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 12 to 17, 2017
In the past six months, protests in Venezuela – opposing President Nicolás Maduro Moros’s attempts to rewrite the constitution and to prosecute demonstrators in military tribunals – have raged on. For a long time, moreover, the country has been plagued by longstanding political and economic problems, such as triple-digit inflation, food shortages, and the deadly statistic that about one person is lynched every three days, and in this past week the violent protests have not gone away, as reports have emerged that an exodus of doctors is straining a once-vaunted public-health system. Even Pope Francis has been embroiled in the ongoing humanitarian crisis, as Venezuelan bishops are asking him to challenge the human rights abuses and the disregard for democratic norms. If the pope does start sending tough messages, as per “The Economist“: “It could be a unique opportunity to show the world that he can be as a formidable a critic of left-wing regimes and ideologies as he is of conservative and capitalist ones“.
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- About 15 people are missing in Kenya, “after a seven-storey building collapsed in a [Nairobi] residential area“.
- Fossil remains – about 315,000 years old – were found in Morocco, and therefore it is believed that they belong to “the most ancient modern humans (Homo sapiens) ever found“. These claims, nevertheless, remain in dispute.
- At least 20 people are held hostage in a restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia, “after a suicide bomber rammed a car nearby and militants stormed inside in an attack claimed by Islamist al Shabaab militants“. At least nine were killed by the bomb.
- At least 134 people were killed in Bangladesh, after heavy monsoon rains. Many were from the tribal communities.
- At least seven people were killed in an explosion in a kindergarten in China. The cause of the explosion is unclear.
- Japan’s parliament passed a one-off bill “that enables Emperor Akhito to become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years“. This allows the 83-year-old emperor to pass the throne to the eldest of his three children, Crown Prince Naruhito.
- Four weeks ago, Muslim militants and supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria captured Marawi City in the Philippines, after a government raid went awry. Four weeks on, 200 people have been killed, and “the Philippine military appears to have adopted a strategy of destroying the city to save it, conducting bombing runs at least twice a day“.
- Three months after his detention, leading opposition figure in Russia Alexei Navalny has now been arrested “and sentenced to 15 days in jail for his role in organising an illegal protest“. There were anti-corruption protests in more than 180 cities.
- On the heels of an unproductive meeting with President Donald Trump, the European Union outlined plans “to use funds for defence for first time“, mobilising S$61.9 billion in the next decade. Resources would be pooled, with support for research.
- French centrist Emmanuel Macron has backed up his presidential election victory last month, with an expected win in the parliamentary election. The record low turnout rate in the first round, however, has been blamed on voter fatigue and disillusionment.
- A huge fire broke out in a high-rise apartment in London, the United Kingdom, killing at least 17 people.
The Middle East
- Forces backed by the United States are looking to retake Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, yet war crimes investigators of the United Nations have denounced the “staggering loss of civilian life” as a result of the campaign. At least 300 people have died. Airstrikes and use of white phosphorus, in particular, have intensified.
- War-torn Yemen is enjoying no respite. Suspected cases of cholera have risen to more than 100,000, since an outbreak in April.
- Shareholders of Yahoo officially approved the sale of the company to Verizon, with Yahoo and AOL merging into a combined entity called “Oath”. Ever since interest was expressed, Yahoo has been hit by hacks and compromises of its user accounts.
- Following allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment in Uber, as well as a host of other problems in the past few months, the company’s chief executive Travis Kalanick announced that he would take a leave of absence.
- For the third consecutive quarter – after December 2016 and March 2017 – the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate. It is now 1.25 per cent. Fed policymakers also “forecast US economic growth of 2.2 per cent in 2017“.
- A month after the territory of Puerto Rico filed for a form of bankruptcy, 97 per cent of voters in a referendum voted in favour of statehood, though the turnout rate was only 23 per cent. Furthermore, many are doubting that “Congress will be at all inclined to welcome a state that would have the highest unemployment and poverty rate in the nation“.
- A federal appeals court in California refused to revive President Donald Trump’s travel, but has allowed the government “to conduct internal reviews on vetting procedures“. In March, a federal judge in Hawaii had halted the travel ban.
- A week after former director of the FBI James Comey testified at an extraordinary Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions also testified in front of the same committee, calling the suggestion of his collusion with the Russians during the 2016 United States presidential elections an “appalling and detestable lie”.
- Attacking a congressional baseball team practice in Virginia, a lone gunman shot four people, including a congressman.
- With 60,000 homicides every year, Brazil is one of the world’s murder capitals, and the bloody prison uprisings in the past months have also shown that “the authorities seem incapable of dealing with the problem“.
- Panama became the latest country to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, to establish relations with China, which is seeking “to punish Taiwan’s independent-minded president“. Last December, African island nation Sao Tome also did the same.
- The decision by Goldman Sachs to buy billions worth of Venezuelan government-owned bonds through a broker has rankled many. Venezuelan exiles in the United States are seeking the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro, shaming those aligned with him.
- And as violent protests in Venezuela continue, citizens – including doctors – are flooding into Brazil and Colombia. “The exodus of doctors is exacerbating the already serious strain on [the country’s] once-vaunted public-health system“.