The US Federal Reserve kept its key short-term interest rate unchanged for a second straight time but left the door open to further rate hikes if inflation pressures should accelerate in the months ahead. The Fed said in a statement after its latest meeting that it would keep its benchmark rate at about 5.4%, its highest level in 22 years. Since launching the most aggressive series of rate hikes in four decades in March 2022 to fight inflation, the Fed has pulled back and has now raised rates only once since May.

Its latest statement noted that the economy "expanded at a strong pace" in the July-September quarter and that job gains "remain strong." And it reiterated that future rate hikes remain under consideration. At a news conference, Chair Jerome Powell suggested that the Fed was edging closer to the end of its rate-hiking campaign. He noted that the sharply higher longer-term rates could help lower inflation without necessarily requiring further rate hikes.

Pakistan began arresting and deporting Afghan refugees who missed a deadline for them to leave by Wednesday morning (Nov 1), a government minister announced. At least 200,000 people have already returned to Afghanistan voluntarily, said Pakistan's acting interior minister, Sarfraz Bugti. The crackdown on unregistered foreigners, part of Pakistan's new anti-immigrant policy, affects some 2 million Afghans thought to be in Pakistan without documentation.

Afghans would be put in buses, trucks or whatever was available to transport them to the border, said Bugti, and authorities would be tracking them to ensure they did not return. Pakistan's policy of forcibly returning refugees has drawn widespread criticism from UN agencies and rights groups, and from the Taliban administration in Afghanistan. Pakistan's policy of forcibly returning refugees has drawn widespread criticism from UN agencies and rights groups, and from the Taliban administration in Afghanistan. The numbers of Afghans crossing into Pakistan rose dramatically after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his government will spend over 17 trillion yen ($113 billion) in a package of measures to cushion the economic blow from rising inflation, which will include tax cuts. To fund part of the spending, the government will compile a supplementary budget for the current fiscal year of 13.1 trillion yen, Kishida told reporters. The over 17 trillion yen-package will include temporary cuts to income and residential taxes, as well as subsidies to curb gasoline and utility bills.

Inflation, fuelled by rising costs of raw materials, has kept above the central bank's target of 2% for more than a year, weighing on consumption and clouding the outlook for an economy making a delayed recovery from scars left by COVID-19. The rising cost of living is partly blamed for pushing down Kishida's approval ratings, piling pressure on the prime minister to take steps to ease the pain on households.

A senior UN official who sent a letter denouncing the organisation's failure to protect civilians in Gaza had been subject to a review into allegedly biased social media posts after a pro-Israel lobby group complained. Craig Mokhiber, director of the New York office of the UN high commissioner for human rights, wrote on October 28 to the UN high commissioner in Geneva, Volker Türk, accusing Israel of committing genocide and his employer of failing to stop it. "This will be my last communication to you," he said. He has since stepped down.

A complaint about Mokhiber's social media output and broadcast interviews had been under review since March by the UN's investigations division office of internal oversight services. After an assessment as to whether there may have been merit in further action, the case was passed on earlier this month to the high commissioner for human rights, as the "responsible official" to make his own assessment. Mokhiber said he had not been made aware of the review.

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