This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last two weeks (April 2021).
The world’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed three million, with Brazil and India the current hotspots. Around the world, April was a month of disasters too. There were train derailments in Egypt (at least 11 dead) and Taiwan (at least 51 dead, in the country’s deadliest rail accident in more than four decades), the sinking of a missing Indonesian submarine with 53 crew members, as well as a fuel tanker fire in Nigeria and the burning of the historic library of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, destroying a book collection and a film archive.
Iranian nuclear ambitions and Israeli sabotage: As talks began in Austria through intermediaries to bring both Iran and the United States (US) back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran’s key Natanz nuclear-enrichment facility suffered a blackout reportedly caused by an explosion, in an apparent Israeli sabotage. Iran has vowed revenge against Israel. Iran then announced that it would start enriching uranium to 60 per cent for the first time, putting it one step closer to weapons-grade fuel.
Biden administration marks 100 days, with news at home, overseas, and in space: President Joe Biden marked his first 100 days as president with significant political and geopolitical developments.
At home, Amazon workers in Alabama voted against the formation of a union, in a blow to organised labour in the country. Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of two counts of murder in the death of George Floyd, whose death sparked large civil rights protests in the country and around the world. Unfortunately, still, there were at least 50 mass shootings in recent weeks, including but not limited to California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina. And in a speech to a joint Congress session, Mr Biden laid out his American Families plan to expand the country’s social programmes.
Overseas, the administration imposed tough sanctions against Russia for interference in the 2020 elections and for the SolarWinds cyberattack last year against the US government and corporate networks. In retaliation, Russia will expel 10 American diplomats and ban some American officials from Russia. The president also announced that the country will pull out from Afghanistan by September 11. Afghan leaders expressed anxiety over the withdrawal plan, with further fears of a civil war. Finally, Mr. Biden reversed course on the number of refugees allowed into the country, keeping the cap of 15,000 previously set by the Trump administration.
Mr. Biden also officially recognised the Armenian genocide.
And in space, NASA recorded the first powered aircraft flight on another planet, as a machine hovered in the thin air of Mars.
Electoral and political developments in Latin America, Chad, Greenland, and South Korea: In Cuba, former president Raúl Castro stepped down, leaving the country without a top leader named Castro for the first time in decades. In Ecuador, on his third electoral attempt at the presidency, former banker and conservative Guillermo Lasso won. And in Peru, preliminary results showed a leftist candidate in a surprise lead.
In Chad, a day after winning re-election, the president died in a battlefield clash with rebel insurgents. In Greenland, elections in the Danish territory of 57,000 people resulted in the victory of a left-wing, pro-environment party opposed to a Chinese-sponsored rare-earth mine. And in South Korea, elections in two of the country’s biggest cities Busan and Seoul were won by the conservative opposition, the People Power Party. The result is seen as a rebuke against the president and his Democratic Party.
Political machinations and unrest in Jordan, Hong Kong, and Northern Ireland: The former crown prince of Jordan was accused of plotting a coup against the king, his half-brother, whom he accused of corruption, incompetence, and harassment. He later issued a statement from detention pledging his loyalty to the monarch. Around 20 people were also arrested on charges of plotting against the crown, though no evidence of an actual plot was presented.
In Hong Kong, prominent pro-democracy figures, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai, were sentenced to prison for their roles in a 2019 demonstration. In Northern Ireland, unrest and violence persisted in Belfast for days, over post-Brexit trade rules for the country, deteriorating relations between political parties, and the impact of the pandemic. Protestant unionists want to be a part of the United Kingdom (UK) while Catholic nationalists want a united Ireland.
And finally, in the UK, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and the longest-serving consort to a monarch in British history, died at the age of 99.