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!
February 11 to 16, 2019
Amidst political turbulence, Spain is set to organise its third election in less than four years. And even though early general election was called for April 28, the political gridlock is only set to continue. At the start of the week in Madrid, thousands of people demonstrated against the prime minister’s plan to ease political tensions in Catalonia. As opposed to the moves for independence, these demonstrators were calling for a united Spain instead. And as protestors called for the ouster of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the trial of 12 Catalan separatist leaders – who are accused of rebellion and other crimes stemmed to the declaration of Catalan independence in 2017 – began. Later in the week, the Spanish government later lost a crucial budgetary vote in parliament, which will likely lead to a snap election.
- Days ahead of general elections in Nigeria – with possible concerns over vote-rigging and election violence – a stampede erupted at the campaign rally of President Muhammadu Buhari. At least 14 people died.
- South African university students are protesting against “registration fees, student accommodation, food, and other issues“, as well as the inefficiencies of the student financial aid scheme.
- The conservative minority government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison became “the first administration in nearly a century to lose a vote on major legislation“. It lost the vote on giving refugees the right to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.
- A crash involving more than 100 vehicles in China killed at least two people.
- A hotel fire in India killed at least 17 people, raising questions of safety.
- Two residents in Indonesia were poisoned and died, after eating a pufferfish to break their fast.
- In the Philippines, journalist Maria Ressa – often critique of President Rodrigo Duterte – was arrested under a new “cyber-libel” law, even before this law has been passed.
- In South Korea, a pedestrian as killed by an elderly driver. “Since this year, the government has required drivers over 75 years old to take a test and renew their licences every three years, shortening the period from the previous five years“.
- The government of Turkey – a majority Muslim country – called on China “to close indoctrination centres holding ethnic Uyghurs“.
- The European Parliament voted to give consent to the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, alongside two other landmark agreements. Both parties will now undertake their “respective internal administrative processes” for the pacts to be ratified.
- In Madrid, Spain, thousands of people demonstrated against the prime minister’s plan to ease political tensions in Catalonia. As opposed to the moves for independence, these demonstrators were calling for a united Spain instead.
- And as protestors called for the ouster of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the trial of 12 Catalan separatist leaders began. They are accused of “rebellion and other crimes stemming from their declaration of their region’s independence in the fall of 2017“.
- The Spanish government later lost a crucial budgetary vote in parliament, which will likely lead to a snap election.
- The Swedish ambassador to China was sent back after reports of her involvement between the daughter of a bookseller – one of the five “missing” booksellers in Hong Kong, from October to December 2015 – and Chinese businessmen.
- Following the biggest government defeat in the United Kingdom since 1924 a few weeks ago, Prime Minister Theresa May was again defeated this week by 258 votes to 303 on its Brexit policy. In this instance, lawmakers were asked symbolically “to reaffirm support for her plan to seek changes“.
The Middle East
- At least 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were killed by a suicide bomber in Iran.
- In Yemen – where there is an ongoing civil war and where the malnourishment crisis has worsened – the United Nations reported that food aid in a warehouse is at risk of rotting, “leaving millions of Yemenis without access to life-saving sustenance“.
- The NASA Opportunity rover, which has spent 15 years on Mars, made its final call to Earth on June. It was originally designed for 90 days of operations, but outlasted technical expectations and agency budget battles.
- Following a string of teacher protests in other states – most recently in California – thousands of educators in Denver, Colorado are striking after 15 months of failed negotiations over teacher compensation.
- Later in the week, they reached a deal to return to their classrooms.
- President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to seek more funding for a border wall.
- In Argentina, against the background of rising utility prices and falling wages, thousands of protestors are demanding that “the government declare a ‘food emergency’ and put an end to suffocating price increases“. Last year, as the country’s currency fell to an all-time low, the government had asked the International Monetary Fund for a bailout loan deal.
- Following routine blackouts in the country which depends on fuel imports and which has poor infrastructure, Haiti’s public utility company announced a reduction in outputs. Some Haitians believe it is also a symbol of political crisis.
- Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán was found guilty of all 10 federal criminal counts against him in the United States, “including the top charge of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise“. He faces a mandatory life sentence.