Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week Review: January 16 - January 22

A summary of what happened in the world over the last week.

January 16

Canada. An editorial in a major Canadian medical journal Monday urges doctors to conceal the gender of a fetus from all pregnant women until 30 weeks to prevent sex-selective abortion by Asian immigrants. See article from National Post.

Kazakhstan. The elections in Kazakhstan did not meet democratic standards, said OSCE/ODIHR observers in Astana during the presentation of their report on the vote. "Notwithstanding the government’s stated ambition to strengthen Kazakhstan’s democratic processes and conduct elections in line with international standards, yesterday’s early parliamentary vote still did not meet fundamental principles of democratic elections," the document reads. See OSCE's press release.

Syria. Eleven people, including five civilians, were killed on Monday by pro-Assad forces, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. These killings happened only a day after UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon pressured Assad to stop killing his people. "I hope the U.N. Security Council handles Syria in a coherent manner and with a sense of gravity," Ban Ki-moon said today during a visit to Abu Dhabi, calling the situation "unacceptable." See article from Reuters.

January 17

Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government is forcing tens of thousands of people off their land so it can lease it to foreign investors, leaving former landowners destitute and in some cases starving. Human Rights Watch said that 1.5 million Ethiopians would eventually be forced from their land and highlighted what it said was the latest case of forced relocation in its report "Ethiopia: Forced Relocations Bring Hunger, Hardship." See article from Reuters.

Israel/Syria. Israel has serious concerns about what will happen to “huge stockpiles” of chemical and biological weapons in Syria when the Assad regime collapses, a senior military official said. Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, head of the Israeli military’s planning division, said the working assumption was the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would eventually fall. “The question is when, not if. And the big question is what’s going to come the day after,” he said. See article from Defense News.

EU. If 2011 was Europe’s annus horribilis, EU ambassadors hope actions in the making will restore confidence in the 27-nation bloc, reverse the cascade of the sovereign debt crisis that has marred the EU, and ultimately turn 2012 into an annus mirabilis. EU ambassadors spoke to EurActiv Managing Editor Daniela Vincenti.

January 18

EU/Iran/Israel. EU countries are intensifying efforts to agree an oil boycott and muscular financial sanctions against Iran, which is sizing up the option of shutting down the Hormuz Strait as a response (see article on EurActiv). In the meantime, Israel moved to calm the increasingly tense discourse over Iran’s nuclear program on Wednesday, with the Israeli defense minister asserting that any decision on a possible pre-emptive military strike on Iranian targets was “very far off” (see article on The New York Times).

January 19

Iran/US. The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln arrived in the Arabian Sea on Thursday, Navy officials said, a likely prelude to testing Iran's recent warning against sending a U.S. carrier through the Strait of Hormuz. See article on CNN International.

January 20

DR Congo. The United Nations refugee agency voiced concern over fresh violence in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that has forced more than 100,000 civilians to flee their homes in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu since November. See news release on UN News Centre.

Religion. In a move that is sure to become a new anti-Obama rallying cry for the religious right, the Department of Health and Human Services has ruled that religious institutions have a one-year exemption before they must comply with the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that employers provide co-pay free coverage for contraception in their health insurance plans. See article on Religion Dispatches.

January 21

Greece. Talks on restructuring Greek debt continued Saturday, with negotiators reporting some progress made toward reaching a deal with the nation's private creditors. The deal is a key condition for Greece to receive additional bailout funds from the EU and IMF. Without additional financial support, Greece may not be able to make a €14 billion payment it owes on bonds coming due March 20. See article on CNN International.

USA/GOP Primary. Newt Gingrich won Saturday's South Carolina GOP presidential primary, marking a stunning turnaround for a candidate who finished fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire and whose campaign had been left for dead by observers just weeks ago. See article on CNN.

January 22

Human Rights. Western democracies should overcome their aversion to Islamist groups that enjoy popular support in North Africa and the Middle East and encourage them to respect basic rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Sunday.

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