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!
January 7 to 12, 2019
The government shutdown in the United States – the third to happen during President Donald Trump’s tenure – became the longest on record, and it is set to continue, leaving nearly one million employees working without pay or sent home. Earlier in the week, Mr. Trump’s first formal, prime-time address from the Oval Office focused on the “growing humanitarian and security crisis” along the Mexico-United States border. The Democrats, in response, stressed the ongoing government shutdown. “Eventually, the pressure on Republicans in the Senate to bypass the president and cut a deal could prove irresistible“.
- 46 million citizens cast their votes in a historic election in DR Congo, where there has not been “a peaceful transition of power … since the end of Belgian rule in 1960“.
- Later in the week, it was announced that opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi won the presidential election. There are, however, disputes over the legitimacy of the results, and the losing candidates could potentially appeal the results.
- In Gabon, a coup attempt by soldiers – who took over state radio – failed. Four of the plotters were arrested.
- At least three people were stabbed at a campaign rally in Nigeria.
- The collision of two trains in South Africa killed at least three people.
- In consecutive days of industrial action, about 10,000 garment workers protested in Bangladesh. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at workers protested in the capital, leaving one worker dead.
- The death toll from landslides in Indonesia increased to at least 32.
- The king of Malaysia, Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan, resigned just two years after he ascended to the post in December 2016. “Malaysia’s nine Malay state rulers elect a King among themselves every five years, usually on a rotational basis“.
- On his fourth trip to China since his first trip in March last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Mr. Kim could be looking to strengthen his position before another possible summit with President Donald Trump.
- The death toll from a storm in the Philippines has increased to 126.
- Two people died off the coast of Turkey, after a coal-carrying ship sent a distress signal.
- In Europe, the euro is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. “The euro is largely seen to be a success, with membership growing from 11 to 19 countries and the euro-area economy swelling by 72 per cent“.
- The yellow vest street protests have continued in France, as approximately 50,000 people – in their first action of 2019 – protested to keep up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron, who has been called to resign.
- A gas explosion in Paris, France left two French firefighters and one Spanish citizen dead. It is likely to be an accident.
- Chief of the German Army Eberhard Zorn “announced the possibility of recruiting other [European Union] nationals into the country’s military“. This follows the end of conscription in Germany in 2011.
- Blizzards in parts of Greece left an elderly woman dead.
- Thousands in Hungary protested against new legislation – deemed a “slave law” – which would allow “companies to demand that staff work up to 400 hours overtime a year” (the equivalent of an extra day a week).
- Macedonia’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment to change the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia. This follows an inconclusive referendum last year, and the change should end a longstanding dispute with Greece.
- A fire at an escape room in Poland left five teenage girls dead.
- Two separate tower block fires in Spain left four people dead.
The Middle East
- The collapse of a gold mine in Afghanistan killed at least 40 people.
- An attack on a police station in Afghanistan killed five people. No group claimed immediate responsibility.
- Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu defended himself against corruption allegations during a prime-time address. It is now up to the country’s attorney-general – who was appointed by Mr. Netanyahu – to decide whether to indict the prime minister.
- To end the practice of men divorcing their wives without the latter’s knowledge, divorced women in Saudi Arabia “will now be sent a text message to inform them of their new status“.
- In Yemen, drones of the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement attached a government military parade and killed several people.
- A shooting at a bowling alley in California left at least three men killed.
- President Donald Trump’s first formal, prime-time address from the Oval Office focused on the “growing humanitarian and security crisis” along the Mexico-United States border. The Democrats, in response, stressed the ongoing government shutdown.
- World Bank President Jim Yong Kim resigned three years ahead of schedule. President Donald Trump can now fill the opening.
- In a test of new President Jair Bolsonaro’s law-and-order platform, a special deployment of Brazilian troops began patrolling the city of Fortaleza “to stop a spike in violent attacks by criminal gangs against banks, buses and shops“.
- Brazil became the latest country to withdraw from a non-binding United Nations pact on migration.
- The government of Guatemala said it was expelling “a United Nations-backed anti-corruption commission that has investigated the president and other lawmakers“. The government has clashed with the commission in the past few months.
- The opposition-controlled National Assembly in Venezuela declared the presidency of President Nicolás Maduro – set to be sworn in for a second six-year term – illegitimate. This comes after the foreign ministers of 12 Latin American countries said their governments would not accept Mr. Maduro as the country’s president.
- Later in the week, Mr. Maduro was sworn in for his second term.