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!
December 26 to 31, 2016
In the final week of 2016, the deaths of celebrities – of American actress Carrie Fisher, for instance, who portrayed Princess Leia Organa in the “Star Wars” franchise – may have dominated the headlines, but around the world unrest seems to be the new constant. In DR Congo, at least 22 civilians were killed, and further anti-government protests have been fuelled by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to hold elections. In Russia, a military aircraft bound for Syria crashed into the Black Sea, and none of the 92 passengers survived. In Germany, the suspect responsible for a truck ploughing through a crowded Christmas market was stopped and shot by two police officers in Milan, Italy, but the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have urged supporters to carry out even more holiday attacks. And in Venezuela, a report found that about one person is lynched every three days.
There is, however, some good news from Africa. In Guinea, an Ebola vaccine shown to offer 100 per cent protection in a medical trial is now being fast-tracked for regulatory approval, while in Nigeria, government forces captured a key Boko Haram camp.
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- At least 22 civilians were killed in DR Congo, said to be the work of the rebel group the Allied Democratic Forces. Authorities and the United Nations have been powerless in the face of these attacks, in the past two years, and the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to hold elections has further fanned anti-government protests.
- Following a trial led by the World Health Organisation in Guinea, an Ebola vaccine has been shown to offer 100 per cent protection, and is therefore “now being fast-tracked for regulatory approval“.
- Two Libyans hijacked a passenger jetliner and forced it to land in Malta. Within hours of landing, however, both “had released the other 115 aboard and had surrendered peacefully to the Maltese authorities“.
- The Nigerian army has captured a key Boko Haram camp – which kidnapped 276 girls in 2014 – described by President Muhammadu Buhari as “long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists“.
- A Christmas Day celebration in Sydney, Australia drew more than 10,000 people, who left behind more than 16 tonnes of garbage. Alcohol has been banned on the beach for the rest of the summer.
- In the past week, parts of China were blanketed by smog “so thick that highways and businesses have been shut down, and dozens of flights have been cancelled“. At least 460 million were affected by a “red alert” issued by the government.
- Days after the United Nations high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein suggested that President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte be investigated for murder, the president called the human rights chief an “idiot“. Mr. Duterte had boasted about personally gunning down criminal suspects, and has strained relationships with the United States.
- A Russian military aircraft bound for Syria – carrying 92 people – crashed into the Black Sea. No survivors were found. The plane was also carrying members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official band of the Russian armed forces, who had “planned to serenade Russian personnel in Syria on New Year’s Eve”.
- Following a report published by the World Anti-Doping Agency on Russia’s sports doping programme, Russia is – for the first time – conceding that its officials “carried out one of the biggest conspiracies in sports history“. Officials tampered with urine samples, provided athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, and thereafter ordered cover-ups.
- A truck ploughed through a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, Germany last week, and days later the suspect – 24-year-old Tunisian man Anis Amri – was stopped and shot by two police officers in Milan, Italy. Both Italy and Germany had tried to deport Mr. Amri to Tunisia previously, but were thwarted by bureaucracy. Authorities are now trying to establish if there is a network of cooperators and supporters, who had helped in the attack.
- A pro-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group has urged supporters to carry out holiday attacks across Europe, and has also urged Muslims to stay away from Christian celebrations, following the truck attack in Germany.
The Middle East
- Without a veto from the United States, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution – also the first adopted in Israel and the Palestinians in nearly eight years – “demanding an end to Israeli settlements“. Even though the resolutions is largely symbolic, and will thus not change developments on the ground, there are now questions about policies of the incoming Trump administration and the next moves of the Palestinians.
- Following a failed coup in Turkey earlier this year, nearly 41,000 police, military and government officials, and civil servants are set to go on trial over their alleged involvement. However, this crackdown also “has many international observers worried about the fate of Turkey’s crumbling democratic institutions and rule of law“.
- At Pearl Harbour, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “stood next to President [Barack] Obama at the site of the attack [75 years ago, when Imperial Japanese warplanes destroyed the American Pacific fleet] and offered repentance but did not apologise“. This is also likely to be Mr. Obama’s last meeting with a foreign leader as president.
- Three Chinese citizens have been criminally charged for “trading on confidential corporate information obtained by hacking into networks and servers of law firms working on mergers“. The vulnerability of law firms is again in the spotlight.
- The United States is preparing expanded economic sanctions and diplomatic measures against Russia. Intelligence officials believe that “at a minimum the Russians expected the operation to sow confusion into the [elections]“.
- Protestors in Argentina stoned the car of President Mauricio Macri. Austerity measures by the government to tackle the economy and to boost the economy have previously prompted protests and strikes called by the country’s labour unions.
- A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of southern Chile, but thankfully no casualties were reported.
- In Venezuela, about one person is lynched every three days, often as revenge on suspected criminals. The monitoring group also added that the 126 deaths in 2016 is higher than the 20 in 2015.