News Timeline: February 2018


February 2 – South Asia: MALDIVES
The Maldivian Supreme Court rules that the 2015 trial and conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed were unconstitutional. It also orders the government to free jailed opposition leaders. Nasheed was the country’s first democratically elected president. He is currently in exile. (February 5): In response to the Court’s ruling, the government introduces the state of emergency for 15 days, suspends the parliament, and detains a few opposition members of parliament, as well as former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government. Gayoom was an autocratic president ruling the Maldives between 1978 and 2008. In 2011, he founded an opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). Since current President Abdulla Yameen came to office in 2013, the country has been criticized for violating freedoms of speech, detaining opponents, and attacks on judicial independence.[1]

February 8 – Africa: SOUTH AFRICA
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party asks President Jacob Zuma to resign or it says it will support an opposition vote of no confidence in his leadership. His tenure since 2009 has been plagued by numerous allegations of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering. ANC has been in power ever since the end of apartheid in 1994, but its support has been slipping due to widespread corruption, political turmoil, low economic growth, unemployment at over 27 percent, and a ballooning deficit.[2] The party did poorly in the 2016 local elections and is trying to transform its image before the national elections of 2019. (February 14): Jacob Zuma steps down as president.[3]  (February 15): South Africa swears in Cyril Ramaphosa as new President. He was an anti-apartheid activist and a trade union leader. During South Africa’s transition to democracy, he acted as the ANC’s main Chief Negotiator. Later he became a successful businessman.[4]
Jacob Zuma: South African leader’s rise and fall: video (02:33)

February 8 – South Asia: BANGLADESH
A court in Bangladesh sentences former Prime Minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia to five years in prison for corruption. Zia denies the charges and describes them as politically motivated. Thousands of her supporters clash with police outside the court. The conviction is likely to prevent her from running in parliamentary elections due later this year. Khaleda Zia is the widow of Bangladesh’s former president, Ziaur Rahman, who was assassinated in 1981 in a military coup. She is also the first female prime minister after her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won the first democratic elections in 1991. Her political career has been defined by a rivalry with Awami League leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The two women have alternated from government to opposition for most of the last 20 years.[5]

February 13 – Latin America: VENEZUELA
Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, announces the launch of a cryptocurrency called the petro.[6] This is an attempt to circumvent tough economic sanctions imposed by the US government and to boost the country’s failing economy, where its traditional currency, the bolívar has for years faced devaluation and hyperinflation is at 2,400 percent this year.[7] The economic sanctions have isolated Venezuela from international financing. Each petro is supposed to be backed by one barrel of Venezuelan crude oil. Maduro claims the country will issue about 100 million petro tokens, each token selling for about $60, a figure that is close to the price of a barrel of oil.[8] But he offers few details about how this would work, including any information on exchanges. The critics of this new digital currency point to a few facts: under the law this has yet to be approved by the country’s parliament which is controlled by Maduro’s opposition; the oil behind the petro security had yet to be extracted through joint ventures, in which the government has only a 60 percent stake; and trading in the petro internationally might constitute a violation of the sanctions.[9]
More on the cryptocurrency the petro
IMF Projects Venezuela Inflation Will Soar to 13,000 Percent in 2018

February 14 – North America: UNITED STATES
Armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, 19-year-old Nicolas Cruz enters Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, opens fire, and kills 17 and injures more than a dozen of students and teachers in what it becomes one of the deadliest school massacres in the U.S. history.[10] After the shooting, some students from Parkland initiate a national campaign for gun reforms, calling for improved background checks on gun buyers and putting restrictions on assault weapons and on bump stocks, the gun accessories that enable a rifle to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute. Others call for improving mental health access. Initially, President Donald Trump expresses openness to raising the age for buying certain assault rifles to 21, extending background checks, and even a support for an assault weapons ban proposal. The National Rifle Association (NRA), however, pushes back against any of these proposals and says that it does not back any ban. The NRA is the largest gun and the 2nd amendment rights lobby in the U.S. with five million members and significant financial influence over US politicians.[11]  (February 24): Pressured by the public, several US companies break ties with the NRA and announce ending special discounts for NRA members. These include car rental giants Hertz and Enterprise, the family-owned First National Bank of Omaha, Enterprise Holdings, which owns the rental car brands Alamo, Enterprise and National, Delta Airlines, and a few others.[12] (March 9): Florida legislatures pass a bill that include raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extending the waiting period to three days. Governor Rick Scott breaks with the NRA and signs it into law. Within hours, the N.R.A. files a lawsuit, arguing that Florida’s new law violates the Second Amendment, as well as the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.[13] (March 12): President Trump is backing away from the gun control measures he supported a few weeks ago. Now, his plan to prevent school shootings is to arm teachers, a position highly unpopular among educators, but supported by the NRA.[14] The NRA endorsed Trump during his 2016 presidential election campaign and spent $30.3 million to support him.[15] (March 14): Thousands of students across the country take part in the National School Walkout to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting, to protest gun violence, and to demand action on stricter gun control legislation.
Mass shootings in America in statistics

February 26 – Middle East: SYRIA
The Syrian government, aided by Russia, has intensified in the last several days relentless bombing on rebel-controlled East Ghouta, a suburb outside the capital, Damascus with an estimated population of 400,000. Some areas in East Ghouta have been under siege since 2013, but the last two weeks have been particularly difficult, with the military using barrel bombs filled with explosives and shrapnel and accused of targeting also civilians and civilian structures, such as hospitals. It is estimated that since mid-February about 700 people have been killed and over 3,000 injured. People cannot leave the area and have no access to food, basic medicines, or medical treatment.[16] (February 27): Russia, Syria’s ally, orders a daily few-hour-humanitarian cessation of fighting to assure safe passage for humanitarian aid and civilians who want to leave the besieged area.  However, the evacuation is interrupted by resumed shelling. The Syrian government and the rebels blame each other over the corridor’s closure. The humanitarian aid convoy has to leave before unloading.[17]
Why is there war in Syria?


[1] “Maldives state of emergency declared by government amid political crisis.” BBC News. 5 February 2018. Web. Accessed 24 February 2018.
[2] The International Monetary Fund (IMF). “The World Economic Outlook Database”.  October 2017. Web. Accessed 5 March 2018.
[3] Myre, Greg. “South Africa’s Zuma Leaves Office As He Entered — Accused Of Corruption.” NPR. 14 February 2018. Web. Accessed 5 March 2018.
[4] Ibid 3.
[5] “Bangladesh ex-PM Khaleda Zia jailed amid clashes.” BBC News. 8 February 2018. Web. Accessed 6 March 2018.
[6] Otis, John Otis. “Venezuela’s new bitcoin.” The Guardian. 19 February 2018. Web. Accessed 7 March 2018.
[7] The International Monetary Fund. “World Economic Outlook Database.” Venezuela. October 2017. Web. Accessed 7 March 2018.
[8] Ibid 6.
[9] Ibid 6.
[10] Laughland, Oliver, Richard Luscombe, and Alan Yuhas. “Florida school shooting: at least 17 people dead on ‘horrific, horrific day.” The Guardian. 15 February 2018. Web. Accessed 12 March 2018.
[11] Wright, Mike, Mark Molloy, and Keely Lockhart. “Parkland students vs the NRA: Has the powerful US gun lobby met its match in Generation Snapchat?” The Telegraph. 26 February 2018. Web. Accessed 13 March 2018.
[12] “Florida shooting: Firms abandon NRA amid consumer boycott.” BBC News. 24 February 2018. Web. Accessed 13 March 2018.
[13] Mazzei, Patricia. “Florida Governor Signs Gun Limits Into Law, Breaking With the N.R.A.” The New York Times. 9 march 2018. Web. Accessed 13 March 2018.
[14] Stewart, Emily. “Trump’s new position on gun control is starting to look a lot like the NRA’s.” Vox. 12 March 2018. Web. Accessed 13 March 2018.
[15] Ibid 11.
[16]  “As Bombing Continues In Syria, Voices From Ghouta: ‘I Smell The Ash. I See The Bloods.” NPR. All Things Considered. 7 March 2018. Web. Accessed 8 March 2018.
[17] Qiblawi, Tamara and Sebastian Shukla and Ghazi Balkiz. “More than 1,000 children killed or injured this year in Syria, UN says.” CNN. 6 March 2018. Web. Accessed 8 March 2018.