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 26 to March 3, 2018
The unfortunate routine of terror and unrest in the Middle East – perpetuated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Taliban – continued this week. ISIS killed two policemen in Iraq and killed dozens of people in Yemen in two suicide bombing attacks, and in Syria the United States is said to be losing Kurdish fighters as a key ally in the continuing fight against the terror group. The Taliban, continuing a string of escalated attacks in the country since January this year, was responsible for multiple suicide bombings and attacks in Afghanistan. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has offered the terror group amnesty, without preconditions, for war crime convictions and recognition of it as a political party, yet given his government’s instability the deal appears unlikely to be go through.
- Islamic extremist group Boko Haram – which had kidnapped 276 Chibok schoolgirls from their beds in April 2014 – attacked a girls school in Nigeria, though the exact number of students who were abducted remains unclear.
- Two car bombs in Mogadishu, Somalia, killed at least 18 people. Militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. The reported death toll later increased to at least 45, with 36 others injured.
- After the main opposition party of Cambodia was dissolved by the country’s Supreme Court in November last year, the ruling party said it had now “won every seat up for election in the Senate”.
- The ruling Communist Party in China has proposed removing “the constitutional restriction on the maximum number of terms the president and vice-president can serve”, which would allow President Xi Jinping – who was re-elected as general secretary of the party in October last year, and whose name and ideology was added in an amendment to the constitution – to remain in power beyond 2023.
- A speeding van in India, who rammed into a middle school, killed nine children and critically injured 10 others.
- A landslide in Indonesia last week, triggered by days of heavy rain, left at least 18 people dead.
- Protests in Pakistan which erupted in January this year – after a shopkeeper was shot dead by a police officer – have led to further protests elsewhere in the country. “Known as the Pashtun Long March and the Pashtun Spring“, these protests are have also called for Pashtun rights, the country’s second-largest ethnic group with a history of being marginalised.
- Freezing temperatures across Europe, across by “a blast of Siberian weather” sweeping in from Russia, caused at least 10 deaths.
- With the perception that the United States “is longer militarily committed to the defence of Europe” and the lack of assurance over transatlantic relations, the European Union has accelerated its own defence cooperation.
- Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Italy “in rival far-right and anti-fascist demonstrations“, ahead of elections next month. There have been clashes between these activists too.
- A journalist in Slovakia “who had been investigating corruption” was found shot to death at home along with his fiancée.
- A shooting in Zurich, Switzerland, left two people dead.
- A new anti-Brexit party, Renew Britain, was launched in the United Kingdom, as the country “formally published a proposal for how it wants the transition period immediate after Brexit to work“.
- An explosion in Leicester, the United Kingdom, killed four people. The cause of the explosion has yet to be determined.
The Middle East
- Multiple suicide bombings and attacks in Afghanistan left at least 23 people dead. 18 soldiers were killed in the biggest attack, when “Taliban militants stormed an army base“. Since January this year, attacks in the country have only escalated.
- In a bid to quell a longstanding conflict, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban “amnesty for war crime convictions and recognition of the insurgent group as a political party”. This peace offer was offered without preconditions.
- At least 15 people were killed in a train crash in Egypt.
- In Iraq, two policemen guarding an oil field were killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
- The city of Ghouta in Syria continues to be caught in the crossfire between government and rebel forces, as Russia announced the start of “a daily five hour pause in the fighting to allow civilians to escape through ‘humanitarian corridors’“.
- A report by the United Nations states that “North Korea has been shipping supplies to the Syrian government that could be used in the production of chemical weapons”. It is not clear whether the report will be released.
- In Syria too, in the continuing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the United States is said to be losing Kurdish fighters – who have been diverted to combat “the Turkish invasion to occupy [the city of] Afrin” – as a key ally.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for two suicide bombing attacks in Yemen, which killed dozens of people.
- After President Donald Trump had blocked the release of a Democratic memo, a rebuttal against a classified Republican memo – despite the House Intelligence Committee voting unanimously to release it – the Democrats put out a redacted version.
- The son-in-law of and senior advisor to President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, had his security clearance downgraded, because of incomplete background checks. Mr. Kushner loses access to the president’s daily briefings.
- Communications director to and close aide of President Donald Trump, Hope Hicks, announced her resignation.
- Teachers in West Virginia went on strike for better pay and healthcare, and the strike ended when the state government announced that teachers will get a five per cent increase this year.
- The military was called in to control the violence in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but violence has instead increased.
- There were 29,000 murders in Mexico last year, “the highest annual tally since such record-keeping began in 1997“. There is now a proposal to put soldiers on the streets to fight crime, but there are fears that such militarisation could increase violence instead.
- Two earthquakes struck Papua New Guinea in two days. At least 14 people were killed.