WHILE YOU SLEPT

Iraq Report, Messi & Pistorius Sentenced, Castles By Couch

SPOTLIGHT: UK IRAQ WAR REPORT BASHES BLAIR

After seven long years, the Chilcot report on Britain’s role in the Iraq war was released this morning. As anticipated, the report, which was initially supposed to be concluded in 2011, is very critical of former Prime Minister Tony Blair and of how he led Britain into the war.


The team led by Sir John Chilcot, a longtime British civil servant, concluded that the UK “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted,” and not as a “last resort.” Speaking about the threat of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, Chilcot said that the conditions in the lead up to the March 2003 invasion “were presented with a certainty that was not justified,” and added that the policy on Iraq was made “on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments.”


But the report on Blair’s role begs the Bush question: Why was the U.S. administration so intent on pursuing this particular war at that particular moment? The harshest critics talk about oil money and a president struggling with the shadow of his father’s past. Some note that Sept. 11 attacks were still fresh in the American and Western consciousness. Others say Iraqi opposition figures played Washington for fools. Chilcot’s conclusions, in any case, are worth further study.

  • The report contains 2.6 million words. That’s three times more than the Holy Bible.
  • Sir John Chilcot said he hoped his report would make it impossible “in future to engage in a military or indeed a diplomatic endeavour on such a scale and of such gravity without really careful challenge analysis and assessment and collective political judgment being applied to it.”
  • Some of the families of the 179 British soldiers killed want to see Tony Blair in court. “Because the consequences for the people they send is that some of them die doing the job they were told to do,” a father told The Independent.
  • Writing in the Daily Mail before the report’s publication, conservative commentator Peter Oborne warned that “if Chilcot fails to nail Blair's lies, it's final proof our democracy is broken.”
  • The Daily Telegraph’s chief foreign correspondent David Blair (not related to Tony) argues in a comprehensive piece that neither the former prime minister, nor indeed the West, are the only ones to be blamed for what happened in Iraq.
  • Follow the latest updates live on The Daily Telegraph’s blog.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY



SYRIAN ARMY ANNOUNCES 72-HOUR CEASEFIRE

The Syrian army has unilaterally declared a three-day nationwide ceasefire starting today, to coincide with celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan. The announcement came hours after terror organization ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing against Kurds in northeastern Syria today that killed 16 people and wounded 40 more, according to AFP.


SEVERAL ATTACKS FOILED IN FRANCE, REPORT CLAIMS

Security forces in France have foiled more than 10 terrorist attacks over the past year, an intelligence report seen by journalists at Le Figaro reveals. Some of these planned attacks intended to target French officials, shopping malls and even a nuclear power plant. Four women, including three minors, were arrested in March for planning to attack a concert hall, cafés and a mall in Paris. Yesterday, a parliamentary investigation concluded that France needed a U.S.-inspired counter-terrorism agency.


â€" ON THIS DAY

Today’s 57-second shot of History is worth at least one U.S. dollar and 50 Cent … Check it out here!


TRUMP ATTACKS CLINTON AFTER FBI RECOMMENDATION

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accused his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of “bribing” Attorney General Loretta Lynch with the promise to retain her job under her administration in exchange for not pursuing charges for Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State, ABC reports. FBI Director James Comey yesterday said that Clinton had been “extremely careless” but recommended that no charges be filed against the Democratic nominee.


30 DAYS

The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will kick off in just 30 days. But even though the city is mostly ready for the big day, Folha de S. Paulo reports that many promises have been abandoned along the way, especially concerning the cleanup of the Guanabara bay. Close to $2 billion were spent on infrastructures, about 50% more than initially planned.


EXTRA!

France's satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné is celebrating its century-long existence. Read more about this unique newspaper’s story here on Le Blog.


PISTORIUS SENTENCED FOR MURDER

Former South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to 6 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013. The prescribed minimum sentence for murder is 15 years, but High Court judge Thokozile Masipa, who had already sentenced him to 5 years for “culpable homicide,” said that “public opinion may be loud and persistent, but it can play no role in the decision of this court.” More from the Mail & Guardian.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Peace between Bogota and leftist FARC guerrillas could signal a new path well beyond the borders of Colombia. Still, as Chile's former president Ricardo Lagos writes in Buenos Aires daily Clarin, a post-Brexit Europe may be hard to reach. “A new diplomacy is emerging in our region, with myriad potential benefits. Look at Panama, which recently inaugurated its expanded canal. Just 30 years ago it was difficult to predict if or when it would control and administer the waterway. Now, the completion of an immense engineering project has made the little republic a crucial passage for global shipping. But globalization imposes its will not just on physical projects but also on the essence of human interaction and cooperation. Bridges must be built to ensure globalization has clear, commonly accepted rules to ensure everyone benefits from new technologies and shortened distances.”

Read the full article, Colombian Peace, Some Good News On The Globalization Front.


MESSI SENTENCED FOR TAX FRAUD

Soccer star Lionel Messi, who plays for the Spanish club of FC Barcelona, and his father have been sentenced to 21 months in jail for defrauding the country of more than 4 million euros in taxes, La Vanguardia reports. Under Spanish law, people sentenced to fewer than two years don’t actually have to serve time.


MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Dated in Palmyra â€" Syria, 1996


â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

COUCH VISITING

Thanks to Google Street View, you can now visit some of France’s most stunning castles on the Loire river without leaving the comfort of your couch.

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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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