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!
February 13 to 18, 2017
Unfortunate attacks and accidents in the past week have claimed dozens of lives in different countries around the world: at least 13 people were killed in Pakistan from an apparent Taleban suicide blast, days after a targeted attack against both media and police; at least 32 people were killed in Taiwan when a tour bus crashed; and at least one person in Luxembourg died, when passenger and freight trains collided. And on a much broader scale, India’s air pollution is causing about 1.1 million to die prematurely, and the Shiite-dominated national government in Falluja, Iraq is struggling to provide for 250,000 returning residents.
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- President Donald Trump’s silence on Africa is seen as a problem, especially with China taking a more active investment and geopolitical role in the continent, and with Africa becoming a more crucial voting bloc in global institutions.
- A court ruling in Kenya thwarted plans by the government to close the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab, housing 260,000 people. The government “has long held the view that Dadaab has been used as a base by the al-Shabaab terror group“.
- India’s air pollution is causing about 1.1 million people to die prematurely. “India has registered an alarming increase of nearly 50 percent in premature deaths from particulate matter between 1990 and 2015“, now surpassing China, and sustained public policy initiatives have not been undertaken. Levels of PM 2.5 soared to over 16 times the limit, in New Delhi last year.
- In Indonesia, with 17.37 per cent of the vote, “Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono conceded defeat in the three-horse race“. The run-off between the remaining two candidates will be held on April 19, later this year.
- In Malaysia, the death of Kim Jong-nam – half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – “turned into an international assassination intrigue connected to … the Kim family“. The victim was reportedly stabbed with poisoned needles by two women.
- North Korea launched its first ballistic missile in the Trump era, and past sanctions have proven to be ineffective. Hawkish and dovish moves have been mooted, to strike the country’s nuclear facilities and missile sites, and to assure it of its survival.
- In a targeted attack against both media and police, gunmen shot dead an employee of a Pakistani TV news channel in Karachi.
- Days later in Pakistan too, at least 13 people were killed and 82 were injured “when an apparent Taleban suicide blast ripped through a protest in Lahore“. A Taleban-claimed bomb blast also killed at least 24 people last month.
- At least 32 people – mostly elderly – in Taiwan were killed, when a tour bus crashed. It was unclear what caused the crash.
- A French farmer – who has become a folk hero for illegally aiding dozens of migrants, and who has the popular opinion on his side – was given a small fine by a judge. A 2012 law in France allows citizens to help migrants for humanitarian reasons.
- Hamburg airport in Germany was briefly closed, when about 50 passengers complained of eye irritation and breathing difficulties. The leak of a corrosive substance through the air conditioning system, authorities have said, was not a terrorist attack.
- At least one person in Luxembourg died, when passenger and freight trains collided. Reason for the incident is still undetermined.
- Leaders of the European Union member states came together in Malta for an informal summit last week, agreeing on measures to curb the flow of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy, and preparing for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
The Middle East
- Iraqi forces took Falluja from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) last year, but the victory is not at risk. “The Shiite-dominated national government has not yet demonstrated that it can secure and rebuild this shattered Sunni city, soothe sectarian grievances, or provide for 250,000 returning residents“, and there are fears that the Sunnis may once again embrace ISIS.
- A detailed report by the Human Rights Watch said Syrian government forces “systematically dumped canisters of chlorine gas, a banned weapon, on residential areas of Aleppo at least eight times late last year“. The report also pointed to calculated government plans and military strategies. Aleppo was retaken by the government in December last year.
- In response to a unanimous decision by a federal appeals court to uphold a temporary suspension of President Donald Trump’s executive order to restrict travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, Mr. Trump said he was considering a new travel ban order.
- Following controversial allegations of improper contact with Russian officials, White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – having assumed the position three weeks ago – resigned. He said he had “inadvertently” misinformed Vice President Mike Pence about these contacts and their conversations, and he was potentially vulnerable to being blackmailed by Russia.
- It was later reported that Mr. Trump “had known for weeks about Mr. Flynn misleading the vice president“.
- In their first meeting, President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “struck a cordial tone … alternating between attempting to bridge [gaps in immigration, refugees, trade, and climate change] and steering clear of them“.
- Since the conclusion of the Rio Olympics in 2016, major venues in Brazil have fallen into disrepair. The overall legacy of the event has also been negative, leaving “a record of human rights violations where violence remains part of the game“.
- In Chile, journalist and former television news anchorman Alejandro Guillier has increased his support to be president from one to 14 per cent in the past six months, against two former presidents on opposite ends of the political spectrum.