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!
June 5 to 10, 2017
What a week it has been for the United Kingdom. The Conservative Party – led by Prime Minister Theresa May, whose future as the leader of the party is in doubt – lost its majority, and the general election has resulted in a hung Parliament. And this election campaign was twice interrupted by the second and third terror attacks in the country in three months. After the third attack – with a van ramming into pedestrians on London Bridge and with stabbings in the nearby Borough Market, killing at least seven – Miss May warned that there was too much tolerance of extremism in the country, saying “enough is enough“. The fight against Islamist terrorism is likely to escalate.
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- President Joseph Kabila – whose final term in office expired five months ago – has refused to hold elections in DR Congo. Economic misery and political conflict are persistent themes throughout the country, perhaps with no end in sight.
- Moroccan police have arrested 40 protestors, including protest leader Nasser Zefzafi, for undermining the state’s security.
- Tens of thousands in Hong Kong gathered for a candlelight vigil “to mark the 28th anniversary of China’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square“. Public commemoration of the event in China is banned.
- For the first time, last year, the number of births in Japan dropped below one million. “About 40 percent fewer children were born in Japan last year than in 1949, at the peak of the country’s post-World War II baby boom“, and even though the effects of a shrinking population have not been felt yet, efforts to encourage families to have more children have not been effective.
- Government forces in the Philippines have been battling a militant group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Thereafter, a man opened fire in a major casino resort in Manila, leaving at least 37 people dead, mostly due to suffocation.
- The European Commission of the European Union put forth a proposal to deepen Eurozone integration. Three steps: To complete a genuine Financial Union, to strengthen the Fiscal Compact, and to ensure democratic accountability with a “minister”.
- The Republic of Ireland is set to have its youngest-ever and first gay prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who is also “the son of an Irish nurse and a doctor from India“. He beat his rival with 60 per cent of the votes.
- In London, in the United Kingdom, a van rammed into pedestrians on London Bridge “before stabbing people in the nearby Borough Market area of bars and restaurants“. Later, these were declared as terrorist incidents. This comes less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a pop concert, in Manchester. In a separate incident, a stabbing occurred in Vauxhall.
- In the United Kingdom, it was discovered that an IT glitch in British Airways (BA) was caused by “a contractor doing maintenance work at a BA data centre“, when the power supply was switched off. Human error, therefore, was to blame.
- In April, when Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May called for a general election, she was expected to significantly increase her parliamentary majority. Now, after “a catastrophic series of unforced errors on the part of the prime minister” – failing to focus on Brexit and not conducting herself competently – the volatile polls are shifting.
The Middle East
- A car bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan last week was followed by a rally against the government, with “hours of angry confrontation between protestors and police”. Streets were later closed , with armed checkpoints and patrols of armoured vehicles.
- Two attacks hit Iran – on its parliament and the tomb of revolutionary founder Ruhollah Khomeini – killing at least 12 people. Sunni extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility, for its first attack in the predominantly Shiite country.
- Later, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Saudi Arabia supported the Islamic State in the attacks.
Five Arab states – Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen – have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. They are accusing the country of “supporting, funding and embracing terrorism, extremism and sectarian organisations“, after weeks of tension. This move is also tied to “Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist movement“, and the alleged spread of violent ideology.
- Forces backed by the United States opened an offensive against Raqqa, Syria, the self-declared caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Most of its leadership has “already fled the city for the more isolated Euphrates River valley“.
- The House of Representatives voted to gut Dodd-Frank financial regulations, seen by Republicans as “the primary driver for anemic economic growth in the United States“. The regulations were put in place by the Obama administration.
- Former director of the FBI James Comey – who was fired in May – testified at an extraordinary Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where he accused President Donald Trump of lying and trying to derail the investigation of former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn. Mr. Trump therefore appears to be guilty of obstruction of justice, and in addition Russia seems to be reason for Mr. Comey’s firing, and Republicans did not have “any good counterarguments to this“.
- The prison system in Brazil is broken, plagued by corruption and turf wars between gangs, and even so they are “only one shard of a fundamentally broken justice system” which allows organised crime to grow, and for inequality to fester. In January this year, at least 120 were killed in prison violence, as gangs fight for control of lucrative drug smuggling routes.
- In Chile, 106 former intelligence agents of the then secret police were sentenced for their involvement “in the kidnappings and disappearances of 16 leftist militants during the [dictatorship of former military ruler Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990]“. State compensation to the families of the victims was also ordered by the judge.
- A survey on armed conflicts ranks Mexico as the second-deadliest country in the world, “with 22,967 homicide victims in 2016“. There are technical issues with the report, though even when the numbers are adjusted, the situation remains a bloody one.