- Russia’s empty fridges
- China’s crackdown on livestreamers
- Time to ground low-cost planes?
- … and much more.
Sri Lanka, Bulgaria, The UK, Italy… The Many Ways A Government Can Fall
It has been a month of political turmoil worldwide. Resignations of political leaders and toppled governments across several continents have dominated the news, with some echoes — and some stark differences:
The images of Sri Lankan protesters storming the president’s house and offices last week, before setting the home of the country’s prime minister on fire, showed just how angry the population was after months of shortages of staplegoods amid rampant inflation.
In the UK, Boris Johnson’s resignation as head of the Conservative party, the culmination of months of scandals, opened the way to a search for his successor as prime minister, over the sound of calls for the outgoing leader to acknowledge his part in making Britain unstable.
Across the Atlantic, it’s in Ecuador — where demonstrators have gotten rid of many a government throughout the years — that Indigenous leaders put pressure on President Guillermo Lasso to resign during 18 days of national strike, notably over gas prices. Still, the crisis came to a halt as Lasso did a full U-turn on an oil subsidy.
In Bulgaria and Italy, the turmoil was less televised but just as complex:
A no-confidence vote toppled a shaky government coalition in Sofia after only six months in power, with elections in the fall seeming more likely; meanwhile, Italy’s caretaker Prime Minister Mario Draghi handed in a resignation letter on Thursday following a non-confidence vote on a package of economic aid for families and businesses … only for his resignation to be rejected by President Sergio Mattarella.
Different as these crises may be, they share a common trait: the post-pandemic economy and the wide-ranging consequences of the war in Ukraine have left a large part of the world population struggling, with leaders failing to truly listen to the people’s needs and act upon them.
Back in Sri Lanka, the situation is particularly grave, with 60% of Sri Lankans having to limit meals to stretch their food budgets and thousands in need of urgent help according to humanitarian agencies. The resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came too late — after more than a decade of bad governance, and months of violent protests across the country.
In Italy, on the other hand, the political crisis seems almost frivolous, especially considering that elections are due in early 2023 anyway, and that part of the no-confidence vote that started it all was caused by plans for a trash incinerator in Rome.
Draghi was never elected to begin with, but instead handpicked by President Mattarella to form a government of national unity, following the resignation of previous prime minister Giuseppe Conte amid the pandemic. Does Draghi have a good sense of what people really need at the moment? Most likely not. But does the future really look rosier without him?
As we watch the umpteenth political crisis in Italy, the outlook looks grim, especially for the European Union, which struggles to find a unified voice vis-a-vis Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the economic situation deteriorates.
“The outbreak of the Ukraine war and the high inflation are causing economic growth to come to a standstill, which, in combination with rising interest rates, can endanger the stability of the Italian budget in the long term,” writes Virginia Kirst in German daily die Welt. “In this situation,” she continues, “it seems all the more irresponsible to start a government crisis — over the construction of a waste incineration plant.”
— Irene Caselli
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. During the storming of Sri Lanka’s presidential palace, what were some protesters pictured doing? Is it: eating from the presidential fridge / juggling with ancient swords / taking a dip in the swimming pool.
2. Russia, Ukraine and Turkey met with the UN for talks on resuming Ukrainian exports from Odessa. Exports of what in particular?
3. Which two major world currencies have reached parity for the first time in 20 years?
4. Who is the latest personality (hint: a British biologist) to get a Barbie doll made in her likeness?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
#DearNothing is trending in India, particularly in the southern states, after members of the tech community mistook a video prank for the real deal. On the night that London-based startup Nothing launched its new phone, the popular “Prasadtechintelugu” YouTube channel released an unboxing video of a (fake) Nothing phone pack, containing only a letter: “Hi Prasad, this device is not for South Indian people. Thank you.” The video was meant to protest the lack of Nothing phone review units provided to regional content creators in India — but after a screenshot of the letter began circulating online, many mistook the prank as a real message from the company, and began posting messages in protest, using the sarcastic hashtag #DearNothing.
• Russian soldiers destroy monument to Ukrainian opera singer: A video of Russian soldiers purposely destroying a memorial to popular Ukrainian opera singer Vasyl Slipak, near the village of Mironovsky, has gone viral on social media. The celebrated baritone died during the war in Donbas in 2014 while defending the Bakhmut region as a volunteer soldier, which earned him a posthumous title of “Hero of Ukraine”.
• Nollywood actress Funke Akindele enters politics: Nigerian actress and film producer Funke Akindele, a prominent figure in the “Nollywood” Nigerian film industry, has announced on Twitter she is entering politics. She will put her career on hold to run as Lagos deputy governorship candidate alongside Olajide “Jandor” Adediran of the Peoples Democratic Party.
• First James Webb Space Telescope images: NASA has released its first series of spectacular, infrared images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most powerful device of its kind. The agency praised this glimpse of never-before-seen details of the universe as “the dawn of a new era in astronomy.” Check it out here.
• James Bond theme composer dies: Monty Norman, famous for composing the iconic James Bond theme, died on July 11 at age 94. Norman was also known for his work on numerous West End musicals.
• Celebrating 30 years of Shar Rukh Khan: Indian acting royalty Shah Rukh Khan celebrated 30 years in the Hindi film industry. The actor has always been intricately linked to Bollywood, as his career skyrocketed at the same time as Indian cinema on the international scene.
A new report tracing the primary concerns of Russian citizens has revealed what Russians fear the most — and it’s not the perspective of military escalation in Ukraine.
In this article for Russia daily newspaper Kommersant, Andrei Prakh writes that according to the new study released by the CROS agency (Public Relations Development Agency), the Russians’ fear of food shortages supersedes the blocking of Western social media networks, as well as fears caused by inflation and the increase in number of violent crimes.
Read the full story: What Russians Fear The Most (And It's Not Escalation In Ukraine)
China’s booming livestream industry has come under scrutiny, Dan Wu writes for Worldcrunch. One of China’s most famous beauty influencers, dubbed the “lipstick King,” has been notably absent from social media and livestreams after a livestream where the influencer was presented with a tank-shaped cake — on the night before the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in June.
In the meantime, Chinese authorities released new livestreaming regulations, betraying the fact that the world of online content creators has the full attention of Beijing, putting direct stress on the industry’s “political correctness” and “good morals.”
Read the full story: Lipstick And Tiananmen: China Dives Into Livestreaming Censorship
“No one can seriously believe that a business model whereby passengers are transported from A to B for such a ridiculously low price is sustainable,” writes economist Thomas Straubhaar in German daily Die Welt. Whether the cost is being financed by hidden government subsidies or by customers, the basic rule of the market economy applies, even with air travel: someone always pays.
Even one of the founding fathers of cheap air travel (Michael O’Leary, who has been CEO of Ryanair for almost 30 years) has admitted that flights are too cheap. But German politicians are suggesting bringing in Turkish immigrants as cheap labor to allow the cost of air travel to remain as low as it has always been, instead of improving working conditions or raising salaries.
Read the full story: Why The Era Of Low-Cost Air Travel Must End
Anna McCord, a 13-year-old Panamanian, won a title at the national Top Innovator Challenge” with her “Sea Me Here” device. The life-saving device, made from plastic and aluminum, floats and helps rescuing people lost at sea by increasing their visibility. Anna said, "The end goal would probably be to have it built into life jackets, so you could have it at any time.”
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Sunday July 17, 31 new emojis are being submitted for approval by the Unicode Consortium for Emoji 15.0. The newcomers include a shaking head, a pushing hand (for high-five purposes?), hearts (gray, light blue and pink), new animals (crow, goose, moose, donkey, jellyfish), music instruments (maracas and a flute), plants (a hyacinth, a ginger root and peas), accessories (a hair pick and a fan), the wireless symbol and the sikh symbol Khanda. If approved, these new emojis should be available on Android and iOS devices by late 2022 or 2023.
Here’s the latest Dottoré! piece from the notebook of Neapolitan psychiatrist and writer Mariateresa Fichele:
Naples Wasn’t Built In A Day
Locals have always known that the Sanità neighborhood in Naples was a place full of traces from a distant past. But since news has spread that visitors must now pay 25 euros to access the Hypogeum of Cristallini street, located under an ancient noble palace, residents are feeling a new sense of confidence.
Anna, for example, lives not far from the archaeological site.
"Do you realize that this changes everything for me? Below my basso, there’s a grotto! That thing always used to scare me because I thought it was full of rats, but now I have decided to open it all up: I’ll throw away the rubbish that we’ve dumped in there for the past 20 years, and instead I’ll create something like the excavation site of Pompeii. For 25 euros, I'll even throw in a first course, a second course, and a coffee. What do these noble people think — that in the whole Sanità neighborhood, beautiful things are only for them? Dottoré, these signori living opposite me will cry for the pasta e fasule I will serve tourists!"➡️ Read more from our Dottoré! series on Worldcrunch.com
• On July 19, the Vladimir Putin will meet with the Iranian and Turkish leaders in Tehran to discuss Syria and Ukraine. It will be Russian president's first trip abroad since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
• As Monkeypox cases are rising to 9,200 worldwide, the World Health Organization will convene a new emergency meeting to decide whether the outbreak is a global health threat or not. The committee will revisit its position due to the “rapid evolution and emergency” of the situation.
• The Sri Lanka’s parliament will elect the country’s new president as current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns amid ongoing crisis in the country.
• Donald Trump’s former White House strategist and adviser Steve Bannon is set to go on trial on July 18 for criminal contempt for refusing to testify in the January 6 investigation and what he knew about the events leading to the riot. He said he is now willing to testify at the hearing.
News quiz answers:
1. As thousands stormed Sri Lanka’s presidential palace amid a month-long economic crisis, some protesters were photographed enjoying President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's swimming pool.
2. Turkey hosted talks between Russia and Ukraine, with the UN also at the table, in an effort to resume the export of Ukrainian grain from Odessa, as food prices soar around the world. Ukraine is the world’s largest grain supplier.
3. The euro and the U.S. dollar have reached parity for the first time in 20 years, with the decrease in the European currency value caused by high inflation and the energy supply crisis.
4. British conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall got a Barbie doll in her likeness — made from recycled plastic — to mark the 62th anniversary of her first journey to Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, where she started to study chimpanzees.
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