Global Review – 29th July

Xi warns Biden not to ‘play with fire’

US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to schedule their first in-person summit during a sometimes tense phone call Thursday where Xi warned the United States not to “play with fire” in Taiwan. Although this was their fifth phone or video call since Biden took office 18 months ago, the summit would be their first in-person meeting as leaders. No detail was given on the timing or location. Biden and Xi “discussed the value of meeting face-to-face and agreed to have their teams follow up to find a mutually agreeable time to do so,” a US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Both sides described the call as a robust exchange on the many disputes between the world’s two biggest economic powers. China’s state-run Xinhua agency said Xi delivered harsh words on US policy towards Taiwan, a democratic island with close ties to the United States but which China considers part of its territory. “Those who play with fire will eventually get burned,” Xi was quoted as telling Biden. “I hope the US side fully understands that.”

Tensions around Taiwan are steadily escalating amid fears that Xi could ultimately order an invasion to impose Beijing’s rule. In the latest flashpoint, Chinese authorities are furious at unconfirmed plans by Biden ally and speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to visit the island. Washington will “bear the consequences” if the trip goes ahead, China warned Wednesday. Biden was emphatic: he told Xi  that his country’s position on Taiwan had not changed. The American president reassured the Chinese leader of US support for the ‘One China’ policy, but also warned him that no handouts would be tolerated.

One big question still completely unresolved is the trade war started under Donald Trump, with 25% import duties on billions of dollars of Chinese products. Despite speculation that Biden could soon ease some of those tariffs to try and lower roaring inflation in the US economy, there was no movement on the issue during his talk with Xi.

Medvedev on NATO expansion in Finland and Sweden

“Russia will respond symmetrically to the expansion of NATO military infrastructure in Finland and Sweden,” the vice president of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, said while criticising the presence of NATO in the Baltic Sea.

Salvini under scrutiny over Russia ties

Italian right-wing leader Matteo Salvini’s ties with Russia were again under scrutiny Thursday following questions about the run-up to the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government.‘La Stampa’ reported that a diplomat at the Russian embassy met one of Salvini’s aides in late May in Rome, and asked if any of the ministers from Salvini’s League party intended to resign from Draghi’s coalition. The League pulled out of the government last week, alongside Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the populist Five Star Movement, causing Draghi to resign and triggering September elections. The meeting was said to have taken place at the same time as Salvini drew criticism for conducting parallel diplomacy with Russia over the war in Ukraine. Salvini hit back condemning “fake news”, putting the claims down to mudslinging at the start of the campaign for the September 25 elections. “A divided and desperate left … spends its time looking for fascists, Russians and racists who are not there,” he said, insisting his party was “on the side of the West”. The Russian embassy did not comment, but has previously denied interfering in Italian affairs.

Russian strike kills five in central Ukraine

Five people were killed and another 25 wounded in a Russian missile strike on a flight school in the central Ukrainian city of Kropyvnytskyi on Thursday, the regional governor said. Andriy Raikovychtold a news briefing that two missiles had struck hangars at the National Aviation University Flight Academy late morning. “There are victims, dead and wounded. Twenty-five have already been taken to medical institutions – they were wounded. Five were killed, one of them from the military,” he said. “There are material losses – two civilian aircraft and one AN-26 aircraft.”

Syrian ship carrying ‘stolen’ grain docked in Lebanon

A Syrian cargo ship, sanctioned by the United States and carrying what Ukraine says is stolen barley from the eastern European country, has docked in Lebanon, the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Beirutsaid Thursday. According to the Ukrainian embassy, the cargo vessel Laodicea docked in the port of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city. It was carrying 5,000 tons of flour and 5,000 tons of barley, the embassy said. Ukraine has accused Russia of plundering grain and steel from its territory since Moscow invaded the country.

San Francisco, New York state declare monkeypox emergencies

Washington Post reports San Francisco and the state of New York declared public health emergencies Thursday amid the growing monkeypox outbreak, the latest in escalating measures in response to the rapidly spreading virus. More than 40% of the nation’s confirmed 4,907 monkeypox cases have been reported in California and New York. San Francisco Mayor London Breed said cases of monkeypox had nearly doubled, to 261, in a week.

Kentucky floods leave several dead

Torrential rains unleashed devastating floods in Appalachia on Thursday, as fast-rising water killed at least eight people in Kentucky and sent people scurrying to rooftops to be rescued. Water gushed from hillsides and flooded out of streambeds, inundating homes, businesses and roads throughout eastern Kentucky. Parts of western Virginia and southern West Virginia also saw extensive flooding. Rescue crews used helicopters and boats to pick up people trapped by floodwaters.

Commonwealth Games open to strains of Duran Duran

British pop giants Duran Duran headlined a glitzy Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Birmingham on Thursday as more than 5,000 athletes braced for battle. Competitors from 72 nations and territories, many of which are former British colonies, will be vying for medals in 19 sports over a jam-packed 11 days in the English Midlands. The opening ceremony at the revamped Alexander Stadium paid tribute to the industrial heritage of the city and celebrated the diversity of its modern make-up. Prince Charles arrived with his wife Camilla in his personal Aston Martin during a segment highlighting Birmingham’s rich history of motor manufacturing. Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who moved to the city after surviving a Pakistani Taliban assassination attempt when she was 15, said every child deserves the chance to “pursue her wildest dreams”.

Italy: Million euros in banknotes shredded

The employees of a disposal company in Romano d’Ezzelino, in the Vicenza area, could not believe their eyes: in the drawers of an old copy machine there had been hidden banknotes with an estimated value of one million euros. The money has been shredded. The workers were desperate at the sight of fragments of 500 and 200 euro banknotes, recognisable by the colours (purple for the former, yellow for the latter), among the plastic scraps. Giuseppe Ziliani, CEO of Sea, does not hold back his regret. “According to the contract we were now owners of the material,” he explained to ‘Il Giornale di Vicenza’.

Pensioner finds bonds for 1.5 million in the garbage

Passionate about philately, a pensioner was attracted to some old documents thrown in the garbage near a dumpster, and he checked. It was thus that an 83-year-old pensioner from Messina discovered a treasure in interest- bearing bonds issued in the 1930s and 1940s: the current value of which exceeds€1.5 million. After having reported the discovery, the man did not receive feedback from the heirs and thus became the holder of the vouchers. “I will need that money for a peaceful old age,” he said.

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