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 14 to 19, 2019
The Brexit deal offered by Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) Theresa May was defeated by a vote of 432 to 202. The majority of 230 against the prime minister is the biggest government defeat since 1924. Later, by a vote of 325 to 306, the prime minister survived a confidence vote in parliament. In the aftermath, four options are now likely: First, a new deal with the European Union; second, a no-deal Brexit on March 29, 2019; third, postponement of the Brexit date; and fourth, a second referendum within the UK. “The Economist” argues for the fourth option: “The give and take that Brexit requires mean that no form of exit will resemble the prospectus the public were recklessly sold in 2016“. “The New York Times“, however, lays out five big risks for a second referendum.
- In Burkina Faso, a Canadian geologist kidnapped by suspected Muslim militants was found dead.
- Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi won the presidential election in DR Congo, yet an analysis by the “Financial Times” has found that businessman Martin Fayulu is instead the clear winner.
- Somali Islamists Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel and office complex in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least seven people. The number is expected to rise. The group has been responsible for previous attacks.
- Nigeria is set to be the world’s second-largest importer of rice in 2019, but its government announced its intention to halt rice imports to save money. Heavy investment in rice farmers, however, appears to be a better policy.
- Approximately 100,000 people were killed from 1986 to 2006 through a conflict between the Ugandan government forces and the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Understanding the experiences of young people is especially critical.
- Violent protests over steep fuel price hikes in Zimbabwe left at least three people dead. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been accused of not living up to his pre-election pledges, and was an official visit to Moscow, Russia during the protests. In its wake, in an apparent shutdown, Zimbabweans said they were not able to access social media.
- Having landed a lunar probe on the far side of the moon – the world’s first expedition to the region – China reported that seeds the probe was carrying have sprouted. It is “the first instance of biological matter growing on the moon“.
- In clashes in the Rakhine state in a bid “to contain a new insurgency“, Myanmar’s army killed 13 rebel fighters.
- Ahead of European elections in May, President of France Emmanuel Macron and president of the far-right National Rally political party Marine Le Pen – whose approval rating trumps that of Mr. Macron’s party – are reaching out to the yellow vest movement.
- Hungary has been the site of major demonstrations in the past weeks, and it has been argued that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “has created a repressive and increasingly authoritarian state, operating under a pretence of democracy“.
- A week after Macedonia’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment to change the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia, the prime minister of Greece called for a vote of confidence “after a junior coalition partner announced that he would quit in protest of a deal to end a dispute with Macedonia over its name“.
- The mayor of a Polish city Paweł Adamowicz died after he was stabbed in the chest. He was attacked at a charity concert and has “long been considered a hate figure in far-right circles” for his defence of migrants and LGBT rights.
- Last year, after national elections resulted in a hung parliament, Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven stepped down after losing a no-confidence vote. After months of deadlock, the prime minister holds onto power as a minority government – with his party and the Social Democrats – “under an agreement that excludes a right-wing, anti-immigrant party“.
- The Brexit deal offered by Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) Theresa May was defeated by a vote of 432 to 202. The majority of 230 against the prime minister is the biggest government defeat since 1924.
- Later, by a vote of 325 to 306, the prime minister survived a confidence vote in parliament.
- In the aftermath, four options are now likely: First, a new deal with the European Union; second, a no-deal Brexit on March 29, 2019; third, postponement of the Brexit date; and fourth, a second referendum within the UK.
The Middle East
- The explosion of a car bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least four people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. This followed one of the deadliest assaults in the capital city last year.
- In Iran, a cargo plane carrying nine people crashed.
- A bombing in Syria killed at least 15 people, including American troops
- Relations between Canada and China have been tense since the arrest of the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, and China sentenced a Canadian man to be executed for drug smuggling. It prompted “Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accuse China of using the death penalty arbitrarily“.
- Severe rain and snowstorms in California left at least five people dead.
- Teachers in Los Angeles, California, went on strike, “as negotiators fail to reach a deal on salaries, class sizes, and hiring more staff“. This is the first teacher strike in the city in 30 years.
- In Colombia, a car bomb exploded at a police academy, killing at least nine people.
- The death toll later increased to at least 21.
- Another Honduran migrant caravan has crossed the border of Guatemala, travelling in the direction of the United States.
- Former president of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto is said to have taken a US$100 (S$135.42) million bribe from infamous drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. “If true, it suggests that corruption by drug cartels had reached into the highest level of [government]“.
- The explosion of a ruptured gasoline pipeline in Mexico left at least 20 people killed. “The explosion comes as gas stations in several Mexican states and the country’s capital have been running dry for nearly two weeks“.