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Daily Brief: Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico Reports Looming Crisis

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September 27, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico Reports Looming Crisis

U.S. President Donald J. Trump ordered the U.S. military and relevant agencies on Tuesday to do "everything in their power" to assist Puerto Rico (DW), whose power grid has collapsed and is facing severe clean water shortages (Reuters) after it was hit by Hurricane Maria last week.

President Trump said he will make an October 3 visit to the U.S. territory (WaPo), which he called "destroyed." About 44 percent of Puerto Rico's 3.4 million residents are without drinking water, according to a Defense Department report published Tuesday (DoD), and just eleven of the island's sixty-nine hospitals have fuel or power. Maria, a Category 4 storm, is believed to have caused eighteen deaths (NBC) there. 


"Only the most rudimentary military support is now on the ground. This is inadequate and calls to mind the lethargic response by the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in 2005," Phillip Carter writes for Slate

"After a decade of fiscal decline and a May 2017 bankruptcy, Puerto Rico has become exceptionally vulnerable to disasters like Maria," Lauren Lluveras writes for The Conversation.

"Complicating any potential legislative action is the fact that Puerto Rico, as a U.S. territory, has no official representation in Congress, leaving a huge advocacy void in terms of pushing for aid," writes the Boston Globe


Thailand's Ex-Prime Minister Sentenced in Absentia

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, believed to be outside the country, was sentenced to five years in prison for mismanaging a rice subsidy scheme (BBC) that cost Thailand billions. Yingluck was ousted from office weeks before a military coup in 2014.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick says 2018 will be a pivotal year for Southeast Asian democracy.

CHINA: The Ministry of Commerce has ended a two-decade-old regulation (SCMP) requiring foreign companies to set up representative offices before doing business in China, in a bid to facilitate more foreign investment.


Mattis, NATO Chief Make Surprise Kabul Visit

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg are meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (RFE/RL) on Wednesday. Both the Taliban and the self-proclaimed Islamic State have claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Kabul's international airport shortly after Mattis's arrival; at least five civilians were injured (AP).

Ghani discussed the challenges facing Afghanistan at this CFR event.

PAKISTAN: Pakistan's finance minister was indicted on corruption charges (Dawn) for possessing assets beyond his reported income sources. 


Saudi Arabia to Allow Women to Drive

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday it is lifting its ban on women driving as of June 2018 (NYT), part of the conservative kingdom's recent push to improve its international image.

IRAQ: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi threatened Tuesday to impose an air embargo over Iraqi Kurdistan if the regional government does not hand over control of its airports (Al Jazeera). The announcement follows a Monday independence referendum in the region opposed by Baghdad.

CFR's Steven A. Cook writes in Salon that "Kurdexit" has the Middle East on the edge.


South African Unions Protest Nationwide

A nationwide strike and at least thirteen marches against government corruption organized by South Africa's largest labor organization (Bloomberg) began on Wednesday. The trade union federation had been an ally of embattled President Jacob Zuma but turned against him earlier this year.

CFR's John Campbell discusses the fight for leadership in the ruling African National Congress.

ANGOLA: Former Defense Minister Joao Lourenco was sworn in as president on Tuesday, making him Angola's first new leader (Al Jazeera) after almost four decades of rule by Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Lourenco's ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has governed the country since its independence from Portugal in 1975.


Spain to Deploy Police to Prohibit Catalan Vote

Spain's government says it will deploy police to seal off buildings in Catalonia (DW) that are expected to be used for a planned October 1 independence referendum (Guardian), which Madrid opposes.

IRELAND: The Irish government said it will hold a referendum next year on reforming the country's strict abortion laws (BBC), by which women who terminate pregnancies can receive up to a fourteen-year sentence.


Report: U.S. Doesn’t Believe Cuba Behind Sonic Attack

The White House does not believe that Cuba was behind an alleged sonic attack (McClatchy) that left more than two dozen U.S. diplomats with mysterious health symptoms, according to unnamed sources. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met on Tuesday with his Cuban counterpart (DW), who urged the United States not to cut diplomatic ties over the incident.

BRAZIL: The six richest people in Brazil own as much wealth as the country's bottom one hundred million (LAHT), or half of Brazil's population, according to a new report from the charity Oxfam.


U.S. to Hit Bombardier With Massive Tariffs

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she is "bitterly disappointed" by the U.S. Commerce Department's preliminary decision to impose duties of 220 percent (AP) on C-series aircraft by the Montreal-based firm Bombardier, a move that threatens thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland. Boeing has charged that Bombardier uses unfair government subsidies to keep prices low.

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