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!
August 13 to 18, 2018
Afghanistan – in the capital of Kabul, in particular – has been the site of intensified terror attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Taliban, and in the past two weeks there were three more attacks which have led to the deaths of hundreds. This, despite an unprecedented ceasefire with the Taliban in June this year. Last week, the Taliban launched an assault on a strategic city, killing up to 150 civilians, while suicide bombers in two attacks killed dozens more. This week, Taliban insurgents overran an Afghan army base and a police checkpoint, killing at least 39 soldiers and police officers. Dozens more were killed in a suicide attack inside a classroom.
- In DR Congo, where elections are long overdue, the party of President Joseph Kabila made the surprise announcement that the president will not be its presidential candidate in December 2018.
- In Mozambique, a new set of legislation is expected “to put a high price tag on the right to report the news”. Some argue that these laws indicate a desire to crack down on media freedom, as it has been done in Tanzania and Uganda.
- In Asia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan agreed on how to divide the resources in the Caspian Sea.
- Torrential rains and landslides in India killed at least 24 people. Tens of thousands of people have also been displaced, and the death toll continued to rise, in what has been characterised as the worst floods in nearly a century in Kerala.
- The death toll from the two earthquakes in Indonesia last week increased to at least 387 people. Later in the week, a plane crash in Indonesia killed eight people. Only a 12-year-old boy was found alive.
- An ammonia gas leak at a ice factory in Malaysia left two people dead.
- As a cooling measure, New Zealand passed a law banning most foreign nationals from buying some residential property.
- North Korea and South Korea agreed to hold a summit for a third time this year. This follows President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, in June.
- A fire in a Taiwanese hospice killed nine people.
- In Turkey, its currency “fell to another record low on Monday”, prompting fears of an economic meltdown and a regional or global contagion. The crisis has been caused by inflation, economic mismanagement, and a diplomatic dispute with the United States.
- Dozens of people people were killed in Genoa, Italy, after a bridge collapsed.
- Thousands of anti-corruption demonstrators gathered in Bucharest, Romania “to call on the left-wing government to resign”. This follow the sacking of a top anti-graft prosecutor last month.
- Spain has overtaken Italy “as the top destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea into Europe”, and the European Union has expressed willingness to increase financial support to the country.
- A car crashed into the Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom, injuring pedestrians and cyclists.
The Middle East
- In Afghanistan, four days of heavy fighting with the Taliban left more than 100 members of government security forces dead.
- Taliban insurgents overran an Afghan army base and a police checkpoint, killing at least 39 soldiers and police officers. Dozens more were killed in a suicide attack inside a classroom.
- Fierce bombardment in rebel-held area of Syria killed at least 53 civilians.
- Four people – including two police officers – were killed in a shooting in Canada.
- Vice-President Mike Pence unveiled details of the country’s plans to build a United States Space Force, which “would become the sixth branch of America’s massive military”. Congress, however, still needs to approve the plans.
- Since Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria and hit by persistent problems, the official death count has been contested. Now, the government has quietly admitted that the death toll “may be far higher than its official estimate of 64”.
- In Seattle, an airline worker stole a passenger plane and flew it for an hour before crashing it. He was killed in the crash.
- Catholic leaders in Pennsylvania were found by a grand jury to have covered up – over 70 years – the clergy sexual abuse by 300 of their priests of at least 1,000 children.
- In West Virginia, three state Supreme Court justices were impeached by lawmakers after an “over-the-top” spending scandal.
- Nine planes within Argentine, Chilean, and Peruvian airspace were forced to make emergency changes to their routes “because of bomb threats issued to Chile’s civil aviation authority”.
- A record-high 63,880 people were murdered in Brazil last year, which is an increase of three per cent from 2016.
- A new report by a watchdog group found that 207 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2017, with nearly 60 per cent of those killings happening in Latin America. Brazil recorded the highest number of killings.