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 18 to 23, 2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller, after nearly two years of investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, completed his investigation. Attorney General William Barr announced the submission of the confidential report, and Mr. Barr’s key summaries of the report include: No evidence of conspiracy, no more recommendations of indictment, and that while Mr. Mueller “does not conclude” that President Donald Trump committed a crime, he “does not exonerate him” either. “Everybody is losing but feels like they’re winning“, as some are disappointed that Mr. Trump was not charged with a crime, while others notch this as a Trump victory.
- An Islamist attack in Burkina Faso left dozens of civilians dead. “More than 100,000 people have been displaced in the poor former French colony, over half of them since the start of 2019, officials have said“.
- An attack in Mali – by armed men reportedly dressed as traditional hunters – left 134 people dead.
- A cyclone which hit Mozambique killed more than 1,000 people. Over 89 people were killed in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
- Later in the week, humanitarian workers struggled to reach Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, the three main countries affected.
- There was outrage in Tunisia, “after 11 premature babies died in less than 24 hours from infections acquired in the same hospital“. The country’s health minister has since resigned, with growing concerns over the country’s public healthcare system.
- In China: At least 47 people were killed after an explosion in a chemical plant; six people died after a car drove into a crowd.
- In Indonesia, flash floods triggered by torrential rain and landslides killed at least 77 people. The country “issued a 14-day state of emergency in response to the floods“.
- Three separate gun battles in India-controlled Kashmir killed a total of six people. This follows one of the most dangerous confrontations between India and Pakistan – since their 1971 war – last month.
- President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation, after being in power for nearly 30 years.
- Following shootings at mosques which killed at least 50 people last week, New Zealand announced that “all military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines will be banned“. These planned gun controls have broad public support.
- The Philippines withdrew from the International Criminal Court.
- Following two multi-billion dollar fines, the European Union (EU) slapped Google with another anti-trust fine over online advertising. Google has yet to pay, and now owes the EU over nine billion dollars.
- The “yellow vest” protests in France continued for a fourth month. “However, the weekly demonstrations, held every Saturday in Paris and other cities, have been generally getting smaller since December“.
- In Italy, a bus driver abducted 51 children and their chaperones, before setting the vehicle on fire. He said “he was protesting migrant deaths in the Mediterranean“.
- A shooting in Utrecht, the Netherlands left at least three people dead. The city’s terrorism threat was raised to its highest level.
- Later in the week, the government announced that “yellow vest” rallies would be banned in some areas of the country.
- Following the Brexit turmoil in the United Kingdom (UK) last week, speaker of parliament John Bercow said that the prime minister’s deal “cannot be ‘substantially the same’ as the one that was rejected last Tuesday“. The deal has been rejected twice in parliament.
- The EU agreed that Brexit can be delayed till May 22, if the UK parliament approves Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal. If the deal is rejected for a third time, the UK has until April 12.
The Middle East
- In one of its worst loss of the year, the Afghan military lost at least 40 of its security force members in a Taliban attack.
- An overloaded ferry in Iraq killed more than 71 passengers, though the death toll is expected to rise.
- The United States announced that it would recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The United Nations had previously declared that the country’s troops need to leave the territory. This follows President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017 the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement in May last year.
- Later, a new round of sanctions against Iran was announced.
- Historic floods in Nebraska – where “17 locations have so far broken their flooding records” – killed two people.
- The Federal Reserve decided not to raise interest rates and suggested that they are unlikely to be raised this year. This follows indications in December last year that it might increase rates twice in 2019.
- Special counsel Robert Mueller, after nearly two years of investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, completed his investigation. Attorney General William Barr announced the submission of the confidential report, and Mr. Barr’s key summaries of the report include: No evidence of conspiracy, no more recommendations of indictment, and that while Mr. Mueller “does not conclude” that President Donald Trump committed a crime, he “does not exonerate him” either.
- Former president of Brazil Michel Temer – who had been shielded from trials on obstruction of justice and corruption charges – was arrested “as part of a sprawling anti-corruption probe that has already claimed dozens of political and corporate scalps“.
- In a bid to restart failed peace talks, the government of Nicaragua said it would release all opposition prisoners within 90 days.