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 25 to March 2, 2019
As President Donald Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without a joint agreement and his former longtime lawyer testified in front of a House committee, India and Pakistan engaged in one of their most dangerous confrontation since their 1971 war. In Vietnam, the meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim ended because of disagreements over international sanctions, as Mr. Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen described his former client as a “racist”, “con man”, and “cheat” before alleging Mr. Trump’s involvement in different controversies. And prompted by a suicide bombing in Kashmir – and further against the background of an upcoming election in April – the two nuclear-armed powers, India and Pakistan, had skirmishes over the air, air strikes, and downed fighter jets.
- Following consecutive days of protest against Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who wishes to seek a fifth term in upcoming presidential elections, police used tear gas against hundreds of political demonstrators.
- Even though Botswana has been a safe haven for savannah elephants, recent evidence of increased poaching has been concerning.
- In DR Congo, two attacks on Ebola treatment centres “forced the international aid group Doctors Without Borders to close the facilities“. Such persistent violence has limited attempts to contain and to eliminate the Ebola outbreak in the country.
- An epidemic of measles in Madagascar – because of a low immunisation rate of under 60 per cent – has thus far killed at least 900 people.
- While the election in Nigeria was not perfect, “it was a noticeable improvement on previous elections conducted since the country returned to democracy in 1999“. Despite the postponement, the independent electoral commission was able to address challenges.
- President Muhammadu Buhari, it was later announced won a second term with 56 per cent of the votes. The turnout was 35.6 per cent.
- Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia which killed at least 10 people.
- The introduction of punishing social media and more transaction taxes in Uganda has led millions to quit the Internet. “Critics have described the tax as an attempt to restrict free speech, and warned of the damaging impact on the economy“.
- Crossing a disputed border, Indian fighter jets struck a Pakistani village in retaliation for a February suicide bomb attack in Kashmir, which “prompted a diplomatic dispute between India and Pakistan“. Later, Pakistan shot down two Indian fighter jets.
- Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan later said the captured Indian pilot will be freed as a peace gesture.
- A landslide in an illegal Indonesian gold mine left at least 45 people buried. “The Indonesian government has banned such small-scale gold mining, although regional authorities often turn a blind eye to the practice in more remote areas“.
- In Myanmar, “amid mounting tension between the ruling party and the military over changes to the charter that enshrines the army’s role in politics“, thousands demonstrated against an army-drafted constitution.
- A helicopter crash in Nepal killed the country’s tourism minister. Six other people died in the crash.
- Even as the “yellow vest” protests in France continue, public support for the protests has been going down. On the other hand, the popularity of President Emmanuel Macron has risen for the third consecutive month, to the same level before protests began last year.
- Following a political and public backlash, sporting goods retailer Decathlon has abandoned plans to sell a sports hijab in France. “The dispute over the garment is the latest in a long line of fractious debates surrounding Islamic clothing in France“.
- Following the defeat of her Brexit deal last month, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May is delaying a vote on her revised deal in Parliament. The vote is set to take place before March 12.
- The opposition Labour Party then announced its support for a new Brexit referendum.
- In the Vatican, Pope Francis has attempted to address the sexual abuse scandal which has plagued the Catholic Church – though not always successfully – and no specific solutions were offered at an unprecedented global summit convened to address the crisis.
The Middle East
- A Taliban attack on a United States army base in Afghanistan killed at least 23 Afghan soldiers. 20 insurgents were also killed.
- A train crash in Egypt killed at least 28 people. The country’s transport minister resigned after the tragedy. The country “has one of the oldest and largest rail networks in the region and accidents causing casualties have been common“.
- The inaugural European Union-Arab League summit was held in Egypt, focusing on migration, security issues, and economic relations.
- Iranian career diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif – the moderate architect of the Iran nuclear deal – resigned on Instagram, threatening a crisis for the government. President Hassan Rouhani, however, has yet to accept the resignation.
- Later in the week, the president refused to accept the resignation of the top diplomat.
- Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, who has sought to defend himself against corruption allegations, was indicted by the country’s attorney-general. With the country’s elections about 40 days away, Mr. Netanyahu denies all of the allegations.
- The collision between a train and a truck in New York killed at least three people.
- Two women in Pennsylvania – who are now arrested – are accused of killing five family members.
- Following tit-for-tat tariffs last year, China and the United States have been engaged in trade talks. For the third time, however, President Donald Trump delayed a deadline for raising tariffs on Chinese imported goods.
- Following last year’s meeting in Singapore, President Donald Trump met with with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam. The summit, however, was cut short without a joint agreement. Disagreement over international sanctions was a key reason: “Pyongyang said sanctions against it must be lifted before there could be progress on dismantling its nuclear weapons programme“.
- During a public hearing in front of a House committee, President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen described his former client as a “racist”, “con man”, and “cheat”, before alleging Mr. Trump’s involvement in or knowledge of different controversies.
- Following a trip to Costa Rica, an unvaccinated French child is suspected of reintroducing measles to the country.
- As the political tensions in Venezuela persisted, at least four people were killed in a wave of violence. Attempts to breach government blockades of incoming food, medical, and other humanitarian supplies were not successful.