Global Review – 21st September

Guterres warns of a world in ‘great peril’

The world is in “great peril and paralyzed” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the 77th session of the UN General Assembly which kicked off on Tuesday. After the COVID-19 pandemic restricted in-person attendance the previous two years, more than 150 heads of state and government were expected to attend the annual gathering in New York. Guterres told them that nations were “gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction’’ and weren’t ready or willing to tackle the major challenges that threaten the future of humanity and the fate of the planet. “Trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding, our planet is burning. People are hurting, with the most vulnerable suffering the most,” he said. The UN Chief said there is hope, stressing that cooperation and dialogue are the only path forward, he warned that “no power or group alone can call the shots’’. He called on the world’s developed countries to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies and redirect the money to “countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices”. The war in Ukraine and mounting economic and environmental crises are dominating the assembly. This morning, the Assembly is hearing from world leaders who are addressing the conflict.

Russian referenda spark global mockery

The hasty referenda called in self-styled ‘breakaway regions’ – territory Russia has not lost to Ukraine yet – has drawn criticism and mockery from the western world. Ukrain’s Foreign Minister stated bluntly that “The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything.” French President Macron quipped that if the plan “wasn’t so tragic it would be funny”. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called them “aviolation of international law that we strongly condemn”. EU High Representative Josep Borrell said, they violate the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and constitute a clear violation of international law. The referenda would take place in just days – between Friday and Monday.

American, Russians to blast off for ISS

A US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts are set to blast off to the International Space Station today on a Russian-operated flight despite soaring tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin are scheduled to take off from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 14:54 Malta time, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos.

US, Canadian warships sail through Taiwan Strait

A US destroyer and a Canadian frigate sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday in the latest joint operation aimed at reinforcing the route’s status as an international waterway. Beijing views as its own both democratic Taiwan and the narrow body of water separating the island from mainland China –  one of the world’s busiest shipping channels. The US has long used “freedom of navigation” passages through the Taiwan Strait to push back against Chinese claims and Western allies have increasingly joined these operations.

Truss to cut taxes in push for prosperity

Several London newspapers lead with UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’s plans to slash a variety of taxes. ‘The Times’ reports the PM is set to announce “radical plans” to cut the stamp duty on buying a new home as part of the government’s mini-budget this week. The paper says Ms Truss believes the move, to be set out on Friday, will encourage economic growth by “enabling first-time buyers to get on the property ladder”.’The Daily Mail’ says she “signalled a tax revolution” as part of a “bold agenda” of reform. Ms Truss has signalled a “profound shift” in economic policy by launching a defence of tax cuts for the wealthy, reports the ‘Financial Times’.

Dispute erupts over Britain’s glittering spoils

The death of Queen Elizabeth has reignited the debate over long-contested items in the Crown Jewels, including the Kohinoor diamond. The British royal family’s collection of Crown Jewels, usually on display in the Tower of London, is valued between £1 billion (€1.4 billion) and £5 billion (€5.7billion). The Kohinoor diamond features in the crown that was worn by the Queen’s late mother. It has not been used since it was displayed at her funeral in 2002. Since then, the royal family has faced pressure from India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan to return the Kohinoor – all claiming legitimacy.But with planning for the King’s coronation under way, there is speculation the crown will be worn by Queen Consort Camilla. Another controversial artefact in the British royal family’s possession is the Great Star of Africa. The 530-carat, drop-shaped diamond was presented to King Edward VII in 1907, when a total of nine smaller diamonds were cut from the original gem. The Great Star of Africa, or Cullinan I – the largest of them – adorns the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, which can usually be found on display in the Tower of London. Although the diamonds are not as contested as the Kohinoor, many South Africans want them returned. But it is highly unlikely that the royal family will hand over the diamonds. The royals have stated that the Kohinoor and the Cullinan diamonds are rightfully theirs, due to the nature and conditions of their acquirement. Businessmen and Bollywood stars also pursued legal action against the Crown in 2015, but their lawsuit was thrown out by Indian courts.

US Feds charge 47 for stealing $250m in Covid relief funds

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced charges against 47 individuals accused of stealing $250million from a federal programme designed to feed needy children in Minnesota during the COVID pandemic. US Attorney Andrew Luger called it “the largest pandemic fraud in the United States,” adding that the charges include “conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and paying and receiving illegal kickbacks”. Among the defendants is the executive director of the charity Feeding our Future, the employees of which are accused of recruiting people under the auspices of serving meals to thousands of kids per day. In total, the defendants were reimbursed for 125 millions meals that were never served. They then reportedly used the money to buy real estate in Minnesota, Kenya, and Turkey, as well as purchase luxury vehicles, jewellery, and international trips.

Belgium bishops to bless homosexual unions

Roman Catholic bishops from Belgium’s Flanders region issued a document on Tuesday permitting the blessing of same-sex unions in direct contrast to the Vatican’s ruling on the matter. The document emphasised that while such blessings did not alter the Catholic doctrine on “sacramental marriage”, the move would allow the Church to be “pastorally close to homosexual persons”. No response has yet been issued by the Holy See.

11 chidren die as Burma regime helicopters attack school

Helicopters from the Burmese military junta hit a school in Tabayin, in the north-central of the country, killing at least 13 people, including 11 children. The school administrator said she was trying to take the students to a safe hiding place when the helicopters started firing against school.

Biden appoints a new woman ambassador to Moscow

US President Joe Biden has appointed Lynne M. Tracy as the new ambassador to Russia. The diplomat takes over from John Sullivan, who left the post, surprisingly, in early September.

Children rushed to hospital after bus crash in Melbourne

Four adults, including the bus driver, and 27 other students have been rushed to hospital after a school bus collided with a truck and rolled down an embankment west of Melbourne early on Wednesday. The bus was carrying students from years nine to 11 at Loreto College in Ballarat. The students’ parents were asked to stay away from the crash and contact Ballarat police station.

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