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!
October 24 to 29, 2016
Climate change, industrial activity, and human destruction have combined to create a new group of ecological migrants around the world, and their plight was highlighted through different photo-essays, in “Foreign Policy” and “The New York Times“, in the past week. In sub-Saharan Africa – in Ghana, Mauritania, and Togo, for instance – coastal erosion has affected houses and the economy, and short-term measures such as sea walls and defences have not been effective. In China, desertification has made farming and herding much more challenging, resulting in the relocation of many who dread the severe sandstorms.
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- Three African countries – Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa – have said that they would leave the International Criminal Court, sparking fears of a broader, coordinated exodus. “The principal African complaints have been the diplomatic complications of prosecuting senior political leaders and perceived bias against African countries“.
- “Foreign Policy“, in two feature pieces, documented the effects of climate change and industrial activity in coastal erosion along the Western coast of sub-Saharan Africa. Governments in Ghana, Mauritania, and Togo – for instance – have settled for short-term measures such as sea walls and defences, but not in long-term ecologically sustainable techniques such as aquatic farms or restoring mangrove shrubs. Houses and the economy have been affected.
- Because of the threat of desertification – accelerated by climate change and human activities – the government in China is relocating 30,000 “ecological migrants”. The deserts are spreading, farming is more difficult, and residents dread the severe sandstorms.
- President Xi Jinping was formally named the “core” of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in China, “placing him in the same group as Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and former president Jiang Zemin“, deepening his power base and also giving him a stronger hand to push reforms.
- In an overnight raid, militants stormed a police training college in Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of at least 61 people. No group has yet claimed responsibility. There were operational, tactical, and strategic failures: “If Pakistan can’t protect the very people charged with protecting common citizens, what chance do ordinary folk have?“
- President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said he wanted “a separation” with the United States, with American troops out in two years. This comes a week after he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China to sign high-level, bilateral agreements.
- France started to demolish the migrant camp in Calais known as “The Jungle”, an announcement made by President François Hollande last month. Adult camp residents were disperse to different migrant centres across the country, though there are concerns over the status of unaccompanied minors.
- To protest the gender pay gap in Iceland – where female workers make 14 to 18 per cent less than their male counterparts – women left their workplaces 14 per cent earlier at 2.38pm.
- A few weeks after the government of Poland rejected a total ban on abortion, Polish women dressed in black launched another round of street protests “in response to a new proposal that would fall short of a total ban, but outlaw abortions in cases where fetuses are unviable or badly damaged“.
The Middle East
- Militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) set fire to sulphur stocks at a factory in Mosul, Iraq, prompting many American and Iraqi troops to put on their masks. The battle for the city continues. The military operation may be meeting its goals, but ISIS is “forcibly displacing the residents of villages they are leaving and using them as human shields“.
- “Aleppo is a slaughterhouse”: The top human rights official of the United Nations criticised the ongoing conflict and called for a war crimes investigation. This city in Syria has been described as “the crux of a dispute between Russia … and the United States“.
- President Barack Obama is preparing for life after his presidency, and there are suspicions that Silicon Valley might be his next destination on January 21, 2017. Officials running Mr. Obama’s presidential foundation “have made about 10 trips to tech strongholds in California in the past year as they help him plot his next steps“.
- For the first time, the United States – which has always voted against the same resolution – abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution calling for the lift of a congressional embargo on Cuba. President Barack Obama has worked to improve relations, but “the Republican-dominated Congress has refused to lift the bulk of the trade restrictions, saying the communist government has not done enough to improve human rights“.
- Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are making their closing arguments. “FiveThirtyEight” puts Mrs. Clinton’s odds of winning the presidency – who is now helping the Democratic party take back the Senate – at just over 80 per cent.
- The United Nations has acknowledged that Nepalese peacekeepers introduced cholera into Haiti in 2010 – killing more than 9,000 and infecting nearly 800,000 since then – but it has “yet to issue an apology or to accept legal responsibility for those actions, instead seeking funds from member states for a no-fault financial settlement“.
- Political strife continues in Venezuela, with protests against President Nicolás Maduro, who “faces low approval ratings, high crime rates, and food scarcity that is leaving many Venezuelans hungry“. The Vatican is seeking to broker talks between the government and the opposition, though the latter is looking to force a referendum.