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Mahsa Amini: UN calls for inquiry into Iranian woman’s death | News

UN says Amini’s death and allegations of torture must be ‘promptly’ investigated, but Iranian police deny she was beaten.

The United Nations has demanded an independent investigation into the death of an Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iran’s morality police, but authorities have denied allegations that she was beaten or mistreated.

“Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority,” Nada al-Nashif, the acting UN high commissioner for human rights, said on Tuesday.

Amini’s death has sparked widespread protests across the country, including in the capital, Tehran, where demonstrators chanted slogans against the government and clashed with police. They are demanding an investigation into the death of the 22-year-old woman and the dismantling of the morality police – known as Gasht-e Ershad or Islamic guidance patrol.

The UN Human Rights Office said Iran’s morality police have expanded their patrols in recent months, targeting women for not properly wearing hijab, a scarf worn by some Muslim women.

The European Union spokesperson for external affairs said the incident leading to Amini’s death was “unacceptable” and that “perpetrators of this killing must be held accountable”.

Amini was detained on September 13 and taken to a “guidance centre” where she collapsed and died three days later. Iranian police have denied mistreating Amini and say she died of a heart attack. Authorities say they are investigating the incident.

Protests erupted in the country after her funeral and police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators on Saturday and Sunday. Several protesters have been arrested, according to local media. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the report.

A news website affiliated with state TV said 22 people were arrested at a protest in the northern city of Rasht, the first official confirmation of arrests related to the protests.

Iran’s government did not immediately comment on the statement but has previously criticised the work of UN investigators examining rights issues in the country.

‘Should be alive’

The United States also condemned her death and called on Iran to end its “systemic persecution” of women.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken took to social media and said Amini “should be alive today”.

“Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her. We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest,” he tweeted.

The comments from Blinken come amid tense talks between the US and Iran to restore the 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from in 2018.

Iranian police released closed-circuit video footage last week purportedly showing the moment Amini collapsed. But her family says she had no history of heart trouble.

Amjad Amini, her father, told an Iranian news website that witnesses saw her being shoved into a police car.

“I asked for access to [videos] from cameras inside the car as well as courtyard of the police station, but they gave no answer,” he said. He also accused the police of not transferring her to the hospital promptly, saying she could have been resuscitated.

A demonstrator raises his arms and makes the victory sign during a protest against Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody in Tehran on September 19, 2022 [AFP]

Amini’s father said when he reached the hospital, he was not allowed to see the body, but he managed to get a glimpse of bruising on her foot.

Authorities then pressured him to bury her at night, apparently to reduce the likelihood of protests. But Amini’s father said the family convinced them to let them bury her at 8am instead. Amini, who was Kurdish, was buried on Saturday in her home city of Saqez in western Iran.

Local actors, footballers, politicians and other celebrities have expressed their feelings and outrage during interviews with local media or social media, while several internationally renowned figures, including JK Rowling, have also commented.



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American consumers spent more in August, as prices rose | Inflation News

Consumers spent a bit more in August than the previous month, a sign the economy is holding up even as inflation lifts prices for food, rent, and other essentials.

Americans boosted their spending at stores and for services, such as haircuts, by 0.4 percent in August, after it fell 0.2 percent in July, the Department of Commerce said Friday. Yet much of that increase reflected higher prices, with an inflation gauge closely monitored by the Federal Reserve rising 0.3 percent in August, the government’s report showed.

The figures suggested that the economy is showing some resilience despite sharply rising interest rates, violent swings in the stock market, and high inflation.

Still, there were signs that rising prices are weighing on shoppers. Consumer spending, adjusted for inflation, is growing at a weaker pace. It increased at an annual rate of 2 percent in the April-June quarter. Yet July and August data indicate that spending growth is on track to slow to an annual rate of just 0.5 percent in the July-September quarter, economists said.

The economy is expected to grow in the third quarter, after shrinking in the first six months of this year. But many economists lowered their forecasts after the spending report and now expect growth will be just 1 percent or so at an annual rate.

Americans are also saving less in order to keep up with higher prices. The US saving rate was just 3.5 percent in August, far below pre-pandemic levels of about 8 percent, Friday’s report said.

There have been other signs of consumer weakness recently, with used car seller Carmax reporting sharply lower sales in the three months ending in August. The company attributed the decline to “affordability challenges” for consumers amid high inflation and rising interest rates.

Rising prices

Compared with a year ago, prices jumped 6.2 percent, down from a 6.4 percent annual gain in July but not far from June’s four-decade high of 7 percent. The figure is lower than the more widely-known consumer price index, released earlier this month, which reported an 8.3 percent price gain in August from a year earlier.

The two indexes differ for several reasons. For example, the consumer price index puts much greater weight on rents and housing costs, which have been rising steadily, than the measure released Friday, known as the price index for personal consumption expenditures.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.6 percent, much faster than July’s flat reading. They increased 4.9 percent from a year earlier, up from July’s figure of 4.6 percent.

Those figures were higher than expected, and may make the Federal Reserve more likely to lift its benchmark interest rate by another hefty 0.75 percentage point at its next meeting in November. If so, that would be the fourth such rise in a row.

The inflation figures in Friday’s report echoed those released earlier this month, with core prices rising more quickly than headline inflation. Falling petrol prices have reduced overall inflation, while stubbornly high costs for housing, cars, and services such as healthcare and haircuts have pushed core prices higher.

Adjusted for inflation, consumer spending ticked up 0.1 percent last month, after falling slightly in July.

While they are spending more, Americans are saving less in order to keep up with higher prices [File: Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

Friday’s report also showed that personal income rose 0.3 percent in August for the second month in a row. Adjusted for price increases, disposable income — what is leftover after taxes — ticked up 0.1 percent, after a hefty 0.5 percent gain in July.

But over a longer timeframe, incomes are trailing inflation. In the April-June quarter, inflation-adjusted disposable income fell 1.5 percent at an annual rate.

Fed action

The Federal Reserve is seeking to wrestle inflation under control with its most rapid series of interest rate rises in four decades. It has pushed its benchmark short-term rate to a range of 3 percent to 3.25 percent, the highest since early 2008, up from nearly zero in March.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other officials have repeatedly underscored the Fed’s determination to bring prices down, even if their rate increases resulted in layoffs and a higher unemployment rate.

The Fed intended its interest rate increases to slow borrowing and spending, which should in turn reduce inflation pressures in the economy.

Inflation has spiked globally, contributing to economic and financial turmoil in the United Kingdom, Europe, and a slew of developing countries, from Turkey to Argentina.

Also Friday, the 19 countries that use the euro currency reported that inflation spiked 10 percent from a year earlier, as prices for natural gas and electricity soared. European countries are struggling with an energy crunch in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Russia has reduced its supplies of natural gas to the European Union.

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Burkina Faso’s military leader Damiba deposed, army captain says | Politics News

BREAKING,

Burkina Faso’s military government dissolved and constitution suspended, army Captain Ibrahim Traore says.

Burkina Faso army Captain Ibrahim Traore has deposed military leader Paul-Henri Damiba and dissolved the government and suspended the constitution and transitional charter, he said in a statement read on national television.

Traore said on Friday evening that a group of officers had decided to remove Damiba due to his inability to deal with a worsening armed uprising in the country. He announced that borders were closed indefinitely and that all political and civil society activities were suspended.

It is the second takeover in eight months for the West African state. Damiba took power in a coup in January that overthrew former President Roch Kabore, also due in part to frustration over the worsening insecurity.

The Burkina Faso government had said earlier on Friday that an “internal crisis” within the army was behind troop deployments in key areas of the capital, adding that negotiations were underway after shots rang out before dawn.

Government spokesman Lionel Bilgo said talks were ongoing “to try to reach a settlement without trouble”.

The state television was cut for several hours, broadcasting just a blank screen with the message “no video signal”.

In Brussels, the EU voiced “concern” at the events unfolding in the Burkina capital.

“A military movement was observed from 04:30 this morning. The situation still remains particularly confused,” spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said.

Damiba had pledged to restore civilian rule within two years and to defeat armed factions stoking unrest in the country.

Attacks have increased since mid-March, despite the junta’s vow to make security its top priority.

More to follow.

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US unveils plan for long-term baby formula imports | Business and Economy News

In February, Food and Drug Administration inspectors temporarily shutdown the nation’s largest domestic formula factory due to bacterial contamination.

United States regulators have unveiled a plan to allow foreign baby formula manufacturers to stay on the market long term, an effort to diversify the nation’s tightly concentrated industry and prevent future shortages.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration said recent entrants to the US market will have until October 2025 to make sure their formulas comply with federal standards for nutrition, labelling and manufacturing. The agency noted that some companies should be able to meet those requirements sooner.

The US has been forced to turn to foreign manufacturers to boost formula supplies since February, when FDA inspectors temporarily shuttered the nation’s largest domestic formula factory due to bacterial contamination.

In May, the FDA eased federal import regulations and President Joe Biden authorised the airlift of millions of pounds of powdered formula from overseas. Together those actions have brought the equivalent of 300 million bottles of formula into the country, according to the FDA.

“Manufacturers from around the world have demonstrated their commitment to helping bolster US supply and, in turn, we are committed to continuing these flexibilities for their products to safely remain on the market,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement.

The policy allowing imports was set to expire in November, but the FDA said it would be extended to January, after which companies can ask to stay on the market longer.

For decades, the US formula industry has been dominated by a handful of companies with domestic production facilities, excluding similar products from Europe, Australia and Latin America. The US system evolved to prioritise safety and low pricing, favouring a few large players.

Foreign formula companies seeking to remain in the US must meet specific thresholds for 30 nutrients and undergo manufacturing inspections by FDA staff, among other steps.

Earlier this month the FDA formally acknowledged several shortcomings in its response to the shortage, including outdated information technology systems and inadequate training among its food facility inspectors.

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