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Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is an ‘unprecedented’ security challenge

The funeral of the only monarch most Britons have known involves the biggest security operation London has ever seen.

Mayor Sadiq Khan says Monday’s state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II is an “unprecedented” security challenge, with hundreds of thousands of people packing central London and a funeral guest list of 500 emperors, kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers and other leaders from around the world.

“It’s been decades since this many world leaders were in one place,” said Khan. “This is unprecedented … in relation to the various things that we’re juggling.”

“There could be bad people wanting to cause damage to individuals or to some of our world leaders,” Khan told The Associated Press. “So we are working incredibly hard — the police, the security services and many, many others — to make sure this state funeral is as successful as it can be.”

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the “hugely complex” policing operation is the biggest in the London force’s history, surpassing the London 2012 Olympics.

More than 10,000 police officers will be on duty Monday, with London bobbies supplemented by reinforcements from all of Britain’s 43 police forces. Hundreds of volunteer marshals and members of the armed forces will also act as stewards along the processional route.

They are just the most visible part of a security operation that is being run from a high-tech control center near Lambeth Bridge, not far from Parliament.

Street drains and garbage bins are being searched and sealed. On Monday there will be police spotters on rooftops, sniffer dogs on the streets, marine officers on the River Thames and mounted police on horseback.

Flying drones over central London has been temporarily banned, and Heathrow Airport is grounding scores of flights so that aircraft noise does not disturb the funeral service.

Authorities face the challenge of keeping 500 world leaders safe, without ruffling too many diplomatic feathers. Presidents, prime ministers and royalty will gather offsite before being taken by bus to the abbey — though an exception is being made for U.S. President Joe Biden, who is expected to arrive in his armored limousine, known as The Beast.

Another challenge is the sheer size of the crowds expected to gather around Westminster Abbey and along the route the coffin will travel after the funeral, past Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park. From there it will be taken by hearse about 20 miles (32 kilometers) to Windsor, where another 2,000 police officers will be on duty.

The queen is due to be interred in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle alongside her husband Prince Philip, who died last year aged 99.

Police are deploying more than 22 miles (36 kilometers) of barriers in central London to control the crowds, and transit bosses are preparing for jam-packed stations, buses and subway trains as 1 million people flood the ceremonial heart of London. Subways will run later than normal and train companies are adding extra services to help get people home.

While many will be mourning the queen, support for the monarchy is far from universal. Police have already drawn criticism for arresting several people who staged peaceful protests during events related to the queen’s death and the accession of King Charles III.

Cundy said it had been made clear to officers that “people have a right to protest.”

“Our response here in London will be proportionate, it will be balanced, and officers will only be taking action where it is absolutely necessary,” he said.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said the goal was to keep the event safe, “and try to do it in as unobtrusive a way as possible, because this is obviously a solemn occasion.”

Dean of Westminster David Hoyle, who will conduct the funeral service in the 900-year-old abbey, said preparations were going smoothly — despite the occasional security-related glitch.

“There was a wonderful moment when I had flower arrangers waiting in the abbey, and no flowers, because, quite properly, the police didn’t recognize what the van was and the flowers were sent back,” he said.

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Kwasi Kwarteng vows ‘no more distractions’ after scrapping key U.K. tax provision

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng sought to reassure jangled nerves in his ruling Conservative party with a pledge to deliver on the government’s economic strategy just hours after making a humiliating U-turn on a plan to cut taxes for top earners.

“No more distractions,” he told the Conservative party conference in Birmingham on Monday. “We have a plan and we need to get on with it.”

Kwarteng’s keynote speech to the Tory faithful came after he backtracked on a plan to scrap the 45% rate of income tax in order to head off the growing threat of a party rebellion. He began the speech remarking: “What a day. It has been tough but we need to focus on the job in hand.”

The policy reversal—just 10 days after first announcing the measure—is a major embarrassment for Kwarteng and Prime Minister Liz Truss. The abolition of the top rate was a signature part of their “plan for growth”, as they unveiled the biggest set of unfunded tax cuts in half a century in a dramatic fiscal statement on Sept. 23.

The package sparked a market rout, sending the pound to an all-time low against the dollar and forcing the Bank of England into a dramatic intervention to stave off a gilt market crash. 

‘A Little Turbulence’

“I know the plan from 10 days ago has caused a little turbulence,” Kwarteng said. “We are listening and have listened and now I want to focus on delivering major parts of our growth package.” 

Kwarteng said he planned to push ahead with other elements of his fiscal strategy, including reversing an increase in the National Insurance payroll tax brought in earlier this year by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, bringing forward a 1 percentage-point cut in the basic rate of income tax, and canceling Sunak’s plan to raise corporation tax to 25% from 19%. 

“This government will always be on the side of those who need help the most,” he said.

That was an attempt to undo the damage of the original plan on the 45% tax rate, which had triggered dismay among some Conservative MPs over the apparent unfairness of a tax cut for the rich while poorer Britons struggle during a cost-of-living crisis. 

Benefits

At the same time, government ministers have been laying the ground for more public spending cuts including on welfare payments. Earlier in the year, Sunak said benefits would increase in line with inflation later in the year, but on Monday, Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith told Bloomberg TV that no decision had yet been taken.

That’s sparked concern among some ex-ministers, who warned they could not support any real-term cuts in welfare payments. Esther McVey, a former holder of Smith’s post, told a side event at the conference it would be “a huge mistake not to give a cost of living increase in benefits.”

Michael Gove, the former minister who has become an unofficial recruiting sergeant for unhappy Tories, told Times Radio he also would “need a lot of persuading” to back benefits not being uprated in line with inflation.

But Gove did indicate he would support the government’s tax measures now the abolition of the top tax rate had been shelved.

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Elon Musk’s ‘peace’ plan for Russia and Ukraine met with backlash

Elon Musk took a break from his day job of leading carmaker Tesla and space cargo company SpaceX to post a “peace” plan for ending the war in Ukraine. But his proposal was quickly met with backlash—including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On Monday, Musk posted a poll on Twitter with four suggestions to ending the war. The first: Enlist the United Nations to supervise a redo of the recent sham elections by Russia of four Ukrainian regions that it formally annexed last week. Next, he called for Crimea—invaded by Russia in 2014 and currently occupied by it—to formally become part of Russia. Then, he said Crimea’s water supply should be assured. And lastly, he argued, Ukraine should remain neutral rather than joining NATO. 

“This is highly likely to be the outcome in the end – just a question of how many die before then,” Musk wrote, as a follow up. “Also worth noting that a possible, albeit unlikely, outcome from this conflict is nuclear war.” 

Less than three hours after his first tweet, Zelensky responded to Musk with his own poll, mocking Musk’s plan. 

“Which @elonmusk do you like more?” Zelensky asked. The two choices? One who supports Ukraine, and one who supports Russia. 

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, also piled on Musk in atypical fashion for a diplomat. “Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you,” he wrote. Melnyk later added that no Ukrainian would ever buy a Tesla, telling Musk “good luck.”

Musk, however, persisted. 

“Let’s try this then: the will of the people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine,” he wrote—asking his Twitter followers to answer either “yes” or “no.”

Financial Times correspondent Christopher Miller replied to Musk’s tweet, referring to the Ukrainian Independence Referendum, when Ukrainians were asked to vote on the country’s independence.

“Let’s not try that, @elonmusk,” he wrote. “The people of Donbas & Crimea made their decision in 1991, when Ukrainians from those areas & all others voted freely & unanimously to be in Ukraine.” 

Donbas, a region in Eastern Ukraine, is now nearly fully occupied by Russia. But Ukraine has vowed to liberate it. 

In suggesting Crimea—a peninsula that’s been at the center of Russia and Ukraine’s conflicts—should formally become part of Russia, Musk made clear his belief that the region belongs to Russia, adding that Crimea’s being transferred to Ukraine from Russia by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was a “mistake.” 

A top advisor to Zelensky responded sarcastically to Musk’s Twitter diplomacy  by saying there was a “better peace plan”—including Ukraine liberating its territories, Russia demilitarizing and denuclearizing so it can no longer threaten others, and war criminals be put on trial. 

It’s not just Ukrainian officials who pushed back against Musk. Many of his Twitter followers sounded off in the comments, calling him a “disappointment” and asking that he refrain from weighing in on a topic so outside of his expertise.  

Despite the often hostile response, Musk gave his peace plan one more push on Twitter. 

“Russia is doing partial mobilization. They go to full war mobilization if Crimea is at risk. Death on both sides will be devastating,” the tweet said. “Russia has >3 times population of Ukraine, so victory for Ukraine is unlikely in total war. If you care about the people of Ukraine, seek peace.”

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Global recession could happen because of wealthy nations raising interest rates, United Nations says

Governments around the world are determined to bring down inflation whatever the cost, but a growing chorus of voices is pointing out that aggressive monetary policies could have some serious and long-lasting consequences on the world economy.

Central banks in the U.S., Europe, and the U.K. have pursued relentless monetary tightening policies this year to reduce domestic inflation, but transnational institutions including the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund have warned that this approach could push the world into a long period of low economic growth and persistently high prices, according to a Monday report.

“The world is headed towards a global recession and prolonged stagnation unless we quickly change the current policy course of monetary and fiscal tightening in advanced economies,” the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) cautioned in an annual global trade forecast report released on Monday.

The report predicted that current monetary policies in wealthy nations could spark an economic downturn worldwide, with growth slipping from 2.5% in 2022 to 2.2% next year. The UN says that such a slowdown would leave global GDP well below its pre-pandemic norm, and cost the world economy around $17 trillion, or 20% of the world’s income. And developing nations will be the most negatively impacted, according to the report, and many might be facing a recession worse than any financial crisis in the past 20 years.

“The policy moves that we have seen in advanced economies are affecting economic, social, and climate goals. They are hitting the poorest the hardest,” Unctad director Rebeca Grynspan said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.

“They could inflict worse damage than the financial crisis in 2008,” Grynspan said.

A ‘policy-induced’ recession

The UN agency made clear it will hold central banks around the world responsible for causing the next global recession.

“Excessive monetary tightening and inadequate financial support” in advanced economies could backfire spectacularly, resulting in high levels of public and private debt in the developing world, the report says.

Rising interest rates and fears of a coming recession have sent the value of the U.S. dollar soaring against all other currencies this year. And while this has been great news for American tourists traveling abroad, it’s a fiscal nightmare for developing countries, where import prices are rising fast and servicing dollar-denominated debt is becoming untenably expensive.

Debt levels in emerging markets have been hitting record highs for months, but the strong dollar has exacerbated uneven balances and raised inflation in developing nations as well, according to a separate economic report from the UN published on Monday.

With debt becoming more expensive to service, emerging economies have fewer funds available to invest in health care, climate resilience, and other critical infrastructure, the Unctad report warned, which could lead to a prolonged period of economic stagnation.

“We may be on the edge of a policy-induced global recession,” Grynspan said. 

The report urged advanced economies to consider ways to reduce inflation other than raising interest rates. Grynspan insisted that inflation in every country today is because of a “distributional crisis,” caused by supply-chain bottlenecks unresolved from the pandemic-era, and recommended wealthy nations invest more in developing nations and optimizing supply chains around the world.

Grynspan also called for more debt relief and restructuring packages for emerging economies that are struggling to service their debt.

Unctad joins a growing number of transnational institutions calling on wealthy nations to consider what their efforts to reduce inflation at home is doing to the global economy. Last week, World Bank president David Malpass urged wealthy countries to focus on the supply side of the inflation problem by investing more in production in developing nations and in optimizing supply chains.

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