The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 26

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday July 24th 2023

Good morning everyone,

This is your friendly reminder that last week we officially launched our second newsletter for Atlas News, the (A)Political Newsletter, centered around the American 2024 election season. The newsletter will be released every week on Friday. Subscribe for free here!

Now, to the news. In Europe, the UK curbs illegal immigration, a fire engulfs Rhodes, and the grain deal falls apart with Russia and Ukraine. In the Middle East, tensions between Iraq and Sweden rise, and Israel experiences major unrest. Meanwhile in Africa, Putin won’t travel to South Africa, Kenya’s cult gets worse, and a building collapse in Cameroon has devastating consequences. Over in the Americas, Peru is protesting, Canada is having record rainfall, and Mexico has a major attack. Then in Asia and Oceania, India continues to deal with ethnic and religious violence, Japan wants to meet with North Korea, and China proposes a meeting with it’s neighbors.

As it looks, it’s just another day at the office. Let's see:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr, & the Atlas team

Spanish Election Yields Success for Conservatives, but Not the Majority Needed

(Photo - via Reuters)

Sunday, July 23rd, 2023: (2 Minute Read) Spain may be heading towards a state of political stalemate after Sunday's national elections yielded inconclusive results. Neither the left nor the right-leaning parties have a clear path to form a new government.

The conservative Popular Party emerged as the winner in the elections but failed to achieve the decisive victory it had hoped for to remove Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez from power. Candidate Alberto Núñez Feijóo led the party but fell short of the expectations set by most campaign polls.

Despite coming in second in the vote count, Pedro Sánchez's Socialists and their allied parties consider the outcome a victory because their combined strength in terms of seats was marginally greater than that of the Popular Party and its allies. Sánchez's bloc, which could potentially support him, holds 172 seats, while Feijóo's right-leaning bloc has 170 seats.

The next prime minister will only be voted on once lawmakers are set in the new Congress of Deputies, if a new coalition cannot be reached.

Sánchez and his coalition need 176 seats to have an absolute majority, which seemingly leaves their fate in the hands of the Catalonian separatist Junts party, which has thus far expressed the need for major concessions, specifically regarding another Catalonia referendum, in order to agree to a coalition. Junts has said they will only agree to a coalition if their Catalan deputies are granted amnesty for those exiled or jailed, plus an independence referendum. Right-wing Vox party has also announced it’s refusal to work with the Catalonian or Basque independence groups, noting their unwillingness to work with secessionist movements.

If Feijóo and his conservative alliance are able to successfully form a government following a left-wing failure, Spain would join the growing list of right-leaning movements in European governments, such as in Poland, Italy, Sweden, and Finland, leaving concerns over the growing ideological divide between European Union member-states.


July 18th, 2023 - The UK has officially passed its Illegal Immigration Bill, which now obligates the Home Secretary to deport those who enter the UK illegally. It also bars anyone who enters the UK illegally from claiming asylum, forcing potential asylum seekers to go through only legal channels. Those deported through the bill will either be deported to their home country or a "Safe Third Country". Thus far, only Rwanda has been partnered with to become a safe third country; however, the deal faces trouble as last month a UK court of appeal declared the deal illegal, stating Rwanda does not qualify as a safe third country. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who championed the bill as a part of his "Stop the Boats" initiative, is going to take the case to the Supreme Court.

July 22nd, 2023 - The Greek island of Rhodes has been in flames for five days following a massive heat wave that has hit much of the northern hemisphere, forcing hundreds of residents and vacationers from the idyllic island. Both the coastguard and 30 private vessels have evacuated nearly 2,000 people near the areas of Kiotari and Lardos in the southeastern part of the island, while authorities have requested nearly 1,000 residents in the villages of Pefki, Lindos, and Kalathos to evacuate from the rapidly approaching flames. The fire originated in a mountainous area of the island on Tuesday, quickly spreading into the more forested areas of the island before threatening residents.

(Photo - New York Times)

July 20th, 2023 - Following the collapse of the Russian-Ukrainian grain deal, both nations have stated that ships heading towards the other's seaports will be treated as potentially carrying military cargo and therefore may be fired upon. Ukraine stated beginning July 21st that "all vessels" heading towards Russian seaports "may be considered by Ukraine as carrying military goods with all the associated risks". Russia’s policy began on July 20th. Notably, their statement said "Accordingly, the flag countries of such ships will be considered involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime".

Middle East

July 20th, 2023 - Tensions between Iraq and Sweden are continuing to rise as Iraq has expelled Sweden’s ambassador and protestors raided the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad. The two nations have had issues since Swedish authorities allowed a number of protests to be carried out in which an Islamic Qur’an was burned. In one recent such protest, an Iraqi national burned a Qur’an in front of the Iraqi embassy in Sweden. The raid on the Swedish embassy brought immense anger from Sweden, which stated Iraq failed to meet their legal obligations to protect the embassy under the Vienna Convention, an issue over which Sweden summoned Iraq’s charge d’affaires. Iraq has stated it will sever diplomatic relations should another burning take place.

Protestors climbing a fence nearby the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad (Photo from Ahmed Saad/Reuters).

July 24th, 2023 - After months of protests, military striking, and political shuffling, the Israeli Knesset has passed PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s deeply controversial judicial reform, shrinking the power of the Supreme Court. Opposition to the bill has led to some of Israel’s largest ever protests, which continued right up until its passing. Outside the Knesset, police used water cannons to drive protestors back prior to the vote. The crucial part of the reform will block the power of the Supreme Court to overrule government actions that it determines "unreasonable", something the government says has become increasingly common in recent years. Opponents accuse Netanyahu of becoming increasingly authoritarian due to the distinct power it would give the executive over the other branches of government. Prior to the vote, Israeli President Isaac Herzog stated the nation was "in a state of national emergency", a statement that is evidenced by a recent poll taken last week by Israeli news company Channel 12, which conducted a poll that showed 67% of Israelis feared a civil war. Following the vote, widespread protests have begun, once again witnessing water cannons. Updates will follow on the Atlas News app and website.


July 19th, 2023 - Following months of speculation, South Africa has stated that Russian President Putin will not be attending August’s BRICS summit in person and will be replaced by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. A number of months ago, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin. South Africa, an ICC member, would have been legally obligated to arrest Putin if he were to step foot in South Africa, or break their obligations if they didn’t arrest him. Putin will be on a video call throughout much of the summit.

July 17th, 2023 - The death toll from Kenya’s religious cult has risen to over 400 as Kenyan authorities continue the exhumation project in the Shakahola forest. On April 13, Kenyan authorities discovered mass graves on the property of self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie. Mackenzie led a religious cult, the ‘Good News International Church’, in which he convinced followers that if they starved themselves to death, they would be able to meet Christ. While most of the people discovered died from starvation, some of them, including some children, died from strangulation, beatings, and suffocation.

Mackenzie at a court hearing in May (Photo from SIMON MAINA / AFP/File).

July 22nd, 2023 - An apartment building in Douala, Cameroon, has collapsed, leaving 33 people dead and an additional 21 injured. Five of those injured are in an "absolute emergency" state. Rescue operations have continued into Monday morning. Littoral region governor Samuel Dieudonné Ivaha Diboua has stated that "the situation is under control, and the firefighters are working to ensure that no one remains under the rubble". The apartment was four stories tall, and when it collapsed, it fell onto a one-story residential building.

The Americas

July 22nd, 2023 - Severe flooding in Nova Scotia has left four people missing following the heaviest rainfall in over 50 years in the province’s history. The storm began on Friday, raining over 10 inches (25 cm) in some regions within the first 24 hours. CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon has said it was the most rain to hit the provincial capital Halifax since Hurricane Beth in 1971. The storm resulted in severe infrastructure damage, which damaged roads, bridges, swamped buildings, and caused "extensive damage" to a section of a Canadian National Railway track used to access the Port of Halifax. Two children went missing during the floods after the car they were in was submerged. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were able to locate the submerged vehicle, but the children remain missing. Authorities are still searching for two others, a man and a youth, who went missing in the same area after driving into deep waters.

(Photo - Reuters)

July 19th, 2023 - Peru was rocked by protests on Wednesday when thousands of protestors took to the streets in opposition to the removal of ex-president Pedro Castillo and called for the removal of President Dina Boluarte, whom they claim participated in ousting the ex-president. An estimated 21,000 protesters participated in the protest, many of them affiliated with left-wing groups. Protesters reportedly threw rocks and glass bottles at police, who in turn responded by deploying tear gas, which led to six civilians and two police officers being injured. Protests have been ongoing since March, resulting in a total of 67 deaths, over 600 injuries, and an estimated 380 arrests following a 30-day suspension of some constitutional rights implemented by the government.

July 22nd, 2023 - An arson attack on a Mexican bar located in the northern border town of San Luis Rio, Colorado, has claimed the lives of eleven people and injured four others after a patron set the structure aflame after being kicked out of the establishment. Sonora state prosecutors state the suspect is a young male who was heavily intoxicated and disgruntled after being expelled from the establishment after harassing the women there in the early hours of Saturday morning. The suspect returned to the establishment with a Molotov cocktail, throwing it at the doors to the bar, according to the prosecutor's office. Four of the eleven dead were women, while four others are being treated in hospitals for their injuries. One of the women was a U.S. citizen. The suspect has been apprehended, according to Mayor Santos Gonzalez.

Asia and Oceania

July 21st, 2023 - Violence continues in Manipur, India. Tensions have escalated for the past three months due, in part, to the actions of the Meitei-controlled state government. The government has faced accusations of implementing discriminatory policies against the Kukis, such as forced evictions that jeopardize their land security. The triggering event for the latest outbreak of violence was a court ruling in March, which granted the majority Meitei community "scheduled tribal status," granting them similar economic benefits and quotas in government jobs and education as the minority Kuki community. Additionally, the decision permitted Meiteis to purchase property where the Kukis predominate. This further fueled fears among the Kuki community that they would lose their land, job opportunities, and prospects for the future.

(Photo - Reuters)

July 20th, 2023 - Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan has announced his intention to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kishida anticipates that engaging in direct communication with North Korea, which may even involve a summit with leader Kim Jong Un, could potentially pave the way for resolving the longstanding issue of Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korea during the 1970s and 1980s.

July 22nd, 2023 - China has proposed holding three-way vice foreign ministerial-level talks with Japan and South Korea. For Japan, this move signifies China's eagerness to arrange a three-nation summit this year. Strained relations between Japan and South Korea, along with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, have hindered the three countries from convening a trilateral summit since December 2019. China's recent gesture seems to have a dual purpose: on the one hand, it aims to sow divisions in the efforts of Japan, South Korea, and the United States to strengthen regional security and economic cooperation, especially as Beijing competes with Washington and expands its military influence. However, a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official noted that China's current approach indicates a newfound willingness for three-way dialogue with its neighboring countries. This change in attitude may be influenced by China's growing role in global affairs and its domestic economy.

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