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Curated top stories
- Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny announced rallies on January 28 in 85 towns and cities, as part of his call to boycott next year’s presidential election. The electoral commission overwhelmingly ruled on Christmas day that Navalny was not eligible to run against Putin. He can’t run until at least 2028 (The Guardian), because of a previous, suspended prison sentence when he was charged with fraud.
- Under Russian law, rallies must be agreed with the authorities. Navalny’s actions caused the Kremlin to demand an investigation (Deutsche Welle) to determine whether his statement broke the law. Navalny was first found guilty of embezzlement in 2013. But the European Court of Human Rights said he was not given a fair trial so he was retrialled in 2017 and found guilty again.
- The U.S placed new sanctions on North Korean missile developers, Kim Jong-sik and Ri Pyong-chol. Russia repeated its offer to mediate between Washington and Pyongyang. The “largely symbolic” (Reuters) sanctions block any transactions carried in the U.S. Yet in a phone call December 26, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that “Washington’s aggressive rhetoric” was unacceptable.
- The U.S.’s new sanctions are added to sanctions imposed by the UN on December 22 in response to N. Korea firing a missile. Pyongyang said the November 29 missile was capable of reaching all of the U.S. N. Korea said the UN’s sanctions constituted “an act of war.” This is a story under construction which is open to you to TALK about or CONTRIBUTE to.
- Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with a senior UN official. But she wouldn’t discuss reports of rapes of Rohingya women by Myanmar troops and police, according to an internal memo seen by The Guardian. UN official Pramila Patten said Aung San Suu Kyi refused to engage in “any substantive discussion” regarding the matter.
- More than 655,000 people (mostly Muslims in a majority Buddhist country) from the Myanmar state of Rohingya fled to Bangladeshi refugee camps after violence by the military began in August. The UN accused Myanmar of a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. Meanwhile Myanmar’s army has cleared itself of all accusations in an internal investigation which was dubbed a “whitewash” by Amnesty International.
Brazil expelled Venezuela’s top diplomat Gerardo Delgado. The expulsion came after Venezuela expelled Brazil’s ambassador Ruy Pereira on Christmas Eve. Relations between Venezuela and Brazil have deteriorated since Brazil’s current right-wing President Michel Temer took office last year. His left-wing predecessor Dilma Rousseff was impeached by Congress for breaking budgetary laws.
What we’re reading
- Vietnam has created a new military cyber warfare unit that will counter critical views expressed on the internet. The communist government will employ 10,000 people for the effort dubbed Force 47. They’ll track social media to remove problematic content. A Financial Times piece (may be behind paywall) quotes Nguyen Trong Nghia on this. He is a senior lieutenant-general in the Vietnam People’s Army. According to Bloomberg, Vietnam has asked both Facebook and YouTube to help its efforts, which are comparable to those used in China. – Jodie DeJonge
- Most people were taken by surprise when Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned in November during a sudden visit to Saudi Arabia. But Hariri rescinded his resignation back in Lebanon less than a month later. The New York Times has an insider explanation of one of the more puzzling narratives of 2017, looking at the role of a key player, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. – Angela Long