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ISIS Wants Japanese Ransom, Pessimistic IMF, Kim Jong-Un V. Balloons

IMF CUTS GROWTH PROSPECTS
The International Monetary Fund has sharply cut its global growth forecast of just six months ago, with almost every economy except the United States expected to grow at a slower pace than previously thought, Bloomberg reports. The Washington-based lender said an economic slowdown in China, recession in Russia, and poor prospects in the eurozone and Japan will outweigh expected benefits from cheaper oil. According to IMF projections, the world economy will grow 3.5% this year and 3.7% in 2016.

  • This comes amid warnings from the United Nations that slower growth will lead to an extra 11 million people losing their jobs in the next five years. International Labour Organization chief Guy Ryder has blamed “the austerity trajectory,” especially in Europe, as a significant factor in growing unemployment and the widening gap between rich and poor. In an alarming report published yesterday, Oxfam said that the richest 1% would own more wealth than the other 99% by next year.

ON THIS DAY
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On this day in 1929, the very first movie filmed outdoors was released. Get
your daily shot of history here.

ISIS WANTS RANSOM FOR JAPANESE
In a video posted online today, Islamist terror group ISIS has threatened to execute two Japanese hostages if the government doesn’t pay $200 million within 72 hours, The Japan Times reports. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was in Jerusalem this morning as part of a Middle East visit, demanded the hostages’ immediate release and said that “the international community will not give in to terrorism.”

SNAPSHOT
An Orthodox believer takes a dip Monday into the icy waters of a pond during celebrations of the Orthodox Epiphany near Minsk, Belarus (see lead photo).

NIPPING THE NIPPLES
Top-selling British newspaper The Sun now has “its top on” after quietly scrapping the (in)famous Page 3 that featured topless models. It was a custom that started in 1970, shortly after Rupert Murdoch bought the tabloid. Instead, the page now features famous women in bikinis.

OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION
U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tonight to his presidency’s first Republican-controlled Congress. The address is expected to focus on the middle class and his proposal for expanded paid family leave as well as possible tax breaks for middle-income earners in a bid to raise more taxes from the wealthy. Read more from The New York Times.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As La Nacion reports, protests denouncing Argentine President Cristina Kirchner erupted all over the country yesterday after prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead Sunday morning. Authorities are calling the death an apparent suicide, but protestors believe he may have been murdered for accusing the president of concealing Iranian culpability for the 1994 bombing that killed 85 and injured 300 at a Jewish community center. Read more from our 4 Corners blog here.

UK TAPPED JOURNOS’ EMAIL
Britain’s electronic spy agency GCHQ captured the emails of journalists at some of the world’s top media organizations, documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by The Guardian show. The documents also describe investigative journalists as being “of specific concern,” that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security.” The revelations are likely to increase pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been pushing for greater surveillance powers in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
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LAUNCHING BALLOONS AT KIM JONG-UN
A group of South Korean activists led by a North Korean defector have started sending balloons with anti-Pyongyang messages across the border despite requests from South Korea not to do so and threats from North Korea, AFP reports. The militants have threatened to follow the leaflets with copies of the controversial film comedy The Interview.

COEN BROTHERS TO HEAD CANNES JURY
Oscar-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen will jointly head the jury at Cannes Film Festival in May. “Presiding over the jury is a special honor, since we have never heretofore been president of anything,” they said.


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Coronavirus

The Main COVID Risk Now: Long COVID

Death rates are down, masks are off, but many who have been infected by COVID have still not recovered. Long COVID continues to be hard to diagnose and treatments are still in the developmental stage.

Long COVID feels like a never-ending nightmare for those who suffer from it.

Jessica Berthereau

PARIS — The medical examination took longer than expected in the Parc de Castelnau-le-Lez clinic, near the southern French city of Montpellier. Jocelyne had come to see a specialist for long COVID-19, and exits the appointment slowly with help from her son. The meeting lasted more than an hour, twice as long as planned.

“I’m a fighter, you know, I’ve done a lot of things in my life, I’ve been around the world twice… I’m not saying this to brag, but to tell you my background," says the 40-year-old. "These days, I’m exhausted, I’m not hungry, I no longer drive, I can’t work anymore, I have restless legs syndrome.” She pauses before adding sadly: “I can’t read anymore either.”

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