Global Review – 17th October

Thousands in Paris march against rising prices

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Paris on Sunday to express their frustration at the rising cost of living as three weeks of a refinery strike caused fuel shortages across France. The demonstration was led by the head of the France Unbowed (LFI) party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, and organised by the left-wing political opposition. Police were pelted with objects and retaliated with tear gas and baton charges, while on the fringes of the march, masked men dressed in black ransacked a bank. Some protesters wore yellow florescent vests, the symbol of the often-violent anti-government protests in 2018 that shook the pro-business government of President Macron, whose opponents are hoping to build on the momentum created by the refinery dispute, which began at the end of September. Melenchon has also called for a “general strike” tomorrow, Tuesday. Several French unions, but not all, have declared the date a national day of strikes against road transport, trains and the public sector.

Four of France’s seven refineries, all belonging to TotalEnergies, remained blocked on Sunday.Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told TF1 TV on Sunday evening that if the situation remained tense, the authorities would proceed with more requisitions, forcing striking workers back to their posts.About 30 per cent of service stations were experiencing supply problems for one type of fuel or another, she said. “That’s too many.” Earlier on Sunday, Budget Minister Gabriel Attal called the continuation of the strike “unacceptable”, while business lobby group Medef said “150 people” were “taking the country hostage”.

Lawmakers will try to oust UK PM Truss this week

British lawmakers will try to oust Prime Minister Liz Truss this week despite Downing Street’s warning that it could trigger a general election, the ‘Daily Mail’ reports. More than 100 members of parliament belonging to the governing Conservative Party are ready to submit letters of no confidence in Truss to Graham Brady, the head of the Conservative Party’s committee which organises the leadership contest, the paper reported, quoting unnamed sources. They will urge Brady to tell Truss that “her time is up” or to change the political party rules to allow an immediate vote of confidence in her leadership, the report said. Graham is said to be resisting the move, arguing that the Truss, along with newly-appointed Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, deserve a chance to set out economic strategy in a budget on October 31. Separately, ‘The Times’ reported that some lawmakers have held secret discussions on replacing Truss with a new leader.

Taiwan: ‘No compromise on sovereignty and democracy’

Taiwan has officially replied to the opening speech by President Xi Jinping at the Chinese Communist Party Congress Sunday, assuring that no compromise hypothesis would be possible on sovereignty and democracy, while military confrontation could not be a viable option. Taipei Presidential Office spokesman Chang Tun-han said that according to the people of Taiwan “territorial sovereignty, democracy and freedom cannot be compromised” – a response to Xi’s stern warnings that Beijing “will never promise to give up the use of force for reunification”.

Biden has ‘no plans’ to meet Saudi crown prince at G20

US President Joe Biden has “no plans” to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at an upcoming G20 summit in Indonesia, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday. Stormy US-Saudi relations have  seen new strain over Riyadh’s recent support for oil production cuts, with Biden warning of unspecified “consequences”. The move last week by OPEC+ – composed of the Riyadh-led OPEC cartel and an additional group of 10 exporters headed by Russia – would reduce global output by up to two million barrels per day from November. It could send energy prices soaring amid an energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine, and as inflation-weary American voters prepare to cast ballots in midterm elections. The move was widely seen as a diplomatic slap in the face, since Biden travelled to Saudi Arabia in July and met with the crown prince, despite vowing to make the kingdom an international “pariah” following the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Pope urges UN reform after Ukraine war, Covid

Pope Francis said the need to reform the United Nations was “more than obvious” after the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war exposed its limits. In an extract of his new book published Sunday, he said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted the need to ensure the current multilateral structure – especially the UN Security Council – finds “more agile and effective ways of resolving conflicts”. “In wartime, it is essential to affirm that we need more multilateralism and a better multilateralism,” but the UN is no longer fit for “new realities”, he added in an extract published by ‘La Stampa’. The organisation was founded to prevent the horrors of two World Wars from happening again, but although the threat represented by those conflicts was still alive, “today’s world is no longer the same”, said Pope Francis. “The necessity of these reforms became more than obvious after the pandemic” when the current multilateral system “showed all its limits”, he added. He denounced the unequal distribution of vaccines as a “glaring example” of the law of the strongest prevailing over solidarity. The 85-year-old advocated “organic reforms” aimed at allowing international organisations to rediscover their essential purpose of “serving the human family” and said international institutions must be the result of the “widest possible consensus”. The pope also proposed guaranteeing food, health, economic and social rights on which international institutions would base their decisions. The Pope’s new book, “I ask you in the name of God: Ten prayers for a future of hope”, is due to come out in Italy Tuesday.

Nigeria floods toll passes 600-mark

More than 600 people are now known to have died in the worst floods in a decade in Nigeria, according to a new toll released Sunday. The disaster had also forced more than 1.3 million from their homes, said a statement by Nigeria’s ministry of humanitarian affairs, released on Twitter.Humanitarian Affairs Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq said the flooding also completely destroyed more than 82,000 houses and nearly 272,000 acres of farmland.

Iran protests persist after deadly fire in notorious Tehran prison

A fire at Iran’s Evin prison late Saturday killed four detainees and injured 61, state media reported, as anti-government protests sparked by a woman’s death in police custody continued on Sunday, including at several universities. Iranian authorities said on Saturday that a prison workshop had been set on fire “after a fight among a number of prisoners convicted of financial crimes and theft”. Evin also holds many detainees facing security charges, including Iranians with dual nationality. Iran’s judiciary said four of those injured in Saturday’s fire were in critical condition and that those killed had died of smoke inhalation, Iranian state media reported. Protests sparked by 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death on September 16 have turned into one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution. Demonstrations continued at several universities on Sunday, including in the cities of Tabriz and Rasht, to a heavy deployment of riot police. Videos posted on social media showed students at a Tehran university chanting: “Iran has turned into a big prison. Evin prison has become a slaughterhouse.”

Neymar trial opens in Barcelona

With the World Cup barely a month away, Brazilian superstar Neymar goes on trial in Spain today over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona nearly a decade ago. The trial is the culmination of a years-long legal saga over his 2013 transfer from the Brazilian club Santos. Neymar is one of nine defendants on trial on corruption-related charges, among them his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs. All three are facing charges of business corruption. Investigators began probing the transfer after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40% of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos.

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