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!
May 8 to 13, 2017
In France, centrist Emmanuel Macron beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen with 66 per cent of the vote to be the country’s youngest head of state since Napoleon, with a vow to shake up the political system. His victory offered significant relief to the European Union, though Miss Le Pen’s National Front won its highest share ever, as she called for “a profound transformation of our movement to create a new political force“. But what will also concern Mr. Macron is the abstention rate of 25 per cent, “the highest since the presidential election in 1969“.
In South Korea, presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea Moon Jae-in won with over 40 per cent of the vote, thereby returning the country’s liberals “to power after nearly a decade in the political wilderness“. Geopolitically, his predilection for dialogue and a “sunshine policy” could lower the temperature of the North Korean stand-off – though balancing China and the United States against one another would prove to be challenging – while politically, socio-economic discontent dominates the agenda, with high levels of youth unemployment and an ageing population.
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- 245 migrants in two ships are feared to be dead, after wrecks in the Mediterranean Sea. They were trying to reach Italy from Libya or Tunisia, and this year – including one just last month – more than 1,300 have died in attempts.
- Following successful negotiations between terrorist group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, 82 Chibok schoolgirls have been released. They are among the 276 girls who were kidnapped from their beds in April 2014.
- A school bus crash in Tanzania killed 36 people, 33 of whom were schoolchildren. They were on their way to take an exam.
- Rapid urbanisation, deforestation, and climate change in China have resulted in dust storms in its capital city.
- Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea Moon Jae-in was elected President of South Korea. His predecessor, Park Geun-hye, has been impeached, and has had her presidential immunity to criminal indictment removed.
- The 27 member states of the European Union (EU) backed the EU’s negotiating guidelines on Brexit, with key priorities: to negotiate withdrawal terms before future agreements, and to prioritise the rights of citizens, financial settlement, and its new external borders. The challenge, however, is the gulf of expectations between the EU and the United Kingdom.
- Centrist Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential elections, to become France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon.
France published two decrees to protect the health of models and to prevent anorexia, requiring models to have a medical certificate “confirming their general well-being and the fact they are not excessively underweight“, and also making it compulsory for “commercial” images of models who have been digitally altered to be labelled.
- In February, Romanians took to the streets to protest against a decree which would have decriminalised some abuse-of-power offences. Now, up to two thousand in Romania protested against a measure which would have pardoned corrupt officials.
The Middle East
- In Egypt, Pope Francis warned against religious fanaticism, urging Muslim leaders to unite against Islamic militants.
- In its seventh month, the block-by-block battle for Mosul in Iraq has been taking its toll, slowing to a crawl and “leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped on an urban battlefield”, and hence coalition forces have opened a new front.
Former staff members of the Obama administration had warned the Trump administration that former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – who resigned just three weeks in – was susceptible to Russian blackmail.
- President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey – based on the judgment of the Department of Justice – “over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails“. Mr Comey was leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections, on whether members of the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia.
- Earlier, Mr Trump approved a plan to arm Syrian Kurds with heavier weapons against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
- Former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva appeared in court to face graft charges, of helping a construction firm win government contracts, which “he dismisses as a political witch hunt“. Mr. Lula has said he wants to run for president again in 2018, but he is also charged in four other corruption cases. Last year, the country’s first female president Dilma Rousseff was convicted for illegally using money from state banks to boost public spending, and replaced by Michel Temer.
- A bank heist in Paraguay – wherein a commando team of bank robbers made off with S$15.4 million – in a free-trade city run by private businesses and problematic governance systems, raises broader questions about socio-economic conditions and effects.