18 July 2019

A group of 16 African countries has called on the US and EU to "immediately lift" economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. The policy was hurting the region, said Tanzania President John Magufuli, who is also the chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).The sanctions were imposed in 2002 when Robert Mugabe was president.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa blames them for crippling development in the country. He says removing them would attract Western investors to Zimbabwe after close to two decades of economic isolation. Zimbabwe is reeling from high inflation and shortages of basic supplies such as fuel, power and water. Click here to read...

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