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 19 to 24, 2017
Terrorism continues to rear its ugly head around the world. In Belgium, a terror suspect was shot after he triggered an explosion. In France, two months after a police officer was killed during a shooting incident, a man on a jihadist watchlist rammed into a police van in Paris. In Mali, suspected terrorists killed at least two people in a tourist resort, after briefly seizing hostages. And in the United Kingdom, a van drove into a crowd near a mosque in London, killing at least one person and injuring at least 10 others. There was, however, a bright spot in the Central African Republic, where the Roman Catholic Sant’ Egidio peace group mediated a peace deal – in a bid to end an ethnic and religious conflict which has already killed thousands – between the government and 13 of 14 armed groups in the country.
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- In a deal mediated by the Roman Catholic Sant’ Egidio peace group, the government of the Central African Republic and 13 of 14 armed groups in the country “signed an accord aimed at ending an ethnic and religious conflict that has killed thousands of people“. There are doubts as to whether the deal would douse ongoing crises, though it is a constructive first step.
- Suspected terrorists in Mali killed at least two people, when they stormed a tourist resort. Hostages were also briefly seized. The country’s Ministry of Security and Civil Protection blamed “armed individuals, certainly terrorists“.
- S$918,180 for a parking lot in Hong Kong, “the latest sign of a property market run amok“, and driving further discontentment.
- Tensions between fishermen in India and Sri Lanka – in particular, over the use of trawlers and the right to fish – reflect deeper problems, in a world where “85 per cent of global fisheries [and] in full or near depletion“.
- American college student Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in North Korea, after he was caught trying to steal a propaganda poster. He returned home in a coma – a condition he was in for more than a year – and later died.
- Kazakhstan spent billions to host the World’s Fair, but it has been unable to draw in visitors. The remote location is part of the reason, though the concept of the expo itself “has largely dropped off the radar of the Western public“.
- A terror suspect was shot in Belgium, after an explosion in the central train station of Brussels.
- The European Commission voted in favour “of a formal infringement procedure against the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland“, which have not complied with a legally binding refugee relocation scheme. Respectively, they have taken in 12, zero, and zero refugees, though the general question – on how to address the non-stop influx of refugees or migrants – remains unanswered.
- After winning the presidential election last month, and the first round of the parliamentary election, President of France Emmanuel Macron “redrew France’s political map with a resounding victory in parliamentary elections“. The sweep fell short of an expected landslide, though Mr. Macron’s party and its centrist ally won 350 out of 577 seats, an absolute majority.
- In a car loaded with guns and a gas bottle, a man on a jihadist watchlist rammed into a police van in Paris, France. He died in the incident, and no one else was injured. In April, a police officer was killed during a shooting incident.
- Former chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl – who “pushed through German reunification and was a driving force behind the creation of the euro“, and also for European integration – died at the age of 87.
- With a heat wave causing temperatures to rise above 40 degrees Celsius, raging forest wildfires in Portugal have killed at least 61 people, “including at least 30 motorists who were trapped in their cars“.
- A van drove into a crowd near a mosque in London, the United Kingdom, killing at least one person and injuring at least 10 others. Treated as a terrorist incident, and this is the fourth attack in the country in three months.
- A week after a huge fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in London, the United Kingdom, 79 people are believed to have died.
The Middle East
- Despite opposition that the transfer of the islands was linked to a transfer of “billions of dollars in Saudi aid given to [the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi]“, Egypt’s parliament – said to be packed with the president’s supporters – voted to ratify a 2016 agreement to transfer the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.
- However, Egypt’s top constitutional court later ruled to halt all verdicts on the islands-transfer deal.
- After five Arab states cut diplomatic ties, and after President Donald Trump accused the country of being a sponsor of terrorism, Qatar said it signed a S$16.6 billion deal “to buy F-15 fighter jets from the United States“.
- Saudi Arabia King Salman named his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince, removing powers from the previous prince Mohammed bin Nayef. According to the decree, the latter was also “fired from his post as interior minister“.
- The United States shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter last week, and in response Russia said “it would treat US-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft“. Meanwhile, an offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Raqqa, Syria continues.
- Electronic commerce company Amazon will buy supermarket chain Whole Foods for S$19 billion dollars.
- A week after announcing that he would take a leave of absence, Uber’s chief executive Travis Kalanick stepped down from his position. Five shareholders had demanded for his resignation, after “a shareholder revolt“.
- Canada is attempting to curb its house-price boom, especially with household debt climbing “to almost 170 per cent of post-tax income“. The demand for safe assets such as houses from emerging markets like China provides some explanation.
- Seven sailors were killed, when an American destroyer collided with a container ship, off the waters in Japan.
- President Donald Trump, in a rollback of parts of former President Barack Obama’s historic opening, “ordered tighter restrictions on Americans travelling to Cuba and a clampdown on US business dealings with the Caribbean island’s military“. Mr. Trump criticised the country’s human rights record, even though he did leave in place many of Mr. Obama’s changes.
- A mall explosion in Colombia – described as a “cowardly terrorist act” – killed at least three people.
- Using spyware originally intended for counter-terrorism and to battle drug cartels or criminal groups, the government of Mexico is said to have targeted “prominent human rights lawyers, journalists, and anti-corruption activists“. It is unlikely that the government received judicial approval for these hacks, and it has also denied any wrongdoing.