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 18 to 23, 2017
The victory of billionaire Sebastián Piñera in the Chilean presidential election continues a rising trend of conservative leaders in Latin America, such as Argentina, Brazil, and Peru. The presidential election in Honduras, however, did not go as smoothly. Even though President Juan Orlando Hernández was declared the winner – by 1.54 percentage points – the country’s electoral commission has been accused of fraud, protestors have taken to the streets, and the Organisation of American States added that “serious questions” still surround the election results. And in Venezuela, the long absence of overdue elections is compounded by the dire economic situation since 2014, which has resulted in cases of severe malnutrition and in rising food insecurity of households.
- Members of the ruling African National Congress in South Africa have been deciding between Mr. Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the latter was elected leader.
- It is likely that Mr. Ramaphosa will be elected president of the country in 2019.
- In Australia, a driver with “a history of drug use and mental health issues” ploughed into a crowd, injuring at least 18 people. There was no evidence yet, of connections to terrorism.
- A stampede in Bangladesh, at the funeral of a senior politician, left at least 10 people dead.
- A fire in Mumbai, India, which sparked a building collapse killed 12 sleeping workers.
- There has been an outbreak of diphtheria – a bacterial infection which causes a thick covering at the back of one’s throat – in Indonesia, and the country needs to increase immunisation rates and to improve the treatment of the infection.
- Four people were killed in Japan, after a fire broke out at an establishment offering sexual services.
- A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed at least seven Christian worshippers.
- Tropical Storm Kai-Tak in the Philippines killed at least 26 people. Over 87,000 people were forced from their homes.
- In the Philippines too, a ferry carrying 251 people on board capsized. Rescuers have retrieved at least four bodies.
- A fire in a fitness centre in Seoul, South Korea, killed at least 23 people.
- The European Court of Justice ruled that Uber was a taxi company, not a digital one. It now faces more stringent regulations.
- Eurozone reform, with an informal group of finance ministers tasked with “preparing a roadmap [for a] banking union, creating a European monetary fund, and building a capital markets union”, was discussed at the European Union summit.
The Middle East
- Heavy air pollution in Tehran, Iran, with the level of airborne concentration of fine particles far above the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation, has led to school and factory shutdowns. The Iranian city experiences this phenomenon of “temperature inversion” every year, when the temperature cools and traps pollution from the city.
- The United Nations said food security in the Middle East is deteriorating, leading to high levels of undernourishment.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross said that at least one million suspected cases of cholera in Yemen. This comes after a United Nations report that more than 8.4 million people in the country are “a step away from famine”.
- An Amtrak passenger train in Washington derailed, as carriages fell on the motorway, killing at least six people.
- Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September this year, with an official death toll of 64. Authorities, however, are now reviewing and investigating all deaths reported, amid reports of vast under-reporting.
- Congress approved the country’s first tax overhaul in over 30 years.
- In addition to the protests by thousands in Asia and in the Middle East, as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the decision by President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was opposed by over 120 countries in the United Nations General Assembly. The resolution called for the United States to drop this recent recognition.
- An Argentine submarine with 44 on board went missing in November this year, but neither the submarine nor its wreckage have been found. The head of the country’s navy has now been fired.
- A mudslide in Chile – after a night of torrential downpours – left at least three people dead.
- Chile voted for a new president, billionaire Sebastián Piñera, as the country “followed other South American nations in a political turn to the right … following the rise of conservative leaders in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru”.
- Even with the country’s electoral commission accused of fraud, and with protestors taking to the streets, the incumbent president of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández was declared the winner of last month’s election. He won by 1.53 percentage points. The Organisation of American States, however, said that “serious questions” still surround the election results.
- A tour bus crash in Mexico left at least 12 people dead.
- Even though the focus in Venezuela has been on the politics, but the dire economic situation since 2014 is killing many of the country’s children. Cases of severe malnutrition have increased, and such data has been kept secret. Overall, “nine out of 10 households had become ‘food insecure’” too, leading may to go hungry or to scavenge for food.