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!
February 5 to 10, 2018
The governments and coalitions of the Maldives and Germany, respectively, are now characterised by instability. In the Maldives, the Supreme Court ordered the release of top opposition politicians – which would give the opposition the majority in the country’s assembly to potential impeach the president – yet President Abdulla Yameen has instead refused to comply with the order and has declared a state of emergency. Mr. Yameen also sent envoys to China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, whereas opposition leaders have urged India to intervene. And in Germany, even though Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed on a coalition deal with her previous governing partners, including the Social Democrats, her conservative party had to give up the finance ministry, and the outcome of the deal is contingent upon a vote by members of the Social Democratic Party. The three parties returning to government, moreover, had their worst electoral showing last year since the 1940s.
- President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election in a second election – after the country’s Supreme Court nullified the first one – and did so despite voting irregularities and the withdrawal of opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga. In November last year, Kenya’s Supreme Court dismissed challenges to uphold Mr. Kenyatta’s re-election, and Mr. Odinga has continued his opposition.
- The bodies of 16 migrants were recovered off the coast of Morocco. “Migrants are increasingly favouring the so-called western Mediterranean route to reach Europe, which involves making the sea crossing between North Africa and southern mainland Spain“.
- Off the coast of West Africa, pirates – who had boarded an oil tanker last year – released the 22 Indian nationals held captive.
- Eight people were killed in China, after a cave-in at a construction site.
- In Hong Kong, the Court of Final Appeal quashed the jail terms of student activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow. The trio was initially spared jail, but the Court of Appeal imposed jail terms instead. Lawyers for the trio, at the Court of Final Appeal, said “that the Court of Appeal had overstepped the boundaries of what it was entitled to do“.
- To improve healthcare access in India, the government has announced “a national health protection scheme targeted at 100 million poor and vulnerable families“, which is expected to benefit nearly 40 per cent of the country’s population.
- The collapse of a crane at a construction site in Jakarta, Indonesia, killed four people. This follows a series of crane accidents in the city in January, though no fatalities were reported in the previous accidents.
- Landslides and floods caused by torrential rain in Jakarta, Indonesia, killed at least four people.
- A political crisis is brewing in the Maldives, after the Supreme Court ordered the release of top opposition politicians, which will then give the opposition the majority in the assembly, “meaning they could potentially impeach the president“. President Abdulla Yameen – who has also declared a state of emergency and ordered the arrest of top judges – refused to comply with the order.
- At least 11 soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber in Pakistan. The attack was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
- Heir apparent of Samsung Lee Jae-Yong, in South Korea, had been convicted of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison last year. An appeals court, however, has suspended the jail sentence, after the Seoul High Court had reduced the original term by half.
- An earthquake in Taiwan left at least two people dead. The death toll later increased to nine people.
- President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, with 55.99 per cent of the vote, won his re-election for a second term.
- The European Union and the United Kingdom (UK) reached an agreement on Brexit divorce terms last December, but as the second phase of the negotiations on trade begins it is a “divided UK versus [a] united Europe”, as Prime Minister of the UK Theresa May struggles to reconcile the “hard” and “soft” Brexit wings of her Conservative Party.
- Five people in France were killed, when two army helicopters collided and crashed.
- Violent migrant clashes in Calais, France injured at least 18 people, and further violence is feared.
- After negotiations to form a coalition broke down last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – whose conservative bloc lost support in the September elections – agreed on a coalition deal with her previous governing partners, including the Social Democrats. Her conservative party had to give up the finance ministry, and now members of the Social Democratic Party will have to vote.
- President of Poland Andrzej Duda signed a controversial Holocaust bill, which would make it “illegal to accuse the nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust“. It is now assessed by the country’s Constitutional Tribunal.
The Middle East
- It was reported that Egypt and Israel has worked covertly in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as unmarked Israeli warplanes and helicopters launched airstrikes with the support of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
- Off the coast of Libya, the capsizing of a boat left about 90 migrants dead. Many of them were Pakistanis, and “the United Nations is trying to determine what has precipitated the surge in Pakistanis making the journey through Libya”.
- Airstrikes in Syria have killed dozens of people, prompting the United Nations to call for a ceasefire. These government-sanctioned airstrikes came after Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane and killed its pilot on the ground.
- There were two accidents involving Amtrak trains in the past week: The first, when a train carrying Republican lawmakers hit a garbage truck in Virginia; and the second, when a train collided with a freight train in North Carolina.
- President Donald Trump approved the release of a classified Republican memo, commissioned by the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, which “alleges bias against [Mr. Trump] at the FBI and Justice Department“.
- The House Intelligence Committee then voted unanimously to release a 10-page rebuttal by the Democrats.
- On Monday, the Dow Jones – which averages the stock prices of 30 major companies – had the worst single-day point decline in history.
- The eldest son of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Fidel Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart, killed himself “after months of treatment for depression“. He was 68 years old.
- In Ecuador, voters voted to limit presidents to two terms, “ending the chances of a return to office by the onetime popular Rafael Correa“, who once commanded a large following but is not beset by scandals.
- Using new laser technology in Guatemala, “researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 [Mayan] houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles“.
- The projected inflation rate in Venezuela is expected to be 13,000 per cent by the end of the year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country has been plagued by longstanding political and economic problems.