The Global Affairs team share some of the most important weekly headlines that you may otherwise have missed.
A note from the editor
It has most certainly been a week!
A UN vote on a ceasefire in Gaza has led to Israel butting heads with the international community. A mass shooting in Maine has brought the second amendment into question. All while Hurricane Otis has managed to devastate Mexico’s pacific coast.
It’s safe to say that a lot certainly goes on Outside OX1. Not all of it bad. Canada now has its first female majority on the Supreme Court (I’m sure Lady Hale is buzzing). Let’s hope the UK manages to learn a lesson or two from this (1).
In the midst of some harrowing news stories, multiple major conflicts and environmental disasters it can be easy to hide behind the comfort of a lukewarm Pret A Manger or an out of date cola from the Brasenose JCR vending machine (it hasn’t been updated since the early 2000’s). However I encourage everyone reading this to keep informed and to keep exploring Global Affairs.
As difficult as it may be at times, it is more important than ever to look outside OX1.
Elusive Ceasefire: No Peace in Sight as Violence and Anger Persist in Israel-Hamas Conflict
This week, Israel found itself in a diplomatic showdown with the international community. The Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to resign after Guterres said that, “It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum” (1). Israel accused him of justifying terrorism and announced that it would no longer issue visas to UN representatives, including Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, who was already denied a visa to enter (2). Israel also dismissed a Jordan-backed UN resolution, stating it belonged in the “dustbin of history” (3). Despite Israel’s objections, the resolution was passed at the General Assembly with 120 votes in favor, 14 against, and 45 abstentions (4).
On the same evening, Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan expressed that the UN had lost all legitimacy and relevance. Meanwhile, reports from Israel indicated that there had been intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza by air, surpassing the previous evenings. All internet and phone communications in the territory appeared to be down (4), with various international organisations being impacted, including the Palestinian Red Crescent, World Health Organisation (5), Medical Aid for Palestinians (6), and others, stating that they were unable to contact their teams in the Gaza strip.Throughout the war, Qatar has played a vital role with its connections to both UN states and Hamas, as the political leadership of Hamas has been based in Doha since 2012 (7). According to recent reports, over 200 hostages are still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with only four hostages released so far (8).
The US has continuously urged Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on a ground invasion until more hostages are released by Hamas (9). However, Israeli forces have continued to enter the strip from the northern area of the Gaza Strip in Beit Hanoun, gradually pushing further south (10). Concerns are rising among the relatives of those held in Gaza, who held a press conference on Thursday to protest their government, stating that the authorities are not keeping them updated on the negotiations (11).
Suspect of Maine Mass Shooting Found Dead
Robert Card, the key suspect in the mass shooting that killed 18 people and wounded 13, has been found dead after authorities issued a manhunt and arrest warrants for him on multiple counts of murder.
On Wednesday night, police in the small town of Lewiston, Maine, responded to reports of a shooter at two locations: a restaurant and bar called Schemengees and Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, which are roughly four miles apart from each other.
Seven people were killed at the bowling alley and eight people at Schemengees bar and three further victims were pronounced dead at local hospitals. That evening, Schemengees bar had been hosting a cornhole tournament with deaf competitors, and four members of Maine’s deaf community were among those killed.
Maine Governor Janet Mills revealed in a news conference at Lewiston City Hall that Card’s body had been found near a river in Lisbon Falls, close to where the shooting occurred. The Maine Commissioner of Public Safety, Michael Sauschuch, said that he had died from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Robert Card was a 40-year old army reservist. He had been training with the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment in West Point, New York, when commanders became worried about his mental health. During the summer he had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks after “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.
President Biden responded to the incident, saying that “once again, an American community and American families have been devastated by gun violence”. He is urging Republicans in Congress “to fulfil their obligation to keep the American people safe” by advocating for tighter gun controls.
US Growth Data Reveals Incredible Resilience
Since this time last year, US growth rates have been falling. This was largely attributed to the recent rises in interest rates, which are designed to reduce the amount of money being spent in the economy, by discouraging borrowing and encouraging saving (check out my summer article for more information on how this works). However the latest figures have bucked this trend, as US consumers are still spending plenty of money.
This is mixed news overall for the US economy. Clearly more growth is good, but the growth in consumer spending will likely add to inflation, meaning more pain for Americans suffering from the cost of living. More inflation may also lead to further increases in interest rates, which could hold the US economy back in the long term.
It is also important to remember that the figures released this week are only the first estimates and as such should be taken with a pinch of salt. On average US GDP figures change by ±0.5% by the second estimate (expected to be released on 29th November), so they could become less impressive.
Nonetheless, future estimates are still likely to show a resilient economy that is withstanding the recent shocks to global supply chains.
Paetongtarn Shinawatra takes helm of Thailand’s challenged ruling party
This Friday, Thailand’s ruling Pheu Thai Party elected as its new leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the second daughter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. She is the fourth Shinawatra to lead the party, continuing the billionaire family’s political dominance for the last quarter century.
Her election follows a period of political uncertainty, and aims to expand support for Pheu Thai from young voters. In Thailand’s latest general election this May, Pheu Thai was beaten out for the most elected MPs by the youthful, progressive Move Forward party which promised reform of lese-majeste laws and the removal of the military from politics.
However, Move Forward was blocked by the military-appointed senate from electing its leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, as prime minister.
Eventually, Pheu Thai was able to form a new government led by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, but only by cooperating with pro-military groups – former bitter rivals which had mounted coups against former premiers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra in 2006 and 2014 respectively. The deal angered Pheu Thai and Move Forward supporters alike, who say that the party has abandoned its democratic values. Pheu Thai is widely expected to lose support to Move Forward, which now has the opportunity to present itself as the only true pro-democracy party.
In the face of Pheu Thai’s troubles, Paetongtarn Shinawatra has vowed to lead the party “back to glory”. “Pheu Thai will continue its mission to elevate people’s quality of life and rights and liberty as it has done,” she said, adding that she will prioritise youth participation in the party.
Paetongtarn, 37, was one of Pheu Thai’s three prime ministerial candidates in the May elections, playing a crucial role in re-energising voters in the party’s traditional strongholds. She gave birth to a baby boy during the campaign period, attracting international attention. Paetongtarn is currently a vice-chairwoman of the government’s “soft power strategy” committee headed by Srettha.
Hurricane Otis Devastates the Citizens of Acapulco
According to The New York Times Hurricane Otis has become the most powerful storm to strike Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
On Wednesday October 25th Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco, Mexico, and it left the city in a vulnerable state. Now, the category 5 storm has caused the citizens to be stuck in a humanitarian crisis as food and water becomes scarce.
According to Reuters the winds came in at 165 miles per hour, causing homes, hotels, and store buildings roofs to fall apart. Additionally, the death toll has currently risen from 27 to 39 as people actively search for their lost loved ones. The number is said to rise as officials continue to find people.
As Acapulco residents continue to face challenges with the aftermath of the storm, tourists were bused out of the city to a safer place. The streets are covered in shattered pieces of glass, and fallen trees have landed on telephone poles.
Citizens have relied on poor quality radio to help them get in touch with loved ones. Yet, the Mexican government has done a poor job on addressing the needs of their people, according to The New York Times.
45 year-old Roberto Alvarado speaks out about how the government officials failed to properly fix the issues of having insufficient amounts of food and water. This has led people to loot stores out of desperation for basic necessities. Alvarado told reporters, “They loot because they want to eat,” he said. “Not a single store is open to buy food, not a single tortillería.”
There is a concern that the government is more worried about restoring infrastructure for the city’s tourism than helping their citizens during a catastrophic time. Acapulco has gone without electricity, food, water, and toilet paper as the stores remain desolate.
Flora Contreras Santos is a woman living in a poor city on the outskirts of town and she is helping a mother search for her lost 3-year-old daughter. Santos goes from soldier to soldier asking if they have seen the little girl. “The mountain came down on them. The mud took her from the mother’s arms,” Contreras said. “We need help, the mother is in bad shape and we can’t find the girl,” according to PBS News Hour.
850,000 people in the city of Acapulco have survived the disastrous storm, and they are now calling on officials in dire need of more support. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he is working on solving the crisis. On Friday 7,600 boxes of food and 11,000 liters of water were sent to the people in Mexico.
Additionally, David Sislen partners with Latin American and Caribbean Nations and works for the World Bank on risk-management procedures. Sislen emphasizes that poorer neighborhoods need to receive the same attention as cities that are more “shiner” and “fancier.” He said, “the poor, the more vulnerable, the more excluded are the ones who most suffer.”
In light of the natural disaster, it is important that impoverished neighborhoods do not fall at the bottom of the priority list as government officials seek to provide aid for the citizens.
Fukushima nuclear disaster: The effects of Chinese ban on Japanese marine products
Following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Fukushima nuclear reactors were disabled due to a nuclear accident. The damage left three melted nuclear cores, requiring large amounts of water to cool and stabilize the plants.
Over a decade later, the contaminated water continues to grow in its amount, as rain and underground water has seeped into the affected facilities. To prevent such water from polluting the ocean without treatment, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has built over 1000 tanks to store them whilst methods to treat contaminated water developed.
After being treated through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which removes various radioactive materials from the water, the Japanese government announced that the water from the nuclear accident has qualified for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Standards in August 2023.
Despite opposition from neighboring countries, especially the People’s Republic of China, the Japanese government began discharging the treated water to the ocean. As a countermeasure to Japan’s decision, the Chinese government has suspended imports of Japanese marine products, claiming that the treated water contains tritium, an radioactive isotope of hydrogen which is difficult to remove. Many countries, including France, Canada, and China, have released tritium from nuclear facilities around the world.
Since the Chinese ban of seafood and marine products, the Japanese fishing industry has seen a 67% decrease in its sales from the same month in 2022. Over 60 to 70 percent of Japanese scallops, a type of marine animal similar to clams, had been sold to China in recent years. However, due to the ban, many fisheries are left with not only the decrease of sales, but also extra stocks of frozen scallops in their storage.
The Chinese government has yet to release a date on the end of the suspension, leaving Japanese fisheries to find alternative buyers of their supplies.
Glass ceiling shattered: a historic female majority on the Canadian Supreme Court
Thursday 26th October – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has nominated Mary T. Moreau as the next Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Moreau will fill the vacancy created by Russell Brown’s resignation in June. For the first time in the Supreme Court’s 148-year history, women will hold the majority on the bench. Commenting on the news on X, Justice Minister Arif Virani recognised the importance of Moreau’s appointment as a “glass ceiling shattered”.
Having worked in the court for 29 years, Moreau has gained a reputation for attempting to modernize the justice system, improving accessibility and upholding minority language rights. She joined the Court of King’s Bench in 1994 and made history in 2017 as the first woman to be appointed Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta. Moreau is also the co-founder of the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Aberta, a charitable organization which aims to provide vital legal information and services to French-speaking citizens in the province. Trudeau noted Moreau’s “impressive judicial career” and her commitment to “fairness and excellence” in the announcement of her appointment.
Moreau is Trudeau’s sixth Supreme Court appointment, which amounts to nearly one new justice for every year in power. Trudeau has made efforts to diversify the court through his appointments. Most recently, Mahmud Jamal became the first judge of colour in June 2021, while Michelle Obomsawin was the first Indigenous person to join the Court in 2022.
Environment – Biden Administration plans to build new gas export hubs come under attack.
Lottie Tellyn | More on the Environment from Lottie coming soon in The Green Piece!
Biden’s administration is facing pressure to block the construction of a $10bn project to create one of the world’s largest gas export hubs, which is set to be constructed on the Louisiana shoreline in the Gulf of Mexico. The project, known as Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2), would ship up to 24 million tonnes of liquified natural gas each year once it was built, resulting in emissions of around 197.3 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
In response, many environmental protection groups are urging the Biden administration to block the building of the project, including many Democrats from Biden’s own party. As with many modern projects aimed at increasing fossil fuel production, the continuation of this project is likely to have devastating impacts for the planet, driving up global temperatures further.
The project is scheduled for construction in 2026, and has requested permission to operate until 2050, by which point the Biden administration hopes to make the US net zero.
Ending remarks – What Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock can teach us about life
A few weeks ago, I was listening to the new episode of Off Menu, a popular food podcast hosted by comedians James Acaster and Ed Gamble. Posing as a genie, Acaster magics up celebrity guests’ dream starter, main course, desert, side dish and drink (not in that order), alongside Gamble as the maitre d’. I’ve listened since the beginning and highly recommend Judi Love and Joel Dommett’s episodes (in the latter, amongst one of the first episodes of the show, Dommett infamously picks a protein shake). However, listening to Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock patiently and good naturedly contend with the duo’s chaotic questioning – including responding to whether she considers dark matter to be evil – gave me hope. Aderin-Pocock described her teen daughter lovingly, despite how the pregnancy resulted in her becoming explosively allergic to dairy, and her enthusiasm for stargazing is positively infectious, not condescending to us non-scientific mortals (looking at you, Brian Cox).
But it’s not just her attitude to learning that we should respect – Aderin-Pocock grew up on a Camden council estate, and her dreams of becoming an astronaut were stamped on by teachers who suggested nursing instead. Undeterred, the scientist and educator’s work in schools, on TV and in Parliament has inspired young people for almost 2 decades, with her new book on stargazing coming out on the 2nd November.
What struck me most during the podcast, however, was Aderin-Pocock’s open mindedness and tolerance. She believes that religion and science need not be pitted against each other, and that scientists and creatives should work together. She tells a touching story about lemon meringue pie. Aderin-Pocock emanates confidence and joy, and Gamble and Acaster are shocked at her humble admission that she worked on the biggest space telescope in the world. In our current era of extremes, where everyone is expected to have an opinion about everything, it’s nice to hear someone admit that they don’t know the source of the universe. Oh, and she loves prosecco.
Write for us!
Interested in writing for the OX1 column, looking for somewhere to turn your article idea into a reality? Then look no further. Both the Global Affairs and Environment Section are looking for new writers and contributors. If you’re interested in student journalism and want to get involved make sure to join the Oxford Blue writers group on Facebook.
Oxford Blue Writers Group:
Global Affairs Writers Group: