Welcome to Monday, where West African countries issue a one-week ultimatum to Niger’s junta, the death toll is expected to rise after a suicide bombing at a political rally in Pakistan killed at least 45, and Michelle Yeoh marries her Swiss beau Jean Todt some 19 years after he first proposed. Meanwhile, Martin Krause in Argentine daily Clarín explains why today’s youth ought to give iconic author Jorge Luis Borges a (re-)read.
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• Niger faces sanctions after coup, junta attacks French embassy: The 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) called for constitutional order to be restored in Niger within a week, threatening force. Alongside the eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union, ECOWAS imposed financial sanctions and closed borders in response to the junta’s coup that ousted democratic President Mohamed Bazoum (who has been photographed for the first time since the upheaval, smiling and in apparent good health during a meeting with the president of neighboring Chad). Meanwhile, pro-coup protesters burnt French flags and attacked the French embassy in Niamey.
• Death toll set to rise in Pakistan bombing that killed 45: At least 45 people have been killed and more than a 100 injured Sunday in a suicide bombing at a political rally in northwest Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan. Hundreds of people were attending the event by the government-allied conservative Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl party, which is known for its links to hardline Islamists. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, however counter-terrorism police suspect the Islamic State group.
• Ukraine-Russia update: In a voice message on messaging app Telegram, Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have said that his Wagner group was not currently recruiting fighters, but might do so in future. Prigozhin reemerged last week in St Petersburg, his first sighting since his paramilitary group’s short-lived mutiny against the Kremlin in late June. Meanwhile, on the ground, at least four were killed in the city of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, including a ten year old, with more than 40 injured and others trapped beneath the rubble after Russia struck a high-rise apartment. Over the weekend, two high-rise buildings containing government offices in Moscow were hit by several downed Ukrainian drones, leading President Volodymyr Zelensky to comment that inevitably, “Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia.”
• Six dead as clashes continue at Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon: Violence at the Palestinian Ein el-Hilweh camp in Lebanon broke out between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement and rival Islamist groups, leaving at least nine people dead. Despite a ceasefire agreement yesterday, fighting continued through the night and into this morning. The clashes erupted after a Islamist group member was killed, with tensions culminating in the death of Ashraf al-Armouchi,the Fatah commander, and several of his aides.
• Officials say Saudi Arabia to host Ukraine peace talks: Head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, has confirmed that Saudi Arabia will host a Ukraine-organized peace summit in early August to discuss Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s peace plan for Russia’s war on the country. Diplomats involved have said it will take place on August 5 and 6, in the port city of Jeddah, with some 30 countries attending — not including Russia.
• U.S. unveils $345 million weapons package for Taiwan: In a move China is likely to disapprove of, the U.S. has announced a $345 million weapons package for Taiwan. China has increased its military pressure on Taiwan over the past few years, as it considers the democratically governed country part of its territory, while U.S. backed Taiwan strongly rejects China's sovereignty. The U.S. is the island's most important arms supplier.
• Michelle Yeoh’s 7,000 days of engagement: Oscar-winning actor Michelle Yeoh has announced her marriage to French businessman Jean Todt, some 19 years after he first proposed. Images of the ceremony in Switzerland have circulated on Instagram, including information on the 2004 proposal — which came less than two months after the Yeoh and Todt met in Shanghai.
“Niger: France's obliviousness” writes Paris-based daily L'Opinion on its cover, criticizing France's lack of foresight in Niger and the country’s operations in the Sahel more broadly. The recent coup in Niger, the newspaper argues, only weakens France’s position in the area, which has been waning for years. On Saturday, France announced it was suspending all its development aid and budget support to Niger until constitutional order was restored under ousted President Mohammed Bazoum.
Beijing’s average rainfall on Monday reached 40.7mm (5.5 inches), with the maximum recorded rainfall in the Fangshan area hitting 500.4 mm (19.7 inches). The Chinese capital has recorded its heaviest rainfall this year as Typhoon Doksuri passed through the city, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from high-risk areas in the region. There were no reported casualties, according to state media. Doksuri is one of the strongest storms to hit China in years, hundreds of millions of people in northern China, including in Beijing, are under a red alert — the highest level for heavy rainfall. The alert covers Beijing’s 22 million people and millions of others in the northern provinces. This is the first time since 2011 that such a heavy rainfall warning has been issued.
Jorge Luis Borges, resurfacing on the edges of libertarianism
The vigorous liberalism of Argentina's literary giant, Jorge Luis Borges and his disdain for the 20th century's oppressive regimes may yet make him an icon of today's youthful, if less learned, libertarians, writes Martin Krause in Argentine daily Clarín.
🇦🇷 Borges believed in and loved freedom. Much has been said about his relations with politics, but attention has mostly focused on anecdotal aspects like his reputed lack of interest in everyday news or political positions based on aesthetic, or even heroic criteria. These led him to admire the patriotic soldiers who fought for Argentine independence (in the early 19th century) and to join the Conservative Party, for as he said, only gentlemen adhered to lost causes.
✍️ Borges wrote quite a bit on the importance of the individual and personal freedoms, an example being his short poem Tú. He always rejected the purported reality of concepts like society, people, and "nations and social classes," which he deemed to be mere "intellectual amenities." The crowd, he wrote, was fictitious: "what really exists is the individual."
❌ He imagined in the future an ideal world in which, in the libertarian manner, the state would be unnecessary. He qualified the state as "the common enemy now; I would like and have said it many times, a minimal state and maximum individuality." He doubted this could happen before several "decades or centuries, which is nothing historically," though he certainly would not live to see it.
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Japa, a Yoruba term meaning “to run, flee or escape,” often used as a slang term for emigration, has become popular among Nigerian youth, who leave the country en masse to seek a better life abroad. The "Japa syndrome" emerged as a response to leadership failure, widespread corruption, poverty and limited prospects in Nigeria. The United Nations reported that between 2015 and 2020, an estimated 2.4 million Nigerians left the country.
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