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Tsipras in Strasbourg, US Army Cuts, Selfie Safety

Photo: Thierry Roge/Zuma

LAST CHANCE FOR GREECE?

Greeted by a mix of cheers and boos, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday as the fate of his country's membership in the Eurozone — and perhaps the ultimate destiny of the single currency itself — hangs in the balance.

  • The Greek leftist Syriza government has been given what is described as one last chance to rapidly submit a proposal after it failed to present a detailed plan in an emergency summit in Brussels following Sunday's referendum.
  • Tsipras struck a conciliatory tone in his Wednesday morning address in Strasbourg, but was short on specifics. He called on the EU to avoid division, with Greece now required to present new proposals to avoid the "Grexit" by the end of Thursday, before a full European summit Sunday, Reuters reports.
  • "The greatest response by the Greek people at the time when there were such pressures with the banks closing, with the campaigns and the media terrorizing them into feeling that this is an end to talks with Europe end to negotiations with Europe," he added.
  • European Council President Donald Tusk said a Greek exit from the currency union would affect the whole of Europe, describing the current situation as the "most critical moment in the history of the Eurozone," according to the BBC.
  • The spokesperson for the president of the Eurogroup and the European Stability Mechanism announced Wednesday that Greece had filed a proposal for financial aid under the Eurozone's bailout program, Le Monde reports.

TALIBAN AND AFGHAN OFFICIALS PEACE TALKS PROMISING

Taliban representatives and Afghan officials have agreed to resume peace talks after the end of Ramadan, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday. Both parties, along with negotiators that included Pakistan, China and the U.S., held groundbreaking talks in the Pakistani capital Islamabad Tuesday. Little was made public about yesterday's talks, but officials said the two parties broke the ice over "iftar," the meal Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan.


U.S. ARMY TO CUT 40,000 TROOPS

The U.S. Army plans to cut 40,000 soldiers from its ranks, at home and abroad, by the end of the 2017 budget year. A report obtained by USA Today says such a reduction, due to budget constraints, will "affect virtually all of its domestic and foreign posts." The number of soldiers is expected to be reduced to 450,000. Going below this figure could raise doubts about the country's ability to win a war, the Army had said in 2013. Most of these cuts were expected, as the the number of troops had planned to shrink after planned withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.


MYANMAR SETS HISTORIC GENERAL ELECTION DATE

Voters in Myanmar will go to the polls on Nov. 8 in the country's first contested general election since 1990, a senior election official has told the BBC. The ruling USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) will for the first time go head-to-head with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. The now 70-year-old Nobel laureate had won elections in 1990, but the results were nullified by the military junta.


VERBATIM

"Iran is dead serious. If the other parties are as serious, we will have an agreement for sure. That Iran is talking directly to the U.S. is a good move. We have broken a taboo," Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Iran's former president told The Guardian in an interview published Wednesday, hailing the direct talks between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. over Tehran's nuclear program. Rafsanjani is a highly influential figure in Iran and a supporter of President Hassan Rouhani, elected in 2013. The nuclear talks in Vienna were extended by three more days Tuesday, but diplomats hope an agreement will be reached by the end of the week.


TWO KILLED IN U.S. MID-AIR PLANE CRASH

An F-16 fighter jet smashed into a small plane Tuesday over South Carolina, killing two people and raining down plane parts and debris over a wide swath of marshes and rice fields, AP reports. The two victims were aboard a small Cessna plane. The F-16 pilot managed to eject and is apparently uninjured.


60

The U.S. has trained only about 60 Syrians to fight ISIS in the region, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress Tuesday, Al Jazeera reports. A program launched in May by the Pentagon had the aim to train 5,400 fighters a year to battle the terrorist organization.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Even as China has stepped up its efforts to effectively combat trafficking, drug-related crime is spreading and deepening throughout the country. Caixin reports: "Though it's certainly reasonable for China to adopt a strict policy. The problem is that cracking down won't touch the root of the problem of drug addiction, and can even wind up obscuring the essence of the problem." Read the full article: China´s Drug War: The Temptation To Criminalize Addiction


ON THIS DAY


The alternative Californian musician Beck and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il share July 8? Here's our 57-second shot of history


SELFIE-AWARENESS

After a rise in the number of deaths and injuries in selfie-related incidents, Russian authorities have launched a campaign urging people to try not to take pictures of themselves while standing in front of an incoming train, in presence of a dangerous animal, holding an unpinned grenade or on top of a railway bridge.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Fight Over Tourist Visa Ban For Russians Is Taking Everyone For A Ride

High on the agenda of the Prague summit of Europe’s foreign ministers this week was a proposal to ban tourist visas for Russians, as punishment for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But it is ultimately a way to change the subject, and recalls Zelensky’s iconic remark after the war began.

Passengers arrive at Sheremetyevo International Airport, Russia

TASS
Anna Akage

It’s not a new question. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called for a ban on tourist visa for Russian soon after the war began, and this week it became the center of the Prague summit of European Union foreign ministers.

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Some European Union nations voiced their support soon after it was mentioned by Zelensky, including former Soviet republics and current Russia neighbors, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They were followed by Finland and the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Poland. Hungary, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus. Germany and France are looking for a compromise that would allow for visas for students, workers of culture and science, as well as people who need entry for humanitarian reason. Perhaps most importantly, however, the U.S. took an unambiguous position against the restrictions.

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Writing contest - My pandemic story
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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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