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An Afghan security force personnel keeps watch near his check post in Parun, capital of Nuristan province, Afghanistan November 20, 2016.

REUTERS/Hamid Shalizi

Hard Numbers: Landslide tragedy in Afghanistan, Credit card mega deal, Debt default in Niger, Gun violence in New Guinea, EU takes on TikTok, Chinese New Year blowout, Japan crazy for food carts

25: Twenty-five people have died and twenty homes were destroyed in a landslide triggered by heavy rain and snow in eastern Afghanistan's Nuristan province. Harsh winter weather, difficult terrain, and a lack of resources are hampering rescue efforts for those still trapped.

35,300,000,000: Capital One will merge with credit card network Discover in an all-stock deal valued at $35.3 billion dollars, expected to close in late 2024 or early 2025. The merger would render the combined firm the largest US credit card company by loan volume, but consumer advocates say the deal raises antitrust concerns.

519,000,000: The West African nation of Niger has defaulted on another debt payment, bringing its total debt default to $519 million since a military coup last July, according to the West African monetary union debt management agency UMOA Titres. Niger’s recent missed payment of $22 million is but the latest challenge faced by the Sahel nation, including suspended international aid, closed borders, and a possible currency change.

26: Twenty-six people were killed in a tribal ambush in a community dispute in Papua New Guinea's Highlands region. The area has traditionally struggled with violence, but a recent influx of illegal firearms have made clashes more deadly.

6: The EU could take a big bite out of ByteDance, parent company of social media giant TikTok. The company could be subject to a fine of 6% of its global turnover if found to have violated EU online content rules, particularly regarding the protection of minors and advertising transparency.

474,000,000: Now that’s a holiday! During China’s eight-day Lunar New Year celebrations, Chinese travelers were on the move, taking 474 million domestic trips, up 19% from 2019, and splashing out spending of 632.7 billion yuan (US$87.9 billion), up 7.7% from pre-pandemic levels.

100,000: Japan's latest craze? Snagging a bullet train food cart for your kitchen or canteen. After Central Japan Railway decided to discontinue the use of its 50 iconic snack-mobiles, it was swamped with nearly 2,000 bids at $100,000 yen (US$666) a pop, proving that the race for train memorabilia is just as fast-paced as the shinkansen line itself.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanes

AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Did Papua New Guinea just pick a side?

The Australian government on Thursday signed a security pact with its nearest neighbor, Papua New Guinea (aka PNG) that strengthens its – and America’s – position as a primary security partner in a region where China’s influence is rising.

The agreement was finalized six months later than initially scheduled, primarily because PNG harbored reservations about being perceived as favoring one side over another. During this delay, China actively sought PNG's participation in a comprehensive security pact involving nine other Pacific Island nations, though the initiative eventually collapsed. Despite having entered into a defense agreement with the United States in May, PNG asserts that it remains impartial and has not aligned itself with any particular side.

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G7 alignment & US political challenges
G-7 alignment & US political challenges | Quick Take | GZERO Media

G7 alignment & US political challenges

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here and a happy Monday. Quick take to start off your week as President Biden is back in the United States after the G7 Summit in Hiroshima.

What do we think? How did it go? Well, I mean a couple of very different takes. First of all, the G7 is enormously aligned, most particularly on Russia. I have never seen this level of outpouring of support. Every individual member of the G7 engaged personally with Ukrainian President Zelensky, the level of international aid coordination, diplomatic engagement, military support across the board continues to be at exceptionally high levels, not what Putin would've expected, not what the G7 would've expected before the Russian invasion, and that certainly helps to put Zelensky in a stronger position to negotiate with the Russians after a counter offensive over the coming months.

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Luisa Vieira

The US-China fallout from Biden’s PNG no-show

On Monday, Joe Biden was scheduled to make a historic stopover in Papua New Guinea coming from the G-7 summit in Japan and on his way to the Quad huddle in Australia. It would have been the first visit by a sitting US president to a country that often flies under the radar yet has immense geopolitical significance.

But Biden decided to cut short his trip and return stateside after the G-7 to negotiate a debt ceiling deal with Republicans in Congress. This did not go down well in PNG.

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A protester holds a portrait of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont during a protest in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

What We're Watching: Catalan separatist off the hook, Biden's special counsel, Oz-PNG deal, Czech election, nukes for South Korea?

Spanish justice gives up on Catalan fugitive

After trying for more than five years to bring fugitive ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to trial for sedition, on Thursday a Spanish judge threw in the towel and dropped the charge. Why? The left-wing government of PM Pedro Sánchez has watered down the crime of sedition so much that it no longer covers what Puigdemont did in Oct. 2017: declare Catalonia an independent republic before skipping town when he was about to get arrested. And why did Sánchez tweak the law? Because he needs the votes of Catalan separatist parties in the national parliament to stay in power (which also explains why he pardoned the other politicians who tried to secede along with Puigdemont.) The judge's decision has big political implications in an election year. On the one hand, it's vindication for the Catalan independence movement, which has been losing steam since its failed secession bid. But on the other, it's a poison pill for Sánchez, whom the the Spanish right has long accused of pandering to Catalan separatists. The PM will get a sense of what Spanish voters think of his Catalonia policy in local and regional elections in late May, a dress rehearsal for a general vote in December.

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What We’re Watching: German coalition talks, India’s power woes, Oz closes PNG migrant facility

German kingmakers make their pick: Despite fears of a drawn-out process that could take months like in 2017, the Greens and the pro-business FDP have taken less than two weeks to decide whom they want to team up with in a three-way coalition government. The two parties are now talking to the left-of-center SPD, which narrowly won the September 26 federal election. Good news for those hoping to have a new government in place before Christmas, since it'll be easier for the SPD to agree on stuff with its two junior partners than for the Greens and the FDP to find common ground themselves. Bad news for the conservative CSU/CDU, which has governed Germany for 16 years under Chancellor Angela Merkel but is likely headed to the opposition after achieving its worst election result ever.

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Gunmen massacre 18, including children, in Papua New Guinea attack

July 11, 2019 6:15 AM

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Gunmen have massacred as many as 18 people including women and children in a remote village in Papua New Guinea, apparently the latest victims of a tribal feud, and Prime Minister James Marape vowed on Wednesday (July 10) to hunt down the killers.

Papua New Guinea deploys army to help volcano emergency

June 28, 2019 1:28 PM

KOKOPO, PAPUA NEW GUINEA (AFP) - Troops have been sent to help thousands of people displaced by a volcanic eruption on a remote archipelago in Papua New Guinea, the prime minister said Friday (June 28), as a second volcano erupted.

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