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 14 to 19, 2018
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may have lost its territories in Iraq and Syria, but in the past two weeks the countries of Afghanistan, Brazil, and Indonesia felt the effects of the terror group and its branches around the world. ISIS claimed responsibility for explosions in Afghanistan last week, where its capital has been the scene of escalated violence since January this year. Brazil charged 11 people for planning to establish an ISIS cell in the country, while in Indonesia three suicide bomb attacks in four days – carried out by families, including children – killed dozens of people. ISIS claimed responsibility for these attacks too.
- At least 26 people were killed in Burundi, following a terrorist attack. “The attack came shortly before a May 17 referendum that could extend the president’s term“.
- In a national park in DR Congo, a park ranger was killed and two British citizens were kidnapped.
- A new Ebola outbreak was declared by the government of DR Congo last week, though health authorities are more prepared this time.
- The death of the leader of the main opposition party in Mozambique Afonso Dhlakama two weeks ago “could affect the progress that’s been made in negotiations to end hostilities between [his party, Renamo] and the Frelimo government“, as well as upcoming elections.
- In Sierra Leone, at least one person was killed at the inauguration of new president Julius Maada Bio. “There was chaos at the [crowded] stadium after the stampede“, but the ceremony went on.
- In Sudan, the sentencing of a teenage girl to death for killing her husband “has sparked online outrage“, with claims that the girl was actually defending herself against being raped.
- In the country’s worst mass shooting since 1996, seven people were found dead from gunshot wounds in Australia.
- Hail and thunderstorms in India killed at least 70 people, after two weeks of sandstorms.
- In Indonesia, a family of six – including the use of children – carried out suicide bombings at three churches, killing at least 13 people. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack. In the same evening, a second family was responsible for another blast. A day later, a third family of suicide bombers similarly instructed by ISIS blew themselves up at a checkpoint, killing at least seven people.
- A knife attack on a family of four in Tokyo, Japan, left one person dead.
- Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim, “who helped build the Pakatan Harapan coalition that swept to power in elections” last week but was jailed for a sodomy conviction, was granted a full pardon by the country’s king.
- Rebel attacks in Myanmar left at least 19 people dead. It was “the latest deadly clash in a decades-long conflict between insurgent groups and [the] government“.
- Ahead of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump, North Korea has thrown it in doubt, “saying it might not attend if Washington continues to demand that it unilaterally abandon its nuclear weapons”. And citing military exercises between South Korea and the United States, it also called off high-level talks with South Korea.
- For leaking classified information, former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou was sentenced to four months in prison.
- “The apparent lack of a coherent immigration policy and the absence of a future proof asylum system” in the European Union is problematic, resulting in the development of dissimilar national systems which stymie cooperation and coordination.
- The two leading anti-establishment and anti-European Union parties in Italy – the Five Star Movement and the League (Lega Nord) – are working together to form a new government. The country has been characterised by political paralysis since the elections in March this year, which resulted in a hung parliament.
The Middle East
- “Militants detonated bombs and stormed a government building” in Afghanistan, killing at least six people. This comes a few days after a series of attacks in the capital city of Kabul, which began in January this year.
- Flash foods in Afghanistan killed at least 34 people.
- In its sixth week, the protests and clashes at the Gaza-Israel border have continued. With Israeli troops killing one Palestinian this week, the total death toll has increased to 44.
- Parliamentary elections were held in Iraq, though in the lead-up there was “a sense of apathy in an electorate exhausted by 15 years of government mismanagement and malfeasance”.
- President Donald Trump decided last year to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the official inauguration of the new embassy coincided with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The move has enraged Palestinians, and at least 41 people died in the latest round of protests.
- The Supreme Court “struck down a federal law that prohibits sports gambling”, allowing states to legalise sports betting.
- Teacher protests (in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) over low pay and school budget cuts have now reached North Carolina, where thousands of teachers have marched on the state Capitol.
- In Brazil, 11 people were charged for planning to establish an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria cell.
- At its central London embassy, Ecuador is said to have spent US$5 (S$6.7) million over more than five years “into a secret intelligence budget that protected” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
- Days after the move of the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Guatemala moved its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem too.
- Thousands of Venezuelans – “fleeing their country’s economic crisis, failing healthcare system, and repressive government” – are overwhelming a border city in Colombia. President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro is expected to win the presidential election next week.