Weekly Global Newscast | June 16 - June 23, 2019
Water Crisis Cripples Chennai as Heatwave Hits India
India’s sixth largest city of Chennai and the state of Tamil Nadu are hard hit by delayed monsoon and severe depletion of ground water levels.
‘Hotels and restaurants have been forced to close their doors because of a lack of water, saying they will reopen only when the rains arrive. Residents have been forced to install their own unauthorised pumps or wait in long queues for hand pumps. Locals told Reuters news agency they get two containers of water after standing in a queue for hours. To make matters worse, Chennai is currently in the grip of a heatwave, with temperatures soaring over 40C. This is 5C over the average June temperature, and the extreme heat is expected to stay over the next few days. Even at night, the temperature remains above 30C, which gives residents little chance for their bodies to cool off. The 4.9 million residents of Chennai are desperate for rain, but the heaviest precipitation doesn’t fall during the summer’. Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘The situation has also prompted clashes to break out between residents. Last week, police arrested a man for stabbing his neighbour during a fight over water-sharing in the neighbourhood. Officials are trying to find alternative sources of water, with the city’s water department starting to identify and extract water from quarries. But the big concern is the dry reservoirs and low groundwater levels’. Associated Press reported for BBC.
‘The Madras High Court, reported The News Minute, pulled up the Palaniswani government for mismanagement of resources. The court, according to the report, said that the water scarcity did not happen in a day and the Tamil Nadu government knew this was coming.
The court, The Indian Express reported, also said that some of the water bodies have been destroyed or reduced in size due to encroachment. It directed the PWD secretary to submit a detailed report of the steps taken for the removal of encroachment. The next hearing, according to the report, is on 26 June’. A report from The Huffington Post compiled.
Amid Tensions in the Korean Peninsula Chinese President Visits North Korea
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in North Korea on a two-day state visit to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
‘Xi is the first Chinese leader to visit the reclusive country in 14 years and could bring fresh support measures for its floundering, sanctions-bound economy.
“This visit is all about timing, as you know just over a week from now President Xi will be sitting down with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka,” Al Jazeera Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing said on Thursday.
China is North Korea’s only major ally, and the visit comes amid renewed tension on the Korean Peninsula as the United States seeks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. Xi’s entourage includes two top diplomats and He Lifeng, the head of the National Development and Reform Commission, state media said in a brief report.
While China has signed up to UN sanctions for North Korea’s repeated nuclear and missile tests, saying it is enforcing them fully despite some US doubts, it has suggested sanctions relief for the country. China, engaged in a bitter trade war with the US, has also defended its “normal” trade and business ties with North Korea. “I personally think the US and Trump administration cannot achieve any meaningful deal involving the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula without a major contribution by China,” Victor Gao, an analyst based in Beijing, told Al Jazeera. North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper welcomed Xi’s “historic visit” in a front-page commentary alongside a lengthy profile. Xi’s trip highlights two-way ties that “never waver despite any headwinds” and strengthens “blood ties” between the two peoples, it said’. Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Chinese President Xi Jinping departed Pyongyang on Friday after an elaborate two-day summit in which he encouraged North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to pursue economic development and a political solution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Chinese state media reported. The visit, marked by cheering crowds, dancing children and what Kim described as “the joy of incomparable joy,” was Xi’s first state visit to North Korea. It ended just days before the Chinese leader is set to meet with President Trump during a Group of 20 Summit in Japan. Some political analysts have interpreted the timing of Xi’s Pyongyang visit as a possible attempt to gain leverage over the United States in a tense trade dispute, though China’s Foreign Ministry this week dismissed that theory as “overthinking.” The Trump administration’s attempts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program stalled earlier this year after a failed summit. Both Xi and Kim alluded to the United States during their talks this week, with Xi offering China’s support for a political solution to the clash between Washington and Pyongyang, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Kim said North Korea had taken many steps to avoid tensions but has not received positive responses from “the party concerned,” Xinhua reported, in an apparent reference to the United States. Kim added that North Korea is willing to stay patient, Xinhua said’. Jeanne Whallen reported for The Washington Post.
Middle East & North Africa
USA- Iran on a Standoff as Iran Downs US Drone
Fears of major military confrontation between Tehran and Washington in the Gulf rises as Trump ordered and pulled back an attack on Iran after Iranian forces downed US drone. Iran claimed to have shot down the unmanned aircraft upon violation of its airspace by a surface-to-air missile, while US contradicted Iran’s statement, holding that the drone aircraft was in International airspace.
‘Iran on Thursday called the United States’ unmanned aircraft “provocative” and “very dangerous” as it justified its decision to shoot the drone, which the Pentagon said was an “unprovoked attack” in international airspace. In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, called the flight a “blatant violation of international law”.
“While the Islamic Republic of Iran does not seek war, it reserves its inherent right … to take all appropriate necessary measures against any hostile act violating its territory, and is determined to vigorously defend its land, sea and air,” Ravanchi said. “This is not the first provocative act by the United States against Iran’s territorial integrity.”
President Donald Trump initially said “Iran had made a very big mistake”, but later said the shooting down of the drone was not “intentional”, in an apparent turnaround amid fears the escalating tensions between the two countries could lead to an open confrontation in the Gulf.
“I find it hard to believe it was intentional,” Trump said, adding: “I think probably Iran made a mistake – I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down.”
Washington on Thursday barred American civilian flights from Tehran-controlled airspace due to “heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region”.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘President Trump said Friday morning that the United States military had been “cocked and loaded” for a strike against Iran on Thursday night, but that he called it off with 10 minutes to spare when a general told him that 150 people would probably die in the attack.
In a series of tweets on Friday morning, Mr. Trump said he was prepared to retaliate against three sites in Iran for that country’s downing of an American surveillance drone, but that he pulled back because the death of that many Iranians would not be “proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”
Mr. Trump said in an NBC interview later on Friday that news reports that he had called off the mission while it was underway were inaccurate. But two senior United States officials said again on Friday that the military had received the president’s go-ahead and that jets were headed toward targets in Iran when the mission was aborted’. Michael D. Shear, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt reported for The New York Times.
Sub Saharan Africa
Ethiopia; Army Chief Killed With Prominent Leaders in a Regional Coup
Ethiopia’s army chief and a top local leader have been shot dead during an attempt to overthrow a regional government in the north of the country, underscoring political instability as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tries to reform the nation.
‘The chief of staff of the Ethiopian army, Gen Seare Mekonnen, has been shot dead by his own bodyguard in the capital, Addis Ababa. He and another officer died trying to prevent a coup attempt against the administration in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region, PM Abiy Ahmed said. In Amhara itself, regional governor Ambachew Mekonnen was killed along with an adviser. The government says the situation is under control after arrests were made. The prime minister has gone on TV to urge Ethiopians to unite in the face of “evil” forces set on dividing the country’. Many of those involved in the coup attempt are under arrest and operations are in progress to detain others, the PM’s press office said.
“The coup attempt in Amhara regional state is against the constitution and is intended to scupper the hard-won peace of the region,” it added. “This illegal attempt should be condemned by all Ethiopians and the federal government has full capacity to overpower this armed group”.’ Associated Press reported for BBC.
‘Analysts said the incident showed the seriousness of the political crisis in Ethiopia, where efforts by Abiy to loosen the iron-fisted grip of his predecessors and push through reforms have unleashed a wave of unrest.
“These tragic incidents, unfortunately, demonstrate the depth of Ethiopia’s political crisis,” said International Crisis Group analyst William Davison. “It is now critical that actors across the country do not worsen the instability by reacting violently or trying to exploit this unfolding situation for their own political ends,” the expert said.
Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms to open up the once isolated, security-obsessed Horn of Africa country of 100 million people. He has released political prisoners, lifted bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling mounting violence. Ethnic bloodshed – long held in check by the state’s iron grip – has flared up in many areas, including Amhara, where the regional government was led by Ambachew Mekonnen’. Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
Czechs Demand PM Babis Quit in Biggest Protest Since Communist Era
Approximately 2,50,000 Czechs rallied in Prague on Sunday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis. The rally was the biggest show of discontent since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew Communism.
‘Tens of thousands of people from across the country travelled to the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague, straining transport systems, to fill the vast Letna Plain on the edge of the city’s centre. They waved Czech and European Union flags and chanted “Resign” and “We’ve had enough”. It was the fifth mass protest in Prague since April when police recommended the billionaire prime minister face fraud charges over his alleged misuse of an EU subsidy more than a decade ago. A day after the charges against Babis were forwarded to the prosecutor’s office, the government nominated a new justice minister, prompting fears she might meddle in the case against the prime minister. Mikulas Minar, chairman of the Milion Chvilek group organising the protest, warned Marie Benesova’s appointment was a threat to judicial independence and democracy in the Czech Republic. “People understand the situation is now serious,” the 26-year-old said’. Tim Gosling reported for Al Jazeera.
‘The rally in Letna park was the culmination of a series of demonstrations in recent weeks against Babis, who has faced investigations over alleged fraud and conflicts of interest, claims he vehemently denies. Organizers said they believed that about 250,000 people had attended Sunday’s rally. Phone operator T-Mobile said its network usage analysis put the number of participants at over 258,000. A police spokesman declined to give an estimate. The total population of the Czech Republic is 10.7 million.
Protesters carried banners saying “Resign”, “We’ve had enough”, “We won’t give up democracy”, and others waved Czech and EU flags. Many families brought children to the rally, which was peaceful as were other recent protests against both Babis and his justice minister. Babis has said people have the right to protest but has firmly refused to step down. His populist ANO movement remains the most popular party, although its support has dipped slightly in the past two months to 27.5%, according to a poll by Kantar agency released on June 9. Babis also has enough backing in parliament, where a no-confidence vote planned for Wednesday is likely to fail’. Michael Kahn reported for Reuters.