WHILE YOU SLEPT

Australia Under Fire For “Appalling Abuse” Of Refugees

SPOTLIGHT: AUSTRALIA’S REFUGEE PROBLEM

While Europe’s migrant crisis has made headlines over the past year, another continent’s treatment of refugees has received far less scrutiny â€" until now. In a joint report published yesterday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch took the Australian government to task over what they describe as the “appalling abuse” and “neglect” of refugees.


An agreement between Australia and the South Pacific island of Nauru allows migrants to be detained on the tiny island nation before they reach Australia by boat. Nauru apparently charges foreign journalists more than $6,000 for a visa so global media coverage of the topic has been weak. Last month, however, researchers from the two rights groups managed to spend 12 days there and conducted scores of interviews.


The watchdogs report that refugees on the detention facility live in crowded and suffocating vinyl tents where temperatures can reach 50 °C (122 °F). The researchers note that refugees receive minimal health care and often face abuse from locals. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accuse the Australian government of willfully ignoring, and even condoning, the miserable conditions in an effort to deter other refugees from trying to reach the country.


Migration is a defining issue of our time and investigating stories about refugees in depth from across the world should be a key area of media coverage.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

  • Although the opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics is on Friday, the women's soccer competition between U.S. and New Zealand kicks off today.
  • Tropical Storm Earl is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall in Belize.


LARGEST REBEL OFFENSIVE IN ALEPPO

Intense fighting continues in and around Aleppo, where the largest ever rebel offensive is trying to break a government siege of the Syrian city. The siege is estimated to have cut off 250,000 civilians from basic supplies.


NORTH KOREA FIRES MISSILE IN JAPAN WATERS

The ballistic missile landed in or near Japanese-controlled waters this morning, Reuters reported. The launch is the latest in a string of tests that are in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution passed in March.


EXTRA!

Colombian police destroyed 104 FARC cocaine laboratories in the nation's thick southeastern jungle. See how Colombian daily El Tiempo featured the major drug bust on its front page here.


NICARAGUA’S ORTEGA ADDS WIFE TO PRESIDENTIAL TICKET

Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega picked wife Rosario Murillo as running mate for the Nov. 6 election in the Latin American country. As Ortega’s spokesperson, Murillo has long been the regime’s face. The independent news website El Confidencial describes her as a "de facto co-president."


â€" ON THIS DAY

This famous Milan landmark turns 238 today! Check it out â€" and more â€" in your 57-second shot of History.


BRIDGE IN INDIA COLLAPSES ...

A bridge on the highway between Mumbai and Goa collapsed, killing at least two people. Dozens more are feared dead after the colonial-era bridge gave way, reportedly causing vehicles to plunge into the river below.


… WHILE PLANE FROM INDIA CRASHES IN DUBAI

An Emirates plane carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew members from Thiruvananthapuram “crash-landed” at Dubai's airport today. All passengers were evacuated safely, according to airport authorities.


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Club Med In The Mountains â€" Axamer Lizum, 1972


63

An Australian woman became the country’s oldest first-time mother at age 63. The world record still belongs to a Romanian woman who gave birth at age 66 back in 2005.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

A meeting with shamans in Colombia allows El Espectador"s Pablo Correa to experience an "indescribable" ritual: “As the shamans chant litanies, the only lit bulb is turned off and this seemed to enhance the sound. Two youngsters moved around with incense while those seated in the room, cloaked in ponchos, were still as rocks. ... I closed my eyes. When I opened them, everything around me seemed to have changed its consistency. The universe seemed to be made up of a different material. Time had stopped. I remember seeing the moon edge a little to the right, like a clock hand.”

Read the full article, A Hallucinogenic Plant, Two Indigenous Tribes And A Trip To Remember.


MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

RAINBOW PEN

Remember when you thought you were one of the cool kids with your 4-color BIC pen? The Verge just launched one of the most innovative crowdfunded projects to date: “Cronzy,” a pen that would allow you to scan colors in real life â€" and then draw them.

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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