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Coming Up This Week

  • Today is Stonewall Day: the anniversary of the police raids on the Stonewall Inn in NYC that led to the birth of the gay rights movement.

  • Russia’s referendum on a constitutional amendment that would allow Pres. Putin to extend his term (possibly through 2036) ends Wednesday, and is expected to have widespread support.

  • June’s U.S. jobs report comes out Thursday. Economists forecast the report will show the beginnings of an economic recovery, with three million jobs were added.

  • Next Saturday is July 4th—the U.S.’s 244th birthday—and will feature military flyovers in Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC.

LME Commodity Spot Prices

  • Aluminum: $1,582/ton

  • Copper: $5,986/ton

  • Cobalt: $28,500/ton

  • Gold: $1,765/toz

COVID-19

  • Global coronavirus cases will surpass 10 million today, with almost 500,000 dead. Al Jazeera’s articles on coronavirus include (e.g. this one) have a good animated infographic showing the growth in cumulative cases by country.

  • China saw a new cluster of cases in Beijing and Hebei, and put around 500,000 people under a new strict lockdown.

Afghanistan

  • Russia denied reports that it had paid Taliban militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, while Pres. Trump said he wasn’t informed before yesterday (the NYT’s report says Trump was briefed in March).

  • Six ANSF members were killed in a Taliban attack in Kunduz.

Venezuela

  • State oil firm PDVSA threatened to revoke the licenses of independent gas station owners “at any time,” raising concerns that PDVSA will seek to eliminate its competitors. (PDVSA owns most of Venezuela’s 1,200 stations, but lets private companies operate a majority of them; these revocations would target the small number of stations PDVSA does not own).

China

  • Hong Kong police arrested at least 53 people involved in scuffles during a “silent protest” against China’s planned security law for the territory.

DRC

  • DRC’s Justice Minister, Célestin Tunda, clashed with Pres. Tshisekedi over proposed judicial reforms, and was briefly arrested. Tunda’s party, which is close to former president Kabila, put forth the proposals, but Tshisekedi’s party thinks they’re a ploy to “undermine the independence of the judiciary and increase the power of the justice ministry.”

U.S.

  • A shooting at a Walmart distribution center in Red Bluff, CA killed two and injured four. News reports say the suspect was fired from the center in 2019. Police killed him in a gunfight.

Other News

  • It sounds like talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam—which were supposed to reach a conclusion in the coming weeks—are being complicated by alleged Egyptian hacking of Ethiopian government websites. A short Quartz article pasted below has more.

  • Following an investigation into last month’s crash in Karachi (in which the pilots were found to have been distracted talking about coronavirus), Pakistan grounded 262 Pakistan International Airlines pilots who allegedly skipped their exams and were fraudulently credentialed.

An Egyptian cyber attack on Ethiopia by hackers is the latest strike over the Grand Dam (Quartz)

In an extension of a bilateral dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt over the $4.8 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam being built on the Nile River, Egyptian hackers launched a cyber attack on a number of Ethiopian government websites over the course of the past week.

The two countries have been at loggerheads with each other for years over Ethiopia’s construction of the massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile—Egypt’s sole water source for irrigation farming and in general for its 100 million-strong population. But as the source of 85% of the Nile’s waters, Ethiopia maintains that the Chinese-backed dam is crucial for attaining developmental goals and combating poverty. Under construction since 2011, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) continues to be a source of growing tension between the two states.

The animosity has seen Ethiopia enter the crosshairs of Egyptian hackers numerous times in recent years. The hackers, who claimed to belong to the “Cyber_Horus Group,” left messages on the homepage of a Ethiopian regional police force training center, threatening war over the Nile and a “Pharaonic curse,” upon Ethiopians. Most of the hacked websites seen by Quartz Africa included the message from a Pharaonic painting: “If the river’s level drops, let all the Pharaoh’s soldiers hurry and return only after the liberation of the Nile, restricting its flow.”

Similar messages with the group’s logo and Egyptian pharaoh motifs were left on about a dozen other government webpages. Messages celebrating Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi were also visible. There is no known link between the hackers and the Egyptian government.

In a statement, Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency (INSA) claimed on Monday it was able to thwart a massive cyber attack by “cyber criminals” targeting Ethiopia’s political and economic infrastructure. Despite the taunting messages and images from the hackers being removed, most of the targeted websites remained offline as of Saturday  morning (Jun. 27).

Egypt has a history of threatening military action against states that contemplate building dams on the Nile River. In 1979, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat stated that “the only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water.”

Observers believe a war over the Nile is unlikely, but worsening ties over Ethiopia’s intention to start storing the Nile’s water in the dam’s reservoir next month saw Egypt call for UN intervention this week.

On the brink of a diplomatic fallout, talks were held by video conference on Friday (Jun. 26) between the leaders of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, mediated by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa on behalf of the African Union. According to reports, Ethiopia has agreed with the other nations to hold off from filling the dam for another two weeks. The cyber attacks by hackers in Egypt appear to have had little or no effect on the time sensitive, tense negotiations.

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