The World This Week: February 22, 2020

Asia Pacific

New South Wales’ (NSW) Rural Fire Service reported last Thursday that all fires in the state are contained. Australian firefighters have worked for months to put out raging bushfires across the country, but there was a heavy concentration in (NSW). Recent heavy rain helped to slow and put out many fires, but authorities have issued flood warnings and more storms are expected in the next week.

China has adjusted its method of counting those diagnosed with coronavirus by using a broader definition, resulting in a spike of reported cases. 14,840 people have been diagnosed in mainland China as of Thursday. Fortunately, outside China, coronavirus cases remain fairly steady, with no major shift in mortality or severity.

Global health authorities like those at the World Health Organization (WHO) are in search of a ‘patient zero’ — an individual carrier of the coronavirus in the vicinity of a Singapore hotel. The hotel in question hosted a company sales meeting in January, whose members soon dispersed to five different countries; over a dozen people have been infected following this single event. Japan also reported its first coronavirus death, becoming the third country outside mainland China to do so.

Europe

Flooding across England and Wales this past weekend led to scrutiny of PM Boris Johnson’s priorities. Despite severe flooding in hundreds of villages caused by Storm Dennis, Johnson announced that he had no intentions to visit the people affected, and did not call a meeting of the government’s emergencies committee, known as Cobra, to discuss the situation. Experts say that flooding will become a more frequent issue for Britons as the impact of global warming develops. Floods that were once seen every 15 to 20 years are now being seen every two to five years.

Silicon Valley is headed to Europe in the midst of Brexit negotiations. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai have gone to Brussels as the European Union begins the lengthy process of drafting new regulations for A.I. and the digital economy, which has been a point of increasing legal confusion. The first draft of the A.I. policy is expected to be released on Wednesday and will include broader recommendations outlining the EU’s digital strategy for the future. Negotiation of policies and the development of Europe’s homegrown tech industry alongside Silicon Valley’s contributions is expected to last the year.

Middle East & Central Asia

Azerbaijan held snap parliamentary elections on February 9th. The ruling party, the New Azerbaijan Party, retained control. This result has received condemnation from opposition parties and sparked protests. Police responded violently to the protests as they grew, resulting in several injuries. Opposition party members, like Arzulla Buludlu, were counted among the injured. His party, the Musava Party, reported multiple instances of election fraud, citing these as reasons for the protests. 

Saudi troops were repelled in an attack on the town of Shahn in eastern Yemen. Though Saudi Arabia controls air and sea ports in the region, it has struggled to maintain control of the tribal peoples of eastern Yemen. Riyadh has claimed that these peoples smuggle weapons to Houthi rebels in the west. 

The first fatalities as a result of coronavirus in the Middle East occurred in the Iranian city of Qom. The United Arab Emirates suffered the first diagnosed cases of the disease, newly christened COVID-19. Health officials in Iran urged the importance of cleanliness and stated the need for calm as health professionals do their job.

Africa

Insurgency in the Sahel has continued to spread at a frighteningly exponential rate since it began in 2017. Burkina Faso continues to be plagued with violence from these groups as 4,000 people are forced from their homes daily, making this the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis today. Al Qaeda and Islamic State groups have been working together in the region and have left room for other insurgent groups to make their way into the region as well and sparking a growing global crisis. In Mali, officials are attempting to negotiate with these groups as the violence has spread to neighboring nations across West Africa, but these attacks have already prompted the creation of regional military coalitions and gained the attention of foreign military forces. Attacks are happening almost daily and it doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down anytime soon regardless of counterinsurgency efforts.

In East Africa, chaos has erupted not from humans, but from bugs. Locusts swarms the size of cities have been destroying crops, threatening food security across the region. Experts believe that the outbreak is caused by climate change and an increased number of cyclones. This is the worst event of its kind recent memory. Countries are struggling to find a way to deal with the swarm, attempting to use pesticides to deter and kill the pests. However, the locusts are breeding faster than they can be eliminated. If weather trends continue, there may be more to come.

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