Weekly Briefing

Rwanda: elections

“We certainly might not be a model government for a lot of people, but we're not a stupid government," Rwanda's foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, told journalists. "And we will not try to kill three people in a row right before election."

Credited with bringing security to Rwanda after 1994's genocide, President Paul Kagame faces the polls on 9 August. First, he has his critics - who blame his party for the killing of the opposition leader André Kagwa Rwisereka and two of his supporters - to deal with. Among them is the UN's Ban Ki-moon, who has expressed concern at the recent violence and demanded a full investigation.

Mushikiwabo not only brushes off the charges, but talks of Rwanda's "incredible security" and its status as "an attractive investment destination". What neither Kagame's friends nor foes dispute is the likelihood that he is about to win another seven years in office.

Turkey: terrorists

If you're feeling less than friendly towards Israel, taking tea with Hamas's Khaled Meshal is a good way to make your point. Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, met him on 19 July. The Gaza blockade was discussed; the nine Turkish deaths on the Gaza-bound aid ship in May will not be forgotten any time soon.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a rebel group recognised as terrorist by the EU and US, also wants to talk to Turkey. After 26 years of conflict, Murat Karayilan, the PKK leader, is offering a ceasefire in return for talks. The catch? A threat that the PKK will declare Kurdish independence if it doesn't get its way. A government official said that Turkey was "not in the habit of commenting on statements made by terrorists".

Taiwan: war games

On 29 June, Taiwan and China signed a historic trade agreement. But this new friendliness hasn't stopped Taiwan performing Han Kuang, its annual five-day computerised drill to test whether the country's defences could cope with a Chinese invasion.

China reserves the right to attack Taiwan should the country ever declare itself independent. A recent Taiwanese report suggests the number of Chinese missiles currently pointed at the country - reported to be 1,300 - may grow to about 2,000 this year. Meanwhile, Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, has vowed to build stronger armed forces to deter aggression - at the same time, apparently, as pushing for a peace treaty. Following an arms deal agreed earlier this year with the US, the Taiwanese ministry of national defence is reported to have prepared a shopping list that includes MK-54 torpedos and dozens of M1A2 tanks.

US: libel tourism

Freedom of speech, the sturdiest pillar of American society, just got a little extra support. The UK may benefit, too: on 19 July, the Senate passed a law protecting US writers and publishers from litigants who file libel suits in countries where they expect the most favourable ruling. Australia and Singapore are among them. But it was UK libel law - in particular the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, the New Yorker who was sued in Britain though just 23 copies of her book had been sold here - that was the bill's catalyst. Americans are now protected from laws described in the Senate as "chilling". British writers continue to wait.

Germany: bahn party

“Attention on the A40," a German news report warned: "There is a 60km closure between Duisburg and Dortmund due to the longest table in the world." Actually, it was 20,000 normal-sized tables, placed end to end on the road so that more than two million people swarming there could
sit and take a break from the hundreds of performances taking place as part of the Ruhr Valley's European Capital of Culture programme. On a motorway known as one of Europe's most jammed, human traffic made a nice change.