Hard Numbers: Iran cracks down on women, bestsellers sue AI, Venezuelan migrants get right to work, India suspends Canadian visas, Turkey jacks up rates
10: Under a new law passed Wednesday, Iranian women could be jailed for up to ten years if they refuse to wear hijab. The crackdown comes just days after the one year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in state custody after the morality police arrested her for not wearing hijab properly.
17: A group of 17 prominent authors are suing OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, accusing the company of “systematic theft on a mass scale.” The suit says ChatGPT has violated their copyright protections because it draws upon their texts to build its language models and responses. The complaint also alleges that ChatGPT can be used to plagiarize them, and includes examples for each writer — including a Game of Thrones prequel called “Dawn of Direwolves”. (Can I read it? - Matt)
472,000: As President Joe Biden left the Big Apple late Wednesday, his administration announced that Venezuelans already in the country could legally live and work in the US for the next 18 months. The decision will affect 472,000 Venezuelans nationwide and roughly half of New York City’s migrants, letting them support themselves and easing the strain on New York’s social safety net. (For more on the situation in New York, see our explainer).
80,000: India announced it would suspend visas for Canadians amid the ongoing row over the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Last year about 80,000 Canadians visited India. Should Canada reciprocate, it could threaten the visa status of over 320,000 Indian students in Canadian universities.
30: The central bank in Turkey raised interest rates by an aggressive 5 percentage points to 30%, as official inflation rates topped 58%. It’s part of a major reversal of the Erdogan administration’s policy after winning re-election back in May: the previous economic team insisted on cutting rates even as prices soared.
(Department of Corrections: While we’re talking interest rates, in yesterday’s edition we mistakenly said the Fed’s rate pause was their first in 18 months. In fact, they decided on a pause in June, 2023 as well. We regret the error and hope it doesn’t affect your rate of interest in the Daily)
Maybe you saw the shock headline – “Poland no longer supplying weapons to Ukraine amid grain row” – and wondered how such close allies had experienced such a significant wartime falling-out.
Early Wednesday, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the country had stopped weapons shipments to Ukraine, presumably in response to criticism from Ukraine’s President Zelensky over Poland’s refusal to buy Ukrainian grain diverted by war. But the shocked international response to Morawiecki’s message forced Poland’s government to quickly backtrack/clarify its position.
Here’s the critical context:
· Poland will continue to supply Ukraine with weapons it has already promised to deliver.
· Poland’s stock of excess weapons is currently close to depletion, leaving its government with little more to offer, at least for the moment.
· Poland is, and will remain, the path through which arms shipments from other countries reach Ukraine.
One more point to remember: Poland will hold parliamentary elections on October 15. Prime Minister Morawiecki is well aware the far-right Confederation party can pull votes from his center-right party by criticizing the cost of continuing support for Ukraine. By appearing to punish Poland’s eastern neighbor, Morawiecki can try to protect his vote share.Bottom-line: Don’t be fooled. Poland remains Ukraine’s staunch ally against Russia.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a visit to Italy that both countries had reached the “limits of [their] capacity” to accommodate migrants, and called for “fair distribution” of the burdens of migration across the European Union.
The background. In just the last week, over 11,000 people have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa. They’re part of the 127,000 migrants who have landed in Italy in 2023, more than double the number who had arrived by this point in 2022.
Under current EU asylum regulations, migrants are required to apply for asylum in the member state to which they first arrive. Should they, say, leave Italy to try their chances with Germany’s relatively generous system, they’re to be deported back.
But Rome has recently been refusing to accept back asylum-seekers who leave, citing the disproportionate influx. That caused a row with Berlin, which announced last week it would suspend a voluntary agreement to take in 3,500 asylum seekers who had landed in Italy — before suddenly reversing course.
The European Union received over 519,000 asylum requests between January and June, a 28% year-on-year increase and the most since 2016. Germany fielded 30%, about as many as France and Spain combined. That’s not counting over a million Ukrainian refugees whom Germany hosts, far and away the most in Western Europe.
So when Meloni says the rest of the bloc needs to share the burden, it resonates in Berlin. It’s also in the SPD’s interest to be seen taking a more proactive anti-immigration stance, as their conservative rivals have recently revived the idea of a national migrant cap. It’s part of a larger shift on migration politics in Germany, as even SPD’s left-wing allies in the Green party call for tougher migration standards faced with the ascendance of the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland.
Convincing the rest of the bloc to step up will be difficult. Since migration to Europe from Syria spiked in 2015, the EU has struggled to find consensus on bloc-wide immigration policies due to conflicting pressures in the politics of each member state.
Just one day after launching a fresh assault on the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan halted its offensive under a ceasefire in which ethnic-Armenian separatists there reportedly agreed to surrender and disarm.
This effectively marks the end of Karabakh’s decades-long de facto independence from Azerbaijan. As a reminder, Karabakh is officially part of Azerbaijan, but historically had an ethnic-Armenian majority and has been run by Armenian separatists since a war of independence in the early 1990s.
In a 2020 flare up of the conflict, Azerbaijan — with ample help from Turkey — reconquered parts of Karabakh and surrounded it.
The capitulation of the Karabakh authorities means that the enclave is now effectively under Azeri control. For Azerbaijan, retaking Karabakh has been a nationalist dream for decades. President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday promised to turn Karabakh into “a paradise.”
But the fate of ethnic Armenians there is now in the balance. Both sides have carried out ethnic cleansing of each other’s populations over the past 30 years. Thousands of ethnic Armenians have reportedly rushed the airport already at Stepanakert, the Karabakh capital, looking to flee ahead of any Azeri reprisals.
Russia, whose peacekeepers have spottily overseen a ceasefire in the region since 2020, said that it would host talks on the future political and ethnic composition of Karabakh beginning on Thursday.
Hard Numbers: Rwanda’s Kagame will run again, the EU takes on Uber, water contamination threat in Libya, US Fed keeps cool
4: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who has been in power since 2000, announced that he’ll run for a fourth term in next year’s election.
Kagame, who has been accused of cracking down on the opposition, tweaked the constitution back in 2015 to extend presidential term limits. Asked about what “the West” might think of his move, Kagame, didn’t mince words: “What these countries think is not our problem.”
40: A top Uber executive has warned that an EU proposal to classify gig workers as employees could boost ride prices by as much as 40%. Brussels says Uber should provide more job security and benefits for its employees. Uber, which has come up against similar battles in Spain, the UK and elsewhere, says the measure will hurt consumers and lead to “devastating” job losses.
4,000: Over a week after a catastrophic flood tore through two dams in eastern Libya, killing 4,000 people (while 9,000 remain missing) the UN has warned that sewage is contaminating water supplies, raising the specter of waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhea, and hepatitis.5.25-5.55: The US Federal Reserve held interest rates steady at 5.25-5.55, still the highest level in more than two decades after 11 rate hikes beginning in March 2022. The decision gives policy makers some breathing room to plot their next moves amid subsiding inflation. Still, with price growth well above the Fed’s 2% target, rates could stay above 5% well into 2024, analysts warn.
Correction:Yesterday, we incorrectly stated that the Fed's pause was the first in 18 months. The Federal reserve also paused rate hikes in June, 2023. We regret the error.
A month out from Poland’s parliamentary elections, the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) is facing a PR nightmare of their own making: the party may be anti-immigration, but it seems they aren’t anti-cash.
There is mounting evidence that several thousand visas were given to migrants from Africa and Asia in exchange for cash– a major scandal for an anti-immigration party.
The scandal was uncovered after other EU states noticed an influx of migrants entering the Schengen area with Polish visas. Seven people have been detained and the deputy foreign minister has been sacked.
PiS is looking to win its third straight general election next month, running on a platform that highlights the party’s success in stemming immigration from Muslim-majority countries and managing ongoing tensions along the Belarusian border.
But PiS is neck and neck with the liberal opposition– former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO) – and facing a right flank challenge from the libertarian-nationalist Confederation Party. Right now it’s anyone's game, and could result in no government being formed, prompting a repeat election in early 2024.
With swing voters likely to determine the outcome of a tight election, getting caught hawking visas while running on an anti-immigrant platform could blow up for the PiS when Poles hit the polls next month.