Politics this week | Oct 11th 2014

America’s Supreme Court refused to hear appeals against lower-court rulings legalising gay marriage in another five states.

Supporters of marriage equality were elated, predicting that this would open the way for it to spread even faster. More than half of Americans now live in states where same-sex nuptials are allowed. Some expect the Supreme Court to raise that to 100% next year.

Spilling over

America warned that air strikes alone cannot save the Syrian-Kurdish town of Kobane from falling to Islamic State. The jihadists stepped up their three-week assault on the strategic town which lies on the border with Turkey. As jihadists entered parts of Kobane, Turkey came under growing criticism for standing aside while the fighting raged within sight of its tanks. At least 21 people died in protests in Turkey when Kurds took to the streets. But the Turkish foreign minister said it was “unrealistic” to expect Turkey to intervene without a plan also to target the Assad regime. See article
Islamic State beheaded a fourth Western captive. Alan Henning, a British taxi driver, had volunteered to drive aid to Syrian refugees. Pleas from Muslim preachers in Britain to spare him fell on deaf ears.

Hizbullah, the Shia militia-cum-party in Lebanon, claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that wounded two Israeli soldiers in a contested border region. The group said the attack, the first that it has admitted to since the two sides fought a war in 2006, was a “message” that it stood ready to confront Israel even though its fighters have been in Syria defending the Assad regime.

A bomb targeted Houthi protesters in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, killing at least 20 people. Al-Qaeda’s regional offshoot was suspected. It has declared war on the Houthi movement, which controls parts of Sana’a and wants a bigger presence in government. The Houthis blamed America for the attack.

African Union and Somali troops took control of Barawe, the last big port controlled by the militant Shabab, whose fighters fled without a fight. The Shabab still control large parts of Somalia’s hinterland.

Uhuru Kenyatta became the first sitting head of government to appear at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He was summoned to respond to accusations that he has obstructed the court’s investigation into communal killings in Kenya after disputed elections in 2007. Mr Kenyatta denies that he helped instigate the violence. Most African leaders support him.

Out of Africa

A medical worker in Madrid contracted the first case of Ebola outside west Africa after caring for two Spanish missionaries who had the disease. Britain announced that it would send 750 military personnel, three helicopters and a ship to Sierra Leone to tackle the outbreak. America said it would take further measures to screen passengers arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea at five airports.

Bulgaria’s snap parliamentary election produced a highly fragmented parliament that will do little to address the many problems of the European Union’s poorest member. The winner was the centre-right GERB party.

In Latvia, Harmony, a centre-left party that draws most of its support from Russian-speakers, won the most votes in parliamentary elections. But it got only 24 out of 100 seats, just one ahead of the Unity party, led by the prime minister.

The European Commission approved Britain’s application to subsidise the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, which is being built by EDF, a French energy company. But the cost of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project has ballooned to £24.5 billion ($39 billion).
Dilma on top

Brazil’s election confounded the pundits. Dilma Rousseff, the president, came first with 42% of the vote, eight points ahead of Aécio Neves on the centre-right. Marina Silva, the centrist candidate who had surged in the opinion polls, ended up trailing behind in third place with 21%. Ms Rousseff and Mr Neves face a run-off on October 26th. Ms Rousseff’s Workers’ Party lost ground in Congress, though the governing coalition kept its controlling position.

President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico pledged to bring to justice those responsible for the fate of 43 students who disappeared after clashes with the police on September 26th. He was speaking after 28 bodies were exhumed from clandestine graves near the city of Iguala where the standoff occurred; 22 officers are being held in connection with the incident.

The last military ruler of Argentina, Reynaldo Bignone, received a 23-year jail sentence on top of the life term he is serving already. The latest verdict on the 86-year-old, who was president from July 1982 to December 1983, was for the torture of factory workers.
Chile’s Supreme Court called a halt to the development of a gold-and-copper mine owned by a Canadian firm, Goldcorp, pending consultation with the indigenous Diaguita people, who say the mine could pollute a local river.

Frazzled students

Student protesters in Hong Kong agreed to hold talks with government officials. A few hundred demonstrators continued to sit on the city’s roads to press demands for free elections for the territory’s leader in 2017, but their numbers were much reduced. The government has offered no concessions in the face of continuous street protests since late September.

Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, refused to stay the execution of five men convicted of gang rape. Human-rights groups claimed that their confessions had been extracted by torture.

Indian and Pakistani troops skirmished over the border in Kashmir. Several days of fighting left 17 civilians dead and dozens wounded. Each side has blamed the other for the clashes.

The man widely regarded as North Korea’s second-most-powerful figure, Hwang Pyong So, paid an extremely rare visit to South Korea, prompting a flurry of speculation that ties between the two countries are on the mend. He dismissed rumours that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is suffering from a debilitating illness. Three days later South Korean and North Korean patrol boats exchanged warning shots off the western coast of the peninsula.

The Economist

Brazil’s election,  Dilma Rousseff came first with 42% of the vote.

Brazil’s election, Dilma Rousseff came first with 42% of the vote.

The man widely regarded as North Korea’s second-most-powerful figure, Hwang Pyong So.

The man widely regarded as North Korea’s second-most-powerful figure, Hwang Pyong So.

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