UKRAINE DEATH TOLL TOPS 5,000
At least 13 people died after a Donetsk city bus was hit by a shell this morning amid ongoing fights between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists. It takes the death toll in the Ukrainian conflict to more than 5,000. The attack, during which many more were injured, appears to have been carried out from a minibus. The rebels have blamed it on Ukraine military forces, Pravda reports. It came after the Ukrainian army admitted it had lost control of the Donetsk airport. Hours before, Ukrainian and Russian diplomats in Berlin had agreed to force fighters to pull back heavy weapons from the front line. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has asked for a new bailout from the International Monetary Fund, arguing the country might need an extra $15 billion on top of an already agreed rescue package worth $27 billion. Read more from AFP.
ON THIS DAY
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Get your 57-second shot of history in our daily video feature — today featuring 1973’s landmark abortion case Roe vs. Wade.
EU TO ANNOUNCE QUANTITATIVE EASING
The European Central Bank is widely expected to announce its first ever quantitative easing program as it hopes to kickstart a stagnant economy and to bolster its stocks. According to the Financial Times, the ECB will print 50 billion euros every month to buy government bonds for at least a year, possibly two, representing a total purchase of 600 billion euros ($700 billion) per year. French business daily Les Echos describes the move as an “historic offensive,” though the Eurozone’s biggest economy, Germany, is fiercely opposed to it, fearing it could reproduce the hyperinflation it faced in the early 1920s. Berlin officials believe the move will reduce its partners’ urgency to reform their economies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's used his first "domestic inspection tour" of 2015 to try to boost the economy in the impoverished Yunnan Province in southwest China, People’s Daily reports. Some 92 million people in China live in poverty.
Read the full article, Extra! People's Daily On Xi Jinping's War On Poverty.
CLOCK TICKS FOR ISIS HOSTAGES
With less than 24 hours to go until an ISIS-imposed deadline for Tokyo to pay $200 million in exchange for two hostages, officials said they were trying to open a line of communication with the terrorist group but had so far failed to make contact, The New York Times reports. According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, the government has turned to regional allies Jordan and Turkey to help negotiate with ISIS. This comes amid reports from broadcaster Radio France Internationale that 10 former French troops, including explosive experts, are among foreign jihadists fighting with ISIS.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
PEGIDA’S FUTURE IN DOUBT
Germany’s anti-Islamization movement Pegida faces a difficult challenge after its controversial founder Lutz Bachmann’s resignation yesterday. It came after a picture of him posing as Hitler emerged in the press. It will be a blow to movement sympathizers and people who participated in marches in Dresden and other German cities who have repeatedly said their were not xenophobic or Nazi supporters. Anti-Pegida protests have also grown in recent weeks. According to Deutsche Welle, a rival movement called Legida has emerged in the city of Leipzig, where protesters clashed and journalists and the police were attacked.
A new poll shows that 70% of Argentinians believe that Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who was found dead after accusing President Cristina Kirchner and Iran of covering up a 1994 terrorist attack, was murdered. More worrying for Buenos Aires is the fact that 57% of those who think he was murdered believe the government is behind the killing.
WINDOWS 10 UPSTAGED
Microsoft unveiled its future operating system Windows 10 yesterday, saying it would be available for free for a year for PCs, phones and gaming consoles. But the announcement that really grabbed the tech world’s attention is a new device called HoloLens.
MADURO V. INFLATION
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a 15% rise in government wages and pensions yesterday amid inflation of 64% and food shortages, AFP reports. The Venezuelan economy has been badly hit by falling oil prices, but Maduro dismissed talk of devaluation. Instead, he renewed accusations that his opponents were sabotaging the country’s economy.
As Calcalist’s Omer Kabir writes, Israeli David Placek has coined the names for everything from the PowerBook to Blackberry to your kitchen mop. And there's a method to his magic. “‘The name of a company, a service or a particular product is very valuable,’ explains the 61-year-old branding maven. It is the only thing that remains. Products change, campaigns change, but the name stays. When I tell this to clients, it gets their attention, because people don’t necessarily think that the name is permanent and that they will probably never change it.”
Read the full article, The Brand Man, How David Placek Names Things You Want To Buy.
THE SUN’S “MAMMARY LAPSE”
Just when nearly everyone was praising Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun for scrapping its topless “Page 3,” the British tabloid resurrected it, citing a “mammary lapse.”
When the world gets closer, we help you see farther
Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.
PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.
With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.
Of course, the Finns and Swedes feel as though they are in the Russian bear's sights, and see no other choice than to join NATO. Putin will thus have transformed the Baltic Sea into an Atlantic security lake. But beyond the objective realities, there is an emotional impact.
"Never again" — the key to European identity
If the British are the ones in Europe who feel the closest to Ukraine, it is perhaps because the images of the Kyiv subway remind them of the images of people sheltering in the London subway during World War II. In the British collective memory, the resistance of the Ukrainians against an enemy more powerful than them, brings them back more than 80 years to the glory of their "finest hour."
This revival of the past, while glorious for the British, is also unsettling for the European subconscious. Did we not see "never again" as the key to European identity, the most spectacular example being the Franco-German reconciliation? The war was for the "others." This was only fair after the fall of Europe between 1914 and 1945. History chose other targets who were elsewhere, far from us.
Of course, beyond illiberal Hungary, the European far-right and far-left have some sympathy for Putin's Russia through a mixture of anti-liberalism, anti-Americanism, and anti-capitalism. But essentially, Russia stands very much isolated in the Western world.
To the extent that, according to a confession made by someone close to the master of the Kremlin to a BBC journalist in Moscow, "Putin himself regrets the escalation since Feb. 24.”
Close to home
Yet, Russia is not completely isolated. The 40 or so countries that refused to condemn Moscow's actions during the vote at the United Nations General Assembly represent around 53% of the world's population.
When in Brazil, former president Lula, candidate for the next presidential election, made sweeping statements denouncing the primary responsibility of the United States in the Ukrainian crisis. "The U.S. and the E.U. could have avoided the invasion by stating that Ukraine would not join NATO," he said, expressing a view widely shared in a continent that still has resentment towards "gringos".
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra, Pope Francis, also Argentine, expressed a very similar view.
On the African continent, some people “understand” Russia. A position that is mainly due to the perception and denunciation of the selective nature of the emotions of the "white man."
Distinction between attacker and attacked in Ukraine is very nice, but who ever cared about Africa?
The war that has been tearing Ethiopia apart for a year and a half has caused many more victims, led to the forced displacements of populations, and created famines that cannot be compared to what is happening in Ukraine. But the fate of the Ethiopians has left a majority of Europeans and even more Americans indifferent.
The African continent wants us to understand that it is also ready to bring out the scars and resentments of the colonial era.
Of course, most African countries do not necessarily support the Russian invasion. But they are not ready to go against their economic or military interests to defend international law in Europe. Everything happens as if Africa wanted to convey that this distinction between attacker and attacked in Ukraine is all very nice; but who cares, because who has ever cared about the African people for themselves and not for economic or strategic reasons?
Pro-Russians celebrating May 9th in Munich
In the Middle East, the situation is different because it is a region where Russia — protector of Orthodox holy places — has been involved for centuries. Caution towards Moscow has a less emotional side, even if the tragic humanitarian situation in Yemen, widely ignored by the Western world, again evokes double standards.
Beyond Bashar al-Assad's Syria, many countries in the region are "playing" with Russia or simply counting on its weaponry or diplomatic support to balance or compensate for America's gradual withdrawal. Israel's position seems intentionally ambiguous.
In Asia, apart from the two giants China and India, both supporting Moscow in their own way, not clearly condemning Russia means reaffirming its distance from America and the Western world as a whole. Japan, the Asian West, is almost a special case (besides Australia and New Zealand) in its unwavering support for Ukraine.
West v. the Rest
Russia, unlike the USSR, cannot claim it has a project to improve the world. In any case, authoritarian regimes, whether in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East or Asia, know that Moscow will not blame them for their human rights practices. And hasn't America, from Iraq to Afghanistan, proved that it is possible to commit countless crimes in the name of democracy?
The paradox of this world' s emotional divorce is that the countries that are going to suffer the most, especially in terms of food, are the ones being most understanding towards Moscow. A major challenge, like global warming, should bring us all together. But on the emotional level, it is more than ever "us and them" and "them and us."
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