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Rouhani's Demand, Greece And Russian, Moldova's Lost Money

Rouhani's Demand, Greece And Russian, Moldova's Lost Money

Photo: Hani Ali/Xinhua/ZUMA

MEDICAL SUPPLIES REACH YEMEN

The first medical supplies have arrived in the south Yemen city of Aden, and members of Doctors Without Borders have made their way to some of the city’s hospitals, Al Jazeera reports.

  • Iran dispatched a naval destroyer and another vessel yesterday to waters near Yemen, AP reports. And the U.S. announced it was boosting weapons supplies and intelligence sharing with the coalition of countries battling the Houthi rebels there.
  • Houthi fighters, backed by supporters of former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, entered the provincial capital of the mainly Sunni Shabwa province yesterday, Reuters reports.
  • According to the World Health Organization, at least 643 people have died and more than 2,200 have been wounded since the conflict began March 19. More than 100,000 people have been displaced and refugees are streaming into neighboring Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports.
  • Saudi Arabia and its allies have accused Iran of arming the Houthi fighters, though Iran has denied it. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Iran that supporting the Houthi rebels will work against it. “There are obviously supplies that have been coming from Iran,” he told PBS Wednesday. “Iran needs to recognize that the U.S. is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries and other countries.”

ON THIS DAY

Baghdad fell to American forces 12 years ago today. Time now for your 57-second shot of history.

BOSTON GLOBE OPPOSES DEATH FOR TSARNAEV

Citing his youth, drug use and his brother’s influence, The Boston Globe editorialized this morning against sentencing Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted yesterday, to the death penalty.

-0.05%

Switzerland has become the first country to sell 10-year bonds at the negative interest rate of -0.05%, meaning that investors are actually paying to lend money, Les Echos reports. While deflation fears are growing in the EU in general and in Switzerland in particular, the newspaper foresees that the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program might lead to similar outcomes in other European countries.

MAN OPENS FIRE IN MILAN TRIBUNAL

Two people have been killed and another wounded after a man pulled a gun and opened fire in a Milan courtroom today, local daily Corriere della Sera reports. The attacker is believed to be Claudio Giardiello, a defendant in a fraudulent bankruptcy case who is on the run but still inside the courthouse.

EXTRA!

Before Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow yesterday, European commentators warned that Greece could become Russia's "Trojan horse" against Brussels. But Greek newspaper H Efimerida ton Sintakton instead described the "revival of Greek-Russian relations" as a "historic opportunity for the two countries" on the front page of today’s edition. Read more on our 4 Corners blog.

ISIS RELEASES 200 YAZIDI IN IRAQ

More than 200 elderly and infirm Yazidi were freed Wednesday by ISIS jihadists near Kirkuk, Iraq. The terrorist group had been holding them captive since it overran their villages in northwestern Iraq last summer. According to Reuters, at least 216 Yazidi, some too disoriented or exhausted to speak, were handed over to Kurdish forces.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Transhuman technology pioneers and other geeks are embracing chip technology that can allow them to turn on lights, call wives or start motorcycles with a single touch, Dominique Nora reports for L’Obs. “Other ‘chipped’ people also use it to send their virtual business card to compatible smartphones. Apps such as NFC Tools Pro on Android can read and edit these electronic labels, which have a capacity of 880 bytes.”

Read the full article, Man-Machine? Inside The Growing "Human Chipping" Movement.

PRO-ISIS HACKERS TARGET FRENCH NETWORK

Hackers claiming to belong to ISIS hijacked the television broadcast, websites and social media pages of the French network TV5 Monde late yesterday, Le Monde reports. The company was unable to broadcast its programs for a few hours. Personal information, such as identity cards and CVs belonging to relatives of French soldiers involved in anti-ISIS operations were posted online, along with threats against the French military. TV5 Monde director general Yves Bigot described the hacking as “unprecedented.”

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said today his country would only sign a final nuclear deal with world powers if the economic sanctions against Iran are “lifted immediately,” Al Jazeera reports. Speaking at a ceremony in Tehran to mark the country’s Nuclear Technology Day, he added, “We want a win-win deal for all parties involved in the nuclear talks.”

  • Rohani also called for an end to the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen. “A great nation like Yemen will not submit to bombing. Come, let us all think about ending war. Let us think about a ceasefire,” he said. “Let us prepare to bring Yemenis to the negotiating table to make decisions about their future.”

MOLDOVA “LOSES” $1 BILLION

Mysterious banking transactions have led to $1 billion vanishing in the small European country of Moldova, the AFP reports. The figure represents 15% of the country’s GDP and could be a serious blow to its banking system. The scandal came to light when the Central Bank of Moldova discovered that three banks had issued loans totaling $1 billion. The recipients of the funds have not been identified, and it is now believed the money will never be repaid.

MILK AND TREATS

And this furry prison tale from Brazil.

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

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.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

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

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

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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