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Markets React To Fed, Rajoy Punched, Brazil v. WhatsApp

EU LEADERS TRY TO MOVE ON MIGRANT CRISIS

European leaders are gathered in Brussels for a two-day meeting centered on the 28-nation bloc's ongoing migrant crisis. Politico reports that proposals will be debated to reinforce external borders, including the possible creation of a new EU law enforcement body that could be sent to respond to a crisis even if the country's authority refuse it. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has denounced the move, which he believes undermines national sovereignty. Also on the agenda in Brussels are the fight against terrorism, Brexit fears and possible new sanctions against Russia.


MARINE LE PEN'S REMOVES FOLEY PHOTO

Marine Le Pen, leader of France's Front National party, has removed a photo of late journalist and ISIS hostage James Foley's beheaded body from her Twitter account, one day after she published it in response to a journalist who, according to her, had likened her party to ISIS. Foley's parents had criticized the publication yesterday, saying it was "shameful," France 24 reports. Other pictures of ISIS' atrocities however still appear on Le Pen's timeline and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has asked the police to investigate.


VERBATIM

"When I look at the region and my country, I regret it all," Faida Hamdy, the Tunisian woman whose action "started the Arab Spring" five years ago today told The Daily Telegraph. Hamdy was responsible for confiscating a vegetable stall in a central Tunisian town, which prompted the produce vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi to set himself on fire. The martyr's death in turn sparked protests that eventually toppled President Ben Ali, before spreading to other North African and Middle Eastern countries. Looking at today's situation, she only sees "death everywhere and extremism blooming, and killing beautiful souls." "Sometimes, I blame myself and say it is all because of me," she told the newspaper.


MARKETS REACT TO FED INTEREST RATE HIKE

Stock prices around the world rose after Wednesday's much anticipated decision from the Federal Reserve to end a seven-year policy of effectively "free-money" by increasing interest rates by 0.25%. The Financial Times' U.S. markets editor warns that the "hard part" may come now, as the financial crisis and quantitative easing policies that followed it have deeply changed the financial system.


U.S. SEND WEAPONS TO SYRIAN REBELS

The U.S. has delivered a new load of ammunition to a group of 5,000 Syrian rebels, ahead of a battle to recapture a strategic town where ISIS is believed to store much of its weaponry, Reuters reports.


ON THIS DAY


Today's 57-second video unites a Tunisian martyr, a Filipino fighter and ... Homer (not the Greek author).


CHINA SUMMONS U.S. ENVOY OVER ARMS DEAL WITH TAIWAN

Chinese authorities have summoned U.S. envoy Kaye Lee amid reports that Washington is readying to send two warships and heavy weaponry to Taiwan as part of a $1.8 billion arms deal, AFP reports. This comes as tensions over the disputed South China Sea remain high.


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Tang Ke/Xinhua/ZUMA

Heavy snowfall hit Yantai, a coastal city in east China's Shandong Province.


SPANISH PM PUNCHED WHILE CAMPAIGNING

Spanish center-right Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was left badly bruised after a 17-year old punched him in the face as he was taking part in an election event ahead of Sunday's general election. See the damage on the front page of Madrid daily ABC. According to El País, the young aggressor later told the police he was "very happy" with himself. Rajoy's party holds a narrow lead in the polls, and one in four voters are still undecided.


48 HOURS

Brazilian authorities have ordered telecommunications companies to block access to instant messaging service WhatsApp for 48 hours starting at 12 am on Thursday, Folha de S. Paulo reports. According to the newspaper, the shutdown is a retaliatory move for the Facebook-owned company's refusal to release secret data of users that are part of a criminal investigation. But telecommunications companies had also been pressuring for new regulations against WhatsApp, which they say behaves much like a "pirate" network operator. Read more in English from TechCrunch.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

For German daily Die Welt, Daniel-Dylan Böhmer and Clemens Wergin imagine what the Middle East would look like today, if Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein hadn't been ousted. Would the situation be any better? "Saddam would have been well past 70 years old when the Arab Spring was unleashed, as popular movements rose up and revolted against their autocratic rulers from North Africa to the Middle East. His sons were reckoned to be cruel and violent, but their political qualities doubtful. The regime, we can say, would have become extremely vulnerable during the revolts of 2011. ... Wilfried Buchta, an expert on the Middle East and Islam doubts that an extremist sect such as ISIS could have expanded under Saddam. That it has become this strong, is partly due to the dictator's downfall, partly to the policies of the American-led occupying forces."

Read the full article, Origins Of ISIS, Imagining If Saddam Was Still In Power.


MOST CANCERS ARE AVOIDABLE, RESEARCH SHOWS

Most cancers result from avoidable factors such as toxic chemicals and radiation, and are not just down to bad luck, a new study suggests.


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



WEATHER FOR(C)ECAST

Watch this UK weather presenter cram an impressive 12 Star Wars-related puns in her 40-second weather update.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Notes From The Front: How The Russian Army Is Rotting From Within

The deteriorating conditions among Russia’s front line troops, chronicled by a handful of foot soldiers who have spoken out, may explain why Ukraine’s recent counter-assault has been so successful.

Military school cadets of the Russian army in Moscow

Anna Akage

Russia’s ongoing loss of territory in Ukraine can be explained by tactical errors on the part of Moscow’s generals, and the outsized ambitions of Vladimir Putin. But no less important — and evidently related — is the collapse of rank-and-file Russian soldiers.

The sudden collapse of Moscow’s units, having ceded a total of more than 3,000 square miles from both the northeastern region near Kharkiv and southern areas around Kherson, comes amid growing disaffection among Russian soldiers who went to war in Ukraine. Much of it has been chronicled through confessions and critiques that have begun to appear in the media and on social networks.

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To be sure, these are isolated voices among the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those who for various reasons decided to abandon the army. But they are no doubt an expression of a much wider set of circumstances and sentiments among foot soldiers fighting on behalf of Moscow.

By far the best known of the soldiers speaking out is paratrooper Pavel Filatiev, who wrote a 140-page book-length chronicle of the two months of the war he spent as part of the battalion that had crossed over from Crimea to launch an assault on Kherson on February 24.

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Writing contest - My pandemic story
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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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