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!
November 27 to December 2, 2017
In one of the deadliest terrorist attack on civilians in Egypt’s modern history, more than 300 people were killed in an unprecedented attack after militants – said to be carrying a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – launched a bomb and gun attack on a mosque. ISIS quickly claimed credit thereafter. The group has targeted Sufis, “who practice a mystical form of Islam that includes the veneration of saints“, and in general Sufi sites and worshippers in Asia and the Middle East have been longstanding targets of extremists such as ISIS, and a commentary in “The Conversation” mooted two possible reasons: First, the deliberate flouting of “Islamic conventions of their peers”; and second, that “many Muslims, not just militants, consider shrine devotion as superstitious and idolatrous”.
- Following a CNN report that African migrants in Libya have been held and sold as slaves, Rwanda is offering refuge to these migrants.
- In spite of the country’s poor overall economic performance in the period between 2008 and 2014, urbanisation in South Africa lifted almost 400,000 citizens above the poverty line. Conditions for migration, however, can still be improved.
- About 11 per cent of medical drugs in developing countries – especially in sub-Saharan Africa – “are counterfeit and likely responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of children from diseases like malaria and pneumonia every year“, according to the World Health organisation. These counterfeit drugs do not have regulatory approval, or have failed to meet quality standards.
- A building explosion killed at least two people in China.
- The erupting Mount Agung in Bali, Indonesia hurled “clouds of white and dark gray ash about 3,000m into the atmosphere“, and in response authorities have raised the alert level and ordered a mass evacuation of up to 100,000 people.
- 19 people in Indonesia – mostly caught under a landslide – were also killed by a tropical cyclone.
- 89 per cent of Indonesian children are in schools, but the performance outcomes of the education system remain lacklustre.
- North Korea launched a ballistic missile again, into the waters off Japan. This was the first missile in 10 weeks.
- As police and paramilitary troops moved to end a two-week protest in Pakistan – where protestors are demanding “the resignation of the country’s law minister for what it considers blasphemy after amended parliamentary bills weakened rules that require lawmakers to reference the Prophet Mohammed when taking their oaths” – at least two people were killed.
- A blast targeting police vehicles in Quetta, Pakistan left at least four people dead.
- Heavy floods in Thailand killed at least five people, all of whom drowned.
- A blogger in Vietnam was sentenced to seven years in prison for posting reports on “a [toxic] chemical spill that devastated the coast of central Vietnam last year“. In June this year, another blogger was also sentenced to prison for blogging about the disaster.
- Seconds after a United Nations judged “turned down his appeal against a 20-year sentence for war crimes against Bosnian Muslims“, wartime commander of the Bosnian Croat forces Slobodan Praljak drank poison, and died later in a hospital. Last week, former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladić was jailed for life for genocide and other atrocities in the 1990s Bosnian war.
- A fire at a luxury hotel in Georgia killed 11 people.
- Negotiations to form a coalition government in Germany broke down last week. This uncertainty “has left a vacuum in European leadership“, and major plans to reform the European Union and the Eurozone could be affected.
The Middle East
- More than 235 people were killed in an unprecedented attack in Egypt, after militants “launched a bomb and gun attack on a mosque“. It was later reported that the gunmen who attacked the mosque were carrying a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
- The death toll later increased to above 300.
- Yemen has been roiled by two separate but overlapping conflicts, between the Yemeni government and al-Qaeda, and between the government and the Houthi minority, and its 28 million citizens are suffering. A “reasonable peace offer” – involving concessions from the Houthi fighters (and Iran) as well as Saudi Arabia – would require a ceasefire and a mediator, such as Kuwait or Oman.
- After House Republicans passed their tax bill two weeks ago, Senate Republicans are now working to pass a version of the bill.
- President Donald Trump retweeted three unverified videos – initially posted by Britain First, a far-right nationalist group of the United Kingdom (UK) – of Muslims exacting violence against non-Muslims. UK Prime Minister Theresa May then criticised Mr. Trump.
- An Argentine submarine which went missing last week is said to have experienced an explosion, but the navy “had no information on the fate of the 44 crew members“. Neither the submarine nor its wreckage has been found too.
- The navy later ended its formal search for survivors, shifting “its mission from rescue to recovery“.
- In a bid to eliminate the industry of cocaine production, authorities in Colombia – backed by the United States – have sought to persuade coca farmers to turn to legal crops instead, but the cultivation of coca has only increased. A combination of problems related to policy implementation, the expansion of criminal and drug enterprises, and poverty explains this growth and persistence.
- In a country grappling with “stubbornly high poverty, drug gangs, and one of the world’s worst murder rates“, Honduras concluded its presidential election over the weekend, yet the opposition candidate has accused the electoral commission of fraud.