Welcome to Friday, where the European flood death toll tops 100, Lebanon's prime minister steps down and a teenager gets a seat on Jeff Bezos' trip to space. We also get a look from Kommersant on the rising hopes of the reformist revolution in the post-Soviet state of Moldova.
• Germany death toll rises to at least 103, hundreds missing: "Once-in-a-century" flooding in Western Europe has left at least 103 people dead in Germany, and at least nine dead in neighboring Belgium. Hundreds remain missing as search teams continue to look for survivors. The scale of destruction has surprised even climate change experts.
• Merkel's White House farewell: In an otherwise warm final visit to the White House as Chancellor, Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden disagreed on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that the United States fears will increase European reliance on Russian gas. Biden was the fourth occupant of the White House since Merkel took office in 2005.
• COVID spreading in Asia and Africa: As Indonesia becomes Asia's new COVID epicenter, nearby countries are planning new restrictions with Singapore"s announcement it will limit social gatherings, a move that South Korea is also considering. Across Africa, cases have "surged by 43 percent in the space of a week." There is concern that the Delta variant could mutate into more dangerous variants as it sweeps through largely unvaccinated regions.
• Lebanese prime minister steps down: Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon has decided to step down after nine months of attempting in vain to form a functioning coalition of cabinet members. Hariri was designated prime minister in the wake of the Beirut port explosion and the ongoing economic crisis, and his exit will likely delay any international aid packages.
• Dutch crime reporter dies: Peter R. de Vries, the acclaimed Dutch crime reporter known for his investigations into mobsters and drug lords, died Thursday from injuries sustained when shot at close range in central Amsterdam last week.
• Pacific Rim leaders discuss post-pandemic economic recovery: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will chair a virtual meeting for members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to discuss post-COVID economic recovery plans. Presidents Joe Biden, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin, as well as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are among the other leaders to be included in today's special meeting.
• Teen to fly to space with Bezos: Oliver Daemen will become the youngest person to enter space after the anonymous public auction winner who was slated to go stepped down due to scheduling conflicts. Bezos' "Blue Origin" flight will also include Wally Funk, 82, who is set to be the oldest person to enter space.
German daily newspaper Die Welt reports on the severe floods impacting the western portion of the country. More than 100 people have died across Western Germany, with many still missing.
A reformist revolution in Moldova may actually happen
Last year's election of reformist president Maia Sandu was the first step, notes Kommersant reporter Vladimir Soloviev in Moldova. But now, after this week's parliamentary election, her PAS party, may wield full control to build the post-Soviet state into a well-functioning democracy. But what will it look like on the ground?
Corruption is "pervasive": The fight against the pervasive corruption in Moldova is at the top of the agenda of Sandu — it's just a question of how to get it done. A Kommersant source close to PAS says that there is a debate within the party about whether the country needs major constitutional amendments.
The bloc of communists and socialists that make up the core of Sandu's opposition is in many respects an artificial construction. The former presidents Vladimir Voronin and Igor Dodon do not like each other, to put it mildly.
Natalia Gavrilița, deputy chairman of the PAS and one of Sandu's closest associates, says that the ruling party intends to keep its promise to voters and launch a war on corruption. "We will adopt strict laws on political corruption, we will remove the immunity of deputies and the president in corruption cases," she said.
This news could disturb many, including former President Dodon, who has immunity. All of Moldova remembers the video that surfaced last year where the once powerful and now fugitive oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc tries to give a black bag to Dodon, who was president at the time. Dodon doesn't touch it but utters the phrase: "You again with the bags. Give it to Kosta, and tomorrow he will give it to Cornel because tomorrow I have a flight at five o'clock. He has to pay my salary on Monday."
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Catastrophic floods are hitting vast areas of Western Europe, with German so far suffering the highest death count. German newspapers and commentators are finding different words and phrasing to describe the scale of destruction. Above, national broadsheet daily Die Welt called it Die Flutkatastrophe, while top-selling tabloid Bild dubbed the situation Todesflut - "flood of death" or "deathtide."
"Thinking of being an Ethiopian now is gone. I don't want to be in the same category with these people that have raped my sisters, that have killed my brothers and sisters."
—Tewodros Tefera, a Tigrayan surgeon who fled across the border into Sudan, told the BBC that he favors a complete break from Ethiopia, full independence for Tigray.