The News January 24-29: Cover Up

Stories of the Week

Denmark's xenophobia. Typically known for more positive characteristics, Denmark has been in the news this week under less than uplifting circumstances. The small country has been moving forward with a policy to seize items belonging to refugees upon their arrival, part of a growing backlash that has overtaken much of Europe in response to the refugee crisis. See Regional Updates for more.

Italy, Iran, and nude statues. Italy covered up old and famous naked statues when Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani visited. But Rouhani says he didn't ask for the courtesy, and numerous Italian politicians are denying their role, including the country's leader, Matteo Renzi. Cover-up of a cover-up? Others have also called out the fact that the Iranian leader is hardly the first to get this sort of treatment, while noting that Americans (and by extension, the conservative West) in particular are affronted by nudity.

Zika is coming for you. The Americas are all a-tizzy over the Zika virus, with several South and Central American governments issuing warnings to pregnant women in particular, as the virus is believed to cause birth defects. (El Salvador went so far as to tell women not to have children for two years.) The virus has made its way to the US, with the South particularly susceptible; the disease is carried by mosquitoes, and so warm climates are particularly vulnerable. The World Health Organization has more information here.

Construction in Brazil. - Agência Brasília (Flickr)

Construction in Brazil. - Agência Brasília (Flickr)


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Regional Updates

South Asia:

Southeast & East Asia:

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Laos this week to discuss, among other things, the country's unexploded bombs.
  • A cold spell in East Asia saw around 100 deaths in Taiwan.
  • A Chinese journalist seeking political refuge in Thailand has gone missing.
  • Malaysia's attorney general has moved to close a corruption investigation into its prime minister's  mystery funds. This is not good for a number of reasons, one of which is that the money appears to have come from Saudi Arabia, meaning it was likely used to exert influence over Malaysian politics. 
  • Japan's economy minister resigned amid bribery allegations.

Europe & Eurasia:

  • As Italy debates over whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage, many in the country are reacting with heated opinions on both sides of the debate.
  • Greek islanders who banded together to rescue refugees last year (and this) will be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • French Jews are increasingly worried as anti-Semitic attacks grow around the country (and continent.)
  • The French justice minister has resigned in protest of the Hollande government's sweeping and questionable anti-terrorism measures.
  • Portugal has elected a center-right president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
  • Denmark voted on a controversial bill allowing Danes to take valuables from refugees.

Middle East & North Africa:

  • Syrian peace talks have been delayed. This is due to a number of factors, with tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran among them. The leading reason, however, is that Bashar al-Assad's government is doing better -- and that is very bad news for the rebels fighting him.
  • Tunisians are in an uproar over unemployment, with many demanding higher wages. 
  • The Egyptian government is cracking down on protesters, many of whom were spurred by the anniversary of the Egyptian Arab Spring revolution, Jan. 25.
  • As sanctions are lifted, Iran is turning back to Europe as a trading partner.
  • Two Israeli women living in the Palestinian West Bank were stabbed this week; one died of her wounds.
  • Snow fell in Kuwait for the first time maybe ever.

Sub-Saharan Africa:


  • Elections in Haiti have been postponed for a third time.
  • Forty inmates reportedly escaped from a city in Brazil.
  • Colombia's war with the FARC could be ending and that is really good news.
  • Billionaire and former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg may run for president if he sees an opening in the race. (This means he will run if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee.)
  • The Obama administration will curtail the use of solitary confinement. 
  • The death of an inmate who died in a Florida prison after being locked in a scalding-hot shower for two hours has been ruled an accident. This is despite the fact that other inmates reported having to clean up chunks of the man's skin.
  • The Oregon stand off (a saga involving several ranchers and federal property) ended this week in a shoot-out that killed one person and saw the other occupiers arrested. 
  • American presidential race updates: Donald Trump, the controversial GOP frontrunner, decided not to participate in a debate hosted by the conservative FOX news channel.



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