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 18 to 23, 2017
The spotlight this week shifts to Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan, where there are moves for independence. In Catalonia, plans for a referendum in October is set to be approved, even though the Spanish government has said the vote is illegal. Spanish economy minister Luis de Guindos also warned that Catalonia’s gross domestic product could contract by 30 per cent upon secession. In Iraqi Kurdistan last week, likewise, the parliament of Iraq rejected Kurdish plans to hold an independence referendum, and the country’s Supreme Court has also weighed in to order the suspension of the planned referendum on September 25. President of Iraq Fuad Masum, in addition, cancelled his trip to the United States “to jump start an initiative to resolve the crisis [involving the Kurdish independence referendum]“. The countries of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, furthermore, are considering counter-measures against this planned referendum.
“The Economist” argued that while the Kurds do have a case for the right to self-determination, under international law, the Catalan government does not, for it is not colonised, occupied, or oppressed. The newspaper argued that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should instead negotiate a new settlement with Catalonia, “while also offering to rewrite the constitution to allow referendums on secession, but only with a clear majority on a high turnout“. Instead, Mr. Rajoy insists the vote is illegal and unconstitutional.
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- New Angolan president, João Lourenç, was formally sworn in. There are, nonetheless, concerns over his party’s loss of support across the country, as well as contestation over the validity of the official results.
- President of DR Congo Joseph Kabila has refused to hold long-overdue elections, in a country where economic misery and political conflict are persistent themes. World leaders, however, have remained silent throughout this delay.
- Six workers of a textile factory in Bangladesh were killed, after a fire broke out.
- A powerful typhoon in Japan killed at least two people.
- For a second time in September (the first, at the start of the month), North Korea fired a missile over Japan.
- President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his State of the Union Address, outlining “a broad reform plan, covering areas of trade, industry, cybersecurity and democracy as well as his vision for the Future of the Europe“.
- A second snap election was called in Iceland, after a party quit the coalition government. The last election, last year, resulted in no party winning a majority, and the country also ended 2016 without a government.
- An explosion hit a London subway train in London, the United Kingdom, “injuring commuters, sowing panic, disrupting service, and drawing a heavy response from armed police officers and emergency workers“. The police is treating this as a terrorist incident, which could be fifth in the country this year (first in March; second, third, and fourth in May or June).
The Middle East
- A shipwreck off the coast of Libya has left more than 100 migrants missing.
- There is no détente in sight for the three-month-old Qatar-Gulf crisis. Qatar has not complied with the demands from the five Arab countries, and now their diplomats have exchanged heated words at an Arab League meeting, broadcasted on live television.
- Preachers and scholars have been detained or arrested in Saudi Arabia, as authorities said they were uncovering “intelligence activities for the benefit of foreign parties“. New crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is said to be consolidating power.
- Following naval accidents in in June and in August this year – off the waters in Japan and in Singapore, respectively – two more senior Navy officers of the United States were fired due to a “loss of confidence in their ability to command“.
- President Donald Trump delivered his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, focusing on Iran and North Korea.
- Having been hit by Hurricane Irma last week, Puerto Rico is now devastated by Hurricane Maria. Power has been knocked out.
- In a post-conflict phase, Colombia is looking to shape a post-conflict justice system to address “many individual rights violations and atrocities” across the past 50 years, and both army and FARC members must be held accountable.
- A mystery is brewing in Cuba, as American (and some Canadian) diplomats have experienced so-called health or sonic attacks in their rooms, with some having mild traumatic brain injury (or concussion), and others permanent hearing loss. “The cases vary deeply“, with different symptoms and recollections. The United States first acknowledged these attacks in August, this year.
- Hurricane Maria devastated the small Caribbean island nation of Dominica.
- Hundreds were killed in Mexico City, Mexico, after a major 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck. This comes just two weeks after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck the country, with some tsunami waves recorded then.