Our editors give us a breakdown of this week’s current affairs
United Kingdom: Harry Street
Conservative MP David Amess was killed on Friday, having been stabbed numerous times whilst meeting his constituents in Essex. He had served the Conservative party for almost four decades and held his current seat in Southend West since 1997. A 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder, but no further details had been released. Following the murder of Labour’s Jo Cox in 2016 and the attack on Labour MP Stephen Timms in 2010, this now raises concerns for the safety of members of UK parliament whilst they are meeting constituents in public. It is expected that there will be further discussions in the following days regarding MPs’ security, and how they can be protected more.
Having received backlash for the expensive PCR testing needed for international travel, the UK government has announced that vaccinated passengers can now take cheaper lateral flow tests. These changes have been greatly welcomed by both the public and the tourism industry, as it hopes to make holidays more affordable and accessible, which could provide a boost to the travel industry that it desperately needs.
India: Rudra Sen
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent organisation of the ruling party in India, has called for regulations on streaming platforms and cryptocurrencies. This comes at a time when several right-wing groups in India have raised objections over content deemed offensive to Hindu sentiments and Indian culture on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Furthermore, the RSS has urged the Indian government to consider stringent regulations on cryptocurrency for the larger good of society. While the government did prepare a bill to ban the trading and holding of cryptocurrency, it has still not submitted it to Parliament. However, experts believe that the Indian government will impose regulations like taxes on cryptocurrency trades soon.
India is all set to reopen its borders to overseas travellers as it relaxes its stringent COVID-19 related travel norms. India has not issued any tourist visas since March 2020 when the country went into lockdown and shut its borders. The decision comes at a time when coronavirus cases are gradually dropping. Whilst the country has started issuing tourist visas to those arriving on chartered flights, it will open its borders for international commercial flights from the 15th of November. Foreign tourists are very important for India’s growing hospitality sector as its tourism alone contributes 7% to India’s GDP and creates millions of jobs in its hospitality sector. India attracted more than 10 million tourists in 2019 and would hope to achieve those numbers in the near future to support its struggling economy.
China: Tommy Pigatto
Apple has taken down China’s most popular Quran app—Quran Majeed—from the app store, following requests for the app’s removal from CCP officials. Citing the apps function as a host for “illegal religious texts”, the deletion of this app has been interpreted as yet another slight in a long line of crackdowns on the countries Uyghur population, the mostly Muslim minority ethnic group whom the government of China has been accused of committing human rights violations upon. While the CCP does recognize Islam as a religion in their country, and the Quran ban was done in tandem with the banning of other apps such as the “Olive Tree Bible” app, Beijing has declined to further comment on this matter.
In recognition of China’s history of harsh policies against the countries Muslim Uyghur minority, U.S. President Joseph R. Biden issued a statement on Friday likening the treatment of China’s Uyghurs to that of the Holocaust. Biden condemned world leaders for what he called “complicity” in the propagations of these alleged human rights abuses, and directly called upon Chinese President Xi Jinping to address what both major U.S. political parties have deemed a “genocide”. Reports suggest that the “education centers” that the CCP have been forcibly sending Uyghurs to are in reality more similar to prison camps, where large groups of Muslim Chinese can be held indefinitely. Many such camps contain factories run by the detainees, who work without compensation producing cotton products, beauty products, and other goods like N95 protective masks. Other reports suggest that the CCP has been forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women, and turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of Uyghur women by Han Chinese men. Such accusations meet the U.N.’s definition of genocide, though the CCP has repeatedly denied such allegations.
Africa: Laura da Silva
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to meet U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Ethiopia. Thursday’s meeting comes weeks after Biden signed an executive order threatening to levy sanctions against Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other leaders involved in a conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Since then, the conflict has only deepened with Tigray forces saying that the Ethiopian government has launched larger offensives against them in an attempt to end the war. Kenya, which neighbours the conflict, has been vocal within the African community about the war in Tigray. Moreover, the African nation is currently holding the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of October. Kenya also has a strong relationship with the US and has partnered with the Americans previously to deescalate armed attacks. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that the leaders would discuss “efforts to defend democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, accelerate economic growth, and tackle climate change”. The Biden administration is conducting an interagency review as it considers targets for possible sanctions. However, many African states are less than optimistic about the effect of US sanctions on the Ethiopian conflict as the Ethiopian government, who is responsible for the ongoing violence, has specifically rejected international ‘meddling’ in its affairs. Consequently, the African Union has placed emphasis on finding an African solution to the crisis, which has killed thousands and caused widespread famine.
The Central African Republic (CAR) President called a ceasefire on Friday in order for citizens to access humanitarian aid after months of ongoing conflict. Violence in the African nation originally started in 2013 when the then-President Francois Bozize was deposed by rebels who took hold of the CAR capital of Bangui. The city has since been overwhelmed by violence between militants of the former Islamic movement Seleka, and its Christian majority counterpart Anti-Balaka. A peace agreement was signed in 2019 by 14 rebel groups with the hopes of moving towards a general election and a peaceful transition of power, but violence broke out again in December 2020 during the election after accusations of election fraud. Currently, armed groups control ‘large swaths of territory, and about one-quarter of the nearly 5 million population has been displaced’. Hence, President Touadera hopes that this ceasefire will help protect civilians from violence and allow them to access humanitarian aid and basic services. UN Chief Antonio Guterres has called on all parties involved in the conflict to respect the ceasefire and to make commitments to advancing the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation.
North America: Amelia Brown
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released September’s consumer price index report this week, showing an increase in consumer goods driven by inflation. The total consumer price index rose 5.4% compared to Septembre 2021. Necessities such as food and rent accounted for most of that rise. Food is more expensive due to inflation and due to supply chain issues that are ongoing. The monthly percent increase was 0.4 compared to August which was 0.3, signalling that inflation may be around for a while. In response to these increased costs of living, Social Security payments were announced to rise 5.9% for 2022. This is the biggest change since the 1980s and is especially welcome given that many years recently there has been zero increase.
Strikes over working conditions are seen all over North America this week. The pandemic seems to have ignited a new spark within multiple industries to improve working conditions. In Quebec, the largest nurse’s union is fighting for the end of mandatory overtime and called on nurses to refuse it this weekend. 1,400 workers at Kellogg’s factories across the states are also still on strike which began last week over pay cuts, long hours, and decreased benefits. Additionally, the union representing Hollywood crew members called on Wednesday for a strike next week if an agreement couldn’t be reached to improve job safety and hours. A deal reached today with major studies seems to have averted the strike, but must be ratified with the union members and upheld in practice to keep future action off the table.
Latin America: Leo Le Borgne
Negotiations between Venezuela and the government opposition have ceased in Mexico city following the American extradition of one of President Nicolas Maduro’s closest allies. Businessman Alex Saab was arrested in June last year at Cape Verde, and faces charges of money laundering. In a statement made by one of the lead government negotiators, Socialist party official Jorge Rodriguez protested Saab’s arrest, whilst emphasising Saab’s position as an essential member of the government’s negotiation delegation.
The US embassy in Bogota, Colombia has reported incidences of Havana syndrome among its staff. First reported in Cuba in 2016, side effects of Havana Syndrome are known to cause dizziness, fatigue, and auditory pain. The Bogota case is only the newest in a recent string of incidents that have occurred in US government buildings across the world. This news comes as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is due to visit the Andean nation on October 20th.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has announced a ‘State of Exception’ in the southern regions of the nation. The government has consequently deployed troops to address the burgeoning civil disruption caused by members of the Machupe indigenous group. The recent clashes between the Machupe and state security forces can be traced back to the indigenous group’s demand for the return of land that was converted into farmland by the government. As the largest indigenous group in Chile, the Machupe reside mainly in southern Chile, and lost their land due to a series of Chilean military offences in the late 19th century.
Culture: Armaan Gheewala
Protests around the world are taking place calling on officials to do more to protect the environment ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow on the 1st of November. One protest in Hexham, Northumberland attracted nearly 100 people all calling on the government to push more progressive and environmentally friendly policies. Currently, world leaders have the current goal of keeping global temperatures below 2.9ºC and Boris Johnson has promised to ensure that by 2035, all UK electricity will come from ‘clean sources’ however climate scientists and green party members suggest that in order to truly keep global warming under control, temperatures need to be kept under 1.5ºC.
Taking effect today, nearly 1.7 million families will lose their access to the £20 credit scheme that has officially been phased out and nearly 4.3 million will lose theirs by the end of November. This, combined with the rise in energy prices has put large amounts of pressure on food banks, charities and other NGOs with many families seeing themselves fall into relative poverty. Schools are also unable to keep up with this unexpected amount of children on free school meals with a reported 32% of children aged 8-17 not receiving a hot lunch at their canteen. With winter approaching, many are calling on Boris Johsnon to introduce some sort of alternative scheme to help these struggling families.