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 18 to 23, 2019
A fire in a Bangladeshi slum killed at least 110 people, and in India at least 150 died on a tea plantation after drinking toxic bootleg liquor. In Bangladesh – where millions live in squalid slums and where a promised crackdown on building violations has fallen short – the fire also destroyed hundreds of shanty homes. And in India, in addition to the death of the workers, the collision of two Air Force jets rehearsing for an air show display left one pilot dead, and an explosion at an illegal firework factory killed at least 10 people.
- Citing concerns over logistics, Nigeria postponed its 2019 presidential elections by two weeks to March 9, but in some sectors the move had been “viewed as a display of utter incompetence and inefficiency“.
- Later, as the incident was declared a national disaster, the bodies of 24 gold miners were recovered from the flooded mine.
- In Sudan, a vendor died “after riot police fired tear gas at an anti-government rally“.
- Facing protests, President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir – who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on war-crime charges – declared a yearlong state of emergency and dissolved the federal and state governments.
- In Zimbabwe, at least 60 illegal gold miners were feared dead after two disused shafts were flooded.
- A fire in a Bangladeshi slum killed at least nine people. Hundreds of shanty homes were also destroyed. “Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions“.
- The death toll later increased to at least 110. This is a country “where hundreds have died in recent years in fires that tore through crowded, unsafe structures, and where a promised crackdown on building violations has fallen short“.
- In India, the collision of two Air Force jets rehearsing for an air show display left one of the pilots dead.
- On an Indian tea plantation, at least 41 workers died after drinking toxic bootleg liquor. The death toll later increased to at least 94, and later to at least 150 people.
- In India too, an explosion at an illegal firework factory killed at least 10 people.
- In a vote likely to “inflame tensions between the prefectural and national governments“, residents in Okinawa, Japan voted against the relocation of a key American air base. Residents prefer to have the base moved away from the island altogether.
- A gun battle in Kashmir left four Indian soldiers and a civilian dead.
- A fire at the entertainment centre in Malaysia killed at least six people.
- The ruling party in Taiwan unveiled a long-awaited bill to potentially create Asia’s first gay marriage law. This comes after conservatives won a referendum proposing the legal recognition of marriage as between a man and a woman last year.
- In the European Union (EU), asylum applications may have returned to pre-crisis levels, but the EU “remains divided over how to deal with migratory flows, and how to integrate new migrants in their countries“.
- The “yellow vest” protests in France continued, as thousands of people demonstrated for a 15th consecutive weekend.
- Following the political turmoil in Spain last week, 200,000 protestors marched against the trial of Catalan separatist leaders.
- In the United Kingdom, seven Labour Party lawmakers who opposed their party’s approach to Brexit quit. “They will continue to sit as lawmakers in Parliament under the banner ‘The Independent Group’“. A second wave of resignations is feared.
- Later in the week, three Conservative lawmakers and one more Labour Party lawmaker quit their respective parties to join the group.
The Middle East
- A clash against Islamist militants in Egypt left 15 military personnel killed or wounded.
- In Egypt too, later in the week, the detonation of an explosive device by a Islamist militant killed two policemen.
- An American and a British citizen are asking to return to their respective countries, after they went to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There are now also questions on their citizenship status.
- A gunman in Aurora, Illinois killed more than one person. Later, the death toll was reported as five.
- President Donald Trump called on France, Germany, and the United Kingdom to repatriate and to put on trial citizens who have fought for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in Syria. About 800 of these individuals have been captured by the United States.
- Following migrant caravans late last year and early this year headed towards the United States, a caravan of 1,800 Central African migrants arrived in Mexico last week, but were stopped by Mexican officials and forced to remain in the country.
- In Venezuela, in an escalation of the political conflict, a confrontation between protestors and security officers – over the blocking of aid to the country – left at least two people killed.
- Aid is expected to arrive from Colombia, though President Nicolás Maduro is considering closing the Colombian border.