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Jeong Bo-mi, 37, and her baby in Seoul, South Korea, April 7, 2016.


Hard Numbers: South Korea's baby money, Cobalt and reproductive issues in the DRC, Egypt gets bailed out, Calif. braces amid storms, New Japanese words hit dictionary

75,000: In South Korea, where the overall fertility rate is expected to plummet to 0.68 this year, significantly lower than the 2.1 deemed essential by the OECD for maintaining a relatively steady population, a construction firm is providing employees with a $75,000 reward for every child they have. This initiative is just one of numerous attention-grabbing incentives being introduced as policymakers and businesses contend with the nation's demographic challenges.

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Santa does his holiday shopping

(Photo by Telmo Pinto/NurPhoto

Hard Numbers: Santa sees holiday sales surge, Ukraine scores a win at sea, Catholic monasteries busy brewin’ beer, Opposition candidates cry fraud in Congo

3.1: The Christmas spirit proved stronger than inflation this December, with American retail sales rising 3.1 percent over the same period last year. But Santa Claus can’t take all the credit. The holiday sales surge was largely driven by a healthy labor market and wage gains, suggesting that although inflation is hurting Americans’ pocketbooks, the overall US economy remains strong.
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Aftermath of a Russian missile strike, in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.


Hard Numbers: Russia's deadly hit in central Ukraine, pandemic money vanishes, AI comes to Jesus, DRC refugee camp attacked, Russian birds on “strike”

10: At least 10 people were killed Tuesday when Russian forces hit a number of civilian buildings in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih. An industrial hub, Kryvyi Rih had already been impacted by last week’s dam breach, prompting authorities to instruct residents to consume less water because of a drop in supplies.

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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the media in Brussels.

REUTERS/Johanna Geron

What We're Watching: Macron gets a boost, East Africa trade bloc welcomes DRC

Macron’s Ukraine boost

Less than two weeks before France’s presidential election, incumbent Emmanuel Macron has a nine-point lead ahead of far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen. The war in Ukraine has given Macron a chance to showcase his statesman bonafides, boosting his lead in the polls. He has spoken with Vladimir Putin many times over the past month and is trying to coordinate a humanitarian corridor for residents of Mariupol (though that seems to have failed). Macron’s critics say he’s used the war to avoid going head to head with rivals on domestic issues. Still, Macron isn’t popular. The centrist is seen by many as an aloof elitist detached from real people’s problems. What’s more, while unemployment is at a 13-year low, soaring food and fuel prices are fueling voter antipathy and, for some, apathy. A recent poll found that only one-third of French voters plan to cast their ballots. But with the left imploding and the far-right remaining divided, Macron wins by default (though the second-round runoff with Le Pen could be much closer than their 2017 face-off).

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What We're Watching: DRC's Ebola outbreak, Russia's referendum, Netanyahu's annexation push

DRC's new Ebola wave: On the verge of eradicating an Ebola outbreak in the country's east which began back in 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has now identified a fresh wave of cases in the northwestern city of Mbandaka. The disease, which has a fatality rate of 25 – 90 percent depending on the outbreak's character, has already killed five people in recent weeks, prompting the World Health Organization to issue a grim warning that a surge of new cases could occur there in the coming months. (Ebola has an incubation period of about 21 days.) This comes as the central African country of 89 million also grapples with COVID-19 and the world's largest measles outbreak, which has killed 6,779 people there since 2019. In recent weeks, officials from the World Health Organization predicted that the DRC's deadly Ebola crisis, which has killed 2,275 people since 2018, would soon be completely vanquished.

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