ISIS CLAIMS ITS FIRST U.S. ATTACK
ISIS claimed responsibility today for the weekend attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest at a conference center near Dallas, Texas. Gunmen Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi were killed by a police officer after they opened fire and injured a security guard there, The Washington Post reports. This is believed to be the first ISIS terror attack on U.S. soil.
- Court documents reveal that federal agents had been monitoring Simpson since 2006. He was also convicted in 2011 for lying to the FBI about his desire to join violent jihadists in Somalia.
- Simpson and Soofi were roommates in Phoenix, Arizona, the documents say. FBI agents and police officers searched their apartment Monday.
- “We are sure many people in this country are curious to know if we had any idea of Elton's plans. To that we say, without question, we did not,” a statement from Simpson’s family reads.
Two days after finding out that “It’s a girl,” the world now knows what to call the second child of Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. The British tabloids had plenty of fodder interpreting the choice, with the Daily Mail declaring that the third name was what mattered most. “For The Mother He Lost,” was the daily's headline, referring to Lady Diana, who was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997. The naming showed Prince William’s commitment “to ensure the attempts by a ruthless Establishment to airbrush his mother from her place in royal history are not just stalled but halted in their tracks.” Read more in our Extra! feature.
THREE MORE DEAD IN BURUNDI
At least three people were killed and 45 were wounded as police in Burundi tried to control protesters who took to the streets against incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term, Al Jazeera reports. Eleven people, including two police officers and one soldier, have been killed since the protests began more than a week ago, Le Monde reports. Police have reportedly opened fire on the crowds throughout the capital Bujumbura. Nkurunziza’s opponents say his decision to run for a third term is unconstitutional given the Arusha agreement, signed in 2000, that ended a 10-year civil war between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. It also limited the number of presidential terms to two. Nkurunziza has been in power since August 2005 and was reelected in June 2010.
“The full force of the Mexican state will be felt in the state of Jalisco,” Mexican national security commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Monday of an all-out offensive against the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG), one of the newest drug-trafficking rings in the country. The CJNG killed six soldiers Friday when they launched a rocket-propelled grenade to bring down an army helicopter that was pursuing a cartel convoy in Jalisco. At least 15 other people were killed and 19 were injured in coordinated attacks by the cartel in recent days.
DAILY ATROCITIES IN ALEPPO
A new report Amnesty International report says civilians in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, are suffering “unthinkable atrocities” on a daily basis. What the human rights organization describes as “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” are committed both by government forces and rebel groups. In an effort to counter a rebel offensive in recent weeks, government forces have allegedly intensified their bombing of Aleppo with a growing use of barrel bombs.
Spaghetti produced from the wheat of local farms is served in the restaurants of Ethiopia, which discovered pasta during Italian colonial rule but only now is developing an entire economy around it, La Stampa’s Emanuele Bompan reports. “‘Until recent times Ethiopia imported a large amount of grain from Turkey,’ explains Fabio Melloni, director of the technical office of the Italian aid group in Addis Ababa. ‘The country is experiencing a real cultural boom for pasta, a tradition inherited from the short and unsuccessful Italian colony.’ Pasta is easy to find in Addis Ababa, the capital, and consumption is spreading to smaller cities. It is served with tomato sauce or meat, as well as with typical dishes such as doro wot (chicken with berbere sauce) and tibs (meat and vegetables).”
Read the full article, From Wheat To Pasta: A Very Italian Solution To Ethiopian Poverty.
FORMER IRA COMMANDER KILLED
Gerard “Jock” Davison, a former Provisional IRA leader in Belfast, was shot and killed there this morning, The Belfast Telegraph reports. Davison was formerly a senior member of the organization and later became a supporter of Sinn Fein’s peace strategy.
CLEARING RUBBLE IN NEPAL
Photo: Taylor Weidman/ZUMA
Nepali soldiers clear rubble from the ruins of a temple in Patan, Nepal. The death toll after the devastating April 25 earthquake that struck the country has risen beyond 7,500.
YEMEN ATTACKS MAY HALT TO ALLOW AID
The Saudi-coalition against Houthi fighters in Yemen is considering temporarily halting its airstrike campaign to allow aid deliveries, Al Jazeera reports. The announcement came after deadly clashes in southern Yemen between Houthi fighters and militias allied with the exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. It was also announced that Hadi launched a Yemeni Dialogue Conference to be held on May 17.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
MILITIAS TO FREE AFRICAN CHILD SOLDIERS
Armed factions in the Central African Republic have agreed to free all child soldiers and other children who are being used as cooks, messengers or sexual slaves, UNICEF said today.
ISLAMISTS KILL THREE SOMALI POLICE
Somali al-Shabaab militants stormed a police station in the country's semi-autonomous region of Puntland and killed three policemen last night, Reuters reports. Several militants from the Islamist terror group were also reportedly killed during the brief siege in Yalho village.
ON THIS DAY
Did you know Chanel’s iconic perfume went on sale for the first time on this day in 1921? Time for your 57-second shot of history.
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.
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
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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