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News Summary: October 2015

Ankara Bombings

At least 95 people were killed in Ankara, Turkey, when two suspected suicide bombers struck a rally of pro-Kurdish and Labour activists outside the capital’s main train station just weeks before elections in the worst attack of its kind on Turkish soil.

As well as the 95 dead, 246 wounded people were still being treated, 48 of them in intensive care, the prime minister’s office have since announced.

Opponents of President Tayyip Erdogan blamed him for the attack. Some activists saw the hand of the state, accusing Erdogan and the AK Party he founded, of seeking to stir up nationalist sentiment, a charge Turkey’s leaders have vehemently rejected.

However the prime minister has told Reuters that the bombing of a rally of pro-Kurdish activists and civic groups was intended to undermine his ruling AK Party in the November polls to deny it the votes it needed to form a majority government.

“Like other terror attacks, the one at the Ankara train station targets our unity, togetherness, brotherhood and future,” said President Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to crush a Kurdish militant insurgency since the collapse of a ceasefire and resumption of intense violence in July.

Two senior security sources said initial signs suggested Islamic State was behind the Ankara attack, and that it bore striking similarity to a July suicide bombing in Suruc near the Syrian border, also blamed on the radical Islamists.

Earthquake

At least 200 people have died in Pakistan and roughly 1,000 more were reported injured whilst 73 people have died in Afghanistan and over 300 have been injured following a major earthquake hit northeaste of the country this month, sending shock waves across South Asia.

The quake’s epicenter was 213 kilometers (130 miles) deep and 73 km (45 miles) southeast of Feyzabad in a remote area of Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measured the quake’s intensity at 7.5.

At least 12 students at a girls’ school died in a stampede as they tried to escape shaking buildings in Afghanistan’s Takhar province and another 42 girls were taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan.

Buildings shook violently in Kabul and tremors were felt across northwestern Pakistan and its central Punjab province. Structures shook for well over a minute in the Indian capital, New Delhi, sending office workers scurrying onto the streets.

A Facebook update by the Pakistan Red Crescent, said disaster response teams had been deployed to the most severely affected regions, while rescue teams were bringing injured citizens to hospitals in the Peshawar province.

The mountainous region is a seismically active area, with earthquakes the result of the Indian subcontinent driving into and under the Eurasian landmass. Such tectonic shifts can cause enormous and destructive releases of energy.

However, the earthquake may leave less of a mark than previous natural disasters, given that the epicenter was not as densely populated. Similarly, construction quality will hugely determine the extent of the damage.

Steel Industry

It has been declared that the British steel industry is in full-scale crisis. Thousands of job losses have been announced in the sector in recent weeks, with the collapse of SSI in Redcar, Cleveland, and cutbacks at Tata Steel in North Lincolnshire and in Lanarkshire.

The industry blames what it says are unfair Chinese imports, as well as the higher energy costs it faces compared with rivals elsewhere in Europe.

Alongside the tragedy of each job loss, and the ramifications for supply chains and local economies, the government has come under fire for failing to have a steel industry strategy.

The Government’s reluctance to help has effectively ended 170 years of steelmaking in Redcar, destroying specialist local skills and condemning the community to a bleak future.

Gareth Stace, director of trade body UK Steel, issued the stark warning to a committee of MPs stating that a fifth of the sector’s UK workforce had lost their jobs or were facing redundancy following the recent wave of cuts and claiming that “If we were a patient on an operating table, we are bleeding very quickly. And we are likely to die on that table.”

However the government has confirmed that the steel industry will be refunded the cost of green levies on energy bills as soon as the EU grants state-aid clearance. The package could be worth about £50m a year for the struggling sector.

Sajid Javid, the business secretary is calling for an emergency European Union meeting to discuss the state of the steel industry and unfair trade practices. In Brussels he will hold talks with Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, Internal Market Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska and vice-president Jyrki Katainen.

He said: “I want to see steel top of the EU agenda. We cannot stand by while the steel industry across Europe, not just in the UK, faces such unprecedented challenges. “There are no straightforward solutions to the complex global challenges but the UK government wants to work with the EU and our European partners to do all we can to support our steel industry.”

In addition to this, he has also been in negotiations with the commission on speeding up work to approve the UK’s Energy Intensive Industries (EII) compensation scheme, which could benefit steelmakers.

Blair ‘Apology’

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged the 2003 invasion of Iraq played a part in the rise of the Islamic State militant group, and apologised for some mistakes in planning and preparation for the war, in a broadcasted television interview this month.

Asked whether the offensive was the principal cause of the rise of Islamic State, which now controls large areas of Iraq and neighboring Syria, Blair said there were “elements of truth” in that.

Critics say the U.S. decision to disband Saddam Hussein’s army after the invasion created a huge security vacuum exploited by Al-Qaeda, which was eventually replaced by Islamic State.

However Blair countered this by saying; “I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he’s not there than that he is there.”

Blair also mentioned that the “Arab Spring” uprisings across the region also affected Iraq, and pointed out that Islamic State had risen out of a base in Syria, not Iraq.

Blair’s decision to send troops to back the U.S.-led invasion is still a live political issue in Britain, where a six-year public inquiry into the conflict is yet to publish its findings.

China’s Child Policy

China’s ruling Communist Party has announced this month that it will ease family planning restrictions to allow all couples to have two children after decades of a strict one-child policy in a move aimed at alleviating demographic strains on the economy.

China will “fully implement a policy of allowing each couple to have two children as an active response to an aging population”, the party said in a statement carried by the state controlled Xinhua news agency. There were no immediate details on the new policy or a timeframe for implementation.

The announcement was made at the close of a key Party meeting focused on financial reforms and maintaining growth between 2016 and 2020 amid concerns over the country’s slowing economy. For the first time in decades the working age population fell in 2012, and China, the world’s most populous nation, could be the first country in the world to get old before it gets rich. By around the middle of this century, one in every three Chinese is forecast to be over 60, with a dwindling proportion of working adults to support them.

A growing number of scholars had urged the government to reform the rules, introduced in the late 1970s to prevent population growth spiraling out of control, but now regarded as outdated and responsible for shrinking China’s labour pool.

The policy is a major liberalisation of the country’s family planning restrictions, already eased in late 2013 when Beijing said it would allow more families to have two children when the parents met certain conditions. Critics said the relaxation of rules was too little, too late to redress substantial negative effects of the one-child policy on the economy and society. As well as this many couples who were allowed to have another child under the 2013 rules decided not to, especially in the cities, citing the cost of bringing up children in an increasingly expensive country. State media said in January that out of 30,000 families in Beijing, just 6.7% of those eligible, applied to have a second child.

The plenum also announced plans to attack other structural economic challenges, covering areas such as market pricing, innovation, consumption and more private ownership of assets.

Wang Feng, a leading expert on demographic and social change in China, called the change an “historic event” that would change the world but said the challenges of China’s aging society would remain.

Image credit: http://www.gotcredit.com/

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Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

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