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SPOTLIGHT: RIO IN TROUBLE, ONE WEEK FROM OLYMPICS

Just seven days from the opening of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is still reeling from a succession of emergencies that tarnish the country's image as it prepares to play host to the world's top athletes. A long-running political and economic crisis continues unabated, while preparations in Rio are beset with logistical and infrastructural problems.


As the Games near, Brazil's government hoped to draw attention away from the ongoing impeachment of suspended President Dilma Rousseff, but former President Lula da Silva put the country's political woes back in the spotlight this week. Lula appealed to the UN Commission on Human Rights for protection against a magistrate prosecuting the bribery scandal shaking Brazil's establishment, accusing him of "persecution."


Meanwhile, outside the halls of power, the country is breathing in bad news from Guanabara Bay, which is slated to host swimming and sailing events: The waters of Rio's bay remain so polluted they could pose a health risk to competitors, while other multimillion infrastructure projects rush to completion. There are also — inevitably perhaps — security concerns. Authorities arrested several terror suspects last week, even as concerns over drug trafficking and violent crime remain high. City police also seized narcotics branded with fake Olympics-themed packaging.


Even the Olympic torch relay, meant as a symbol of national and global unity, was interrupted by a teachers' strike that caused the torch's flame to extinguish. After a trying year, Brazilians and visitors alike will hope the opening of the Games can provide a much-needed break from the string of bad news. It will be quite a test of the power of the Olympic spirit.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

  • EU statistics agency Eurostat to release its monthly report on the Eurozone economy.
  • Pope Francis visits the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.
  • Oh, and, by the way, the world is supposed to end today, according to several theories that posit a "polar flip" will destroy the Earth on July 29, 2016.


CLINTON MAKES HISTORY

"When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit," said Hillary Clinton in her acceptance speech on the last night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, becoming the first-ever female nominee from a major party.


— MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD

The End Of The Beguines — Bruges, 1964


SYRIAN AL-QAEDA BRANCH ANNOUNCES SPLIT

The al-Nusra front, a Syrian jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, announced its split from the global terror organization in an effort to avoid being targeted by U.S. and coalition airstrikes. Leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani announced the group's rebranding as "Jabhat Fateh al-Sham", or the Front for the Conquest of Syria, but U.S. authorities declared they would continue seeking to destroy the group.


INDONESIA CARRIES OUT CONTROVERSIAL EXECUTIONS

Indonesia executed four drug convicts early Friday morning, ignoring pleas for clemency from the European Union and other countries. According to Kompas, ten other prisoners on death row were spared, but their families and lawyers haven't been notified when or whether they will face execution.


LATEST ATTEMPT TO FORM GOVERNMENT IN SPAIN

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy received a mandate from King Felipe VI to form a government, setting in motion the latest round of consultations since the country's second consecutive election produced a hung parliament last month. El País reports that Rajoy, whose center-right Popular Party won the most seats in June, will hold talks with the centrist Citizens party and the opposition Socialists.


— ON THIS DAY

Houston, we have a birthday … That, and more, in today's 57-second shot of History.


NEW PERUVIAN PRESIDENT SWORN IN

Former Prime Minister and World Bank official Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was sworn in as Peru's newest president. In yesterday's inaugural address, he vowed to fight corruption in his five-year term.


MERKEL RULES OUT MIGRANT POLICY REVERSAL

"We can do this," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a scheduled summer press conference yesterday, asserting that her government will continue its "welcome policy" towards refugees fleeing war after a string of terror attacks in her country. She resisted increasing calls from politicians within and outside her party to halt immigration and focus on anti-terror policies. Read more from Deutsche Welle.


— WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Nice, Turkey, Wurzburg, Ansbach. The escalating violence of the last few days raise the pressure on the German Chancellor, whose refugee policy is again in the spotlight. For German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Robert Roßmann writes that the political repercussions could strike where it matters to her most: "The violent attacks do not seem to have a common thread linking them directly. But what all of these attacks do have in common is their outcome, namely the spreading of fear that undermines the standing of the government.

But beyond the general anxiety, Merkel risks being branded as the person responsible for this summer of terror, because of her refugee policies. It is certainly true that not all perpetrators were refugees, and in any case were in Germany without having benefitted from Merkel's refugee policies. And it is also true that several of these attacks were not even necessarily linked to Islamic radicalism. But the electorate tends to not make these finer points of distinction."

Read the full article, Will Germans Hold Merkel Responsible For Terror Spree?


6 TRILLION YEN

The Bank of Japan announced an expansion of its quantitative easing program to 6 trillion yen ($58.1 billion), up from a current purchase level of 3.3 trillion yen ($32 billion). The Japan Timesreports that the Japanese central bank cited persistent deflation and potential negative impacts of the UK's vote to leave the EU as reasons for renewed monetary stimulus.


MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

FINLAND'S SPECIAL BIRTHDAY GIFT

Finland will celebrate the centenary of its independence next year, and Norway is considering an unusual birthday gift for its Nordic neighbor: an entire mountain. The two countries share the 1,364-meter-tall mountain of Halti but the peak's summit is located in Norway, and local Norwegian politicians enthusiastically support shifting the border so that Halti can become the highest point in Finland.

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Gambit on the chess world

October 1-2

  • Fake news of a coup in China
  • Up close with Russian deserters
  • Sheep taking over London Bridge
  • … and much more.
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