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!
November 14 to 19, 2016
The International Criminal Court (ICC) – the eponymous inter-governmental organisation with the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes – makes the headlines this week. Weeks after three African countries (Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa) said that they would leave the ICC over perceived bias against African countries, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging for a stop to this exodus, justifying that the continent was not the role subject of international justice. In Afghanistan, an international prosecutor of the ICC said that she has reasonable basis to believe that American soldiers had committed war crimes in the country, and a full investigation may soon be underway.
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- Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for a stop to the African exodus from the International Criminal Court, “or the most heinous crimes will be allowed to go unpunished“, and that Africa was not the sole subject of international justice. Three African countries – Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa – have said they would leave (refer below, in Afghanistan).
- Presidential elections in DR Congo have been delayed for months, and protestors have rallied against President Joseph Kabila. President Barack Obama has dispatched a special envoy and has slapped targeted sanctions on President Kabila’s top generals, so the election of President-elect Donald Trump could be good news – unfortunately – for the unpopular President Kabila.
- A battle for control in Indian company Tata Group – “rotten for its outside investors who have tens of billions of dollars at risk, and damaging to India” – has caused the value of its listed firms to drop by $24.2 billion.
- A 7.8-magnitude earthquake and strong aftershocks which followed has killed at least two people in New Zealand, and rescue and evacuation efforts were organised. Some communities were also left without power and water.
- In a bid to buy into the market for automotive technology, South Korean Samsung Electronics Co. is making its largest-ever overseas acquisition with an offer for Harman International Industries Inc., which is in the businesses of car-infotainment and audio. Samsung is also looking to move on from the death of the fire-prone Note 7.
- Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi’s proposed reform to reduce the power of the Senate so as to “avoid the constant gridlock and instability that plagues Italian politics” will be put to voters in a national referendum. The vote, however, is seen as a proxy on Mr. Renzi’s mandate, though all but one of 33 polls in recent weeks show that voters are not receptive to the prime minister’s plans.
- What began as a local campaign in 2002 – against a controversial mining project against the Roșia Montană mining project in Romania – “morphed into a national social movement [in which] thousands took part in marches and protests in Bucharest and other cities and towns across the country“. “Foreign Policy” documented the journey and its implications for the future.
- Prime Minister Theresa May will appeal the ruling by the High Court of the United Kingdom that the government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty until a vote in Parliament, but even if the Supreme Court backs this ruling, “the passage of Brexit through Parliament could be extremely complex“.
The Middle East
- An international prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said that she had a “reasonable basis to believe” that soldiers of the United States had committed war crimes in Afghanistan, including torture. This comes weeks after three African countries said they would leave the ICC over perceived bias against African countries, and a full investigation – while tedious – may be underway soon.
- Egypt’s Parliament approved a bill to regulate the work of non-government organisations, a move which has been described by rights activists as “the worst crackdown in their history“.
- Officials from the United Nations claim that militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – in Mosul, Iraq, where counter-terrorism forces have entered for the first time in two years – are killing civilians, using children as executioners, and are deploying chemical agents against opposing troops.
- The Israeli parliament approved a draft bill which could legalise more than 2,000 Jewish homes built on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The bill, however, must still pass through three readings and must be ratified by the Supreme Court before it becomes law.
- An American plan to punish Syria for using chemical weapons has faced a diplomatic pushback from Russia and developing countries. Instead, the United States is backing “a watered-down, compromise measure put forward by Spain which [condemns Syria and instructs the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or the OPCW, to carry out site inspections]“, but stops short of penalties.
- Back in Aleppo, Syria, Russian warplanes resumed airstrikes on rebel-held sections. “The fighting shattered the relative calm that had prevailed [in these parts] for about three weeks“.
- Graffiti on walls across Sana, Yemen reads: “America is killing the Yemeni people”. A Saudi-led coalition had bombed the country for the last 19 months, to oust the Houthi, Iran-aligned rebel group, but the remains of American munitions have been found.
- Following criticisms over the role of misininformation in the recently-concluded presidential election, Google and Facebook are looking to cut off advertising revenue to fake news sites. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has maintained that “more than 99 per cent of what people see [on Facebook] is authentic“.
- In Germany and Greece, President Barack Obama made his farewell trip to Europe, and in particular met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for “wide-ranging talks on trade, climate change, and relations with Russia“.
- Argentina is working with Chile to exterminate 100,000 beavers, which have “destroyed swaths of land estimated to be twice the size of the country’s capital city, Buenos Aires“. The entire process could take between 10 and 15 years.
- In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where state bank accounts have been frozen, anti-austerity protests turned violent as riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades into crowds. A water cannon was later used.
- Dozens of right-wing protestors stormed into Brazil’s legislative chamber, demanding a military coup.