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 20 to 25, 2018
In an unprecedented 2,000-word letter, Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church “has not dealt properly with ‘crimes’ against children and must prevent sexual abuses from being ‘covered up and perpetuated’”, though there are questions over whether the rhetoric will translate into more specific action. It is, in other words, a moment of reckoning for the church and its history of child sex abuse. The letter comes a week after Catholic leaders in Pennsylvania, the United States 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, and after large-scale scandals in Australia (where an archbishop was convicted of a cover-up) and Chile (where bishops offered to resign over their failure to stem sex abuse).
- Ghanian diplomat and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan passed away at the age of 80.
- The collapse of a half-finished building in Nigeria killed one person. “Building collapses are common in Nigeria, where building codes are regularly flouted”.
- Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull survived a leadership vote by defeating Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton by 48 votes to 35. Rifts within the government, however, have widened.
- Later in the week, however, Mr. Turnbull was ousted, as Treasurer Scott Morrison won a three-way battle for leadership of the Liberal party. Elections are due by May 2019.
- “The death toll from the worst flooding to hit India’s Kerala state” last week increased to at least 357.
- Nearly 500 people have died in quakes and aftershocks in Indonesia, since July 29.
- Amidst reconciliation efforts between North Korea and South Korea – including plans for a third summit and after President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, in June – dozens of South Koreans crossed the border to meet with their relatives for three days.
- A knife attack in Paris, France, left three people – including the attacker – dead.
- Greece ended its final bailout agreement with the European Union, even as economic pessimism and anger persist. A report by the International Monetary Fund, however, expressed concern that Greece might still be at risk of further financial trouble.
- In Italy, the death toll from a bridge collapse last week increased to 43.
- The sudden flooding of a mountain river in Italy left eight hikers dead.
- Thousands of anti-corruption demonstrators gathered in Bucharest, Romania last week to call on the left-wing government to resign, and similar concerns over the rule-of-law have continued to emerge in Poland (where Article 7 was triggered last year).
The Middle East
- Following two deadly weeks in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani called for a ceasefire with the Taliban to coincide with the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday this week. The Taliban, however, rejected the offer and instead took hundreds of hostages.
- Since President Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement in May this year – with sanctions on Iran triggered and reimposed – more Afghans are now returning from than they are entering into Iran.
- Two former advisors of President Donald Trump were convicted as felons: Former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges of violating campaign finance law, tax evasion, and bank fraud, directly implicating Mr. Trump in the process; former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight counts of tax and bank fraud.
- Prisoners in at least 17 states planned to go on strike – work strikes, hunger strikes, and sit-ins – “to draw attention to poor prison conditions and what many view as exploitative labor practices in American correctional facilities”.
- A shooting in Texas left two people – including the shooter – dead.
- The crash of a helicopter in Iraq left one United States coalition service member dead.
- Taiwan lost its third diplomatic ally in 2018 – El Salvador – after Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic in May.
- President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro – who survived an apparent assassination attempt last week – announced one of his government’s biggest economic overhauls, including a 96 per cent currency devaluation and a hike of the minimum wage. Observers are not optimistic, especially since inflation is expected to hit one million per cent by the end of the year.