Progress and regress on the international religious freedom front
State Department report to inform President Trump’s executive order
GLOBAL: The State Department released its 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, which is expected to help form an action plan for President Donald Trump’s June 2 executive order on international religious freedom.The report highlights deteriorating conditions for religious believers in Nigeria while praising improvements in Sudan and Uzbekistan. It does call for action against India and Turkey, whose records on persecution prompted recent condemnation from the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The USCIRF in its 2020 report recommended the State Department add India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam to its list of countries of particular concern, a prelude to economic and other sanctions. The panel recommended adding Turkey to a special watch list. The State Department is expected to announce specific designations later. The report summarizes the ongoing near-freeze on refugee admissions: “The United States seeks to enable the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their home countries—the solution that most refugees prefer. This reflects the U.S. commitment to achieving the best humanitarian outcomes while advancing the foreign policy interests of the United States.”
CHINA: Spikes in auto traffic around major hospitals in Wuhan last fall suggest the new coronavirus may have been present and spreading through central China well before the outbreak was first reported, according to satellite data collected in a Harvard University study.
Zoom closed the account of a group of prominent U.S.-based Chinese dissidents after they held a videoconferencing event commemorating the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. A company spokesperson told Axios the account was closed “to comply with local law” but said Zoom later reactivated it. An account for Hong Kong–based activists also was disrupted.
BRAZIL: A black market in oxygen is how Brazilians cope with shortages, as the second-highest COVID-19 recorded caseload in the world is spreading aggressively. The Americas are now home to nearly half of the 3.3 million reported coronavirus cases in the world. Leaders in Sao Paolo’s low-income favelas are hiring their own ambulances and creating their own unemployment funds in a country divided over its national response.
LEBANON: Maronite Catholic schools, long the pillar of education in Lebanon, are at risk of collapse due to the country’s economic crisis and political instability.
TURKEY: The Erdoğan government has forced Protestant clergy out by refusing to extend residence permits, including foreign spouses of Turkish citizens, reports the Protestant Church Association.
UNITED STATES: The International Criminal Court is the latest multilateral agency the Trump administration is taking action against—authorizing sanctions for ICC officials who investigate U.S. military personnel. The United States is not a member of the ICC, though President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute that created it. President George W. Bush declined to join the court when it was formally created, and under President Barack Obama, the United States became an observer.
ARCTIC: NATO warships are in the icy Barents Sea for the first time in nearly 40 years, challenging Russian activity as its submarine activity reaches the highest level since the Cold War.
SPACE: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have created a fifth type of matter using a cold lab and the absence of gravity. Albert Einstein theorized about such a fifth state in the 1920s, following solids, liquids, gases, and plasma.
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