From tragedy in South Korea to Russia backtracking on the Black Sea grain deal – Here’s your October 31 news briefing

From tragedy in South Korea to Russia backtracking on the Black Sea grain deal – Here’s your October 31 news briefing
A man pays tribute near the scene of the stampede during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea, October 30, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-ji

To start off, we’re looking into:

153 killed in Seoul Halloween celebration

On Saturday night, at least 153 people were killed while celebrating Halloween in the Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul in South Korea. This year, Itaewon attracted thousands of partygoers to celebrate the first mask-free outdoor Halloween since the pandemic started. The incident took place in a crowded party area; thousands of people surged into a narrow alleyway, crushing each other in one of the worst tragedies in South Korea in years.

Seoul officials received more than 3,500 missing person reports on Sunday afternoon. The first emergency call received was at 10:24 p.m. As the tragic event unfolded, it received massive attention from thousands of emergency responders. Footage on social media revealed the horror of the accident, showing emergency workers doing CPR on multiple people, with dozens of bodies lying on the street and firefighters trying to pull people trapped at the bottom of the crowds.

The government announced a national mourning period until midnight on November 5, and there’ll be further investigation into the cause of the crush.

Russia goes back on Ukraine’s grain export agreement

Ukraine grain
FILE PHOTO: A combine harvests wheat in a field near the village of Zghurivka, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv region, Ukraine August 9, 2022. REUTERS/Viacheslav Musiienko/File Photo

Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports were interrupted by Russia’s invasion earlier this year, and grain has been piling up in the country for over eight months. But, in July, the UN negotiated a deal with Russia to allow Ukraine to ship its grain to ease a global food crisis. The deal is important, as Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest grain producers.

But, after blaming Ukraine and the UK for a “massive” drone-led attack on its navel fleet in Crimea, a region annexed by Putin in 2014, Russia announced on Sunday it would suspend the agreement indefinitely.

Ukraine President Zelenskiy didn’t seem surprised by Russia’s move and called for an international response. US President Biden called the suspension “outrageous,” and said it’ll increase starvation. One thing is for sure – the deal’s suspension could cast more uncertainty on global markets and increase fears of food shortages.

Iran’s protesters ignore an ultimatum

Iran protests
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander-in-Chief Major General Hossein Salami, speaks during a funeral ceremony in Shiraz, Iran October 29, 2022. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

It’s been more than a month of mass protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini while she was in police custody. The protests against the Iranian government have been met with deadly violence. Other young people, including Nika Shakarami, have been killed during these demonstrations.

Rather than negotiate with protestors, officials have issued an ultimatum. The head of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, warned that this past Saturday would be the “last day” of protest. It wasn’t.

On Sunday, protests continued, with demonstrators totally ignoring Salami. But, with this warning, some think that security forces are preparing even harsher crackdowns, meaning more violence, internet restrictions and mass arrests. Videos taken Sunday showed security forces beating protesters, firing tear gas and shooting into crowds. They also tried to block students inside university buildings, fire tear gas and hit protesters with sticks. The students appeared to be unarmed. Will the violence continue to intensify?

To end, we’ll look into:

Elon’s Twitterverse

Since Elon Musk officially acquired Twitter last Thursday, there have already been some operational changes.

Internally, there have been some major shifts in how Twitter is run. First, Musk let some top executives go, the first of what will probably be major job cuts affecting the company’s 7,500 employees. CEO Parag Agrawal was tossed, as well as CFO Ned Segal and policy head Vijaya Gaddeso (consider the golden parachutes deployed). In a truly bizarre move, Musk also told Twitter engineers to print out dozens of pages of code to be reviewed by Tesla engineers. They were then told to shred these documents because that was a terrible idea.

Onto user-facing changes, Musk intends to work on Twitter’s content moderation policies, really pushing his idea of “free speech.” He also openly disagreed with permanent user bans. When he finalized the Twitter deal, Musk tweeted, “the bird is freed.”

And, of course, that’s when everything went nuts. Hate speech has completely boiled over since then. Trolls are tweeting slurs like crazy and making sexist, homophobic and racist posts. The Network Contagion Research Institute, a social media research group, said that the use of “the N-word” on Twitter increased by nearly 500% in the 12 hours after Musk took the helm.

“Unfortunately, this spike in hateful language is entirely predictable. For most of these trolls, it’s a game. But for others, including certain political influencers, saying hateful, outlandish things helps them increase their audience and make money. And they see this as a golden opportunity to gain even more attention,” explained Dr. Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University.

Advertisers have noticed and are worried about issues with content moderation and potential conflicts over ads. In fact, GM temporarily suspended advertising, saying, “We are engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership.” In response to these concerns, Musk tried to reassure advertisers, saying he wants Twitter to be “warm and welcoming to all” rather than a “free-for-all hellscape.”

We’ll see.

In other news …

🌉Bridge collapse in India: At least 78 people have died after a pedestrian bridge collapsed in Gujarat, India. There were up to 400 people on the bridge when it fell, and rescue efforts are ongoing. The bridge was reopened following repairs just days ago.

🌀Storm Nalgae hits the Philippines: Tropical Storm Nalgae has hit the Philippines, and it’s caused massive flooding and landslides. At least 50 people have died, and as many as 60 are missing.

🙋‍♂️Lebanon’s president leaves early: President Michel Aoun of Lebanon resigned a day earlier than expected. There’s no successor selected to replace him yet. Lebanon has been facing a massive economic crisis and is still struggling to overcome it.

🚫The DRC expels Rwandan ambassador: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has told Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karenga to leave the country. The DRC is doing this because of Rwanda’s alleged support of M23 rebels fighting in the Congo.

🔐China’s new state security minister: China just appointed Chen Yixin as state security minister, replacing Chen Wenqing. He’s been heading a campaign over the past few years to get rid of corrupt security and legal officials.

🐍Cobra on the lam: A venomous king cobra escaped from a Swedish zoo six days ago and was found inside the same building as its terrarium, but it still hasn’t been recaptured. It escaped Saturday through a ceiling light fixture within its enclosure. The snake’s official name is Sir Vass (Sir Hiss), but since its escape, it’s been nicknamed Houdini.

🎃Halloweekend 2022: Today is Halloween, and this past weekend we saw so many fun and inventive costumes. Tik-Toker Addison Rae dressed up as Lady Gaga from her 2009 VMAs Paparazzi performance. Other celebrities dressed up, too, with Kim Kardashian as X-Men’s Mystique, Lizzo as Marge Simpson, JoJo Siwa as Draco Malfoy, Keke Palmer as Rapunzel, Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox as Pamela Anderson And Tommy Lee and Olivia Rodrigo as Betty Boop.

Written and put together by Joey Fung, Vanessa Wolosz, and Christine D