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Banknotes of the new national currency Zimbabwe Gold, ZiG for short, are presented at a press conference of the Central Bank of Zimbabwe. Due to high inflation, Zimbabwe's central bank has introduced a new currency that is primarily linked to gold, but also to a number of other precious metals and foreign currencies.

Columbus Mavhunga/dpa via Reuters Connect

Hard numbers: Zimbabwe’s new bills, Ecuador in hot water, Russian dam failure, Ukraine’s air defense, Island-sized lottery.

70: Zimbabwe is rolling out the ZiG, a new currency pegged to gold and foreign cash. The government hopes to curb the freefall of its erstwhile dollar, whose value has declined by over 70% since January. People have three weeks to exchange the old notes for the new currency.

2: Two countries, Mexico and Nicaragua, have cut ties with Ecuador following a police raid Friday on Mexico’s Quito embassy that resulted in the arrest of Ecuador’s former vice president, Jorge Glas. Glas had been staying in the embassy seeking asylum since December, when a warrant was issued for his arrest. President Lopez Obrador responded angrily, calling the raid a “flagrant violation of international law,” and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega followed suit, referring to it as “reprehensible."

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The McDougall Creek wildfire burns next to houses in the Okanagan community of West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Hard Numbers: Canada fires, Israelis killed, Nicaraguan visas, Niger junta's plans … and where was William?

30,000: At least 30,000 households in British Columbia, Canada, have been told to evacuate, with another 36,000 homes on alert, as the province battles an unprecedented number of wildfires. Further north, 20,000 residents of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, have also been ordered to leave their homes. Overall, 1,000 fires are burning across Canada in what is now the country’s worst fire season on record.

3: Two Israeli men were killed on Saturday in a suspected Palestinian attack at a West Bank car wash, and on Monday, an Israeli woman was shot and killed in Hebron. Since the start of 2023, Palestinian attacks against Israelis have claimed 30 lives while nearly 180 Palestinians have been killed in the worst spate of violence in the region in 20 years.

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US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meets Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

EYEPRESS via Reuters Connect

What We're Watching: Tsai in California, Lukashenko in Moscow, no Easter in Nicaragua

After US speaker meets Taiwan's prez, all eyes on China

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday met Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in California, the last stop of her trip to the Americas. McCarthy is the most senior US official to meet a Taiwanese leader on American soil since 1979, when Washington officially recognized Beijing – rather than Taipei – as “China.”

The meeting was a bold move by the Taiwanese leader, given that China considers Taiwan part of its territory and is triggered by even the slightest hint of Americans normalizing ties with Taipei. And it definitely won’t help improve the US-China relationship. But so far, Beijing’s response has been more meow than growl.

Ahead of the tête-à-tête in California, China sent fighter jets and naval vessels near the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from the Chinese mainland. Beijing followed that up by dispatching an aircraft carries and announcing spot inspections of Taiwanese ships.

Still, it wasn’t quite the massive show of force put on by China right after Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last August. Blame bad timing: Xi Jinping likely doesn’t want to freak out French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who Xi is hosting this week at a very awkward time for China-EU relations.

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picture of Planet Earth.

Annie Gugliotta

Ukraine’s war and the non-Western world

A new poll provides more evidence that Western and non-Western countries just don’t agree on how best to respond to the war in Ukraine.

Most Americans and Europeans say their governments should help Ukraine repel Russian invaders. Many say Russia’s threat extends beyond Ukraine. People and leaders in non-Western countries mainly want the war to end as quickly as possible, even if Ukraine must surrender some of its land to Russia to bring peace.

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Photo composite of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Luisa Vieira

What We’re Watching: China’s budding diplomacy, Biden’s border control, Russia’s big plans

What’s next for Russia & China?

Russia and China broadcast their friendship to the world on Wednesday as the West freaked out about the possibility of Beijing turning to arm Moscow’s troops in Ukraine. After meeting Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin said that strong Russia-China ties are “important for stabilizing the international situation.” (A tad rich coming from the guy who upended geopolitics by invading Ukraine a year ago.) Putin also confirmed that Xi Jinping would visit Moscow for a summit in the coming months. Wang, for his part, clarified that while their famous partnership “without limits” is not directed against any other nation, it certainly should not be subject to external pressure. He said both countries support “multipolarity and democratization of international relations” – in other words, not a US-led liberal international order. Still, no matter what Western governments say, the Chinese are not so willing to break ties with the US and its allies, mainly because Beijing's trade relations are too important. Meanwhile, we wonder whether the current status of the Russia-China relationship — friends with benefits but complicated — will blossom into a marriage (of convenience) or end in a bad breakup. What we know for sure is that China is getting more involved in the Ukraine conflict generally. Learn more here.

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Beina Lesanjir, a woman who escaped gender based violence, participates in a traditional dance at the Umoja village, Kenya.

REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Hard Numbers: A Kenyan “No man’s land”, Nicaragua strips critics, Eastern migrations soar, big money Bible

0: The defining feature of Umoja, a village in northeastern Kenya, is that it has precisely zero men. The town, which bans the Y-chromosome entirely (at least among adults), was set up decades ago as a refuge for women fleeing domestic violence, genital mutilation, or child marriage. Some 40 families now live there.

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A view shows Batman logo on a box of cocaine, said to be recovered by New Zealand Police.

New Zealand Police/Handout via REUTERS

Hard Numbers: Batman found on cocaine, Disney censors Simpsons, Nicaragua jails priests, Bard flub costs Google billions

3.2: In a possible indication that the Marvel universe is winning, Batman is now on cocaine. New Zealand’s navyintercepted a haul of 3.2 tons of the drug floating in the pacific. Many of the packets were labeled with the Dark Knight’s symbol, evidently a trademark of certain producers in South America.

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A woman displays her electricity bill during a protest against high energy prices in Ankara.

REUTERS/Cagla Gurdogan

Hard Numbers: Turkish inflation soars, Nicaraguan NGO crackdown, Taiwan rejects pricy US choppers

70: Turkey's monthly inflation rate skyrocketed to almost 70% in April, a two-decade high. Critics blame President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who continues to baffle economists by lowering interest rates to combat rising prices.

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