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 12 to 17, 2018
Political developments has had electoral implications in Latin America this week. In Chile, following elections in December last year, former president Sebastián Piñera is set to now start his new term, replacing socialist leader and the country’s first woman elected president Michelle Bachelet. Both Mr. Piñera and Miss Bachelet are trading powers of the presidency “for the third time in 12 years”. In Colombia – where a historic peace deal was signed with former terror group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in 2016 – candidates who vowed to dismantle portions of the historic accord instead made strong showings. FARC, on the other hand, made a miserable showing in congressional and presidential primary elections, winning fewer than 90,000 votes.
- Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors without Borders said “militia fighters attacked, kidnapped and raped en masse a large group of women” in the Central African Republic last month. The group behind the assault was not identified.
- 38 people were killed in Ethiopia when a bus “plunged off an embankment”.
- At China’s annual sitting of the National People’s Congress, delegates voted to approve the removal of term limits for its leader, “in a move that effectively allows Xi Jinping to remain as president for life“.
- In Mumbai, India, up to 30,000 Indian farmers protested “after walking more than a hundred kilometres to demand better crop prices and land rights“. Demonstrators want to have forest land transferred to tribal farmers.
- At least nine trekkers were killed in India, following wildfires in a popular hiking spot.
- The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing criticism for “the 2016 sale of state-owned land to one of his supporters at a price well below market value“, and his finance minister admitted that official documents had been altered.
- At least 49 people were killed in a plane crash in Kathmandu, Nepal. The plane had approached the runway from the wrong direction.
- Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks that attacks by officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations were “baseless, unprecedented, and outrageous”, the Philippines said it was withdrawing from the ICC.
- Following the collision of a passenger bus and a truck, 13 people were killed in Ankara, Turkey. “Turkey has a dire road safety record, with nearly 500,000 accidents and 3,530 people killed in 2017, according to official statistics published by state media”.
- A “Northern Alliance” of European Union countries issued a joint statement “opposing the cluster of [euro zone] reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron and backed by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker“.
- Far-right French political party the National Front – led by leader Marine Le Pen, and which won its higher share ever in the country’s elections in May last year – “severed its ties to firebrand founder Jean-Marie Le Pen“.
- With the approval of the grand coalition in Germany, Angela Merkel was re-elected by lawmakers as chancellor by a vote of 364 to 315.
- A long-running dispute between Kosovo and Serbia – with the former refusing to recognise the latter’s sovereignty – has caused disruptions to the electrical network, “enough to knock alternating current-dependent clocks … slightly out of whack”.
- Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May said in Parliament that it was highly likely that Russia was behind the nerve-agent attack of a former Russian spy and his daughter last week.
- Miss May then announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation, “the single biggest expulsion in over 30 years”.
- British physicist Stephen Hawking died in the United Kingdom. He was 76.
The Middle East
- A suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan – the site of escalated violence since January this year – killed at least seven people. This also follows a peace offer by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to provide the Taliban amnesty and recognition as a political party.
- In a daring escape, an Afghan man who was taken hostage by the Taliban stole a gun and killed seven of his captors. “The Taliban is often involved in kidnappings of Afghans and foreigners, sometimes holding people for years for prisoner exchanges”.
- The crash of a private Turkish jet in Iran killed all 11 people on board. The cause of the crash is not yet known.
- Seven people were killed in Pakistan, when “a bomb blast ripped through a police checkpoint”.
- The rebel-held enclave of Ghouta in Syria has been sliced in two by the Syrian army, “pushing the death toll to more than 900“. International outrage at the mass casualties has not resulted in resolutions.
- President Donald Trump accepted a meeting invitation from Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un. If they meet, it would be the first time a serving president of the United States meets with North Korea’s leadership.
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
- President Donald Trump rejected the takeover of chipmaker Qualcomm by Singapore-based semiconductor company Broadcom, for national-security fears that the deal “could give China an edge in critical technology”.
- The crash of a helicopter in New York killed at least two people. The death toll later increased to all five on board, except the pilot.
- Bolivia want to recover access to the Pacific Ocean “which it lost to Chile in a 19th century war“, and ahead of its demand to the International Court of Justice later this month, it unfurled a 200km flag decorated with Bolivian national symbols.
- Following the elections in December last year, former president of Chile Sebastián Piñera is set to now start his new term, replacing socialist leader and the country’s first woman elected president Michelle Bachelet. Both Mr. Piñera and Miss Bachelet are trading powers of the presidency “for the third time in 12 years”.
- After two tries in October and November 2016, a historic peace deal was signed in Colombia with former terror group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which also unveiled its new political party a year later (though its development has been lacklustre). Not only did FARC make a miserable showing in congressional and presidential primary elections, winning fewer than 90,000 votes, “candidates who have vowed to dismantle portions of the historic accord made strong showings”.