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!
May 7 to 12, 2018
In a stunning electoral victory in Malaysia, former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad defeated scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak to become the world’s oldest leader. Dr. Mahathir was later sworn in as the country’s prime minister, 15 years after he stood down. New leaders were also elected in Armenia, Lebanon, and Tunisia. In Armenia, following weeks of street protests and political uncertainty, the country’s parliament elected a former journalist as the next prime minister. Long overdue elections were held in Lebanon (in almost a decade) and Tunisia (since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011), though in both countries voter turnout were low.
- In July last year, the World Health Organisation declared an end to the Ebola outbreak – which started in May – in DR Congo. A new outbreak has since been declared by the government, with at least 17 dead from the virus disease.
- At least 32 people were killed, when a dam in Kenya burst its banks.
- An attack on a Nigerian village by bandits left at least 45 people dead. “There has been a spate of attacks in the area blamed on armed bandits who are stealing cattle and property from the villagers”.
- In Somalia, an explosion in a busy market killed at least 11 people. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
- The cave-in of a South African mine killed seven miners.
- Tunisia held its first local elections since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, but “voter apathy is widespread”. Despite dissatisfaction with the government – and especially with the poor economic conditions – turnout was low.
- In a national park in Uganda, a three-year-old son of a female ranger was killed and eaten by a leopard.
- Following weeks of street protests and political uncertainty, Armenia’s parliament elected former journalist Nikol Pashinian as the country’s prime minister (also a week after his election was unsuccessful).
- At least 10 Cambodians died from drinking insecticide-contaminated water.
- Cambodia’s English-language newspaper the “Phnom Penh Post” was sold “to a Malaysian investor whose PR firm once worked for Cambodia’s authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen”, raising concerns that that newspaper’s independence will be compromised.
- The death toll from fierce dust storms in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh climbed above 140. In the same week, thunderstorms in India killed at least 13 people.
- In the latest case of sexual violence in India, a teenager was raped and burned alive by two men. In the same week, another girl was raped and set on fire, suffering 70 per cent first-degree burns.
- By defeating Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak – scandal-plagued and “thrashed at the polls by a coalition of parties” – former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad is set to become the world’s oldest leader.
- The collapse of a jade mine slag heap in Myanmar – a “largely unregulated gem industry” – killed at least 14 people.
- Having met in March this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met again in an unannounced visit, ahead of a summit between Mr. Kim and President Donald Trump.
- The temperature in Pakistan hit 50.2 degrees Celsius last week, “the highest temperature ever reliably recorded, anywhere in the world, in the month of April”. A heat wave is affecting parts of India and Pakistan.
- In Pakistan too, a gas explosion at a coal mine killed at least 16 people.
- Hundreds of protestors in Russia – including opposition leader Alexei Navalny – were detained during street protests, ahead of the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin for a fourth term.
- Thousands of protestors in Paris, France protested against President Emmanuel Macron and his reforms, such as “cutting some worker protections and increasing police powers”. This came days after a violent May Day protest in the city, and around the one-year anniversary of Mr. Macron’s election.
- According to its Swedish panel there will be no laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, because of “the infighting and public outrage that have engulfed the group over a sex abuse scandal”.
- Brexit negotiations have continued, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May is now grappling with three core issues: The customs union with the European Union, the Irish border, as well as governance.
The Middle East
- Another explosion at a voter registration centre in Afghanistan killed or wounded at least 30 people. Just last week, Kabul – the scene of escalated violence since January this year – was struck by a series of suicide bomb attacks.
- In what was thought to be an accidental blast, at least five people were killed in an explosion in the Gaza Strip. This comes after weeks of deadly protests and clashes at the border between Gaza and Israel.
- In separate incidents, Israel carried out strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, while the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen – where there are two separate but overlapping conflicts – fired missiles into Saudi Arabia.
- Lebanon held its first national election in almost a decade, the first since war broke out in neighbouring Syria in 2011, but turnout was low. Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who rescinded his resignation last year after trips abroad, is expected to win.
- Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant, said it would list its shares on the country’s domestic stock exchange. “It is expected to be the world’s biggest [initial public offering] ever”.
- President Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement.
- For the first time since 2000, the unemployment rate in the United States dropped below four per cent.
- The eruption of a volcano in Hawaii – together with two major earthquakes – forced hundreds of residents to flee.