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 24 to 29, 2017
Outgoing Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Governor Ahok, lost a contentious gubernatorial election last week. His chances were adversely effected by a blasphemy scandal, and an Indonesian court will rule on this case on May 9, after the governor responded to “the prosecution’s recommendation of two years’ probation in lieu of a suspended jail term“. Pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting found that even though 76 per cent of respondents were satisfied with his performance, 50 per cent said they would not vote for him, and while Governor Ahok’s brash approach and controversial policies could be to blame, there are also broader questions about “the country’s endemic electoral fight between pluralistic democracy and political Islam“.
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- 90 per cent of malaria cases happen in Africa, and despite some improvement in recent years the continent still has to eradicate the disease through investment and deployment of vaccines, new diagnostic tools, new funding strategies, and keeping in check the challenges of drug and insecticide resistance.
40 million Africans are facing famine, but humanitarian assistance has not kept pace.
Outbreaks of violence in parts of South Sudan “have caused significant loss of civilian lives and displaced more than 22,000 people“, with the threat of even further violence. Civil war rages on in the country.
- There are more reports of the anti-gay campaign in the Russian republic of Chechnya. This targeted, collective punishment began last month, after a gay rights group based in Russia applied for permits for gay pride parades to be organised in the Caucasus region. Since then, “at least 100 gay men had been arrested and three [have been] killed in the roundup“.
- China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier, “in the latest display of Beijing’s growing naval power“.
China is competing with India and Japan for influence in South Asian, and has now scooped up gas fields in Bangladesh.
- Disqualified Hong Kong lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung, who were barred from taking their seats after refusing to swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in October last year, were charged with unlawful assembly, “for trying to force their way into a meeting of the city’s legislature in November“.
A week after North Korea held a military parade marking the birth anniversary of its state founder, it staged huge artillery drills to mark “the 85th anniversary of the founding of the nation’s military“, demonstrating its conventional weapons.
- Results from Turkey’s referendum last week – which observers said fell short of international standards – provoked strong reactions from the European Union, which is “particularly concerned with its refugee deal with [the country]“.
- Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen were the top two candidates in France’s first round of presidential elections, and the run-off will take place on May 7. For the first time in modern French history, no major-party candidate is advancing to the run-off, marking a shift way from the “dominance of leftist and centre-right parties“.
The Middle East
At least 140 soldiers and officers in Afghanistan were killed, when Taliban militants – disguised as army soldiers – went on a shooting spree and blew themselves up. This is said to be the single deadliest known attack on an Afghan military base since 2001. In March earlier this year, gunmen disguised as medical staff members attacked the country’s main military hospital.
- The battle for Mosul in Iraq continues. It has been a block-by-block battle, and the plight of civilians of great concern.
- Syrians were hit by a deadly chemical attack earlier this month. The Syrian government denied responsibility, but the United States struck against an airfield in retaliation. Now, French intelligence has released new evidence, representing “the most detailed public account of Syria’s alleged use of the deadly nerve agent sarin in the attack“.
In his first post-presidency speech, former United States President Barack Obama said he hopes to “prepare the next generation of leadership” in his next phase of life, and his public schedule will pick up pace in Italy and Germany next.
- The United States imposed preliminary anti-subsidy duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, a subject which has “irritated bilateral relations for decades“. Further negotiations and even international litigation are expected.
- There are concerns over the formalisation of the role of the armed forces in law enforcement in Mexico, since the country’s “current legal framework facilitates armed forces arbitrary involvement in law enforcement“. Right now, the president has a great degree of power, though increased certainty may be necessary.
In a continuation of the violence, protestors in Venezuela are “demanding elections are a return to democratic rule“.