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.”
Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.
• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.
• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.
• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.
• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.
• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.
• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.
• Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.
Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.
Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping
"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.
🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.
📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.
⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."
— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."
Why this Sudan coup d'état is different
Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.
Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:
"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.
Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.
True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
471 million euros
Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.
✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! email@example.com!
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