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
In the Philippines, there were fights against suspected militants and against a surge in measles cases, which was later declared as an outbreak. Earlier in the week, government troops killed three suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, while suffering five fatalities, and later in the week, in an assault on a suspected jungle lair of a Singaporean terrorist, security forces killed eight militants. In Manila the health department is fighting a surge in measles cases – likely the result of parents opting not to have their children vaccinated for measles and other highly contagious diseases – and later it declared an outbreak of the contagious disease.
- In Liberia, only people of Negro descent are allowed “to obtain Liberian citizenship by birth, ancestry or naturalisation“. Sierra Leone is the only other African country which has maintained this “Negro clause” for citizenship. President of Liberia George Weah has criticised the regulations and wishes to amend the laws, but it would be a challenge.
- The explosion of a car bomb in Somalia killed at least 10 people. Al-Shabaab. Islamists Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. This follows their first major terror attack of 2019 in Kenya last month.
- An explosion caused by firecrackers in China killed five people. Because of its danger and its contribution to pollution, the tradition of setting off firecrackers has been banned in 499 cities across the country.
- Amidst the Chinese New Year celebrations, at least eight people were killed by a knife-wielding man in China too. A knife and arson attack in China, later in the week, killed 15 people.
- The derailment of an express train in India killed at least six passengers.
- In India too, 28 people died after drinking illegally brewed alcohol.
- In the Philippines, government troops killed three suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, while suffering five fatalities. Later in the week, in an assault on a suspected jungle lair of a Singaporean terrorist, security forces killed eight militants.
- In Manila, the Philippines, the health department is fighting a surge in measles cases. The department believes “the spike in cases are due to parents opting not to have their children vaccinated for measles and other highly contagious diseases“.
- A bus crash in Russia left at least seven people dead. “Russia ranks among the world’s worst countries for road deaths, mainly due to alcoholism, the poor condition of the roads and failure to follow traffic regulations“.
- Ahead of elections in March, Thai Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi shocked the country when she announced that “she announced she would be the prime ministerial candidate for a populist party loyal to ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra“. Within the same day, however, the king – and her brother – opposed her candidacy, which is likely to lead to her disqualification.
- The collapse of an eight-storey apartment in Istanbul, Turkey, left at least one person dead.
- In Europe, four tech firms – Facebook, Google, Mozilla, and Twitter – who signed a Code of Practice on Disinformation last year have been tasked “to provide comprehensive reports on the actions they have undertaken since then“.
- Ahead of the European Parliament elections in May, pro-European groups are working against far-right, anti-Europe populists.
- A building fire in Paris, France left seven people dead. The death toll later rose to at least 10, with foul play suspected.
- French President Emmanuel Macron has continued a series of concessions to the ‘yellow vest’ movement. In fact, both the political left and right in the country have been appealing to the protestors for votes, ahead of the European elections in May.
- A suburban train accident in Spain left one person dead.
The Middle East
- Since the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement in May last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran has abided by the terms of the deal. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, in the past week, launched a special-purpose vehicle, or SPV, “to keep Iran from quitting the 2015 accord to constrain its nuclear activities“.
- In Iran too, armed men blew up a tanker truck, killing an Iranian policeman.
- Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, making him the first pontiff to visit the Arabian peninsula. During this visit, he acknowledged for the first time that the Catholic Church has a persistent problem of sexual abuse.
- The crash of a small plane into a home in California killed two people.
- In Virginia, the top three elected officials, all Democrats – Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfar, and Attorney-General Mark Herring – are ensnared in controversies involving the wearing of blackface as well as sexual assault.
- President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address, calling for bipartisanship on infrastructure and trade as well as funding for a border wall. He also announced a second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late-February.
- Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was previously found guilty of receiving over a million dollars in bribes and remains locked up. Now, he was convicted for a second time on charges of corruption and money laundering.
- A powerful storm in Brazil left at least six people dead. Later, a fire at the dorm of a youth football training ground killed 10.
- Former mayor and outsider candidate Nayib Bukele claimed victory in El Salvador’s presidential elections. His two primary opponents recognised the win, as Mr. Bukele secured over 52 per cent of the vote with almost 70 per cent of the ballots counted.
- A boat smuggling migrants from Haiti sank off the Bahamas, leaving at least 28 of them dead.