TL;DR – TOP 10 STORIES FOR THE WEEK

  1. US substance abuse crisis shows no signs of slowing
  2. Fires scorching the Southeastern United States
  3. US accused of war crimes in Afghanistan from 2003-2004
  4. UK passes extreme surveillance law
  5. 7.8 earthquake strikes New Zealand
  6. Yemen cease-fire takes hold
  7. Violence continues in Syria and Iraq
  8. Fuel tanker explodes in Mozambique, killing and wounding 180+
  9. Elon Musk to buy SolarCity, plus plans to launch 4000+ satellites
  10. Anti-HIV antibody discovered

Further information and more stories:

UNITED STATES

A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General highlighted America’s problems with substance abuse. “More people use prescription opioids than use tobacco. There are more people with substance abuse disorders than people with cancer. One in five Americans binge drink. And substance abuse disorders cost the U.S. more than $420 billion a year.” (NPR)

“A Mississippi legislative committee voted Tuesday to adopt a new policy that makes all government contracts confidential. The new law was created in response to a public record request from a local newspaper.” (TH)

Fires are sweeping the Southeastern United States. “In Alabama alone, there are currently 20 fires burning, and more than 1,500 blazes have burned there since October 1, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission. People are being evacuated in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, including in and around Chimney Rock, N.C., where the erratic fire described in the Observer has enveloped some 3,000 acres since Saturday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. As of Monday afternoon, that blaze was only 15 percent contained.” (NPR)

Various media organizations reported on developments within President-Elect Donald Trump’s White House transition team. Unfortunately, most of the reporting was useless. Many articles used unreliable sources or simply made up information. The state of things remains unclear. Trump vowed to forego a salary as President, and condemned the recent rise in harassment of minorities.

“New York attorney general announces $25 million settlement in Trump University case.” (AP)

“US forces may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan from 2003-2004 by torturing prisoners in what appeared to be a deliberate policy, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday.” (AFP) The United States drew similar criticisms after a recent report on 24 airstrikes led by the USA.

united kingdom

“Britain has passed the ‘most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy’. The law forces UK internet providers to store browsing histories — including domains visited — for one year, in case of police investigations.” (ZDN) The law also allows government intelligence agencies the power to hack into devices.

The UK ratified the Paris Agreement, called “the world’s first comprehensive agreement on tackling climate change.”

“Transport for London (TfL) has announced a four-week-long trial whereby it will track users of the London Underground by seeing when their smartphones try to connect to the Wi-Fi network, in order to learn more about how and when people take trains and the routes they use when interchanging on the network.” (IBT)

New Zealand

“At least two people died when a powerful earthquake struck New Zealand near the city of Christchurch, causing strong jolts felt more than 120 miles away and prompting a tsunami threat along the country’s east coast.” (WSJ) The quake was recorded as magnitude 7.8 and centered by South Island.

middle east

“At least 11 children were among 23 people killed Sunday in northern Syria as pro-government forces kept up their campaign against opposition areas in the country’s north, while rebels shelled a government-held district in Aleppo city. At least eight more people were killed in a suspected airstrike on a crossing point connecting Kurdish-held areas with rebel areas in northern Aleppo province, the Kurdish security force said.” (AP)

“The slaughter continues in Yemen… with a humanitarian worker among dozens killed in the past day. At least 20 people were killed by shelling that hit a market in the rebel-controlled city of Taiz, where fighting has intensified between forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels in recent weeks.” (TI) A 48-hour ceasefire took effect later in the week.

“Iraqi forces have broken into jihadist-held Mosul and recaptured neighbourhoods inside the city, but a month into their offensive, there are still weeks or more of potentially heavy fighting ahead.” (AFP)

“The Israeli parliament gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill to legalise thousands of West Bank settler homes, a measure drawing international anger and posing the government’s biggest test since 2015 polls. The measure… requires three more full parliamentary votes to become law.” (DM)

“Turkey’s president praised Pakistan on Thursday for siding with him against alleged followers of a dissident cleric… a day after Pakistan ordered 400 Turkish nationals to leave the country.” (WP)

Africa

“A fuel tanker exploded in northern Mozambique as residents gathered around to buy fuel from the driver on Thursday, killing 73 people and injuring 110 others, Mozambican media reported.” (AP)

“Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo blocked an opposition demonstration in the capital on Saturday aimed at putting pressure on President Joseph Kabila to step down next month at the end of his mandate, witnesses said. The rally was banned and heavily armed security forces and large police trucks blocked off key streets.” (Reuters)

science and technology

“Samsung Electronics has agreed to buy Harman International Industries in an $8 billion deal, marking a major push into the auto electronics market and the biggest overseas acquisition ever by a South Korean company.” (Reuters)

“Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk has won shareholder approval for a $2.6bn (£2.1bn) deal to buy solar panel company SolarCity, in which he is the largest shareholder. The takeover will expand the electric car maker’s clean energy business.” (BBC)

“SpaceX has detailed ambitious plans to bring fast Internet access to the entire world with a new satellite system that offers greater speeds and lower latency than existing satellite networks…. SpaceX wants to launch 4,425 satellites into low-Earth orbits, with altitudes ranging from 715 miles to 823 miles.” (AT)

“Scientists have discovered an antibody produced by an HIV-positive patient that neutralises 98 percent of all HIV strains tested – including most of the strains that are resistant to other antibodies of the same class.” (SA)