We're not going to fault you for not staying on top of this week's news. We're only here to help.
- According to a new UN-backed report, the food crisis in South Sudan can no longer be classified as a famine. Nevertheless, more than six million people continue to be at risk of starvation as armed conflict, low harvests, and soaring food prices have propped up what the UN calls the world’s biggest humanitarian disaster since the end of World War II.
- UN peacekeepers from the Republic of the Congo have been withdrawn from the neighboring Central African Republic as allegations over sexual abuse and exploitation by the force have raised serious questions about the UN’s efforts in countering turmoil in the region. Charges against six French peacekeepers earlier this year for the same reason have been dropped, though another investigation remains open. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has promised to institute a new approach to peacekeeping going forward.
- About 300 pro-Islamic State militants stormed a school in the southern Philippines on Wednesday. Government forces managed to repel the attack, but the fighters took at least five people as hostages during their retreat. The uptick in violence in the area began after an IS-linked group laid siege on Marawi City last month. President Rodrigo Duterte thereafter declared martial law in the region in the hope of better handing the long-persisting terrorist situation in the south.
- Relations between the United States and China soured this week after U.S. President Donald Trump asserted that Beijing had failed to pressure North Korea into curbing its missile programs. In response, Chinese officials signaled their frustration with such a characterization, arguing that they have been addressing the Korean Peninsula issue to the best of their ability. They further underscored that any resolution cannot be unilaterally pursued—the American and Chinese sides must coordinate their diplomatic efforts.
- Nearly a year after Brexit became a reality, the U.K. and the European Union concluded their first day of negotiations on Monday. The May government, still struggling to keep itself together after losing its parliamentary majority two weeks ago, made the first concession by agreeing to the EU’s timetable for the talks. Nonetheless, U.K. officials remain optimistic that they will be able to secure a deal that would be most beneficial for all U.K. citizens. Time is ticking though; the complex series of talks must be finished by March 2019.
- Two centrist ministers in newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron’s government resigned of a probe into their alleged misuse of European Union funds. The scandal, though not directly linked to Macron, may symbolically undermine his vow to break from the ethical scandals of French politics in the past. Be that as it may, Macron looks to exercise a strong presidential mandate after his centrist alliance won more than 60% of parliamentary seats last Sunday.
- Following the downing of a Syrian warplane by American forces on Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry threatened to target any aircraft flown by the United States and its coalition allies west of the Euphrates. Concurrently, the Russians announced that they were suspending its military hotline with the U.S., in a sign of increasingly escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington. Experts say that it is still difficult to determine what Russia is trying to achieve from this break in coordination, but it is bound to only further complicate efforts on both sides to control the dire situation.
- In an unexpected move, King Salman of Saudi Arabia ousted his nephew as crown prince and in his place elevated his son, 31-year-old Mohammad bin Salman. The move came as part of a flurry of noteworthy Saudi decisions—namely the sanctions against Qatar and the recalibration of relations with Washington—that have been orchestrated by Bin Salman over the last couple of weeks. It is strongly believed that the aging king has given Bin Salman nearly free reign over most of the country’s functioning. The young prince’s self-assertive, polarizing image has largely provoked concern in Saudi Arabia’s regional adversaries.
- Senate Republicans unveiled a health care bill that is set to overhaul the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by implementing a new system of federal tax credits to help people receive health insurance, while giving states the option of dropping certain benefits required by the ACA. Despite criticism from both conservatives and liberals, the bill is set to come to the Senate floor next week, where it could be put to the vote fairly quickly. With all Democrats united against it, the Republicans can only afford to lose the support of up to two of their senators for the bill to pass.
- Otto Warmbier, the 22 year old student detained in North Korea for supposedly stealing a propaganda sign, died less than a week died less than a week after being brought back to the United States for health reasons. Doctors who examined him said that he had suffered extensive brain damage during his time in North Korea, possibly as a result of state-sanctioned torture. The incident is sure to strain relations between Washington and Pyongyang even further, as President Trump puts increased pressure on the Kim Jong-un to denuclearize his country.
- Venezuela’s Supreme Court has approved a request to remove Luisa Ortega Diaz’s legal immunity for her alleged impropriety in carrying out her work as the nation’s chief prosecutor. The decision, largely believed to have been politically-motivated due to Ortega Diaz’s surprise break from President Nicolás Maduro’s rank and file, drew heavy condemnation from the Venezuelan opposition, who have “vowed to disavow all actions by the government.”
- Although levels of violence have decreased on average in Colombia nationwide after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (Farc) signed a peace deal with the government, the Pacific coast, one of the nation’s poorest regions, continues to see heavy fighting. The ELN, the second-largest guerrilla group in the country, along with other competing groups have contributed to the surge of violence in this area as they all attempt to take hold of the profitable cocaine smuggling and illegal gold mining rackets formerly overseen by the Farc.
News That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity
- Federal officials announced that the endangered species status of grizzly bears is set to be removed after more than 40 years. Conservation groups are still hoping that at the very least minimal protections for the bears will continue to exist in order to offset population losses in the future.
- Japan’s once extinct stork population has reached 100 after the first artificially bred flock was released over 12 years ago. Chief of the conservation facility Satoshi Yamagishi told reporters, "I couldn't be happier and hopefully they will continue flying in the skies all over the country and make other people happy too."