News Timeline: December 2019


December 11 – East Asia / Africa / International Organizations:
Genocide inquiry
A West African country, The Gambia, on behalf of dozens of other Muslim countries, brings Myanmar to the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) calling for it to stop the genocide of its Rohingya minority and on the United Nations to protect this minority from further persecutions. The claims of atrocities against the Rohingya include systematic mass murder, rape and burning their villages to the ground. Myanmar’s leader and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi defends her country and the military against these allegations, arguing that the country is tackling extremist Rohingya militants who attack government security posts.

To rule that Myanmar is guilty of genocide, the ICJ has to prove that the country acted with intent to destroy the minority population. But even then, it has no power to enforce the ruling; however, the guilty verdict could lead to sanctions and have economic consequences.[1]
Aung San Suu Kyi: The democracy icon who fell from grace
How a genocide was investigated

December 12 – Europe: UNITED KINGDOM
Politics: snap election
Voters in the United Kingdom go to the polls to elect a new parliament. In a deadlock over Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a snap election hoping to regain a parliamentary majority for his Conservative Party. And the Conservative Party (Tories) scores a big victory, handing Boris Johnson a clear mandate to take Britain out the European Union. The Tories win an additional 47 seats reaching a total majority of 365 (out of 650 seats total), while their rival Labour Party looses 59 seats down to 203 total. Voter turnout reached 67.3 percent. Another winner of the election is the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), which gains additional 13 seats to a total of 48. Its leader calls for another referendum on Scotland’s independence. In Northern Ireland the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), supporters of the Conservatives in parliament, suffer a significant defeat. As a result, Nationalist MPs now outnumber unionists in Northern Ireland. With the Conservatives’ win it is expected that the Brexit bill will pass in the parliament paving the way for the UK leaving the EU on January 31.[2]
Brexit: What happens now?

December 12 – Middle East: ISRAEL
Politics: elections
After the politicians fail to form a majority coalition government, the Knesset approves March 2 as the next parliamentary elections, the third one in less than a year.[3]

December 12 – East Asia / Global: INDONESIA
Culture: oldest drawing story
Archaeologists discover a story-telling painting on the wall of a cave of Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi that is estimated to be 43,900 years old. This makes it the oldest known pictorial story. (The oldest drawing dates back 73,000 years and was found in South Africa on a piece of a rock). About 16 feet wide, the Sulawesi painted story portrays abstract beings (part human, part animal) hunting for a local buffalo and wild pigs with spears and ropes.[4] To estimate the age of such findings, the scientists analyze calcite that builds up on a painting. Since radioactive uranium in the mineral slowly decays into thorium, they measure the levels of different isotopes of these elements.[5]
Earliest hunting scene in prehistoric art
Video: 3:15 min

December 18 – North America: UNITED STATES
Politics: impeachment of the president
After weeks of impeachment inquiry, the U.S. House of Representatives votes to approve two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, making him only the third president in US history to be impeached. The two articles include abuse of power that accused President Trump of using his official position to pressure president of Ukraine to launch an investigation into his political rivals, and obstruction of Congress. The voting took place along party lines, with most Democrats voting in favor and Republicans against the impeachment. The articles of impeachment will be sent to the Senate for a trial, which is expected to take place in January 2020. The Senators, who are supposed to be impartial, will decide whether to acquit the president or convict and remove him from office.[6]
What does it take to impeach a president?

December 19 – North America / Latin America:
NAFTA vs. USMCA Trade Deal
With an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives approves the renegotiated by the House version of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) signed by United States President Donald Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on November 30, 2018. The USMCA replaces the NAFTA trade deal of 1994.

The USMCA modernizes trade rules and includes a number of changes. It gives incentives for more domestic production of cars and trucks, and their parts, and ensures higher labor standards in Mexico. It increases environmental standards, provides updated intellectual property protections, and creates new safeguards against currency manipulation. The new deal also provides for quicker dispute resolution and stronger enforcement of all elements of the deal, as well as it creates new rules for e-commerce, an area of trade that has boomed since NAFTA was enacted in 1994.[7]
Detailed provisions of the USMCA


[1] “Myanmar Rohingya: Suu Kyi rejects genocide claims at UN court.” BBC News. December 11, 2019. Web. Accessed December 20, 2019.
[2] “UK general election 2019: Who won and what happens now?” BBC News. 13 December 2019. Web. Accessed December 16, 2019.
[3] “Israel will hold unprecedented third election in a year.” BBC News. December 12, 2019. Web. Accessed December 20, 2019.
[4] “43,900-Year-Old Cave Painting Portrays Part-Human, Part-Animal Beings.” December 13, 2019. Web. Accessed January 6, 20.
[5] “Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave is 44,000 years old.” BBC News. December 12, 2019. Web. Accessed January 6, 20.
[6] Nicholas Fandos and Michael D. Shear. “Trump Impeached for Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress.” The New York Times. December 18, 2019. Web. Accessed December 19, 2019.
[7] Erica Werner. “House passes reworked North American trade deal in victory for Trump, Democrats.” The Washington Post. December 19, 2019. Web. Accessed January 2, 2020.