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Greek Squeeze, Shifting Kim, AXL/DC

SPOTLIGHT: GREECE REDUX

It's that time of year again: Greek anger and economic strife are making headlines: general strikes, bailout reviews, anti-austerity reforms. But a recent study looking to the recent past, published in Handelsblatt, a business newspaper from Germany (of all places), shows the Greeks have every right to be angry. Berlin-based economists found out what many had been saying long ago — namely that the successive bailouts to "rescue" a collapsing economy were in fact aimed at rescuing not the people of Greece but its banks and private creditors. To put it in crude numbers, less than 5% of the staggering 215.9 billion euros agreed upon in the first two (out of three) bailouts actually ended up in the coffers of the Greek state. How such a reality affects future decisions remains to be seen, as the stakes once again are rising:

  • A general strike that paralyzed large parts of the country entered its third and last day yesterday. The leftist government of Alexis Tsipras, which was first elected for its hardline anti-austerity stance, won a parliamentary vote to bring about what The Guardian says are the "toughest austerity measures yet."
  • Here is today's front page of Athens-based Ta Nea daily.
  • Outside the Parliament in Athens yesterday, protesters were throwing firebombs at police officers, who replied with tear gas, in the first signs of what could be another long, hot summer in Greece.
  • The controversial reform package narrowly approved by the Parliament, with 153 votes out of 300, plans to cut up to 40% of pensions and another increase in income, fuel and VAT taxes. This is part of a 5.4 billion-euro package of austerity measures demanded by Greece's creditors.
  • The vote was held ahead of an emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers and IMF officials today in Brussels. Athens' creditors will complete the first review of Greece's third bailout of 86 billion euros, agreed to last summer. But the IMF is threatening to pull out of the rescue if the other lenders don't agree to cut part of Greece's debt.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PHILIPPINES VOTE

Voters in the Philippines are choosing their next president, and the winner could well be a more extreme version of Donald Trump. Rodrigo Duterte vowed, among other things to "forget the laws on human rights" and"butcher" criminals, something right groups say has been part of his anti-crime policy during his decades as mayor of Davao, allegedly leading tothe deaths of 1,000 suspected criminals. But for the editorial board of newspaper The Inquirer, Duterte "might prove to be the shock to the system the Philippines needs" to end rampant crime and corruption. The voting process was marked by several attacks on polling stations killing at least 10 people.



— ON THIS DAY

From Nelson Mandela to Vertigo, here's your 57-second shot of history.


CANADA WILDFIRE BURNING DOWN HOMES

The fire that started burning around Fort McMurray on the first day of May has already burned one-fifth of the cities homes, the local MP David Yurdiga told the BBC. More than 100,000 residents have been evacuated. Lower temperatures yesterday have already brought much needed help to the firefighters, and the weather is expected to continue to cool today.


— WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

A day after he was targeted by a would-be killer and sentenced to prison for an article in his newspaper, Turkish editor Can Dundar recounts what happened — and what it means. An exclusive Cumhuriyet piece, brought to you in English by Worldcrunch: "At the moment that the photographers and camera operators started to approach me, I heard someone behind them shouting: ‘You are a traitor!'

I saw a hateful face from a few meters away, a face of the new generation.

Then there were gunshots. The smell of gunpowder in the air. As a reflex action, I dashed towards Yagiz, where the metal barriers were. ‘You are the target,' Yagiz was shouting. "Get away."

When I stared back from a few meters away, I saw more men with guns. In the heat of the moment, I couIdn't tell whether they were policemen or more attackers. It was then that I noticed Dilek: She was holding the attacker, pulling on him from his jacket."

Read the full article, No Assassin, Nor Erdogan, Will Silence Us — Can Dundar Recounts Shooting.


45%

As the debate over Brexit rages on, a new poll suggests that 45% of Europeans from Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden also want to have their own referendum on EU membership. According to the same survey, France and Italy are the countries where an "out" vote would be the strongest.


NORTH KOREA OPEN TO RECONCILIATION

Just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country wouldn't use its nukes unless threatened by "invasive hostile forces with nuclear weapons," AP reports that the ruling Workers' Party pledged to push for a peaceful reconciliation of the Korean Peninsula and to modernize the economy. Does this mean Pyongyang is on the road to "normality"? If that's the case, the arrest and expulsion of a BBC reporter for referring to Kim Jong-un as "corpulent" suggests that road would be long.


— MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD

Greek Break — Heraklion, 1984


SAUDI ARABIA DECREES

Saudi Arabia's King Salman issued more than 50 royal decrees on Saturday, bringing a sweeping change in the organization of the government, in a move partly aimed at reducing the country's dependence on oil. The reorganization also consolidates the position of deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, described as the world's most dangerous man. Read more from The New York Times.


— MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

TRIUMPHANT DEBUT FOR AXL/DC

Many AC/DC fans were worried when they first learned that Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose would replace Brian Johnson as the band's live singer. But critics (and video footage) of the new line-up's first concert in Lisbon show that even with a chair-bound Axl, AC/DC are rapturous musical T.N.T.

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Ideas

Joshimath, The Sinking Indian City Has Also Become A Hotbed Of Government Censorship

The Indian authorities' decision to hide factual reports on the land subsidence in Joshimath only furthers a sense of paranoia.

Photo of people standing next to a cracked road in Joshimath, India

Cracked road in Joshimath

@IndianCongressO via Twitter
Rohan Banerjee*

MUMBAI — Midway through the movie Don’t Look Up (2021), the outspoken PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) is bundled into a car, a bag over her head. The White House, we are told, wants her “off the grid”. She is taken to a warehouse – the sort of place where CIA and FBI agents seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Hollywood movies – and charged with violating national security secrets.

The Hobson’s choice offered to her is to either face prosecution or suspend “all public media appearances and incendiary language relating to Comet Dibiasky”, an interstellar object on a collision course with earth. Exasperated, she acquiesces to the gag order.

Don’t Look Upis a satirical take on the collective apathy towards climate change; only, the slow burn of fossil fuel is replaced by the more imminent threat of a comet crashing into our planet. As a couple of scientists try to warn humanity about its potential extinction, they discover a media, an administration, and indeed, a society that is not just unwilling to face the truth but would even deny it.

This premise and the caricatured characters border on the farcical, with plot devices designed to produce absurd scenarios that would be inconceivable in the real world we inhabit. After all, would any government dealing with a natural disaster, issue an edict prohibiting researchers and scientists from talking about the event? Surely not. Right?

On January 11, the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), one of the centers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), issued a preliminary report on the land subsidence issue occurring in Joshimath, the mountainside city in the Himalayas.

The word ‘subsidence’ entered the public lexicon at the turn of the year as disturbing images of cracked roads and tilted buildings began to emanate from Joshimath.

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