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Chinese Fires, Castro Invective, Obama's Beach Reads

Chinese Fires, Castro Invective, Obama's Beach Reads


After what the newspaper Kathimerini describes as "a tempestuous night of debate," Greek lawmakers this morning approved the deal reached with international lenders for a third Greek bailout. It will now go to the Eurozone's finance ministers, who are due to meet later today, and all eyes will focus on the "isolated" German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund renewed calls for the EU to "write-down" part of Greece's debt, which the organization believes has become unsustainable.

  • Though successful, today's vote leaves Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras badly wounded. The Syriza leader has lost the support of 42 lawmakers inside his radical-left party, and it's believed he might call a confidence vote as early as next week. The BBC notes that Parliament Speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou and former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis voted against the bailout agreement, while another Syriza legislator, Panagiotis Lafazanis, told Tsipras, "I feel ashamed for you. We no longer have a democracy, but a Eurozone dictatorship."
  • According to Kathimerini, the 85-million-euro bailout will bring drastic tax hikes in many crucial sectors of the Greek economy, including in the farming and shipping industries.


"Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars," former Cuban leader Fidel Castro wrote in an opinion column yesterday in the Communist newspaper Granma, marking his 89th birthday with a swing at the United States. He denounced the American embargo against his country and President Nixon's 1971 decision to end the convertibility of U.S. dollars in gold, which effectively killed the Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange. But Castro's piece makes no mention of today's reopening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the latest step in the normalization of bilateral relations.


U.S. officials believe ISIS used a chemical agent against Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq earlier this week, The Wall Street Journaland CNN report. Specifically, they say, about 60 Kurdish fighters began showing wounds consistent with mustard gas Wednesday, which could have been obtained from old weapons caches.


Photo: Arnold Drapkin/ZUMA

Air pollution kills an average of 4,000 people every day in China, with coal-burning believed to be the primary cause, researchers say in a new study. As many as 17% of China's annual deaths are related to a group of tiny particles that can cause heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and asthma, the study claims. "It's as if every man, woman and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour," co-author Richard Muller wrote, describing air pollution in Beijing. Read more from Bloomberg.


Firefighters are still battling flames in the Chinese city of Tianjin, where two gigantic explosions devastated entire areas of the port city Wednesday night, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 700, 70 of them critically, Xinhua reports. It's still unclear what caused the initial fire, which ignited chemicals being stored at a warehouse. According to Global Times newspaper, authorities said they had found no traces of hazardous chemicals in the seawater around the city. Many fear that the materials that caused the explosions could pose a danger to the population and contaminate the air and water.


What did Pompeii look like before Mount Vesuvius erupted? And what was on the famous Herculaneum scrolls? Modern technology can provide answers, Les Echos' Yann Verdo reports. "Herculaneum and especially Pompeii, a small thriving town at the time of the eruption, would become famous centuries later because of how they were inadvertently preserved by the disaster. Since their discovery in the 18th century, the ruined towns have been an ongoing subject of fascination, as much so for today's scientists as it was for their predecessors," the journalist writes. "Researchers today have come up with an entirely new way of reconstituting the nearly 1,000-year-old disaster. The approach, which uses bytes rather than plaster, and processing power instead of physical excavation, was developed by French researchers and engineers from Microsoft Research and the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA), along with help of the startups Iconem and Cintoo 3D."

Read the full article, Revisiting Pompeii With Drones, Algorithms And Super Processors.



Scientists believe that this year's El Niño could be the most powerful on record, disrupting weather patterns across the globe with hotter temperatures, The New York Times reports. And although the climate phenomenon is expected to bring "enormous amounts of rain to California," it won't be anywhere near enough to end the state's devastating drought.


Happy birthday to Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who turns 59 today. This, and more, in today's shot of history.


The White House has released Barack Obama's reading list, as the U.S. president is on Martha's Vineyard for his annual two-week summer vacation. Yes, he too is reading Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer-Prize winning novel All the Light We Cannot See.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Our Next Four Days In Gaza: Digging For The Dead, Hunting For Food, Hoping Ceasefire Sticks

With Qatar now confirming that the temporary truce will begin Friday morning, ordinary Gazans may be able to breathe for the first time since Oct. 7. But for most, the task ahead is a mix of heartbreak and the most practical tasks to survive. And there’s the question hanging over all: can the ceasefire become permanent?

Photo of Palestinians looking for their belongings in the rubble of their housein Deir al-Balah, Gaza

Palestinians look for their belongings in the rubble of their housein Deir al-Balah, Gaza

Elias Kassem

It’s what just about everyone in Gaza has been waiting for: a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war is expected to begin Friday, bringing a respite to more than 2.3 million people who have been living under war and siege for seven straight weeks.

By the stipulations of the deal, the truce is expected to last four days, during which time Hamas will release hostages captured during their Oct. 7 assault and Israel will release Palestinian prisoners from their jails.

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While details of the negotiations continue, ordinary Palestinians know they may only have four days before the bombs starting dropping and tanks start rolling again.

Some will continue sifting through the rubble, looking to find trapped family members, after searches were interrupted by new rounds of air attacks.

Other Gazans will try to find shelter in what they’ve been told are safer areas in the south of Palestinian enclave. Some will hurry back to inspect their homes, especially in the northern half of the strip where Israeli ground forces have battled Palestinian militants for weeks.

Ahmed Abu Radwan says he will try to return to his northern town of Beit Lahia, with the aim of resuming digging the rubble of his home in hopes of pulling the bodies of his 8-year-old son Omar.

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