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 19 to 24, 2018
Oxfam – one of the largest aid charities of the United Kingdom – formally apologised to Haiti and expressed its shame over a prostitution scandal, after it was revealed that a former top official paid for sex and three staff physically threatened and intimidated a witness. The charity later added that “it was investigating 26 new cases of sexual misconduct, including 16 in its international operations“, as the Haitian government suspended Oxfam’s operations for two months, “pending an internal Haitian investigation into the matter”. The case in Haiti happened in 2011 while Oxfam’s employees were helping the country deal with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake which killed more than 100,000 people. This scandal brings to mind the misconduct of the United Nations and its peacekeeping troops, which introduced cholera to Haiti (and took six years to apologise). Some peacekeepers had also sexually exploited children and women.
- Following the worst anti-government protests “demanding wider freedoms” in a quarter-century, Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn resigned. The protests had left hundreds dead and tens of thousands detained.
- Drought-stricken Cape Town, South Africa – which is set to be the first major city in the world to run out of water – “now face losing piped water to their homes by July 9“, a month later than the last forecast of June 4. Strict waste controls have been enforced.
- A fire at a waste processing facility in China – said to be “sparked by fireworks residue” – killed nine people.
- An overloaded bus in China – carrying passengers over the Chinese New Year holidays – skidded off the motorway, killing 11 people.
- A massive gas-cylinder explosion at a wedding in an Indian hotel left at least 18 people dead. “Domestic gas cylinder explosions are common in India, where safety standards are relatively poor“.
- In Kelantan, Malaysia, the drowning of five people have prompted calls for a warning sign to be put up at the stretch of beach.
- The political crisis in the Maldives – following the declaration of a state of emergency by President Abdulla Yameen – continues to brew. Mr. Yameen, against the chorus of international concern, extended the state of emergency by another month.
- In Myanmar, a bomb explosion near a bank left at least two people dead. “Bomb explosions in cities in Shan are not unusual, but they are typically much smaller than Wednesday’s blast. Civilian fatalities and injuries are rare“.
- An apparent Islamist attack in Dagestan, a federal subject of Russia, left four women shot dead.
- There was a four-fold increase in measles cases in 2017 in Europe, and the challenges in affected countries include “declines in overall routine immunisation coverage, consistently low coverage among some marginalised groups, interruptions in vaccine supply, or underperforming disease surveillance systems”.
- Economies of the European Union and the euro area are both “estimated to have grown by 2.4 per cent in 2017, the fastest pace in a decade”. This strong economic performance is expected to continue.
The Middle East
- The crash of an Iranian passenger plane killed all 66 people on board. “Decades of international sanctions have left Iran with an ageing fleet of passenger planes“, and the country – through the 2015 nuclear deal – has sought to modernise its airplanes.
- Israeli police had recommended the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, and now one of his “closest and longest-serving aides appeared ready to incriminate him” by agreeing to become a government witness.
- In response to continued bombing of the eastern Ghouta region in Syria – by forces loyal to the government – the United Nations Children’s Fund “issued a blank ‘statement’ … to express its outrage at mass casualties“.
- An airstrike by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen killed at least 15 people.
- The office of United States (US) special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies which sought to “sow discord in the US political system [via social media], including the 2016 US presidential election“. His investigation continues.
- The crash of a concrete truck in Los Angeles, California left at least five dead.
- International charitable organisation Oxfam formally apologised to Haiti over a prostitution scandal. It was revealed that “a former top official admitted to paying for sex and that three staff physically threatened a witness”.
- At least 13 people on the ground were killed in Mexico, “when a Mexican military helicopter carrying top officials surveying damages from an earthquake crashed in a small town“. The country had been struck by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake which left homes and businesses in Mexico City – where a devastating earthquake had also struck last September – without power.
- At least 22 people were killed when a bus in Peru plunged into a ravine. It is the country’s second major bus crash in 2018.
- The country of Venezuela – which has been plagued by longstanding political and economic problems – launched an oil-backed cryptocurrency which it hopes will “help circumvent [United States] financial sanctions and resurrect the country’s moribund economy“.