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 30 to November 4, 2017
Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan, in their respective referendums, voted for independence, yet leaders of these independence movements are now dealing with the fallout. In Catalonia, the Spanish government – after the Senate approved these emergency measures – has moved to impose direct rule, and thereafter announced new elections. Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont dispelled rumours that he was seeking asylum in Belgium, and “vowed to accept [the] snap elections called by Spain’s central government“. Elections, however, are “unlikely to put an end to Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades“. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the declaration of independence which followed its referendum triggered a military response by the Iraqi government, and the longtime president of the region Masoud Barzani has resigned.
- Kenyans went to the polls again, after the country’s Supreme Court nullified the presidential election won by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Observers have argued that the withdrawal of opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga – who instead called for rallies and a boycott of the vote, “in protest of the electoral commission” – was a strategic mistake.
- President Uhuru Kenyatta was later declared the winner, though turnout was under 39 per cent.
For “failing to improve the economic situation in a regions shaken by protests“, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI dismissed several of his ministers and top officials. The move also comes as protestors went on trial.
- A suicide bomber in Nigeria killed at least five people. Separately, 15 soldiers were killed in a military raid last week. Terrorist group Boko Haram is said to be responsible, though it “typically never claims responsibility“.
- In Rwanda, “it is illegal to import, produce, use, or sell plastics bags and plastic packaging [except within specific industries]“, and authorities go to great lengths to enforce the ban. Earlier this year, Kenya also passed a ban on plastic bags.
- Bombs in Mogadishu, Somalia, killed at least 17 people. Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the bombings. Two weeks ago, two truck bombings in the same capital city killed at least 358 people.
- A transformer blast in Rajasthan, India killed at least 14 people, triggering protests against the government.
- Having won his country’s snap elections, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe keeps intact his three-month-old cabinet.
- At least 31 people died in Nepal, when “an overcrowded bus swerved off the road and plunged into a river“.
- The collapse of a nuclear test site in North Korea killed at least 200 labourers. A second collapse killed 100 more.
- A Pakistani woman – “forced by her family into an arranged marriage” – intended to give her husband milk with poison mixed in it, but ended up killing him and 12 of his other family members.
- Installation and deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, or Thaad, by the United States in South Korea drew Chinese objections and economic retaliation. Now, China and South Korea have agreed to mend ties after the yearlong stand-off.
- In Iceland, the coalition, centre-right government of incumbent Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson was ousted in an election (the second snap election in a year). It paves the way “for a charismatic young opposition leader to form a left-leaning coalition” (in line with the global emergence of young leaders), in a country which ended 2016 without a government.
- The headless torso of Swedish journalist Kim Wall was found in August this year, and two months later bags containing her head, legs, and clothing were found. Danish submarine inventor Peter Madsen – who was interviewed by Miss Wall on board his home-made vessel, before she was found dead – has now admitted to dismembering the body, though not to murder.
The Middle East
- Six Palestinians were killed, when Israel blew up a tunnel which stretched from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
- In a follow-up, eight militants were reported killed, including an Islamic jihad commander.
- In September, Iraqi Kurds voted in a referendum, in favour of declaring independence from Iraq. A declaration of independence triggered a military response by the Iraqi government, and the longtime president of the region Masoud Barzani has resigned.
- “An airstrike by a Saudi-led military coalition” in Yemen killed at least 29 people. The country is roiled by two separate but overlapping conflicts, between the Yemeni government and al-Qaeda, and between the government and the Houthi minority.
- A United States service member was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
- At least eight people were killed in a lone-wolf terror attack in New York.
- A federal grand jury approved the first charges of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. A former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, was indicted – together with an associate Rick Gates – on 12 counts, “including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering“.
- A member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Jerome Powell, was nominated by President Donald Trump as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. He will replace the present chairman, Janet Yellen.
- Abortions are mostly banned in Argentina, though “laws are widely circumvented, and researchers are finding that the abortion rate in Latin America is far higher than it is in the [United States] and other places where the procedure is legal“. Activists have made abortion drugs more accessible, and medical doctors have also stretched the rules.
- The mysterious death of an activist of the indigenous land rights movement in Argentina, Santiago Maldonado, is raising questions about the complicity of the government, and the struggles of indigenous groups to protect their land.
- In 2015, vast oil reserves were discovered off the coast of Guyana, and by 2018 “five new wells will be pumping out 120,000 barrels of Guyanese crude daily“. To manage this, it has to resolve a border controversy and build up its infrastructure.