NATO READY TO TO â€œDEFENDâ€ TURKEY
NATO is prepared to send troops to Turkey to defend its ally against any threats along its southern border, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a press conference before a meeting with defense ministers in Brussels today, Reuters reports. His comments come after Russian jets operating in Syria violated Turkeyâ€™s airspace over the past week. â€œIn Syria, we have seen a troubling escalation of Russian military activities,â€ Stoltenberg said. â€œWe will assess the latest developments and their implications for the security of the alliance. NATO has already responded by increasing our capacity, our ability, our preparedness to deploy forces, including to the south.â€
- Turkey reported two Russian incursions into its airspace in two days, on Saturday and Sunday, which both NATO and Turkey condemned at the time.
- Moscow fired missiles into Syria from the Caspian Sea for the first time yesterday. The Moscow Times quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying that four Russian warships fired 26 rockets against ISIS.
NETANYAHU BARS POLITICIANS FROM HOLY SITE
Photo: Mamoun Wazwaz/Xinhua/ZUMA
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has barred Israeli cabinet ministers and lawmakers from visiting the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, also known as Temple Mount, in Jerusalemâ€™s Old City. The move applies to both Jewish and Arab members of the Knesset, Netanyahu clarified this morning, after mounting criticism suggested the ban only applied to Jewish representatives. The decision was presented as an attempt to reduce tensions between Palestinians and Israeli security forces after clashes erupted in the West Bank during the past week. Because there were several incidents yesterday, Israeli officials have also said security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority is ongoing to avoid an escalation of violence.
NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE AWARDED
Svetlana Alexievich from Belarus has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature â€œfor her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.â€
NO U.S. WARNING BEFORE DEADLY AFGHAN STRIKE
International aid group Doctors Without Borders said Wednesday that the U.S. military issued no warning before Saturdayâ€™s airstrike that killed 22 people and injured 37 at a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, thus violating its own rules of war, The Guardian reports. According to a Department of Defense law of war manual from June 2015, â€œprotection for civilian hospitals may cease only after due warning has been given, naming, in all appropriate cases, a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has remained unheeded.â€ President Barack Obama called the aid groupâ€™s head Joanne Liu Wednesday to apologize and offer his condolences for those killed.
As a border guard in 1989, Arpad Bella personally opened a portion of the Iron Curtain between Hungary and Austria to a crowd of East German refugees. Today, while migrants rush to the gates of Europe, he sadly watches history run backward, Doan Bui writes for Lâ€™Obs. â€œBella has changed. Heâ€™s aged and his hair has gone gray, his uniform now boxed away with mothballs,â€ Bui writes. â€œHe still lives in Sopron, at the border with Austria, the same border that refugees are desperately trying to reach to make it to the West. â€˜Every evening, we watch the news with my wife,â€™ he says. â€˜These images that are shown over and over again haunt me. Itâ€™s as if the past has suddenly returned.â€™â€
Read the full article, Iron Curtain Border Guard Watches New Walls Rise.
ROUSSEFF ACCOUNTING PRACTICES ILLEGAL
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff faces a serious impeachment threat after the Federal Accounts Court ruled that her governmentâ€™s accounting practices in last yearâ€™s budget were illegal, Folha de S. Paulo reports. The court accused the government of illegally borrowing money from state-owned banks to make up budget shortfalls. Another judicial body, the electoral court known as the TSE, ruled in favor of probing alleged illegalities in Rousseffâ€™s re-election campaign last year. This means that the president, whose popularity is at a record low, could now face a legal battle to declare her re-election invalid and have her forced out of office.
â€œIf I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money,â€ current 007 Daniel Craig told Time Out London. The 47-year-old English actor, who will be starring in the franchiseâ€™s latest installment Spectre later this month, added, â€œNow? Iâ€™d rather break this glass and slash my wrists.â€ In the strongly worded interview, he also offered guidance to his potential successor: â€œMy advice to the next James Bond? Donâ€™t be shit!â€
U.S. VW BOSS KNEW ABOUT CHEATING DEVICES
Michael Horn, chief of Volkswagen in the United States, admitted in testimony that he was aware of the car companyâ€™s emissions cheating devices as early as the spring of 2014. His testimony is due to be presented today to a House committee investigating the scandal. He also says he was â€œtold that there was a possible emissions non-compliance that could be remediedâ€ after a study by West Virginia University was published. â€œI was informed that EPA Environmental Protection Agency regulations included various penalties for non-compliance with the emissions standards and that the agencies can conduct engineering tests which could include â€˜defeat deviceâ€™ testing or analysis,â€ Hornâ€™s testimony continues. â€œI was also informed that the company engineers would work with the agencies to resolve the issue.â€
Libération dedicated todayâ€™s front page to an in-depth story about how the European Union has failed to restrict the use in everyday products of endocrine disruptors, which researchers say are responsible for cancers, diabetes and poor sperm quality. Read more in Le Blog.
BLATTER, OTHER FIFA OFFICIALS SUSPENDED
FIFAâ€™S ethics committee has provisionally suspended the soccer governing bodyâ€™s chief Sepp Blatter, Secretary General Jerome Valcke and Vice President Michel Platini for 90 days, Le Monde reports. The three men are being investigated for corruption.
ON THIS DAY
Itâ€™s been 10 years since the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that killed 87,351 people in Kashmir. That and more in todayâ€™s shot of history.
DELL AND EMC TALK BIGGEST-EVER TECH MERGER
Dell, the worldâ€™s leading PC manufacturer, and data storage specialist EMC have had discussions that could lead to the biggest tech merger ever. The Wall Street Journal reports that a deal could be reached within a week.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
YES, SMARTPHONES ARE BAD FOR KIDS
Researchers from the Mannheim Institute for Public Health found that nearly one in 10 young smartphone users (8%) is facing what can be classified as an addiction to the devices. Read more on our blog.
THE SECRET TO A LONG LIFE?
According to Page Six, itâ€™s bacon. That its conclusion after visiting 116-year-old Susannah Mushatt Jones, the worldâ€™s oldest person, who eats the ambrosial food every day.
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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