GUNMEN STORM PAKISTAN UNIVERSITY, DOZENS FEARED DEAD
A group of gunmen killed at least 21 people and wounded more than 50 as they stormed the Bacha Khan University in Pakistanâ€™s northwestern Charsadda District this morning, The Express Tribune reports. A security official quoted by Reuters said the death toll could rise to 40. Police have confirmed that six gunmen have been killed. The attack was initially claimed by Pakistani Taliban Omar Mansoor, but another Taliban spokesperson, Muhammad Khorasani, denied any involvement. Local authorities announced the closure of all education institutions across the Charsadda District until Jan. 31, according to Al Jazeera. This comes a little more than a year since the Army Public School attack in Peshawar that left 144 people dead.
â€œThis is gonna be. So. Much. Fun,â€ the former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin said at the Iowa State University campus during a Donald Trump campaign rally Tuesday, as she announced her endorsement of the Republican presidential candidate. Her endorsement could give a boost to the billionaire candidate among right-wing Tea Party voters.
KURDS ACCUSED OF DESTROYING IRAQ ARAB HOMES
Kurdish Peshmerga forces and militias have destroyed thousands of homes in northern Iraq as part of a concerted effort to remove Arab communities, Amnesty International has claimed in a new report. â€œThough KRG Kurdistan Regional Government officials have tended to justify the displacement of Arab communities on grounds of security, it appears to be used to punish them for their perceived sympathies with so-called Islamic State,â€ the report says. The human rights organization carried out a field investigation in 13 villages and towns, gathering testimonies from more than 100 witnesses and victims.
ON THIS DAY
Weâ€™ve got both Hong Kong and David Lynch in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of history.
PLASTIC V. FISH
The worldâ€™s oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050 if nothing is done to prevent this, a report published Tuesday by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum says. â€œThe best research currently available estimates that there are over 150 million tons of plastics in the ocean today. In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight),â€ the research found.
In Italy, between 5,000 and 7,000 priests have given up their clerical robes. Some ex-priests re-enter lay society with a female companion, others struggle to build a new life from scratch, La Stampaâ€™s Mauro Pianta writes from Rome: â€œAt times, former priests become prisoners of a sociological and psychological no-manâ€™s land, because while those who give up the priesthood can no longer practice, the impact of taking on holy vows is long-lasting for devout Catholics. In a sense, then, once a priest, always a priest.â€
Read the full article, Leaving the Priesthood, Joys And Struggles Of A Second Life.
â€œJIHADI JOHNâ€ CONFIRMED DEAD
ISIS has confirmed the death of the British terrorist known as â€œJihadi John,â€ whose real name was Mohammed Emwazi, in its propaganda magazine Dabiq, the SITE intelligence group reports. The U.S. military said in November it was â€œreasonably certainâ€ he was killed in a drone strike while travelling by car in the ISIS-stronghold of Raqqa.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
A Moscow weekly poked fun at Vladimir Putinâ€™s denial of reality in the face of a deepening economic recession in Russia.
ITALIAN FILM DIRECTOR ETTORE SCOLA DIES
Italian film director Ettore Scola, known for works like A Special Day, We All Loved Each Other So Much, Le Bal or Down and Dirty, died Tuesday aged 84. Rome-based daily La Repubblica has a photo essay of Scolaâ€™s life and work.
Photo: Zhan Yan/Xinhua/ZUMA
Freezing temperatures allowed beautiful salt crystal to form on the Yuncheng Salt Lake in Shanxi province, also known as the â€œDead Sea of China.â€
A Slovakian chef was caught live on cameras by a morning show crew preparing expand=1] something decidedly not on the menu.
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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