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!
April 3 to 8, 2017
Concerns over terrorism and continued violence surfaced in the past week. On terrorism: A metro explosion in Russia – said to be an “act of terror” – killed at least 11 people, while a suspected Syrian government chemical attack killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 300 people. The Syrian military, however, denied responsibility. On continued violence, around the world: South Sudan remains mired in a civil war, plagued by the problems of outgoing refugees, famine, and child soldiers; Turkey still faces threats on two fronts, from the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria and from the Kurdish separatists; and Venezuela grapples with longstanding political and economic problems, following a clash between the branches of the government.
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- According to a round of surveys in 36 African countries, many Africans today “still face substantial blockages [in their access to justice] that are both patently unfair and a breeding ground for discontent“. Poorer Africans, in particular, face even more hurdles in their engagements (assuming that they do, in the first place) with their legal systems.
- The volcanic Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is one of the world’s lowest and hottest places, , and “the combination of this area’s geology and environment make it a uniquely extreme place to do research“. Researchers are now studying microbes and microbial life, which are able to survive despite the harsh and extreme environment.
- After losing an election in December last year and refusing to step aside, former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh moved to Equatorial Guinea where he has remained in exile, “holed up at a luxurious villa” and keeping a low profile.
An ongoing civil war in South Sudan has created a wave of refugees in Uganda, and has further increased the risks of an extensive famine. And the war is not about to end soon. Returning child soldiers, in particular, have been physically and psychologically damaged, and rehabilitation will remain an uphill task for many.
14 were injured in Hong Kong, when a double-decker tram tripped over.
- A metro explosion in Saint Petersburg, Russia, has killed at least 11 people. Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was probing an “act of terror”, “but added it would look into all other possible causes of the blast“.
- Impeached South Korean ex-president Park Geun-hye had her presidential immunity to criminal indictment removed, and she was later arrested “on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion, and leaking government secrets“.
- In a dangerous mix of religion and politics, there are accusations that the Diyanet in Turkey – which regulates religious activities – has had imams who “spied on members of the Gülen movement [in Germany]“.
- Estonia is leading Europe in digital governance, and in particular its efficient “once-only” principle mandates that “the state is not allowed to ask citizens for the same information twice“, so as to reduce burden.
The Visegrád countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – strongly oppose the European Union’s (EU) two-year relocation plan, but they were reminded that the EU’s cohesion policy “also applies to the refugee crisis“.
A week after Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May triggered the Brexit process, the lawmakers of the European Union – in the European Parliament – set “their red lines for the two-year divorce talks with Britain“, including the starting of trade talks only after some key milestones were met.
The Middle East
- At the Arab League Summit, attended by 18 Arab leaders, the focus was on Syria and Palestine.
- Israel’s security cabinet “approved the building of the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades“.
More than 50 people were killed – and 300 were wounded – after a suspected Syrian government chemical attack. The Syrian military denied responsibility. The chemical agent sarin was allegedly used, and the United Nations Security Council is putting together a resolution to condemn the attack.
Turkey at the present moment is suffering from two terrorism campaigns: first, terror attacks led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria; and second, led by the uprising of the Kurdish separatists.
In a landmark 8-3 decision on discrimination, a appeals court in the United States ruled that federal civil rights law “protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace“.
In February 2016, the World Health Organisation declared a Zika emergency. A research in the United States has now found that “about one in 10 pregnant women with confirmed Zika infections had a foetus or baby with birth defects“, which means the virus continues to be a threat for pregnant women in particular.
- Over 200 people were killed in Colombia, “after heavy rains caused rivers to overflow” said to be caused by climate change.
- The heated debate over whether former presidents should be allowed to be re-elected in Paraguay continues, with demonstrators setting the country’s Congress on fire, “breaking windows and fences“.
- Venezuela has been plagued by longstanding political and economic problems – such as triple-digit inflation and severe food shortages – and its Supreme Court “gutted Congress of its last vestiges of power“, furthering accusations of a power grab.
- Later, the Supreme Court revoked its takeover of the opposition-led Congress in Venezuela.