1. Global – $640bn
This year’s wipeout in cryptocurrencies was bigger in percentage terms than the dotcom crash of the early 2000s. Many warned that Bitcoin and Ether were massively speculative bets because of regulatory and other uncertainties.
2. Syria – A last holdout
The rebels opposed to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad are down to their last stronghold, Idlib Province, and the government launched attacks to retake the region in early September. Sources in the area said that a massive offensive was being prepared.
On 7 September, Turkey – which backs the rebels – and Russia and Iran, which support Assad, failed to reach agreement on a ceasefire. Both Turkey and the United Nations warned that there would be a massive humanitarian disaster if the government goes ahead with the assault. The infrastructure for welcoming refugees and internally displaced people is already struggling to cope with the additional one million people who were forced to flee in the first six months of the year. Idlib is home to an estimated three million people.
If the Damascus government retakes Idlib, it will be a major step in ending the civil war that started in 2011. The Syrian rebels have received aid from the US and other governments who want to see regime change, citing chemical weapons attacks by Assad on his country’s population as the reason.
3. Brazil – Bolsonaro is the man to beat
The October presidential elections are a chance for Brazil to turn a page on its state corruption scandals and economic underperformance. Most opinion polls put Jair Bolsonaro in the lead, though often with less than 30% support from those surveyed. Described by media as Brazil’s Donald Trump, Bolsonaro was stabbed at a rally in September and is now recovering. Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva often beat Bolsonaro in the polls, but he is unable to run because he is in jail on corruption charges.
4. China – Uighur uproar
International criticism is mounting over Beijing’s treatment of a Muslim minority group, the Uighurs of the north-western province of Xinjiang. The United States and other governments say they are considering sanctions and other measures in response to China’s policy of detaining Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps and stigmatising the community with a massive surveillance campaign that Beijing says is justified due to the risk of terrorism. Human Rights Watch reports that there could be as many as one million people in those camps.