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 9 to 14, 2017
In Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) lost the city of Mosul in July (the country’s second-largest city), and the city of Hawija this week (the militant group’s final urban stronghold in the country. More than 1,000 prisoners determined to be ISIS fighters also surrendered en masse. The group, however, still controls significant territory in neighbouring Syria, including the city of Raqqa, its de facto capital. In Syria this week, a Russian military jet crashed, killing the two crew members on board. “Russia has staged air strikes in Syria in support of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since 2015“, and since then 37 Russian servicemen have been reported killed in action.
- In Africa, two pharmaceutical companies – Cipla and Pfizer – are working with the American Cancer Society to “steeply discount the prices of cancer medicines“. Cancer kills about 450,000 Africans a year, and new attention has been welcomed.
- 22 people in DR Congo were killed by rebels from an Islamist militant group, with its origins in neighbouring Uganda.
- An explosion at a fuel distribution site in Ghana left at least seven people dead, with dozens more injured.
In September, Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the presidential election won by President Uhuru Kenyatta a month earlier, but opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga – over concerns of the national electoral commission – now says he will withdraw from the second presidential election, which arguably “means opposition supporters’ faith in the system is at the point of collapse“. This is because of the ruling by the High Court that a minor candidate will now be allowed to take the place of Mr. Odinga.
- A pneumonic plague outbreak continues to spread in Madagascar. 48 people have been killed, since the first fatality in August. Filthy and unhygienic conditions have facilitated the rate of infection, as the government seeks to clean up cities.
- Last year, more than 10,000 Senegalese migrants made it to Italy. For those who failed, they “often return home reluctantly, embarrassed to see their plans thwarted and money lost or their role as a family breadwinner diminished“. And the journey is no less perilous.
- A collision between a Chinese fishing boat and a Hong Kong oil tanker, off the coast of Japan, left 13 people dead.
- After a train slammed into a broken-down bus in Moscow, Russia, at least 16 people were killed. Road accident mortality rates are high in the country, and in August this year 18 construction workers were killed when their bus plunged into the sea.
- The collapse of a tower crane in South Korea left three workers dead.
- The United States Embassy in Turkey announced the suspension of the issuance of non-immigrant visas in the country.
- In a referendum with 43 per cent turnout, Catalonia declared that 90 per cent of voters were in favour of independence. About a week later, protestors turned up in Barcelona “to rally against plans by separatist leaders to declare Catalonia independent“.
- The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom are moving to the fifth round of Brexit talks – after the fourth, two weeks ago – though the EU has consistently contended that “‘sufficient progress has not yet been made’ on major divorce issues“.
- London, the United Kingdom, “the capital of English poverty“: According to the government’s London’s Poverty Profile, more than one in four Londoners live in poverty (earning less than 60 per cent of the median income).
- In August this year, the headless torso of Swedish journalist Kim Wall was found and identified. Now, “bags containing her head, legs, and clothing” (and weighed down with pieces of metal) were found in the sea near Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Middle East
- The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – which released an audio recording of its leader last week – still controls significant Syrian territory, but forces in Iraq drove ISIS fighters from their “final urban stronghold in [the country], three years after they seized control of nearly a third of [Iraq]“: The city of Hawija. Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, was liberated in July this year.
- Later, more than 1,000 prisoners determined to be fighters of ISIS in Iraq surrendered en masse.
- Prime minister of the State of Palestine Rami Hamdallah chaired the first cabinet meeting in three years, in Gaza.
- Later, Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas “signed a landmark reconciliation deal … in a key step towards ending a decade-long rift“. Egypt has been the broker. Since 2007, both factions have been ruling separately in Gaza and the West Bank.
- With limited access to clean water or sanitation in Yemen, cholera continues to run rampant, with over 770,000 suspected cases.
- Following the deadliest shooting in United States history in Las Vegas last week, the National Rifle Association endorsed a gun-control measure on rapid-fire “bump stock” devices, which was used by the shooter to modify his rifles.
- The Trump administration announced steps to repeal “President Barack Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants“. This Clean Power Plan rollback is based on the argument that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority.
- Wildfires across northern California have killed at least 10 people. The cause of these fires remains unknown. The death toll continues to rise. Thousands of structures and hundreds of thousands of acres have also been burned.
- A guard of a nursery school – said to be mentally ill – in Brazil burned six children and a teacher to death.
- 70 Syrian refugees are set to arrive in Chile, though the Latin American region as a whole has been asked to take more in. Countries in the region have done so historically, though tensions in settlement, support, and integration must be addressed.
- Since the two earthquakes in Mexico, thousands remain homeless, not able to return to their damaged homes.