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 25 to 30, 2019
As more than one million people in the United Kingdom (UK) gathered in London to call for a new Brexit referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected for the third time. In the same week, parliamentarians passed an amendment to give themselves the power to vote on alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal, which eventually failed for the third time. This, despite the earlier announcement by the prime minister that she would quit once Brexit has been delivered. In the aftermath of these developments, the UK is now slated to leave the European Union in less than two weeks – on April 12 – without a deal.
- Following anti-government protests and his announcement that he will not seek a fifth term – with the postponement of the presidential election – Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika named a new government.
- DR Congo is dealing with the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
- Cyclone Idai, which hit Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe last week, has displaced at least 600,000 people. Death tolls are uncertain.
- The International Criminal Court and the United Nations are now investigating a massacre in Mali which killed at least 150 people.
- A fire in Bangladesh killed at least five people. “Bangladesh has a history of fatal building fires, especially in factories where safety and structural standards have long been found to be inadequate“. The death toll later rose to at least 25.
- Brunei announced that a strict version of Islamic law will be imposed, and people who have gay sex will be stoned to death.
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his country shot down a low-orbit satellite with a ballistic missile, giving it the capability to attack space-based communication and surveillance satellites of other countries.
- In Jakarta, Indonesia, the city’s first underground line – largely funded by the foreign ministry of Japan and built with the heavy assistance of Japanese companies – is expected to help ease congestion.
- In the aftermath of dramatic national elections in Thailand, pro-military politicians are likely to secure a resounding victory.
- In Turkey, an election observer and another man were killed in a fight at a polling station. “The private DHA news agency reported the two men were shot after an argument between two rival political groups turned violent“.
- Italy became the first country of the G7 to sign up for China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.
- With over 58 per cent of the vote, liberal lawyer Zuzana Čaputová won Slovakia’s presidential election to become the country’s first female president. Her victory bucks “a trend that has seen populist, anti-European Union politicians make gains” across Europe.
- More than one million people in the United Kingdom (UK) gathered in London to call for a new Brexit referendum. In the same week, parliamentarians passed an amendment to give themselves the power to vote on alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan.
- Despite persistent doubts over her third Brexit deal vote, Prime Minister Theresa May said she would quit as prime minister once Brexit has been delivered. Later in the week, for a third time, the Brexit deal was rejected by lawmakers. “The legal default now is that the UK is due to leave the European Union on April 12” without a deal.
The Middle East
- Israel retaliated with a bombardment after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip demolished a family home in the country.
- In Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria lost control of its last remaining territory. Its fighters operate as guerrilla forces.
- A helicopter crash in Arizona left two Marines killed.
- Following California, New York became the second state to ban single-use plastic bags from retail sales.
- In a reversal of longstanding United States foreign policy, and ahead of national elections in Israel next month, President Donald Trump recognised Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights.
- Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged Spain and the Vatican “to apologise for the conquest and the rights violations committed in [the aftermath of the Spanish conquest]” half a century ago. Spain rejected the letter.
- In Venezuela, Russia rejected a demand from the United States to withdraw its military personnel from the country.
- In the same week, the stand-off between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó continues, as Mr. Maduro’s government banned Mr. Guaidó from running for public office for 15 years. The government also agreed to let the Red Cross deliver aid, marking the first admission by Mr. Maduro of his country’s humanitarian crisis.