Ten stories you might have missed because of coronavirus

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As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world and dominates the headlines, it is easy to forget that life goes on outside of the virus. From the US democratic primaries to the ongoing migrant crisis in the eastern Mediterranean, here are ten of the stories you might have missed from the last week.

Joe Biden pulls further ahead of Bernie Sanders in race to take on Trump

Joe Biden has pulled further ahead of rival Bernie Sanders in the contest to become the Democratic party nominee in 2020 US presidential election against incumbent Donald Trump.

Former Vice President Biden won a further three states – Arizona, Florida, and Illinois – on top of his recent successes in four other states on March 11. Biden, whose campaign began shakily before receiving a boost with victory in South Carolina, is now on track to clinch the nomination as he is backed by the Democratic party establishment and needs the support of less than half of the remaining delegates.

Read more: Joe Biden: Default candidate or comeback kid?

Former Vice President Joe Biden. (File photo: Reuters)
Former Vice President Joe Biden. (File photo: Reuters)

Syrian refugee crisis continues on Greece-Turkey border

The ongoing refugee crisis in the eastern Mediterranean showed no signs of easing as migrants continued to try to cross into Europe from Turkey.

There were chaotic scenes at the Greece-Turkey border as migrants attempted to cross into Greece, which is a member of the European Union. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to release refugees into Europe as a negotiating tactic.

Two weeks ago, around 35,000 people tried to cross the border into Greece following Erdogan’s statement that they would be free to go. Greek authorities were accused of violently preventing migrants from entering the country.

Read more: Amid migrant crisis, Greece-Turkey tense relations play out on social media

Greek army detains migrants near the Turkish border, March 10. (Reuters)
Greek army detains migrants near the Turkish border, March 10. (Reuters)

More Turkish soldiers die in the battle for northern Syria

The battle for northern Syria continued with further clashes between Turkish-backed opposition forces and the Russian-backed Syrian regime in Idlib province.

Opposition forces still control parts of Idlib province including the provincial capital but have been under attack from Syrian regime bombardment. Turkish troops are in the area with the expressed aim of protecting opposition forces and recently downed two Syrian regime aircraft.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the latest casualties occurred on Thursday when two explosives hit a Turkish military column, killing and injuring an unknown number.

Read more: Coronavirus prevention extremely difficult in refugee, IDP camps in Middle East

Lebanon defaults on its Eurobond, deepening economy crisis

The Lebanese government officially defaulted on its March 2020 bond series, triggering a cross-default on all outstanding bonds.
Lebanon is heavily indebted and has struggled to pay off its debts amid an ongoing economic crisis in the country.

The government and its creditors must now vote on how to restructure the total $32.2 billion on a series-by-series basis. The task may prove difficult as it requires the approval of several foreign-held investment funds who own bonds.

Read more: Time to negotiate: Lebanon officially defaults on its Eurobonds

Opinion: Hezbollah fears IMF conditions could reignite Lebanon’s uprising

Russia’s President Putin approves referendum which could keep him in power until 2036

Russia’s President Putin has moved to extend his position in power by backing a bill which would hold a referendum on extending his role to 2036. Putin’s term as president is currently required to end in 2024 in line with the Russian constitution.

However, his move to support an April 22 referendum on an extension means he will likely extend his stay in power by a further 12 years. Putin has been president of Russia since 2000, except for the four year period 2008-2012 in which he was prime minister while his ally Dmitry Medvedev was president.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (File photo: AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (File photo: AFP)

Tensions rise between US and Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq

Tensions have risen between the US and the Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah as the US carries out airstrikes against the group in response for attacks on its troops.

Three personnel from the US-led coalition against ISIS were killed in a rocket attack on a military camp in Iraq on Wednesday, with 12 others wounded.

The US says Kata’ib Hezbollah is behind the attacks. Tensions between the US and Iranian-aligned militia in the country have been high since the US killed Iran’s proxy regional commander Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad in January.

The US has responded with air strikes against militia members.

Read more: Iraq envoy to UN threatens arrest of US troops for attacks on pro-Iran militias

Climate crisis deepens as Greenland melts despite pollution drop

Temperature rises last summer melted 600 billion tons of ice from Greenland, contributing to a 2.2 millimeter rise in sea levels, according to data from satellites.

Last year was the hottest summer on record, prompting concern from scientists as the climate crisis deepens, despite a temporary reduction in pollution levels due to aviation and industries shutting down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A glacier off Greenland. (File photo: AFP)
A glacier off Greenland. (File photo: AFP)

New Zealand decriminalizes abortion

New Zealand passed a new law on Wednesday which effectively decriminalized abortion in the country.

The country previously required women to prove that their pregnancy was a danger to their physical or mental health before a doctor could grant them an abortion.

The new law, supported by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, removed these regulations and facilitates women to get an abortion when they are up to 20 weeks pregnant. Those over 20 weeks pregnant require approval from a health practitioner.

US report finds forced labor in China’s camps for Uighurs

A US Congressional report found that China was forcing members of the Uighur Muslim community in the northwest of the country into forced labor, prompting calls from US lawmakers to ban imports from the region.

The bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China released a report that alleged forced labor was practiced in Xinjiang province, home to the Uighurs, in camps and on farms. According to the report, global brands including Coca Cola may rely directly or indirectly on forced labor from the region.

Read more: China expels American journalists amid escalating US tensions

Niger says it killed 50 Boko Haram extremists

Niger’s army killed 50 extremists from the Boko Haram organization in the country’s southeast on Tuesday, according to the government. The attack was reportedly in response to a Boko Haram attack on a military outpost close to the border of Nigeria, where Boko Haram is based.

Boko Haram is fighting a years-long war against the government in northern Nigeria and has also carried out attacks in Niger and Cameroon.

Read more: Boko Haram killed 19 herders in northeast Nigeria

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