Xpat Weekly Update: The 5 Most Important Global Stories This Week

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1. Terror in Europe

New information makes clear the fluid, transborder problem represented by modern terrorism. The terrorists behind the Brussel’s bombings last month that killed 32 people had been planning to carry out an attack in France, but changed their mind at the last minute because law enforcement officers were closing in on them. Intelligence sources believe targets in Paris included La Défense, a large office complex northwest of Paris, as well as an unidentified Catholic association.

Also this week, a 25-year-old Swedish man was arrested on suspicion of planning terror crimes abroad. The Swedish Prosecution Authority said the suspect violated legislation that prohibits incitement, recruitment and training for terrorist offenses.


2. With an Eye on China, U.S. and Philippines Ramp Up Military Alliance

As the Cold War came to a conclusion some 25 years ago, the Philippines found that it no longer needed the massive military bases built by the United States, and a chapter in history closed. Spurred now by new concerns over a rising China, the U.S. and the Philippines took significant steps toward reestablishing a military relationship this week. The new agreement allows the United States to (re)build facilities at five Philippine military bases, bringing more American troops.

The new agreement allows the United States to (re)build facilities at five Philippine military bases, bringing more American troops, planes and ships to the island nation than have been there in decades. In addition, joint military exercises this week and the arrival of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter allowed the two countries to put on a very public display of solidarity, rich in messages aimed squarely at Beijing. U.S.-China tensions this week also ramped up over accusations that an American Navy officer may have been spying on behalf of Chinese intelligence.

New York Times

3. Goldman Sachs Reaches $5 Billion Settlement with U.S. Government

Goldman Sachs reached a settlement with the federal government for $5 billion this week. The Justice Department announcement in the Goldman case states that between 2005 and 2007, the investment bank marketed and sold mortgage-backed securities to investors that were of lower quality than promised. Goldman’s actions, alongside other investment banks, directly resulted in the 2008 recession in the U.S., with its global economic repercussions.

As a result, Goldman will pay a $2.385 billion civil penalty, $875 million resolving claims from other state and federal agencies, and $1.8 billion in so-called “consumer relief” measures, like forgiving principal on loans and providing financing for affordable housing. The settlement is also playing a role in the 2016 presidential campaign, with candidate Bernie Sanders calling out Hillary Clinton’s close ties to Goldman, including hundreds of thousands of dollars she received for making speeches to the organization before announcing her run for the presidency.

The New Republic

4. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Visits Hiroshima

In a gesture more a photo-op than substantive reflection, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow G7 foreign ministers visited Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park on April 10th on the margins of their summit meeting. The meeting was a prelude to the May 26-27 full G7 gathering to be held in Ise, Japan.

Mr. Kerry is the highest-ranking American government official to visit the Peace Park since the dropping of the atomic bomb in August 1945, though rumors are dominating the Japanese media that President Barack Obama may visit the Memorial himself during the end of May summit. Obama would be the only sitting U.S. president to have done so.


5. You Can Now Speak to a Random Swedish Person on the Phone

In one of the most bizarre tourist promotion schemes in history, a Swedish tourism agency created the “Swedish Number,” 011-46-771-793-336, a single phone line that connects international callers to randomly selected Swedish volunteers to chat about whatever is on their minds. An automated voice responds: “Calling Sweden. You will soon be connected to a random Swede, somewhere in Sweden.”

By letting everyday Swedes communicate directly with foreigners, tourism officials hope to present a more authentic picture of the country than one conjured up by a marketing agency. About 3,000 Swedes downloaded a mobile app that puts them on a list to talk with strangers. There’s also an amusing Twitter account reporting on conversations.


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