WORLD LEADERS SWEAT IN PANAMA SPOTLIGHT
The global fallout continues, four days after the massive leak of documents linked to a Panama firm specialized in offshore financial operations. So far, there has been just one clear high-profile political casualty: Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who stepped aside on Tuesday — but the heat is still on other top leaders.
- ARGENTINE PRESIDENT FACES PROBE — President Mauricio Macri will appear before a judge today to address his links to two offshore companies identified in the Panama Papers leak, Argentine daily La Nacion reports. Macri, who has given resolute promises to crack down on corruption, claims he did not have any shares and did not receive any payment for acting as a director of the offshore companies.
- CAMERON CONFESSION — Facing mounting pressure to be fully transparent after his late father's name appeared in the leaked documents, British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted yesterday that he and his wife had benefited from an offshore company, The Telegraph reports. After several partial denials in the previous days, the prime minister told ITV News that he had indeed owned shares in a tax haven fund before selling his stake for 31,500 pounds just before he became prime minister in 2010 to try to avoid just the kind of firestorm he is currently facing.
- PUTIN PUNCHES BACK — Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed reports yesterday showing that some of his close associates had moved about $2 billion through offshore accounts, claiming the accusations to be part of a U.S. plot to destabilize Russia, Moscow daily Kommersant reports. Speaking at a media forum in Saint Petersburg, Putin also defended the cellist Sergei P. Roldugin, a close friend who was reported in the Panama papers to have hidden money from Russian state banks. Putin described Roldugin as a "philanthropist" who spent his own funds to buy rare musical instruments for Russian state collections, adding "I am proud to have friends like that!"
- AND THE REST OF US? — For further Panama Papers reading from the top international sources leading the probe, Worldcrunch has translated this Le Monde story on the "regular" folk who turn to offshore accounts, and a Süddeutsche Zeitung article on billionaires caught up in high-stakes divorce cases.
PAPAL COMPASSION FOR DIVORCED, OTHER "IMPERFECT" CATHOLICS
Pope Francis appears to have opened the door for divorced Catholics to remarry with the Church's blessing. But a much anticipated papal document released this morning, while urging compassion for "imperfect" Catholics, did not explicitly lift Catholicism's ban on remarrying without an official Church annulment of a previous marriage. The pope instead suggests exceptions for "particular cases."
ISRAEL-TURKEY MEND RELATIONSHIP
Turkey and Israel have moved close to an agreement aimed at mending ties between the two countries after a six year freeze, Turkish daily Hürriyet reports this morning. Ankara's statement today said an accord would be finalized in the next meeting, which would happen very soon.
ISIS ABDUCTS 300 WORKERS
ISIS abducted 300 cement workers and contractors in an area northeast of Damascus yesterday as the militant group attacked the area, the state-run Syrian-Arab News Agency reports. The government and the al-Badia Cement Company have so far been unsuccessful in contacting the workers.
COLOMBIA SAYS Â¡SÍ! TO GAY MARRIAGE
Colombia's highest court ruled yesterday to legalize same-sex marriage. The historically conservative and Catholic country joins the ranks of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in Latin America. See how Bogota-based daily El Tiempo covered the decision on Le Blog here.
BILL CLINTON SPARS BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTORS
Photo: Ricky Fitchett/ZUMA
Former President Bill Clinton may have again undermined his wife's run for the White House after verbally sparring with a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign event yesterday. Defending his 1994 anti-crime legislation that critics say unfairly targeted African-Americans, the man otherwise known as Hillary Clinton's Husband said: "I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the street to murder other African-American children." Salon suggested the Hillary-For-President campaign needs to take the loose-talking former commander-in-chief off the trail.
MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD
The growing presence of Chinese travelers in Japan has raised mixed emotions among the Japanese public, torn between the benefits for the economy and the intrusion of Chinese thinking. Yoshikazu Kato, a renowned expert on Sino-Japan relations, writes for Caixin: "A conversation with a Chinese female staff member at another Tokyo electronics store may shed even more light. Mrs. Nishiguchi has lived in Japan for over 30 years, a naturalized citizen as her Japanese name shows. And her complaints are reserved for the visitors from her native China, many of whom question her for trying to sell products made in Japan. â€˜These Chinese tourists' level is really appalling,' she says. â€˜They make a fuss over everything. To be rich is one thing. To have quality and morality is another. It will take another 50 years for China to be as advanced as Japan.'"
Read the full article, Japanese Hosts And Chinese Tourists, It's Complicated.
ON THIS DAY
196 years ago today, one of the world's most famous statues (minus two arms) was discovered. That, and more, in your 57-second shot of history.
HERE'S MY NUMBER
Sweden takes public access to a new level by sharing its phone number with the whole world, Dagens Nyheter reports. "The Swedish Number," which you can call at +46 771 793 336, connects callers with random Swedes who have signed up as "ambassadors," despite having received no training whatsoever. The point is to offer a completely unfiltered view of Swedish life. "In troubled times, many countries try to limit communication between people, but we want to do just the opposite," says Magnus Ling, CEO at the Swedish Tourist Association.