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!
May 1 to 6, 2017
Protestors – led by the opposition parties – took to the streets in Venezuela to demonstrate against President Nicolás Maduro Moros and his plan to bypass the opposition-controlled Congress, by rewriting the constitution with a new “constituent assembly”. The country has been plagued by longstanding political and economic problems, and even with presidential elections due there appears to be no end in sight in the near future. In France, ahead of the election run-off on May 7, the two presidential candidates courted votes on May Day, but masked protestors in Paris also threw firebombs at police, during an annual trade union demonstration which turned violent. And in Russia, “Foreign Policy” reported that there were over 200 protests last year over work-related issues, and while do not yet pose a threat, recent large-scale demonstrations should still worry President Vladimir Putin.
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- “Food markets in the informal sector are a vital source of both food and income for Africa’s urbanites”, and this reliance on the informal economy in Africa has to be better managed, through institutionalisation and collaborative policies.
- Lake Tanganyika in Africa is one of the oldest lakes in the world, but was recently declared the “Threatened Lake of 2017”, given the combined threats of excess sedimentation, overfishing, climate change, and the search for oil and gas deposits.
- The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India – which secured a stunning electoral mandate in Uttar Pradesh last month – is proposing “a measure to identify cows using an electronic ID system”. In the meantime, religious minorities involved in the cow trade have been victims of attacks of “cow vigilantism”, in a country where the animal is sacred.
- Two young Taiwanese trekkers wandered off a trail in Nepal after a snowstorm. One appeared to have died of starvation, while the other was rescued after 47 days, surviving on salt and melted snow.
- There were more than 200 protests last year in Russia, over work-related issues, though they do not yet pose a threat to the regime. The biggest anti-government demonstrations in years also broke out in the country in March.
- The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad system, deployed in South Korea is close to becoming operational.
- With tensions high between Europe and Russia, the European Union’s top diplomat paid a landmark visit to Moscow.
- Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are headed to an election run-off in France, and as they courted votes on May Day “masked demonstrators threw firebombs at police in Paris before being dispersed by tear gas“.
The Middle East
- 35 miners were killed in a coal mine explosion in Iran.
- The battle for Mosul, Iraq, rages on, and while coalition airstrikes have accounted for the extensive loss of territory by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, they have also claimed the lives of innocent civilians. Investigations have not kept up.
- Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas tried to present a more moderate public face, unveiling “a new policy document easing its stance on Israel after having called for years for the country’s destruction“.
- It is one of the world’s worst places to be a woman – ranking 141th out of 144 countries, in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report – but Saudi Arabia was elected to be a part of the Commission on the Status of Women.
- Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló said he would move the island’s debt crisis into federal bankruptcy court, “making it the largest government to seek refuge from its creditors in United States history”.
- After weeks of intense negotiations Congress passed a temporary budget bill, giving themselves a one-week extension, and the broad spending package is likely “to fund the government through the end of September”.
- House Republicans, by a vote of 217-213, narrowly passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
- 20 were killed in Colombia, after a residential building collapsed.
- Political and economic instability have plagued Venezuela, and demonstrations have continued as President Nicolás Maduro Moros seeks to rewrite the constitution with a new “constituent assembly”, so as to “bypass the opposition-controlled Congress“.