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!
April 16 to 21, 2018
In the past week, the United States has had its geopolitical presence felt in North Korea and in Syria. In North Korea, it was announced that CIA Director Mike Pompeo – who is set to be the next Secretary of State – had made a secret visit to the country to meet with leader Kim Jong-un, marking “the highest-level contact between the two countries since 2000”. Ahead of the planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Mr. Kim, Singapore has also been listed one of five locations under consideration for this meeting. In Syria, American, British, and French forces hit Syria with air strikes, in response to a chemical attack on civilians in the country last week.
- A bomb in Somalia killed at least five spectators at a football match.
- More than 1,000 rhinoceroses were poached across South Africa in 2018, “for the fifth year running“. Only about 20,000 of these animals remain in the country, as activists and conservation groups call on the government to end the poaching.
- China staged live-fire military drills, “in what was seen as a warning to Taiwan of the consequences of pursuing independence“. Taiwan had just held its own military drills last week.
- The crackdown against bootleg alcohol in Indonesia – which has killed close to 100 people in recent weeks – continued, as thousands of home-made alcohol were destroyed by the police. The city of Bandung had declared a state of emergency last week.
- The collapse of a building in Indonesia left seven teenagers dead. “In February, the government temporarily halted all elevated transportation projects in Indonesia, after a dozen major accidents killed five and injured dozens more“.
- After an Indian detainee committed suicide in a Japanese immigration detention centre, more than 40 people are on a hunger strike.
- The Russian government was blamed by officials of the United Kingdom and the United States for “coordinated cyberattacks against internet infrastructure worldwide in an effort to conduct espionage and intellectual property theft“.
- In Hungary, the conservative Fidesz Party of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán won a landslide victory with 48.9 per cent of the votes, an increase of four percentage points from the previous election. “Some in the [European Union] have considered [the] Fidesz government as radical for its xenophobia, anti-immigrant rhetoric“.
- In Malta, the assassination of muckraking journalist Caruana Galizia in October last year has received international attention, as “45 journalists from 18 news organisations [have] agreed to work together to pursue leads from her work on corruption and international money-laundering networks, as well as look into the circumstances surrounding her death“.
- Against the background of a political and economic divide between Western and Eastern Europe, the European Union triggered Article 7 against Poland in December last year for “a risk of serious breach to the rule of law”. There are now concerns that the ruling populist Law and Justice (PiS) party is threatening the rule of law in the country.
The Middle East
- For the third week, Palestinian demonstrations along the Israel-Gaza border continued, with Israeli soldiers repelling “repeated attempts to cross the barrier with tear gas and live fire“. This came days before Israel celebrates its Independence Day.
- Four police officers in Saudi Arabia were shot dead at their checkpoint. The perpetrators were not identified.
- American, British, and French forces hit Syria with air strikes, in response to a chemical attack on civilians in the country last week. This is the second time President Donald Trump has used force against Syria.
- An hours-long riot at a maximum-security prison in South Carolina left seven inmates dead.
- Southwest Airlines flight made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after a jet engine broke apart. One passenger was killed.
- Following “the arrest of two black men waiting in [one of its] Philadelphia store“, Starbucks announced that it would close 8,000 of its cafés for an afternoon on May 29 so that its 175,000 employees can undergo racial tolerance training.
- A month after 11 nations signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a year after President Donald Trump had pulled the United States out of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership, he is now looking into re-joining.
- In this first television interview since his firing by President Donald Trump in May last year, former FBI director James Comey called Mr. Trump “morally unfit to be president”. This ugly spat also marks the start of Mr. Comey’s new book tour.
- Former First Lady Barbara Bush – wife of President George H. W. Bush – died at the age of 92.
- Having been devastated by Hurricane Maria last year in September, Puerto Rico lost power again. This was the first time since September that the United States territory has experienced a full island-wide blackout.
- It was announced that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had visited North Korea earlier this month, meeting with leader Kim Jong-un.
- President of Cuba Raúl Castro handed power over to First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel. The transfer of power, however, appears ceremonial, since Mr. Castro will still stay on as the head of the Communist Party.
- Abortion was made illegal in El Salvador “in all circumstances” in 1997, and its enforcement – even in cases of miscarriages – has disproportionately affected the poor and the poorly educated.