Week in Review: 11 August 2018

11 August 2018

Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.


SAUDI ARABIA TRIES TO LECTURE CANADA ON FOREIGN INTERFERENCE. During Canada’s holiday weekend, Saudi Arabia announced it would be selling off all investments, withdrawing its ambassador, and forcing Saudi students in Canada to student elsewhere. These alarming measures were in reaction to a tweet from both Global Affairs Canada and the Foreign Minister condemning Saudi human rights’ abuses. Canada does little trade with Saudi Arabia so their coercion is likely to have little effect on Canada outside a $15 billion dollar arms deal. Further, it is difficult to take Saudi Arabia seriously on its assertion of interference with its history of hegemony in the Middle East.

SUBMARINES AND SEAL WHISKERS. Researchers have discovered that the biology of seal whiskers may unlock a key to detecting underwater objects. Seals can sense miniature whirlpools caused by moving underwater objects with their sensitive whiskers. Now the U.S. armed forces are interested in applying the biological findings to submarine-detecting technology. This biomimicry has other applications as well; experts speculate that it could help improve the detection of oil spills and potentially be adapted to non-marine settings, i.e. air moving over aircraft wings.

DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN THE D.R.C.. President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has decided not to seek reelection, a move that would have been unconstitutional. Largely seen as a victory for regional and international diplomatic pressure, the nation’s people also feel a sense of relief. A former minister to Kabila is now the candidate for the ruling coalition. This leaves room for Kabila to have considerable influence on the direction of his government if they are to win the election in December. Still, respecting the constitution is a significant step forward in a region where most leaders would not be so lawful.

VACCINATION CONSPIRACIES HAVE HIT THE MAINSTREAM. The populist government of Italy has removed legislation requiring the proof of 10 vaccinations for children to be enrolled in schools. This was legislated to reduce the outbreak of measles that had hit the country last year. Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, said that the vaccinations including ones for measles, polio, and tetanus “are useless and in many cases dangerous, if not harmful”. While suggesting that the law discourages school enrollment. This seems to be part of the larger distrust in establishment institutions, but experts agree that it will lead to greater illness.

TURKEY UNDER PRESSURE. Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that he was going to double steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey. Turkey’s economy and currency has been unstable for months with its currency dropping to 6.80 to the USD, the lowest in a decade. Reasons for the strained relationship of the NATO states is due in part to a major Turkish bank circumventing U.S. sanctions against Iran and anger over the U.S. supporting Kurds in the fight against ISIS. Turkish President Erdogan has claimed the sanctions are part of a western plot against Turkey and has continued his nationalist flare. While Erdogan has consolidate power, he may find his support diminish if the economy continues to flounder.

CONTINUED DEMOCRATIC BACKSLIDING. Recent elections in Zimbabwe demonstrated little has changed since the coup of former president Robert Mugabe. Now the arrest of the opposition leader, Mr. Biti, raises fears of further authoritarian movement. After Mr. Biti had organized protests to the corrupt elections, he fled to neighbouring Namibia to avoid prosecution. When Namibia refused his entrance, he was handed over to Zimbabwe authorities, leading to the condemnation from other nations. Namibia’s denial is troubling, but Zimbabwe’s continued crackdown is a serious cause for concern. Democracy in Zimbabwe is largely in retreat and its having an effect on the region at large.

MADURO’S GRIP ON POWER IS VULNERABLE. While President Maduro of Venezuela has a dictatorial grip on political power, his people no longer support him. This was evident in 2015 when his government lost badly in a legislative election, prompting him to transform his role into dictator. The recent assassination attempt, where two drones attached with explosives tried to reach him during a speech (one was shot down, the other flew into a building). He may have affected destroyed Venezuela’s democracy, but escaping death may prove more difficult.