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 21 to 26, 2018
In Germany, the lack of military preparedness is of little public concern, yet Chancellor Angela Merkel is part of a group calling for some military expenditure and investment. The country, however, has to balance its history across the two world wars with perceived Russian aggression and demands by United States President Donald Trump. And in Taiwan, having pledged to raise defence spending last year and with the persistent and growing threat of China, President Tsai Ying-wen is pledging to boost her country’s security. This comes as Taiwan “lost its second diplomatic ally in less than a month“, after Burkina Faso cut ties this week and after the Dominican Republic did so earlier this month, prompting the resignation of Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
- Burkina Faso cut its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
- The death toll from the latest Ebola outbreak in DR Congo – despite the country’s medical advances – has increased from 25 to 45.
- A lightning strike in Cambodia killed five people instantly. The country “of winding rivers and lakes is prone to lightning storms, a problem that some believe is worsening with the ravages of climate change”.
- Tragedies in India: Two truck accidents killed dozens; an improvised explosive device triggered by Naxalite rebels killed at least six policemen; a Nipah virus outbreak has killed at least 10 people; and a protest at a copper smelter left at least nine dead.
- A truck accident in Indonesia killed at least 11 people. “Transport accidents are not uncommon” in the country.
- A planned summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump has been cancelled. North Korea first threw the Singaporean summit in doubt, before Mr. Trump cancelled the summit in a letter to Mr. Kim.
- In Chechnya, Russia, four gunmen stormed a church and killed at least one churchgoer and two police officers.
- Heavy rains and strong winds in Sri Lanka killed at least three people and affected more than 8,000. “More than 200 people were killed and 78 people missing when the southwest monsoons caused severe floods and landslides across [the country] last year”.
- With government opinion polls showing “that most Taiwanese prefer autonomy over unification with China”, Taiwanese President Tsai Ying-wen is pledging to boost the country’s security, having vowed to raise defence spending last year.
- Elected as the regional president of Catalonia in a 66-65 second round vote, former corporate lawyer Quim Torra said one of his goals is to reinstate his predecessor Carles Puigdemont – who is fighting extradition to Spain, in Germany – as “the legitimate president”. Catalonia has been a site of unrest since last October, when it voted in a referendum in favour of independence.
- Eastern European members of the European Union (EU) “remain heavily critical towards the Commission’s decision to allocate its long term budget based on a criteria intended to protect the EU’s democratic foundations”, with increasingly hardline attitudes.
- At the same time, the EU placed the membership aspirations of a few Western Balkan countries on hold, after a summit in Bulgaria.
- “The lack of military preparedness” in Germany – given the history of the two world wars – is of little public concern, though Chancellor Angela Merkel is part of a group calling for some military expenditure and investment.
- Populist parties in Italy – the Five Star Movement and the League (Lega Nord) – which were working together to form a new government, got the go-ahead to form a government. Novice Giuseppe Conte has been named as the prime minister.
- In 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was hit by an anti-aircraft missile, killing all 296 people on board. Prosecutors in the Netherlands have now “identified a Russian military unit … as the source of the missile“, in an interim update to their investigations.
- An explosion in a fireworks storage facility in Spain left one person dead.
The Middle East
- A series of blasts at a cricket match in Afghanistan killed at least eight people.
- A suicide bomber in Iraq killed seven people. “There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing“.
- In an attack, fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed at least 30 Syrian army troops and Iranian-backed militiamen. ISIS may have lost control of almost all of its territory, but the terror group continues to make its presence felt around the world.
- At least eight people were killed in a Texas school shooting.
- Following the announcement of tit-for-tat tariffs in April this year, China and the United States have been negotiating “to hammer out agreements on trade”, with tariffs and a supposed trade war put on hold.
- The eruption of a volcano in Hawaii forced residents to flee, and now as hot lava hits the ocean laze – a combination of “lava” and “haze” – is becoming a real threat and “has proven deadly in the past”.
- Last year, some American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba were victims of a mysterious health or sonic attack. In China, an American government employees is reporting similar health problems. Cause of the symptoms remains unknown.
- Citing China’s “continued militarisation” of the South China Sea, the United States withdrew an invitation to China for participation in a major Pacific naval exercise, scheduled from June to August this year.
- The collapse of a building in Argentina left at least one man dead.
- In Chile, 14 priests involved in a sex abuse scandal – involving even minors – were defrocked.
- The crash of a Cuban commercial airliner killed all but three of the 105 people onboard.
- President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro won a second term, “in a contest that critics said was heavily rigged in his favour”. Turnout – said to be at 46 per cent – was low, in a country which is experiencing deep political and socio-economic problems.