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The world says goodbye to The Queen of the United Kingdom and North Korea scripts nuclear war

9-9-2022 |

Fresh - freshly squeezed news from the international press. We prepare it 3 times a week.

BBC: The queen is dead - long live the king!

Queen Elizabeth II, the UK's longest-serving monarch, has died at Balmoral aged 96, after reigning for 70 years.

Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

She died peacefully on Thursday afternoon at her Scottish estate, where she had spent much of the summer.

The Queen came to the throne in 1952 and witnessed enormous social change.

Her son King Charles III said the death of his beloved mother was a "moment of great sadness" for him and his family and that her loss would be "deeply felt" around the world.

The King said: "We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother.

"I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world."

The King and his wife, Camilla, now Queen Consort, will return to London on Friday, Buckingham Palace said. He is expected to address the nation on Friday.

Queen Elizabeth II's tenure as head of state spanned post-war austerity, the transition from empire to Commonwealth, the end of the Cold War and the UK's entry into - and withdrawal from - the European Union.

Her reign spanned 15 prime ministers starting with Winston Churchill, born in 1874, and including Ms Truss, born 101 years later in 1975.

The Royal Family has now entered a period of mourning. In the coming days, much of national life will be put on hold.

Official engagements will be cancelled and union flags will be flown at half-mast on royal residences, government buildings, across the Armed Forces and on UK posts overseas.

Members of Parliament will pay tribute to the Queen and take an oath to King Charles.

There will be church bells tolling and gun salutes as local and national organisations and charities organise ways to pay their respects, with commemorative events and books of condolence.

A state funeral for the Queen is expected in the next two weeks.

Foreign leaders have paid tribute to the Queen, with US President Joe Biden recalling how she stood in solidarity with the US in their "darkest days" after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

To France's president, Emmanuel Macron, she was a "kind-hearted Queen" and "friend of France".

For Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, the Queen was a constant in Canadians' lives and one of his "favourite people in the world".

Politico: Energy crisis triggers popular upheaval in EU

European politicians returning to their desks after a summer break have found a pressing problem in their inbox — a cost-of-living crisis already fomenting social unrest.

While many Europeans were enjoying the summer sun, protests were also percolating across the bloc, from Spain to Germany. In Prague last weekend, an estimated 70,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate against the government, demanding action on rising energy costs — and chanting against the EU and NATO. 

Prague mass protests, September 2022
Photo: Marxistická Alternativa

Europe is battling record inflation, largely a product of the energy costs that have ballooned since Russia invaded Ukraine. Some companies — from steel producers to fertilizer plants — have even shut down already. The situation has grown dire enough that the European Central Bank on Thursday announced its largest ever interest rate hike, and it promised more increases are on the way as the bank tries to curtail inflation, which is often described as a “tax on the poor.”

“The current energy crisis is making all political leaders nervous because they fear the political consequences,” one EU official told POLITICO this week as the political season got underway in Brussels. “In a lot of countries, this is about the survival of their governments. The resilience of Europe will be tested in all EU countries.”

A diplomat from a Baltic country predicted Europe may face a fresh populist surge if leaders can’t rein in costs.

A possible populist wave is not just confined to certain countries. Every European leader is under pressure from voters to contain spiraling costs. That’s one reason the European Commission decided this week to break with decades of precedent and push for radical intervention in the bloc’s energy markets.

Underscoring leaders’ anxieties is the possibility that rising prices could undermine public support for the war in Ukraine, leaving European leaders with a poison-pill question: Are they prepared to risk their own jobs to save Ukrainian democracy?

Hungary has already signed a new gas deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom and Bulgaria is considering a return to buying Russian gas, showing the limits to European solidarity with Ukraine.

“This winter has turned into a sort of boxing match” with Moscow, argued a Western European diplomat. “The first one that falls has lost the game.”

CNN: China's economy crumbles before our eyes

China is beset by severe economic problems. Growth has stalled, youth unemployment is at a record high, the housing market is collapsing, and companies are struggling with recurring supply chain headaches.

The world's second biggest economy is grappling with the impact of severe drought and its vast real estate sector is suffering the consequences of running up too much debt. But the situation is being made much worse by Bejing's adherence to a rigid zero-Covid policy, and there's no sign that's going to change this year.

Within the past two weeks, eight megacities have gone into full or partial lockdowns. Together these vital centers of manufacturing and transport are home to 127 million people.

Nationwide, at least 74 cities had been closed off since late August, affecting more than 313 million residents, according to CNN calculations based on government statistics. Goldman Sachs last week estimated that cities impacted by lockdowns account for 35% of China's gross domestic product (GDP).

The latest restrictions demonstrate China's uncompromising attitude to stamping out the virus with the strictest control measures, despite the damage.

"Beijing appears willing to absorb the economic and social costs that stem from its zero-Covid policy because the alternative — widespread infections along with corresponding hospitalizations and deaths — represents an even greater threat to the government's legitimacy," said Craig Singleton, senior China fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a DC-based think tank.

For Chinese leader Xi Jinping, maintaining that legitimacy is more vital than ever as he seeks to be selected for an unprecedented third term when the Communist Party meets for its most important congress in a decade next month.

President of China Xi Jinping
Photo: AP

In the meantime, a sharp slowdown in the global economy doesn't bode well for China's growth either as weakening demand from the US and European markets will weigh on China's exports, said Raymond Yeung, chief Greater China economist for ANZ Research.

He now expects Chinese GDP to grow by just 3% this year, missing Beijing's official target of 5.5% by a wide margin. Other analysts are even more bearish. Nomura cut its forecast to 2.7% this week.

While Beijing seems unwavering on its zero-Covid strategy, the government has rolled out a flurry of stimulus measures to boost the flagging economy, including a one trillion yuan ($146 billion) package unveiled last month to improve infrastructure and ease power shortages.

The deepening property market downturn is another major drag. The sector, which accounts for as much as 30% of China's GDP, has been crippled by a government campaign since 2020 to rein in reckless borrowing and curb speculative trading. Property prices have been falling, as have sales of new homes.

While there could be a relaxation of zero-Covid rules in 2023, housing policy may not look very different after the party congress.

"We are unlikely to see the economy repeat the previous high growth of 5.5% or 6% for the next two years," said Yeung.

Reuters: North Korea threatens the world with a nuclear missile

North Korea has officially enshrined the right to use preemptive nuclear strikes to protect itself in a new law that leader Kim Jong Un said makes its nuclear status "irreversible" and bars denuclearisation talks, state media reported on Friday.

Kim Jong-un bekijkt de militaire parade in Pyongyang
Photo: AP

The move comes as observers say North Korea appears to be preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, after historic summits with then-U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders in 2018 failed to persuade Kim to abandon his weapons development.

"The utmost significance of legislating nuclear weapons policy is to draw an irretrievable line so that there can be no bargaining over our nuclear weapons," Kim said in a speech to the assembly, adding that he would never surrender the weapons even if the country faced 100 years of sanctions.

Among the scenarios that could trigger a nuclear attack would be the threat of an imminent nuclear strike; if the country's leadership, people or existence were under threat; or to gain the upper hand during a war, among other reasons.

The original 2013 law stipulated that North Korea could use nuclear weapons to repel invasion or attack from a hostile nuclear state and make retaliatory strikes.

The new law goes beyond that to allow for preemptive nuclear strikes if an imminent attack by weapons of mass destruction or against the country's "strategic targets", including its leadership, is detected.

Under the law, Kim has "all decisive powers" over nuclear weapons, but if the command and control system is threatened, then nuclear weapons may be launched "automatically".

If Kim delegates launch authority to lower commanders during a crisis, that could increase the chances of a catastrophic miscalculation, analysts said.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has offered to talk to Kim any time, at any place, and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has said his country would provide massive amounts of economic aid if Pyongyang began to give up its arsenal.

North Korea has rebuffed those overtures, however, saying that the United States and its allies maintain "hostile policies" such as sanctions and military drills that undermine their messages of peace.

"As long as nuclear weapons remain on earth and imperialism remains and manoeuvres of the United States and its followers against our republic are not terminated, our work to strengthen nuclear force will not cease," Kim said.

Picked and squeezed for you: Irina Iakovleva