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!
July 24 to 29, 2017
From one geopolitical flash point to another: Last week, the focus was on the ongoing stand-off between Bhutan, China, and India in the Himalayas, in Doka La. This week, attention shifts to the Middle East, where tensions are escalating over the Israeli decision – prompted by the shooting of two Israeli policemen – to install metal detectors at entry points to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. In addition, security cameras have also been installed, and President … “suspended all contacts between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government … in protest of the metal detectors“, and both the United Nations Security Council and the Arab League have weighed in. There was also an attack in a West Bank settlement, which left three Israelis and three Palestinians dead, and a shooting at the Israeli embassy in Jordan left the two Jordanian attackers dead.
Later, the security cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted to remove the metal detectors, and to also use less obtrusive surveillance technologies. The new equipment and the additional police officers will also be paid for.
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President of DR Congo Joseph Kabila has refused to hold elections since the end of last year, and while he has blamed the present situation on an ongoing economic crisis, the people of the country say he is looking to instead extend his 16-year rule, to enrich himself.
- In Uganda, a randomised controlled trial – to pay landowners small sums not to cut down their trees, so as to slow the pace of deforestation – has found that the programme “was a remarkably low-cost way of slowing climate change“.
- A traffic collision in China – between a bus and a lorry – left 11 people dead and nine others injured.
- Former lawyer and state governor Ram Nath Kovind was sworn in as the 14th President of India, a largely ceremonial role.
- A suicide bomber killed at least 25 people in Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility. In February, an apparent Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 13 people, after a Taliban-claimed bomb blast killed at least 24 in January.
- Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to extend martial rule over Marawi City in the Philippines, which was captured by Muslim militants. Congress then voted to retain martial law, until the end of the year.
- Torrential rain in South Korea left at least one dead. There were also blackouts in many cities.
- A dengue fever outbreak in Sri Lanka has claimed nearly 300 lives, also forcing schools to shut down. It is “the country’s worst-ever outbreak of the disease as the number of dengue cases topped 100,000“, double the figures last year.
- Since the departure of United Nations peacekeepers in 2012, the first parliamentary election was successfully, held in Timor Leste, resulting in another coalition comprised of “the two governing parties“. Overall turnout was over 76 per cent.
- Following a row with the military over budget cuts, chief of the armed forces in France General Pierre de Villiers resigned. “The French opposition held [President Emmanuel Macron] chiefly responsible for the row“, and has been criticised.
- Lawmakers in Poland voted to fire every judge on the Supreme Court. “Tens of thousands of Poles protested” against this move which would put the courts under the direct control of the government. As a consequence, the European Union said it is “coming very close to triggering Article 7” over the erosion of the rule of law, which could result in sanctions against Poland.
- President Andrzej Duda later said he will veto the controversial law.
The Middle East
- An American airstrike in Afghanistan killed 16 Afghan police forces. Civilians in the province of Kunduz were also killed in an American airstrike in November last year, with the possibility that the United States had thus committed war crimes.
New American sanctions were slapped on Iran. The United States accused the country “of testing and developing ballistic missiles ‘in direct defiance’ of a [United Nations] Security Council resolution“, decried by Iran as a “worthless act”.
A week after two Israeli policemen were shot and killed in Jerusalem, six people – three Israelis and three Palestinians – were killed “in what appeared to be a terrorist attack in a West Bank settlement“. Metal detectors were introduced after the two attacks.
In Jordan, a shooting at the Israeli embassy left two Jordanians dead and one Israeli wounded. “Initial checks suggested that the two Jordanian men had entered the embassy compound as workmen“, and many Jordanian citizens are of Palestinian origin.
- In response, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said contact with Israel would be frozen.
- Authorities in Europe and the United States “shut down two of the largest online black markets, AlphaBay and Hansa Market, and arrested their operators“. Both markets were successors to the first market, Silk Road, which was taken down in 2013.
At least nine people – among “dozens of undocumented immigrants … in the back of a tractor-trailer“, in Texas – were found dead. The other people sandwiched behind suffered from heat strokes or heat injuries, with the likelihood of long-term brain damage.
White House communications director Sean Spicer resigned.
- Congress Democrats and Republicans reached agreement on legislation which “would limit any potential effort by President Donald Trump to try to lift sanctions against Moscow“, or any actions which would alter foreign policy in relation to Russia.
- Senior advisor to President Donald Trump Jared Kushner, in a first public explanation, denied any collusion with Russia.
- A marijuana legalisation law took full effect in Uruguay, thereby becoming “the first nation in the world to fully legalise the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use“, and signalling a broader move from prohibition to regulation.
- New sanctions were announced by the United States against President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro and his government officials, both former and present. Further economic measures have been threatened, if he “follows through with plans [to] rewrite the country’s constitution“. The ongoing crisis has even prompted the United Nations, last week, to weigh in.
- Opposition leaders – after an informal referendum last week – are calling “for a 48-hour strike to keep the pressure on“.