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Stories You Missed: Summer of Crisis Edition

It’s been the never-ending summer of crises. War came to Gaza and eastern Ukraine, Ebola tore through West Africa, the Islamic State seized territory in northern Iraq, beheaded two American journalists, and took fire from U.S. airstrikes. These crises have consumed the world’s attention, to the detriment of a whole host of important developments. Marina ...

YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been the never-ending summer of crises. War came to Gaza and eastern Ukraine, Ebola tore through West Africa, the Islamic State seized territory in northern Iraq, beheaded two American journalists, and took fire from U.S. airstrikes. These crises have consumed the world’s attention, to the detriment of a whole host of important developments.

Marina Silva may depose Dilma Rousseff

On the heels of this summer’s World Cup, Brazil has been experiencing something of a political upheaval and Dilma Rousseff, the country’s president, is on the verge of being thrown out of office by her socialist rival, Marina Silva. After the death of the Socialist Party’s chosen candidate, Eduardo Campos, in a plane crash, Silva stepped in to assume the party’s mantle. Silva is surging in the polls and is now the putative front-runner in elections scheduled for Oct. 5.

A former environmental minister, Silva appears to be cobbling together a somewhat surprising coalition. Her evangelical faith appeals to Brazil’s conservative Christians, her emphasis on environmental issues is a welcome break to many voters who are somewhat disenchanted with massive construction binge encouraged by the ruling Workers’ party. Though the Socialist Party candidate, don’t mistake her for a left-wing radical. Silva is considered market friendly, and her Pentecostalist faith makes her fairly conservative on social issues, including gay marriage.

Beijing reins in Hong Kong

With its announcement Sunday that Beijing will vet candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive election, China struck a hard blow against democracy on the island. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is understandably up in arms, and although the developments have received extensive coverage, their magnitude have been somewhat overlooked.

Amid their move to crack down on democracy in Hong Kong, Beijing has also carried out an extensive censorship campaign. According to data compiled by Weiboscope, Sunday marked a huge spike in censorship on Weibo, China’s massive microblogging platform, with top censored terms for the day "Hong Kong," "support," and "tonight." In fact, the two days with the highest censorship this year were both about Hong Kong protests, beating even the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on Tiananmen square and the long-awaited fall of former security chief Zhou Yongkang. It’s another indication that Beijing feels acutely threatened by Hong Kong civic society (or as they like to put it, "instability") and remains deeply worried that the call for greater political freedoms will spread to the mainland via social media.

An Egyptian activist goes on hunger strike

Amid fighting in Gaza, Egypt has reclaimed its role as an international player, helping broker the cease-fire agreement that helped end fighting there between Israel and Hamas. And with its return as a broker, criticism of the country’s human-rights record is growing increasingly faint. So no surprise when news last month that the Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah has begun a hunger strike went unnoticed. After playing a prominent role in the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Abdel-Fattah has been a perpetual thorn in the side of Cairo’s governments — both Islamist and military. He criticized the use of military tribunals against civilians following Mubarak’s fall and then emerged as an opponent of Muhammad Morsi’s government. He is now imprisoned on charges related to the violation of Egypt’s heavily criticized protest law.

The default that probably made sense

In late July, Argentina formally defaulted on a tranche of debt held by holdout American investors. It marks the eighth time Argentina has entered default, and the news prompted renewed hand-wringing about Argentina’s status as chronically unable — or in this case, unwilling — to pay its debts. Less noticed was the fact that Argentina’s default made a great deal of sense. The debt in question was related to the country’s economic collapse in 2002. Most of Argentina’s investors agreed to write down a large portion of that debt and settle their accounts with the country. But a small group did not and demanded Argentina pay up in full. But doing so would have resulted in a huge bill for Argentina, as it would have re-opened the accounts that had been closed, costing the country some $13 billion. That’s a point that has been mostly lost.

A peace deal in Mozambique

The treaty that ended Mozambique’s civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1992, was considered among Africa’s most successful. When that treaty collapsed last year, it raised fears that the country might slide back into war. But on Friday, Afonso Dhlakama, the head of the Renamo opposition movement, which fought in the civil war, emerged from hiding to sign a new peace deal with the government. Dhlakama says he plans to stand in upcoming elections and continues to maintain that the country’s current rulers have a stranglehold on power. "After the beautiful dream of two decades ago when peace seemed to be for always, we saw a systematic concentration of power in the hands of those in power," he said Friday.

The coming famine in South Sudan

With fighting resuming in South Sudan, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating. That fighting has raised the prospect that a famine may strike the world’s newest nation. My colleague Ty McCormick filed this dispatch from Juba:

Shots rang out at daybreak on Friday in Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity state, and continued for much of the morning. At least one artillery shell exploded close to the U.N. base, where some 40,000 people have taken refuge, many of them knee deep in water from rainy-season floods and forced to sleep standing up. Government forces also clashed with rebels in the Ayod region Jonglei state, southeast of Bentiu, where a military spokesman for the government said that 120 rebels were killed.

This fresh round of fighting, which erupted over the weekend between government forces and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, further erodes the prospects for peace in the world’s newest nation and imperils critical humanitarian efforts aimed at keeping a potential famine at bay.

–Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian contributed to this post. 

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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