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 11 to 16, 2019
A series of parliamentary votes in the United Kingdom (UK) has added to the Brexit turmoil; the Boeing 737 Max 8 has been grounded after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after take-off; and mosque shootings in New Zealand left at least 49 people dead.
In the UK, despite Prime Minister Theresa May securing some concessions from the European Union (EU), her revised Brexit deal was defeated by a vote of 391 to 242 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, parliament voted twice that the UK should not leave the EU without a proper withdrawal agreement and on Thursday it approved a motion to briefly delay the March 29 withdrawal. In Nigeria, the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight – a version of the Boeing 737 Max 8, the same as the Lion Air aircraft which crashed in October last year – killed at least 150 people and led to the grounding of the plane from almost everywhere around the world. And in New Zealand, shootings at mosques in Christchurch left at least 49 people dead and 40 people wounded. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the shootings as a terrorist attack.
- Anti-government protests against Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika – and his quest for a fifth term in office – continued. Mr. Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013, and some say that he is a puppet leader for “a small group of civilian and military figures“.
- Later in the week, Mr. Bouteflika announced that he will not seek a fifth term and postponed the presidential election.
- An Ethiopian Airlines flight – a version of the Boeing 737 Max 8, the same as the Lion Air aircraft which crashed in October last year – crashed shortly after take-off, en route to Kenya. At least 150 people were killed.
- Later, with concerns over passenger safety, China and Indonesia suspended all flights of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. Countries such as Australia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom later suspended take-offs and landings of the plane too. Even later in the week, Canada and the United States grounded all the jets, pulling the plane from almost everywhere around the world.
- Nigeria has the largest higher education system in Africa, but its under-funded universities have underperformed.
- The collapse of a building in Nigeria left dozens of children trapped. At least eight people have been killed. Later in the week, the death toll rose to at least 20 people.
- In Australia, Cardinal George Pell – “the most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse” – was sentenced to six years in prison.
- The crash of a navy plane in China left two crew members dead.
- The collapse of a footbridge in Mumbai, India, left four people killed.
- A militant attack in Myanmar’s Rakhine state left nine policeman killed. Following the mass exodus of Rohingyas into neighbouring Bangladesh in 2017, armed forces have been fighting against a militant group “claiming to represent the … ethnic Rakhine Buddhists“.
- Shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand left at least 49 people dead and 40 people wounded. A 28-year-old man was charged with murder, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the shootings as a terrorist attack.
- In Manila, the Philippines, a dry spell has left at least six million residents with little or no waster.
- In some of the biggest protests in Moscow, Russia, thousands of protestors took to the streets to rally against tighter Internet restrictions. Lawmakers had backed tighter internet controls last month “to prevent foreign meddling in Russia’s affairs“.
- In Finland, ahead of general elections, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä handed in his government’s resignation after he failed to pass his healthcare and social services reform in parliament. “The country has been facing a harsh economic outlook for years“.
- In the United Kingdom (UK), after some concessions secured from the European Union (EU), the parliament is set to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s revised Brexit plan, on whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal, and on whether to delay Brexit.
- On Tuesday, by a vote of 391 to 242, parliament defeated the prime minister’s plan to exit the EU. On Wednesday, parliament voted twice that the UK should not leave the EU without a proper withdrawal agreement, or a no-deal Brexit. On Thursday, by a vote of 412 to 202, parliament approved a motion to briefly delay the March 29 withdrawal.
The Middle East
- American airstrikes in Afghanistan killed at least 13 civilians.
- Along the Gaza Strip border, Israeli forces “shot dead a Palestinian and wounded 42 others” during weekly protests.
- Governor of California Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to place a moratorium on executions, even though voters in his state have rejected statewide ballot measures – over the past six years – to repeal the death penalty.
- The United States has warned Germany against using Huawei to build new telecommunications networks – with threats to limit intelligence-sharing between the two countries – “saying the company has possible ties to Chinese intelligence agencies“.
- In its largest college admissions scam, the Department of Justice arrested 50 people in the United States. They are accused of accepting millions of dollars to help students gain admission into elite colleges regardless of academic or athletic ability.
- In response to President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to seek more funding for a border wall last month, the Senate voted in a bipartisan vote to overturn it. A veto is expected.
- Two armed men in Brazil killed at least six students and two school officials.
- A plane crash in Colombia left all 12 people on board dead.
- At least 15 people were killed in a nightclub shooting in Mexico. “Mexico registered more than 33,000 homicides last year, the most since national record-keeping began in 1997, according to government figures“.
- The political stand-off in Venezuela between President Nicolás Maduro and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó continued – as they held separate and contentious rallies over the weekend – and an ongoing power outage has also persisted.
- The United States also announced the withdrawal of all its remaining staff from the Venezuelan embassy.