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 27 to September 1, 2018
The pursuit of accountability characterised the headlines this week: In Myanmar, where the United Nations (UN) said military leaders should be prosecuted; in Puerto Rico, where the death toll from Hurricane Maria has been revised upwards; and in the Vatican, where the Catholic Church and Pope Francis have come under fire for their mismanagement of sexual abuse cases. In Myanmar, UN investigators said that military leaders in Myanmar should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingyas. In Puerto Rico, after admitting earlier this month that the death toll from the hurricane could be higher than 64, the government has now raised it to 2,975. And in the Vatican, there is a call for Pope Francis’s resignation, by a former Vatican ambassador to the United States who said the pope knew about allegations against a cardinal.
- A study on the far-reaching effects of armed clashes found that in Africa, “three times more children died” from 1995 to 2015 as a result of conflicts than those who were killed in the conflicts.
- In Zimbabwe, the constitutional court upheld the recent presidential electoral victory of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Leaders of the opposition party had said that they would not accept the results, but Mr. Mnangagwa’s inauguration will go ahead.
- A predawn hotel fire in China killed at least 19 people before an international marathon.
United Nations investigators said that military leaders in Myanmar should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingyas, who were forced to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin backtracked on plans to raise the retirement age, from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women. For now, women will still retire at 55, but men will do so at 65.
- Former South Korean president Park Geun-hye was impeached last year after months of protests against her. She was first sentenced to 20 years in prison in February this year, then to 24 years in April this year, and now to 25 years.
For the first time last year, South Korea’s working-age population fell, reflecting the country’s demographic challenges.
- Floods in Taiwan killed at least six people.
- Four people were killed in Finland, “when a bus collided with five cars and plunged off a bridge onto railway tracks”.
The resignation of French environment minister Nicolas Hulot – “one of the most popular members of the government” – who repeatedly clashed with his colleagues over policy, is a major blow for President Emmanuel Macron.
In Chemnitz, Germany, “right-wing demonstrators clashed with an eclectic group of anti-fascists and migrants” after a fatal knife attack on a German man and the arrest of two suspects.
- Pope Francis’s visit to Ireland – which was already overshadowed by the Catholic Church’s problematic handling of sexual-abuse cases – was marked by a call for his resignation, by a former Vatican ambassador to the United States who said the pope knew about allegations against a cardinal. The Pope did not respond.
- Given the risk of a no-deal Brexit in the United Kingdom, the government announced that “it would release a batch of no-deal Brexit advice to guide people and businesses in planning for the future”.
The Middle East
An airstrike in Afghanistan left 11 fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) dead. Among the dead was the head of ISIS in Afghanistan, where the terror group has also lost its foothold in Iraq and Syria.
A district in Afghanistan was bombed by a Tajik or Russian plane, killing eight Taliban insurgents. The bombing was prompted by the killing of two Tajik border guards, in a clash with the Taliban.
Iran’s economy minister was ousted by the country’s Parliament. President Hassan Rouhani has faced economic and political pressure since the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement in May this year.
- A suicide bomb in Iraq killed at least 11 people, five of whom were security personnel.
- A Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen killed at least 22 children. “This is the second time in two weeks that an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition has resulted in dozens of civilian casualties” (in August too).
- Senator John McCain died of brain cancer at 81.
- Since Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria and hit by persistent problems, the official death count has been contested. The government admitted earlier this month that the death toll could be higher than 64, and has now raised it to 2,975.
- An overnight fire in a Chicago home killed eight people, including six children.
At a Florida video game tournament, three people – including the gunman – were killed and nine others were shot.
- Mexico and the United States reached a deal to change the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and President Donald Trump added that “talks with Canada were expected to begin immediately“.
- Nicaragua has been rocked by protests since April this year, and the United Nations is holding authoritarian President Daniel Ortega accountable for his various moves against the opposition and against protestors.
As thousands of Venezuelans continue to stream into neighbouring Peru, Peru “declared a health emergency at its northern border“. More details of the health emergency and its risks were, however, not given.