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!
October 17 to 22, 2016
“I will keep you in suspense”: Just under three weeks to go before Election Day in the United States on November 8, and the highlight of the third and final debate was the refusal of Republican nominee Donald Trump to respect the results of the election. “I will tell you at the time” was his response, when asked if he would support the winner even if it was not him. “The New York Times” reported that Mr. Trump was in this vein “rejecting American political norms and growing pressure from his own party by claiming that the political process is extensively rigged against him“, and at a time when he needed a strong debate performance – since most polls have him down against his opponent – many thought Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton completed a hat-trick of debate victories.
Beyond the United States, a 170-country agreement to cut the use of planet-warming hydrofluorocarbons is a rare bright spot in a world plagued by conflicts: a hurricane-battered Haiti which is now dealing with an outbreak of cholera, in the Legislative Council in Hong Kong where pro-independence members who refused to take a pledge were barred from taking their seats, and in Iraq where a messy and prolonged operation to take back the city of Mosul has just begun.
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- The government in Nigeria is negotiating for the release of girls still held by Islamic militant group Boko Haram, but many of these girls are unwilling to return because they “may have been radicalised by Boko Haram or could feel ashamed to return home because they were forced to marry extremists and have children“.
- “How Zimbabwe made Zimbabwe’s flag illegal”: Zimbabwe’s flag – after pastor Evan Mawarire accidentally founded a #ThisFlag movement, protesting the state of governance in the country – has become a symbol of protest, and the ruling government has warned that “using the flag without the government’s permission” is a punishable offence.
- In early-September, localists in Hong Kong won seven seats in the 70-seat Legislative Council, or the Legco (the pro-Beijing camp won 40 seats, and the pan-democrats 23 seats). Before the new session of the city’s Legco last week, the 70 lawmakers had to repeat a phrase swearing allegiance “to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China“, but two pro-independence members were barred from taking their seats after refusing to take the pledge.
- On Tuesday, High Court Judge Thomas Au rejected a last-ditch request from the Hong Kong government, which wanted to halt the swearing-in of these two newly-elected lawmakers, Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30.
- President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China to sign high-level trade and investment, bilateral agreements, in part “to appease Beijing’s aggressive stance in the disputed [South China Sea] waters“. While Mr. Duterte enjoys high approval ratings back home, there are concerns about the fragility of the country’s relationship with the United States.
- Mr. Duterte then announced his country’s “separation” from the United States.
- Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany met with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the Ukraine crisis – the site of the only active war in Europe – and Russia’s military presence in eastern Ukraine remains the thorniest issue in these talks. This was also Mr. Putin’s first visit to Germany in four years.
- In a proposed “Turing Law”, the government of the United Kingdom said it would posthumously pardon gay and bisexual men who were convicted of seeking intimacy with another man. An estimated 15,000 of 65,000 men “convicted under laws that criminalised gay sex were still alive“, but some wanted an apology, not a pardon.
The Middle East
- In Egypt, a shortage of sugar – along with goods such as cooking oil, baby formula, and certain medicines – “has quickly become shorthand for the brewing anger against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s management of the economy and his overall rule“.
- The army of Iraq has started its mission to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) out of the country. In particular, the city of Mosul has been ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq, but this street-to-street operation is expected to be “messy and prolonged“.
- The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, dissolved the country’s parliament. “The drop in global oil prices has squeezed [the country] to the point of cutting back on … many subsidies, stirring dissent“.
- This video by The Aleppo Media Center, a group of anti-government activists and citizen journalist, shows the destruction of Aleppo, Syria, “or what remains of it after recent attacks by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies“.
- A 72-hour ceasefire took effect in Yemen, “to allow free and unhindered access for humanitarian supplies and personnel [to all parts of the country]“. A peaceful resolution to the conflict, however, is nowhere in sight.
As it is with “Meydan TV” – an independent website which casts itself as one of few critical voices reporting on Azerbaijan, and is headed by dissidents – “Foreign Policy” noted that “In countries ruled by authoritarian regimes, such as those of the former Soviet Union, remote media projects are often the only source of critical or accurate information“.
- More than 170 countries agreed on a legally-binding deal to cut “the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical [hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs] used in air-conditioners and refrigerators“, a move which could help slow global warming. This deal is an amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, designed to close the hole in the ozone layer. President Barack Obama has been pushing for this deal since 2013.
- The third and final presidential debate was held this week, just under three weeks before Election Day. “FiveThirtyEight” has Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with an over 80 per cent chance of winning the presidency in November.
- The government of Ecuador has temporarily cut the Internet access of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who fled to the country’s London embassy in June 2012 to fight extradition to Sweden to face a rap accusation, over concerns that leaks by WikiLeaks could impact the United States presidential election.
- After it was battered by Hurricane Matthew last week, parts of Haiti are now dealing with an outbreak of cholera, an infection of the small intestine which causes watery diarrhoea. The disease first appeared in the country in the late 2010, and now “when the floods came, cholera was carried down by the water itself, which swept up fecal matter dumped on the hillsides, contaminating the river and other drinking supplies“. Some medical staff are also struggling to provide the necessary assistance.