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Eastwest Press Review – The world in ten news items – 4 August 2017


Eastwest Press Review offers a weekly geopolitical collection of recent global trends, beyond the main headlines. The world, one news at a time.


In Mosul, revealing the last ISIS stronghold

Days after the Iraqi government officially declared victory over the Islamic State in Mosul in July, the fighting was far from over. Roughly the size of a block in Manhattan, the last ISIS holdout of the Old City did not seem like the kind of place where anyone could still be alive after weeks of brutal combat. But a few such areas kept up the fight for days. And — horribly, amazingly — civilians were still being pulled out. What we saw as we went step by step with the Iraqi forces here made their survival seem even more miraculous. (Read more on The New York Times)

One of Syria’s best know democracy activists has been executed

One whose reputation had become known beyond Syria’s borders was Bassel Khartabil Safadi, an Internet pioneer who embodied the hopes of a new generation that technology could be leveraged to build a fairer world. He was a successful Internet entrepreneur in the years before the 2011 uprising and then became an enthusiastic participant in Syria’s protest movement — until he was detained by government security forces in March 2012. […] “His death is a terrible reminder of what many individuals and families risk in order to make a better society,” said Creative Commons. (Read more on The Washington Post)


Why Obamacare Survived

Since the United States’ Affordable Care Act (ACA) – or “Obamacare” – was enacted in 2010, Republicans have been promising to “repeal and replace” it. When the 2016 presidential and congressional elections delivered all three branches of the US government to the party, the time to fulfill that promise seemed to have arrived. Yet the anti-Obamacare crusade has just been dealt a crushing blow, owing to the refusal of some Republican senators to vote for the replacement legislation. […]The truth is that the blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of congressional Republicans. Since 2010, they voted more than 50 times to repeal the ACA. Those votes may have been merely symbolic, given Obama’s veto power; nonetheless, the striking fact remains that the Republicans never bothered to try to formulate an alternative in the event that one of their own would one day become president. (Read more on Project Syndacate)


Jailings Raise Fears of Dictatorship in Venezuela

The two men, both vocal members of the opposition, had been arrested before. But as the doors shut and the cars sped away early on Tuesday, many Venezuelans worried that it marked the start of a new dictatorship in South America. President Nicolás Maduro and his leftist movement have seized control of the country, not through a coup, but through a contentious power grab that has gutted Venezuela’s democratic institutions and effectively eliminated any official political challenges. (Read more on The New York Times)


Frankfurt looks like the big Brexit winner. But that may not help Europe as a whole

Frankfurt appears to be winning the race to woo the City of London’s investment bankers and traders. Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank AG are all set to move hundreds of jobs there as they brace for Brexit. Still, if this is what victory looks like for euro-zone financial centers, it’s a hollow one. […]Setting up a Frankfurt trading hub with a few hundred jobs seems like a regulatory prophylactic for firms that had for years counted on London as a reliable home — not a growth bet on Europe’s capital markets. Frankfurt is winning a slice, not the pie. (Read more on Bloomberg)


China accused over ‘enforced disappearance’ of Liu Xiaobo’s widow

Chinese authorities are guilty of the Kafkaesque enforced disappearance of Liu Xia, the wife of late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, the couple’s US lawyer has claimed. Jared Genser, a Washington-based human rights attorney who has represented them since 2010, made the claim in a formal complaint submitted to the United Nations on Wednesday. Genser said he expected that, having received his complaint, the UN body would now ask Beijing to respond to claims that Chinese security forces were behind Liu Xia’s disappearance. He hoped the move would force Beijing to “reappear” Liu Xia, who has never been charged with any crime, and allow her to leave China. (Read more on The Guardian)

Beware the illusion of South China Sea calm

A year after the supposedly game-changing arbitral tribunal ruling on the Philippines’ South China Sea case against China, the region appears to have entered another period of calm that some are happy to play up. But though a superficial glance might suggest that a cooling down period is truly at play, a deeper look points to the reality that any calm is illusory at best and shows few signs of lasting. […] There is every reason to expect that Beijing will at some point step on the gas pedal in the South China Sea once again, whether it be infringements into ASEAN states’ waters from its outposts in the Spratlys that many expect or even bolder cost-imposition strategies on claimant and non-claimant Southeast Asian states designed to both test their resilience and further divide ASEAN. (Read more on The Diplomat)


Kenya’s elections are much more than just a ruthless game of thrones

The threat of controversy and unrest looms over Kenya’s elections, which will be held on 8 August. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta is ahead by a whisker in the most recent opinion poll. His main challenger, Raila Odinga, has repeatedly alleged that Kenyatta plans to rig the elections. Kenya has an unhappy history of violence, and of alleged election rigging, and the recent gruesome murder of a key official at the electoral commission has heightened anxiety. Some fear that – whatever the electoral laws say – no holds are barred in Kenyan politics. (Read more on The Coversation)

Loss of Fertile Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa

Climate change, soil degradation and rising wealth are shrinking the amount of usable land in Africa. But the number of people who need it is rising fast. Population swells, climate change, soil degradation, erosion, poaching, global food prices and even the benefits of affluence are exerting incredible pressure on African land. They are fueling conflicts across the continent, from Nigeria in the west to Kenya in the east — including here in Laikipia, a wildlife haven and one of Kenya’s most beautiful areas. (Read more on The New York Times)


An Australia Republic, If You Can Referendum It

Will Canberra ditch the British monarchy? The Labor party wants to put it to a vote. The idea of Australia becoming a republic has resurfaced after the leader of the opposition Labor Party has stated that he will initiate a referendum process if Labor wins the next Federal election (to be held before May 2019). The process that Labor hopes to implement will involve two stages, first a question asking “Do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state?” and if an affirmative response is obtained from the public, a consultation procedure will be launched to create a model for a republic, and a second referendum will be held to approve it. (Read more on The Diplomat)


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