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 30 to May 5, 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that all villages in India now have access to electricity, but the important qualification is that a village is deemed electrified if 10 per cent of its homes and all public buildings are connected to the grid, which means 200 million Indians still lack such access. In the Indian states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, at least 95 people were killed in fierce dust storms, and in separate incidents two teenagers were gang-raped in the past week, despite tougher penalties against rape which were introduced last month. And finally, a distracted bus driver who caused his bus to be hit by a train left at least 13 of his passengers dead.
- More than two decades after the country’s genocide, mass graves containing more than 2,000 bodies were discovered in Rwanda. “Bodies found so far include those of babies, based on the clothing that has been found”.
- Even though more than 200 child soldiers have been freed in South Sudan, the poor state of the country’s education system and facilities means that these children “run the risk of not attending or not having teachers“.
- Zimbabwe “legalised the production of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes”. Recreational use is still illegal.
- Following weeks of street protests and the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan last week, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets “after parliament refused to elect their protest leader [Nikol Pashinyan] as the new prime minister“.
- A knife-wielding man in China killed seven middle-school children.
- A landslide in China left killed at least nine people. “The cause of the landslide has not been confirmed“.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that all villages in India now have access to electricity. “A village is considered electrified if 10 per cent of its homes and all public buildings are connected to the grid“, though 200 million Indians still lack access.
- In India, a distracted bus driver who caused his bus to be hit by a train left at least 13 of his passengers dead.
- At least 95 people in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh were killed in fierce dust storms. The storms “disrupted electricity, uprooted trees, destroyed houses, and killed livestock“, and while common the large-scale loss of lives is unusual.
- In separate incidents, two teenagers were gang-raped in India in the past week, “highlighting a rape epidemic that shows no sign of abating despite tougher penalties introduced last month“, which made the rape of a girl under 12 punishable by the death penalty.
- A police officer “who testified that police framed two Reuters reporters” – charged for covering a massacre in the Rakhine state, for which seven Myanmar soldiers were found guilty in April – was sentenced to an undisclosed prison term.
- Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korea in 65 years, vowing to work together with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a historic summit. With plans to work with the United States, the two Koreas affirmed in a joint declaration to work towards the goal “of declaring an end to the Korean War”.
- The crash of a Russian military plane left two people dead.
- In Taiwan, seven people – including five firefighters – were killed in a fire in an electronics factory. “The disaster follows a string of recent accidents in Taiwanese factories, raising questions about safety standards”.
- The European Union (EU) lags behind China and the United States in the artificial intelligence industry, and in a bid to spur its own industry the EU is stressing “the preservation of fundamental rights and consumer protection”.
- Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron was received in full state honours in the United States, and also met with President Donald Trump. Mr. Macron did not get concrete deals or commitments from Mr. Trump, but the former did “establish himself as the European leader capable of dealing with an unpredictable [American president]”.
- Following a records-destruction scandal involving “the first large group of Caribbean migrants to arrive [in the country] after [the Second World War]“, Home Secretary of the United Kingdom Amber Rudd resigned.
- After men accused of a gang rape in 2016 “were convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse”, tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets in Spain to denounce the decision by the court.
- A storm in the Swiss Alps left at least four skiers dead, the latest in a series of accidents affecting skiers in recent weeks.
The Middle East
- Two bomb blasts in Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least four civilians. The city has been struck by multiple attacks since January this year. Hours after these twin blasts, another series of suicide bomb attacks – claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – left dozens more dead.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – using “a huge archive of stolen Iranian nuclear plans” seized from a secret warehouse in Tehran, Iran – accused the country of lying about its nuclear aspirations.
- For the fifth Friday in a row, Palestinians stormed the fence between Gaza and Israel.
- President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas – in his address to the Palestinian National Council – “dismissed Israel as a European “colonial project” and said the Jews had brought the Holocaust upon themselves“. His tirade has been widely condemned.
- American stand-up comedian and actor Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault.
- Following President Donald Trump’s executive order in March this year imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from across the globe, allies of the United States now have 30 more days to negotiate exemptions.
- Public school teachers in Arizona continued their walkout to voice their dissatisfaction over salaries and school funding. It is the first teacher walkout in the state’s history, and follows similar protests in other states.
- Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria last September, and since then problems have only persisted. Thousands of Puerto Ricans marched “to protest pension cuts, school closures, and slow hurricane recovery efforts“, and the territory’s future seems uncertain.
- The crash of a Puerto Rico Air National Guard cargo plane in Georgia left at least nine people dead.
- As it begins to accept girls into its programme, the Boy Scouts of America will change its name to Scouts BSA in February next year.
- In São Paulo, Brazil, the collapse of an abandoned 26-storey office building occupied by squatters killed at least one person.
- Following decisions by Sao Tome (in 2016) and Panama (in 2017) to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the Dominican Republic became the latest country to do so. Just 19 countries maintain full diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
- Dozens of asylum-seeking migrants who travelled from Mexico to the Mexico-United States border – looking to leave behind violence and poverty – vowed “to remain outside an immigration processing centre until ‘every last one’ is admitted into the country“.
- In Nicaragua, the death toll from the violent anti-government protests last week – over planned changes to the social security system, which were later scrapped – has increased to 38.
- Archaeologists in Peru “unearthed the remains of more than 140 children along the northern coast of [the country]”, in what has been described as one of the largest instance of mass child sacrifice in the continent or even the world.