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!
March 4 to 9, 2019
There are six ongoing measles outbreaks in the United States, and 2018 saw the highest level of measles cases in Europe in the past decade. In the United States, despite refutations of the purported link between vaccines and autism – with a recent comprehensive study of Danish children further reinforcing the conclusion – resistance against immunisation persists. This continues too, despite the conclusion by the World Health Organisation that the widespread use of measles vaccinations between 2000 and 2017 has prevented 21.1 million deaths. And in Madagascar, where there are not enough vaccines, at least 922 people, including children, have died of measles.
- Anti-government protests against Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika continued, after he submitted his re-election bid.
- The crash of a helicopter in Kenya killed four Americans and their local pilot.
- Because there are not enough vaccines in the country, at least 922 people, including children, in Madagascar have died of measles. “During 2000 to 2017, the World Health Organisation estimates that widespread use of measles vaccinations prevented 21.1 million deaths“.
- During the opening of China’s National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang set the country’s economic growth target to six to 6.5 per cent. Other policy announcements include a tax cut, improvements to social services, and military modernisation.
- A landslide in an illegal Indonesian gold mine last week has resulted in the deaths of at least 27, as the the search concluded. “Rescuers have been hampered by steep terrain, unstable soil and dangerously narrow mining shafts“.
- Torrential rains and severe flooding in Indonesia killed at least two people.
- In 2017, only 51 per cent of granted annual leave in Japan was actually used. As a result, the country’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare has mandated that employers must ensure their workers use at least five of their 10-day leave allowance.
- In South Korea, the United States is permanently cancelling large-scale military exercises usually held in the spring.
- In February, Thai Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi shocked the country when she announced her candidature for prime minister, even if it was swiftly opposed by the king. Now, her Thai Raksa Chart party has been dissolved and its executives banned.
- In West Papua, clashes between Papuan independence fighters and Indonesian soldiers left at least 15 people killed.
- Following elections in Estonia, the centre-right Reform party – whose leader is set to become the country’s first female prime minister – took power from the Centre party. The far-right Conservative People’s party, however, came in third.
- In Europe, the European Central Bank – ahead of Brexit and further as a result of slower German car sales and of a recession in Italy – announced it was keeping interest rates down to stimulate the continent’s economy.
- The commission of the European Union said that the major tech companies are not making sufficient progress in fighting against fake news: “We need to see more progress on the commitments made by online platforms to fight disinformation“.
- There are protests against President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović – in power for 28 years – over alleged corruption and abuses of office.
- In the United Kingdom, two teenagers were killed in knife attacks, “bringing the total number of people killed in stabbings this year to at least 24 and pushing the bloodshed to the forefront of national concern“.
- Small improvised explosive devices were found near major transportation hubs in London, the United Kingdom.
The Middle East
- Flash floods in Afghanistan killed at least 20 people.
- An attack on a construction company in Afghanistan killed at least 16 civilians.
- A prominent human rights lawyer in Iran, Nasrin Sotoudeh, “who defended protesters against the Islamic Republic’s mandatory headscarves for women” as convicted in absentia for a range of charges involving her activism.
- In the wake of a political scandal in Canada involving the construction firm SNC-Lavalin, two ministers have resigned.
- Later in the week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made no apologies. “[Mr.] Trudeau and his aides deny doing anything wrong, saying they were only pointing out that prosecution could endanger thousands of people’s jobs because a conviction would make the company ineligible for government contracts for a decade“.
- Tornadoes in Alabama and Georgia killed more than a dozen people. The death toll later increased to at least 23 people.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became the first major American city to ban cashless stores.
- There are six ongoing measles outbreaks in the United States – the result of resistance against immunisation – even though the purported link between vaccines and autism has been refuted. A comprehensive study of Danish children has further reinforced the conclusion.
- The far-right president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro stirred controversy after he posted a video on Twitter of a man urinating on the head of another man, denouncing “what he said was the debauchery of the festivities” at Carnival.
- In February, a record-breaking number of migrants – 76,000 – were caught crossing the Mexico-United States border. This comes at the same time President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to seek more funding for a border wall.
- In Mexico, at least 25 Central American migrants died when their truck overturned.
- With the persistence of political tensions in Venezuela, interim president Juan Guaidó returned to the country in defiance of President Nicolás Maduro, who had threatened to arrest his political rival upon his return.