By: Gabrielle McLaren

ISRAEL – Israel follows USA in withdrawing from UNESCO

Israel has withdrawn from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after the American government announced it would also forgo its membership with the heritage organization. The countries both cited an “anti-Israel bias” as the reason for the decision which will take effect at the end of 2018. The USA has asked to remain a non-member observer state, meaning that they will continue to participate in debates and activities after losing their voting rights. In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “courageous and ethical” and accused the heritage organization of distorting history.

The tension between the USA and UNESCO is not new. In 2011, the USA stopped financing UNESCO to protest full-member status being granted to Palestine. By the time the USA’s withdrawal is final, it will owe $550 million in unpaid dues to the organization.  

With files from The Washington Post and Al Jazeera.  

SOUTH AFRICA – Nearly 800 charges reinstated against President Zuma

Following a decision by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal, 783 charges of corruption against President Jacob Zuma have been reinstated. The National Prosecuting Authority had originally dropped the charges which stem from controversial post-apartheid military contracts worth billions of dollars in 1999. Zuma’s opposition, the Democratic Alliance, have been trying to reinstate the charges since 2009 when they were dismissed, which allowed Zuma to become president. Though the charges have been reinstated, it is still unclear whether or not Zuma will be prosecuted. Zuma is serving his second and last term as president, which will end in 2019.    

With files from Al Jazeera and BBC News.

INDIA – Fireworks banned for environmental reasons as Diwali approaches

As the Hindu festival of lights Diwali approaches, India’s Supreme Court has banned the sale of fireworks until the start of next month which marks the end of the festival. Though fireworks are a traditional part of celebrating Diwali, the ban responds to concerns about air pollution in India’s national capital region. Delhi is considered the 11th most polluted city in the world, according to the World Health Organization. While the ban is welcome to some, others consider it an attack on Hinduism. Additionally, it severely impacts small, independent firework vendors who rely on Diwali sales. India purchases half-a-billion dollars worth of fireworks each year, most used during Diwali.      

With files from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Indian Express.

NIGERIA – Mass trial convicts 45 members of Boko Haram

Mass trials of suspected members of the Boko Haram terrorist organization began behind closed doors last week at a Nigerian military post. The process has led to concerns from human rights groups about arbitrary detention and of the living conditions endured while awaiting trial. Over 1,600 suspected members of Boko Haram are due to appear in military court. On Friday, 45 people were convicted and 468 suspects were released under the condition that they undergo deradicalization. Boko Haram was founded in 2002, and has been militarily active since 2009.

With files from The Globe and Mail and BBC News.

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