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News in the Humanosphere: Low oil prices and war create Saudi budget crunch

Saudi market (edward musiak/flickr)

Saudi Arabia is soon to be cash strapped and could exhaust all its foreign reserves in the next 5 years. “Pressured by low oil prices and costly wars in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia announced a sharp reduction in its 2016 budget on Monday to control a worsening deficit, which is steadily draining the kingdom’s financial reserves. The official Saudi news media reported that the Finance Ministry would cut spending, adopt new taxes and reduce price subsidies for fuel, water and power. The cost of some grades of domestic gasoline, among the first to be affected, could rise as much as 50 percent, a potentially unsettling spike in a country where mass transit does not exist and cars are a basic necessity.” (NYT

Another big Boko Haram attack…At least 48 people were killed in suicide attacks and bombings on Monday in two cities in northern Nigeria where the jihadist Boko Haram group is waging a six-year campaign to create an Islamic state, officials and residents said. The attacks came a day after the army fought Boko Haram militants west of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state and birthplace of their insurgency in the northeast of Africa’s most populous country.  (Reuters

Iran nuke deal seems to be working… “A Russian ship left Iran on Monday carrying almost all of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, fulfilling a major step in the nuclear deal struck last summer and, for the first time in nearly a decade, apparently leaving Iran with too little fuel to manufacture a nuclear weapon.” (NYT


Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on Monday in the Far North region of Cameroon while trying to carry out attacks for Islamist militant group Boko Haram, local officials said, but there were no other deaths. (Reuters

A strong Harmattan wind blowing last week across most of Ivory Coast’s main cocoa growing regions raised concern over damage to the crop amid a tightness of supply elsewhere, farmers said on Monday. (Reuters

An official with South Sudan’s rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar said South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s decree creating 28 new states violates the spirit of the August peace accord. (VOA

South Africa has started a process that could lead to it adding up to 9,600 megawatts of nuclear power to its national grid, the department of energy said on Sunday. (Reuters

Zimbabwe’s surprising recent announcement that it would shift to the Chinese yuan as its reserve currency is a sign of friendship with China, but probably not much more, say regional business people and economists. (VOA

China has agreed to finance a much-needed overhaul of the Malian stretch of the key railway line between Bamako and Dakar, the Malian transport ministry said on Monday. (AFP


The United States and its allies conducted 37 strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Sunday, including a burst of air strikes against the militant group near the Syrian city of Manbij, according to the coalition leading the operations. (Reuters

At least 14 people were killed and dozens wounded in large bomb blasts Monday in the central Syrian city of Homs, state media reported. (AFP

More than 100 insurgents and their families crossed from Syria into Lebanon in buses and ambulances on Monday as part of a U.N.-backed truce reached with the government that saw a separate group of Syrians from two insurgent-besieged Shiite villages crossed into Turkey. (AP

Buses and ambulances evacuated about 450 Islamist fighters and civilians from two rebel-held areas besieged by Syrian government forces and carried them across into Turkey and Lebanon on Monday, sources at the border crossings said. (Reuters

Islamic State has set up departments to handle “war spoils,” including slaves, and the exploitation of natural resources such as oil, creating the trappings of government that enable it to manage large swaths of Syria and Iraq and other areas. (Reuters

Iraq declared the city of Ramadi liberated from the Islamic State group Monday and raised the national flag over its government complex after clinching a landmark victory against the jihadists. (AFP

Israel is working to revive and extend plans for new Jewish settler homes in the contentious area of the occupied West Bank known as E1, settler watchdog Peace Now said Monday. (AFP



Two gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed a female polio vaccination campaigner in Afghanistan on Monday and seriously wounded her granddaughter, officials said. (Reuters

A Myanmar court jailed a woman for six months on Monday for a Facebook post “ridiculing” the country’s army chief and the color of a new uniform, the latest in an escalating crackdown on free speech. (Reuters


China’s first-ever law against domestic violence fails to cover some potential victims and has taken too long to pass, campaigners said Monday after it was approved at the weekend. (AFP

Chinese media on Monday celebrated the imminent expulsion of a French reporter accused of supporting terrorism, with a poll purporting to demonstrate overwhelming support for the decision. (AFP

Police in China have detained 12 people in connection with a deadly landslide last week, including at least one executive from a company that ran a dump for construction waste that swept through an industrial park, state media said on Monday. (Reuters

A government official in southern China killed himself a week after a landslide from a huge pile of construction waste in his city left scores missing and presumed dead, police said Monday. (AP

The Americas

The Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez has reopened highways and roads closed by a rare snowfall over the weekend. (AP

Storms and floods battering South America claimed a sixth victim in Paraguay on Monday as river levels threatened to rise further after torrents drove tens of thousands from their homes. (AFP

…and the rest

The Swiss city of Geneva may be on course to re-emerge as the “peace capital” of the world next year, a position it held in the final two decades of the last century. (VOA

Nearly a million people have crossed the Mediterranean as refugees and migrants so far this year, and conflicts in Syria and elsewhere continue to push up levels of human suffering. This makes 2015 likely to exceed all previous years of forced displacement, according to a new United Nations High Commission for Refugees report. (IPS

British Prime Minister David Cameron put on his waterproof boots Monday and waded into controversy, challenging critics who said his government has done too little to combat flooding in northern England. (AP

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei paid a holiday visit to refugees and migrants flocking to the Greek island of Lesbos, tweeting out photos and videos in appeals for their plight. (AFP

With the polio in decline in the two countries where it is still endemic, the WHO believes the world may be on the verge of eradicating polio. (Guardian

In a year of crises for Europe, from the Ukraine war to Greece’s debt turmoil to the historic refugee influx, Germany’s Angela Merkel emerged as the continent’s de facto leader, drawing more praise and fire than ever. (AFP

Britain needs a ‘complete rethink’ of its flood defenses after towns, cities and countryside across northern England were inundated when rivers broke their banks in recent days, a government agency said on Monday. (Reuters

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called on Monday for debate on possible changes to the Geneva Convention on the rights of refugees if Europe cannot soon curb an uncontrolled influx of asylum seekers. (Reuters


5 Under-the-Radar Stories that will drive the global agenda in 2016. (UN Dispatch

Can AU Deploy Peacekeepers Without Burundi’s Consent? (New Times

How Microcredit Has Hurt Poor, Destroyed Informal Business (The Conversation

Is CAR Ready to Hold a Free and Fair Election? (AL Jazeera

Africa’s Financial Services Sector Missing Out On Opportunities in Education Technology Market (CIO

To pay for the floods, we should raid military spending, not foreign aid (Guardian

The world’s other refugee crisis is about to begin, again (GlobalPost

A look back at Ebola (IRIN

Impunity in conflict has cast a dark shadow over humanitarian work in 2015 (Guardian



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