August 2022 global news roundup: Past and present government leaders in hot soup; Geopolitical tensions; Record global droughts and floods

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Photo by Yash Savla on Unsplash)

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (August 2022).

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Former government leaders around the world have run afoul of laws and public support. Former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, while serving as leader of the government, was secretly sworn in to five ministries without the knowledge of most lawmakers. After an appeal court upheld his 2020 conviction, former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was imprisoned for 12 years for his role in the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal. He is the country’s first prime minister to serve a prison term. A former Mexican attorney general was arrested in connection with the disappearance and alleged massacre of 43 college students in 2014. Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan was charged under the country’s anti-terrorism act for threatening a judge and senior police officials in a speech. And in the United States (US), federal FBI agents raided the Florida residence of former president Donald Trump. The unannounced search warrant, later unsealed, was part of an investigation that Mr. Trump improperly took classified documents from the White House.

With present leaders, Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin tested negative in a drug test, following the circulation of video footage showing her partying with friends. She also had to apologise after photos of two topless women taken inside her official residence were leaked. Separately, the Thai prime minister was suspended by the constitutional court as it considers a legal challenge, brought by opposition parties who argue that he has reached the end of his eight-year term limit. An acting prime minister was appointed.

Geopolitical tensions

In Afghanistan, the current leader of al-Qaeda and a key architect of the September 11 attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri, was killed in a US-led drone strike. Armenia and Azerbaijan clashed in a disputed enclave which has remained a flashpoint for 30 years. Estonia was hit by its largest cyberattack since 2007, with over 200 websites affected by a Russia-backed, pro-prelim hacker group. In Kashmir, there was a militant attack on an Indian army post. In Israel, in the deadliest escalation of violence since last year, Israeli airstrikes hit several targets on the Gaza Strip. Later, with the help of Egyptian mediators, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire. And in Taiwan, US house speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in the country, the first house speaker and the highest-level visit by a US official to do so in 25 years. China warned of an “egregious political impact” and its military later started its biggest-ever military exercises around Taiwan.

In a more positive development, Colombia and Venezuela re-established diplomatic relations for the first time in years.

Record global droughts and floods

In Europe, with the worst drought on record, thousands of French firefighters battled a second round of wildfires in less than a month. Parts of the United Kingdom officially fell into drought, with the lack of rain expected to continue for months. In Pakistan, about a third of the country is underwater, with more than 1,100 people dead. Instead of three or four monsoon rains per season, there has been eight so far since mid-June.

There were other natural disasters around the world: Afghanistan (flash floods), China (flooding, record heatwave), Iran (flooding), South Korea (deadly heaviest rainfall in decades), and the United Arab Emirates (flash flooding).

Other significant political developments

  • Iraq: There were two days of violence following the resignation of an influential cleric.
  • Kenya: The electoral commission announced that the vice president had won with 50.5 per cent of the vote, but the handling of the election and the result announcement have been disputed. The results were disowned by four of the seven electoral commissioners and the opposition candidate will challenge his close loss, with the possibility that the supreme court will announce a new election.
  • Russia: The former Soviet president who presided over the end of the Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev, died at the age of 91.
  • Scotland: It became the first country in the world to make period products such as tampons and pads free to anyone who needs them. Schools, colleges, universities, and local government bodies must make these products available in their bathrooms. On a more negative note, garbage collectors refused to work over a pay dispute, resulting in piles of uncollected trash and risking public health and safety issues.
  • US: In a sign of backlash against the supreme court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, voters in Kansas voted overwhelmingly to reject a constitutional amendment which would have allowed state legislators to ban or significant restrict abortion. Separately, author Salman Rushdie was attacked at an event in New York.

Other global developments of note included: Egypt (church fire), Indonesia (truck crash), Libya (deadliest clashes in more than two years), Madagascar (kidnapping), the Netherlands (truck accident), Pakistan (army helicopter downing by insurgents), Russia (traffic collision), Somalia (hotel siege), Thailand (fire in crowded nightclub), Turkey (bus crash), and the US (shootings; murder of Muslim men).

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