Ukraine imposed martial law for 30 days after Russia fired on and seized three of its vessels near the Sea of Azov. Since grabbing Crimea, a big chunk of Ukrainian territory, Russia has been throttling Ukrainian shipping through a strait it now controls. A new Russian bridge over the strait is, by an amazing coincidence, too low for big ships to sail under. See article.
The gilets jaunes (yellow jackets), motorists protesting against higher fuel taxes, blocked more French roads. Some called for President Emmanuel Macron to resign. See article.
Britain’s Treasury estimated that GDP will be 3.9% smaller in 15 years’ time than it would otherwise have been if the country leaves the European Union under the deal recently agreed with EU leaders. Under a no-deal Brexit, it would be 9.3% smaller. Theresa May, the prime minister, began the hard slog of trying to whip up support for her deal ahead of a crucial vote in Parliament on December 11th. She said there was no plan B. See article.
American border guards fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants who stormed a fence in the Mexican town of Tijuana. America briefly shut the busy crossing. The migrants are part of a caravan of some 8,000 Hondurans who walked through Mexico in the hope of entering America. Donald Trump says they should remain in Mexico while asylum applications are processed.
An American court charged Juan Antonio Hernández, the brother of Honduras’s president, Juan Orlando Hernández, with smuggling cocaine into America. He denies it. President Hernández said that “no one is above the law.”
The rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose by 13.7% in the year to July 2018, to its fastest pace since 2008. Some 7,900 square kilometres (3,000 square miles) was cleared, mainly by loggers. That is still 72% less than the deforestation that took place in 2004. Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, wants to weaken protection of the rainforest.
America’s Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Rosario Murillo, who is both Nicaragua’s vice-president and the wife of its left-wing president, Daniel Ortega. She has influence over the ruling party’s youth wing and the police, which have abused human rights, the Treasury alleges. The sanctions bar Americans from dealing with Ms Murillo.
A familiar face
After their victory in the mid-terms, House Democrats chose Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, a job she held between 2007 and 2011. A campaign by some Democrats to deny the 78-year-old the position and inject new blood into the party’s leadership fizzled, but could reignite again before the whole House votes in January. See article.
Cindy Hyde-Smith retained a Senate seat in Mississippi for the Republicans, beating Mike Espy, a Democrat, in a run-off by 54% to 46%. That means the new Senate that convenes in January will have 53 Republicans, a net gain of two seats, and 47 Democrats. See article.
Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in American elections concluded that Paul Manafort, a senior member of Donald Trump’s campaign team, had breached the terms of his plea-bargain deal by subsequently lying to prosecutors, and asked the courts to dismiss the deal.
Returning to the mean
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party was hammered in local elections, losing more than half the cities and counties it had held. The Kuomintang party (KMT), which lost power to the DPP in 2016 and is more friendly to China, benefited from a surge in support. Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to affirm the mainland’s formula that there is only “one China”, resigned as the DPP’s leader. She remains president, but the losses are a blow to her authority. See article.
Taiwanese voters also approved three initiatives to curb gay rights. Taiwan’s constitutional court has ruled that the government must allow some form of gay marriage. The referendum result complicates the government’s undertaking to enforce that ruling.
Three American troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Over 28,000 Afghan security personnel have been killed since 2015.
In Australia, the Labor party, in opposition nationally, won an election in the state of Victoria. There was a huge swing against the Liberal party, which leads the national government and had mounted a campaign against immigrants and crime. See article.
Soldiers in Nigeria released videos on social media claiming that at least 100 of their colleagues were killed in an attack on an army base by jihadists from Boko Haram. The army disputes the figures but has not released its own.
Freeman Mbowe, the head of the opposition in Tanzania, was arrested for jumping bail. His original charges were for joining a protest.
A fragile truce in Syria wasthreatened after the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and Russia, an ally, accused rebels of launching chemical weapons from their remaining stronghold in Idlib province. Russia responded to the attack, which the rebels deny, with air strikes.
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said he plans to visit Chad to re-establish diplomatic ties more than four decades after the majority-Muslim country cut off relations with the Jewish state. Mr Netanyahu’s statement came as Idriss Déby, the president of Chad, was visiting Israel.
Muhammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was met by hundreds of protesters on a visit to Tunisia. They were upset about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who was strangled and dismembered in a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
The United Arab Emirates pardoned a British PhD student it had imprisoned for life for spying. The UAE still insists that Matthew Hedges works for MI6, which he denies.
The White House published an assessment of the effect of global warming on America’s economy. Floods, droughts and other climate-related ills could reduce GDP by 10% by 2100, the authors warned. Donald Trump said he didn’t believe it. The UN unveiled its own report, showing that signatories to the Paris climate agreement are doing nowhere near enough to meet the target of keeping warming below 2°C relative to pre-industrial times. The World Meteorological Organisation reported that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached 405 parts per million, the highest in 3m-5m years. See article.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”