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!
October 2 to 7, 2017
The shooting in Las Vegas which left at least 58 dead – making it the deadliest shooting in modern United States history – may have dominated the headlines, yet the rituals of (terrorist) violence played out in different parts of the world too. A car and a knife terrorist attack in Alberta, Canada left four people injured, while a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” in Marseille, France stabbed two women to death. France remains under a state of emergency (which has been extended six times) after the Paris attacks in November 2015. And in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which also released an audio recording of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said to have been killed in a Russian military airstrike in May this year, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing which killed at least six people.
- With the entry of fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken in Ghana, rates of obesity and related diseases have risen, underscoring “how fast food is changing habits and expanding waistlines” in parts of Africa.
- A plague outbreak – “a mix of bubonic plague, which spreads by infected rats via flea bites, and pneumonic plague spread person-to-person” – in Madagascar has killed at least 24 people. Public meetings were banned.
- Three United States special forces troops were killed in Niger, after an ambush.
- A stampede at a train station in Mumbai, India, left at least 22 people dead.
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced snap elections last week, yet the disapproval rating for his administration – according to a survey – exceed that in favour. His government’s approval ratings have been fluctuating in the past months.
- Two women accused of killing Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, pleaded not guilty to murder.
- A ban of the full Islamic veil, or the burqa, came into effect in Austria. This comes two weeks before the legislative election.
- In defiance of Spanish authorities, tens of thousands in Catalonia turned out to vote in a banned independence referendum, “clashing with police officers sent from outside the region to shut down polling stations and confiscate ballots“.
- Catalan president Carles Puigdemont then declared that about 90 per cent of voters in the referendum had voted yes. In response, Spain said it will do “everything within the law” to prevent Catalonia from declaring independence.
- Last year, the European Commission pressed Ireland to recover taxes from Apple. Now, it is pressing Luxembourg to do the same with Amazon. It is said that both countries, respectively, had charged the companies a corporate tax rate of almost zero.
- In a “likely terrorist act” in Marseille, France – which is still in a state of emergency – a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” stabbed two women to death. He was then shot dead by soldiers.
- In July this year, German lawmakers voted to legalise same-sex marriage. Now, the country celebrated its first gay marriages “as same-sex unions become legal after decades of struggle“.
- Brexit negotiations continued, after Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May delivered a speech in Florence, Italy, last week, though little progress was made “on the key issues of financial settlement, citizens’ rights and the border of Ireland“.
- Mrs. May then delivered her leader’s speech on the final day of Conservative party conference, but a comedian handed her a mock P45 (a form for the termination of employment) on stage, she battled a persistent cough as her voice croaked, and two of the letters on the conference stage backdrop fell off. It was a speech to forget. The prime minister continues to deal with Brexit, having lost her party’s parliamentary majority in June this year.
The Middle East
- The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing which killed at least six in Kabul, Afghanistan.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria released an audio recording of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was said to have been killed in a Russian military airstrike in May. His whereabouts, however, remain “the subject of intense speculation“.
- A car and a knife terrorist attack in Alberta, Canada left four people injured. The suspect is said to be “a Somali refugee who was likely working alone and was known to police for extremist ideology“.
- Verizon Communications, which now owns Yahoo, said an August 2013 hack affected all of its three billion users. Previously, Yahoo had instead said that data from more than one billion user accounts were compromised.
- Contrary to claims by the Trump administration that the government’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has been very satisfactory, shortages of essentials are short, and the death toll is expected to rise.
- Health and human services secretary Tom Price resigned, after racking up hundreds of thousands in taxpayer-paid chartered flights.
- At least 50 were killed and more than 400 victims were taken to the hospital, after a gunman “perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas casino unleashed a shower of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below“. It is deadliest shooting in modern United States history, and the motive for the shooting remains unclear.
- The death toll later increased to 58 people. Motives or motivations of the killer Stephen Paddock remain unknown.
- In Bogota, Colombia, authorities are working to “clean up” neighbourhoods by removing homeless people and those said to be engaged in vices such as prostitution and petty crimes, but there are doubts over the efficacy of these “broken windows policing“.
- As the mystery over so-called health or sonic attacks against American diplomats in Cuba deepens, the United States State Department is pulling more than half of its staff in the country’s American Embassy out.
- Later, in response to the ongoing mystery, 15 Cuban diplomats were expelled from Washington.
- With over 22,000 homicide victims, Mexico was the second-deadliest country in 2016, and 2017 is set to be the country’s deadliest yet. Against a background of violence and inequality – exacerbated by and contributing to “rising distrust in institutions and dissatisfaction with the state of democracy” – there are concerns that Mexico’s social compact is also fraying.