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 26 to 31, 2018
Major fires in Russia and Venezuela left dozens dead, as other attacks struck the African countries of Mali (by an unidentified gunman) and Somalia (by different groups of Islamic militants), France (with a gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria taking hostages at a supermarket), and Saudi Arabia (with missile attacks launched from Yemen, resulting in the first casualty in the capital city of Riyadh). In Siberia, Russia, a major fire in shopping centre left at least 64 people dead. As the death The death toll rose, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the blaze on “criminal negligence”. In Venezuela, a riot and a fire in a police station left at least 68 people dead.
- In Mali, unidentified gunmen killed one person.
- Three bombings in four days in Somalia – claimed by different groups of Islamic militants – killed almost 20 people. One of the deadliest attacks in the country happened in October last year, when two truck bombings killed 512 people.
- Drought-stricken Cape Town, South Africa, is set to be the first major city in the world to run out of water by June 4, though the water crisis in the water-scarce country is part of a bigger problem related to unequal water distribution.
- South Sudan “appears to have stopped Guinea worm disease within its borders”, as global health officials seek to make the parasitic worm the second human disease – after smallpox – to be eliminated around the world.
- After President Donald Trump announced tariffs on Chinese products, China threatened to hit back with its own tariffs.
- Protestors in Japan are demanding for the resignation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is implicated in a scandal involving the below-market value sale of state-owned land in 2016 to one of his supporters. Mr. Abe’s approval ratings are at their lowest since 2012.
- Mr. Abe then apologised again “for causing anxiety and loss of confidence in his government”.
- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – on his first known trip out of his country since taking power in 2011 – met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying he is committed to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula , but wanted “assurances from the United States and South Korea“. This meeting comes after President Donald Trump accepted a meeting invitation from Mr. Kim.
- A major fire in shopping centre in Siberia, Russia, left at least five people dead. The death toll later rose to at least 37 people.
- As the death toll rose further to at least 64, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the blaze on “criminal negligence”.
- Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, who had given up his campaign to be reappointed after being formally nominated as the candidate for the regional presidency despite living in self-imposed exile – since separatist or pro-independence parties held on to their narrow majority in the regional parliament in December last year – was detained in Germany.
- In December last year, the European Union triggered Article 7 against Poland for “a risk of serious breach to the rule of law”, and this ongoing tension seems “symptomatic of the growing political and economic divide between Western and Eastern Europe”.
- A gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took hostages at a supermarket in France. He killed at least two people, while demanding the release of the only surviving suspect of a cell responsible for the terror attack in Paris in November 2015.
- The gunman was later killed by the police when they stormed the supermarket.
The Middle East
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was discharged from the hospital after a brief stay for a minor viral infection. Mr. Netanyahu is battling corruption allegations against him, for which he has denied any wrongdoing.
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was struck by missile attacks launched from Yemen, resulting in the first casualty in the capital city “as a result of a Saudi-led coalition’s three-year military campaign against Yemen’s Houthi militia and their allies”.
- A youth demonstration for tighter gun controls – prompted by the Florida school shooting in February this year – drew hundreds of thousands of protestors around the country. These “March for our Lives” rallies were also one of the biggest in decades.
- The municipal government of Atlanta, Georgia has been the victim of a ransomware attack for a week. “Officials have disclosed few details about the episode or how it happened“, and it is not clear if the city would pay the ransom.
- Following continuing tensions between Russia and the United Kingdom over a nerve-agent attack of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil, 60 Russians were expelled from the United States. European Union countries have also done the same.
- In retaliation, Russia expelled 60 diplomats and closed the United States consulate in Saint Petersburg.
- Public officials in Mexico often treat water distribution and treatment “not as public services but as political favours”, with hardware upgrades not complete and engineers prevented from making fixes by the officials.
- 15 corpses were found inside an abandoned truck in Mexico, a country with a record number of murders last year.
- As part of a money laundering and vote-buying probe in Peru, two houses owned by former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski were raided. Mr. Kuczynski resigned last week in the aftermath of this controversy.
- A riot and a fire in a Venezuelan police station left at least 68 people dead. “Many Venezuelan prisons are lawless and have been for decades. Prisoners often openly wield machine guns and grenades, use drugs and leave guards powerless“.