January 4 – North America / South Asia:
UNITED STATES / PAKISTAN
The United States suspends security assistance to Pakistan accusing it of harboring terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban. The U.S. says these militants target U.S. personnel and destabilize the region. The aid suspension only affects military assistance and will include equipment and security-related funds. The State Department has yet to decide the amount of aid that is being cut. In August last year, the Trump Administration delayed handing $255 million in military aid to Pakistan. However, the U.S. will renew its security relationship with Pakistan after it demonstrates its willingness to aggressively confront the terrorist and militant groups that operate from within its country. Pakistan serves as a key transport route for supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In 2016, Pakistan received $687 million in U.S. assistance, which includes civilian assistance such as education, health, and economic development. Pakistani authorities deny the accusations of harboring terrorists.
January 8 – Global Issues / North America / International Organizations:
WORLD / UNITED STATES / SAVE THE CHILDREN
Save The Children charitable organization, known for fighting to save children from poverty and discrimination, issues a report that takes a hard look at the factors that rob children of their childhoods. These “childhood enders” include lack of access to healthcare, conflict, extreme violence, child marriage, early pregnancy, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child homicide, and child labor. Many children suffer from a toxic mix of poverty and discrimination – excluded because of who they are: a girl, a refugee, an ethnic minority, or a child with a disability. These threats to fulfilling childhood are also present in high-income countries. The organization says that when taken together, these factors have created a global childhood crisis of massive proportions. The End of Childhood Report and Index explore in detail these factors and rank 172 countries based on where childhood is most protected and where it is most eroded.
The findings in the report include the following statistics: 263 million children worldwide do not go to school; 165 million are used as child labor; 28 million children have fled violence becoming refugees or internally displaced; 40 million girls (aged 15-19) were forced into marriages; 156 million children under age 5 have stunted growth due to malnutrition; and 8 million children die each year prematurely.
Norway, Slovenia, Finland, Netherlands, and Sweden are the top five countries where children have the best childhoods. The index score is based on eight indicators: child health, education, labor, marriage, childbirth, and violence. The United States ranks only 36th. Its low position is due to rising child mortality rate (the highest among the top wealthy democratic countries). Some of the factors behind it are related to infant deaths, automobile accidents, and firearm assaults. The U.S. has also higher rate of teenage pregnancy.
Full Report: “Stolen Childhoods”
January 9 – North America / Latin America:
UNITED STATES / EL SALVADOR
The United States terminates temporary protected status for about 200,000 Salvadorans, who came to the U.S. after a devastating earthquake in El Salvador in 2001. This special immigration status allowed them to live and work in the U.S. no matter whether they had entered the U.S. legally or not. The government says the conditions caused by the earthquake do not exist anymore and these immigrants have to leave by September 9, 2019 or face deportation. However, El Salvador remains wracked by violence and poverty, and it relies on money send back from relatives in the U.S. These remittances account for about 17.1 percent of El Salvador’s GDP and benefit about a third of the country’s households.
January 10 – East Asia / North America:
MYANMAR / BANGLADESH / UNITED STATES
Bangladesh and Myanmar agree on a timeframe to repatriate tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who, in recent months, fled violence at the hands of Myanmar’s military and local Buddhist villagers in Rakhine state, in what is described by the UN as ethnic cleansing. The Rohingya are a stateless ethnic minority in Myanmar. Myanmar agrees to accept 1,500 Rohingya each week, until all of them are returned within two years. However, the refugees are not assured of safety and the end of discrimination upon their return. Bangladesh hosts nearly 860,000 Rohingya refugees of whom 655,000 have arrived since August 2017, making it the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. Many of them are traumatized by rape, murder and torture. (January 25): A U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson resigns from the Myanmar’s international advisory board on Rohingya accusing the board of being a “whitewashing operation meant to validate the policies of the government of Myanmar.” Richardson also accuses Myanmar’s civilian leader and the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and his long-time friend, Aung San Suu Kyi, of disparaging the media, the United Nations, and human rights groups. He says she is not interested in honest advice.
Who is burning down Rohingya villages? (video 03:48)
January 11 – Africa: TUNISIA
People across Tunisia take to the streets to protest the government’s new austerity measures, which are expected to spike prices of foods, medicine, and other necessities, and will raise taxes. The protests quickly turn it into an overall dissatisfaction with the country’s economy, high unemployment, and corruption. One person is killed and about 600 arrested in clashes with security forces. In 2011, it was Tunisia that started the pro-democracy revolutions that swept through the Middle East called the Arab Spring. The mass protests ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after more than 20 years in power. But after seven years and nine governments later, economic problems persist. In 2015, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lent Tunisia $2.9 billion, but the country has to abide by the loan’s conditions such as low budget deficit, thus austerity measures.
January 16 – Europe: KOSOVO
A prominent Kosovo Serbian politician Oliver Ivanovic is assassinated outside his party office in the town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo. Mitrovica is divided between Albanians and Serbs. Ivanovic was the leader of a Kosovo Serb party called Freedom, Democracy, Justice. After the Kosovo war in 1999, Ivanovic was accused of crimes against ethnic Albanians and sentenced by the EU court to nine years. Later, an appeals court overturned the verdict. Kosovo used to be a territory within Serbia until it unilaterally declared independence in 2008. So far is has been recognized by 115 countries, including the United States. Serbia and its ally Russia do not recognize it as an independent state. Ninety-three percent of Kosovo’s population is ethnic Albanians with ethnic Serbs amounting to only 1.5 percent who are residing mostly in northern Kosovo, which includes the town of Mitrovica.
Why Do Serbia and Albania Hate Each Other?
January 18 – East Asia: CHINA
China’s solid economic growth in 2017, which was 6.8 percent, is welcomed by investors. The global economy has done well in 2017, with a rebound in world trade flows and favorable financial conditions. Economic activity has improved and the World Bank expects global growth to average 2.9 percent in 2017-2019.
January 20 – North America: UNITED STATES
The U.S. Senate fails to pass an appropriation bill, or a spending bill, by its deadline of Friday midnight, January 19, which leads to the shutdown of the federal government. As a result many federal offices close and hundreds of thousands federal employees are forced to take a leave of absence without pay. Essential services such as national security, postal services, air traffic control, electricity generation and air traffic control will continue, but those considered non-essential, like visa and passport processing, will be closed until the government agrees on a spending budget. This is the first government shutdown under the rule of one party, when the Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House. To pass a budget, the Senate needs 60 out of 100 votes. With current 51 Republican senators, the Senate majority failed to gain several more Democratic votes due to disagreements mostly about immigration. Republicans demand more funding for the military and border security, including a border wall with Mexico promised by President Trump during his presidential campaign. Democrats, on the other hand, demand adding to the bill a protection for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and an extension of the expired Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next six years. The last government shutdown was in 2013, and lasted 16 days. It cost the government $2 billion in lost productivity. (January 22): The Senate comes to an agreement to end the shutdown and votes to fund the government but only until February 8. The deal includes funding for CHIP for the next six years and assurances by the Senate Republicans that the immigration and DACA issues will be addressed by then.
January 20 – South Asia: AFGHANISTAN
Several Taliban gunmen storm the Intercontinental Hotel in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul and for 14 hours terrorize the guests and target foreigners. They kill and injure a dozen of people until they are killed by the Afghan Special Forces. Last May, a suicide truck-bomb exploded outside the German Embassy in Kabul killing 150 people. Since then there were several other deadly terrorist attacks, including a bombing of a Shia cultural center that killed 40 people. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says that he is unable to protect his own capital, adding that 21 international terrorist groups are operating in his country with dozens of new foreign suicide bombers continuously making their way into the country. (January 24): Islamic State (IS) militants attack the offices of the Save the Children charitable organization in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least 2 people and injuring more.  Save the Children organization provides better access to education, healthcare and essential supplies. The city of Jalalabad has been a stronghold of IS since 2015. The Taliban, on the other hand, is now openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan.
More about the Taliban presence in Afghanistan including a map
Read more about the future of Afghanistan from Foreign Policy
January 22 – Europe / North America / Latin America:
EUROPEAN UNION / UNITED STATES / VENEZUELA / COLOMBIA
The European Union imposes sanctions on Venezuela’s seven senior officials accused of human rights violations and corruption. Their assets will be frozen and they will are banned from traveling in Europe. One of them is the country’s second most powerful leader and the head of Venezuela’s ruling socialist party, Diosdado Cabello. The United States has already imposed similar sanctions on dozens of Venezuelan officials, including President Nicolas Maduro. The purpose of these sanctions is to undermine Maduro’s power and display the opposition to his policies. Years of mismanagement and falling oil prices have caused severe economic and political crisis that triggers almost daily anti-government popular protests. (January 19): As economic and political crisis deepens in Venezuela, many Venezuelans flee the country, with most of them to neighboring Colombia. At the end of 2017, there were about 470,000 Venezuelans living in Colombia, most illegally. (24 January): Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly orders new elections that must take place before April. President Maduro says he will run for another term in office. At the same time the country’s opposition is fractured, with many activists either in jail or in exile.
January 23 – North America / East Asia:
UNITED STATES / SOUTH KOREA / CHINA
As part of his “America First” trade policy, the United States President Donald Trump approves imposing tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels. The tariffs of up to 50 percent will affect South Korea and China the most. Trump says that these tariffs will create jobs and revive a U.S. manufacturing sector decimated by cheaper imports. The South Korean company Samsung reacts by saying the cost will be passed on to the American consumers who will have to pay more for fewer choices. Also, the developers who install solar panels say the tariffs will hike their costs, kill projects and make it harder to compete with wind and natural gas. Both South Korea and China are to file complaints at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Solar Trade Case: Trump Says Yes To New Tariffs That Target China
How U.S. Tariffs Will Hurt America’s Solar Industry
January 30 – Africa: KENYA
Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga, declares himself “the people’s president” and takes the oath of office during a self-organized swearing-in ceremony at a downtown park in the capital, Nairobi. During the event attended by thousands of his supporters, Odinga says that people have had enough of rigged elections and he will establish a proper democracy. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was officially re-elected in October, but because Raila Odinga and his supporters boycotted the vote the turnout was only 39 percent. Now, they question the legitimacy of Kenyatta’s win. Prior to the event, the government declared that if Odinga follows through with the oath, it would be treason and punishable by death. The government forces three-privately owned television stations, NTV, KTN and Citizen TV, to go off the air to prevent live coverage of the event. A day later, it announces that the stations will stay shutdown until further notice.
More on freedom of the press in Kenya from Freedom House
January 31 – East Asia: HONG KONG
Lawmakers in Hong Kong pass a law banning trade in ivory. By 2021, ivory traders will have to dispose of their stock of 670 tons of accumulated ivory. Hong Kong is considered the world’s largest market for ivory. Offenders will face harsh penalties, including cash penalties and jail time up to 10 years. The vote comes a month after China passed a similar legislation that shut down its commercial processing and sales of ivory. The vote is a result of years-long campaign by civil society groups, such as WildAid, to protect Africa’s dwindling elephant population. There are still other countries, such as Japan and Thailand that are encouraged to ban ivory trade or close loopholes in their legislation.
More About the Ivory and Rhino Horn Trade