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!
July 17 to 22, 2017
Trouble is brewing in Asia. Geopolitically, a stand-off between Bhutan, China, and India continues in the Himalayas, in Doka La, and no immediate resolution is in sight. Politically, four more pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were stripped of their seats over an oath-taking controversy last year, and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe agreed to be questioned by the opposition over a cronyism scandal, two weeks after his party suffered a historic defeat in the Tokyo election. And finally, in terms of natural disasters as well as accidents or attacks, China, India, Malaysia, and Vietnam were hit by floods, while accidents or attacks struck Indonesia, Kashmir, and Taiwan.
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- 11 park wardens and an American journalist “are missing amid signs they were kidnapped by a local militia” in DR Congo.
At least nine people were killed in Nigeria, when a gas tank exploded at a fuel complex. “Fuel explosions are common in [the country], Africa’s biggest oil producer … where it is transported on badly-maintained roads by trucks in a poor state of repair“.
- Prime Minister Peter O’Neill won a fourth term in the parliament, in Papua New Guinea, and “his People’s National Congress party was in line to form the next government“. The country, however, remains mired in a period of economic uncertainty.
- A stand-off between Bhutan, China, and India in the Himalayas continues. An excellent commentary makes sense of the bigger tensions beyond Doka La – “the balance of power … the broader Sino-Indian rivalry, a struggle for Bhutan’s loyalties, and the strategic vulnerability of India’s ‘Chicken’s Neck’” – further noting that an immediate resolution is nowhere in sight.
Localists won seven seats in the 70-seat Hong Kong Legislative Council last year. Without a request by the city’s government or judiciary, however, two lawmakers were later blocked from taking their seats after pledging allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” during a swearing-in ceremony. Now, four more pro-democracy lawmakers were stripped of their seats over the oath-taking controversy.
An accident between a bus and a truck in Indonesia killed at least 10 people. Another nine were injured.
Two weeks after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party suffered a historic defeat in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, in Japan, he has “agreed to be questioned by the opposition in the Diet over an unrelenting cronyism scandal“, as ratings for Mr. Abe and his party continue to fall. A public opinion survey showed that 67 per cent of respondents could not trust the prime minister.
Heavy rain, strong winds, and the flooding that followed in Malaysia killed an elderly man.
- Marawi City in the Philippines was captured by Muslim militants in May this year, and the battle rages on. This week, “President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to extend till December 31 martial rule [over the city]“.
- At least one person was killed in Taiwan, after an explosion in a curry restaurant. 14 others were injured.
Floods brought on by constant heavy rain in Vietnam killed at least 14 people. More rain was expected.
- At least 547 boys at a Catholic choir school in Germany suffered “rape, sexual assaults, severe beatings and food deprivation“, and the lead investigator has criticised senior church figures for failing to do enough.
A record-breaking heatwave in Spain – with seven cities across the country, including the capital city of Madrid, setting record temperatures for the month of July – killed a road crew worker and also left another in critical condition.
The Middle East
- Five policemen were killed and six others wounded in Egypt, when two roadside bombs went off.
The only operating power plant in the Gaza Strip was turned off “due to a severe shortage of fuel“, leaving residents in a blackout.
In Jerusalem, two Israeli policemen were shot and killed by three Israeli Arabs. That the attackers were Israeli Arab citizens will “cause concern about the ability of Israel to prevent such incidents“, and no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Cholera continues to ravage war-torn Yemen, made worse by an ongoing economic crisis.
- Wildfires in Canada have left tens of thousands of residents displaced.
- BNP Paribas was fined S$337 million by the United States Federal Reserve “for ‘unsafe and unsound’ practices in its foreign exchange markets“, such as deficiencies in oversight and internal controls of traders.
- At least three people in Honolulu died in a high-rise condominium “that was not equipped with sprinklers“. 12 others were injured.
- Republicans in the House of Representatives took two tries – in March and in May – to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Senate put forward two versions but later abandoned the effort in favour of “a vote on a simple repeal – delayed by two years to give lawmakers time to seek a replacement” after four Republican senators announced their opposition.
- Later, this third plan collapsed, after three senators said they would not vote for a repeal without a replacement.
“To reduce violence, reform the police” are longstanding solutions for the crisis of shootings and homicides in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where 181 shootings took place in the final week of June. But the reduced practice of community policing, greater repression – compounded by an economic crisis in the country, thereby handicapping the police force – have made implementation difficult.
The United Nations (UN) had kept its distance from the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, “to allow regional players the space to try to mediate an end to the crisis“. But UN Secretary-General António Guterres has now called for a national dialogue.
In the same week, the opposition in Venezuela – who won the National Assembly in a landslide election in 2015 – held an unofficial referendum. “A high turnout would reflect widespread national dissatisfaction with [the president]“.
Nearly 6.5 million people voted, with 98 per cent rejecting the government’s proposal to rewrite the country’s constitution.