IMF APPROVES $17 BILLION IN UKRAINE AID
The International Monetary Fund approved a $17 billion bailout package over the next two years for Ukraine, with a first installment of $3.2 billion available immediately, Bloomberg reports. The loan “is dependent on strict economic reforms, including raising taxes and energy prices,” with reports of planned severe cuts in pensions, the BBC reports.
The situation in Ukraine will be the focus of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s two-day visit to Washington, D.C., where starts today. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Merkel will discuss the crisis and the role of sanctions on Russia with President Barack Obama, IMF chief Christine Lagarde and other leaders. The transatlantic free-trade agreement is also expected to be high on the agenda.
In his weekly column for The Guardian, journalist Seumas Milne explains that the U.S. and the EU opened a Pandora’s box by supporting the Maidan protests, describing the events in Eastern Ukraine as “the mirror image of what took place” in Kiev a couple of months ago. “One outcome of the crisis is likely to be a closer alliance between China and Russia,” he writes. In an interview with The Washington Post, the foreign minister of former Communist state Romania warned that “the Russian is a reality” for his country and the Baltic states.
RISING U.S. DEATH TOLL
Violent storms, heavy rains and tornadoes have raged across parts of the U.S. since Sunday, and the death toll has risen to at least 36.
XINJIANG TARGETED BY TERRORIST ATTACK
China President Xi Jinping urged “decisive actions to resolutely suppress the terrorists' rampant momentum” after a deadly blast at a railway station in the northwestern region of Xinjiang killed three people and left 79 injured, Xinhua reports. “Some people were chopping others with their knives, and then came the sound of the explosion, which was deafening,” a witness described to the South China Morning Post. The region has recently seen violent attacks carried out by separatists from the Uyghur minority. For more, we offer this Economic Observer/Worldcrunch piece, Beijing To Kashgar: A Chinese Introduction To Uyghur Life.
Bob Dylan's handwritten song drafts will be auctioned during a June 24 Sotheby’s sale in New York. The “Like a Rolling Stone” manuscript is estimated to be worth some $2 million. Read more here.
GAS EXPLOSION AT FLORIDA JAIL
At least two prisoners died and between 100 and 150 prisoners and corrections officers were injured in a gas explosion at a jail in Pensacola, Fla., causing part of the building to collapse, NBC reports. It is unclear whether the flooding in the region, following episodes of heavy rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, were a factor in the explosion, but a spokeswoman told AP that the jail had not been affected by extensive flooding.
PROTESTORS CLASH WITH TURKISH POLICE
Istanbul police fired water canons and tear gas to disperse May Day protesters who tried to defy a ban on demonstrations on the city’s iconic Taksim Square, one year after weeks of protests started there, Hurriyet reports. Some 40,000 police officers were deployed in the Turkish city, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government fearing that “illegal terrorist groups” might take part in the marches.
As Die Welt’s Detlef Berg writes, riding Namibia’s Desert Express is a much more comfortable way to see a country twice the size of Germany than a long, bumpy bus journey along dirt roads. “It doesn’t look very prepossessing from the outside, so the luxury inside comes as a surprise: 24 air-conditioned sleeping car units, comfortable, decorated with care and equipped with small en suite baths,” Berg writes of the Desert Express. “What the cooks manage to produce in the tiny kitchen is astonishing. This time it’s juicy Kudu (antelope) steak as a main course. South African red wine or a well-chilled Windhoek Lager brewed to German standard are both winning beverages to accompany the meal. Following after-dinner drinks in the bar, it’s off to our cabins, where busy hands have transformed the upholstered seats into comfortable beds.” Read the full article, Riding Namibia's Seductively Slow Desert Express.
SOUTH KOREA FERRY VICTIMS MAY BE LOST
South Korean authorities are concerned that some of the missing bodies from the sunken ferry may be lost, after a fishing boat found a victim 2 kilometers from the wreckage, the Australian Associated Press reports. Faced with increasingly poor weather conditions, the search teams have yet to access 22 of the ship’s 66 cabins, with the death toll now standing at 213 while 89 are still unaccounted for, according to Yonhap.
“Well publicized, malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these,” longtime Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said after his arrest in connection with the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville. Read more here.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
English actor Bob Hoskins, perhaps best known for his roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Long Good Friday, has died from pneumonia at age 71.
ROB FORD CAUGHT ON FILM … AGAIN
World-famous Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is taking a leave of absence and putting his reelection campaign on hold to seek treatment for his drug abuse. The news comes as The Globe and Mail reveals details of new videos of Ford smoking crack. “I have a problem with alcohol and the choices I have made while under the influence,” Ford said. “I have struggled with this for some time.”