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In The News

U.S. Soldier Crosses DMZ, Taj Mahal Flooding, Latvian Sand Castles

Latvian artists Karlis and Maija Ile’s sand castle, a tribute to The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” song, is on display at the International Sand Sculpture Festival “Summer Signs 2023” on the Post Island in Jelgava, Latvia

Latvian artists Karlis and Maija Ile’s sand castle, a tribute to The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” song, is on display at the International Sand Sculpture Festival “Summer Signs 2023” on the Post Island in Jelgava, Latvia. Seventeen sculptors from nine countries have created sand masterpieces, recreating worldwide music hits.

Yannick Champion-Osselin and Chloé Touchard

👋 Bonghjornu !*

Welcome to Wednesday, where tensions run high after a U.S. soldier reportedly crossed the DMZ into North Korea, countrywide protests reignite in Israel amid judicial reform, and Latvian sand castle artists are having a whale of a good time. Meanwhile, Yuri Fedorov in Russian independent news outlet Important Stories looks at why Washington may be pushing a “Korea solution” to the war in Ukraine.

[*Corsican]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. soldier crosses into North Korea, raising tensions: U.S. Private Travis T. King is believed to be in North Korean custody after crossing the demarcation line into North Korea while on a tour of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed that King, who had been in military detention for assault and damaging a police car, had crossed over the DMZ "wilfully and without authorization." The situation risks raising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, especially after the arrival of a U.S. nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine in the Korean Peninsula, and North Korea’s test launch of ballistic missiles into the sea.

• Russia’s “revenge strikes” continue in Odessa: Russia launched a second night of airstrikes on Odessa after having pulled out of the Black sea grain export deal. Russia’s defense ministry called this “a mass revenge strike” on the port city, coming a day after the attack on Kursk bridge in Crimea. Meanwhile, Moscow has appointed Chechen minister Yakub Zakriev as head of yogurt maker Danone's seized Russian subsidiary. Zakriev is reportedly the nephew of one of President Putin’s key allies, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

• Thai prime minister hopeful suspended from parliament: Thailand's Constitutional Court has ordered a temporary suspension of Pita Limjaroenrat as a member of parliament, after the leader of the election-winning Move Forward Party was deemed unqualified to run in the May 14 election. Because Pita held shares in a media company, the government said the prime ministerial hopeful was in violation of electoral rules. Despite the eight-party alliance in his favor, Pita has been blocked by military backed legislators and unable to form a government.

• Trump says Jan. 6 indictment coming: Former U.S. President Donald Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social platform that he received a letter from special prosecutor Jack Smith identifying him as a “target” in the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots — which Trump says could be a sign of an upcoming arrest and indictment.

• Pressure mounting against Netanyahu amid judicial overhaul: Dozens of reserve air force officers vowed to no longer report for duty amid countrywide protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's justice system reforms and plans to limit the Supreme Court power. At least 45 arrests were reported as protesters blocked highways, staged demonstrations at major train stations and entered the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

• Taj Mahal flooding: As extreme weather continues across the globe, floodwaters have reached the iconic Taj Mahal in India, its posterior gardens completely submerged. The north of the country has been facing devastating floods that the climate crisis could make a regular occurrence.

• Singapore surpasses Japan as “world’s best passport”: The world's most powerful passport for 2023 has just been named. According to the Henley Passport Index, which measures citizens' freedom to travel the world, Japan has been the world leader for the last five years. But it has now been knocked down to third place to make way for Singapore, whose citizens can visit 193 of the world's 227 destinations without a visa, while Germany, Italy and Spain are tied in 2nd place.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

It’s a “fiery Wednesday” in Italy and on the front page of Rome-based daily Il Riformista, as the Charon heatwave hit the Italian capital with temperatures up to 41.8 °C (107 °F) on Tuesday. In Sardinia, a 45 °C high was recorded, as Southern Europe battles with extreme temperatures. All over Italy, hospitals have already reported a sharp rise in heat-related illnesses and emergencies, and cities such as Rome, Florence and Palermo have been placed on “red alert".

#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS

$218 million

Spain’s CNMC antitrust watchdog has slapped tech giants Amazon and Apple with fines amounting to $218 million total, for unfairly restricting competition in the country. Apple was fined $161.4 million and Amazon $56.7 million.

📰 STORY OF THE DAY

Why the U.S. may be pushing the controversial “Korea scenario” for Ukraine

Ukraine was promised fast-tracked NATO membership last week. But promises often are overtaken by politics, and voices in and around the U.S. government are looking for softer ways out of the Ukraine war, including freezing the conflict like what was done between the two Koreas 70 years ago, writes Yuri Fedorov in Russian independent news outlet Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories.

🇷🇺🇺🇦 The recent tepid stance of the Biden administration regarding Ukraine may be influenced by factions in the U.S. who seek to resolve the conflict promptly, even if it means implementing what has been referred to as the "Korea scenario." Under this scenario, the war in Ukraine would essentially be frozen, and an armistice would be established along a demarcation line determined by the existing military status quo. But would this approach actually bring peace in the case of Russia and Ukraine?

☢️ In the past two to three months, numerous articles have appeared in the American press and academic journals close to government circles, calling on the White House to seek a conflict resolution that would consider Russian demands. Their arguments is that Ukraine alone cannot achieve victory in the war, and a significant increase in Western military assistance will either lead to nuclear escalation or the utter defeat of Russia, which would cause the country to collapse and lose control over its nuclear weapons.

🇺🇸 But there is a more profound reason for this half-hearted stance on Ukraine. Much of the American foreign policy establishment have dedicated years of their careers to seeking a compromise with the Soviet Union and, later, with Russia. Consequently, a certain Moscow-centric perspective may have taken hold within the U.S. political landscape. This perspective suggests that Russia is both a crucial partner and a rival to the United States.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“Russia has made it clear that arresting its sitting President would be a declaration of war.”

— South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in court papers that were released on Tuesday that any attempt to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin when he visits the country next month would amount to a declaration of war with Russia. Putin, who has been invited to the 2023 BRICS summit in Johannesburg from Aug. 22 to 24, is the target of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant — a provision that South Africa, as an ICC member, would be expected to carry out. The leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, is demanding the government arrest Putin and hand him over to the ICC if he steps foot in the country. Ramaphosa responded, describing the DA’s demand as “irresponsible” and said that national security was at stake. South Africa is seeking an exemption of the ICC rule based on the fact that enacting the arrest could threaten “security, peace and order of the state.”

✍️ Newsletter by Yannick Champion-Osselin, Chloé Touchard, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Michelle Courtois


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Geopolitics

Ukraine To Palestine: The West's Isolation Keeps Getting Deeper — And More Dangerous

The West has largely been united in clear condemnation of Hamas and support of Israel. For the rest of the international community, even if Hamas has very little backing, most countries have preferred an ambiguous neutrality. It's part of a deeper shift in geopolitics where the so-called Global South, and elsewhere, no longer tolerate what they see as Western "double standards."

Photograph of a  Palestinian woman walks through the rubble of the Karama neighborhood following an Israeli bombing.

11 October, Gaza City: A Palestinian woman walks through the rubble of the Karama neighborhood following an Israeli bombing.

Mohammed Talatene/ZUMA
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Among the revelations after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine was a refusal throughout much of the Global South to follow the Western demand to condemn Russia's actions. The October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas reinforces this reality, and highlights the opposing world views that will continue to drive this divide.

A map of the world's reactions to the tragic events that began at dawn on Saturday, published by the website Le Grand Continent, roughly divides the world into three groups: countries that condemn the attack and support Israel (basically the West and a few others such as India and Kenya), countries that defend Hamas (a small minority, including Iran) and the vast majority of nation-states that have displayed an ambiguous neutrality, calling on both sides for de-escalation.

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The West finds itself relatively isolated in what it sees as a logical moral stance, given the blatant inhumanity of terrorists targeting civilians. Yet the eyes of many parts of the world, this stance is not so obvious, and even hypocritical.

It's a debate that's already taken place over Ukraine — the West points to the violation of international law, and the response is, "yes, but Iraq, Palestine..."

But if there's one subject on which the reproach of "double standards" leveled at the West has long made sense, it's the Palestinian question.

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