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COVID Spikes In EU, Bulgaria Bus Crash, Uber Weed

👋 Tere!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where EU countries face a sharp rise in COVID cases and conflict, at least 25 die in a Bulgarian bus crash, and Uber starts delivering weed. Bogota-based daily El Espectador takes us through the return of gang violence taking over the streets of Medellín, Colombia, which became notorious during the 1970s thanks to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.


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Bad Ruses, Good Reasons: How To Avoid Military Service In 5 Countries

In the countries that require military service, those who refuse to serve must either try to explain their exemption or find a creative short-cut to avoid the obligation. Here are some examples.

Military conscription has ebbed and flowed through history, typically depending on national security (wars), economics (jobs) and demography (young men). In recent years, many countries have outright eliminated the draft or replaced it with a civil service requirement. At the same time, other countries have been bringing back obligatory military service to respond to security threats or as a solution to rising high school dropout and unemployment rates. Morocco reinstated conscription in 2018 after 12 years, with a 12-month required military service for all men and women aged 19 to 25.

Amid newfound tensions around the Baltic Sea, the Swedish government also decided to reintroduce military conscription in March 2017, though for a limited number of citizens - 4,000 men and women were selected from a pool of 13,000.

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South Korean Military Under Fire After Rape, Suicide Of Air Force Officer

The suicide of a female officer in the South Korean Air Force who had been sexually assaulted has sent shock waves through the country, finally prompting the government to initiate a reform of the military, The Dong-a Ilbo daily reported this week.

As French daily Le Monde reported, President Moon Jae-in took advantage of the June 6 Memorial Day holiday, which commemorates all the men and women who have died during military services, to remind people that "patriotism also implies protecting those who commit themselves to defend the nation." He also apologised for what he called "the backward culture in the barracks." Mr Moon promised reform, the outline of which is expected to be unveiled in August.

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UBI, One-Off Crisis Relief Or An Economic Revolution?

Known as UBI, Universal Basic Income has been a dream of progressive economists. Now it is effectively written into many COVID-19 relief packages. But it may turn out to have staying power well beyond.

Will the coronavirus usher in a whole new economic era? The Universal Basic Income (UBI), which gives all citizens a guaranteed minimal monthly stipend, has been touted in recent years by progressive policymakers as a much-needed way to redistribute wealth. Now, with the coronavirus crisis beginning to cripple national economies and send millions into unemployment, UBI's moment to show its worth has arrived.

In an interview last week with MSNBC, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said UBI should be considered: "Let's see what works, what is operational and what needs attention. Others have suggested a minimum income, a guaranteed income for people. Is that worthy of attention now? Perhaps so. Because there are many more people than just in small business and hired by small business ... that may need some assistance as well."

But as John Harris noted recently in The Guardian, UBI's appeal may last well beyond the current crisis. "Right now we need to think hard about a set of realities that the 20th century did not prepare us for. This crisis is likely be repeated. Covid-19, after all, is just the latest sign of the horrors let loose by human incursion into parts of the natural world. Even once the current disaster is somehow dealt with, the catastrophe of climate change – which itself increases the danger of disease, as tropical illnesses start to threaten new places – will speed on. This latest economic crash arrives only 12 years after the last one. We live, in short, in an age of ongoing shocks, and it is time we began to prepare."

Whether UBI is simply a stop-gap emergency measure or will stick, and be integrated into the global economy remains to be seen. But looking around the world, from South Korea to Spain to the U.S. and beyond, the radical rethinking of a citizen's relationship with national treasuries and the labor market is starting to look — at least a bit — more mainstream:

SOUTH KOREA: As early as March, several provinces in South Korea pledged to provide their residents an "anti-disaster basic income" to help cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Korea Times reports that the province of Gyeonggi is leading the way after announcing this Tuesday it will pay 100,000 won ($79.85) per person to all its residents in April. Later, the central government announced the anti-disaster emergency package would be extended to the whole territory but target the most fragile citizens. A first in the country. According to Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki, about 14 million households will be eligible to receive the relief payments of up to 1 million wons ($820) for families with four or more members in the bottom 70% of the gross income index.

UNITED STATES: Several U.S. states had already tested a UBI prior to COVID-19, while former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang had included in his program a $1,000 monthly basic income for all citizens, without conditions. It's a vision shared by such high-profile progressives as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has has been pressing the issue since the COVID-19 outbreak. She tweeted mid-March: "We need to take dramatic action now to stave off the worst public health & economic affects. That includes making moves on paid leave, debt relief, waiving work req's, guaranteeing healthcare, UBI, detention relief (pretrial, elderly, imm)."" The subsequent $2-trillion stimulus package included $1,200 in direct payment to workers with annual incomes below $75,000. But with 30 million unemployed Americans by the end of April, it's looking increasingly insufficient.

We need to take dramatic action now.

SPAIN: UBI was an electoral promise from coalition party Podemos, proposing a monthly payment of 600€ for the country's 10 million most financially vulnerable citizens. But the pandemic eventually pushed the coalition government to a one-off priority aid of 440€ to all workers who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic. A few days later, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said in an interview with La Sexta broadcaster that a wider basic income was still on the agenda, not only as a reply to the coronavirus but as an economic model to "stay forever," and become a "permanent tool."

UK: There have been calls from a wide range of political parties to approve a basic income as a response to the breakout. As The Guardian reports, former Conservative business secretary Greg Clark urged the government to act immediately to subsidize wages, while Citizens Advice proposed a "crisis minimum income" of at least £180 a week (around $210) so everyone has enough money "to protect their own health and the health of others."

Photo: CC0

In an April 22 letter in the The Financial Times, more than 100 opposition MPs have called on the government for a "recovery universal basic income" to all adults in the country after the end of the lockdown. Such proposals so far have however been turned down by Downing Street.

BRAZIL: Despite President Jair Bolsonaro minimizing the health risks, the Brazilian Parliament has agreed on an emergency relief package including a monthly payment of about $115, for a period of three months, for which 60 million citizens are eligible. This measure is the direct result of an intensive grassroots campaign launched in March that got the backing of more than 500,000 citizens, thousands of media influencers and key business and socioeconomic organizations.

A universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out.

POPE FRANCIS: In an Easter letter addressed to world leaders, Pope Francis officially endorsed the principle of UBI in the time of pandemic. "This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights," he wrote. He particularly emphasized the situation of "street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers' who were being "excluded from the benefits of globalization."

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Coronavirus — Global Brief: Lining Up To Follow The South Korea Model

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet teaches is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world.​ To receive the daily brief in your inbox, sign up here.


In times of unfathomable trouble, humans search for a savior. More than two months into the COVID-19 global outbreak, that role right now is not being assigned to any one doctor or researcher hero, but to a nation: South Korea.

The country was one of the earliest to be hit by the novel strain of coronavirus. At the peak of the crisis in South Korea in February, 909 new cases were popping up daily. Yet by mid-March, that number had dwindled down to around 70, while its total death toll of 111 is now well behind many European countries and the United States. Currently, the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Iran doubles every 6 days; In Italy, every 4 days; in the U.S., every two days. But in South Korea, it doubles every 2 weeks — despite the fact they never closed borders or shut down local commerce. How, in the span of a mere month, did South Korea manage to keep a relative lid on COVID-19?

What their government did do was exactly what the World Health Organization has been recommending: Test for the virus on a mass scale. The country's 2015 outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) provided first-hand insight on how to handle an epidemic, so their healthcare system was already equipped with proper infection control units and the knowledge that testing kits are key. Iran is trying to order their testing kits and other medical equipment. France, Spain and Ireland are scrambling to open the drive-through testing centers that allow South Korean doctors to both prevent contagion and deliver results in 24 hours.

• In Italy, La Stampa reports the hardest-hit country will now start "with a serious delay," to follow the South Korean model of creating a "digital passport" to track the infected and tested population.

• The Kyiv Post cites a Ukranian epidemiologist who praises the law-abiding culture of South Korea, and argues that societies who are less likely to follow rules are more at-risk.

• In the United States, whose patient 0 was identified on the same day as South Korea, politicians and healthcare workers point to the success of Moon Jae-in's government proves the incompetence of their own.

— Rozena Crossman​


Quarantined world: Nearly 1 billion people worldwide are now confined to their homes as Europe's restrictions tighten, U.S. states roll out lockdown measures and additional millions are placed under lockdown in India, which has seen a sharp increase in infections.

Toll: Global coronavirus deaths reach 15,000. Italy has more fatalities than any other country, including a record 1,441 two-day total over the weekend. Spain has now topped 2,000 deaths and more than 33,000 cases. Of the 32,000 cases in the U.S. nearly half are in New York state, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo estimates 40% to 80% of residents could get coronavirus.​

• Acceleration: World Health Organization chief says the coronavirus pandemic is "accelerating:" 67 days from first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, 4 days for the third 100,000 cases.

Monday Markets: Wall Street traders were still bearish in the face of an extraordinary series of U.S. credit measures rolled out by the Federal Reserve to soften the economic hit of the coronavirus outbreak.

Treatment confusion: Nearly 70 medications could potentially treat the coronavirus, including such as haloperidol, used to treat schizophrenia, or chloroquine to treat malaria. However, in Nigeria three people were hospitalized Sunday after overdosing on chloroquine, which was endorsed as a cure on Twitter by U.S. President Trump.

Tokyo Games: Japanese leader Shinzo Abe told parliament Monday postponement of this summer's Olympic Games was an option. The remarks came a day after the International Olympic Committee announced it would decide the fate of the Games within a month.

New cases: Angela Merkel went into domestic quarantine after her doctor contracted COVID-19, while three top Spanish politicians test positive, including Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias. Others infected include Hollywood movie producer and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein who has been placed in isolation after testing positive at Wende Correctional Facility.

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Novaya Gazeta

Coronavirus ~ Global Brief: Alone With God, Face Mask Holdup, Born With It

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The rapid and insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet teaches us in a whole new way how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world.


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South Korea
Olivia Han iQ

When A Korean-American Health And Fitness Nut Lands In France

PARIS — Paleo, keto, vegan, pescatarian. There are so many ways we can choose what, and what not, to eat. Give or take, I choose to eat roughly 160 grams of carbohydrates, 110 grams of protein, and 40 grams of fat per day. That comes to 1440 calories.

Some of my friends find it neurotic that I know exactly how much, down to the gram, I consume — or the fact that I track my macronutrients at all. But for me, I've always felt that if we need to eat at all, we might as well eat clean in order to properly fuel our bodies — and take those extra five seconds to weigh our food. Through tracking my intake with a handy digital food scale and working out regularly, I have not only learned so much about the human body, but also am genuinely convinced that such attention improves both my physical and mental health.

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South Korea
Lisa Lane

How China Quietly Poaches Samsung Talent From South Korea

SEOUL — A recently retired senior manager from South Korean electronics giant Samsung is back to work — in China.

Referred to just by his last name, Kim, had been executive director responsible for electronic chip design (D-RAM) at the Seoul-based multinational. But just before he was set to begin his senior position at the Chinese enterprise, Kim received notice from a South Korean court that Samsung had filed a lawsuit against him for not abiding by a "non-compete" clause arrangement, Radio Free Asia reports.

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South Korea
Yann Rousseau

Postcard From The Korean DMZ, The Last Cold War Border

Bill Clinton once called it 'the most terrifying place on earth.' A no-man's land with barbed wire and robot sentries, the area between the two Koreas has also become an unlikely wildlife refuge.

TONGILCHON — Kim Dan-geum would never have thought of the DMZ as an escape route. In September 2013, like all North Korean defectors, she opted instead to cross the Tumen River to China — at a cost of $2,000. After 10 years in the North Korean army, where she'd reached the rank of captain, she knew that the southern border — the famous Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ — was just too dangerous.

"Everyone in the country knows it's impassable," says the former military officer, who found a job with an insurance company in Seoul, where she finally arrived in late 2014 after fleeing through the mountains of Southeast Asia. "Even as a senior officer, it was inaccessible to me. The government only sends soldiers from powerful and loyal families," Kim Dan-geum adds. "They fear humiliating dissent on this crucial line."

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South Korea

PyeongChang And The Slippery Sport Of Olympic Geopolitics


The PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games finally kicked off Thursday with the riveting-if-baffling sport of curling and a first victory for hosts South Korea. But all eyes will be on the official opening ceremony tomorrow, especially since a disproportionate dose of the attention for this edition will be focused off the ice and snow.

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Smarter Cities
Christoph Neidhart

Welcome To Songdo, South Korea: The Smartest Of Smart Cities

Many have hailed the innovations of Songdo, a planned community near the South Korean capital of Seoul. But the city, which once served as a set for the “Gangnam Style” music video, also has its critics.

SONGDO — On Saturday morning, Mr. Lee brings the trash downstairs, one bag with combustible waste, the other with organic. His wife is already working at the cafe they own in "Central Park." There are two high-tech garbage chutes — green and red — in the collection point of the high-rise building where the Lee family lives.

Lee holds his identity card over the sensor. The hatch opens. Inside, he places the bags, which he purchased at the supermarket for about fifty cents. At the collection point, there are other bins for glass and plastic bottles and other sorts of refuse. A sign overhead warns: "24-hour video surveillance." Sensors in the garbage chute determine whether Lee has properly separated his trash and used the correct bags. If the machine accepts the deposit, they will be sucked through the pipe system under high pressure from a central station.

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Bertrand Hauger

Olympic Peace Dreams, From Ancient Greece To The Korean Peninsula


PARIS — Compete, don't kill.

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South Korea
Philippe Mesmer

Young Passion For Pansori, Reviving A South Korean Tradition

Youth performers revive pansori, the folkloric art of musical storytelling, a South Korean cultural heritage.

TOKYO — In South Korea, pansori, the art of musical storytelling, is synonymous with tradition. Its name comes from the words pan, which means "room" or "meeting place," and sori, "singing."

Declared a cultural heritage by Korea in 1965 and by Unesco in 2008, pansori is part of the country's national folklore, passed orally from generation to generation since its age of glory in the 19th century. The singing of secular stories accompanied by a janggu, a traditional percussion instrument, at village festivals, had for a long time mainly attracted an older audience. But now the style is seeing a renaissance, with young interpreters mixing it with modern sounds, or evoking current themes.

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South Korea
Jason Strother

Gift Or Bribe? New South Korean Graft Law Treads On Tradition

SEOUL — Stella came to South Korea on a government scholarship to do a PhD. She says when she arrived from Europe, she found that the degree came with some "unofficial" costs. "I heard that there should be some kind of payment every time that my committee of professors would meet to discuss my thesis."

Stella did not want to reveal her real name since she works for that same university now. She says she confronted her professors about these payments, but it didn't go well. "I was explicitly told by one of the members of my committee that I should pay this money," she said. "This was Korean custom and I should take this as normal."

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South Korea
Jason Strother

Cooking Is Like Praying, When A Buddhist Nun Becomes A Celebrity Chef

The South Korea nun's culinary philosophy has influenced chefs and foodies around the world.

BUKHA-MYEON — When I arrived at Baekyangsa temple in South Jeolla province, 270 kilometers south of the South Korean capital of Seoul, I was met with rain sliding from tiled roofs.

The venerable Jeong Kwan was waiting for me in front of the Chunjinam hermitage. Like all Buddhist monks and nuns, Jeong Kwan's head is shaved. She looks grandmotherly in her grey robe, but she won't tell me how old she is. Then again, age is just a number. The nun has lived at the temple since she was 17, and she's been cooking for even longer.

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South Korea
Jason Strother

South Korea, Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Education?

High education levels and salary expectations have created something of a disconnect between South Korean job seekers and employers.

SEOUL — Most mornings, Lee Seung-hoon takes the subway to Noryangjin, a neighborhood filled with private academies that prepare students for the civil-servant exam. His school is located in a seven-story building called the Mega Study Tower.

It's a strategic choice. Even when the economy is faring poorly, the government still hires. Indeed, South Korea"s new president, Moon Jae-in, has pledged to create thousands more public service jobs for university grads. Also, it's hard to get fired from such jobs. Little wonder public sector positions are known as the "iron rice bowl."

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