The world in brief – Monday, October 17, 2022

In Pakistan, former Prime Minister continues to dominate election season:

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has continued his dominant electoral streak after being removed from office some six months ago. With eight National Assembly seats up for grabs in Sunday’s by-elections – three each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces and two in Karachi city – the 70-year-old leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) contested seven and won six. Candidates of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), part of the ruling alliance, won the other two seats. According to Pakistani laws, a candidate can run for multiple seats. However, if they win more than one, they have to choose one and give up the rest. The seats Pakistanis voted for on Sunday were vacated when PTI MPs resigned en masse after Khan and his government were removed through a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April. Since then, Khan has alleged he was the victim of a “foreign conspiracy”, pointing the finger of blame at the United States, charges Washington has denied. Khan has also alluded, on numerous occasions, to the role of Pakistan’s military establishment in his downfall. The army is considered Pakistan’s primary powerbroker and has ruled the nation of 220 million for more than half of its 75 years of existence. The military in the past has had to fend off allegations that it was the primary architect of Khan’s rise to power in 2018.

In Russia, Ukrainian shelling intensifies in Belgorod region:

Ukrainian shelling targeted Russia’s Belgorod region on Sunday, wounding three people, local authorities said. “Three members of the same family suffered wounds in the shelling in Belgorod. Two men with shrapnel wounds were taken to the hospital and a woman received outpatient treatment,” Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram. Belgorod borders Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, where Ukrainian forces made significant territorial gains in a counteroffensive last month. Attacks have been reported inside Belgorod throughout the war, but they have intensified in recent weeks. On Saturday, two gunmen opened fire at a military base in Belgorod, killing 11 Russian soldiers. The Russian Defense Ministry said the incident was a terrorist attack and that the perpetrators were from a former Soviet state, but didn’t specify which one. The shooters fired on Russian volunteer soldiers during target practice and were killed by returning fire. Also on Saturday, Gladkov said a fire was extinguished at an oil depot in Belgorod that broke out due to Ukrainian shelling. On Friday, Gladkov reported an apartment building was damaged by Ukrainian shelling, and a day earlier, he said Ukrainian strikes targeted an ammunition depot in the region. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched large-scale missile strikes across Ukraine on power infrastructure in response to the truck bombing of the Crimean Bridge. He said Friday that there was no need to keep up the attacks, but previously warned of a harsher response to further Ukrainian “terrorist attacks” on Russian territory.

In Ukraine, wave of Russian suicide drones strike Kyiv:

Waves of explosives-laden suicide drones struck Ukraine’s capital Monday, setting buildings ablaze and tearing a hole in one of them while sending people scurrying for shelter or trying to shoot down the kamikazes. The concentrated use of the drones was the second barrage in as many weeks — after months where air attacks had become become a rarity in central Kyiv. The assault sowed terror and frayed nerves as blasts echoed across the city. Energy facilities were struck, and one drone slammed into a residential building, killing four people, authorities said. The drones appeared to include Iranian-made Shaheds. Intense, sustained bursts of gunfire rang out as they buzzed overhead, apparently from soldiers trying to destroy them. Others headed for shelter, nervously scanning the skies. But Ukraine has become grimly accustomed to attacks nearly eight months into the Russian invasion, and city life resumed as rescuers picked through the debris. Previous Russian airstrikes on Kyiv were mostly with missiles. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Monday’s barrage came in successive waves of 28 drones — in what many fear could become a more common mode of attack as Russia seeks to avoid depleting its stockpiles of long-range precision missiles. Five drones plunged into Kyiv itself, said Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. In the Kyiv region, at least 13 were shot down, all of them flying in from the south, said Yurii Ihnat, a spokesman for Ukraine’s air force.

In U.S.A., Washington Post outrage over refugee asylum not equally applied and coastal states face climate-change-induced insurance dilemma:

The notorious incident in Del Rio, Texas, where US border patrol agents on horseback were photographed apparently wielding long reins as whips against Haitian migrants, prompted widespread public outrage. But where Ukrainians seeking refuge in this country found a strong advocate in the Washington Post editorial board, their Haitian counterparts have received notably different treatment. It’s a fair comparison: Migrants from both countries seek protection in the United States because they fear for their lives in their home country. While Ukraine is actively at war, Haiti’s violence and instability have ebbed and flowed for decades, a result largely of foreign exploitation and intervention, compounded in recent years by devastating earthquakes and hurricanes; neither can provide a basic level of safety for their citizens today. All have the right under international and US law to seek that protection, including at the US border, where they are required to be given a chance to apply for asylum. Under Title 42—an obscure and “scientifically baseless” public health directive invoked under Donald Trump at the start of the Covid pandemic, and largely extended under Joe Biden’s administration (FAIR.org, 4/22/22)—that right has been violated, as Haitian (and Central American) asylum seekers have been summarily expelled without being screened for asylum eligibility. One might imagine that this trampling of rights, more actively nefarious than the foot-dragging on resettling Ukrainian refugees, would prompt more, not less, outrage among media opinion makers. Yet the opposite is true for the Post editorial board, which has written about both situations repeatedly.

Say what you want about the insurance industry — damn bloodsuckers constantly cranking up your bills — but you must admit that they understand risk. It is, at its heart, a simple business: Estimate with great precision how much you are likely to pay out in claims, and then charge customers more than that, so you make a profit. The success of insurance companies is closely wedded to their ability to analyze the real world with accuracy. Some businesses, like advertising, may run on delusion, but in insurance, that sort of thing is poison.  So it poses a problem for a certain variety of right-wing free market fundamentalists when the insurance industry begins sending signals that climate change is very, very real — so real that it should be upending our way of life already. In Louisiana, where private insurance companies have fled or gone insolvent with increasing frequency after a recent string of hurricanes, rates for the state-sponsored homeowners insurance of last resort are about to rise by 63% in a single year. Florida is facing the same environmental problems and the exodus of insurance companies with an even larger amount of property value at risk. There, home insurance rates have doubled in five years, the state insurance company probably doesn’t have enough money to cover the costs of a true hurricane disaster, and most people at risk of flooding don’t even have flood insurance because it’s so expensive. Even as Florida’s Republican elected officials tout the state as a haven for political refugees from the harsh, woke climates of the north, they have no plan to deal with the fact that climate change is making the math of coastal development more unsustainable every year. 

Internationally, global garment industry make some countries enormous profits, others perpetually poor:

Clothing and footwear manufacturing is characterised by a globalised “value chain”, in which each phase of production is concentrated in a different region. Giant retailers in the developed economies make huge fortunes in concert with smaller-scale textile and garment factories, the bulk of them in Asia and other parts of the global South. The factory owners act as junior partners in a global network of profiteering. Far from liberating some of the world’s poorest people, export-oriented development has brought luxury for a privileged few but plunged millions into a vast matrix of exploitation. Hundreds of millions of workers are involved in making garments in some way, united by an enormous value chain that spans tiny, impoverished farms, large sweatshop factories and the shopping malls of Sydney, Shanghai and New York. At each step, individual capitalists endeavour to squeeze out as much profit as possible for themselves. There is a fortune to be made. According to one estimate, clothing and footwear are a US$1.55 trillion retail market. Lower down the value chain, industry analyst IBISWorld puts the total wholesale value of manufactured garments at around US$850 billion, a lucrative trade for aspiring capitalists in the global South. The creation of this wealth begins with the production of fibres such as cotton, jute and polyester, which are turned into textiles to be cut and assembled into garments. Cotton is by far the most popular natural fibre, most of which is produced in China, India, Pakistan, the United States and Brazil. 

In India, convicted chief Dera Sacha Sauda again released on parole prior to major elections:

Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the chief Dera Sacha Sauda, was released on a 40-day parole on Saturday. This becomes the sixth time the rape and murder convict has been given time off jail. Ram Rahim was convicted of raping two of his disciples at his ashram in 2017, and murdering two journalists and the manager of his ashram in 2002 and 2021 respectively. A parole is conditional release – a limited period of time wherein a prisoner is released, contingent upon good behaviour or familial emergency, and is evaluated by authorities, in this case, the Haryana government. As per the Haryana Good Conduct Prisoner (Temporary Release) Act, 1988, parole is granted after a convict serves at least one year of the sentence. Ram Rahim, who was sentenced to a 20-year jail term in 2017 and later, life-imprisonment in 2021, has already been out on parole several times – prior to his current release, he was released twice this year and thrice last year. Upon release, he is usually seen delivering speeches to his followers and disciples on topics such as the “correct way to live as a Hindu” and the “precarity of Hinduism in the country at the moment”. In a live session streamed on YouTube on Monday, Ram Rahim says: “We are forgetting our tradition and breaking away from our Hindu ideals. Stop following outsiders, you must follow your sect leaders and you must follow tradition.” Coincidentally, his release is always effected in close proximity to some major election. This time, his release came just before the Adampur by-election and panchayat polls in Haryana to be held on November 3. In February, he was released right before the Punjab Assembly elections.

In China, President Xi joins group discussion of delegates from Guangxi Zhuang region:

Xi Jinping on Monday called on all Chinese people to stay united as “a piece of hard steel” under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and pull together with one mind to power the giant ship of national rejuvenation through the wind and waves to reach its destination. Xi made the remarks when he joined a group discussion with delegates from south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region who are attending the 20th CPC National Congress. Xi said the 20th CPC National Congress further points out the direction for the development of the Party and the country’s cause, and serves as a political declaration and program of action for the Party to unite Chinese people to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics. Five delegates from Guangxi shared their views on the report to the 20th CPC National Congress delivered by Xi at the opening of the congress on Sunday. They expressed unanimous endorsement of the report. Xi joined the delegates in a lively discussion. After listening to their comments, Xi said he is pleased to participate in the discussion as a fellow delegate of the Guangxi delegation.

In Belarus, thousands of Russian troops and armaments arrive for border build up:

Thousands of Russian troops will be arriving in Belarus with some 170 tanks, up to 200 armored vehicles, and up to 100 artillery pieces, Valery Revenko, an aide to the Belarussian defense minister, said on Twitter on Monday. The troops will be hosted as part of the recently created joint military force. Earlier in the day, the Defense Ministry reported that Revenko had briefed 19 military diplomats on how the new joint force would operate. The official, who heads the foreign affairs department in the ministry, stated on Twitter that he had given the same details about the Russian forces to the foreign representatives. Minsk decided to bolster its security by hosting Russian troops after its attempts to de-escalate border tensions were rejected, Revenko claimed to have told the military attaches. Russia and Belarus perceive as threats the “deployment of NATO forces near [their] borders amid a lack of dialogue, increased NATO training with a focus on offensive action, [and] the encouragement of Belarussian radical elements to topple the legitimate government of Belarus,” he said. Belarus is a long-time ally of Russia, with the two together forming what is called the Union State. The new defense force, the creation of which Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko announced last week, will operate under its auspices. Minsk cited increased aggression from Kiev and Western nations as the reason for agreeing to have more Russian troops on its soil.

In Brazil, Lula-Bolsonaro debate takes place:

On Sunday night, Brazilian channel Bandeirantes organized the first face-to-face debate before the second round of the presidential elections between the Workers’ Party candidate Lula da Silva and President Jair Bolsonaro. During one of his speeches, Bolsonaro accused Lula da Silva of being a participant in “the greatest corruption in the history of humanity,” using emotionally charged arguments but without presenting any evidence. In replying to such accusation, the Workers’ Party leader stressed that Bolsonaro has consecrated himself as “the king of fake news and stupidity.” As a result of the dynamic prompted by the far-right politician, the debate turned into an exchange of accusations with tense moments, one of which arose when Bolsonaro tried to touch Lula’s shoulder. In an attempt to consolidate his voters, Bolsonaro also tried to link Lula with the drug gangs operating in the Rio de Janerio shantytowns, where the Workers’ Party candidate campaigned in previous days. Lula recalled that Bolsonaro is the one who is linked to the paramilitary militias that were responsible for the murder of the Socialist Councilor Marielle Franco. When the confrontation subsided, the journalists tried to get the candidates to focus on issues such as education, COVID-19 pandemic, infrastructure, separation of powers, privatization of the oil company Petrobras, inflation control, and the regulation of fake news.

In Iran, clashes at prison lead to fire:

According to reports posted on social media, a large fire has engulfed Evin Prison [situated on the northern fringes of Tehran]. In an interview with the national television broadcaster of the reactionary regime,which was then relayed by Khabar Online, Tehran’s governor claimed tonight that: “Wards 7 and 8 [of Evin Prison] had descended into disorder – and the main issue had been the lighting of abonfire by a few prisoners, which was controlled and contained by firefighters. Now, both the prison and the surrounding streets are back under control.” Various reports indicate heavy clashes in EvinPrison and the opening of fire by regime mercenaries uponthe detainees. It is important to note that a number of political prisoners, including those arrested in the recent popular protests, are being held at Evin Prison, especially in Ward 7. According to other reports which we have received; this evening, several prisoners contacted their families and told them that two nights ago the security forces had tried to intimidate the prisoners and that gunfire had been heard. After these calls, the families went to the prison and gathered in front of the main gate – but security forces came out of the prison and forcefully dispersed them.

In South Africa, Transnet and UNTU reach three-year wage agreement:

Transnet and its majority union the United National Transport (UNTU) reached a three-year wage agreement on Monday, 17 October, bringing to a halt the industrial action by state-owned company’s employees after more than a week. The agreement reached includes a 6% basic wage increase for levels H to L and a 6% increase on the annual cost-to-company package for level G in Year 1 and Year 3. In Year 2, the increases fall to 5.5%. The deal also includes an increase to the medical aid subsidy – in line with the wage increase – and an increase in the housing allowance from 2023/24 and the following year. The back pay will be paid to employees for the period 1 April to 30 September 2022 in two tranches. They will receive three months’ money on 15 November and 16 January 2023. On Friday, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) proposed a settlement to Transnet, UNTU and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU). The deal included a 6% wage increase for the current year and the third year and a 5.5% increase for the second year – similar to the agreement reached. SATAWU rejected the CCMA’s offer over the weekend and said its members will not accept anything below inflation.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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