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!
April 15 to 20, 2019
The week started with a major fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France resulting in the collapse of its iconic spire, and ended with eight bombings in church and hotels in Sri Lanka which killed at least 200 people. In France, following the fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the richest French citizens and corporations have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars, and President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to rebuild the cathedral in a restoration process which is likely to take decades to complete. And in Sri Lanka, the series of bombings led to the governmental declaration of a curfew and blocked access to major social media and messaging sites.
- Ebola treatment centres and medical staff in DR Congo have been targeted by assailants, fuelling the outbreak of the disease.
- In DR Congo too, up to 150 people are missing after a passenger boat sank. “Early investigations … revealed that passengers were not wearing life jackets and a passenger manifest was not available to account for the total number of people on board the boat“.
- In one of the country’s largest measles outbreak in history, the outbreak in Madagascar has killed more than 1,200 people. Because of the lack of resources, only 58 per cent of people are vaccinated against the disease.
- Former President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from power last week, was moved to a prison in the country’s capital. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
- Thunderstorms in India killed at least 35 people, who “were hit by lightning, falling trees or electrocuted by power lines“.
- Despite two summits on denuclearisation – in Singapore (2018) and in Vietnam (2019) – between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea test-fired a new type of tactical guided weapon.
- In Pakistan, 14 people were killed by unidentified gunmen. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
- In Sri Lanka, a series of bombings in churches and hotels killed at least 200 people. The eight explosions also led to “the government declaring a curfew and blocking access to major social media and messaging sites“.
- A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit Taiwan, though no deaths were reported.
- Countries of the European Union approved plans for formal trade talks with the United States.
- Ahead of the European parliamentary elections, a far-right party in Finland – under the leadership of nationalist parliamentarian Jussi Halla-aho – strengthened their parliamentary position, coming in second with 0.2 fewer percentage points than the Social Democrats.
- A major fire broke out at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. Its iconic spire collapsed.
- The richest French citizens and corporations have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars, and President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to rebuild the cathedral in a restoration process which is likely to take decades to complete.
- In Northern Ireland, an investigative journalist was shot dead in a street clash, after rioting broke out. Police are classifying it as a “terrorist incident”, and in the context of Brexit there are fears of violence flaring up again.
- A tourist bus accident in Madeira, Portugal left several people dead. The death toll was later reported to be at least 28.
- Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky emerged victorious in Ukraine’s presidential elections. His landslide victory comes against the background of “an electorate tired of economic turmoil, militant rhetoric, and escalating tensions with Russia“.
The Middle East
- The parliament of Egypt approved changes to the constitution which would extended a presidential term from four to six years. The move would allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to extend his stint and to expand his powers.
- The United Nations reported that at least 146 people have been killed in Libya, a country split between two rival governments. A renegade general leading one of them had ordered his forces to march on the capital, increasing tensions and deaths.
- Later in the week, overnight shelling in the capital of Libya, Tripoli, left at least six civilians dead.
- In the United States, 2019 now has the second-highest number of measles cases in 25 years. The World Health Organisation, in the same week, also announced that there were more than 110,000 measles cases around the world in just the first three months of the year.
- President Donald Trump vetoed a bill passed by Congress – the second veto of his presidency – to end American military assistance to Saudi Arabia, for the kingdom’s ongoing war in Yemen.
- Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld announced that he was running against President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.
- Attorney General William Barr released the 448-page, redacted report of the special counsel Robert Mueller, who had spent nearly two years investigating into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
- The crash of a light aircraft in Chile killed six people.
- The United States announced sanctions against the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
- A landslide in Colombia – caused by heavy rains – killed at least 14 people.
- Former President of Peru Alan García, suspected in a corruption scandal, shot himself in the head as the police closed in. He is “under investigation on suspicion of taking a bribe from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht“, but has denied any wrongdoing.