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Weekly News Digest for November 11th, 2022



Compiled by Aalia Garrett, Niamh Dempsey, Trinity Gates, Sara Anis Ali, Zoe Shepherd, Riley Mied, Shekina Shindano

Edited by Stephanie Cannon and Austin Myhre

Asia and the Pacific

China’s Zero-Covid Policy Leads to Lockdowns Across Guangzhou

A surge in COVID-19 cases have propelled the implementation of lockdowns across China’s southern manufacturing hub, Guangzhou. As the current epicenter of China’s most recent COVID-19 outbreak, Guangzhou, which is inhabited by nearly 19 million people, has prompted authorities to announce that five districts, representing more than half of the city’s population, will need to undergo mass testing. Public transportation and schools have also been temporarily suspended across the area, while flights to other major Chinese cities have been canceled. The halt in local activities come alongside widespread international border closings as a result of China’s strict “zero-COVID” containment policy. While COVID-19 cases in China are relatively few in comparison to current global standards, the national policy response has not wavered despite a global shift away from focus on the pandemic.

Draconian measures such as mass testing, snap lockdowns, extensive contact-tracing, and quarantines remain the norm, though the heavy economic and social toll of these restrictions have drawn mounting public backlash. Amid rising tensions, authorities have attempted to be proactive in avoiding another citywide lockdown similar to that which devastated Shanghai earlier this year. However, subsequent financial pressures as a result of ongoing zero-COVID policies continue to disrupt global supply chains and slow economic growth. Partly due to the strict COVID-19 procedures, consumer demand across China has taken a hard hit. In October, factory gate prices, which are prices at which factories sell goods to wholesalers, experienced their first drop since December 2020 and a declining GDP indicated stalling domestic demand. Additionally, public frustration has come further into the national spotlight when a clash between residents and virus prevention staff, known locally as Dabai or “Big Whites,” broke out last Monday in the Chinese province of Shandong and resulted in seven arrests. Footage posted on Twitter revealed a man being surrounded by the Dabai before being dragged onto the street and publicly beaten.


Central America and the Caribbean

Barbados Prime Minister Demands Help in the Fight Against Climate Change

On Monday, Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, took the stage at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to demand that rich nations contribute more to the fight against climate change. In her speech, Mottley implored leaders of the developed world to financially help countries like Barbados, which are on the frontline of the climate crisis. One of the most prevalent issues at the UN Climate Conference this year is climate justice. According to Mottley, smaller, less developed countries, like Barbados, are bearing the brunt of climate change as richer countries fail to live up to their promises to cut emissions and combat climate change. “We were the ones whose blood, sweat and tears financed the industrial revolution,” Mottley said on Monday. “Are we now to face double jeopardy by having to pay the cost as a result of those greenhouse gasses from the industrial revolution? That is fundamentally unfair.”

Mottley has repeatedly put pressure on world leaders to do more to reach their climate change goals. At last year's UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, Prime Minister Mottley targeted wealthy countries that had not effectively cut their emissions and warned that global warming is a “death sentence” to island states. Mottley is well known for her impassioned speeches and her strong policy actions regarding the environment and climate change. Mottley was elected Prime Minister of Barbados in 2018, becoming the first female leader since the country gained independence in 1966, and has since spearheaded an ambitious plan to completely phase out fossil fuel usage in Barbados by 2030.


Cuban and U.S. Officials Meet to Discuss Consular and Visa Services

On Wednesday, United States State Department officers met with Cuban officials in Havana to discuss the expansion of consular and visa services. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Rena Bitter, and the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ur Mendoza Jaddou, were both in attendance. This is the latest meeting in a series of surprisingly friendly exchanges between the two countries, which have a long and tumultuous past of embargos and political disagreements. In September, United States President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. Embassy will begin processing full immigrant visas to Cubans beginning in 2023. The U.S. committed to resuming the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program which prioritizes the applications of immigrants whose family are U.S. citizens or reside legally and permanently in the United States.

These meetings are increasingly necessary as there has been a 471% increase in the number of Cubans attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border this year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. The U.S. delegation also focused on their concerns with human rights in Cuba, urging the Cuban government to rethink its stance on political prisoners.


Europe

Protests Over Inflation in France

On Thursday, thousands of protesters turned out across France to demand higher wages as energy prices and inflation continue to increase across Europe. Teachers, healthcare workers, and railway workers were a large part of those who walked out and caused major disruptions among school systems and public transportation across France. These protests follow several union-backed protests against the rising cost of living last month, adding further pressure to President Macron and his government.


Inflation rates remain lower in France than in other European states and the United States. Macron’s government spent nearly $71.1 billion over the last few months to aid with the looming energy crisis after Russia’s decision to cut natural-gas supply to Europe. Macron is facing extreme pressure after low public approval ratings and after losing the majority in the National Assembly in June. Macron has been trying to develop creative solutions to soften the strain on citizens in the face of the energy crisis and the incoming recession, but he remains steadfast on his position with Russia and support for Ukraine amidst talks with other European states.



Middle East and North Africa

Egypt’s Crackdown on Protests

Egypt’s security forces have dispersed tear gas and arrested dissenters amid a nationwide protest that calls for the resignation of the country’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The nation’s president is facing mass corruption allegations, and these allegations come at a time where the country faces great economic instability. In recent years, the World Bank has made Egypt pursue austerity measures to curb rampant inflation and qualify for supranational loans. Inflation and stringent austerity measures have impacted the cost of living heavily, and many Egyptians are struggling to acquire basic needs. Egyptian people believe that while they are suffering, the president is living lavishly, using needed funds for his own personal gain. These angers and the frustrations about the dire economic situation has brought Egyptians to protest in the streets.


Egyptian activists called for protests against the Egyptian president who is facing mass corruption allegations. Egyptians living abroad used hashtags and staged protests, hoping to force the president to step down. The protesters within the nation are trying to garner international attention by protesting in prominent areas like Cairo Tahrir Square. These protests come days before the country is set to host the annual COP climate summit.


The government’s response to this has been to use force and try and charge any complicit activist with terroristic activity charges. The current president rose to power during a military takeover following the mass protests during Arab Springs. While there have been numerous protests since his accession to power, the president’s ability to crackdown on free speech and imprison journalists has allowed him to maintain control. Some imprisoned journalists, such as Alaa Abdel-Fattah, engaged in hunger strikes to try and bring awareness to the dire economic crisis and oppressive government tactics, but even with this, the president still states the journalist will return to prison after receiving medical aid for the repercussions following the hunger strike.



Lebanon’s Leadership and Economic Crisis

In late October, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun stepped down from his presidency after the country failed to find another successor. During his six year presidency, the country saw a great financial crisis in 2019, protests following the economic crisis, and then the extremely devastating blast in 2020 that killed and injured thousands while damaging over 300,000 buildings.


While many citizens felt ambivalent about his time as president, the country now struggles to find a new successor and someone willing to work to help the country. The Lebanese government has tried for over six months to form a new government, but there has yet to be a decision made. Currently, the country’s currency has devalued by 90%, and many citizens struggle to find access to basic needs and even go powerless for 23 hours each day. Despite the urgent needs of the civilians, the country’s government is failing to figure out how to proceed and how to restructure itself.


North America

Control of Congress Remains Uncertain Amid Midterm Elections

There were several close races from the Midterm elections that took place in the U.S. on Tuesday, November 8. In the House, there are 37 contests up in the air. Republicans have won 209 races compared to the Democrats winning 189 races. These results put the Republicans within a close distance to the 218 seats they need for the House majority. There are still competitive House races in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona that haven’t been called yet. These states will be the deciding factor for which party takes control of the House. The Senate majority is also a close race with the Republicans claiming 49 seats compared to the 48 seats the Democrats have claimed. The Democrats need to win two of the three remaining states to win control of the Senate. Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia are the key races remaining undecided.

The results of Tuesday’s elections reveal voter anxiety over the highest inflation rates in four decades, the current state of the nation, abortion controversy, and crime rates. The electorate remains extremely polarized after the past few years of political turmoil, economic trouble, and COVID-19. Democratic voters had a high turnout at the polls. This high turnout from the Democratic Party helped Democrats beat the historic trend of major midterm losses for the presidential party. The Republican Party predicted strong rejection of President Biden and the Democratic Party, but this close election is not showing that. A divided government would be a challenge for President Biden’s remaining term as it would make efforts to pass legislation difficult. The results of these elections will determine the balance of power in Congress.

Georgia Senate Race Headed to a Runoff

The results of Tuesday’s midterm elections are coming in, and the tight Georgia Senate race between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker is heading to a runoff. Neither candidate reached the required 50% support under state law, partly because of the presence of the Libertarian party candidate. The Libertarian candidate, Chase Oliver, received enough votes to prevent one of the major party candidates from winning. Georgia voters are now expected to return to the polls for a December 6 runoff.

For months prior to the election, polls showed the race to be close between Senator Warnock, an Atlanta pastor, and Mr. Walker, former football player for UGA and the NFL. Leading up to the election, there has been controversy surrounding both candidates. Walker received allegations of domestic abuse and allegations of paying for two women’s abortions despite his campaign’s heavy involvement with the pro-life movement. Walker still claims he opposes abortion even in the case of rape, incest, or endangering the mother’s life. He opposes these allegations by claiming he suffered from mental illness at the time of the claims of domestic abuse. He also claims the abortion accusations are false. Senator Warnock has been criticized over his ex-wife’s claims of Warnock attacking her. Warnock firmly denies these claims.

In recent years, runoffs have become more common in Georgia elections, as Senator Warnock was in a runoff election during the last election cycle. In 2020, Georgia votes elected Warnock to a two-year term as he took over Senator Loeffler’s existing term. However, the winner of this runoff will serve a full 6 year term.


South America

Thousands Protest President Castillo in Peru

In Peru, thousands of citizens protested the current administration of Pedro Castillo, contributing to a period of political unrest in the country. On Saturday, protestors marched to the parliament and government palace. There are also reports of protests in other cities in Peru. Moreover, a group of Castillo supporters amassed in Lima Square. When interviewed, anti-Castillo protestors complained of the economic stability of Peru. The main anti-Castillo protest ended when riot police fired tear gas. There are currently no immediate injury reports.


Castillo has called opposition to his administration “enemies of the people” who are spreading “false accusations”. He is currently under 6 criminal investigations and there have been 2 separate attempts to impeach him. He is accused of corruption and plagiarizing his master’s thesis. However, he has denied all claims. Castillo is a former rural school teacher who ran on a platform to close the gap between the rich and the poor. However, a legislature controlled by the opposite party has made it difficult to achieve this objective.


Protests in Peru come at a time of political instability and distrust of government figures. Prime Minister Anibal Torres resigned from office due to criminal investigations against Castillo and in 2020 the country experienced 3 new Heads of State in 5 days. Peruvian protests represent region wide democratic erosion and distrust in authority.


Sub-Saharan Africa

Air Strike Kills Civilians in Ethiopia

On Wednesday, an air strike killed at least 20 civilians in the Ethiopian city of Mandi, which has been under the control of Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) militias since a fight with government security forces days earlier. The strike occurred around lunchtime, when a drone hit an OLA vehicle parked along a roadside. The vehicle was carrying bombs that exploded during the strike, leading to multiple casualties in the area. Although the air strikes conducted by the Ethiopian government were targeting the militia, most of the casualties were civilians.


The conflict between the OLA and the Ethiopian government in Ethiopia's Gambella region has fueled concerns of more violence relating to civil war spreading throughout the country. Ethiopia is also experiencing violence in the Tigray region, where the Ethiopian government has been engaged in a two-year conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). These conflicts are contributing to growing instability in Ethiopia and to instability in the entire region.


Ebola Outbreak Leads to More Lockdowns in Uganda

On Thursday, the government of Uganda extended a 21-day lockdown in two districts experiencing an Ebola outbreak. The country has confirmed at least 136 cases, including at least 53 deaths, with cases being reported in at least eight of Uganda’s 111 districts. Since there is no vaccine yet for the strain of the virus that is spreading in Uganda, stopping the spread of this outbreak has been a significant challenge for the Ugandan government.


The Ebola outbreak in Uganda began on September 20, when the Ugandan government confirmed a case in the Mubende district. This outbreak is the latest in a series of epidemics that have hit the country in recent years. Although the government has taken many steps to improve its healthcare sector, the epidemics highlight the need for continued investment in the healthcare sector.



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