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!
March 5 to 10, 2018
National elections in Italy – the European Union’s third-largest economy – resulted in a hung parliament with no outright winner. Populist parties, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and a conservative, centre-right bloc of the anti-migrant Northern League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia collectively, won more than half the overall vote. The ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, on the other hand, took less than 20 per cent of the vote”. In Germany, the Social Democrats voted to continue their ruling coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, thereby guaranteeing the chancellor her fourth and likely final term. This conclusion to the September elections in 2017 is fraught with challenges in the future.
- Seven people were killed in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, and while there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack previous attacks in the country have been conducted by allies of al-Qaeda.
- In Nigeria, an outbreak of Lassa fever – a viral disease often acquired from infected rats – has killed at least 78 people and infected more than 353. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has described this as an “unprecedented outbreak” of the disease.
- Chilled meat imports from South Africa have been “found to be the origin of the world’s worst-ever listeria outbreak“, prompting the South African countries of Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia to suspend imports of the products.
- A fire in a drug rehabilitation centre in Azerbaijan killed 24 people. A defect of the power grid was cited as the initial cause. “The ex-Soviet Caucasus nation has a history of large-scale casualties as a result of fires in residential buildings and elsewhere“.
- In India, a truck carrying a wedding party plunged off a bridge, killing at least 25 people.
- The South Korean parliament voted – to reduce overwork and to boost family life – to cut the maximum workweek from 68 to 52 hours.
- South Korea said that North Korea was willing to hold denuclearisation talks with the United States, “and will suspend nuclear tests while those talks are under way”. Relations between the two Koreas have improved since the Winter Olympics last month.
- Following riots involving majority Sinhalese Buddhists and minority Muslims, Sri Lanka declared a 10-day state of emergency.
- In Catalonia, after the independence referendum of secession and fresh elections in December last year, when separatist or pro-independence parties held on to their narrow majority in the regional parliament, Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont had been formally nominated as the candidate for the regional presidency despite remaining in self-imposed exile. Now, Mr. Puigdemont has given up his campaign to be reappointed, calling instead for another pro-independence legislator, Jordi Sànchez i Picanyol, to be appointed.
- Companies in France were given a three-year deadline “to install special software hooked up directly to their payroll systems to monitor unjustified pay gaps“, and if these pay gaps are not erased, the government will then impose a fine on the company.
- Delegates of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union overwhelmingly approved the coalition deal, and now the final approval of the deal is in the hands of the Social Democrats, or the SPD members.
- Later, SPD members voted 66 per cent in favour of the grand coalition, paving the way for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fourth term.
- National elections in Italy resulted in a hung parliament with no outright winner, though the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and a conservative, centre-right bloc of the anti-migrant Northern League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia had the most success. “The ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni took less than 20 per cent of the vote“.
- Police in the United Kingdom said a former Russian spy and his daughter “were attacked with a nerve agent in a targeted murder attempt“, and it has also said that it will investigate and respond if the Russian government is linked to the attack.
The Middle East
- The crash of a Russian transport plane in Syria killed all 32 people on board.
- The United Nations said that in the first two months of 2018, in Syria, “more than 1,000 children have been killed or wounded”.
- In Michigan, a gunman shot and killed two people at a Central Michigan University residence hall.
- Even though the state government in West Virginia announced a five per cent salary increase for teachers last week, the Senate only agreed to a four per cent increase, leaving the state’s public school teachers back on strike. The back and forth ended as the state passed a bill to give a five per cent raise to all state employees, including teachers.
- A powerful winter storm in northeastern United States killed at least nine people.
- President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing tariffs “on steel and aluminium imports from across the globe”.
- Brazil “is suffering its worst outbreak of yellow fever in decades“, and while the number of deaths remains in the hundreds, the government is working to vaccinate millions before the virus reaches the slums.
- In Chile, 11 nations signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership which “drops tariffs drastically and establishes sweeping new trade rules in markets that represent about a seventh of the world’s economy”. A year ago, President Donald Trump had pulled the United States out of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- Following the earthquakes last week, which killed at least 55 people, Papua New Guinea continues to experience strong aftershocks.