Welcome to Monday, where a shooting in a Russian university leaves at least 8 dead, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is confirmed to be safe for children and Philippine boxer star Manny Pacquiao announces he will run for president. Meanwhile, Persian-language daily Kayhan-London meets women in Afghanistan who are taking part in protests against the Taliban.
• At least 8 killed in Russian university shooting: A gunman opened fire at a university in the Russian city of Perm, killing at least eight people and injuring dozens. There are conflicting reports as to whether the attacker, who is said to be a student, was killed by the police or just wounded. (See below for more on how school shootings have spread in recent years beyond the U.S.)
• Pro-Putin party set to win reduced majority in Russian elections: Despite losing around one-fifth of its support, President Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party is on track to secure a strong majority in a parliamentary vote after a sweeping crackdown that outlawed Kremlin critic Alexei Nalvalny's movement.
• AUKUS diplomatic row not easing: France cancelled a defense meeting with the UK due to take place this week, amid the row prompted by the new security deal between the U.S., UK and Australia. Meanwhile, Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he will seek a meeting with his French counterpart to ease tensions over the country's decision to scrap the $40 billion submarine deal.
• COVID update: Pfizer and BioNTech announced their COVID-19 vaccine was safe and generated a "robust" immune response in children between 5 and 11 year old, according to data from a clinical trial. Meanwhile, American actor and comedian Chris Rock revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus and urged others to get the vaccine.
• U.S. flies migrants back to Haiti: More than 300 Haitian migrants were sent home after the U.S. removed them from a large makeshift camp on the Texas-Mexico border. Haitian officials urged the U.S. to stop the flights as Haiti is facing a severe crisis and cannot handle thousands of homeless deportees.
• Canadians to decide Justin Trudeau's fate in federal election: Canada goes to the polls today, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's gamble to call snap elections to reinforce his parliamentary majority. The center-left leader is now facing surprisingly tough competition from several rival parties.• Protected penguins killed by bees: In a very rare occurrence, a swarm of bees has killed 63 endangered African penguins in a national park near Cape Town in South Africa.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Philippine daily The Manila Times reports on the nomination of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao as a candidate for next year's presidential election. Pacquiao, currently a senator, will face the hand-picked successor to controversial President Rodrigo Duterte, who is barred from seeking a second term but may be angling to hold on to power.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Afghan women lead civil fight against Taliban
Angered at the prospect of returning to the Middle Ages with the Taliban, many Afghan women are refusing to keep quiet and stay home as they did in the 1990s, reports Ahmad Ra'fat in Persian-language daily Kayhan-London.
✊ Fereshteh Ra'fat, a journalist who managed to leave Kabul on one of the last flights out, says Afghanistan is "not the Afghanistan of 20 years ago," and the Taliban "are well aware of this change, which is why they are particularly afraid of women." Ra'fat says they know that today, as was seen across Afghanistan in the past days, women are at the heart of protests against the government: "They're the ones who with their presence on the streets, brought the men onto the streets of Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif."
🙅♀️ Fahimeh Sadat, a rights activist who used to work with the Afghan government, will not believe any of the Taliban's promises to safeguard women's rights in an "Islamic framework." She says, "Didn't we live in an Islamic country so far? Which of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's laws were against religious laws? Not that the Taliban recognize rights for men either. They arrest and strike with any pretext, as they did with journalists in recent days."
➗ Fahimeh Sadat says the city-countryside divide was a factor that aided the Taliban's return. The cultural and economic changes of the past 20 years "never reached the villages," she says, and rural life remained traditional. She said, "We mustn't pin our hopes on foreign governments. We must change Afghan society from inside," and bring it to "maturity." Her mother had "opted for silence and inaction to stay alive" in the last Taliban government, but for herself, "the incentive is to take part in protests."➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
There has been duplicity, contempt and lies.
— French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian articulated in clear language France's outrage over being shut out by the U.S., U.K. and Australia from a new Asia-Pacific security pact and a multi-billion sale of French submarines. France also recalled its ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia. Emergency meetings between the longtime allies have been set up to try to cool one of the worst diplomatic crises in recent memories among Western allies.
🏫💥 IN OTHER NEWS
Russia university attack is a reminder that school shootings are not just a U.S. phenomenon
We think of school shootings as a uniquely American malady. Statistics seem to overwhelmingly support this view: a 2018 CNN report estimated that the U.S. had 57 times as many school shootings as the other G7 nations combined, with an average of one attack a week. And though the past two years have seen a drop in massacres on school grounds, as the pandemic forced the education world to move online, a recent Washington Post article notes that as classrooms reopen, gun violence is again soaring at the nation's primary and secondary schools. According to the Everytown for Gun Safety nonprofit, there were at least 43 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 12 deaths and 19 injuries nationally since the beginning of the year.
Still, the rest of the world is not immune to the phenomenon, as we are reminded by the developing story in Russia (where a gunman, said to be a former student, opened fire at a university in the city of Perm, killing at least eight people). Is this global spread of these senseless shootings associated with the influence of American culture, media coverage and social media, inspiring copycats to commit similar crimes? Are school shootings linkable to places with lax gun-control laws? While research on this phenomenon continues, we take a look at places around the world that have grappled with comparable tragedies in recent years.
Where: Gymnasia No. 175 in Kazan, east of Moscow
When: May 11, 2021
Earlier this year, Russia already mourned the killing of seven children and two adults, when Ilnaz Galyaviev, a 19-year-old former student, opened fire and detonated an explosive device at a school in Kazan before being apprehended by police forces. According to Russian daily Kommersant, the shooter was motivated by a desire to demonstrate his "superiority," having posted on the Telegram platform on the morning of the attack: "Today I will kill a huge amount of biowaste." On May 12, he pleaded guilty to multiple murder. Although this type of attack is relatively rare in Russia, owing to strict gun ownership regulations, the shooting prompted President Vladimir Putin to order a revision of the country's gun control laws.
Where: Professor Raul Brasil State School in Suzano, near São Paulo
When: March 13, 2019
Casualties: 10, including the two perpetrators
Using a short-frame revolver, a composite bow, crossbow, hatchet and molotov cocktail, 17-year-old Guilherme Taucci Monteiro and 25-year-old Luiz Henrique de Castro, both former students at the Suzano school, killed five students and two school employees before committing suicide. As reported by O Globo daily, prior to the attack, the duo had also killed Monteiro's uncle. According to Reuters, the pair had been inspired by the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in the U.S. state of Colorado, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 fellow students and one teacher.
Where: La Loche Community School in Canada's Sakatchewan province
When: January 22, 2016
Canada has a lot of guns — an estimated 35 per 100 residents, according to Bloomberg numbers — but the U.S.'s northern neighbor also has a lot of rules and regulations in place, including a strict gun-license process. Still, the country is no stranger to shootings on school grounds, the deadliest of which happened at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 when a man who failed to qualify for entry at the university opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, targeting female students. All 14 of the victims killed were women. More recently, western Canada was left in shock after a 17-year-old identified as Randan Dakota Fontaine, went on a shooting spree in La Loche — killing two people at their home, before targeting the La Loche Community School where he killed a teacher and an educational assistant. He was later apprehended and placed in custody. According to the Toronto Star, Fontaine had been bullied at school for his appearance. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix also reported on the following exchange on social media before the shooter entered the school grounds: "Just killed 2 ppl. Bout to shoot up the school."
📸 PHOTO DU JOUR
Smoke and lava rise to the sky from a volcanic eruption in El Paso, La Palma — the first on Spain's Canary Islands in 50 years. About 5,000 people were evacuated, including 500 tourists. — Photo: Miguel Calero/EFE/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger
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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.
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
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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