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!
February 27 to March 4, 2017
In this first address to Congress, President Donald Trump took on a different rhetoric from his campaign trail and his first few weeks in the White House, touching on a range of issues such as: the economy (on creating jobs and renegotiating trade deals), education (on giving families more choices), healthcare (on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare), immigration (on the cracking down of border security), and military spending (on one of the largest defence expenditure in the history of the country). The past week, however, has not necessarily been great, with this new National Security Adviser disagreeing and saying that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful, and the father of a killed Navy commando calling on the president to not hide behind his son’s death to prevent an investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also came under fire for not disclosing his meeting with the top Russian diplomat in Washington.
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- Following its 28th Summit, the African Union has reform on its agenda. Rwandan President Paul Kagame drafted reform proposals, emphasising “the need for fewer strategic priorities and addressing bureaucratic bottlenecks“, and reducing dependence.
- More than 740,000 South Sudanese are living as refugees in Uganda, fleeing “the crippled economy and growing food insecurity that [the government and the rebel troops] have left in their wake“. Last week, the United Nations declared a famine – as a result of an ongoing civil war, since 2013, even after a peace deal was signed in 2015 – in parts of the country.
- In a country resistant to immigration, Japan is exploring the use of eldercare robots, even though these robots are not “ready for prime time and may not be for decades“. By 2025, the country will be short of 380,000 to 500,000 health nurses.
- Malaysian police say that a VX nerve agent was found on the late Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
- Following his arrest last week, Samsung vice-chairman Lee Jae-Yong was charged with bribery and embezzlement in South Korea. These charges included the pledging of bribes to Choi Soon Sil, the long-term confidante of impeached President Park Geun-hye.
- The European Union (EU) and Japan “aim to conclude the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement in 2017 after failing to hit the 2016 deadline“, which would boost the economies on both sides. In this vein, the EU is also expanding partnerships in Asia.
- France is “losing the core of its historic provincial towns“, which have been encountering commercial decline.
- Two weeks before voters in the Netherlands go to the polls, far-right Dutch icon Geert Wilders – who was convicted of inciting discrimination and of insulting a group last year – has been using the Internet and social media “to talk to voters without the filter of journalists“. Mr. Wilders and his party are set to come in first or second in the upcoming elections.
- In the United Kingdom, the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment over the rights of European Union citizens living in the country. This could potentially threaten the “deadline to trigger Article 50, the formal start to the Brexit process“.
The Middle East
- After the first meeting arranged by Russia and Turkey which led to a ceasefire, opposing sides in Syria “came face-to-face in United Nations peace talks for the first time in three years“. Negotiations and a political transition remain difficult.
- Later, China and Russia vetoed a United Nations (UN) resolution “that would have imposed sanctions on Syria over chemical weapons use“. The resolution would have put 11 Syrian military commanders and 10 entities on a UN sanctions blacklist.
- Following a post by a former Uber engineer, detailing cases of discrimination and sexual harassment which went unpunished, “The New York Times” interviewed over 30 current and former employees on the “Hobbesian environment at the company“.
- The world’s largest diamond company De Beers just opened its final diamond mine in Canada. In the years to come, it will have to continue its manipulation of the supply, and more importantly it also has to “create demand for diamonds in the first place“.
- Newly appointed National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, in a break from the language used by his predecessor and President Donald Trump, said that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” “was not helpful because terrorists are ‘un-Islamic’“.
- A Navy commando was killed in the first military operation ordered by the president, last month. The father of the killed commando had refused to meet with Mr. Trump and said: “Do not hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation“.
- The raid, furthermore, “has so far yielded no significant intelligence“.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions “met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington [and] did not mention either meeting during his confirmation hearings when he said he knew of no contacts between Trump surrogates and Russians“. Interactions with the same Russian led to the resignation of former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
- The presidential election in Ecuador is headed to a run-off, between the ruling Alianza Pais (AP) party and the right-wing CREO party. Current president Rafael Correa of the AP party “is the most popular leader since the country’s return to democracy in 1979“, though given the rightward trend around the world the run-off in April is expected to be a fierce contest.
- A federal appeals court might have upheld a temporary suspension of President Donald Trump’s executive order to restrict travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, but thousands of Haitian refugees remain trapped in Mexico, in legal limbo.