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Weekly News Digest for October 1, 2021

Compiled by Alex Barrett, Trinity Gates, Dinah Gorayeb, Austin Myhre, and Charlotte Smith


North America


Top Generals Reveal That They Recommended Biden to Not Withdraw from Afghanistan

On Tuesday, top generals, under oath, informed lawmakers that they advised Biden to leave a military presence in Afghanistan. These statements contradict Biden’s remarks in August when he said that no one warned him about removing troops from Afghanistan. Specifically, General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, said to the Senate Armed Forces that he recommended leaving around 2,500 troops in Afghanistan; moreover, he remarked that he recommended former President Donald Trump maintain around 4,500 troops. Although McKenzie did not want to share his personal recommendation to Biden, he did state that his personal beliefs formed his recommendations to the president, arguing that removing forces from Afghanistan “would inevitably lead to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and, eventually, the Afghan government.” These testimonies come in the wake of the deaths of 13 Americans, mayhem at the Kabul airport, and the abandonment of American citizens and Afghans in Afghanistan.


Asia and the Pacific

Indian Farmer Protests Revive on One-Year Anniversary of Agricultural Reform

On Monday, a coalition of over forty farmers’ unions organized nationwide protests in India, marking the one-year anniversary of India’s agricultural reform laws. Now the longest-running farmers’ protest, thousands of farmers continue protesting on major highways around New Delhi. In districts across the country, farmers used different tactics, such as blocking railways, to protest three new agricultural laws that would hurt their livelihoods. While the protests remain mostly peaceful, a January protest in New Dehli saw police and farmers clashing, which led to the death of one protester and the injuries of more than 80 police officers.

Introduced in September of 2020, the agricultural reform legislation deregulates the agriculture sector and allows farmers to sell products to buyers beyond government-regulated wholesale markets that assure farmers a minimum price. Small farmers argue the deregulation will leave them vulnerable to competition from big corporations. Multiple opposition parties also support the farmers' protests. However, the government argues the reforms will provide new opportunities and offer better prices for farmers.

China Experiences Severe Power Shortages

Last month, China began facing severe power shortages, which now affect more than half of all Chinese provinces. Aggravated by declining Chinese manufacturing output and slowed consumer spending, these shortages may cause more harm than the debt challenges of Chinese real estate giant Evergrande.

These shortages have already posed significant problems for Chinese industry. Across the country, shortages forced factories to close or suspend operations to conserve power, especially impacting power-intensive sectors such as aluminum and steel. Suppliers for American companies Tesla and Apple reportedly halted production. While the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to struggling supply chains, these power shortages could further strain the supply shortage.

Although China continues efforts to produce more green energy, the country’s energy portfolio remains committed to coal, powering around 70% of the country. Now, with worldwide increases in coal and gas prices and domestic increases in electricity demand ahead of the peak winter season, shortages are inevitable. Strict government limits on electricity pricing also prevent power companies from passing increased costs to consumers, leading some to cut production. Even provinces with energy reserves experienced power shortages as their local governments try to hit national energy-consumption targets for the third quarter. On Thursday, authorities in one province said they would increase electricity imported from Russia to ease local power shortages. However, on the same day, the China Coal Industry Association warned that inventory at power plants is low and it is “not optimistic” ahead of the winter.

Former Foreign Minister Elected to Lead Japan’s Ruling Party

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga resigned due to weakening support in Japan. In the recent elections, members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) elected Fumio Kishida as Japan’s next prime minister. Kishida was a former foreign minister favored by leaders in the LDP. Public polling, however, showed that the public favored Taro Kono, who led Japan’s COVID-19 vaccine plan and is more left-leaning. Kishida’s political positions are more similar to those of former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.


Africa


Ethiopia Expels UN Officials

This Thursday, Ethiopia expelled seven senior United Nations officials. This follows a report from the UN stating that the lack of aid being permitted into the Tigray region meant that the country was reaching famine levels. Currently, five million people in Tigray need aid to avoid a famine, however, only one-tenth of aid trucks are being permitted access to prevent such crisis. Aid workers have reported harassment and obstruction from Ethiopian officials to deter deliveries to Tigray. The Ethiopian government also expelled ten aid workers on a U.N. flight bound for Tigray citing missing paperwork. The Ethiopian foreign ministry specifically accused UN officials of meddling in state affairs. This expulsion may also be an indirect dismissal to President Biden, who threatened to establish sanctions two weeks ago if the Ethiopian government did not take steps to cease the Tigray conflict and opened up humanitarian access to the region. If the expulsion is completed, this will be one of the biggest expulsions of senior UN officials in modern history.


Tunisian Government Appoints First Female Prime Minister

On Wednesday, Tunisian’s president appointed the country’s first female Prime Minister, Najla Bouden Romdhan, after growing public criticism that President Kais Saied has embraced a one-man administration in the Arab Spring’s last remaining democracy. Saied has been slowly consolidating power in the last two months, starting when he suspended parliament and fired the previous prime minister. Many members of the government have criticized this action and declared it as a “coup.” Saied took further steps to seize power when he declared that he alone will have authority to write legislation, enact political reforms, and so on. The new Prime Minister, Romdhan, is a former geology professor and current director-general at the Ministry of Higher Education. The appointment is seen by many as an effort to appease his opponents and appeal to feminists and secularists who have criticized Saied for falling short on gender equality.


Europe


The SDP Beats Angela Merkel’s Party in German National Election

This past Sunday, Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) won the biggest percentage of votes in the country’s national elections, beating Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party after 16 years of her chancellorship. According to election officials, the Social Democrats received 25.9% of the vote compared to the 24.1% received by the Christian Democratic Union. This development is especially interesting because no previously winning German party ever received less than 31% of the vote in the next German national election. The Governor of the North Rhine Westphalia state, Armin Laschet, commented on the loss of motivation in the CDU’s typical voter base, noting the loss of Merkel: "no one had an incumbent bonus in this election." Additionally, both Laschet and Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrats’ candidate and vice-chancellor, are vying for the support of the Green party as well as the Free Democrats, who earned 14.8% and 11.5% of the vote this election, respectively. The two parties also considered forming another “grand coalition” between them. However, this formation existed in 12 of the past 16 years, and constant government bickering makes this idea less appealing.


Poland Backs Down on Anti-LGBTQ+ Resolutions As the EU Threatens to Withdraw Funds

In 2019 and 2020, Polish regions controlled by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) adopted anti-LGBTQ+ resolutions in order to gain more support in the parliamentary and presidential elections. However, these symbolic resolutions resulted in the European Commission pulling billions of Euros from its regional program. This is especially detrimental to Poland, as the country financially benefited from better infrastructure, environmental protection, cultural initiatives, and helped develop its technology industry since joining the EU in 2004. The European Commission's response to Poland’s resolutions coincides with the investigation procedure the Commission initiated in August when Warsaw reportedly did not respond to the EU’s query concerning supposed “LGBT-ideology free zones.” The Commission’s investigation came out of a concern that these “zones” may violate EU law with respect to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. After several months of debate, regional assemblies agreed to withdraw the resolutions to prevent the loss of EU funds. The PiS supported the withdrawal, as losing EU money during an upcoming election could result in public criticism; however, the smaller right-wing United Poland party has vilified the retreat, calling the EU’s threat “blackmail.”


Latin America and the Caribbean


Prison Riot in Ecuador Leaves More Than 100 Dead

More than 100 inmates were killed, and dozens were injured in a riot in Guayaquil in an outbreak between gangs in a prison. Clashes between the rival Los Lobos and Los Choneros gangs erupted on Tuesday, September 28th, as inmates attacked each other with knives, guns, and explosives. The President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, “pledged to increase control across the prison system,” and stated that now there were 116 confirmed deaths and 80 injured. Itania Villareal, a lawyer and former director of a state institution that works to rehabilitate inmates, said Ecuador’s penitentiary system is “being overrun by drug-trafficking gangs amid a shortage of hundreds of prison workers.” Families are now seeking news on loved ones, but with some victims decapitated or dismembered “identifying the bodies could take days,” according to local police.

Mexico Sends 70 Haitian Migrants to Port-au-Prince

Mexico sent a group of 70 Haitian migrants on a plane to Port-au-Prince as a part of the government’s “assisted voluntary return” to Haiti. Mexico’s interior and foreign ministers said the flight was conducted as part of an “agreement between Mexican and Haitian authorities” as a response to the 8,000 Haitian migrants that recently returned to Mexico fearing the United States would deport them. Thousands of others have amassed in the city of Tapachula, on the border with Guatemala, but many have been waiting months for responses to their asylum applications. Mexico’s Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) said people with appointments through October 20 and who do not verify their appointments before Thursday would lose their spot.


Middle East

Talks of Iraq Normalizing Relations with Israel Prompt Uproar

A conference was held last Friday in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The conference focused on pressing the Iraqi Government to normalize relations with Israel, which is an unpopular idea within Iraq and much of the Arab World. However, the idea has become less taboo after the 2020 Abraham Accords. The accords were a set of normalization agreements between Israel, Morocco, Bahrain, the U.A.E, and Sudan. Following the conference, a standoff emerged between Iraqi security officials, who want to arrest those involved, and the Kurdish authorities, who are refusing to surrender the Iraqis. The standoff is a reminder of how volatile Iraq is due to its fragmented political landscape. Additionally, while some key players are willing to move past old grievances to strike a deal with Israel, it is still a tense subject for many countries, such as Iraq.

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