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 12 to 17, 2018
Embattled political leaders in Israel and South Africa remain defiant. Israeli police recommended the indictment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on suspicion of bribery fraud, and breach of trust, but the prime minister called the case against him “full of holes, like Swiss cheese”. In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma – who has been sullied by corruption scandals and has survived multiple votes of no confidence in parliament in 2016 and in 2017 – was ordered by his ruling African National Congress to step down as head of state. Mr. Zuma said that these ongoing efforts to unseat him were unfair: “Nobody has ever provided the reasons. Nobody is saying what I have done“. Later in the week, he stepped down, and was replaced by his Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
- Mental health has often been neglected in Africa, and the lack of interventions is compounded by “ignorance about the extent of mental health problems, stigma against those living with mental illness, and mistaken beliefs that mental illnesses cannot be treated“.
- The fallout from the presidential election in Kenya continues, as a government-led media blackout – “to prevent them from covering the opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s mock inauguration” last week – meant major television networks were pulled off the air.
- A collision between a truck and a car in Nigeria killed at least 22 people.
- In South Africa, months after Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), President Jacob Zuma – who has been sullied by corruption scandals and has survived multiple votes of no confidence in parliament in 2016 and in 2017 – was ordered by the ANC to step down as head of state, with Mr. Ramaphosa expected to replace Mr. Zuma.
- Later in the week, Mr. Zuma stepped down, ending his nine-year tenure as president.
- Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy – who was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen in a Facebook post – “filed a petition in a Northern California court” alleging that the prime minister purchased millions of fake “likes” on Facebook.
- The sinking of an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of China last month – causing the largest oil spill in decades – has resulted in environmental threats, as a result of the remote location on the high seas and the type of petroleum involved.
- At least 18 people were killed in Hong Kong, when a double-decker bus toppled over.
- A bus carrying domestic tourists crashed in Java, Indonesia, killing at least 27 people.
- A tropical storm in the Philippines killed four people. Storms in mid- and end-December last year killed hundreds of people.
- A plane crash in Moscow, Russia killed 71 people. A criminal investigation has been launched.
- The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea are now underway. As previously announced, athletes from North and South Korea “marched behind the blue-and-white Korean unification flag at the opening ceremony” to huge cheers.
- The heads of state of both countries also met and shook hands ahead of the opening ceremony.
- Confidante to former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Choi Soon-sil, who was alleged to have meddled in state affairs despite holding no government position, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The former president was impeached last year.
- The collapse of an old tea warehouse in Sri Lanka killed at least seven people.
- Bulgaria, currently at the helm of the European Union’s (EU) rotating presidency, has been a proponent of EU enlargement. This week, a strategy to welcome the Western Balkan countries – detailing six flagship initiatives targeting common interest areas – was unveiled.
- Brexit negotiations on trade are set to begin, with the European Union “set to toughen Brexit transition demand“.
- Thousands of centrist and leftist Italians took to the streets to protest “the shooting of [six] African migrants allegedly by a suspect aligned with Italy’s far-right, neo-fascist parties“. In the background are persistent concerns over the support of fascist ideology.
The Middle East
- 10 militants in Egypt were killed by security forces, in an operation against “terrorist and criminal elements and organisations“.
- Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that he is likely to be indicted for “demanding and receiving [expensive] gifts from businessmen“, though he has remained defiant and sought to diminish the importance of any police recommendations.
- After intercepting what was said to be an Iranian drone, Israel attacked “the command-and-control centre from which Iran had launched the drone [at a Syrian air base]“, but in the process it lost an F-16 fighter jet to heavy Syrian anti-aircraft fire. It was the first Israeli plane lost under enemy fire since the 1980s, and in response Israel struck against more Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria.
- Twin bomb blasts in a mosque in Benghazi, Libya killed at least one person.
- A shooting spree by a suspected gunman in Kentucky left five people dead.
- The crash of a small plan in Los Angeles, California killed all four on board.
- A shooting in a high school in Florida left at least 17 people dead.
- The main migrant problem in Brazil is that of internally displaced persons, who are “driven from their land each year by natural disaster, infrastructure development, and violence“. A new database reports that there has been 8.8 million since 2000.
- Brazil is set to declare an emergency in its northern border “to boost funding and troops to help control an influx of Venezuelan refugees into the country“. Colombia has also announced stricter migration controls in one of its border cities.
- Governments across Latin America have sought to criminalise social protest, and in Peru – with “a clear development agenda for its Amazon rainforest regions” – have excluded the voices of indigenous people, and their ability to provide consent for projects.
- In Peru – like other South American countries which are “setting aside large parcels of land in part to fulfill commitments made as part of the Paris climate agreement” – the new Yaguas National Park will protect millions of acres of rain forests.