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Politics

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Government quits over social security scandal. The PM and his entire cabinet have resigned, accepting responsibility for wrongful accusations of fraud by the tax authorities that drove thousands of families to financial ruin, often on the basis of ethnicity. 

Italy’s ruling coalition collapsed. A coalition partner of Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte withdrew two ministers from the cabinet over the proposed economic stimulus program. Italy has had 66 governments since 1946.

South Korean court upholds jail for ex-president Park, clearing way for chance of a pardon. South Korea’s top court upheld a 20-year prison sentence for former President Park Geun-hye on graft charges that led to her downfall, bringing an end to the legal process and for the first time raising the possibility of a pardon.

Secret details of US administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy revealed. Washington sources familiar with the development of the strategy say Australia had a significant influence on the document, as did Japan, highlighting the US commitment to its allies.

US DOJ ‘deeply disappointed’ Mexico closed probe of ex-defense minister. The Mexican Attorney General decided to not press drug trafficking charges after the US dropped the charges against the ex-minister and extradited him to Mexico to face prosecution. 

Palestinians announce first elections in 15 years, on eve of Biden era. The move is widely seen as a response to criticism of the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian political institutions, including Abbas’s presidency.

Conflict

Russian police detain poisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on arrival in Moscow. The move, which could see Navalny jailed for 3.5 years for allegedly flouting the terms of a suspended prison sentence, is likely to spark a wave of Western criticism of President Vladimir Putin. 

Guatemalan forces clash with migrant caravan. Like President Trump, President elect Biden’s team seeks to halt these types of exoduses. Guatemalan security forces used sticks and tear gas to beat back a large migrant caravan bound for the United States.

Gunmen kill two female Supreme Court judges in Afghanistan: only 2,500 US troops left in the country. Unidentified gunmen killed two female judges from Afghanistan’s Supreme Court, adding to a wave of assassinations in Kabul and other cities while government and Taliban representatives have been holding peace talks in Qatar.

Italy opens ‘maxi-trial’ against ‘Ndrangheta organised crime syndicate. Italy’s largest mafia trial in three decades has begun, with 900 witnesses testifying against more than 350 people, including politicians and officials charged with being members of the syndicate.

46 civilians feared killed in eastern Congo attack. The Allied Democratic Forces have been accused of being behind the recent attacks on a village in eastern Congo. The rebel group is believed to have carried out a series of ruthless massacres in the region.

Development 

US greenhouse gas emissions at their lowest since WW2. The 10.3% drop in emissions is due to COVID-related economic contraction, but this drop fulfills the US’ pledge made under the Copenhagen Accord: reducing emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. 

45,500-year-old rock painting of pigs in Indonesia is the oldest-known art. The painting depicts warty pigs, with two fighting and one sitting on the side observing. Some 300 caves and shelters with paintings have been identified in this area. The discovery may shed light on the origins of Australian aborigines.

South African scientists discover new chemicals that kill malaria parasite. The research led by the University of Pretoria found that chemical compounds undergoing trials for the treatment of tuberculosis and cancer can kill the disease-causing parasite at a stage when it normally infects others.

Second year of pandemic ‘could even be tougher’: WHO. COVID-19 is spreading, especially in the northern hemisphere as more infectious variants circulate. More than 5 million cases were recorded in the last week. 

Starvation imminent Ethiopia’s Tigray Region. Emaciated refugees are facing starvation after crops were burned on the brink of harvest in more than two months of fighting. Tigray’s officials say more than 2 million people have been displaced. 

Social

Taiwan rolls out new passports, removing “Republic of China”. According to Taiwan, the decision originated from the discrimination its citizens faced during the pandemic, as they were confused with Chinese nationals, and thus subjected to unfair travel bans. 

Doubts about the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine are growing. Turkey, Brazil and countries in Southeast Asia are relying on vaccines from China to combat the pandemic. Efficacy results of 50% in Brazilian clinical trials raise questions. The Chinese vaccine is the preferred vaccine in many African countries. 

Beirut blast chemicals possibly owned by Syrian businessmen. The company that bought the ammonium nitrate that exploded in Beirut last August had possible links to two Syrian businessmen, who are under U.S. sanctions for ties to President Bashar al-Assad.

Poland proposes social media ‘free speech’ law. The bill would see social networks fined up to 50 million zloty (£9.8m, $13.4m) for failing to restore deleted posts or accounts that they had censored, including political posts.

Major NRA donor to challenge gun group’s bankruptcy over alleged fraud. A major donor to the National Rifle Association is poised to challenge key aspects of the gun group’s bankruptcy filing, in an attempt to hold executives accountable for allegedly having defrauded their members of millions of dollars to support their own lavish lifestyles.

Economics

New reform in Mexico would open the country up as world’s biggest national cannabis market. The reform would allow the legal cultivation of marijuana on Mexican soil, as well as legalize the recreational use of the drug.

US jobless claims approached 1 million. New unemployment claims are at their highest level since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, president-elect Joe Biden has unveiled his $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan called the “American Rescue Plan”.

Commodity prices are surging. Counterintuitively, commodity prices surge while the world experiences economic downturn. The value of commodities rose not just from the depths of virus-induced lockdowns in April, but from the start of 2020, before the pandemic began.

China enters 2021 on rebound after recording lowest economic growth in 40 years. GDP grew by 2.3% in 2020, making China the only major economy in the world to avoid a contraction last year as many nations struggled to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Vision of Humanity

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Vision of Humanity

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, Harare and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.