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!
May 13 to 18, 2019
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison was granted his first full term in a surprise election victory, while Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi – based on initial exit polls – is also headed for re-election. And in other electoral news: Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz said that a snap election was now a necessity, after the vice-chancellor signed over allegations of corruption; and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May said she would announce her a timetable for her resignation after another Brexit vote.
- An attack on a Catholic church in Burkina Faso left six people dead.
- In Lagos, Nigeria, the 281 kidnappings in the first three months of 2019 is nearly half of the 685 countrywide kidnappings. “The gangs involved now appear more organised, operating in larger groups, with more elaborate logistics, striking more audaciously“.
- A month after the ouster of Former President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir, he has now been charged by prosecutors “with involvement in killing protesters and incitement to kill protesters during the uprising that drove him from power“.
- Australia’s former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who led the country from 1983 to 1991, died at the age of 89.
- In Australia too, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was granted his first full term in a surprise election victory.
- The collapse of a building in Shanghai, China killed seven people. “China has seen numerous building collapses in recent years, typically blamed on the country’s rapid growth leading to corner-cutting on construction, and the flouting of safety rules“.
- Weeks following the deadly bombings in Sri Lanka, a countrywide 9pm to 4am curfew was declared to control the violence “after mobs attacked mosques and the homes of Muslims“. Some social media sites were banned, ostensibly to stem the flow of misinformation.
- Two years after Taiwan’s top court declared that same-sex marriage should be legal, and a year after a referendum proposing that marriage should be legally recognised as between a man and a woman gathered more than six million votes – outweighing another referendum which backed rights for equal marriage – parliamentarians voted to legalise same-sex marriage.
- The vice-chancellor of Austria resigned over allegations of corruption. Thereafter, the country’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the organisation of a snap election was now a “necessity“.
- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – who was arrested after seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London and subsequently sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching bail in 2012 – has had his Swedish investigation into a rape allegation reopened.
- Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) Theresa May said she would announce a timetable for her resignation after another Brexit vote in parliament. The vote is not on her deal but “on key legislation needed to enable UK’s departure from the [European Union]“.
The Middle East
- Following the deployment of an American aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Middle East last week, with Iranian tensions on the rise, the United States ordered non-emergency employees out of its embassy and a consulate in neighbouring Iraq.
- Two Saudi oil tankers and two other vessels were damaged by attacks. Iran is likely to be responsible for attacks.
- The United Nations (UN) reported that in Yemen – where there are two separate but overlapping conflicts – the withdrawal of rebel Houthi forces from a port went according to plan. This was a first concrete step since a UN ceasefire in December last year.
- After Georgia passed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws last week, Alabama “sent the most restrictive abortion bill in the country to the governor’s desk“. Doctors who perform abortions could be punished with life in prison.
- The collision of two float planes in Alaska left five people dead.
- The explosion of a house in Indiana left one person dead.
- A helicopter crash in Utah left two people dead.
- A Guatemalan boy became the fourth minor from his country “to die after crossing the [Mexico-United States] border and being apprehended by the border patrol since December“.
- Norway is said to be attempting to facilitate high-level talks between the Venezuelan government and the political opposition. “Norway’s foreign ministry said it would not comment on whether the talks had taken place and what Norway’s role, if any, was“.
- In the same week, economists reported that Venezuela’s fall is the largest economic collapse outside of war in decades.