In the new issue of Framing the World we look at the latest events in Egypt, Nigeria, Peru and Poland. The increase in cases of COVID-19 and related variants continues to worry, especially the United Kingdom and Japan, which have seen a worsening of the health situation close to the Olympics. We then move to Turkey, hit by a dramatic fire and to Mozambique, whose government is grappling with the jihadist insurrection.
All this and more in the 65th issue of Framing the World!
Afghanistan, Taliban killings on the rise. Taliban forces in Afghanistan are targeting personalities critical of them in an attempt to recapture the country following the abandonment of those areas by US troops. In Kandahar, the Taliban arrested and executed suspected members of the provincial government and security forces, and in some cases even their relatives. Activists in Kandahar said that in the villages around the provincial capital, Taliban commanders arrested dozens of people linked to the government or the police. The International Tribunal in The Hague is currently investigating allegations of war crimes and grave human rights by all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.
Ethiopia, the violence and oppression of the war are showing no sign of stopping. During the month of June, heavy fighting between Ethiopian government forces (with their allied forces from the Amhara region and neighboring Eritrea) and Tigray militias took place. On June 28, Tigray forces recaptured the regional capital, Mekelle, taking thousands of Ethiopian soldiers. That same day, the federal government withdrew from Tigray and declared a unilateral ceasefire, with the justification of allowing the passage of essential aid. Since the end of June, Ethiopian authorities have blocked roads in the region. Even now, electricity and fuel supplies are rapidly dwindling, communications and banks have been shut down, and access to money is severely restricted, including for humanitarian organizations operating in the region.
Egypt, more judicial abuses against human rights activists. Human Rights Watch reveals that Egyptian authorities tried five other prominent human rights defenders in July. The government used a legal quibble to arbitrarily investigate on the aforementioned activists and various organizations, accusing them of receiving foreign funds. Since 2016, authorities have called dozens of members of non-governmental groups for questioning and have placed over 30 on the lists that prevent free movement for those whose name appears on such lists. They also froze the assets of over a dozen individuals and associations. The case had a strong impact on collective political participation in the country.
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
Markets, up despite everything. COVID, inflation, and the recent regulatory decisions of the Chinese government were not enough to stop the American stock exchanges which even in July, despite the ups and downs due to the alternating news on COVID, variants, and new restrictions, closed higher for the month (Nasdaq +1%, Dow Jones +1.4%, S&P 500 +2.2%) driven by technology, real estate, and health care stocks and able to compensate for the weakness of financials and energy. In the last two weeks, each downturn (sometimes falling by more than 1.5%) was followed by a rally capable of recovering more than the ground lost, so that both the Dow and S&P touched new all-time highs on July 29 after the FED confirmed once again its monetary policies and Congress recorded important steps towards the passage of the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure plan.
China, new regulations. The weakness of Chinese stock markets continues following the change of course on their regulation imposed by Beijing. The technology sector continues to accumulate impressive drops with the Hang Seng Tech Index down 43% since March, and even giants such as Tencent and Alibaba have fallen 19% and 14%, respectively, in July alone. The authorities' attention then turned to the private tutoring industry, one of the best performing sectors in recent years (with a +34.5% CAGR), which has been effectively wiped out by rules that will force companies not to make a profit, raise new foreign capital, go public or hire foreigners. The concern, in addition to "foreign interference," is related to the cost of private education, believed to be one of the causes of the low birth rate and growing social inequality. The three largest groups, TAL, New Oriental, and 17 Education, record declines of between 80% and 90%.
USA, the recovery is complete. If there is some concern in markets and in the corridors of power about the economic impact of the delta variant, the final 2020 data reveal that, at least in the US, COVID caused the shortest recession in history, lasting just two months and so short that it would not have been classified as such (since two consecutive quarters of decline are required) had it not been for the scale of the drop in economic activity and the effects on employment. From such a short recession the USA recovered just as quickly, so much so that already in Q2 2021 the GDP exceeded pre-covid levels, despite the +6.5% recorded between March and June did not meet the +8.4% forecast. Europe, on the other hand, after the spring slump and a further recession between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, only in the second quarter of this year recorded its first real growth (+1.9% on Q1, +13.7% year-on-year), still not enough to catch up with the pre-crisis levels.
Tesla, is it the turning point? After years of losses, Tesla had posted its first substantial profits in 2019but mostly made up of environmental regulatory credits sold to other automotive groups. Q2 2021, on the other hand, may have marked a historic turning point in the history of the California-based company: revenues up 98% to $12 billion (of which only $354 million from environmental credits), EPS at $1.45 ($0.96 expected) and, above all, a net profit of $1.14 billion (+996.2% year-on-year). Tesla, moreover, has so far not been affected by the shortage of semiconductors that heavily damaged other manufacturers because it has managed to use in its vehicles the chips of its energy storage products (whose production has obviously been reduced), but has warned that in the coming quarters this may not be enough, and also for this reason has moved to 2022 the launch of the highly anticipated Cybertruck.
Big Tech, a record quarter but... Despite a record second quarter for the so-called FAAMG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google), not all companies were able to celebrate on the stock exchange. Facebook increased its revenues by 56% and doubled its EPS, but its stock fell because it predicted lower growth in the coming months also due to Apple's decision to make it more difficult to sell targeted ads. Apple, for its part, recorded a +32% in net sales of products (+50% for iPhones) and +33% of services and asked its suppliers to increase the production of iPhones by 20% for the current year. Amazon, driven by +37% in AWS, ends the quarter with revenues up 27% but revises down its third-quarter estimates because reopenings will hurt its online purchases, and the stock leaves the field as much as 7%. Microsoft, despite a 47% profits increase, has declined, too, due to a 3% drop in Windows revenue from device makers. Google, finally, posted the group's strongest figures, with overall revenues up 62%, search engine revenues up 68%, and YouTube revenues up 84% and is trading around all-time highs.
Mozambique welcomes african forces to fight jihadist insurgency. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi welcomes the African troops coming from the 16 countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help the government counter the Jihadist insurgency hitting the northern region, especially the gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado. The first countries to send their troops to Maputo were Rwanda and Botswana, followed by South Africa, which deployed 1,500 soldiers. President Nyusi, therefore, expressed his gratitude to SADC and the African Countries for this mobilization, although for long resisted any foreign intervention in his territory. Mozambique is struggling to counter an Islamist militia known as al-Shabab in the northern region since 2017, and the violence in Cabo Delgado, according to the government, killed more than 3.100 people and displaced more than 800.000 people.
Ghana: draft of anti-gay legislation proposing 10-year sentences submitted to the parliament. Lawmakers in Ghana have submitted to the parliament draft of an anti-gay bill which raised anger from parts of civil and political society. This new legislation could propose up to 10 years of prison for LGBTQ+ people, supporters, and even public displays of same-sex affection. This project could result in one of the most radical and extreme anti-gay bills proposed worldwide. The Guardian reported that support for intersex people would be criminalized and that the government could direct intersex people to receive « gender realignment » surgery. This anti-gay bill proposed to the parliament of Ghana follows a long wave of repression against LGBTQ+ people in Accra, which has intensified since January 2021.
U.N. extends CAR arms embargo for a year despite China's abstention. Last week the U.N. Security Council decided to extend the arms embargo and the targeted sanctions regime against the Central African Republic for a year despite the opposition of China, which decided to abstain, believing that those measures should be lifted. The U.N. Security Council adopted the resolution by a vote of 14-0, claiming that the CAR government has not yet met U.N. benchmarks concerning protection and control of weapons. According to the U.N., the embargo and the sanctions remain the best measures to promote peace and security since the spread of arms still represents an essential issue for CAR. On the other side, according to China, the security situation in the country is improving, and then the embargo is rapidly becoming an obstacle for the CAR government
Nigeria, Zakzaky acquitted of murder charges. After more than five years behind bars, the leader of the Nigerian Shiite minority, Ibrahim Zakzaky, and his wife, both accused of murder, were released Wednesday by the Kaduna court and thus regained their freedom. The two had been detained since December 2015, following the violence that broke out during a religious celebration in Zaria. Zakzaky and his wife were accused of killing a soldier during the fighting. However, several human rights organizations have pointed out that during the clashes the army actually killed more than 350 people, mostly unarmed Shiites. It has already been announced that there will be appeals against this decision.
Nigeria, around 100 women and children were rescued following a kidnapping. Kidnapped in early June in the village of Manawa, in the northwestern state of Zamfara, Nigeria, by a group of local bandits, more than 100 people, mostly women and children, were recently released. The Nigerian authorities stressed that this release, which took place after six weeks of imprisonment in the hands of the kidnappers, was totally unconditional. The state apparently did not pay any ransom to free the hostages. The hostages will now be medically monitored and will undergo interrogations, thus attempting to gather as much information as possible about the armed group that had kidnapped them. Nigeria in recent months has been characterized by several episodes of kidnappings, especially against young school students. For this reason, in various regions of the African country some school structures have decided to close, so as to avoid new episodes of this kind.
Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi
Canada: 8.2 magnitude earthquake near Chignik. At 10.15 p.m. on 28 July, a strong seismic tremor was recorded in the Alaska Peninsula region. Near the communities of Chignik and Perryville, the Alaska Earthquake Center detected a magnitude 8.2 quake at a depth of 28.5 miles, alerting tsunami units along the Canadian coast to the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. According to the institute, this is the most powerful seismic tremor in 50 years. Only in 1964 had an earthquake of a higher magnitude been recorded. The population in the vicinity of the epicentre was evacuated immediately, the third time this has happened in the last 18 months.
Canada: Trudeau announces that he has reached the quota to fully vaccinate the population. On 27 July, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada had received 66 million doses of vaccines, enabling it to complete the vaccination cycles of all citizens in the country. Speaking at a vaccination hub in Moncton, New Brunswick, the Prime Minister stressed that the government had achieved its goal in record time. Since the beginning of the year, in fact, the Canadian government has received 51 million Pfizer doses, 44 million Moderna doses and will receive another 95 million doses from both by the end of September. To date, 80% of the Canadian population has received at least the first dose, while 63% have completed the vaccination cycle. Thanks to these numbers, Canada is the G7 country with the highest percentage of vaccinated population.
USA: Jeff Bezos goes into space for 11 minutes. On 19 July at 2.12 p.m. from a private base near Van Horn, Texas, New Shepard, the rocket built by the Blue Origin company owned by Jeff Bezos, took off. On board, besides Bezos himself, were his brother Mark, Wally Funk - a pioneer in the space race - and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who became the youngest person ever to go into space. The flight lasted 11 minutes and saw New Shepard return to the vicinity of the take-off site. This is the first private flight to go into space. The date chosen was no coincidence: it is the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Washington, Republicans keep distorting the narrative about the January 6 Congress attack. In the hours and days after the attack on the Capitol, several Republican lawmakers found themselves in the hard position to deal with an attack on democracy born by the attitude and the speeches of their president, Donald Trump. By spring, after nearly 200 congressional Republicans had voted to clear Mr. Trump during a second impeachment proceeding, the conservative fringes of the party had already begun to rewrite history, describing the Capitol riot as a peaceful protest and comparing the invading mob to a “normal tourist visit,” as one congressman put it. Several conservative broadcasting networks, like the well-known Fox TV, even started mocking the police officers that testified about what happened that day in Washington.
Austin, Biden administration sues Texas over Governor Abbott’s migrant transport order. The US government is taking Texas Governor Greg Abbott to court over an executive order he issued this week against the transportation of newly released migrants from US Customs and Border Protection Custody. Abbott ordered law enforcement to stop vehicles suspected of carrying migrants. In a lawsuit filed Friday, the Justice Department said the governor’s initiative would violate the Constitution, which states that federal laws override state laws and regulations. The lawsuit alleged that Abbott’s order jeopardizes the safety of non-citizens in federal custody, putting the safety of federal law enforcement personnel and their families at risk.
Edoardo Cappelli and Emanuele Volpini
Argentina, the government declares water emergency. The Argentinean government has declared a water emergency for 180 days. The water levels in the Paraná, Iguazú and Paraguay rivers have dropped alarmingly. Drought and low rainfall are some of the factors that have triggered the phenomenon. However, the problem stems from many other elements, linked to deforestation and climate change. The provinces affected are Formosa, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Chaco, Santa Fe, Misiones and Buenos Aires. As reported on the Argentine government's website, the drop in the water level has been going on for twenty months and has become alarming. According to experts, this phenomenon is also due to the drought in the Paraná region of the Brazilian Amazon. Because of this situation, the risk of fires is high. In addition, the supply of fresh water, the ecosystem, fishing, shipping, port activities and the production of hydroelectric power are all under serious threat.
Brazil, The people on the march. In 20 of Brazil's 26 states, demonstrations have been sparked by thousands of marching populace, dressed in red and wearing masks, to call for the impeachment of President Bolsonaro, accused by the people of mismanagement, in particular of the health crisis caused by the advent of the coronavirus. Especially left-wing parties and trade unions are lined up against the president, who is also under investigation for possible irregularities in the negotiation of vaccines by the government. The total number of protesters is not known, as neither the authorities nor the organisers have released estimates in this regard, but the simple reasons for the mobilisations are known: the delay of the vaccination campaign in Brazil and the need for more aid for the poor populations that are facing the pandemic.
Chile, the Mapuche victory at the Constituent Assembly and CONADI's activities. In the last month, the Mapuche community has been winning important victories in the Chilean political and economic arena. The Constituent Assembly elected Elisa Loncón, a Mapuche woman, as its president with an absolute majority of votes. Loncón has a doctorate in linguistics and teaches at the University of Santiago. In addition, the same Assembly asked the government to issue a pardon for prisoners detained for the events of 2019 and to demilitarise the areas where the Mapuches live. In particular, a pardon was also requested for Mapuche political prisoners from 2001. Meanwhile, the CONADI (Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena) is launching some important tourism and agriculture development programmes for the indigenous community. CONADI's national director, Ignacio Malig Meza, recently visited the Mapuche communities of San Pedro de Atacama to verify and personally monitor the implementation of the projects financed.
Colombia, The massacre of activists. In Colombia, those who prioritise community service in defence of the rights of the inhabitants are murdered. In the last week, the unbridled cadence of extermination of social leaders, especially in rural Colombia where the state is lacking, has claimed 101 victims in less than six months. The deep crisis of the nation is the reason for the ecatomy of activists. It matters little that the peace agreement between the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas was signed five years ago, because it has critically stalled for two specific reasons: structural difficulties and President Duque's lack of political will to enhance the pact itself. This has meant allowing other new paramilitary groups, heirs of the old Autofedensas (ultra-right wing formations set up in an anti-Farc version) to replace the old guerrillas and make themselves newly responsible for the massacre of the activists, carried out with the intention of subjugating and terrorising the entire local population.
Cuba is in shutdown. New sanctions. Aid is expected from Bolivia. Biden accuses the revolutionary police of “grave violations of human rights” for the questionable handling of the repression of demonstrators. After meeting with the leader of the Cuban exiles in the United States, he declared further sanctions “if there are no immediate changes” and his intention to guarantee the Internet, after the government shutdown that lasted days. The Deputy Director for the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco, (HRW), strongly believes that Internet access in Cuba "must be a top priority" of the Biden government. “The use of social networks on the island was a real revolution that allowed the population to communicate, organize protests and denounce abuses almost immediately, something that would have been impossible a few years ago”. The worsening of the situation and the promise of new sanctions have prompted the Minister of the Presidency of Bolivia, María Prada Tejada to have the Congress approve a humanitarian aid plan that “aims to authorise, in the framework of reciprocity, complementarity and solidarity between countries, the donation of syringes, food and supplies for biosecurity for the Republic of Cuba” since Bolivia “shows solidarity with the Cuban revolution, from which we have learned that solidarity is sharing what little or much we have with those who need it most”, and stressing that the trade embargo imposed by the United States was “inhumane, criminal and genocidal”.
Dominican Republic, the fight against climate change goes through the salvation of the mangroves. Mangrove forests are typical of America but, due to coastal exploitation for tourism purposes, intensive fishing and deforestation, they risk disappearing. Because they consider dirty places and mosquito receptacles, a group of scholars is raising awareness in the nation to save their existence. Andrea Thomen, a Dominican biologist, believes that mangroves “are the perfect buffer against hurricanes and tropical storms” and their loss would lead to an irreversible environmental disaster. On July 26 (International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, BBC Mundo) the campaign to raise awareness and save the mangroves was launched, electing them as a symbol and national pride. “The mangrove ecosystem has a composition of incredibly adaptable plant species that grow in the most difficult conditions a plant can exist and are a natural refuge for many species” - Thomen. They capture blue carbon, trap CO2, regulate temperature and control the effects of the greenhouse gas. However, in just 50 years, more than a third was destroyed. 25,900 hectares are deteriorating. Scholars call for a rapid turnaround. To help the campaign they have also involved Dominican athletes who support them in disseminating and joining the program.
Ecuador, State of Emergency in the Prison System. Since 2017, Ecuador has been suffering from a rampant prison crisis, which, in addition to embodying obvious violent unrest within the prison structures, also counts a number of deaths that has increased over the years: in fact, if in 2018 the deaths amounted to 15, in the current year they have risen to 120. Just in the last few days, Ecuadorian prisons have been the scene of new riots that have resulted in the death of 27 prisoners, a sexual assault on a female officer and the wounding of about 60 police officers. This is the second attempt at insurrection after the clashes on 23 February that led to the death of 79 inmates in various prison facilities in the country. President Guillermo Lasso has declared a “state of emergency” in the prison system, reiterating what will be a fearless reaction to the mafias attempting to intimidate the country, excluding lukewarmness in the actions against them.
Guatemala, the dismissal of the anti-corruption PM triggers protests. Requested the resignation of the President and the head of the Public Ministry. Protests began in front of the Presidential Palace on 24 July. On July 28, the national strike paralysed the country, following the forced resignation of the anti-corruption PM Juan Francisco Sandoval, who was forced to leave the country for fear of repercussions from the government. He was the head of a large investigation that would have led to suspicion of people close to President Alejandro Giammattei for the crime of corruption and probably would have revoked the parliamentary safety of the President. Giammattei Authority rejected the allegations and denied having requested his deposition to the head of the Ministry Consuelo Porras. The reaction of the USA was immediate, which temporarily froze relations between the two nations. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had defined Sandoval as an “anti-corruption champion”, although his removal “indicates a lack of commitment to the rule of law and judicial independence” in Guatemala. Sandoval, speaking to BBC Mundo, said that his “sacking was a direct message for those who dare to challenge the regime”.
Mexico, the President lashes out against the American sanctions on Cuba. Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared that Cuba is an “example of resistance” and “deserves to be declared a World Heritage Site”. The gravity of the problems that the Cubans are experiencing is sadly well known. Equally known is the Mexican generosity of support and help. In fact, Mexico has been sending humanitarian aid for weeks and has taken a position of explicit condemnation of the US economic sanctions affecting the island. On July 12, Obrador manifested “solidarity with the Cuban people” and urged “everyone not to opt for the use of force” but “let the Cubans solve these problems peacefully”. Thanks to an international appeal, Russia has embraced the Cuban cause, delivering 90 tons of humanitarian aid on 27 July. AMLO added “It is not enough to vote every year at the United Nations against the blockade”, hoping that this political position “will now become facts and help the Cuban people”. Two Mexican ships have arrived in the port of Havana containing medical supplies such as syringes, face masks and oxygen cylinders. In addition, food and petrol will also be shipped. On July 26, 40 million liters of hydrocarbons arrived; on July 27, 100,000 barrels of diesel “which will be used to supply energy to the island's hospitals”.
Peru, Castillo proclaimed president. After a long electoral clash between Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Castillo, the latter was officially proclaimed president on 23 July. Fujimori denounced the presence of electoral fraud, but the charge was rejected by the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones. As a consequence, the Fuerza Popular leader had to recognise the outcome of the election. It is likely that one of the factors by which Castillo has achieved this result is the moderation of his rhetoric towards the free market. However, his goal remains to eradicate poverty and invest in the public sector, particularly in education and health. Brazil, the United States and the EU itself welcomed the election of the leader of Peru Libre and said they were ready to strengthen economic, political relations and cooperation with the Andean state. In addition to the country's typical problems, the new president will have to face the challenge of the pandemic. Moreover, Castillo won the presidency with 50.12% of the votes, followed by Fujimori, who scored 49.87%. With the country divided in two, the exercise of political power may be a tough challenge. For this reason Castillo called for national unity, especially addressing parties, trade unions and enterprises.
Giulia Patrizi, Ginevra Ricca and Elisa Maggiore
ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
China, official talks with Taliban leaders concluded. On July 28th, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban group. The official reason for the talks was to convince the group to “make a clean cut” with all terrorist groups, especially the anti-China East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). China, in fact, hopes that the Taliban will definitely break relations with all terrorist organizations, including ETIM (designated as such by the UN) and al-Qaida. During the meeting, Wang Yi also reaffirmed the importance of the Doha negotiations and the continuation of peace talks between the Taliban and the national government led by Ashraf Ghani, whose legitimacy China recognizes. However, a certain sympathy for the group, defined by the Chinese Foreign Minister as “a major military and political force in Afghanistan”, has not been hidden.
Japan, the Olympics kick off: between new cases and controversies. On July 23rd, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games officially opened, exactly one year after their original start date, postponed due to the pandemic. The ceremony, consisting of a series of artistic and choreographic performances representing Japanese culture, was held at Tokyo’s brand new $1.5 billion National Stadium. In the previous days, however, a controversy arose regarding the director of ceremonies, Kentaro Kobayashi. Just the day before the opening of the games, Kobayashi was dismissed from his position after some of his comments about the Holocaust, made in the 1990s, resurfaced on the web. Another strong concern both for the government authorities and for those of the games is the sharp increase in infections that has occurred in the last week. In fact, despite the security measures put in place by the government, on July 27 the Japanese health authorities reported a new record in the total number of contagions (2,848), bringing the total number of infected people to 200,000.
Philippines, renewed military agreement with the United States until December. Last Friday, Rodrigo Duterte renewed the pact governing the presence of U.S. troops in the Philippines, retracting a decision that had caused growing concern among policymakers in Washington and Manila after the Philippine president had announced his intention to cancel the VFA last year. The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) regulates the rotation of thousands of U.S. troops in and out of the Philippines for military exercises. Now more than ever, this agreement has taken on critical importance for the United States and its allies as they face an increasingly assertive China with a strong presence in Southeast Asia, particularly in the disputed South China Sea. Duterte’s decision provides the U.S. with “some degree of certainty going forward”, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. The U.S. Embassy in Manila also welcomed the news, saying the agreement “strengthens not only the security of our two nations, but also the rules-based order” in the region.
Vietnam, new wave of COVID cases. Last Friday, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health issued an urgent appeal asking private hospitals to accept and treat COVID-19 patients, mostly infected by the Delta variant. After successfully containing the virus for much of the pandemic, Vietnam is facing a record daily increase in infections since late April. The Ministry noted a total of about 137,000 cases, 85 percent of which have been recorded in the past month. “The Delta variant is destroying all anti-pandemic achievements”, said Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long. Daily COVID-19 infections in Vietnam reached a record 8,649 cases last Friday, bringing the total count to more than 137,000. Private medical facilities should provide beds, equipment, and staff to treat COVID-19 patients, and generally ease the burden on government institutions. Due to overcrowding in hospitals, in Vietnam’s 17 southern provinces dozens of temporary COVID-19 wards have been set up in converted farms and factories.
WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
UK, COVID continues to grow. The Delta variant keeps scaring Europe. In particular in the United Kingdom, after a week of partial slowdown, infections have started to grow again towards important numbers. On Thursday 29 July, the infections exceeded 30 thousand units, out of a total of daily tampons rising again to 911 thousand. Fortunately, daily deaths are slightly lower, settling at 85, against 91 on Wednesday. The relatively low number of deaths compared to those infected is, according to experts, a clear effect of vaccines. It has been estimated that without the extensive vaccination that involved the country’s population, there would have been at least 60,000 more deaths to date. In the United Kingdom, the number of vaccinations carried out is now close to 85 million doses administered.
Italy, the G20 of Culture is underway. In the splendid setting of the Colosseum, the first summit of the twenty major world economies focused on the importance of culture has kicked off. There are also 40 delegations present. The Italian Premier Mario Draghi and the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini did the honors by opening this ministerial historic of the G20 in Rome, a city recognized worldwide for its historical and cultural importance. Both in their speeches stressed how supporting culture is essential for the post-COVID recovery of Italy and the whole world. From Friday 30 July the works of this summit have come to life, dealing with issues such as protection and restoration policies, illicit trafficking of works of art, the restart of post-pandemic museums and the impact of climate change on various Heritage sites of humanity that are currently at risk.
Germany, court decides not to send two asylum seekers back to Italy. The administrative court of North Rhine-Westphalia, with its recent decision, went against the Dublin regulation. According to this regulation, in fact, two asylum seekers from Somalia and Mali, who arrived in Germany after passing through Italy, should have been sent back to the country of first landing – precisely Italy. The German court, however, has decided not to send the two asylum seekers back because in Italy, citing the reasons of the court, “they would seriously risk suffering inhuman and degrading treatment”. The reasoning of the sentence refers to the fact that both applicants would not have access to a reception facility and related care in the event of a return to Italy.
Agreement between Germany and the USA: green light for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. Following the meeting between Angela Merkel and Joe Biden, the construction of the controversial Russian gas pipeline will be completed by the end of 2021. This Russian project will allow the arrival of natural gas in Europe. Biden previously stated that Nord Stream 2 would represent a deal that could lead to Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and the weakening of the strategic position of several allied countries in Eastern Europe. In this regard, the agreement with the United States commits Germany to impose sanctions against Russia if it seeks the energy security of Eastern European countries including Ukraine, which has been engaged for years in a tough confrontation with the Kremlin.
Stop to the sale of petrol and diesel cars: from 2035 only electric cars. The European Commission has established that from 2035 onwards it will no longer be possible to sell vehicles that emit CO2. With the “Fit for 55” package, the EU’s main goal is to reduce harmful gases by 55% by 2030. To make this a reality, each member country is called upon to install charging stations every 60 kilometers in the case of electric cars and every 150 kilometers in the case of hydrogen cars. However, the last word rests with the European Parliament which will have to decide whether to approve or amend this bill. Undoubtedly, this proposal will bring about profound social and labor changes and will have to be accompanied by a massive transaction towards electricity by the manufacturers and a reduction in prices that may be more accessible for European citizens.
French President Macron and some of his ministers victims of Pegasus spy software. According to the latest Le Monde rumors, the cell phones of the French president and fifteen members of the previous French government were intercepted by Morocco through Pegasus, a program developed by the Israeli security company Nso Group. The numbers of the private cell phone of Macron and some of his former ministers are on a list in the hands of the Moroccan secret services. Initially, the scandal due to The Pegasus Project only concerned journalists. Now, however, it could also affect political offices including presidents and heads of government at the international level. Macron has promised an investigation to verify the truthfulness of the facts. Further checks will also be conducted by the EU.
Andrea Ghilardi and Giorgia Avola
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
Baltics, designed the railway connecting Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Thanks to European funds, the rail link among the three Baltic countries is going to be created or strengthened. The states were hitherto connected by old, ineffective Soviet railway networks. There are many expectations, above all because the new lines will have to be green and significantly improve the quality of the journey, with a great saving of time and emissions. The electrified line will be high speed and connect Warsaw, Kaunas, Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki. The costs of Rail Baltica are around 5.79 billion euros to be completed by 2026. The EU has contributed with 600 million in funds. In addition to transporting goods and passengers, the connections will be functional to the movement of troops from the NATO bases in Poland and Germany, stabilizing the region and countering the rise of the Kremlin.
Belarus, the EU: “Stop exploiting migrants”. Relations between the European Community and Belarus are at loggerheads and new restrictive measures are being considered. EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in a recent statement that “the exploitation of migrants and refugees is absolutely unacceptable”. The accusation is clear: Belarus, in contravention of European principles, uses people in need, such as migrants and refugees, to achieve mere political objectives. The EU also expresses concerns about the increase in Iraqi illegals on the border with Lithuania. Therefore, measures are under consideration to target migrant smugglers and all those responsible for trafficking in human beings and who violate human rights. Added to this is the repeated request, still unheeded, for the immediate release of political prisoners and to hold free elections. “The EU sanctions against the supporters of the Lukašėnka regime will not be lifted until the repression is over, all political prisoners are released and until free and fair elections are held” - stated Borrell.
Poland, Parliament is discussing a law that would put independent TV at risk. The far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) wants parliament to approve a law that will ban foreign-funded media from operating in the country. Renamed “anti-TVN”, they are working hard to get it to be voted on immediately, but it will be voted on in August. With this design, TVN24, a very popular independent broadcaster with a US subsidy, watched by 4 million Poles, will be hit directly. The national authority will assess whether the network can be licensed. American diplomacy has mobilised to prevent its ratification. The network in a statement declares that in 2015 the national authority had approved the American entry and there was no perplexity until the renewal, as well as reaffirming their will to remain independent and not to accept any pressure. The association of independent journalists Press Club Polska said: “In our opinion, TVN's unlicensing move is an attempt to put pressure on an independent media. [...] it is unacceptable to pass a law only to hinder a company that has an important role in the media market and is simply an independent network, which puts the government in difficulty”.
Romania, dismantled network of human traffickers. A way of access to the European Community passes through the Balkans. Every year thousands of Syrian refugees pass from Turkey to Northern Europe along the Balkan route. encouraging a real illegal business that instead of selling goods, demands payment to cross the numerous borders of the former Yugoslavia states. Recent investigations have brought to light a real criminal network of traffickers who were paid from four thousand to ten thousand euros to allow refugees to cross the various borders. On 30 July, Europol reported that the Romanian police dismantled a criminal group involved in these practices. The network was active since October 2020 and also operated both in drug trafficking and in that of Egyptians, Syrians, Romanians and Iraqis. It had cells in many countries of the route. They carried migrants from Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Syria to Western Europe, mainly to Germany. They were able to get the illegals in from Bulgaria, lodge them in Bucharest, illegally brought to Hungary and from there to Germany.
Russia, the Nauka module joins the ISS late and they destabilise it. The 13 m long and 20 t heavy module attached itself to the rear along with the other Russian segments. Scheduled for 2007, it has been severely delayed due to budget downsizing and technical problems during the development phase. During the launch phase, which took place in Kazakhstan, at the Baikonur cosmodrome, it encountered propulsion difficulties. The operation took place on July 29 at 13:29 GMT, when Nauka and the ISS were flying over the border between Mongolia and China at an altitude of 420 km. The module destabilized the ISS because its engines accidentally started. NASA's timely response: “Mission control teams have corrected the action and all systems are functioning normally”, although NASA lost contact with the astronauts twice, for seven minutes. The seven crew members have never been in danger. The ISS has moved 45 degrees from its attitude. The Nauka module will increase the living space by 70 m3, serving as a warehouse and rest area.
MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
Libya, a new murder shakes the fragile stability: at dawn on Tuesday 27 July, one of the leaders of the Kaniyat militia, belonging to the army of General Khalifa Haftar, was shot dead in his home by a group of armed men not yet clearly identified. Muhammad al-Kani was known to be a bloodthirsty figure, whose militia had spread terror, including extrajudicial killings, summary executions and torture during the course of the Libyan civil conflict. In particular, he was known to have been responsible for the deaths of individuals found in mass graves in Tarhuna, discovered by the Tripolitan GNA once the city was reconquered. In fact, after the announcement of his death, the inhabitants of the city took to the streets to celebrate his death.
Israel, the doubts of a diplomat and a shipping "incident": Amir Hayek has been chosen as permanent ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. The appointment seems somewhat paradoxical given the diplomat's previous statements. Hayek had expressed strong reservations about: an oil deal between the Israeli state-owned company EAPC and the Arab federation, the sale of F-35s to Abu Dhabi, and tourism deals during the pandemic. In addition, a tanker owned by Israeli tycoon Eyal Ofer came under attack, most likely by an Iranian drone, in the waters of the Arabian Sea near Oman. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Labid, immediately pointed the finger at Teheran and invited the international community to present a united front against the terrorist actions of the Iranian theocracy.
Turkey, ferro ignique? The biggest forest fire in Turkey's history is dominating the news, with 38 fires in 17 provinces of the country, five deaths, numerous missing persons and, above all, risks for civilians, productive activities and tourism. The catastrophe represents as much as ever the expression "fuel on the fire", as the opposition and the population do not fail to criticize the government for its poor management of the emergency. The disaster comes at a time when President Erdoğan's government is already struggling to cope with further migratory pressure from Afghanistan. In addition to voices of dissent over Ankara's involvement in mediation with the Taliban, the nationalist CHP party is now trying to ride on the back of popular discontent about new waves of refugees. While Austrian Chancellor Kurz has called Turkey "the most appropriate place for migrants", an exhausted Ankara has replied that it is "not Europe's refugee camp" and raises walls on the Iranian border. Usual stories of double-edged weapons.
Iran, thirsty for everything. For more than two weeks now, protest fronts have been mounting over the scarcity of water in the country, especially in the south-western province of Khuzestan, which is rich in natural resources. However, the winds of unrest soon intensified and became a pretext for widespread street demonstrations in major cities, including the capital Tehran, all of which were violently and fatally repressed by the security forces. Although the government blames the abnormal heat and drought on climate change, voices from various outside camps accuse the state of neglecting water resources and infrastructure improvements. And if rhetorically Raisi's incoming government speaks of legitimate protests, it is on the alert on two fronts: the nationalistic resilience is undermined by uprisings mainly involving large minorities (including Arabs); the legitimacy of power is undermined by slogans openly opposed to Ayatollah Khamenei.
Lebanon, Mikati is the country's hope. After 11 days from the resignation of the previous premier Hariri, unable to create a new government, the name of Najib Mikati, a billionaire businessman in the Tripoli area, came out of the hat. He was appointed as the new premier following the binding consultations held between the Parliament and the President of the Republic Michel Aoun; devoid of legitimate opponents, he received 72 votes in favor, 42 abstentions and 3 did not vote. Whether Mikati will succeed in forming a new government remains to be seen, but he told the press that he will follow the initiative of French President Macron, represented by a structural plan and guidelines to reform the economic fabric of Lebanon. Criticism has emerged from some academics and civil society, as Mikati has already been premier twice, so he is part of that establishment which the Lebanese people do not feel represented.
Tunisia, Saied's hard line continues. After freezing parliamentary activity and removing former Prime Minister Mechichi from office, Tunisian President Saied removed twenty senior government officials including the Attorney General, Secretary General, Chief of Staff and other Mechichi’s advisors, as well as to the Minister of Justice and Defense. For Ennahda, the first political force in the country from which Mechichi comes, the President's decisions are "unconstitutional", while Saied declares that he acted on the basis of Article 80 of the Tunisian Constitution which allows ample powers to the President to maintain public order. Saied's drastic decision came after the huge protest took last week in Tunis, in which the Tunisian people were claiming for early elections and new economic reforms: the Ennahda party in fact was unable to face the severe economic crisis that worsened due to the new wave of COVID-19. Doubts and concerns about the possible anti-democratic drift come mainly from the EU and the US.
Samuele Abrami, Michele Magistretti and Sara Oldani
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
Afghanistan: UN offices targeted. On 30 July, an attack was perpetrated against UN offices in Herat, western Afghanistan. This was reported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which strongly condemned the attack. The offices were attacked by grenades and gunshots, resulting in the death of an Afghan policeman and the wounding of other security agents; there were no casualties among UN officials. According to local sources, the Taliban were responsible for the attack, but they did not claim responsibility. All this happened while clashes between the Afghan military authorities and the Taliban were taking place in the province of Herat.
Iraq, Sadr City market bombing. On 20 July, a suicide attack was carried out at the Wahailat market, located in a predominantly Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City, a suburban district of the capital Baghdad. At the time of the attack, the market was particularly crowded in light of the Eid al-Adha holiday (19-23 July) and 35 people were killed. The attack was promptly claimed by the Islamic State, which announced that one of its 'soldiers' had blown himself up in the crowd. The attack shows how ISIS continues to pose a real threat in Iraq, gradually re-emerging after its territorial defeat in 2017.
Italy, 4 arrests in Andria for financing terrorist activities. The operation, called "The Lebanese", conducted by the District Anti-Mafia Directorate of Bari, has allowed to get to the head of a system of funds transfer aimed at financing the activities of jihadist cells located in about 49 countries. According to the investigators, the four suspects would have sent, through a money transfer center in Andria, over 1 million euros to individuals affiliated with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. For the four suspects the judge issued an order of precautionary detention in prison.
Mozambique, the Southern African Development Community will send 3,000 military personnel to support the fight against terrorism. The intensification of the activity of militiamen, mainly linked to the Ahlus Sunna wal Jama group, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, has led local authorities to invoke the intervention of neighboring countries. The geostrategic value of Cabo Delgado - rich in gas deposits - has exposed it to strong interest from the international community. In fact, the Southern African Development Community, an organization that brings together the countries of southern Africa, has already made it official to send 3,000 soldiers to Mozambique. The European Union itself, at the behest of the Council, has set up a military mission to restore security in the region.
Vincenzo Battaglia and Davide Shahhosseini
IEA, global CO2 emissions close to reaching a new record. According to the new Sustainable Recovery Tracker system, unveiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last week, the current resources deployed by governments around the world to fund renewable and sustainable energy would be insufficient to ensure that the 2050 net-zero emissions target is met. According to Tracker, which creates predictions of how much total government funding in renewables (a total of 800 projects were considered) would affect the global level of CO2, the level of global emissions is expected to peak by 2023. As Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, put it, "since the Covid-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building better again for a cleaner future, but many of them have yet to put their money where their mouth is; despite rising climate ambitions, the amount of economic recovery funds spent on clean energy is only a small sliver of the total."
WFP, blocked food supplies for people in Tigray. Last Friday, the UN agency World Food Programme reported that more than 100 truckloads containing valuable food and medical supplies were blocked in the Afar region of Ethiopia, where a violent armed attack has been ongoing for several weeks. A spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General reported that all roads connecting Afar with Tigray "remain blocked due to security concerns." The cargo contained in the convoy was intended for the population of the neighboring region of Tigray, where food shortages have left some 400,000 people on the brink of starvation.
UNICEF, Generation Unlimited program launched in Nigeria. In conjunction with the Nigerian government, UNICEF launched the Generation Unlimited (GenU) program last Monday, targeting more than 20 million Nigerian youth through 2030. The program is addressed to young people aged from 10 to 24, and consists of expanding the education system and providing job training, with a view to increasing employment opportunities upon the completion of the program. Nigeria's Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, reiterated that Nigeria is the country "with the highest number of young people in the world," and that the program will ensure both long-term socio-economic growth and the development of new job opportunities for the country's youth.
Italy, FAO Pre-Summit. The three-day event, held at the end of July, brought together young people, the public and private sectors, researchers, indigenous peoples and political leaders to discuss the process of global engagement in order to contribute through precise policy actions to the promotion of the common good and a sense of community, improving the management and transformation of the world's food systems.
United Nations, World Day against Human Trafficking. With the pandemic, human trafficking has not stopped, especially when it comes to children. More than 40 million people are said to be trafficking victims, 1 in 4 of whom is under the age of 18. A phenomenon that continues to expand rapidly may involve more and more human beings, especially minors, there are 1 in 20 cases of children under 8 years of age.
Valeria Lavano e Francesco Ancona
Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.
Andrea Ghilardi: Western Europe and the European Union, Sub-Saharan Africa
Arianna Giannino: Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security, Latin America
Edoardo Cappelli: Human Rights, North America
Elisa Maggiore: Latin America
Federica Sulpizio: Middle-East and North Africa
Federico Brignacca: Human Rights
Francesco Ancona: Asia and the Far East, International Organizations
Ginevra Ricca: Latin America
Giorgia Avola: Western Europe and the European Union
Giulia Patrizi: Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Giulio Cofini: Sub-Saharan Africa
Leonardo Aldeghi: Economics and International Finance
Leonardo Cherici: Western Europe and the European Union
Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa
Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa
Sara Oldani: Middle-East and North-Africa
Valeria Lavano: International Organizations
Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security