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!
August 22 to 27, 2016
Natural disasters struck Italy, Japan, and Myanmar, but the man-made ones continue to dominate headlines. At the recently concluded Rio Olympics, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms in the air as he neared a silver-medal finish to the men’s marathon, to protest his government’s crackdown on the Oromo tribe. It is a reminder of the global atrocities and persistent fears over extremism, with the peace deal between the Colombian government and guerrilla movement FARC a rare bright spot in the past week.
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- The United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, has received just S$55 of the S$417 million (13 per cent) it needs to help those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria.
- Ethiopian Olympian runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms in the air as he neared a silver-medal finish to the men’s marathon, to protest his government’s crackdown on the Oromo tribe, a tribe which desires greater autonomy. A crowdfunding campaign for him to seek refuge outside his country has raised S$135,000. Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation, and both suffocation of the opposition and perceived ethnic marginalisation has continued.
- For the first time since the end of apartheid, the ruling African National Congress in South Africa – sullied by corruption scandals – lost control of Johannesburg, the largest and wealthiest city in the country.
- Typhoon Mindulle caused flooding and disrupted transportation in Japan.
- A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Myanmar, damaging ancient pagodas. Tremors were felt as far away as Thailand.
- North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, ahead of a summit meeting between China, Japan, and South Korea.
- Nearly 1,800 have been killed in police operations and by vigilantes in President Rodrigo Duterte’s first seven weeks in office. He also threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the United Nations, following calls to stop these killings, but later said it was a “joke”.
- The ban on “burkini” swimsuits by French town Villeneuve-Loubet has been overturned by France’s highest administrative court, though divisions within the government mean the controversy is likely to persist.
- A poll in Germany showed that “81 per cent of Germans support banning the most conservative types of Islamic veils from schools and government institutions”. France banned full-face veils in public five years ago.
- Leaders of Italy, Germany, and France met at a mini-summit to discuss issues such as Brexit and terrorism. In Germany in particular, various “civil defence measures” – which could re-install compulsory military service – was approved by the cabinet.
- A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy, and much in the small city of Amatrice has been destroyed. At least 267 are dead.
The Middle East
- A child suicide bomber said to be between 12 and 14 years old in Gaziantep, Turkey, killed at least 50 in an outdoor family wedding. And at least 22 of the victims were under the age of 14. Days later, Turkey sent troops into Syria.
- Many refugees fleeing the conflict in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, have headed to Somaliland, a self-declared state not recognised by the international community. In addition to the inability of the immigration department to handle these arrivals, because many of these Yemenis have some form of Somali origin, they are recognised as returnees, not refugees, and hence are not entitled to United Nations-benefits associated with refugees.
Two longer commentaries in “The New York Times“: first, eight big reasons – according to experts on civil wars – on why the war in Syria is intractable; and second, Saudi Arabia’s export of Wahhabism and its links to extremism.
- The FBI uncovered 14,900 more emails and documents from Hillary Clinton’s private email server, “50 per cent more than the roughly 30,000 emails … returned to the [State Department] in December 2014“, and questions about conflicts of interest between her philanthropy in the Clinton Foundation and her official responsibilities as Secretary of State has continued.
- Price hikes of EpiPens – used for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction – from S$135 to S$811 for a pack of two have drawn widespread criticism. Last year American pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli was criticised for raising the price of antiparasitic drug Daraprim by over 5,000 per cent.
- The Rio Olympics ended on Sunday night. There is a revitalised port, a new subway line, and more urban or infrastructure projects, but the city’s public finances are drained, and the ongoing political and economic crises in Brazil will go on. For instance, the impeachment trial of suspended President Dilma Rousseff – who is likely to be removed – will be opened.
- After five decades of conflict, a peace deal was reached between the government and FARC, a rich guerrilla movement which vowed to install a Marxist regime, in Colombia. The peace deal still needs “to be approved by … Colombians in a referendum set for October 2“. The vote will be close, with concerns over the lenient treatment of guerrillas and soldiers.