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Climate Change Causes Heat Waves in India and Pakistan

Extreme heat waves have engulfed India and Pakistan since March, with temperatures rising to up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), according to NASA. The temperatures, which are higher than average, are a result of climate change.

The effects of the heat waves include death, illness, reduced crop yields, poor air quality, and one of the worst electricity shortages in more than six years as power demands go up. While heat waves are common in the region this time of year, the number of spring heat waves has been increasing as global warming intensifies.

The deadly heat waves have also caused India — the world’s second-largest wheat producer — to ban wheat exports. India initially planned to fill the gap left by Ukraine and Russia, which together export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat. This and other factors have driven up global food prices — agricultural prices are up 41% compared to January 2021, with wheat prices up by 60%.

Consumers Keep Spending as Inflation Rises

Source: The Economist

Americans are heading into Black Friday sales ready to spend, even as their confidence in the economy drops. 

U.S. consumer spending seemed resilient to inflation in recent months, increasing by 0.6% in September and 6.2% since last year. Retail sales also rose more than expected, up by 1.3% in October, their strongest gain in eight months. That gain was driven, in part, by early holiday sales in October, from retailers like Amazon and Target.

But some retailers don’t expect that spending to last, as steep prices mean consumer dollars don’t go as far compared to previous years. Despite deeper discounts, inflation has pushed the cost of goods like toys and electronics higher than in 2021. Clothing is the only category that is cheaper this year.

About 60% of consumers said that they had already cut spending in response to inflation, while more said they would cut spending next year. That uncertainty was reflected in this month’s consumer sentiment index, which recorded a drop in consumer confidence of 9% —  the first decline since the index’s all-time low in June.

Grocery Prices Rise Before Thanksgiving

Source: CNBC

Thanksgiving will be a more expensive affair this year as inflation and the effects of climate change push food — including turkey — costs higher. 

Consumer prices from gas to clothing rose by 7.7% over the past year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this month. Grocery prices rose even higher, with food items 12.4% more expensive than October 2021. Turkey alone costs 23% more than last year, while the cost of staples like eggs, butter and flour has increased by up to 32.5%.

Despite the significant gains over last year, the Consumer Price Index rose less than expected in October. Prices rose 0.4%, the same increase as September, instead of the Dow Jones’ estimated 0.6%. The slowdown has some economists saying that inflation is beginning to moderate, though it is still above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.

Qatar Hosts the Most Expensive World Cup Ever

Source: Statista

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which kicked off November 20, is the most expensive World Cup ever, with costs reaching $220 billion. The expenses included new stadiums, but the majority of the money was spent on new infrastructure like hotels, airports, and a metro system. Tickets are also the highest price they’ve ever been: football fans paid an average of $340 per match, roughly 40% more than for the 2018 tournament.

Host countries like Qatar, Russia, and Brazil hope to balance the cost with this investment in infrastructure, international exposure, and a boost in tourism. Qatar expects more than 1 million tourists to come for the event. But research shows that most mega-sporting events have a zero or negative effect on tourism.

That cost-benefit analysis doesn’t include attracting international attention, but Qatar has drawn international criticism for the human cost of the tournament. Human rights organizations have accused Qatar of exploiting hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrant workers who built the stadiums. Amnesty International reports thousands of those workers died while working in high heat and dangerous conditions, though the exact count is unknown because officials attributed most deaths to “natural causes.”

Ballot Measures Reveal the Importance of Civil Rights for Americans

During the recent U.S. midterm elections, Americans voted on a wide range of ballot measures in their states on issues such as abortion, voting rights, and slavery in prisons.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade put abortion on a number of ballot measures. Five states —  California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont — chose to support abortion access. In California, Michigan, and Vermont, voters added the right to an abortion to their state constitutions. In Kentucky and Montana, voters rejected ballot measures that would have further restricted abortion — despite having Republican-led legislatures in both states.

The widespread — and false — claims of voter fraud in previous elections prompted intense scrutiny of voting rights. Voters in four out of six states expanded their voting laws, or rejected voting restrictions. Connecticut, Michigan, and Arizona expanded voting access, while Nevada opened primaries to all voters. Nebraska and Ohio limited voting access. 

A number of states voted to remove all language from their constitutions that allowed slavery to be used as a punishment for a crime. The U.S. Constitution technically still permits slavery to be used as a punishment, but Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont voted to ban slavery in all contexts, although Louisiana voted against a ban.

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