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!
September 11 to 16, 2017
In the past few weeks, massive floods and landslides plagued Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, and Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and caused severe flooding. This week, natural disasters – in the form of hurricanes, storms, and typhoons – continued to pummel countries. With three active Atlantic hurricanes brewing, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and Puerto Rico, leaving millions vulnerable to flash flooding, strong winds, and even without electricity. In other words, in two weeks, the United States has been hit by two record-breaking hurricanes. Meanwhile, a major storm in the Philippines also left at least four people dead, and there were concerns that it could strengthen into a typhoon and eventually affect Hong Kong too (the city was struck by Typhoon Hato last month), as the Chinese cities of Fujian and Zhejiang braced for Hurricane Talim, the strongest typhoon in the region this year.
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- It took 13 years for 16 member states in Africa to ratify the Maputo Convention – or the 2003 Revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources – but its progressivism and enforcement mechanisms are critical elements.
- Kenya is scheduled to hold a second presidential election on October 17, after the country’s Supreme Court nullified the presidential election won by President Uhuru Kenyatta in August. Now, the opposition party – led by opponent presidential candidate Raila Odinga – is saying that it will not participate unless there are “major reforms to the national electoral commission“.
- Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen’s ruling party lost 22 seats to the main opposition party – the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – in the 2013 general elections, an unprecedented result. Ahead of the elections in 2018, the leader of CNRP has been charged with treason, with a pattern of alleged electoral intimidation, media suppression, and threats of violence.
- A coal mine explosion in Heilongjiang, China, killed at least nine workers.
- In Malaysia, “a fire that blocked the only exit to an Islamic school dormitory killed 23 people“. Most were teenagers.
- Security operations targeting the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar continue, and as Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi too continues to receive global criticism, the United Nations says these disproportionate operations could amount to ethnic cleansing.
- A major storm in Manila, the Philippines, left at least four people dead.
- An upcoming Russian-Belarusian military exercise – Zapad-2017 – are stoking fears “that Moscow may be moving far more troops into Belarus than it intends to withdraw, establishing a permanent military presence there on the border with NATO countries“.
- The third round of Brexit talks concluded, between the European Union and the United Kingdom, though without an agreement “over the size of the [latter’s] ‘divorce bill’” and lingering concerns over the slow pace of the negotiation talks.
- In a significant extension of gay rights in France, “the right of lesbian couples and single women to have access to assisted reproduction” will likely be legislated next year”.
- A windstorm in Germany killed at least three people.
- In Norway, the coalition of Prime Minister Erna Solberg won a narrow victory in the country’s legislative elections. This makes her the first Conservative “to win a second straight mandate in more than 30 years“, though governance will be tough.
The Middle East
- A suicide bomb – claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – near Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least three people.
- An attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Egypt left at least 18 policemen dead.
- The parliament of Iraq, by a majority vote, “rejected Kurdish plans to hold an independence referendum aimed at creating a Kurdish state in Iraq’s northern territory“, and the plans have been labelled as a threat to civil peace and regional security. The Iraqi Kurdish parliament, however, is likely to continue its push for its own state.
- In Palestine, the Palestinian Authority has cracked down on “both the media and expressions of dissent on social media“, and in many instances the stated reasons for arrests by the security services have been perceived to be petty.
The United States commemorated the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
- Hurricane Irma hit Florida and Puerto Rico, weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Hurricane Irma is also one of three active Atlantic hurricanes at the moment, including Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Katia.
- Equifax – “one of three major credit bureaus which collect consumer financial data” – was hacked, and data such as bank and social security numbers of American consumers were breached. The company waited more than a month to notify the 143 million affected.
In Brazil, federal prosecutors have opened “an investigation into the reported massacre of about 10 members [of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon]“. Gold miners are said to have responsible, and had even bragged about the murders.
- Last week in Colombia, former terror group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, unveiled its new political party. It wishes to represent marginalised voters of the rural and peasant classes, but it needs a new leader, and has to further “develop new organisational capacities, including the ability to process internal dissent and debate while maintaining party unity“.
- An 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico, and tsunami waves were also recorded at some coasts.