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 21 to 26, 2017
The fight against terror continues, and vehicular attacks have emerged as the preferred modus operandi of operatives in Europe. The death toll in Spain – after a van ploughed into a crowd last week – increased to 15 people. “Thirteen people died in the van rampage on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, while another woman was killed in a separate attack by suspected Islamist militants hours later in the seaside resort in Cambrils“. Police later added to this combined count of 14 the man – whom they shot and killed – who rammed his car into crowds in Barcelona. Investigations are ongoing, as to how his terrorist cell group came together. And Finland experienced its first-ever terrorist attack, as a man stabbed several people and left at least two dead, before he was shot by the police. A teenage Moroccan asylum seeker “confessed to carrying out [the attack] but did not admit to having [a] terrorist motive“. Three other Moroccan men remain under detention.
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- The collapse of a rubbish dump in Guinea left at least eight people dead. The country is “highly vulnerable to seasonal rains, given the lack of urban drainage and the building of homes, many of them ramshackle, on slopes“.
- President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta may have won re-election, yet the opposition – led by opponent presidential candidate Raila Odinga, on his fourth bid for presidency – is demanding that the result be overturned. Small riots and protests first broke out, and later “violence erupted in Odinga strongholds across the country“, as the police got involved.
- In recent months, massive floods and landslides in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal have killed more than 700 people. “It is the worst flooding that some parts of South Asia have seen in decades, with about 24 million people affected“.
- British academic publisher Cambridge University Press was pressured by China “to block online access to hundreds of scholarly articles in [the country]“. It complied, but later reversed its position and reposted the material.
- Typhoon Hato struck Hong Kong and Macau, leaving a trail of destruction. At least 12 died.
- The reported death-toll of the number of children who died in an Indian government hospital last week has risen to more than 60. Contrary to claims by the authorities, the supplier of liquid oxygen to the hospital “cut off shipments … for lack of payment“, and the deaths as a result of the interruption have become a national outrage.
- The derailment of a train in the country left at least 23 people dead. Eight of the train coaches toppled over each other.
- The Supreme Court of India outlawed the practice by Muslim men, “to terminate their marriages in a matter of moments“. Three of five judges on the court said the practice went against the country’s constitutional guarantees of equality.
- An explosion in a shipyard in South Korea killed four workers. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.
- Europe’s contaminated egg scare – originating in the Netherlands – will cost Dutch poultry farmers at least S$53 million.
- A man stabbed several people in Finland, leaving at least two dead. He was later shot by the police.
- At least one person was killed in France, after a car crashed into two bus shelters, but there are “no signs to indicate that the incident was terrorism related“. The 35-year-old driver was arrested at the scene.
- The headless torso of a Swedish journalist Kim Wall – “thought to have died aboard a Danish inventor’s homemade submarine” – was found and identified. The inventor Peter Madsen has been accused of negligent manslaughter.
- The government of the United Kingdom published position papers “laying out its visions and plans for the complex Brexit process“, ahead of the next phase of Brexit negotiations in October later this year.
The Middle East
- In a primetime televised address, American President Donald Trump “opened the door to an increase in … troop numbers in Afghanistan as part of a new strategy for the region“. He argued against a hasty withdrawal, though he had few specifics.
- Fewer Libyan migrants have been entering Italy, but the reasons are not clear. It could be the presence of a new armed group (with links to the country’s government), or pressure by Libyan authorities forbidding rescue in its waters.
Qatar re-established full diplomatic relations with Iran, two months after five Arab countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, in a move likely to “deepen the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in decades“. The countries had issues a list of demands, but Qatar has not complied.
- Canada, Mexico, and the United States began renegotiations on the North American Free-Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
- Seven American sailors were killed in June this year, when an American destroyer collided with a container ship off the waters in Japan. The Navy said it would relieve of duty the two top officers and the senior enlisted sailor of the destroyer. “While the final investigation into the collision is ongoing“, the Navy said the removal process would start. Later in the week, remains of the missing American soldiers were found in flooded compartments of the destroyer.
- The commander of the Seventh Fleet was removed by the United States army, following a loss of confidence.
- Just two months later, another United States destroyer “was involved in a collision with a merchant ship east of Singapore“.
- The United States Secret Service is running out of money, to protect the president and his family. “1,100 agents will exceed caps for the fiscal year on salary and overtime pay“, and its chief is seeking more funding from Congress.
- President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon was ousted, just seven months into the president’s administration.
- Chile’s constitutional court approved a bill “that will allow abortion in some circumstances“, such as when a woman’s life is at risk and in the case of rape. Previously, abortion in the country was criminalised in all circumstances.
- In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has been looking to consolidate his power through the newly-elected constituent assembly. The assembly has moved “to assume the powers of the opposition-dominated congress“, leaving it in legal limbo.