The Latest: Bad COVID Record In India, Gaza Gets Worse, Italian Village Reappears

North Macedonia's candidate performs during the 1st semifinal of the Eurovision contest, which started in Rotterdam
North Macedonia's candidate performs during the 1st semifinal of the Eurovision contest, which started in Rotterdam

Welcome to Wednesday, where the fighting in Gaza intensifies despite international calls for ceasefire, COVID deaths hit a new record in India and a flooded Italian village resurfaces. Le Monde"s correspondent Louis Imbert reports from the West Bank where more and more young supporters of the ruling Fatah party are joining the clashes with Israeli forces.

• Israel-Gaza fighting intensifies despite ceasefire calls: Israeli forces carried out dozens of airstrikes on Gaza and Hamas militants continued to launch rockets on Wednesday, despite international calls for a ceasefire. On Tuesday, France called for a UN Security Council resolution on the violence, as the death toll in Gaza rises to 219 and to 12 in Israel.

• Daily COVID deaths hit record in India: India reported the highest daily COVID death toll of any country, with 4,529 deaths in the last 24 hours, driving the overall toll to more than 283,000. The country registers the world's third highest number of deaths from the pandemic after the U.S. and Brazil.

• Pelosi calls for China Olympics "diplomatic boycott": U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the US and other major countries to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, over China's reported treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

• Lebanon foreign minister quits after ISIS comments: Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe resigned after his comments on the rise of ISIS in Gulf States provoked a diplomatic backlash.

• Criminal fraud inquiry over Trump Organization: The New York attorney general's office says that its investigation over the Trump Organization was no longer "purely civil." New York attorneys have been scrutinizing former President Trump's financial business before he took office.

• Ex-FARC leader killed in Venezuela: Former prominent leader of the Colombian FARC rebel group Jesus Santrich has been killed in Venezuela, in a military operation led by Colombia.

• Italy's lost village resurfaces: Repair work at a reservoir in the Italian lake of Resia, in the north of the country, has revealed the ruins of Curon, a village that had been flooded to make way for a hydroelectric plant in the 1950s.

"The government, unable to respond to Rabat's blackmail," writes Spanish daily ABC as diplomatic tensions rise between Spain and Morocco over a migratory crisis in the enclave of Ceuta.

Beyond Gaza: Seething youth in the West Bank are radicalizing

For fear of losing legitimacy to Hamas, supporters of the ruling Fatah party have joined the riots that have left at least 19 people dead since Friday, reports the French daily Le Monde"s correspondent Louis Imbert from the village of Silwad in the West Bank.

The entrances to Silwad are littered with the remnants of larger clashes. On Friday, Mohammad Hamad, a 30-year-old resident of the village, was killed by soldiers. The two days of rioting have left 19 people dead, according to the health services, across a hundred Palestinian towns and villages. This is a death toll not seen in the West Bank since 2002. But this is the first response in this West Bank that broods over its marginalization, far from the conflict in Jerusalem and far from Gaza where Hamas has been embroiled in an all-out war with Israel since May 11.

These clashes should not be underestimated, although they are certainly not on the same scale as the bombing and destruction in Gaza. The young men had not experienced this level of violence in years. "We were 10 years old during the last war in Gaza in 2014, we didn't do much. This time it's ours! The sulta Palestinian Authority will say what it wants; it can't stop us from defending Al Aqsa," says 17-year-old Rami, cooling off from the clashes.

A senior Palestinian officer noted that the mood among the security forces is dark. There is a good opportunity to overturn the balance that makes them the deputies of the Israeli forces, guardians of an order devoid of any political purpose. "The majority of the riot organizers are Fatah supervisors, who feel ashamed. They are trailing behind Hamas and the Jerusalem activists. They know that we risk losing the support of the population," says Qaddoura Fares, a Fatah supervisor and president of the Palestinian Prisoners Club. "But this is still just a short-lived emotional reaction."

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-$1.04 billion

Tata Motors, owner of carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, is reporting a stunning quarterly loss of $1.04 billion in comparison to analysts' forecasts of a $365.4 million profit. India's largest automotive manufacturing company attributed the deficit to asset write-downs and restructuring costs, while also warning about the consequences of a current global semiconductor shortage.

An eggy diversion causes confusion in Belgian town

In a country with three official languages, it's inevitable that some translations are going to get scrambled. But in Jette, a commune near Brussels, a recent road sign alerted drivers of an "omeletje" which means "omelet" in Dutch. The translator clearly didn't have a strong grasp of Dutch or just jumbled some letters, as they meant to write "ommetje," meaning "detour."

As the Brussels Times reports, several passers-by "noticed the sign near the commune's Saint Peter's church this weekend, and questioned if the sign was really pointing people towards the well-known egg dish."

"It often happens that an entrepreneur does not know Dutch and/or French very well and yes an incorrect translation from the internet," Bernard Van Nuffel, alderman for Public Works, tells Flemish news outlet Het Nieuwsblad.

But adding more mystery, the sign also included the French word "omelette" instead of "déviation" for "detour." Further, the Dutch word "wegomlegging" is more commonly used than "ommetje." So normally, this sort of bilingual warning would read "Deviation - Wegomlegging."

Is there some creative wordplay being fried up?

Van Nuffel says the sign might be the work of a mysterious artist, as a similar one appeared a few months ago in Laeken, a Brussels suburb. No matter the culprit, Van Nuffel doesn't suspect any, er, fowl play.

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on

Usually to get that much money from Jeff Bezos you have to divorce him.

During his opening roast at the Disney 2021 upfronts, host Jimmy Kimmel mocked all broadcast networks, including Amazon Prime and its decision to splurge $465 million on one season of a Lord of the Rings series.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Emma Flacard & Bertrand Hauger

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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