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 28 to February 2, 2019
France and Germany signed the Treaty of Aachen and in Afghanistan the Taliban and the United States said they agreed in principle to a peace framework, as the celebration of Australia Day remains contested, the Palestinian government submitted its resignation, and the Brexit turmoil continues in the United Kingdom. With successes: France and Germany signed the Franco-German treaty focused on political and economic cooperation, and in Afghanistan the Taliban and the US said they agreed in principle to a peace framework. With failures: The celebration of Australia Day – or Invasion Day – remains contested, attempts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in Palestine have remained unsuccessful, and the UK’s plans to reopen negotiations with the European Union have been rejected.
- Two boats carrying migrants capsized off the coast of Djibouti, leaving dozens of them missing.
- Government corruption and bad leadership in Nigeria have resulted in widespread poverty. In response, and with the availability of information, the tracking of government budgeted projects “can ensure service delivery and reduce corruption“.
- The celebration of Australia Day – or Invasion Day – remains contested in Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the celebration, as tens of thousands marched “around the country calling for the public holiday to be abolished“.
- Garment workers have been protesting in Bangladesh, and nearly 5,000 of them have been sacked by their factory bosses.
- Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced in November last year that he had created the world’s first genetically-edited babies. Chinese authorities have now confirmed the birth of the babies, while holding him responsible for breaking the rules.
- Multiple explosions in a Chinese apartment building killed one man. Authorities are considering it as a “criminal case“.
- Two women died in India, after eating contaminated food at a Hindu temple.
- After the country banned Israeli athletes from participating in the 2019 world para swimming championships, the International Paralympic Committee stripped Malaysia of the right to host the championships.
- In Malaysia, two elderly women died from breathing difficulties after they were caught in a crowd for a free coupon programme.
- Two explosions in a church in the Philippines killed at least 17 people.
- France and Germany signed the Treaty of Aachen – or the Franco-German treaty – which is focused on political and economic cooperation between both countries. “Despite some reservations, the Aachen treaty is still seen as a step towards a more stable Europe by allowing France and Germany to take more responsibility as allies“.
- Over a 19-year span, Germany plans to shut down all 84 coal-fired plants in the country. Six years ago, the country also had plans to phase out all of its 19 nuclear plants by 2020. 12 of the plants have since been shut down.
- In Spain, rescuers found the body of a two-year-old boy who fell down a narrow well 13 days ago.
- Following the recent Brexit turmoil, lawmakers in the United Kingdom voted on a series of amendments to the withdrawal plan, ruling out withdrawal without a deal and rejecting the delay of Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline.
- And as Prime Minister Theresa May seeks to reopen negotiations with the European Union (EU), the EU immediately said that the Northern Irish backstop is “part and parcel” of the Brexit deal and cannot be renegotiated.
The Middle East
- In Afghanistan, the Taliban and the United States said they agreed in principle to a peace framework.
- The Palestinian government submitted its resignation, “a move seen as a bid by President Mahmoud Abbas to strengthen his position as a decade-old political split deepens“. Attempts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas have remained unsuccessful.
- Apple blocked Facebook from running internal iOS applications. “The shutdown comes in response to news that Facebook has been using Apple’s programme for internal app distribution to track teenage customers with a ‘research’ app“.
- Tens of millions of Americans experienced a polar vortex, causing temperatures to fall far below freezing. At least eight people died. Flights have been cancelled and schools have been closed too.
- Following a measles outbreak in Washington – with 32 confirmed states – the governor declared a state of emergency.
- The United States announced indictments against Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker. The United States has also requested for the extradition of the company’s chief financial officer, who was arrested in Canada.
- The United States pulled out of a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, arguing that the latter has been secretly developing “a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to [American] allies and troops abroad“.
- A tornado hit Havana, Cuba, killing three people. The country had been hit by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
- A bus crash in Peru killed at least 10 people.
- The United States imposed sanctions against the state-run oil company PDVSA in Venezuela, triggering higher global oil prices, as the Venezuelan government froze the bank accounts of self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó.
- Later, the United States gave Mr. Guaidó the right to control Venezuelan assets and property in American banks.