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A police officer blocks the street after an explosion on busy pedestrian Istiklal street in Istanbul, Turkey.

Reuters

Hard Numbers: Istanbul’s explosion, FTX’s downfall, Ukraine’s win in Kherson, Terminal 2F’s farewell

6: At least 6 people were killed and dozens were wounded on Sunday when an explosion rocked a busy district in central Istanbul, Turkey. The cause remains unknown, but the same location was the target of a 2016 suicide attack carried out by an Islamic State affiliate.

900 million: FTX, the major crypto exchange that filed for bankruptcy and is being investigated for potential financial crimes, held just $900 million in saleable assets against a whopping $9 billion of liabilities. Headed by crypto megastar Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX has been accused of unethical business practices. Meanwhile, its downfall has sent crypto and stock markets into a tailspin.

8: For eight months, residents of Kherson – the only provincial capital held by the Russians – were living under the Kremlin’s control, but the province is now firmly in Ukrainian hands after an embarrassing Russian retreat wrapped up over the weekend. Still, Ukrainian authorities have much work to do to restore electricity, water access, and medical supplies in the province.

18: Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who made Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport his home for 18 years, died at the airport’s Terminal 2F on Saturday. Nasseri, whose story inspired the film "The Terminal" starring Tom Hanks, was granted refugee status in France and lived at a hostel for a period but recently returned to the airport where he died.

What We're Watching: Poland ditches ban on foreign media, Somalia's power struggle, Erdogan vs Istanbul

Poland backs down on contentious media law. Poland’s populist President Andrzej Duda has vetoed a law that would have barred companies outside of the European Economic Area from owning a stake in Polish media corporations. Critics say the now-nixed law was aimed at silencing US-owned news channel TVN24, which has covered Warsaw’s increasing authoritarian tendencies in recent years. Indeed, Washington was blindsided on December 17 when Poland’s parliament adopted the new law, saying it violates a trade and economic agreement between the two countries. Duda’s ruling Law and Justice Party, meanwhile, which heads one of Europe’s most “illiberal” governments, says the legislation was not aimed at ally Washington, but rather at freezing out hostile actors – like Russia – from its media ecosystem. Duda has been in a tight spot: the nationalist leader previously said he supported the proposed legislation, but he has clearly decided that a deepening row with Washington amid rising inflation and a COVID spike at home is not worth the headache.

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Turkey without friends

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Unrest in Paris' suburbs, Turkey's coverup, and immigration to the US on hold

Riots in Paris' suburbs: Low-income suburbs on the outskirts of Paris have long been flashpoints of unrest over racial and economic inequality. This week, youths living in districts north of France's capital lit cars on fire and aimed fireworks at police in protest against stay-at-home measures, now in their sixth week, aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Police said that a traffic accident involving a policeman and a motorcyclist, who was critically injured in the crash, was likely the impetus for the uptick in violence. The riots in Paris' suburbs, known as banlieues, are perhaps a grim sign of what's to come in many countries where low-income families are now jammed together in crowded apartments with little reprieve, and where stay-at-home orders have disrupted jobs in the informal economy that many of these residents rely on to put food on the table.

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