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 31 to August 5, 2017
In Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from office by the country’s Supreme Court after a damning corruption probe. Allegations against Mr. Sharif stemmed from disclosures from the Panama Papers leak – millions of leaked documents detailing offshore business entities and shell corporations – which then led to the resignation of the Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, in April 2016. This also makes Mr. Sharif the second political casualty of these disclosures, which mentioned the names of three of his six children, “determined to have purchased luxury properties in London using offshore holdings“. And in Japan, Defence Minister Tomomi Inada resigned, after a series of gaffes, missteps, and a cover-up, and amid plummeting public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
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- The loss of fertile land in Africa has been exacerbated by climate change and soil degradation. “The New York Times” published a feature: “Poor herders, rich landowners, large- and small-scale farmers, commercial cattle ranchers, tour operators, passionate wildlife activists, elephants, lions, hyenas, cows, goats, and zebras are all competing for the same space“.
- Amnesty International has documented over 100 cases “of arrest and torture of civilians” by security forces in Cameroon, in their bid to gather more intelligence about the terrorist group Boko Haram.
- Ahead of a presidential election next week, a senior election official in Kenya was found tortured and murdered.
- At least 34 people were killed in Madagascar, “when a bus carrying young Christian worshippers plunged down a steep ravine“.
- A car bomb in Somalia, near a police station, killed at least six people.
- Two people were killed in South Africa, following a crush of football fans in a stadium. “Local media reports suggested fake tickets had gone on sale, while some analysts said fans have a tendency to enter stadiums late“.
- Australian authorities said “they had stopped an allegedly Islamist-inspired ‘terrorist plot’ to bring down an airplane with an improvised explosive [device]“, with the arrest of four men in a series of raids.
- Japan’s Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said she was resigning, “after a series of gaffes, missteps and a cover-up at her ministry [over the situation in South Sudan] that have contributed to a sharp plunge in public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe“. Support for the prime minister is now under 30 per cent, and public opinion continues to fall.
- North Korea launched a ballistic missile – which flew for 45 minutes – which travelled further than its first intercontinental ballistic missile, then its most successful missile test, launched earlier in July.
- Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from office by the country’s Supreme Court, “after a damning corruption probe into his family wealth, cutting short his third stint in power“. A criminal investigation would be launched.
- The ousted prime minister later named his younger brother as his successor “and nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim premier“. This younger brother now needs to be elected from his provincial seat, to the national assembly.
- In response to proposed American sanctions, Russia seized two United States properties and ordered embassy staff reductions. President Vladimir Putin then said that more than “750 American diplomats will have to leave Russia“.
- Four people standing trial in Russia were killed in a gunfight, which “broke out in the court building“.
- Eight people were killed in Vietnam, after a fire in a small cake factory.
- Previously, the Visegrád countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – were taken to task by the European Commission for not complying with the refugee relocation scheme. Now, the European Court of Justice has ruled that this relocation plan (decided in September 2015) is legal, after “Hungary and Slovakia had filed a case against the scheme“.
- A man wielding a knife, in Germany, stormed into a supermarket and killed one person. One of the deadliest attacks in the country left 12 dead, in December last year, when a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market.
The Middle East
- In Afghanistan, at least 29 worshippers were killed by suicide bombers, who opened fire before blowing themselves up.
- Two American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, when a Taliban suicide bomber “rammed his vehicle into a NATO convoy“.
- In a repeal to be endorsed by the Senate and King Abdullah II, the Parliament in Jordan voted “to revoke a law allowing rapists to evade criminal prosecution if they marry their victims“. Similar marry-your-rapist laws, however, still exist around the world.
- Following the resignation of White House communications director Sean Spicer last week, chief of staff Reince Priebus resigned.
- And just 10 days into his appointment, and a week after Mr. Spicer’s resignation, the new communications director Anthony Scaramucci was fired, at the request of new White House chief of staff John Kelly.
- The plan by the Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare – dubbed the “skinny” repeal – was rejected in a Senate, by a vote of 49-51. Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sided with the Democrats.
- President Donald Trump signed the legislation imposing sanctions on Russia, passed by Congress last week.
- In a strike against the gangs in El Salvador, prosecutors ordered “the arrests of some 593 people nationwide on suspicion of crimes like homicide and extortion“. There are, however, human-rights concerns over these arbitrary detentions.
- The government of Venezuela called for a vote, “to elect a special assembly to rewrite the 1999 constitution“.
- Venezuelans then voted on this 545-member citizens’ “Constituent Assembly”, “empowered to dissolve the opposition-controlled congress and change laws as it reforms the nation’s constitution“. Electoral officials reported a turnout rate of 41.5 per cent, though the opposition coalition “refused to recognise the election“. A software company involved in setting up the voting systems said false turnout figures were reported by the government. The vote also left a candidate shot dead.
- Two opposition leaders were later taken from their homes, by state security agents.