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Residential and office buildings are seen in Beijing, China, January 10, 2017.

REUTERS/Jason Lee

3.9: China reported Monday that home prices across the country fell at a faster rate in May than at any time since last summer. They’ve dropped3.9% since last May, and they’ve now reached their lowest level since 2014. Housing prices are especially sensitive in China because property was once a primary engine of high growth, but the sector is now deeply in debt.

175,000: Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed an executive order on Monday to pardonmore than 175,000 cannabis-related convictions. The use of marijuana remains a crime at the federal level, but 24 states have legalized it and another 14 allow marijuana use for medical purposes.

3,000: A nuclear watchdog reports that the world’s nine nuclear-armed states together spent $91.4 billion in 2023. That’s nearly$3,000 per second. The report says the United States spent $51.5 billion, which is “more than all the other nuclear-armed countries put together.” China spent $11.8 billion. Russia spent $8.3 billion.

24: Russia’s Vladimir Putin arrived in Pyongyang today for a two-day visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It’s Putin’sfirst trip to the DPRK in 24 years, and he and Kim are expected to reaffirm the friendship between their countries. Putin is likely to want ammunition (and maybe some soldiers) for his war in Ukraine. Kim would like to have Russian technologies that can boost his country’s missile program.

177: The Mexican government reported Sunday that some1.39 million people from 177 countries traveled through Mexico so far this year trying to reach the United States without entry papers. For reference, the United Nations has 193 member states.

Britain's Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer addresses the start of the National Annual Women's Conference, ahead of the start of Britain's Labour Party annual conference, in Liverpool, Britain, October 7, 2023.

REUTERS/Phil Noble

Keir Starmer will likely become the UK’s prime minister not long after the July 4 election. Over nine years in parliament, he’s helped shift the Labour Party from the ideological rigidity of theJeremy Corbyn era onto a path and platform that can win enough centrist voters to take power.

On Thursday, Starmer introducedhis party’s latest manifesto with a pledge to help Britonscreate wealth: “If you take nothing else away from this today, let it be this,” he told a mostly enthusiastic audience. “We are pro-business and pro-worker. A plan for wealth creation.”

With its de-emphasis on big spending initiatives, some will compare Starmer to former Labour PM Tony Blair. But Blair was a sunnier and more charismatic figure. Starmer, who left work as a human rights lawyer to pursue politics in 2015, must make a virtue of his reputation for seriousness, caution, and a focus on practical means for attaining tangible gains. His own working-class roots help him connect with working-class voters.

As he admitted in arecent interview, “I’ve achieved less as a politician than I have at any other time in my life.” That’s why, he says, he wants to lead a government rather than the opposition.

Starmer is also the biggest beneficiary of voter exhaustion with 14 years of Conservative Party dominance. As a result, we’ll soon know even more about him.

Servicemen of the 12th Special Forces Brigade Azov of the National Guard of Ukraine fire a howitzer towards Russian troops, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine April 5, 2024.

REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova

The Biden administration haslifted a long-standing ban on funding for Ukraine’s controversial Azov Brigade. Critics of this regiment, not just in Moscow, say some founding members of a volunteer group called the Azov Battalion, formed 10 years ago in response to Russia’s 2014 aggression in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, had links to neo-Nazis, and the US banned all support for the group. Two years later, aUN report accused the Azov group of “looting of civilian property, leading to displacement” in that region.

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Sudanese families wait outside a hospital while doctors and medical staff strike to protest late salaries, bringing the struggling health sector in the city of Port Sudan to almost a complete halt as thousands of displaced Sudanese flooded the city due to the raging war in Khartoum, Sudan, August 20, 2023.

REUTERS/Ibrahim Mohammed Ishak

In moreterrible news for civilians in Sudan, fighting in the country’s civil war has forced the closure of el-Fasher’s last open hospital. This city is the final stronghold of government forces fighting the RSF, a paramilitary group. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are sheltering in the city.

On Saturday, RSF fighters reportedly opened fire, looted drugs and medical equipment, assaulted hospital staff, and stole an ambulance. The hospital had repeatedly come under RSF fire over the past two weeks.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with senior editors from international news agencies at Lakhta Centre business tower in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 5, 2024.

Sputnik/Valentina Pevtsova/Pool via REUTERS

Russian leaders know their country has a seriousdemographic problem. With a current population of about 146 million, Russia has seen that number shrink in recent years.

“Measures to increase the birthrate are a priority of the government and the president,” said a Kremlin spokesman recently. President Vladimir Putin declared 2024 the “Year of the Family” and is paying subsidies to Russian women who have three or more children.

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint statement to the media in Baghdad, Iraq April 22, 2024.

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/Pool via REUTERS

5: Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lacks the authority to fire the country’s central bank governor, a move he’s madefive times in the past five years. It’s a remarkable rebuke for a leader who is battling 75% annual inflation and has repeatedly compromised the independence of Turkey’s leading institutions.

50 billion: According to a leaked document, the US intends to organize a$50 billion loan for Ukraine that’s repaid by profits from frozen Russian assets – but only if the EU agrees to indefinitely extend sanctions against Moscow. Washington wants to avoid accepting full responsibility for the loan if the EU lifts sanctions before the end of the war.

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Faced with a surge of migrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border, election-year pressures to limit illegal immigration, and lawmakers unwilling to agree on a deal to help manage the problem, President Joe Biden has reportedly decided to take executive action.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Ufa, Russia, July 8, 2015. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS summits.

REUTERS/Alexander Nemenov/Pool

In public, there are “no limits” to the old and dear friendship between China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, two leaders with a common distaste for an international system dominated by Western-led political and economic institutions. But China’s economy and population were 10 times the size of Russia’s before Russia invaded Ukraine, and the mess that war has created for Putin leaves Moscow even more deeply dependent on Beijing.

That’s the clearest explanation for the failure (so far) of China and Russia to agree on a plan to build the “Power of Siberia 2” gas pipeline, a project that would deepen their economic interdependence. Aware the Ukraine war has cost Russia its European energy customers, according to a new report in the Financial Times, China is reportedly demanding a price per unit of Russian gas that’s even more steeply discounted than the price China already pays for it, which is less than half the price Europe paid before the invasion. China is also refusing to commit to purchase more than a small fraction of the pipeline’s capacity.

The two sides may one day agree on a deal to build this pipeline. But the terms of that agreement will reflect the reality that Russia’s near-term need for cash is far greater and more urgent than China’s immediate need for Russian gas.

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