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Credit Suisse shores up its perilous finances, Mozambique proves its growing resilience to natural d͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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March 16, 2023


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Tom Chivers
Tom Chivers

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The World Today

  1. Credit Suisse rebounds
  2. Mozambique’s resilience
  3. N. Korea launches ICBM
  4. TikTok threatened with ban
  5. France to vote on pensions
  6. Argentina loses sleep
  7. Wish granted for CF patients
  8. Pessimism grows in Ukraine
  9. UK pioneers new drug rules
  10. Caution urged over race data
  11. Suiting up for a moon mission

PLUS: Tokyo’s record lost property returns, and an audiobook triumph for Scottish noir.


Credit Suisse shores up

Shares in Credit Suisse rebounded after it tapped Switzerland’s central bank for $54 billion to shore up its finances. Credit Suisse has faced a series of scandals and legal problems in recent years, and a loss last year wiped out all of the prior decade’s profits. But it has also been hit by broader economic worries, as rising global interest rates have hit many banks’ incomes, and investors are jittery over financial firms following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the U.S. last week. Traders increased bets the European Central Bank, which meets to set rates today, and the U.S. Federal Reserve, which does so next week, will slow — or even halt — their succession of rate hikes.


Mozambique’s flood investment

REUTERS/Esa Alexander

The death toll in Mozambique from Cyclone Freddy is a fraction of that caused by a similar storm four years ago. The 51 dead so far — among hundreds dead across east Africa — is tragic, but more than 500 were killed in the country by Cyclone Idai in 2019. A United Nations humanitarian coordinator told the BBC that investment in early-warning systems and more resilient buildings protected Mozambicans this time. As the world develops, it becomes more able to deal with natural disasters: A cyclone killed around 500,000 Bangladeshis in 1970, but it is richer now and has improved its forecasting and infrastructure, meaning that cyclones now have death tolls in “the double or triple digits,” the climate policy scientist Joyashree Roy wrote in The Atlantic.


N. Korea fires ICBM

REUTERS/Issei Kato

North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile into waters west of Japan shortly before Seoul and Tokyo’s leaders met for landmark talks. The launch, Pyongyang’s fourth in a week, comes as the U.S. and South Korea hold joint naval drills. Fears of growing Chinese expansionism and worsening North Korean recalcitrance are reshaping Asian alliances. Semafor’s Security Editor Jay Solomon reports that Seoul and Washington are working more closely together on plans to deter Pyongyang. Today’s summit between South Korea and Japan, meanwhile, is the first in 12 years, and follows moves by both to reduce trade barriers. Japan is also offering South Korea’s president an after-dinner treat of omurice — omelet and fried rice — which he found “unforgettable on a previous trip to Tokyo.”


US demands sale of TikTok stake

U.S. authorities demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their stake in the app or face being banned. The move follows protracted negotiations between the Biden administration and ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to allow it to continue operating in the United States. American lawmakers have also pushed legislation giving the White House the power to ban the app. TikTok said a forced sale would not address Washington’s concerns. The latest demand, though a major shift, is little different to what the Trump administration called for. “It’s astounding that over the course of three years and two presidential administrations, U.S. officials have circled back to exactly the same point,” The Information noted.


Key pension vote for Macron

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

The French Parliament is expected to vote to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, despite days of strikes and unrest over the unpopular move. President Emmanuel Macron made pension reform a key pledge in his reelection campaign, but lost his legislative majority, meaning he must rely on votes from other parties. He argues that without reform, taxes will not be able to support the country’s pensioners as the population ages. France has unusually early retirement: Macron’s reform would bring it into line with the OECD and European Union average. But the French love a strike, so trains and schools are closed and garbage is piling up on the streets of Paris.


Losing sleep in Argentina

More than 75% of Argentinians have sleeping problems, with nearly half of them blaming the economy. “Stress, worry, anxiety, a gloomy outlook, and desperation are the prevailing feelings” from the economic crisis, a researcher from the University of Buenos Aires told El País. Inflation in the country climbed above 100% last month for the first time since 1990. Argentina — one of the world’s largest grain exporters in the world — has also been blighted by a historic drought that is forecast to cost the economy at least 3% of its annual GDP this year. The state of the economy will be at the center of presidential elections due in October.


Cystic fibrosis no longer so deadly

Johnny Silvercloud/Flickr

Children with cystic fibrosis will no longer qualify automatically for having wishes granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, starting in January. Since 1980, the charity has granted wishes for children with “progressive, degenerative, or malignant” conditions that put their lives at risk. But recent advances in treatments mean that many CF patients live full, active lives: A British child who starts receiving the frontline treatment Trikafta between the age of 12 and 17 will usually live to see their 80th birthday, more than doubling life expectancy from a few years ago.


Kyiv’s growing pessimism

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Ukraine’s battle casualties are higher than publicly announced, leaving Kyiv undermanned for a planned spring counteroffensive, The Washington Post reported. It cited estimates of 120,000 Ukrainians killed and wounded. The replacements lack combat experience, said one commander — some have never thrown a grenade — and “pessimism” has set in “from the front lines to the corridors of power.” If Kyiv is unable to launch its offensive, it would fuel criticism that Western allies waited too long to provide training and weapons. On the other hand, Russia is also suffering heavy losses, and allies have promised to “fully and quickly” supply the needed weapons and ammunition for the spring attack.


UK fast-tracks drug approvals

Sharon Dawn/WikimediaCommons

Britain’s medicines regulator will allow “rapid, near-automatic signoff” on medicines which have been approved in other, trusted jurisdictions, such as the U.S., European Union, and Japan. At the moment, new medicines must undergo a lengthy authorization process to be licensed in the U.K., even if other regulators have already declared them safe and effective. The plan has few details so far but if the regulator no longer has to duplicate work others have already done then vital medicines should reach patients sooner. Campaigners around the world have for years been calling for developed nations to trust one another’s regulatory processes and avoid pointless duplication of effort: Britain seems to be leading the charge.


Caution urged over scientific race data

A report recommended that since “race” cannot be straightforwardly defined, scientists should be wary of using it in research. The United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document said genetic variation is complex, poorly aligned with the categories we call “race,” and likely to encourage racial essentialist thinking. The report suggested using “population descriptors,” such as nationality (“French”), geography (“North American”), or ethnicity (“Hispanic”). Throwing racial categories out entirely may be unwise, though: Doctors who forget that South Asian people have higher diabetes risk than white people, or that some drugs work less well in certain ethnic groups, will be less effective medics.


NASA debuts new lunar suit

Axiom Space

NASA revealed a prototype of its new moon suits. The space agency showcased the suit, officially known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), at a presentation in Houston. The suit will see its first mission in 2025 when astronauts head to the moon’s South Pole as part of Artemis III, humanity’s first return to the lunar surface in more than 50 years. xEMU is a departure from the clunky suits of the Apollo missions, and is designed with thermal boots to aid in moonwalking. The Artemis III launch will be historic for another reason, too: xEMUs will allow for the first woman to set foot on the lunar surface.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Niger President Mohamed Bazoum in Niamey.
  • Dutch hospital workers strike for better pay and working conditions.
  • Marlowe, a crime thriller set in 1930s Los Angeles, premieres in London.

Tokyoites returned $30 million in lost property last year, the highest haul since records began in 1940. Among the returns was a single find of more than $250,000 in cash. Unclaimed money and items generated $5.5 million for the coffers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, according to The Times. Despite the record haul, the property returned doesn’t include items found in train or underground networks, which run their own lost-and-found systems. Tokyo ranked as the fifth safest city in the world in The Economist’s most recent Safe Cities Index.

Neil Lancatser/Instagram

A Scottish crime thriller topped an audiobook best-seller list. The Night Watch, written by former detective Neil Lancaster and narrated by Angus King, is the most popular title on Audible.co.uk. The novel, published last year, is the third installment in Lancaster’s police procedural series, following the story of an officer investigating a serial killer on his own team. Fans want to see it on screen too: Collider put the novel on a list of crime books “that deserve” Netflix adaptations. “With a conflicted lead character like DS Max Craigie, a vigilante serial killer hunt can provide the adaptation genre with a breath of fresh air,” Jessie Nguyen wrote.

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