Leo Brian Schafer
Catholic Values Columnist
US to execute first woman since 1953
Lisa Montgomery, convicted in 2004 of the double-murder of a pregnant woman and her unborn child, is scheduled for execution on Dec. 8, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Montgomery will become the first woman to receive capital punishment since Bonnie Heady in 1953. The Federal Government recently resumed the conduction of executions earlier last year after a long hold on the punishment. Between 1988 and 2018, only three prisoners were executed. The cases of Montgomery and Brandon Bernard, convicted of the murder of two youth pastors in 1999, are scheduled to be the eighth and ninth capital punishments this year alone.
Trump releases 2024 foreign policy plan
The Trump administration is considering announcing sweeping foreign policy priorities ahead of the 2020 presidential election. These priorities are to include withdrawing more troops from Afghanistan — a key point in his 2016 campaign — and the negotiation of a new nuclear arms agreement with Russia, with the goal to decrease the risk of nuclear weapon use in war. The U.S. has been involved in the war in Afghanistan in some capacity since Oct. 7, 2001. U.S. deployment there peaked at over 100,000 at the beginning of last decade but has steadily shrunk since then. Currently, there are 14,000 troops stationed in the country, with plans to reduce that to 4,500. The U.S. and Russia have over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal.
US engages in large-scale prisoner swap with Yemeni rebels
The U.S. repatriated two prisoners, as well as the remains of a third, that were held by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Humanitarian Sandra Loli and businessman Mikael Gidada had been held for three and one years, respectively, while Bilal Fateen died in captivity sometime last year. In return, the internationally recognized government of Yemen allowed the return of 200 Houthi women and children who had been seeking medical treatment in neighboring Oman. Yemen has been torn apart by civil war and humanitarian crisis for nearly a decade.
New Zealand prime minister wins historic victory
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her center-left Labour Party recorded a decisive victory in the general election held Oct. 17. Ardern’s party gained 18 seats to take a majority in the House of Representatives and can now govern without the help of its coalition partners. The center-right National Party lost its plurality in dramatic fashion, losing nearly half of its seats. The Libertarian ACT party gained nine seats while the far-right NZ first party lost all representation. The Labour Party was buoyed by public perception of Ardern’s handling of the coronavirus situation.
Australia opens international travel for first time since March
For the first time since the start of lockdowns in March, international visitors will be allowed into Australia. Visitors directly from New Zealand will be allowed on non-stop flights into Australian airports and will not be required to quarantine, but will need to do so upon their return to New Zealand. Australia has practiced some of the strictest lockdown measures, banning all international travel until at least spring 2021, and locking down localities more severely than their neighbors. Despite this, they have remained in strict lockdown and have unsuccessfully slowed the spread of the coronavirus.
Nobel Prize Foundation announces annual prizes
The Nobel Prize Foundation announced their annual prizes in achievements to benefit humanity the week of Oct. 4. Closely watched each year, the prizes are considered the most significant achievement in their respective fields. This year’s prize in peace was awarded to the World Food Programme for their work in reducing hunger, the chemistry prize was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work in gene editing, the literature prize was given to American author Louise Gluck, the physics prize was given to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for black hole research, the medicine prize was given to Harvey Atler, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice for their research on the Hepatitis C virus and the economic prize was awarded to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson for their innovation regarding auction formats.