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!
January 22 to 27, 2018
President Donald Trump became the first sitting American president to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, delivering a speech that “America first is not America alone”. He emphasised that his country was now an attractive place to invest, made scant mention of geopolitics, and touted the recently passed tax cuts. In the lead up to Mr. Trump’s visit, he had signed unilateral tariffs on washing machines and solar panels – Asian imports – prompting criticisms from South Korea’s Trade Ministry and China’s Commerce Ministry. South Korea has also since challenged the United States under the Safeguard Agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and “is already seeking WTO trade sanctions to retaliate for Washington’s failure to comply with an earlier WTO ruling“. In the same week too, the remaining 11 Pacific Rim countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership moved ahead without the United States to reach broad agreement on a new deal.
- Former footballer George Weah is Liberia’s 25th president, and to steer his country in a more progressive direction he should focus on “inclusive growth, job creation, and curbing corruption“. Changes to his own government are also needed.
- In Tanzania, pregnant schoolgirls or teenage mothers are routinely expelled from school and prevented from returning. This has not reduced the number of pregnancies in girls, who should not be characterised as badly behaved or as “victims”.
- Right-wing Hindu groups in India protested against the release of a controversial Bollywood film, falsely accusing the film’s director “of distorting history by portraying a Muslim ruler as the ‘lover’ of the Hindu Queen Padmavati of the Rajput warrior clan“.
- After two days of talks in Tokyo, Japan, the remaining 11 Pacific Rim countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – sans the United States – reached a broad agreement on a new deal, the “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership“.
- The eruption of a volcano near a ski resort in Japan triggered an avalanche, killing one person.
- In the Philippines, news site Rappler – which has been “fiercely critical of president Rodrigo Duterte’s administration” – has had its operating licence revoked, on the grounds of violating the country’s constitution and over foreign ownership rules.
- More than 30 people were killed in Seoul, South Korea, after a fire broke out in a hospital. Just last month, a fire in an eight-storey building in the country killed 29 people.
- A motorcycle bomb in Thailand killed three people. This particular region is “home to a long-running insurgency by ethnic Malay Muslims fighting for autonomy in which more than 6,000 people have been killed since 2004“.
- At least three people were killed after the derailment of a train near Milan, Italy.
- “Our hearts are still open to you“: President of the European Council Donald Tusk suggested that the United Kingdom (UK), should it change its mind over Brexit, would be welcomed to say in the European Union. These warm words were dismissed by UK politicians.
The Middle East
- A hotel siege in Kabul, Afghanistan, left at least five people dead. The hotel was previously attacked, by Taliban fighters, in 2011.
- The detonation of two car bombs in Benghazi, Libya, killed at least 34 people. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Amazon is opening its second headquarters in North America, and it has shortlisted a list of 20 places from 238 applications.
- The national governing body for gymnastics in the United States, USA Gymnastics, is engulfed in “a scandal over sexual abuse by a former national team doctor”. Hundreds of victims have since delivered statements.
- Senate Democrats and Republicans “were unable to agree on a stopgap funding measure to continue government services” – on the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s first year in office – leading to a government shutdown. The last shutdown happened in 2013.
- Over the weekend, Senate Democrats then agreed to pass a short-term spending deal (until February 8), in exchange for an agreement by the Senate Republicans to consider an immigration bill in February.
- Over the weekend too, hundreds of thousands of Americans turned out for the second Women’s March. The first happened last year, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, as “millions took to the streets to demonstrate against his presidency“.
- In Brazil, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that “the number of confirmed cases of yellow fever outbreak” has tripled in recent weeks. Foreign travellers are now recommended by the WHO to get vaccination before travelling to the country.
- Oil exports in Venezuela have been dropping – with oil output down 29 per cent last year – with implications for its economy.