VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, EU, Russia and Africa), 4 – 18 July, 2019
United States
These are 4 winners of the US-China trade war: CNN Business, 3 July 2019

Vietnam, Taiwan, Bangladesh and South Korea are coming out as victors in the US-China trade war. Americans are buying less from China. But rather than leaning on US producers, they're avoiding President Donald Trump's tariffs by turning to suppliers in other Asian countries.

The trend, which has emerged throughout more than a year of inconclusive trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing, continued through May, according to data released Wednesday by the Census Bureau. Tariffs have made certain items that are manufactured in China such as sports gods, consumer items expensive to import in the US. Trump said last week that talks are "back on track" and new tariffs are on hold after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 conference in Japan. Click here to read....

Trump says Iran 'better be careful' as Tehran increases uranium enrichment: CNN, 8 July 2019

US President Donald Trump has issued a warning to Iran after the country moved to increase uranium enrichment beyond the purity threshold reached in a landmark nuclear deal Washington pulled out of last year.

Iran made the expected move last week, putting it out of compliance with the 2015 deal originally agreed under then-US President Barack Obama and five other nations. Tehran had earlier warned it would increase uranium enrichment if the deal's European signatories did not help ease sanctions on its banking and oil sectors. Iran said that it is withdrawing from its commitment from limits on the production of fissile materials Click here to read....

Massive heat wave to 'scorch' two-thirds of US through weekend, NWS warns: Fox News, 17 July 2019

A massive heat wave is expected to roast much of the nation through the weekend. The National Weather Service (NWS) this week warned a “scorching heat wave” is expected to affect roughly two-thirds of the nation starting Wednesday and continuing through the weekend.

Detroit could see a heat index of 105 degrees on Friday and Saturday afternoon, while temperatures in Chicago are expected to reach a similar level, per NBC News. Parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa, among other Midwestern states, are under an excessive heat warning. In New York City on Wednesday and Thursday, heat indices are forecast to be in the 90s. Click here to read....

Jesse Watters: Here's why Trump probably hasn't been told anything about Area 51: Fox News, 17 July 2019

Ahead of a Facebook-advertised "storming" of Area 51, Jesse Watters considered whether President Trump has been told about what goes on at the secretive military installation.

If Trump is privy to top-secret information about the base, which has long been a point of discussion for conspiracy theorists who believe the facility holds government secrets about aliens and UFOs, it is surprising he hasn't told the public, Watters said on ‘The Five’. On Facebook, a page advertising the purported event went viral over the past week, as more than 1 million users responded they would go to the top-secret military installation on Sept. 20 at 3 a.m., with the creator writing "they can't stop all of us." Click here to read....

France’s Le Maire gives Europe’s version of Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’: Bloomberg, 6 July 2019

For a self-proclaimed champion of Europe, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire isn’t above indulging in some regional stereotypes.

At an economics conference in Aix-en-Provence in southern France this weekend, the talk turned to European Union decision-making. When asked how the bloc’s many countries reach deals on key issues, he replied: with great difficulty.

His comments came after three days of brutal horse-trading and weeks of consultations over how to carve up the EU’s top jobs. In the end, the bloc’s leaders nominated Christine Lagarde to succeed Mario Draghi as president of the European Central Bank, and Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defense minister, to head the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. Click here to read....

Climate change divides Europe: Forbes, 7 July 2019

At the end of June, three people died in France as a heat wave known as the “Sahara Plume” brought exceptionally high temperatures across much of Europe.
Climate considerations motivate the youth of today and a few politicians have been considering the views of the 16-year-old Swedish school pupil, Greta Thunberg who has been mounting a protest in front of the Swedish parliament almost every Friday, over the past year. Even in the U.K., who wants out of the EU the parliament has declared a climate emergency and adopted new emission targets, partly in response to the protests.

Despite these extremes, the EU is not united on the topic as to how the issue of climate change should be approached. The EU plan to address the issue of climate change and global warming as rejected by three other member states, namely Poland, Estonia and Hungary. Much of the inaction is down to contrasting economic fortunes, as the level of GDP per capita is far higher in the more liberal countries of Western Europe, than in those formerly part of the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence. Click here to read....

What Europe is really fighting about: Politico, 8 July 2019

Europe’s biggest policy fights aren’t just about policy. They’re about the very identity of the European Union. Europe is knows for it a liberalism. Germany and France tried to merge to compete with Chinese rail maker CRRRC but that merger was turned down by EU’s competition commission. As China rises and its illiberal political model proves to be economically successful, the EU faces a quandary: Should it compromise its free-market soul to protect itself from Beijing.

Migration is another issue and the biggest headache ahead is a stalled effort to reform the so-called Dublin regulation, which stipulates that the country in which an asylum seeker first arrives has to take responsibility for any claims of protection. This policy has placed an outsized burden on border countries such as Greece and Italy, which have pushed for asylum seekers to be redistributed across the bloc. Click here to read....

Russia to regain former space glory with ambitious project & restoration of Soviet infrastructure: Russia Today, 17 July 2019

The launch of the unique Spektr-RG observatory and restoration of one of the world’s largest radio telescopes in Crimea shows Russia is serious about regaining its position as a top space power, experts have told RT.

The Proton-M booster blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at the weekend, carrying state-of-the-art telescopes, which are expected to detect more than 100,000 massive galaxy clusters and more than three million supermassive black holes. Scientists believe that the data gathered by the space observatory will allow them to greatly expand their knowledge of dark matter and dark energy, to subsequently test models of the expansion of the universe. Click here to read....

Hit where it hurts: Chief investigator pushes for confiscation of property from corrupt officials: Russia Today, 16 July 2019

The confiscation of property acquired by corrupt officials will allow the state to more effectively pay compensatory damages caused by corruption, the head of the Russian federal agency that deals with high-profile crimes said.

The measure should be brought back to make the punishment for corruption inevitable and put the officials in a position where misuse or abuse of authority becomes pointless, Aleksandr Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee, argued. The measure would prove paramount, he said, because “corruption is directly responsible for hampering the development of the country’s economy.”
Confiscation of property obtained through illegal means had been used to punish criminals since Soviet times but, in 2003, MPs voted to remove it from the Russian Criminal Code. Click here to read....

Demonstrators rally for disqualified independent candidates in Moscow city election: Russia Today, 14 July 2019

About a thousand people protested in downtown Moscow after the names of independent candidates weren't included on the ballot papers for a local election. The crowd at first banged on the doors of the city hall and then rallied outside the election commission building.

The protest was prompted by the decision by the city’s election commission to disqualify several candidates who were not affiliated with any party. The authorities said they hadn’t gathered enough legitimate signatures as required for independent contenders, while the city council hopefuls insist that all their submissions were correct. They have until July 16 to appeal the decision. Click here to read....

Security first: Parents reject proposed ban on phones in schools, despite knowing it hampers studies: Russia Today, 9 July 2019

Russia’s top lawmaker has urged that mobile phones be forbidden in Russian schools, as they distract both teachers and students, but polls show that being in touch with their kids is more important for most parents.

Consumer rights protection watchdog Rospotrebnadzor and the Russian Academy on Education were tasked with forming a working group on the rules for using phones at schools, and to share its conclusions within a month. But the parents already know the answer: a fresh poll by Deti revealed that over 80 percent rejected the idea.

43 percent of the 10,000 people surveyed expressed the belief that all gadgets should be allowed. Another 38 percent said they didn’t mind restrictions on smartphones, but insisted that kids should still be allowed to use phones with simpler features. Click here to read....

Boko Haram kills at least five soldiers in northeast Nigeria: Reuters, 7 July 2019

Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram ambushed Nigerian soldiers in the northeast of the country, killing at least five and injuring more than a dozen, sources told Reuters on Sunday.

The sources said the death toll could increase as a number of soldiers were still missing after the attack on Thursday in Damboa, in Borno state in North-Eastern Nigeria. The soldiers had gone to the area to clear a Boko Haram camp, but were ambushed, the sources said. Click here to read....

Economic 'game changer'? African leaders launch free-trade zone: Aljazeera, 8 July 2019

African leaders launched a continental free-trade zone that, if successful, would unite 1.3 billion people, create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc, and usher in a new era of development. After four years of talks, an agreement to form a 55-nation trade bloc was reached in March, paving the way for Sunday's African Union summit in Niger where Ghana was announced as the host of the trade zone's future headquarters and discussions were held on how exactly the bloc will operate.

It is hoped the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) - the largest since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994 - will help unlock Africa's long-stymied economic potential by boosting intra-regional trade, strengthening supply chains, and spreading expertise. Click here to read....

Conflict and insecurity driving spread of diseases like Ebola, WHO chief warns: Guardian, 9 July 2019

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has called the world’s second worst Ebola outbreak a “global wake-up call” to the escalating risk of disease outbreaks spreading from conflict areas neglected by the international community. Only when there was “fear and panic” in the headlines did the international community put money into responding, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The real issue was a lack of day-to-day funding for preparedness to combat serious epidemics before they become regional or international threats, he said.

Speaking ahead of a new call for funding for the response to the Ebolaoutbreak, he added: “The problem is that [donors] refrain from paying until there is fear and panic. That has to change. We should not be funding by huge amounts when we panic, but should be funding to avoid panic.” Click here to read....

Zimbabwe lawmaker charged with subversion over Mnangagwa threat: Reuters, 9 July 2019

A Zimbabwe opposition lawmaker was charged on Tuesday with subversion, his lawyer said, after a video surfaced where he purportedly said President Emmerson Mnangagwa would be overthrown before the next election in 2023. Mnangagwa, 76, has promised to break with the past ways of his authoritarian predecessor Robert Mugabe, who was removed after a 2017 army coup, but critics say he has continued to use tough security laws against opponents.

Several government opponents face trial on charges of subverting the government after street protests over a fuel price hike turned deadly in January, leading to the death of more than a dozen people in a throwback to the Mugabe era. Click here to read....

United Nations chief calls for more support for cyclone-hit Mozambique: Reuters, 11 July 2019

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called on the international community to provide more aid to Mozambique, where two cyclones spurred by climate change killed hundreds and wrought widespread destruction earlier this year. Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth struck just six weeks apart, flattened cities and villages and, in the case of Idai, which crashed into Mozambique’s central region in March, prompted devastating floods in one of the worst weather-related disasters to hit the southern hemisphere.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi in the capital Maputo, Guterres said the cyclones were a consequence of climate change - a phenomenon Mozambique is on the frontline of but does not contribute to. Click here to read....

Kenya's first coal plant construction paused in climate victory: The Guardian, 11 July 2019

Kenya has been urged to halt construction of the country’s first ever coal-powered plant near the coastal town of Lamu, until an assessment is made of its environmental and cultural impact, in the latest setback to the $2bn project (£1.6bn).
Plans for the 981MW station, backed by a Chinese-led consortium, are in limbo after Kenyan judges revoked the environmental licence at the end of June. They ruled the authorities had failed to carry out a rigorous environmental assessment and to inform local people of potential impacts. Click here to read....

India extends $ 50 million package to host African Union Summit: Economic Times, 12 July 2019

India has extended a grant of $50 million package to sub-Saharan Niger, which the French-speaking West African country has utilised to finance the high-profile African Union (AU) summit it hosted last weekend. This is the first time India has extended a grant for an AU summit.

Officials told ET that the grant to Niger is in line with New Delhi's development partnership model for Africa—one which is based on local requirements. India’s neighbour China, too, is pushing into the continent. Click here to read....

WHO scales up activities in Burkina Faso in response to worsening humanitarian situation: WHO, 15 July 2019

The WHO is scaling up operations in Burkina Faso in response to a growing humanitarian crisis, which has seen over 200,000 displaced. WHO is mobilizing experts to strengthen interventions, including preventative and responsive vaccination campaigns and strategies for provision of health services, as well as increasing supplies of medicines and medical equipment.
Violence and inter-communal conflicts which have plagued the country increasingly since 2015, reached an unprecedented level in the first half of 2019. This has led to a sharp deterioration in the humanitarian situation. As of 10 July 2019 according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is estimated at 219,756. Of the displaced, 41% are children while 43.3% are women. Click here to read....

Turkish sailors held hostage by armed pirates in Nigeria: BBC, 16 July 2019

A group of 10 Turkish sailors has been kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Nigeria, reportedly for ransom. The Paksoy-1 was sailing from Cameroon to Ivory Coast when the pirates boarded the ship in the Gulf of Guinea. It was not carrying freight and eight sailors managed to escape. Turkey says it is working to secure the release of those seized. The International Maritime Bureau says the Gulf of Guinea is the most dangerous sea in the world for piracy. Click here to read....

Kagame Appoints New Envoys, More Embassies Created: allAfrica
16 July 2019

President Paul Kagame has made changes to Rwanda Diplomatic Corps, appointing and redeploying 15 envoys to different countries in Africa and beyond. According to a statement from the Office of Prime Minister, City of Kigali Mayor, Marie-Chantal Rwakazina will serve as the new Ambassador to the Swiss Federation where she will replace Francois-Xavier Ngarambe.

Ngarambe was deployed to France where until his appointment, Jacques Kabare was the ambassador.The Head of State also appointed Wellars Gasamagera as the new ambassador to Angola replacing Alfred Kalisa, who was posted to Egypt in the same capacity. Click here to read....

Sudan's ruling Generals, protest leaders sign power-sharing deal: The New Times, 17 July 2019

Sudan's ruling Generals and an alliance of opposition groups have signed an accord creating a transitional power-sharing body, after weeks of negotiations aimed at breaking the political deadlock that has gripped the country since the overthrowing of President Omar al-Bashir in April.

The two sides signed the document on Wednesday after intense overnight talks in the capital, Khartoum, over the details of an agreement reached earlier this month to establish a joint military-civilian sovereign council that will rule the country by rotation. Click here to read....

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