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!
December 11 to 16, 2017
Having resolved the stumbling block over the border of Ireland, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) Theresa May looked set to advance Brexit talks with the European Union (EU). After all, despite leaving discussions on the toughest issues for a later date and facing backlash from hardliners at home for making compromises, the EU and the UK did reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce, with talks moving on to trade. Unfortunately for Mrs May, her lawmakers voted 309 to 305 to guarantee parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal before the end of negotiations, which means they could veto the withdrawal treaty if they do not agree with the terms of the agreement. Of the conservative parliamentarians who voted against the government, “eight are former ministers”, and now Mrs. May has to deal with the embarrassing fallout when meeting with EU leaders.
- In DR Congo, at least 12 United Nations peacekeepers were killed. At least 40 others were injured.
- The ruling African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa will choose the successor to President Jacob Zuma, and members of the ANC will decide between Mr. Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
- Later in the week, however, Mr. Zuma’s bid to block a corruption inquiry “into accusations of influence-peddling so widespread that it is known as ‘state capture’” was rejected by the country’s high court. Sullied by corruption scandals, the president has survived multiple votes of no confidence in parliament in 2016 and in 2017.
- A fire in Beijing, China, killed at least five people. The city’s municipal government had launched a 40-day operation last month “targeting fire code and building safety violations”, though its implementation has been criticised.
- The assault against the Rohingyas in Myanmar – forced to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh – had been characterised as a genocide in the making, and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has also been criticised for her inaction. An aid group now claims that at least 6,700 Rohingyas were killed in the first month of the army crackdown in the Rakhine state.
- The European Union and the United Kingdom (UK) reached an agreement on Brexit divorce terms, and talks will now move on to trade. The stumbling block over the border of Ireland appears to be resolved, though some of the toughest issues remain unresolved. Prime Minister of the UK Theresa May, however, faced backlash from hardliners at home “for making compromises“.
- Finance ministers of the European Union “adopted a blacklist of 17 jurisdictions deemed as tax havens” – which means EU institutions would no longer be able to use these countries for international financial operations – drawing widespread criticism. South Korea, one of the countries on the blacklist, said it plans to lodge an official complaint.
- Thousands of Romanians took to the streets to protest against plans “to overhaul the country’s judicial system”.
- Lawmakers in the United Kingdom (UK) voted to guarantee parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal at the end of negotiations in 2019, ensuring that they “will now have the power to veto the withdrawal treaty before the UK leaves the [European Union] if they do not like the terms of the agreement”. “Rebels” of the Conservative Party had voted against Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Middle East
- An explosion in Gaza killed at least two Palestinian militants.
- Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi declared victory against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in his country.
- The United Nations said that more than 8.4 million people in Yemen – a country roiled by two separate but overlapping conflicts – are “a step away from famine”. Millions more also suffer from poor living conditions.
- Following Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen, at least 35 people were killed.
- In protest of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thousands in Asia and in the Middle East in particular took to the streets to demand a retraction of the decision.
- And in response to this recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, leaders of Muslim nations “declared East Jerusalem the Palestinian capital … at a summit meeting [of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation]”.
- A bomber in New York, in an “attempted terrorist attack”, left three people injured. A lone-wolf terrorist attack in the same city a few weeks ago had left at least eight people dead.
- Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate Election, against Republican Roy Moore.
- The Federal Communications Commission voted to dismantle “net neutrality” rules.
- Like most countries in the region, abortion in Brazil is banned “in cases where a pregnancy is simply unwanted”, and most Brazilians believe that abortion should be illegal in most cases. The Supreme Court, however, heard from the first woman in the country fighting for her own abortion, though the court ultimately ruled against her.
- With the rise in the number of AIDS cases among at-risk men, the health ministry of Brazil is now offering a drug which should reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
- President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro will run for re-election in 2018, despite persistent political and economic problems and his approval rating of just 23 per cent. Mr. Maduro has, however, exploited the opposition’s lack of unity and coordination.