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!
August 14 to 19, 2017
During the first debate of the United States presidential election last year, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said: “Words matter. Words matter when you run for president, and they really matter when you are president”. One year on, having just unsettled many with his bellicose rhetoric towards North Korea last week – threatening to unleash “fire and fury” and further adding that the country could “be in trouble like few nations ever have been” – President Donald Trump’s reaction to a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, has been criticised. While he eventually denounced the neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as criminals and thugs, he was slammed with his initial remarks that there were “many sides” involved, and in fact later in the week, the president went on to defend his initial remarks over the protests, by laying “blame on both sides” for the violence which transpired.
And words matter too beyond the United States. In chaotic Venezuela, where President Nicolás Maduro seeks to consolidate power through a new constituent assembly, Mr. Trump’s threat of a military solution has only emboldened Mr. Maduro to attack the opposition.
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- Suspected militants in Burkina Faso left at least 18 people dead, as the police and the army arrived at the scene.
- The opposition in Kenya – after the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta last week – is demanding that the result be overturned. They insist that the elections were “manipulated“, and there has been post-election unrest in some areas.
- Three women suicide bombers killed at least 28 people in Nigeria.
- Massive landslides in Sierra Leone – after heavy rains – killed hundreds, and the death toll is expected to rise.
- The death toll from the earthquake in China last week has risen to at least 24.
- A tornado also struck the country, killing at least five people and injuring more than 50.
- As part of new United Nations sanctions, China will “halt imports of coal, iron, iron ore, and seafood from North Korea“.
- The outbreak of contaminated eggs within Europe has spread to Asia, with Hong Kong receiving some of such eggs.
- For “unlawful assembly“, three pro-democracy student leaders in the city were jailed for between six and eight months.
- 30 children – ranging from babies to 12-year-olds – died in an Indian hospital. Authorities have “denied accusations … that the deaths were due to an oxygen shortage [when] a private supplier withdrew its equipment over unpaid hospital dues“.
- A massive landslide in the country – “when tonnes of rock and mud swept away an entire stretch of highway into a deep gorge” – left at least 47 people dead. The army and rescue teams had struggled to reach the passengers.
- “A law criminalising the [ancient Hindu] practice of banishing women to huts during their periods” has been passed in Nepal.
- Floods and landslides in the country have killed at least 91 people. Thousands of homes were destroyed.
- A bomb explosion in Pakistan – with “no immediate claim of responsibility” – killed at least 15 people.
- A widespread power outage in Taiwan left 6.68 million households and commercial units without electricity. The cut in power supply was “due to an apparent ‘human error’ at a key power plant“, and President Tsai Ing-wen apologised for the blackout.
- A car ploughed into a pizzeria in France, killing one. “Early indications were that it was not an act of terrorism“.
- 13 people in Portugal were crushed to death, “when a 200-year-old oak tree fell on them at a religious festival“.
- At least 13 people were killed in Spain, when “the driver of a van plowed into a crowd“, in what is becoming a familiar terrorist modus operandi in Europe. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility within hours of the attack.
- Hours later, six civilians and one police officer were injured, in a second car rampage.
The Middle East
- At least 21 were killed, following a collision between two passenger trains in Egypt.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under investigation for possible fraud, breach of trust, and bribery, and he is now accusing “the press, the opposition, and members of his own party” of conspiring to bring him down.
- The world’s oldest living man Israel Kristal, who survived Auschwitz, died in Israel at 113 years and 330 days.
- In Libya, Doctors Without Borders said “it is temporarily suspending the activity of its rescue ship due to alleged threats from Libya’s coast guard“. Other rescue groups have allegedly been pressured to sign on to rules forbidding rescue in Libyan waters.
- Cholera has ravaged Yemen. The World Health Organisation said more than 500,000 Yemenis have been infected in 2017, causing the deaths of nearly 2,000. Moreover, “over 30,000 doctors and nurses … have gone unpaid for more than a year“.
- A clash between white nationalists or white-supremacist marchers and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to rally dispersals, fights, and the declaration of a state of emergency. President Donald Trump later read a statement on the violence, but did so “without specifically mentioning or faulting the role of white nationalists“.
- With the ramming of a car into a crowd of protestors and the crash of a state police helicopter, three people were left dead.
- Later, following public and political pressure, Mr. Trump “denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as criminals and thugs“.
- A mid-term primary election in Argentina, involving former President Cristina Fernandez, is seen a test for the electorate’s “appetite for bringing back [the former president’s] left-wing populism” and also the popularity of President Mauricio Macri.
- At least seven were killed in Guatemala, “after suspected gang members attacked a hospital“.
- Endemic corruption has been a persistent problem in Mexico, and in the past five months “three state governors have been arrested abroad while trying to escape justice“, and in general too most Mexicans perceive the state and federal government as being deeply corrupt and therefore unable to resolve these issues.