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!
September 19 to 24, 2016
Both Barack Obama and Ban Ki-moon – in the final months of their stints as President of the United States and Secretary-General of the United Nations – highlighted the many problems the world still faces, even as they urged the world to come together. Through their General Assembly speeches, President Obama extolled the benefits of globalisation, but acknowledged that “A world in which one per cent of humanity controls as much wealth as the other 99 per cent will never be stable“. Secretary-General Ban pulled no punches, and in fact singled out world leaders who were “rewriting constitutions, manipulating elections, and taking other desperate steps to cling to power“, though he did not name the regional or global partners who have exacerbated conflicts.
The same problems continue to plague the world: the end of a seven-day truce in Syria, fatal shootings of black men by white police officers in the United States, and the corruption scandal in Brazil. In China, the botched repair across a section of the Great Wall – which wiped out gnarled features such as the crenelations and towers – has left Chinese preservationists and Internet users incensed.
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- “People everywhere descend from a single migration of early humans from Africa“: A conclusion reached by three separate teams of geneticists, who surveyed and sequenced the genomes of people from cultures around the world, especially in indigenous populations. Past research tended to focus on the population centres of China and Europe.
- Hydrocarbon-reliant Algeria wants to replace its oil-based system of patronage with the New Economic Growth Model, to channel investments into non-oil sectors. But it is “attempting to boost economic growth while avoiding reforms that could lead the country down a more democratic path“, though observers are sceptical.
- Clashes between anti-government protestors and police in DR Congo left at least 17 people dead. Protestors were rallying against President Joseph Kabila, who has been accused of plotting to extend his tenure by delaying elections.
- Piracy off the coast of Somalia has reduced significantly, as a result of international efforts, anti-piracy campaigns, and security measures upon commercial ships. But some are concerned that the imminent withdrawal of the NATO alliance “will rekindle the Somali pirates’ passion to resume its piracy efforts“.
- Using a technology known as lidar “to shoot ultraquick pulses of light at the ground from lasers mounted on helicopters“, archaeologists in Cambodia are trying to spot mounds or depressions in the earth so as to map parts of the ancient city of Angkor. Lidar-generated maps can therefore reveal urban landscapes and architecture of the past.
- In China, the botched repair across a section of the Great Wall – which wiped out gnarled features such as the crenelations and towers – has left Chinese preservationists and Internet users incensed.
- Remember the fire in Belgium’s main forensic storehouse last month, which destroyed thousands of pieces of evidence critical to the prosecution of some suspects involved in criminal and terrorism cases? The suspected arsonists have not been publicly identified, though the extent of the damage means efforts to prosecute are severely impeded.
- The party which backs Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United Russia party, won a landslide victory in the parliamentary election. Turnout was down, amidst reports of voting irregularities such as people voting multiple times.
The Middle East
- As territorial gains in Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are reversed, with no strategy as to how or by whom these areas should be retaken, there are concerns that without arrangements such as “locally recruited stabilisation forces in newly liberated Arab areas“, ethnic and religious conflicts could persist.
- For the first time since 1989, Jordan has replaced “a controversial one-person-one-vote system with a list-based system designed to encourage political parties“, though voters remain apathetic and unconvinced by the work of the government.
- A seven-day truce in Syria came to an end – even as Russia and the United States sought to assess the ceasefire agreement, so as to find a negotiated solution – and as the United Nations struggled to reach “besieged and hard-to-reach areas [and where] access to many areas was still constrained by fighting, insecurity and administrative delays“.
- Days later, the United Nations suspended all humanitarian convoys in the country, after an aerial attack on an authorised convoy of 31 aid trucks carrying food and medical supplies. Russia is said to be responsible. This attack followed an errant American airstrike which killed 60 Syria soldiers, instead of militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
- The explosion of a pipe-bomb device in New York City injured 29 people, ahead of a gathering of world leaders in the city for the United Nations General Assembly. A suspect has since been arrested and charged with attempted murder.
- Following another fatal police shooting of an African-American in North Carolina, protestors clashed with authorities. This shooting came days after a black man was fatally shot by a white police officer in Oklahoma, “the latest in a string of deaths of black people at the hands of the police that have stoked outrage around the country“.
- “A higher proportion of voters are turned off by both of the main candidates in November than in any election since 1992“: “The Economist” has characterised this as one of the most unpleasant election campaign in 50 years, leaving many undecided.
- At least 500 million Yahoo user accounts were hacked by a “state-sponsored actor” in 2014. Announcement of this breach is likely to affect the sale of Yahoo’s core Internet properties to telecommunications company Verizon.
- Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will face trial for his role in a corruption scandal, in which he received over a million dollars in bribes. A few weeks ago, the country’s first female president Dilma Rousseff was convicted in Congress – in an unrelated case – for illegally using money from state banks to boost public spending.
- Colombian rebel group FARC “voted unanimously to approve a peace deal with the government and form a new political party“. This comes after four years of negotiations, and after five decades of war.
- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – as part of a multi-year examination in Mexico – is demanding for “an investigation into the brutal sexual assaults of 11 Mexican women during [a 2006 crackdown on protests]“, which happened under the watch of President Enrique Peña Nieto, then the governor in charge.