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!
November 26 to December 1, 2018
At a special summit, the 27 remaining European Union (EU) leaders signed off the Brexit agreement with the United Kingdom (UK) after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez lifted his threat of an effective veto, but UK Prime Minister Theresa May will find it challenging to convince her parliament to vote for the deal. In the same week, defence ministers of 25 EU countries also agreed to form a join EU intelligence school to deepen defence cooperation. In France, major protests against mounting gas prices and eco-taxes – which have morphed into a wider demonstration against the government – led to dozens of arrests. And in Ukraine, the country’s parliament voted to declare martial law in areas bordering Russia after a naval clash.
- A new study has found that in South Africa, many health facilities “designated to help survivors of sexual violence do not offer counselling to children who have been raped“. 45 per cent of facilities surveyed do not do so.
- The capsizing of a boat in Uganda killed at least 10 people.
- Five children were killed in China when a car slammed into them. Later in the week in the country, a factory blast in Jilin killed two people. The cause of the explosion was not released.
- Even later in the week, an explosion in a factory zone in northern China killed at least 23 people, “adding to the string of deadly accidents in the country’s vast industrial sector“.
- A Chinese scientist’s claims to have created the world’s first genetically-edited babies have prompted criticism among scientists and an investigation by the Chinese government.
- In the first Indian gay pride parade since the country’s highest court decriminalised homosexuality, thousands marched through New Delhi waving rainbow flags and pro-LGBT placards.
- In Japan, a murder investigation was launched after six bodies were found.
- Attackers tried to storm the Chinese consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, leaving at least five people dead. Later in the week, the explosion of a bomb smuggled into a market killed at least 31 people in the country.
- The leader of a controversial South Korean church was sentenced to 15 years in prison “after being found guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault and harassment“. He also has to undergo 80 hours of a sexual violence therapy programme.
- After an emphatic defeat of her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) across islandwide elections, President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen resigned as chairman of the ruling DPP.
- In Taiwan too, a referendum “proposing that marriage should be legally recognised as between a man and a woman” gathered more than six million votes, outweighing another referendum which backed rights for equal marriage.
- To deepen defence cooperation, defence ministers of 25 European Union (EU) countries agreed to form a join EU intelligence school, with projects ranging from “improving training and facilities to boosting maritime operations and air systems“.
- At a special summit, the 27 remaining European Union leaders signed off the Brexit agreement with the United Kingdom (UK). UK Prime Minister Theresa May must now convince her parliament to vote for her deal, which will be a challenge.
- A week after major protests against mounting gas prices and eco-taxes in France, the police made dozens of arrests. These “yellow vest” protests “have morphed into a wider demonstration against the government“.
- In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez “lifted his threat of an effective veto” after written guarantees over the future of Gibraltar, after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.
- In Spain too, tens of thousands of protestors marched “to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women“.
- An apartment fire in Switzerland left six people dead.
- Ukraine said the Russian military opened fire on a few of its ships, “wounding six sailors and seizing the vessels“. Both countries have accused each other of violating laws of the sea.
- The parliament of Ukraine then voted to declare martial law in areas bordering Russia.
The Middle East
- A bombing in an Afghan army base killed at least 27 soldiers. “Members of the security forces in Afghanistan have been dying at alarming rates in recent years, as a resurgent Taliban have mounted attacks across the country“.
- In a continuation of violence in the country, a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan killed at least 22 people, “adding to the growing casualty toll on Afghan security forces fighting an increasingly confident insurgency“.
- Later in the week, three American soldiers were killed in the country, the worst loss of life for the United States this year.
- British academic Matthew Hughes was sentenced to life in prison in the United Arab Emirates on spying charges. Prime Minister Theresa May said “the issue would be raised ‘at the highest level’ with the Emirati authorities“.
- He was later pardoned with immediate effect.
- NASA landed its InSight lander on Mars. The lander will study the Martian underworld and offer clues to the planet’s formation.
- General Motors announced plans to lay off 14,000 workers and to close five facilities in the United States.
- Brazil “pulled out of hosting next year’s United Nations global summit meeting on climate change“. This comes about a month after the election victory of far-right former army captain Jair Bolsonaro.
- A migrant caravan of Honduran immigrants who are headed to the United States – and who became a campaign issue in the United States – are likely to be met by American military troops and have been confronted with anti-caravan protestors in Mexico. As they approach the US border, and frustrated by the slow asylum process, some migrants tried to rush the border.
- Even though Mexico’s constitution was amended in 2013 to guarantee universal access to the Internet, only 47 per cent of Mexicans have online access. “With its digital inclusion strategy, Mexico hopes to nudge social mobility upward“.