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 25 to 30, 2017
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had planned to put an end to the pro-independence movement in Catalonia, when he called for fresh elections about a month ago, and with the main leaders in prison or self-imposed exile. Surprising pollsters, however, separatist or pro-independence parties look set to hold on to their narrow majority in the regional parliament, ensuring that the political turmoil will continue. In Poland, the European Commission has triggered Article 7 against the country for “a risk of serious breach of the rule of law”. If recommendations are not adopted within the next three months (which is likely to be the case), Poland’s voting rights in the European Union (EU) could be suspended. And in Honduras, despite voting irregularities and accusations of fraud within the electoral commission as well as the recognition by the United States of the electoral victory of incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernández, the protests continue, with the EU – together with the Organisation of American States – now weighing in too.
- The presidential election in Liberia pits vice-president Joseph Boakai against former football star George Weah. Mr. Weah “won the first round, but did not secure the required 50% of the vote for an outright victory”. Low turnout is expected.
- Later in the week, with 61.5 per cent of the vote, Mr. Weah was announced the winner.
- Former president of Mali Amadou Toumani Touré – who was ousted in a coup in 2012 – returned to the country. He and his family met with current president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta over lunch, though he was “not there to do politics”.
- A speeding passenger bus in India veered off a bridge and plunged into a river, killing at least 32 people.
- About 40 per cent of Jakarta, Indonesia – as a result of climate change and primarily residents “digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests” – lies below sea level.
- The death toll following a tropical storm in the Philippines – after a separate one last week – rose to nearly 90 people.
- At least 20 Catholic pilgrims were killed in the Philippines, when a public bus collided with a smaller private vehicle.
- In Moscow, Russia, five people were killed “when a city bus ploughed into a pedestrian underpass“.
- In Russia too, opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has been barred from running in the presidential election in March next year. In response, Mr. Navalny is calling on his supporters to boycott the election.
- In Russia again: In Moscow, a guard of a pastry factory was killed by a gunman, who is the factory’s former director. In Saint Petersburg, a blast caused by a homemade bomb in a supermarket injured at least 10 shoppers.
- In Catalonia, where voters – in a referendum – voted to secede from Spain, fresh elections were called about a month ago. Separatist or pro-independence parties, however, looked set to hold on to their narrow majority in the regional parliament. Surprising pollsters, the success of these parties is widely perceived to be a rebuke of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
- For “a risk of serious breach of the rule of law” – prompted by a decision to give politicians more significant influence over judicial appointments, but the culmination of a two-year investigation, the European Commission triggered Article 7 against Poland. If the country does not adopt the Commission’s recommendations within the next three months (which is likely to be the case), its voting rights in the European Union (EU) could be suspended and its access to EU funds could also be limited.
- A Chinese tourist was killed in Iceland, when the coach with 44 passengers overturned.
The Middle East
- In Kabul, Afghanistan, a suicide bomb attack left at least 40 people dead. The Taliban denied responsibility.
- An explosion of a military vehicle in Egypt – during a raid – killed six soldiers.
- An earthquake in Tehran, Iran, caused one person to die of a heart attack.
- Weeks after it was reported that the former president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by the country’s Houthi rebels, the rebels – who already control the Sana, the capital city – have consolidated their power and tightened their control.
- The crash of a light plane in Florida killed all five people on board.
- The Northern part of the country was hit by freezing temperatures, with some cities experiencing record-low temperatures.
- In Argentina, “an explosion at a grains terminal” owned by a Chinese conglomerate killed one employee.
- Even though the electoral commission of Honduras has been accused of fraud, and the Organisation of American States added that “serious questions” still surround the presidential election results, the United States has recognised incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernández as the winner of the election. The European Union has also questioned the electoral irregularities.
- Mexico is one of the most perilous countries for journalists, who are often “killed in retaliation for their reporting”.
- The country also registered a total of 23,101 murder investigations from January to November this year, Mexico’s “highest total since modern records began [in 1997]”.
- President of Peru Pedro Pablo Kuczynski escaped “an attempt by legislators to remove him from office in connection with corruption charges tied to a Brazilian construction company”, after the vote fell short of the two-third majority needed.