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Duterte, Not Lost In Translation

Foreign correspondents, and their editors, have long wrestled with translations of newsworthy words from one language to another — both those quotable quotes from colorful personalities, and the jargony langue de bois of international bureaucrats and businessmen.

We like to think of ourselves at Worldcrunch as experts in the field, and watched with some amusement as our colleagues around the English-speaking world handled the latest doozy from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Responding to U.S. criticism about his heavy-handed crackdown on the drug trade, the 71-year-old leader switched from English to his native Tagalog language to call President Obama "Putang ina" and said he would swear at him in person at an upcoming meeting. Most of the press translated the slur as "son of a bitch," though others went for the more literal "son of a whore." Either way, it led to the swift cancellation of a scheduled Duterte-Obama encounter, and recalled similar jibes that the new Filipino President has aimed at the Pope and head of the United Nations in recent months.

But even more disturbing are the consequences of Duterte's language on the streets of the Philippines, a troubled country of more than 100 million. Speaking to television reporters in June, shortly after his election victory, he sent this message to his citizens, should they witness drug activity: "Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun ... you have my support," he said. "Shoot him the drug dealer and I'll give you a medal." In the months since, more than a thousand extrajudicial killings have been recorded, with scant prosecution of the would-be vigilantes.

Soon after Obama cancelled his bilateral meeting with Duterte, the Philippines government put out a statement in English about the comments, expressing "regret that it came across as a personal attack on the U.S. president." Yes, in Paris that is called langue de bois — literally "wooden language." Obama's plain-speaking vice president would call it malarkey.


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Three gunmen were killed this morning by Afghan security forces after they had taken hostages during a 11-hour siege of a building housing an international aid group in Kabul. An Interior Ministry official said one civilian was killed and six wounded in the attack, Al Jazeera reports. A double bombing yesterday claimed by the Taliban near the Defense Ministry killed at least 24 people and wounded nearly 100 others.


Kim Jong-un called today for the reinforcement of the North Korea's nuclear arsenal a day after he supervised ballistic missile tests towards the Sea of Japan. Monday's nuclear display was strongly criticized by leaders on the closing day of the G20 summit in China, and President Obama said today that he will work with the United Nations to tighten sanctions. Read more from ABC News.


Vietnam Airlines has purchased 40 airplanes worth $6.5 billion from Airbus, the French-based European aviation manufacturer. French President François Hollande announced the deal on a trip to the Southeast Asian nation to deepen business ties, Channel News Asia reports.


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The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN) downgraded the giant panda from "endangered" to "vulnerable" as its population rose 17% from 2004 to 2014. The creation of a panda reserve system in China in 1992 increased available habitats: 67 reserves in the country protect 67% of the population and nearly 1.4 million hectares of habitat, according to CNN.


Last year, the price of vegetables in Israel surged 140% during the high holiday season, yet the government still opposes the import of cheap, high-quality produce from Gaza. For Hebrew-language daily Calcalist, Dani Rubinstein writes from Tel Aviv: "A year ago the retail chains accused farmers of exploiting the holiday season in order to drive prices up, though the farmers blamed the produce shortage on pests and bad weather. Back then, the ministry did make an exception to allow limited amounts of vegetables to be imported from Gaza to the markets of Israel's ultra-orthodox community because of the Jewish sabbatical year in which cultivation of the fields is prohibited.

While expanding the access would allow the rest of Israel's population to enjoy affordable vegetable prices during the holiday season, it would also help Gaza's economy, which is in desperate need of a boost."

Read the full article, Hungry Gaza Farmers And The Price Of A New Year's Tomato In Israel.


ISIS terrorists had planned for the attacks in November, which killed 130 in and around Paris, to part of a series of strikes around Europe, with targets in the UK and the Netherlands and other French locations. Read more from CNN.


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American tennis titan Serena Williams scored her 308th career Grand Slam singles victory at the U.S. Open yesterday. It's more than any player, man or woman, in history.



Brazil's new President Michel Temer was pictured buying a $120 pair of shoes at a shopping center in Hangzhou during his trip for the G20 summit, setting off a wave of online anger for not buying Brazilian-made products, America Economiareports. Dilma Rousseff's successor was also spotted buying a Mandarin-speaking toy dog. Wang-wang!

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How Ukraine Keeps Getting The West To Flip On Arms Supplies

The open debate on weapon deliveries to Ukraine is highly unusual, but Kyiv has figured out how to use the public moral suasion — and patience — to repeatedly shift the question in its favor. But will it work now for fighter jets?

Photo of a sunset over the USS Nimitz with a man guiding fighter jets ready for takeoff

U.S fighter jets ready for takeoff on the USS Nimitz

Pierre Haski


PARIS — In what other war have arms deliveries been negotiated so openly in the public sphere?

On Monday, a journalist asked Joe Biden if he plans on supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. He answered “No”. A few hours later, the same question was asked to Emmanuel Macron, about French fighter jets. Macron did not rule it out.

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Visiting Paris on Tuesday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksïï Reznikov recalled that a year ago, the United States had refused him ground-air Stinger missiles deliveries. Eleven months later, Washington is delivering heavy tanks, in addition to everything else. The 'no' of yesterday is the green light of tomorrow: this is the lesson that the very pragmatic minister seemed to learn.

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