Your Monday Briefing: Seoul Mourns Halloween Crush Victims

Your Monday Briefing: Seoul Mourns Halloween Crush Victims

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At least 150 people were killed in Seoul after they were crushed in a Halloween crowd on Saturday. Most were in their teens and 20s, and women significantly outnumbered men among the victims.

South Koreans are trying to understand how the crowd crush happened now that most of the victims have been identified. Witnesses said they saw almost no crowd control and scant police presence in the hours leading up to the tragedy, even though people were filling the streets. The crush happened in Itaewon, a popular nightlife district, on the first Halloween after most pandemic-related social distancing measures were lifted.

As the night grew more frenetic and the mass of revelers swelled, many of them crammed into an alleyway barely 11 feet wide, in a bottleneck of human traffic that made it difficult to breathe and move. From within the crowd came calls to “push, push” and a big shove. Then, they began to fall, a tangle of too many bodies, compressed into too small of a space.

Toll: At a community center where family members had been awaiting news, wrenching wails followed dreaded confirmations. Shin Su-Bin, 25, is among the dead. Her family had been calling her phone that night to no answer.

Details: Among those killed in Itaewon, Seoul’s most diverse neighborhood, were citizens of the U.S., China, Iran, Norway and Uzbekistan. Yoon Suk Yeol, South Korea’s president, has declared a weeklong period of national mourning.

Context: The tragedy is one of the deadliest peacetime accidents in South Korea’s history. In recent years, it has been eclipsed only by the Sewol ferry sinking in 2014, where more than 300 people died — including 250 high school students.

Russia’s move came hours after a drone attack on its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, which Russia blamed on Ukraine. Russia said it could no longer ensure the security of cargo ships taking grain from Ukrainian ports and would suspend the agreement’s implementation “for an indefinite period.”

The grain deal, which was signed in July, also aimed to lower food prices. Russia’s move jeopardized a rare case of wartime coordination, which ended a five-month Russian blockade. The deal allowed more than 9.2 million tons of grain and foodstuffs to be exported again. Many were bound for poor countries.

Reaction: The U.S. accused Russia of using food as a weapon. “It’s really outrageous to increase starvation,” President Biden said on Saturday.

Fighting: With Western weaponry, Ukraine now has a front line advantage in the south. Despite the slog of mud season, its army keeps advancing.

Toll: Ukraine’s children face years of trauma.

Voters headed to the polls yesterday to cast their ballots in a presidential runoff. Polls closed just before this newsletter was sent, and results are still coming. Here are live results and an overview of the race.

Voters faced a stark choice after an ugly campaign. Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, seeks a second term as president. He faces Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the once-incarcerated former leader who vows to revive leftist policies.

The vote carries major consequences for the Amazon, and thus the entire planet. Bolsonaro gutted the agencies tasked with protecting the rainforest, leading to increased deforestation. Da Silva has vowed to eradicate illegal logging and mining.

It is also a test for democracy. Bolsonaro has spent years attacking Brazil’s democratic institutions, including a sustained effort to undermine its election systems. In so doing, he has destroyed public trust in the elections.

What’s next: If Bolsonaro loses, will he accept his defeat?

Details: Brazil’s elections chief ordered the head of the country’s highway police to answer allegations that he had ordered traffic stops, particularly of buses transporting voters to the polls, in an effort to suppress turnout.

Until recently, Saudi Arabia banned Halloween, which was viewed as suspicious and pagan. But this past weekend, the kingdom hosted a government-sponsored “horror weekend” — not strictly speaking a Halloween festival, but certainly conveniently timed.

Clowns and goblins filled the streets, and costume shops sold out almost as fast as employees could restock the shelves. “Saudi is changing,” said a young man going as a wizard.

Last week, Mexico’s Senate voted to end daylight saving time for most of the country, prioritizing morning light. In March, the U.S. Senate took the opposite approach when it unanimously passed legislation to make daylight saving time permanent. (The House has not found consensus.)

Each side of the debate carries strong opinions. The business community generally supports keeping daylight saving time: Many retailers and outdoor industries say that extra afternoon light can boost sales because people have more time to spend money after work or school.

But many scientists believe that doing away with it, as Mexico is poised to do, is better for human health. They argue that aligns more closely with the sun’s progression — and, therefore, with the body’s natural clock.

Mexico’s Senate seems to agree. “This new law seeks to guarantee the human right to health and increase safety in the mornings, procure the well-being and productivity of the population, and contribute to saving electric energy,” the body said on Twitter.

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