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 28 to September 2, 2017
Business and political leaders were ousted in Asia, in the past week. In the business world, in South Korea, heir apparent of Samsung Lee Jae-Yong – in a scandal linked to former impeached President Park Geun-hye – was convicted of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison. In the political world, in Hong Kong, two disqualified Hong Kong lawmakers had their appeal contesting this disqualification dismissed, and both still face unlawful assembly charges (two weeks after three pro-democracy student leaders were jailed for between six and eight months for unlawful assembly). And in Thailand, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra fled the country before the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant in a negligence case against her.
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- A transfer of power has happened in Angola, from President José Eduardo dos Santo – after almost 38 years at the helm – to defence minister and dos Santos ally João Lourenç. The latter and his party won 61 per cent of the vote.
- Kenya passed a ban on plastic bags, with the threat of jail terms and fines. “Enforcement would initially be directed at manufacturers and suppliers“, in an attempt to reduce plastic pollution.
- Massive floods and landslides continue to plague Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, with at least 1,000 people dead, 41 million affected.
- China and India agreed to withdraw forces from an ongoing stand-off in the Himalayas, though China portrayed the “expeditious disengagement” as India’s decision, “perhaps in an effort to make [it] appear stronger“.
- Disqualified Hong Kong lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung were barred from taking their seats, after refusing to swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in October last year. This time, the city’s highest court dismissed their appeal contesting this disqualification. Both still face unlawful assembly charges.
- The Supreme Court of India unanimously ruled – against the government – that individual privacy is a fundamental right. The verdict is likely to impact the policy of Aadhaar, on the mandatory use of national identity cards.
- Controversial Indian guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was found guilty of raping two of his followers. Following this news of his verdict, his followers then clashed with police officers, leaving at least 17 people killed.
- He was later sentenced to 20 years in prison. By then, at least 36 people were killed in the violence which followed.
- Ongoing fighting in Myanmar has left at least 32 people dead. “The attacks mark a dramatic escalation in a conflict simmering in Rakhine since last October“, and it has been alleged that Rohingya militants were responsible this time too.
- North Korea fired a missed over Japan. President Donald Trump later warned that “all options are on the table”.
- 18 people were killed in Russia, after a bus carrying construction workers plunged into the sea.
- Heir apparent of Samsung Lee Jae-Yong, in South Korea, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison. He was arrested and charged in February this year, in a case linked to the scandal involving former impeached President Park Geun-hye. Mr. Lee is said to have offered bribes to her, resulting in “one of the longest prison terms given to a South Korean business leader“.
- Former Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra fled the country, before the Supreme Court “issued an arrest warrant after she failed to attend the court for the verdict in a negligence case brought against her by the ruling junta“.
- A man wielding a knife and shouting “Allahu Akbar” in Belgium was shot dead by soldiers. Authorities are treating this as a terrorist attack. Two weeks ago in Spain, 15 people were killed in a terrorist attack, as a van ploughed into a crowd.
- President of France Emmanuel Macron reached 100 days of being in office, and the verdict is mixed. He might have performed well abroad – “on foreign affairs and long-term issues” – yet his day-to-day domestic or political performance has not kept up.
- This slide in support is leaving him as “the most unpopular French president in decades after the first 100 days in office“.
The Middle East
- In Saudi Arabia, more than two million Muslims began their haj pilgrimage
- The United Nations is calling the situation in Yemen “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis“. The country has been ravaged by cholera, an economic crisis, as well as two separate but overlapping (geo)political conflicts, between the Yemeni government and terrorist group al-Qaeda, and between the government and the Houthi minority.
- Canadian citizens “who do not identify as male or female will soon be able to mark ‘X’ on their passports and other identity documents“, indicating that their sex is unspecified.
- President Donald Trump pardoned the former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who detained suspected undocumented immigrants in defiance of a court order to stop. Criticism is building, according to “The New York Times“.
- Hurricane Harvey, the strongest storm to hit the United States, hit Texas and caused severe flooding.
- Two ferry wrecks in Brazil left at least 43 people dead. Three days of mourning were decreed by the state government.
- A week after the country’s constitutional court ended an absolute ban on abortions, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet introduced a bill to legalise gay marriage. “It is unlikely Miss Bachelet will be able to push the measure through Congress before she ends her term in March 2018“, though advocates have nevertheless celebrated the decision.