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 31 to November 5, 2016
This has been a rough week for political leaders around the world, unless you are Chinese President Xi Jinping. Unlike Mr. Xi – who was formally named the “core” of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, which is probably a sign of him amassing more political powers – his contemporaries have been kept in check. South Korean President Park Geun-hye is caught in a Rasputinesque-controversy, following revelations that she allowed a personal friend to meddle in state affairs. French President François Hollande has seen his popularity falling to four per cent, and his prime minister is looking to preserve his own political future. And in Morocco, the gruesome death of a fishmonger has sparked broader outrage and protests against the royals and the police.
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- The gruesome death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in Morocco – crushed to death in a rubbish truck – has sparked outrage and protests, further prompting thousands to attend his funeral. Moroccan royals and police have also been called for abuses of power.
- In the counter-insurgency effort against jihadist militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia, 500 women in the Ugandan contingent of ANISOM – a “17,000-strong African Union force tasked with battling al-Shabaab” – help prevent sexual violence by male peacekeepers against civilians, and to build progress towards gender equality during wartime and in peacetime.
- Last week, President Xi Jinping was formally named the “core” of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in China. “Foreign Policy” argued: “The formal comeback of the term in 2016 can be seen either as a sign that Mr. Xi is amassing powers unlike any of his previous predecessors or that he is shoring up his insecurities with yet another verbal trinket with no real political worth. The reality probably lies in between“.
- The burning of straw left over from rice harvests in India has worsened the air quality of cities in India. The government has not been able to promote a seeder which would remove the need to dispose of straw after farmers harvest their rice, or to create a market for the straw.
- Thousands in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to resign, following revelations that “she allowed a personal friend, with no government position, to meddle in affairs of state“. Approval ratings for Miss Park have also plunged to record lows.
- In France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has turned on President François Hollande, who faces the prospect of a crushing and humiliating defeat in the elections six months from now.Some have noted that “it is the first time there is a breach between the president of the Republic and the prime minister“.
- No party in Iceland won a majority in the general election, paving the way for negotiations and leading to an announcement of resignation by Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson. His Progressive Party won just eight seats in the 63-member parliament, while junior partner the Independence Party won 21 seats. The Pirate Party – formed by Internet activists – tripled its share of the vote from the last election in 2013.
- Four days after two back-to-back earthquakes, a magnitude-6.5 earthquake – believed to be the strongest in the country since 1980 – struck Italy. Prior evacuation means no one has been killed, but many buildings, homes, and churches (including the cathedral and basilica of Saint Benedict in Norcia) were destroyed.
- The High Court of the United Kingdom ruled that the government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – to start formal Brexit negotiations with the European Union – until a vote in Parliament. “[Prime Minister] Theresa May had said she wanted to start Brexit talks before the end of March next year but this ruling has thrown the prime minister’s timetable up in the air“.
- 499 years after German theologian Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to a church door, Pope Francis visited Sweden for a joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the Reformation. “We, too, must look with love and honesty at our past, recognising error and seeking forgiveness“, the pope said.
The Middle East
- Some African states may be leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC), but the ICC is preparing a full investigation of “possible war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Afghanistan, potentially including personnel from the United States.
- Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces entered the city of Mosul for the first time in more than two years. Despite this breakthrough, the fight for true liberation remains tough, as battles move to more densely populated areas.
- After a two-and-a-half-year vacuum in political leadership – after failure on “45 previous occasions to even muster a quorum for a presidential ballot” – 81-year-old Michel Aoun was chosen President of Lebanon. Lebanese politics continues to reflect the regional struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, though to a smaller extent in recent years given the turmoil in neighbouring Syria.
- Russia has put Syrian peace talks on hold, with no peaceful resolution in sight.
- Ahead of the United States presidential election next week, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has again been hit by a FBI investigation into her emails. Republican nominee Donald Trump has pounced on that, narrowing his deficit in polls of polls.
- On the other hand, Mr. Trump is said to have used a “legally dubious” manoeuvre to avoid paying federal income taxes for years.
- Officials are trying to make sense of the Zika outbreak in Colombia – the world’s second-largest, after Brazil – which has produced so few birth defects. Earlier discovery, geographical conditions, and better preparations have been cited as potential explanations, though some have attributed the cause to higher abortion rates and the decision of many parents to delay pregnancy altogether.
- Is Mexico prepared for a Donald Trump-presidency? “Foreign Policy” offered a few tongue-in-cheek plans.