This roundup covers news summaries across six regions: Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. Wherever possible I draw links to Singapore, but I think it is more important to understand geopolitical developments around the world, to draw attention to meaningful news stories, and to highlight both positive and negative events.
Around the world, I rely primarily on the email newsletters from “The Economist“, “Foreign Policy“, “Muck Rack“, “The New York Times“, “The Wall Street Journal“, and “The World Post“. In Singapore, the weekly digests from the European Union Centre and the Middle East Institute are handy. Do send me recommendations of news outlets or articles too, to jinyao.guan.yin.miao[a]gmail.com!
August 29 to September 3, 2016
“I Wish My Teacher Knew”: A powerful read in “The New York Times” about an American teacher who wanted to know her students better. The responses were eye-opening, and this exercise has been repeated by many teachers around the world. For others, in a broader context, it is also a reminder of the many inequities which persist – driving Venezuelans to take to the streets against their government and Iranian women to fight against the intimidation campaigns of religious hardliners – and the struggle for a fairer world.
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- The death of Lucy, the skeleton of a single three-foot-tall female discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 – also one of the most famous discoveries in paleontology – has been a long mystery. Scientists now think that she died after falling from a tree.
- Students in a South African high school spoke out against a ban on afro hair. Political parties have weighed in.
- 54 in Yemen were killed by a suicide car bomber. At least 10,000 have been killed in the broader civil war.
- The G-20 or Group of 20 summit will be held in Hangzhou, China, where the state of the global economy will be discussed.
- At least 12 were killed in an explosion in the Philippines. It happened in Davao, the home city of president Rodrigo Duterte, who had earlier shrugged off rumours of an assassination plot.
- Uzbekistan’s first and only president – since its independence in 1991 – Islam Karimov, died after suffering a stroke, sparking concerns over political succession. The most populous country in Central Asia, its government has been described as authoritative and repressive, riddled with inefficiencies and corruption. According to “The Economist“, “Of the five post-Soviet regimes in Central Asia, Uzbekistan’s is widely regarded as the nastiest, its leader the most mercilessly paranoid.”
- The National Institute of Forensics and Criminology in Belgium – the country’s centre for forensic research, which was handling or housing “DNA and other evidence considered crucial to cases involving terrorism“, including the attack of the Brussels airport in March earlier this year, the worst act of terrorism in the country’s history – was attacked by arsonists.
- The row over the burkini in France continues, and could frame the presidential elections next year.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded in an interview that the European Union took too long to react to the migration crisis. An upcoming meeting of the union will focus on a future without the United Kingdom, as well as fresh calls from Eastern European countries for a common army.
- After the earthquake in Italy last week, more than 2,000 have been left homeless, with months or even years needed for reconstruction. “Half the town no longer exists”, according to the city’s mayor.
- Paralympians from Russia, in an announcement by the International Paralympic Committee, are now banned from the summer games in 2016 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and the winter games in 2018 (Pyeongchang, South Korea).
- According to “The New York Times“, the United Kingdom “[does] not have the expertise, the staff, or a plan for the tortuous Brexit negotiations”. Deals can only be struck after Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked, which may not happen anytime soon.
“Brussels spouts, Apple bruised“: How “The Economist” described the decision by the European Commission, to press Ireland to recover S$19.8 billion in taxes plus interest from technology giant Apple for tax avoidance.
The Middle East
- The election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 offered space and opportunities for women’s rights activists in Iran, but religious hardliners have been fighting back with intimidation campaigns.
- Described as the most prominent propagandist of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani – who also headed the terrorist organisation’s secret service which plotted external terror attacks – was killed in Syria.
- Even though major presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are against it, and even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that the Senate will not vote on it this year, The White House is still insisting that congressional approval could be won for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
- Presidential candidate Donald Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, where they spoke about the (disproportionate) benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta (which Mr. Trump has said he would renegotiate or scrap), and the wall Mr. Trump has proposed to build (but there was no mention of who would pay for it). Hours later, he insisted Mexico would pay.
- To atone for past slaveholding, Georgetown University will “make a formal apology, give descendants of the enslaved preferential admissions status, rename buildings, create an institute for the study of slavery, and erect a public memorial“.
- A defiant Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, denounced her impeachment trial. “Don’t expect from me the obliging silence of cowards”, she said. “This process … has been marked from start to finish by a blatant misappropriation of power”. Senators then voted 61-20 to convict her for “illegally using money from state banks to boost public spending“.
- Human rights organisation Amnesty International says Guatemala and Honduras are the deadliest countries for environmental activists. Around the world in 2015, 185 were killed for environmental activism.
- In the United Nations, former Prime Minister of Portugal remains in the lead to become Secretary-General of the organisation.
- Concerns over economic security in Venezuela – with its “worst economic depression in more than 200 years, soaring crime rates, and a shortage of basic goods” – and political efficacy has led hundreds of thousands to take to the streets.