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Framing The World, LXXII Edition

In the new issue of FtW we focus primarily on the latest events in Ukraine, Libya, Myanmar and Europe. Remaining in Europe, we describe the ongoing humanitarian crisis on the border between Poland and Belarus and the critical increase in COVID cases. Another important threat appears to be terrorism, with the latest attacks in Afghanistan, Uganda, Niger and the United Kingdom. We then move to Brazil, where the record increase in Amazon deforestation is worrying, and to the USA, where the famous infrastructure investment plan has been approved. Finally, we describe the tensions that emerged in South Korea following the Russian-Chinese air raid.

All this and much more in the 72th issue of Framing the World!



HUMAN RIGHTS 

Tehran, new law against abortion might lead to death penalty. The Youthful Population and Protection of the Family law was ratified by Iran’s Guardian Council on the first of November. The law, said the experts, severely restricts access to abortion, contraception, voluntary sterilization services and related information. It’s a direct violation of women’s human rights under international law, and it also specifies that, if practiced on a large scale, abortion would fall under the crime of “corruption on earth” and therefore lead to the death penalty. According to the experts, the law will not stop abortions. Data show that “criminalizing the termination of pregnancy does not reduce the number of women who resort to abortion”. The only clear outcome is to force women to risk their lives by undergoing clandestine and unsafe procedures.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Kuźnica, humanitarian crisis following the flow of migrants from Belarus. For the past few days, a profound humanitarian crisis has been taking place on the border between Poland and Belarus. Many migrants are attempting to cross the border between the two countries, as access to Poland would allow refugees to seek asylum in an EU country. Some suspect that the emergency management of the phenomenon was encouraged by the Belarusian government of Lukashenko, very close to Putin. The goal would be to blackmail the EU as Erdogan did at the time of the agreements to block the escape of Syrians in the period of maximum power of the ISIS. Poland, at the moment, has no intention of making its borders less armored. At the same time, a red zone has been created five kilometers from the border with Minsk, where even journalists are denied access.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Islamabad, Pakistan to formally adopt a bill that will allow for the forced chemical castration of repeat rapists. On Wednesday 17 November 2021, the Parliament passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2021 which set out forced chemical castration as a punishment for repeat offenders of sexual violence. This comes at a time when Pakistan’s Senate has approved the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act 2019 to criminalize torture by the Pakistani police. According to Amnesty International, “this cruel and inhuman legislation not only violates Pakistan’s international and constitutional legal obligations. It will also do nothing to address the scourge of sexual violence”.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Cameroon, violence against an intersex person. On November 15, a mob sexually assaulted and beat a 27-year-old intersex girl in the country's capital. The attack, which was filmed by the perpetrators and lasted about two hours, caused the victim to suffer numerous bruises all over her body and need 15-20 days under medical observation after she attempted suicide, Human Rights Watch reports. "We found her unconscious in the bathroom next to a bottle of bleach. We called the doctor. Now she's under observation," said an activist of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, which took charge of reporting the violence to the police and is helping Sara both medically and psychologically. This is not the first episode of violence against LGBTI people, already in August in fact, Human Rights Watch had reported another vicious attack against two transgender women. It is the whole LGBTI community to launch an appeal to the institutions so that the threat to the safety of gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people is taken into consideration and resolved.

(Federico Brignacca)

Cambodia, requested the release of three environmental activists. It is the same Human Rights Watch to ask for the release of three environmental activists arrested last June 16. The court accused them of "conspiracy" and "lese majesty", putting them in the position of risking from 5 to 10 years in prison and up to $ 2,500 in fines. "The Cambodian government has stepped up its campaign to silence activists who peacefully advocate for environmental protection. Foreign governments," says Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia, "along with the United Nations team and international donors should demand that Cambodia's authorities drop these charges”. The request to the institutions is also that they publicly condemn the repression of all demonstrations and actions of activists carried out in a peaceful manner.

(Federico Brignacca)

Myanmar, foreign investments support the military junta. Some foreign energy and mining companies are providing the necessary funds to the military junta that took office after the coup d'état of last February. Human Rights Watch has taken action to write to numerous investment companies and inform them that with those funds, Myanmar's military junta, can continue to carry out serious human rights violations such as violence, murder, torture, and war crimes. "Investors must act now to help stop the massive payments currently being made to a brutal military junta that," says John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, "is heavily dependent on foreign income in U.S. dollars derived from mining and natural gas”.

(Federico Brignacca)

Edoardo Cappelli and Federico Brignacca

ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE

Markets, between ups and downs. The first half of November brought the American stock exchanges to new record highs in the wake of excellent quarterly results, with over 70% of the companies listed in the S&P 500 beating forecasts and the index rising above 4700 points, but fears of inflation, which reached 6.2% per annum in the USA in October despite the FED's reassurance for months that the phenomenon is transitory, curbed gains. Also weighing on the situation are the rising covid cases in Europe, especially in Germany and Austria, and the new restrictions imposed by some governments, something that could lead to an economic slowdown and reduced demand for oil (which plummeted by -3.4% last Friday), but that does not worry technology and digital companies, which could actually see an increase in consumption of their products and services, as demonstrated by the new record set by the Nasdaq right at the end of the week.

USA, green light for the infrastructure plan. After endless months of negotiations and discussions, especially within the Democrats, Congress approved, and Biden immediately signed, the infrastructure investment plan worth $1.2 trillion (of which $550 billion is new funding). The bill allocates $110 billion for roads, bridges, and other major projects, $39 billion for public transit, $66 billion to Amtrak for railroad maintenance, and $42 billion for ports and airports. Another $11 billion goes to motorist and pedestrian safety programs, while $8 billion goes to build a network of electric vehicle chargers and $7.5 billion to electric buses and ferries. Finally, $73 billion is earmarked for power grid improvements, $65 billion for broadband, and $55 billion for clean drinking water.

Oil, consistent declines. After the record highs of recent weeks, crude oil prices have fallen by around 8% to 78.4 $/barrel (Brent), albeit with large daily variations. Several factors have pushed prices down, including discussions between China and the United States on a coordinated opening of their strategic reserves, fears of an economic slowdown caused by the resurgence of the virus in Europe, and, above all, the increase in production. As the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports, already in November, global production increased by 1.4 million barrels per day to 97.7 million bpd, with about half of that increase coming from the U.S. recovery from the damages of Hurricane Ida. Further increases are expected in November, December, and 2022, even without an OPEC production increase, as production will increase given the high prices. However, pre-pandemic extraction levels will not be reached until the end of the year.

Fed, a two-way contest. The challenge for the next chairman of the Federal Reserve has narrowed to two candidates: incumbent Jerome Powell and Lael Brainard, a member of the Fed's Board of Governors. Powell, who was appointed to the Fed board by Obama and then chosen by Trump as chairman, is a favorite of both parties and Biden's economic team, while Brainard, a Democrat who served in the Treasury under Obama, is backed by the left of the Democratic Party. The two express very similar views on inflation and interest rates, but Brainard is considered slightly more dovish on quantitative easing and is, above all, more left-leaning on issues such as climate change and bank regulation, a position expressed by 23 dissenting votes during Powell's tenure, which began in 2018. The choice comes in a month when inflation turned out not to be transitory as Powell has claimed for months.

Japan, another slowdown. The Japanese economy declined by 0.8% in the third quarter over the previous quarter, a slowdown only partly predicted by economists, who had estimated a -0.2% due to reduced consumption as a result of coronavirus-related fears and a slowdown in industrial production, especially in the automotive and electronics sectors, caused by supply chain bottlenecks. The figure is the fifth negative result in the last two years, and the mounting pressures prompted Prime Minister Kishida to approve a $490 billion stimulus plan (equal to 10% of GDP). Among the measures approved are a $900 payment for each child aged 18 or younger, salary increases for nurses, and aid of up to $22,000 for small businesses affected by the pandemic. Critics, however, counter that the measures do not address Japan's structural problems, such as low productivity growth, and add more government debt to the $11 trillion already accumulated.

Tesla, a new rival. Rivian, a manufacturer of electric trucks, debuted on the Nasdaq with an IPO of $11.9 billion and a price of $78 a share, but prices soon rose to $120 on the first day of trading and up to $170 on the following days, before settling around $130 and a capitalization of $130 billion. This means that Rivian, despite having produced only a few hundred units so far, is the fifth largest automaker in the world by capitalization, ahead of Ford, GM, Stellantis, Mercedes and many other established and profitable manufacturers. The value must therefore be sought in the hopes that investors, including Amazon (20% of the capital) and Ford (12%), pin on Rivian: the former has ordered 100,000 delivery vans, the latter is seeking a strategic partnership for its electrification strategy.

Leonardo Aldeghi

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sudan, harsh repression of anti-coup demonstrations. The demonstrations against the coup in Sudan continue. Since last October 25, when General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan ousted the government and imprisoned the civilian leadership, declaring a state of emergency and seizing power, thousands of people took to the streets. The repression of these demonstrations has been brutal, in fact the death toll among the demonstrators has risen to at least 40. Last Wednesday was the bloodiest day with 16 deaths. The police is accused of having used extreme violence on several occasions, even shooting into the crowd, to disperse the demonstrators.

(Andrea Ghilardi

Ethiopia, UN reports arrest of its officials. At least 16 Ethiopian staff members of the United Nations have been arrested in the country. These arrests occurred in the framework of a raid by the Ethiopian national authorities against Tigrinya citizens. Some of them were released a few hours after their arrest. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that the organization is "actively working" with the Ethiopian government to secure the immediate release of those still in detention. It is also worth mentioning the arrest of 72 drivers working for the World Food Programme in Semera, in the north of the country, where the conflict between national and Tigrinya forces is most brutal.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Somalia, UN envoy is pressing leaders to end the election quickly. The UN Special Envoy to Somalia at the head of UNSOM (United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia), James Swan, reiterated the importance of a speedy conclusion of the elections for the seats in the Federal Parliament of Mogadishu. According to his words at the UN Security Council, the parliamentary elections are proceeding slowly and with too many obstacles. The United Nations' request to the Somali authorities would therefore be to redouble efforts to complete the electoral process by the end of the year as this stalemate is slowing the nation's growth. In fact, the presidential elections were scheduled for 8 February, but since then, the government has not agreed on the voting methodology.

(Giulio Ciofini)

Niger, 25 people killed by suspected extremist. Last Wednesday, the government announced that 25 people in southwestern Niger could be killed by an extremist with al-Qaeda connections. Near the village of Bakorat, along the border with Mali, several buildings were ransacked and set on fire, according to Alkache Alhada, Niger’s Interior Minister. Therefore, the attack would be the latest in a long strip of violence in the area linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda after 69 people were killed a few weeks ago in an ambush by other Islamic extremists. Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the incident, the attack again shows the difficulty for local and national governments in the area in taking adequate security measures against this violence.

(Giulio Ciofini)

Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi

NORTH AMERICA

USA, towards a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. President Joe Biden has recently announced that the United States is planning to "boycott" the games that begin on February 4, 2022 in the Chinese capital. Officially, Washington would not want to send any delegations as a sign of protest for the violation of human rights that is taking place in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. A few days after the meeting between the leaders of the two countries, Biden's message could further cool relations between the two superpowers, already tense over the Taiwan question. To aggravate the situation, the mystery of the disappearance of Peng Shuai: the Chinese tennis champion had recently accused former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of rape. Shortly after, the athlete would have disappeared and there is still no certain information about his condition. The road to approaching games is still long and uncertain.

(Emanuele Volpini)

USA, Blinken and the journey to Africa. Secretary of State Blinken began his five-day trip to Africa. Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal are the countries where the secretary will go. The goal is to reconnect with many of the African countries, which had been ignored during the Trump administration. The US Secretary wants to underline the importance of the millions of vaccine doses sent by the U.S.A. in many countries of the continent. This choice is part of a broader context where Washington is trying to stem the increasing influence of Beijing, which has been investing in the African continent for years. The regional crises currently underway in Ethiopia and Sudan also find space on Blinken's agenda.

(Emanuele Volpini)

USA, Rittenhouse acquitted of all charges. Kyle Rittenhouse had been on trial for over a year. The cause? Shooting three protesters - killing two - during the protests that took place last summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Having become a national case, after 26 hours the jury of a court in Wisconsin issued its verdict: the defendant is recognized as self-defense. The spread of the news has created several tensions in the state, so much so that the Democratic governor Tony Evers has already pre-alerted 500 soldiers of the National Guard to avoid an escalation of violence.

(Emanuele Volpini)

Canada, restrictions on the use of gasoline in the British Columbia region. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced in a televised conference that those who do not use the car for necessary reasons will be placed a limit of 30 liters of petrol to be accessed on each visit to a filling station. This measure was taken after the recent floods that hit the region. The fuel was made available to security and evacuation personnel. More than 700 civilians have already been evacuated, and it is feared that bad weather conditions could further aggravate the situation in the coming days.

(Emanuele Volpini)

Washington, maxi-auction on licenses for drilling off the Gulf of Mexico. A few days have passed since the end of COP26 in Glasgow in which Joe Biden promised that the US would take the role of example in the fight against climate change. In this short period of time, however, we have witnessed a clear turnaround. The Biden administration has launched a record auction for oil and gas drilling in an area already ravaged by repeated crude oil spills. Last week, the US administration proposed another round of auctions in 2022 in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and other western states. Accusations of hypocrisy towards an administration that, during the election campaign, had shown itself particularly harsh against the oil giants are floundering. The criticisms also came from the Democrats themselves, in particular from Raul Grijalva, President of the House Commission on Natural Resources.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Montreal, Chinese Hospital honoured for keeping COVID-19 down with early response. This Quebecer long-term care home had no cases during the first wave of the pandemic, and has had only 4 since, with one death. In January 2020, when COVID-19 was already widely known but it looked strictly circumscribed inside the Chinese borders, the employees at the care facility were already voluntarily bringing in their own personal protective equipment and increasing their handwashing. Somebody in the staff had visited China in January for the Lunar New Year and directly witnessed the high transmissibility and effects of the virus on their loved ones. Ponora Ang, president of the Montreal Chinese Hospital Foundation, said the threat of COVID-19 was very real for staff at the home in the early months. This all came well before any mandate from the provincial Health Ministry and any shortage of PPE.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Edoardo Cappelli and Emanuele Volpin


LATIN AMERICA

Brazil's Amazon deforestation record increase. Data from the Prodes deforestation monitoring system and Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) show that between August 2020 and July 2021, deforestation growth in the Brazilian Amazon reached 22%, setting a worrying record compared to the previous period. 13,235 km2 is the portion of land corresponding to the deforestation of the world's largest rainforest - the highest figure since 2005-2006. Moreover, in Brazil, fires devastated 8,500 km2 of forest in 2020 alone. The figure that worries environmentalists is the destruction of 216 km2 of Amazonian forest in December 2020 alone: an area 14% larger than that burned in December 2019. What is more, compared to 2019, the rate of fires has increased by 15.6%: 103,161 fires were recorded in 2020.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Chile, elections on 21 November. Chile, elections on 21 November. After two years, Chile returns to the polls to elect the future president, after Pinera was charged with impeachment over a questionable mining deal. Seven candidates will go to the ballot, the two favourites: one from the left party, the other from the far right. Gabriel Boric, thirty-five, a life spent in the student movement and as a deputy leads the left with Apruebo Dignidad; Jose Antonio Kast, 55, represents the far-right Christians of the Social Front Coalition. Sebastian Sichel from the centre-right Pinera administration and Yasna Provoste for the centre-left. In case of victory, the two candidates in the ballot will have to compete on December 19th. On 11 March 2022, the president will take office for four years. The Chilean situation is very unstable. In 2019, civil unrest and protests erupted to push through health care and pension reforms. To ratify a new constitution, they elected an assembly of all citizens with indigenous and gender equality representatives.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Colombia, Mario Paciolla: investigations continue into the death of the Italian cooperator. Paciolla had a degree in Political Science and from 2018 began working with the UN mission on the verification of peace agreements between the local government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. On 15 July 2020, he was found lifeless in his home in San Vicente del Caguán, on the outskirts of the Colombian Amazon. If for the Colombian authorities it is a suicide, for the Rome prosecutor's office the possibility of murder cannot be excluded. It seems, in fact, that there are grounds for the Public Prosecutor's Office to continue the investigation: although Paciolla was found hanged, there are traces of blood in the room, and for the doctors who carried out the autopsy, there is no compatibility between the wound on his neck and the hanging. Moreover, in Colombia, there are apparently supporters of a thesis according to which the killing of the cooperator is linked to a leak of a report that led to the resignation of the then Minister of Defence of the Colombian government.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Cuba, between repressed demonstrations and forced expatriation. Cuban playwright Yunior García left Cuba and fled to Madrid on 17 November. He is one of the many victims of the repression who had to leave the country with great concern. In recent days he had organized protests against the Cuban regime, through the creation of “Archipiélago”, a Facebook group, within which he officially asked for authorization and claimed “rights for all Cubans and the release of political prisoners”. The appeals of the international community for the government to allow regular development were useless. Security forces surrounded his home and that of other dissenting voices on Sunday, 14th November. The Communist Party firmly believes that they are organized and supported by the United States as a clear attempt to overthrow the government. To maintain control, it is implementing an increasingly stringent policy of repression of individual freedoms such as the prohibition of public gatherings since, if not explicitly authorized, they can lead to arrest of people.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Ecuador, Prison control restored after last massacre. Despite emergency measures for the prison system launched by President Lasso, one and a half months after the last clash between rival gangs, violent clashes between inmates of different criminal gangs repeated in Guayaquil prison between Friday 12 and Saturday 13 November, killing 68 people and injuring 25. Apparently, the clashes took place in an area with about 700 people. According to the governor of Guayas province, Pablo Arosemena, the clashes were the result of a territorial dispute within the prison caused by the release of a gang leader. The spokesman of the Ecuadorian government, Carlos Jijo'n, reported that the situation in the whole prison of Guayaquil was back under control and that 900 police officers were deployed to ensure order in the prison.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Migration crisis and tensions on the border between Mexico and the US. The migratory phenomenon affecting the continent is reaching a volume of displacements that is difficult to contain, due to a chain of reasons that have worsened in recent months. Between October 2020 and September 2021, more than 1.7 million people have been discovered illegally crossing the border with the United States and, as a result, arrested, far exceeding previous figures. The deputy director of IOM Amy Pope declared it impossible for Mexico to manage the flow of migrants exclusively. The routes are becoming increasingly dangerous for both migrants and for monitoring by states thus making the situation even more complex. Furthermore, she believes that not even the United States will be able to achieve any appreciable results by acting alone; therefore, the two states must act together, cooperating. Thousands of asylum seekers are stranded in Mexico thanks to the “Stay in Mexico” (MPP) program that a Texan judge is asking to bring back into force-to-force asylum seekers to wait outside the southern borders.

(Giulia Patrizi)

The Mexican government declares war on narcos. The government has just concluded a 72-hour manhunt. The target? The family of el Mencho, namely Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, head of the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (abbreviated to CJNG, a Mexican organization of drug traffickers born in 2011). After the arrest of his wife Rosalinda González Valencia, known as La Jefa, her daughter ordered the kidnapping of two fishermen. The government, in response, deployed the army and besieged Zapopan, a municipality for the richest near Guadalajara affiliated with the group which, in a few hours, was transformed into a theatre of war. The drug traffickers live in the same city as the wealthiest men in the state with whom they share the same spaces and frequent the same shopping centre. The operation was planned three days before the summit among Mexico, the United States and Canada, during which the issues of security and migration would then be discussed. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has sworn to fight drugs which are the leading cause of mortality in the country and cause great instability.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Elisa Maggiore and Giulia Patrizi

ASIA AND THE FAR EAST

Burma, looking for clues on the Thantlang attack. Governments, human rights organizations, and civil society groups have blamed the army for the destruction of Thantlang, believed by the Burmese military to be a stronghold of armed anti-golpist resistance, and called for it to be held accountable. More than 500 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, signed a statement last week calling on the U.N. Security Council to act urgently to “end the Myanmar junta’s campaign of terror”. The United States said the incident “lays bare the regime’s complete disregard for the lives and well-being of the Burmese people”, and added that the attacks “underscore the urgent need for the international community to hold the Burmese military accountable”. As condemnation of the military grows, those collecting and sharing evidence of what happened in Thantlang face numerous risks and obstacles, including fear of arrest or retaliation. Local sources reportedly said that they were unable to identify witnesses because Thantlang residents had already fled.

Bhutan, new Chinese villages being built on the border. In recent weeks, local sources and OSINT have confirmed that, throughout the year, China has built at least 4 new villages on the border with Bhutan, in an area of about 100 km². This construction is said to be on Bhutanese territory, and is near Doklam, the area that saw a stand-off between Indian and Chinese forces in 2017. Satellite images of China building its first village in Bhutanese territory had come out in November last year, although the government in Thimphu denied any such development. However, sources in India’s defense establishment later claimed that the construction took place on Bhutanese territory, now claimed by China.

China, fears over Peng Shuai’s disappearance. For several days, tennis player Peng Shuai has been at the center of media speculation about her alleged disappearance. On Nov. 2, the tennis star, ranked 14th in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings, reportedly posted a lengthy statement on Weibo, China’s social media platform similar to Twitter, in which she reported that she had been sexually assaulted by the country’s former vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli. In her post, Peng said she could not produce any evidence of her allegations, but that she is nonetheless determined to make her voice heard on the matter. Although the post was deleted by the Chinese government in less than 30 minutes, it still went viral. Neither the Politburo, of which Zhang is a member, nor the former vice-premier himself have made any statements on the matter.

South Korea, Russian-Chinese air incursion. On Friday, the Joint Chief of Staff of the South Korean Air Force identified within its Air Defense and Identification Zone (ADIZ) several fighter jets and bombers from the west coast of the Dokdo Atolls. The aircraft in question have been identified as belonging to the Chinese and Russian air forces. The Korean JCS sent in response several F-15 and F-16 fighters, accompanied by a tanker aircraft for in-flight refueling, in order to intercept the Chinese and Russian aircraft, which after a short series of maneuvers exited the Korean ADIZ. Following the event, China confirmed that the flight group was conducting routine exercises with its Russian counterpart. The Chinese and Russian aircraft, however, did not announce their intentions or provide flight plans to the Korean authorities, as stipulated by their rules on the ADIZ.

India, restrictive laws on agriculture abolished. Last Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced, following strong protests, the government’s intention to repeal three agricultural laws considered by many farmers as too restrictive for their activities. The contested laws refer to a rural reform introduced in September last year, which was aimed at deregulating the prices of agricultural products, increasing productivity and modernizing the agricultural sector through private investment. For the past year, Indian farmers (who contribute to around 30% of the national GDP) have been protesting that the reform would have greatly damaged their earnings by ending the policy of minimum guaranteed prices for agricultural products, which would have forced them to sell their products at a lower price.

Francesco Ancona

WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

Austria and the Netherlands, protests against anti-Covid restrictions. With the numbers of infected and hospitalized people rapidly growing across the European continent, there are several countries that are taking tougher restrictive measures. These include Austria, which has announced the return of the lockdown, and the Netherlands, which has tightened restrictions to combat the pandemic. In both countries, however, these decisions have caused widespread protests, which unfortunately have also degenerated into violent actions. In Vienna, Austrian police arrested several protesters for aggressive behavior and resistance to public officials during a large demonstration in the streets of the capital. In Rotterdam the demonstrations degenerated into a violent outburst that caused a lot of damage and several injuries. Demonstrators shouting “freedom” exploded fireworks and threw objects at the police. At least one car was set on fire, others were damaged. About 50 people were arrested following a night described by the mayor of the Dutch city as “an orgy of violence”.

United Kingdom, attack in Liverpool. On Monday, November 15 – Remembrance Day, the day when the United Kingdom remembers those who died in war – an improvised device exploded inside a cab causing the death of a man and the wounding of the taxi driver. The explosion has been formally declared an act of terrorism, although the motive behind this action remains to be discovered. The only victim of the attack turns out to be the suspected bomber. The taxi driver, who was injured, is not in serious condition. He, having noticed some strange maneuvering of his passenger, would have stopped the vehicle, getting out and locking the doors to leave the individual locked inside just in time before the explosion. For this reason the taxi driver was praised as a hero both by the tabloids and by the mayor of Liverpool. In the hours following the event, the police arrested four people, alleged accomplices or supporters of the suspected bomber who died.

Manufacturing in Italy has recovered and is leading the Eurozone. The Italian manufacturing industry, after the collapse of more than 40 percentage points in the two months of March and April 2020, has not only recovered the levels of activity prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, but has become one of the main engines of industrial growth in the Eurozone. This is stated by the Centro Studi of Confindustria in a report on industrial scenarios. In fact, in Germany and France, despite a less drastic drop in production volumes in the most critical months of 2020, the full reabsorption of the shock still seems far off: German production is still 10% below pre-crisis levels and French production is 5% below. On the contrary, Italy’s manufacturing recovered significantly in activity volumes already in the summer months of last year, and then returned, starting in the second quarter of 2021, to the levels of late 2019. Making the difference is above all the domestic component of demand, driven first and foremost by construction-related sectors, where an investment boom is underway. Moreover, thanks to their low degree of exposure to the bottlenecks that plague global chains, only 15.4% of Italian manufacturing companies complained of lack of materials or insufficient facilities, compared to an EU average of 44.3% and even 78.1% in Germany.

Andrea Ghilardi

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA 

Belarus, Lukashenko claims helping migrants to enter the EU with strong protests from the European institutions. For months, thousands of exiles, mainly coming from the Middle East. have tried to enter EU borders via Belarus. The migrants are reported to be at least two thousand, blocked at the border with Poland. A part appears to have been moved to a warehouse. The total would amount to five thousand individuals, of which a few hundred would have been forcibly repatriated on flights to Kurdish Iraq. Lukashenko said he allowed them to cross the border into Poland because “as Slavs they too have a heart and are aware that migrants aspire to reach Germany to find a future.” The EU, NATO and the United States explicitly accuse him of promising free access to the EU to migrants - exploiting their desperation. Moreover, the country’s moves have allegedly led to increasing tension on the Polish border, putting the borders with Lithuania and Latvia in crisis as a result of the sanctions received for the brutal crackdown on his political opponents, who participated in the protests of 2020 after the presidential reappointment.

Bulgaria, presidential elections: a party founded a few months ago by two economists wins. On 14th of November, the Bulgarians were called to the polls for the third time. And for the third time, the winner was different. Surprisingly, “We Continue the Change” is the party that obtained the highest number of preferences (25.4%). The party, set up a few months ago by two economists Kiril Petrov and Stefan Yanev, has beaten the super favourite centre-right party “Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria” (GERB), which unexpectedly gained only 22.2% of votes. Petrov, Minister of Finance of the outgoing technical government, subsequently stated: «Bulgaria has taken a new path». Having recently entered politics, the party has been able to exploit to its advantage the scandals and accusations of corruption that have characterised the Bulgarian political class, specifically GERB and Bojko Borisov, guilty of an unclear management of public contracts in recent months. The turnout is in sharp decline compared to the previous round.

Russia, US Congressmen may not recognize Putin's election to the Kremlin after 2024. A draft was recently filed with the American Congress proposing not to recognize the legitimacy of Vladimir Putin's reappointment as “President of the Russian Federation” after 2024, as they would have violated the Russian Constitution. The indignant response of the Duma did not take long to arrive. Although the document is of an advisory nature, Russian senators have reacted violently, seeing this proposal as an attempt to undermine their sovereignty and self-determination. Putin’s Press Secretary, Dimitrij Peskov, replied: “Each time it seems to us that nothing more ridiculous, nothing more aggressive, hostile and less constructive can come from across the ocean. And every time we are wrong. It arrives, unfortunately. We consider such initiatives by members of Congress unacceptable; we consider it an interference in our affairs, and we are convinced that only the Russians can determine who and when should be president of the Russian Federation.”

Ukraine, the deployment of Russian military forces at the border causes concern in the US. The massive arsenal on the border with Ukraine, which appeared in mid-September, after the Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2021 exercises, suggests “an imminent Russian invasion”. These are the words of Antony Blinken, who expresses concerns about the “unusual military activities in that area”. The Ukrainian General of the Armed Forces Valerij Fedorovič Zalužnyj received a call from General Mark Milli, president of the US chiefs of staff. In the last fortnight, the collaboration between the United States and Kiev, whose European allies also participate in the intelligence table, has become tighter. The Anglo-American media believe that the possibility of a Russian invasion is concrete with two potential scenarios: the first is the destabilization of the state so as to overthrow the current government and put one more loyal to Putin; the second is the invasion for new territorial conquests to add to Crimea. Tension in the west is palpable; Putin commented: “Our recent warnings are making themselves felt and have a certain effect: a certain tension has arisen there.”

Giulia Patrizi

MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA) X

Libya, one month before the elections, uncertainty prevails. The political climate in the North African country is in turmoil and some of the candidates for the presidential elections scheduled for 24 December have caused much discussion. Among those who have put forward their candidacies are the two leading figures from Cyrenaica, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Tobruk, Aguila Saleh, and the LNA leader, Khalifa Haftar. In addition, the candidacy in Sebha, Fezzan, of one of the sons of the late Libyan rais, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, has caused quite a stir. In addition, Ahmed Maiteeq, deputy head of the former presidential council, and Fathi Bashagha, former GNA interior minister and Misrata strongman, are also running. During the Paris Conference in mid-December, participants from twenty powers reiterated their support for the transition process, but the event was "semi-boycotted" by the two main foreign players on the Libyan chessboard: Moscow and Ankara.

(Michele Magistretti)

Israel, spy stories shake the country. While facing the fourth wave by promoting the third dose, the country has been shaken by two events. An Israeli couple was arrested by the Turkish authorities on charges of espionage for photographing Erdogan's palace in Istanbul. Mr and Mrs Okhnin were later released and both Prime Minister Bennett and President Herzog congratulated the Turkish leadership for the speedy resolution of the incident. Subsequently, a domestic servant of the Minister of Defence, Benny Gantz, was arrested for allegedly contacting a group of hackers linked to Tehran to give them access to the Minister's computer.

(Michele Magistretti)

Syria, health emergency out of control. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization close to the rebels based in the United Kingdom, has released a report containing the "real" numbers of the pandemic in the Syrian Arab Republic. According to this document, the data released by the Damascus regime would be twenty times lower than those released by the Observatory: more than 650,000 infected since the beginning of the pandemic in areas under government control (against 46,700 according to the authorities) and more than 44 thousand deaths (against 2682). The Observatory said it had obtained the necessary information from reliable medical sources, which confirmed that the hospital situation is critical, especially due to the lack of equipment in intensive care and the destruction of hospitals during the years of conflict. The political and security instability that the country still experiences today makes it difficult to apply an emergency plan and have affordable data sources. According to the World Food Programme's October report, only 2.3% of the population is vaccinated.

(Sara Oldani)

Lebanon, Riad Salameh under investigation. Riad Salameh, governor of the Banque du Liban for 28 years, is again the subject of an investigation opened just recently in Luxembourg, according to Reuters. He is allegedly suspected of financial wrongdoing, but a governor’s spokesperson said he had not been informed of the opening of the case. The investigation in Luxembourg is only the latest of many hanging over Salameh's head: in Switzerland, where he is accused of aggravated money laundering for the amount of approximately $ 300 million, profits deriving from one of his companies; in France for illicit enrichment and tax evasion and finally in Lebanon, where he is also accused of embezzlement of public funds. However, the governor has always denied the accusations, stating that they are politically motivated and the outcome of a plot against him.

(Sara Oldani)

Michele Magistretti and Sara Oldani


TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

Afghanistan, IS-K attacks continue. Afghanistan continues to witness repeated attacks on its territory. One of the most recent was the attack on a mosque in the Spin Ghar district (Nangarhar) on Friday, 12 November, which caused casualties and injuries. The next day, an explosion hit a bus in the predominantly Shiite Hazara district of Dasht-e-Barchi, in Kabul, also causing deaths and injuries. Just four days later, the same neighbourhood was the site of another explosion, with an unconfirmed toll of at least one victim and six wounded. Whether claimed or not, such attacks are all attributable to the IS-K (local rib of the ISIS) which, through the escalation of its own offensives, is assuming more and more importance in the Afghan jihadist galaxy (and not only).

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Uganda, attacks in the capital. On Tuesday, 16th November, two explosions hit the Ugandan capital, killing at least three people. The explosions took place near a police station and near the National Parliament. The authorities immediately attributed responsibility for the attacks to the AFD (Allied Democratic Forces), an Islamist group that started an insurrection against Ugandan President Museveni in the 1990s and also operates in the east of the Republic of Congo. In recent years, the group has allegedly affiliated with ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the explosions. Therefore, there is growing concern about the jihadist threat in Uganda, which had already suffered two attacks towards the end of October, always in Kampala (one in a bar and one against a bus).

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Italy, 19-year-old girl arrested for terrorism. Bleona Tafallari, an Italian of Kosovan origin living in Milan, was arrested on charges of association with the purpose of terrorism. On the basis of the information gathered during the investigation coordinated by the DIGOS of the Lombardia county, the young woman, whose husband is related to the Vienna bomber Kujtim Fejzulai, is alleged to have conducted, through the dissemination of propaganda material on the Internet, an intense proselytising campaign in support of the Daesh cause, extolling the 'deeds' of the fighters. According to the prosecutor's office, she was the head of a female network aimed at encouraging conjugal unions between what she called 'needy sisters', mostly very young Kosovar girls, and militiamen of the terrorist cell 'Lions of the Balkans', the latter linked to the Islamic State.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

France, new international conference on the Libyan crisis. At the heart of the debate at this new international summit on Libya's fate - chaired by France, Germany and Italy - was, on the one hand, the need to commit the newly formed government of national unity to ensuring that new elections are held and, on the other, the issue of the withdrawal of foreign - pro-Turkish/Russian - troops deployed in the territory. However, both the elections and the implementation of the 'Action Plan' for the withdrawal of foreign forces appear to be very complicated goals to achieve. Frictions within the interim government, fomented by the difficult cohabitation between President Menfi and Prime Minister Dbeibah, leave more than one doubt as to whether the parties will reach an agreement on the electoral law to be approved. On the troop withdrawal front, the reservations expressed by Turkey on the final document further complicate the efforts made so far to ensure continuity in the institutional balance achieved after a gruelling and bloody civil war.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

Vincenzo Battaglia and Davide Shahhosseini


INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS 

NATO, a new representative figure at the Special Representative for Women has been elected. On November 9, Irene Fellin was appointed as the new Special Representative of the NATO Secretary-General for Women, Peace and Security. An Italian national, Ms. Fellin has more than 15 years of experience as an international consultant for United Nations agencies and other national institutions. One of the representative's main priorities will be to facilitate the implementation of the 2021-2025 NATO/Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, which was formally approved by NATO defense ministers on October 22, 2021, in implementation and enforcement of UN Resolution 1325 of 2000.

(Francesco Ancona)

ECHR, two new decisions on violations committed by Azerbaijan. Last November 18th, the Court took two new decisions on the cases Sayyare Ahmadova v. Azerbaijan, and Par and Hyodo v. Azerbaijan. In the first case, the plaintiff's argument was based on violations of her right to property and respect for privacy, which was accepted by the Court. Accordingly, the Court ruled that the finding of infringement constituted in itself an equitable award of non-pecuniary damages to the applicant, requiring Azerbaijan to pay monetary compensation to the applicant in the amount of €210,000. The second case related to the detention by the applicants' customs authorities, and the confiscation of undeclared money belonging to a Turkish and a Japanese national, as they passed through Baku International Airport. The applicants alleged that their money was taken illegally and under duress, and that their property rights were violated. Again, the Court upheld the appeal and imposed compensation of €127,000.

(Francesco Ancona)

WHO, there will be fewer and fewer smokers in the coming years. The World Health Organization's fourth Global Tobacco Trends Report - released last Tuesday - found that there are 1.30 billion tobacco users globally today, up from 1.32 billion in 2015. That number is expected to drop to 1.27 billion by 2025. 60 countries are now on track to meet the global goal of a 30% reduction in tobacco use between 2010 and 2025; two years ago, the number stood at 32. A new WHO Global Investment Case for Tobacco Cessation highlights that an investment of $1.68 per capita each year in cessation interventions could help 152 million tobacco users successfully quit by 2030, saving millions of lives and contributing to countries' long-term economic growth. To facilitate this process, WHO established a Tobacco Cessation Consortium to bring together partners who support countries in increasing tobacco cessation.

(Francesco Ancona)

European Court of Justice, new rulings against Hungary and Poland. The Court of Justice of the European Union issues two rulings establishing the illegality under EU law of the anti-Soros law - supported by Viktor Orban - preventing support for migrants and of the Polish judicial system. The European Court takes a negative view towards Orban's 2018 law, which prevented organisations from supporting migrants at the Serbian-Hungarian border. Regarding the Polish situation, the ECJ ruled against Poland in a case on judicial appointments. It decided that the Polish government's discretion to send lower-ranking judges to higher courts or to remove them without giving reasons - is contrary to EU law.

(Valeria Lavano)

European Union, extended sanctions against Belarus. The Council of the European Union has decided to extend sanctions against Belarus. This procedure allows Brussels to target organisations and entities that plan or cooperate with the activities of the Lukashenko regime that facilitate the illegal crossing of the EU's external borders. Four rounds of sanctions have already been carried out based on the regime's repression of anti-government demonstrators. Nevertheless, at the border between Poland and Belarus thousands of migrants remain stranded in inhuman conditions. Therefore also Iraq announced for next week the first voluntary repatriation flight for its citizens stranded at the border. Lithuania is demanding that Minsk becomes a no-fly zone to prevent the arrival of more migrants.

(Valeria Lavano)

Glasgow, COP26 the result. The result of COP26 is a compromise that reflects global contradictions. The Glasgow Climate Pact will be adopted by nearly 200 countries after two intense weeks of negotiations. And even though it is not going to radically change the global landscape on climate change, it does nevertheless provide for important progress. Acknowledging the global climate emergency, countries commit to pursuing efforts to maintain a 1.5°C target. The Covenant also urges developed countries to at least double their collective funding for adaptation in developing countries from 2019 levels by 2025, to ensure a balance between adaptation and mitigation. COP26 also reached agreement on key provisions of the Paris Agreement Rulebook, a source of contentious negotiations over the past six years. The agreement covers issues related to market mechanisms and transparency.

(Valeria Lavano)

Francesco Ancona and Valeria Lavano





Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.

Andrea Ghilardi: Western Europe and the European Union, Sub-Saharan Africa

Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security, Latin America

Edoardo Cappelli: Human Rights, North America

Elisa Maggiore: Latin America

Federico Brignacca: Human Rights

Francesco Ancona: Asia and the Far East, International Organizations

Giorgia Avola: Western Europe and the European Union

Giulia Patrizi: Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia

Giulio Cofini: Sub-Saharan Africa

Leonardo Aldeghi: Economics and International Finance

Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa

Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa

Sara Oldani: Middle-East and North-Africa

Valeria Lavano: International Organizations

Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security


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