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 26 to July 1, 2017
Disasters and accidents dominated the headlines in the past week. In Asia, Pakistan was rocked by an oil tanker explosion (which killed at least 141 people) as well as blasts and a gun attack (which killed at least 50 people), while in China a landslide in Sichuan – the province rocked by one of the deadliest earthquakes back in 2008, which left over 69,000 people dead – left many missing and dead. And in the rest of the world: In Colombia, a tourist boat carrying 150 people sank, leaving many dead and unaccounted for; and in the United Kingdom, the government is relocating residents away from high-rise buildings clad in the same combustible material as Grenfell Tower.
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- Eritrea – against the wishes of its rival neighbour, Ethiopia – is emerging “from more than a decade of international isolation“, and its government is also benefiting from regional developments, such as the ongoing conflicts in Yemen.
- The Pentagon said it has won the war against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda – a rebel group and Christian cult led by Joseph Kony – yet even though fewer than 80 armed fighters remain, Kony has not been captured, with no knockout blow.
- A landslide in Sichuan, China – likely caused by heavy rainfall – left many missing and dead.
- Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo – arrested in 2008 for the pro-democracy manifesto Charter 08, and later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 – “has been released on medical parole after he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer“.
At least 50 were killed in blasts and a gun attack in Pakistan, with no immediate claim of responsibility.
- At least 141 people were burnt alive in Pakistan, “after an oil tanker caught fire and exploded“.
- Choi Soon-sil, confidante to former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who was alleged to have meddled in state affairs despite holding no government position, has been sentenced to three years in jail. This is but the first ruling against her.
- At the European Union summit, the Permanent Structured Cooperation was launched to “set up a European Defence Fund to help build defence research and military capability“, in addition to other moves for defence cooperation.
- After the fire at Grenfell Tower in the United Kingdom – the deadliest in decades – which killed at least 79 people, the government is scrambling “to conduct safety checks on at least 600 other high-rise buildings” which may be clad in the same combustible material. Such cladding is permitted under British regulations, even though safety experts have advised otherwise.
- The government later added that “800 households will be evacuated from five apartment towers“, to remove combustible cladding.
- After losing her majority in Parliament, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May propped up her minority government “with the support of a small Northern Irish Protestant party“, the Democratic Unionist Party.
The Middle East
- 90 per cent of Mosul, Iraq has been recaptured by government forces supported by coalition airstrikes, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria appears on the brink of defeat. Its militants blew up the Grand al-Nuri Mosque and its famous leaning minaret, where three years ago their “leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled ‘caliphate’“.
- Muhammad bin Salman is now the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and observers will now look to his geopolitical moves – on the row with Qatar and on the ongoing war in Yemen – and his ability to reform the country economically.
- After five Arab countries – including Saudi Arabia – cut ties with Qatar, they have now issued “a steep list of demands … to end the crisis“, including the shutdown of broadcaster Al Jazeera, the cutting of diplomatic ties to Iran, and the closure of a Turkish military base in Qatar. The country has 10 days to comply with these 13 demands.
- In response, the foreign minister of Qatar said the demands were “unacceptable“.
- In Yemen, in the fight against the Houthi rebels, senior American defence officials have acknowledged that their forces “have been involved in interrogations of detainees, [but] denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses“. The government of the United Arab Emirates – which run these secret prisons – has also denied the allegations.
- A month after the “WannaCry” ransomware attack, when cyberextortionists hit users with software stolen from the United States National Security Agency, another global ransomware attack – “Petya” – has hit companies around the world.
- Judges in California and in Hawaii halted President Donald Trump’s travel ban, but the United States Supreme Court allowed the ban to go into effect for those from the six countries who do not already have ties to the United States.
- It took Republicans in the House of Representatives two tries – the first in March and the second in May – to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Congressional Budget Office found that the Senate’s version of the healthcare bill “would leave 22 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2026 than under Obamacare“.
- Later, however, the Senate postponed the vote because the Republicans did not have enough support.
- A tourist boat carrying 150 people in Colombia sank, leaving many dead and missing.
In Peru, opposition-controlled Congress ousted the outgoing finance minister “over accusations he tried to pressure the comptroller to approve a controversial contract“, leading the country’s Prime Minister Fernando Zavala to be sworn in as finance minister.
- Four grenades were dropped on the Supreme Court in Venezuela, denounced by President Nicolás Maduro as a “terrorist attack“. The president himself – who has postponed elections – is deeply unpopular, and demonstrations have stretched for weeks.