We're not going to fault you for not staying on top of this week's news. We're only here to help.
- The Nigerian military has regained control of the northeastern town of Baga, site the militant group Boko Haram had previously held. Baga was the site of a massacre that killed about 2,000 people. The town’s recapture follows a series of successes by the widely criticized Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram militants.
- The Congolese military has launched strikes against Rwandan militants in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FLDR), which has among its ranks Hutu soldiers who committed atrocities during the Rwandan genocide, have been active in the eastern Congo since the mid 1990s. The violence in eastern Congo has regional consequences as some have accused the Rwandan government of fueling instability there by sending forces to battle the FLDR, charges the Rwandan President Paul Kagame has denied.
- The U.S.-Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy, well-known for his promotion of atheism, was hacked to death by a group of ambushers. Islamist extremists are suspected, given the nature of the death threats that Roy has received and the praises of one extremist group in particular expressed online after the attack.
- After last week's compromise, the Greek government spent the week proposing new measures of reform and European institutions have begun the processes of approving them in order to effectuate Greece’s four-month bailout extension. Greece’s proposal calls for spending cuts and and more stringent tax collection - measures that Europe so far have accepted. Confidence is timidly returning to the Greek and European economies, but much remains unresolved. Attention is already being put on - and tension is already building for - the next round of negotiations for when the bailout extension ends.
- Leonard Nimoy, most famous for depicting the character of Spock in the original Star Trek, has passed away. Live long and prosper.
The Middle East
- This week brought a lot of attention to the involvement of citizens from Europe and America in support of ISIS. First, on break from school, three girls from London boarded a plane for Turkey and are reported to have crossed over into Syria. Then, three men in Brooklyn were arrested for plotting to aid and fight for ISIS. Finally, the ISIS fighter known as “Jihadi John,” who has appeared in many of the groups widely-spread execution videos, has been identified as British national Mohammed Emwazi. Each event has drawn increased attention to the questions of why citizens from around the world are joining ISIS and how to stop them from doing so. But the answers remain confounding: the men from Brooklyn belied their strict resentment of Western society by dressing in typical Western clothing and Emwazi had graduated from the University of Westminster with a degree in Computer Science.
- In Syria and Iraq, ISIS’ brutal campaign of provocation continues. ISIS has destroyed ancient Assyrian artifacts in Iraq and taken hostage of hundreds of Assyrian Christians in Syria - including women and children. The New York Times writes: “The reports are like something out of a distant era of ancient conquests: entire villages emptied, with hundreds taken prisoner, others kept as slaves; the destruction of irreplaceable works of art; a tax on religious minorities, payable in gold.” ISIS has shown tremendous cruelty towards groups - and in this case, objects - that don’t fit within their warped notion of how society under their control should be. There have been increased calls for outside intervention (of the type that ISIS might even welcome to draw in recruits to fight more easily demonized opponents) and the U.S.-led coalition has responded with airstrikes in the area where the hostages were taken.
U.S.-Israeli relations are at a low point as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress nears. The acrimony began when Republican congressional leaders invited Netanyahu without consulting the White House or the Democratic party, who believe the prime minister’s staunch opposition to negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program will threaten them and force the Democrats and Republicans into overly-simplistic and harmful pro and anti-Israel stances. Many Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, are refusing to attend the speech, and President Obama will not meet Netanyahu during his visit. Netanyahu is locked in a tight battle with Israel’s Labour Party as the country’s elections loom.
- The criminal case against Argentina’s President Christina Fernández de Kirchner that has gripped the nation has been dismissed. The case, brought forward by Alberto Nisman, accused President Kirchner of covering-up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85, after extracting trade benefits from Iran in exchange. The conspiracy deepened just last month after Mr. Nisman was found dead in his apartment along with a request for Mrs. Kirchner’s arrest. Thousands of Argentines have taken to the street to protest since then and it is widely-believed that the government played a role in the death. The judge dismissed the case citing insubstantial evidence, but an appeal is possible and likely.
- The tense situation in Venezuela, created by its collapsing economy and President Nicolas Maduras’ intense crackdown on dissent because of it, continues to worsen. Following last week’s arrest of opposition leader and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma on charges of pursuing a U.S.-backed conspiracy to overthrow the government, a 14-year-old boy was shot and killed by police while participating in a protest. Most Venezuelans disapprove of the President’s handling of the economy but stand by the socialist government’s side politically - with help from the widespread belief that the economic woes stem from outside attempts to topple the government - and there are speculations that the crackdown is an attempt to divert attention from the dire economic news. Elections are to be held later this year.