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!
June 4 to 9, 2018
The countries of Jordan, Madagascar, and Spain experienced political change in the past week. In Jordan – where the economy has struggled to grow in the past few years – King Abdullah replaced his prime minister to diffuse the biggest protests in years. In Madagascar, Prime Minister Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana resigned to resolve a political crisis related to electoral reforms, and the president has been ordered to form a government of national unity. And in Spain, plagued by years of corruption allegations, Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy was ousted after losing a vote of no-confidence.
- Kenya said it would close the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in 2016. “The camp was in fact never closed largely due to a Kenya High Court decision”, but it has been argued that much of the backlash are not necessarily justified.
- Prime Minister of Madagascar Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana resigned “to resolve a political crisis sparked by controversial electoral reforms”. The country’s president has been ordered by the Constitutional Court to form a government of national unity.
- In Togo, after a series of massive nationwide protests last year, prompted in part by the defeat of Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh in December last year, President Faure Gnassingbe – “whose family has ruled Togo for more than 50 years” – has since suppressed uprisings and stifled the efforts of the opposition.
- The explosion of a truck carrying explosives near the entrance of an iron-ore mine in China killed at least 11 people.
- Wind storms in Uttar Pradesh, India killed at least 18 people. The state has been battered by storms since April.
- “United Nations agencies signed an agreement with Myanmar … to support the return of Rohingya Muslim refugees”. It would, however, be difficult to persuade the Rohingya to return to Myanmar, where they had been forced to flee in the first place.
- The European Union “continues to be bogged down over disagreements regarding the long-running migration / refugee crisis”, and the divergent positions of its members states is the key reason.
- The European Court of Justice ruled that countries in the European Union (EU) which “have not legalised gay marriage must respect the residency rights of same-sex spouses who want to live together in their territory“. Six members states in the EU do not legally recognise same-sex marriage: Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
- There has been a surge in neo-Nazi attacks on refugees in Greece, contributing to an atmosphere of fear.
- An anti-immigrant party in Slovenia won the most seats in a snap election, though not a majority.
- Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy was ousted, after losing a vote of no-confidence. Plagued by years of corruption allegations, Mr. Rajoy is the first leader in Spain’s modern democracy “to lose a vote of no confidence in Parliament”.
The Middle East
- If Afghanistan, nearly half of all its children – of 3.7 million children aged seven to 17 – “are out of school due to conflict, poverty, child marriage, and discrimination against girls”.
- Targeting a gathering of religious scholars, a suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed at least 12 people. The gathering was “part of a broader Afghan government effort to shrink the space for the Taliban and urge the group to meet for peace talks”.
- Following complaints and criticisms of fraud, the Iraqi Supreme Court “will oversee a manual recount of ballots from last month’s election” (in May). The performance of the Independent High Electoral Commission have come under particular attention.
- To diffuse the biggest protests in years – prompted by plans to lift taxes and the removal of bread subsidies – Jordan’s King Abdullah replaced his prime minister. Its “economy has struggled to grow in the past few years in the face of chronic deficit”.
- Saudi Arabia ended a longstanding policy which prevented women from driving in September last year. And as the kingdom issues the first driving licences, advocates who had campaigned for the right have been arrested and jailed.
- Nine Syrian refugees – including seven children – drowned while trying to reach Europe on a speedboat.
- Social Security is facing a long-term funding shortfall, and based on projections benefits will have to be cut by 21 per cent in 16 years. Medicare faces the same issues, and “Congress has punted on the issue of shoring up [solvency] for years“.
- Suicide rates between 1999 and 2016 increased in nearly every state, by as much as 30 per cent in some.
- For eight years roughly 400 squatters in Brazil lived in a government building, which burned to the ground last month. The fire drew comparisons to the huge fire which engulfed Grenfell Tower in London, the United Kingdom, in June last year.
- The eruption of a volcano in Guatemala – for the second time this year – killed at least seven people. The death toll then increased to at least 25 people, then to 62, as the country’s president declared three days of national mourning.