The world in brief

Catch up quickly on the global stories that matter

Updated less than 1 hour ago (08:56 GMT+1 London)

Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy party, which has its roots in neo-fascism, declared victory in Italy’s general election. Ms Meloni, who would be the country’s first female prime minister, is set to lead a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s Northern League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. The election was called following the collapse in late July of Mario Draghi’s broad-based administration.

The pound slumped further against the dollar, briefly dropping more than 4% to under $1.04. The drop followed a similar sell-off on Friday, after Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor, announced the largest package of tax cuts in 50 years. Many think his plans fiscally reckless.

Demonstrations against Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation continued in the Russian republic of Dagestan. Across the country more than 2,000 people have been arrested for participating in protests against the measures, according to OVD-Info, a human-rights group. Queues of people attempting to avoid the draft have been reported at the country’s borders with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

After a five-month suspension, freight-train operations between China and North Korea appeared to have resumed, according to South Korean officials. China, which accounts for more than 90% of North Korea’s trade, had halted crossings because of covid-19 infections in the border city of Dandong. Aid workers say that North Korea’s isolation has caused widespread malnutrition.

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At least five people were killed after Typhoon Noru hit Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. More than 74,000 people were evacuated from coastal areas on Sunday, which helped reduce the death toll, according to Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, the country’s new president. The storm is expected to pass the country by Monday evening.

Miftah Ismail, Pakistan’s fifth finance minister in four years, announced he would resign. Two days earlier he had been reassuring commercial investors that Pakistan would honour its bonds, as it seeks relief from bilateral creditors. Catastrophic flooding has made the country’s already dicey position even more dire. The World Bank has offered $2bn in aid, against estimated damages of $30bn.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, a nonagenarian priest, went on trial in Hong Kong. He and four other defendants are accused of setting up a fund to pay for the legal and medical costs of Hong Kongers arrested during pro-democracy protests in 2019. Cardinal Zen is one of Asia’s most senior Catholic clergymen. He was detained earlier this year for running foul of Hong Kong’s national-security law, but has yet to be charged for that offence.

Fact of the day: $45bn, the amount spent by institutional investors snapping up single-family rental homes in America last year, up from $3bn in 2020. Read the full story.

The state of the global economy

Photo: Getty Images

Which countries will fall into recession in the coming months—and how deep will the global downturn be? The OECD’s latest economic outlook, published on Monday, may offer some answers.

A growing number of economists are sure that the European economy will soon be shrinking, as higher energy prices bite into household consumption. If the Bank of England is forced to respond to the government’s tax-cutting agenda by further raising interest rates, Britain may be sent the same way.

America, for now, looks surprisingly robust. The world’s largest economy is still creating jobs, and there are few signs of weaker spending. Recent surveys of manufacturing have looked fine, if not great, and consumer confidence seems to be rising as the price of petrol falls. But with the outlook for inflation so unclear, and the Federal Reserve rapidly raising interest rates, you would be brave to bet that pain can be entirely avoided this winter.

France’s budget

Photo: PA

On Monday the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, will unveil the government’s budget for 2023. He faces a difficult balancing act. France has promised to bring the government’s budget deficit down to 3% of GDP by 2027. But next year’s figure is expected to be 5%. France will have to spend heavily to subsidise energy bills, as promised. To protect consumers from inflation the government plans to cap price rises for electricity and gas bills to 15%.

France also needs to demonstrate its fiscal responsibility. The European Commission has suspended the enforcement of its fiscal rules, which require deficits under 3%, until 2024. But the French deficit is closer to that of Spain and Portugal than Germany. So President Emmanuel Macron is also keen to press ahead with his promise to raise the retirement age from 62 years old to 64 or 65. Adding this to the budget would demonstrate reformist zeal, but could also prompt demonstrations and strikes.

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The forgotten war in Myanmar

Photo: Reuters

The ongoing bloodshed in Myanmar might draw more attention were it not for the war in Ukraine. The latest outrage occurred on September 16th when the army attacked the village of Let Yet Kone, in the north-west of the country. A school was fired on by helicopter gunships, killing at least 11 children and two adults. The incident will doubtless feature in a report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday when it devotes a session to the country.

Since the army seized power in a coup last year the situation in Myanmar has deteriorated rapidly. The UN says that over 13m people are short of food. Over 1m have been displaced as the army battles against an increasingly well-organised opposition. Many countries have reimposed sanctions on Myanmar, but arguments will be made at the UN that there is more to be done to cut off the junta’s access to revenues and arms. Whatever has been tried so far to deter Myanmar’s murderous generals clearly has not worked.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela

Photo: Getty Images

An important South American border crossing will fully reopen on Monday. Amid a thawing of relations between Colombia and Venezuela, vehicles carrying passengers and goods will be able to cross between the two countries for the first time since 2019.

The border was shut when Colombia’s then-president, Iván Duque, refused to recognise Nicolás Maduro as Venezuela’s leader after disputed elections in 2018. The election in June of Gustavo Petro, a leftist, as Colombia’s president has improved relations. New ambassadors have been appointed. Flights will also resume.

The opening should help both economies. Exports from Colombia to Venezuela, such as palm oil, were only worth $331m last year. Colombia’s trade minister reckons the figure could reach $1.2bn this year—double previous estimates. But that relies on Venezuela’s fragile economic recovery continuing. Colombia’s exports to Venezuela had already fallen after Venezuela’s economic collapse in 2014. And the neighbours will also have to tackle gang activity and rampant smuggling across the border.

NASA’s crash with an asteroid

Photo: NASA

The Earth’s defences, and the plots of science-fiction films, will be tested on Monday when DART, a space probe weighing 600kg will be crashed into Dimorphos, a small rock in orbit around a larger one, Didymos. The intention of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test is to shorten Dimorphos’s orbital period, now 11.9 hours, by about ten minutes. That will test the feasibility of deflecting such an asteroid, should one be discovered which threatens to collide with Earth.

If something the size of Didymos (780 metres in diameter) hit Earth it could take out half a continent. But even the explosion of an object as small as Dimorphos, at 160 metres across, would be equivalent to 400-600 megatonnes of TNT. By comparison, the blast from an asteroid which detonated over Siberia in 1908, flattening 2,000 square kilometres of forest, released something like 20 megatonnes. The hope is that if such an incoming object were to be discovered, a gentle nudge would cause it to miss.

Daily quiz

Our baristas will serve you a new question each day this week. On Friday your challenge is to give us all five answers and, as important, tell us the connecting theme. Email your responses (and include mention of your home city and country) by 1700 BST on Friday to [email protected]. We’ll pick randomly from those with the right answers and crown one winner per continent on Saturday.

Monday: Which actor won the Oscar for best director for his 1981 film “Reds”?

Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.

Walter Benjamin