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In the first Monday Briefing of the semester, we look at the implications of Kim Jong-un’s visit to Russia. In other news this week, deadly natural disasters have hit Lybia and Morocco, TikTok has been fined €345m for breaking EU data law, and the ECB has raised interest rates to all-time high. As you drink your morning coffee, have a read to start your week well-informed! 

Spotlight: Putin plays host, again. 

On Tuesday morning, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un crossed into Russian territory aboard his armored train, which is rumored to include a mere 90 high-security carriages at Kim’s disposal. Unsurprisingly, Kim’s trip, leading up to a meeting with Putin, did not go unnoticed. Indeed, it raised questions around Russia’s rapidly depleting military equipment in Ukraine. Following July’s visit to North Korea by Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu, it has become ominously clear that Russia is desperately looking for allies to supply munitions, which Russian forces are consuming in Ukraine faster than they can be replaced. North Korea, owning a huge stockpile of munitions compatible with Russia’s weapons and a large production base, is a good candidate for the role.

While Putin is rummaging for allies in the small circle of countries with kindred strong anti-Western sentiments, Kim has seized the opportunity to lessen his own country’s isolation. Ever since taking office as Supreme Leader of North Korea in 2011, Kim has made only nine foreign trips out of one of the poorest and most diplomatically isolated countries in the world; two of which, now, to Russia. In March, as concerns around North Korea’s chronic food shortages were growing, the country signaled a restart in diplomatic activity following three years of Covid isolation by sending officials to the regime’s cornerstone allies, China and Russia. 

It appears their shared political ostracization has significantly contributed to forcing Putin (against whom the ICC issued a war crimes arrest warrant in March) and Kim into each other’s arms. Both well-versed in the symbolism and propaganda-machines, the two leaders exchanged rifles as they met this week, meanwhile Kim referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “sacred fight” against imperialism and the West. The symbolic undertone, on one hand, places dangerously close two ruthless leaders whose military and political ambition borders on lunatic. On the other hand, this marriage of convenience is still highly constrained by major players in the field. US and South Korean officials have expressed concerns about potential new military cooperation between North Korea and Russia. However, any arms deal would breach the 2006 UN arms embargo on North Korea and would possibly have to go through North Korea’s biggest trading partner, China, whose stance so far concerning the war in Ukraine has attempted to appear neutral(-ish). 

Around the World 

Flooding death toll soars to 11,300 in Libya’s coastal city of Derna. On Sunday 10th, rains brought by Storm Daniel caused two dams to burst, causing a devastating flooding in Libya’s eastern coastal city of Derna. “It lasted an hour or an hour and a half – but for us, it felt like a year.” According to a UN report released Saturday 16th, the death toll has risen to at least 11,300. The mayor of Derna, Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi, said the total could climb to 20,000 given the number of neighborhoods that were destroyed. The rival authorities based in Tripoli and Sirte seem to be putting together their efforts to help the local population. While the floods were unprecedented, experts argue that years of neglect and corruption worsened the tragedy.

Deadliest earthquake in more than 60 years hits Morocco near Marrakesh. The devastating magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck Morocco a week ago has already become the deadliest to hit the country in the past 60 years. The event’s epicenter was located at the Al-Haouz province, an area not typically associated with earthquakes, which might serve to explain the extensive death-toll and the over five-thousand injuries already registered. The closest major city impacted was Marrakesh, which is home to around a million people and to an UNESCO World Heritage Site that appears to have been badly affected. With the mountainous terrain and remote villages of the Atlas Mountains, the area where the earthquake was most impactful, rescue efforts have been hindered and the treacherous terrain will not ease up as teams continue to battle to help those in need.

Related:  Monday Briefing 08/05/2023

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy to visit Biden as Congress debates $24bn in aid. Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to pay a visit to the White House in the coming week as he visits the United States during the United Nations general assembly. While the Ukranian people clamor for results after what has been, to their perspective, a failed counter offensive, the US congress is debating President Joe Biden’s request to offer up to $24 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. President Zelenskiy has already claimed that this money is “not a charity” and yet an “investment”, however, as republicans push for a spending cut and with elections fast approaching congress will find itself with a delicate conundrum. As the war slowly develops into one of attrition Ukraine will need to rely heavily on the support of its western backers, who will need to increase production even more to keep the war effort afloat as they have previously committed to do.

United Auto Workers union launches unprecedented strike against all Big Three automakers. For the first time in its history, the United Auto Workers union is on strike against all three of America’s unionized automakers: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Workers on Friday walked out of three plants – one each from the Big Three automakers – in Missouri, Michigan, and Ohio. The strike came after the automakers failed to meet the union’s ambitious demands in increased wages, benefits, and job protections for its members. The UAW’s selection of plants will allow the other 22 assembly plants to continue to turn out cars and trucks and for their workers to stay on the job. The strike hits another sector of American industry which is currently living through an overall period of reasserting union presence. 

Disappearance of second Chinese minister sparks speculation. Li Shangfu, China’s defence minister, is the second high-profile minister to disappear with little or no explanation from public view in less than two months. His fate seems to follow that of China’s former foreign minister, Qin Gang, who mysteriously disappeared in June and was officially replaced a month later. Last month, Li had had told a China-Africa security forum in Beijing that the world was entering a new period of “instability”.

Poland gripped by febrile pre-election atmosphere. On October 15, polish voters will head to the polls to elect their new parliament, following 4 years of majority rule from the far-right party PiS (Law and Justice). The election cycle has so far been marked by countless political scandals, from the sacking of a foreign minister to allegations of spyware monitoring of opposition parties. According to polling, the ruling party falls short of a majority, and will need to collaborate with the extremist Confederation to be able to govern.

TikTok fined €345m for breaking EU data law on children’s accounts. TikTok has been accused the Irish Data Protection Commission and fined €345 millions for breaking European Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) by placing child (13 to 17 years old) users’ accounts on a public setting by default. However, the Commission found there had been no infringement of the Regulations in terms of its methods for verifying users’ ages. TikTok responded that they had changed their settings since 2021, setting 13 to 16 years-old accounts automatically to private mode. “The DPC’s criticisms are focused on features and settings that were in place three years ago, and that we made changes to well before the investigation even began”. The penalty comes amid tensions between Western countries and China that had already seen governments banning TikTok from devices issued to their staff rising concerns on privacy and cybersecurity due to the possibility of Chinese government to secretly demand data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence-gathering operations.  

Related:  Good Talk: Conversations on the unique bond between language and identity

ECB raises interest rates to all-time high. The European Central Bank has reached an all-time. The 25 basis points increase in deposit rates marks the 10th consecutive increase by the ECB in what is a still desperate bid to lower inflation across the single currency bloc. While the Euro fell to a three-month low compared to the Dollar after the decision was made public, the approach is not unlike what is expected from the Bank of England, which will meet next week and is expected to announce a further increase. Analysts however believe the global economy is reaching the tail end of the interest rate hike. One analyst described this increase as “dovish”, suggesting the ECB has made it clear they intend to keep interest rates on hold, combined with the expectation that the US Federal Reserve will not raise rates, these decisions will sediment the expectations of economists around the globe.

Mahsa Amini’s father detained by Iranian authorities on anniversary of daughter’s death. Iranian human-rights groups have confirmed that Iranian authorities had detained the father of Mahsa Amini on the one-year anniversary of her death. Amjad Amini and his son were detained for several hours on Saturday and warned against encouraging people to attend ceremonies marking the anniversary of Amini’s death. Regardless, to commemorate the anniversary people participated in protests throughout Iran on Saturday as authorities deployed armed guards in many cities as a show of force, prompting heavy security presence.

Spanish court imposes restraining order on Rubiales following kiss allegations. A restraining order has been imposed by a national court on the recently-resigned president of the Spanish football federation Luis Rubiales, forbidding him to come within 200 meters of the player Jenni Hermoso, who he kissed after the team’s 1-0 victory over England in Sydney. State prosecutors have accused him of sexual assault and coercion for allegedly pressuring her to speak out in his defense.  Spain’s equality minister, Irene Montero, greeted the announcement with the two words “Se acabó” – “it’s over”, a reference to the Spanish version of the #MeToo shared on social media after the kiss was transmitted on international television.

Hunter Biden Indicted on Gun Charges. On Thursday, Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was indicted on three counts of possession of a firearm while using drugs. The counts carry a cumulated prison sentence of 25 years. Abbe Howell, attorney for Hunter Biden, has deemed the charges to be “politically motivated”, claiming that there was “ambiguity” in the statute under which Hunter Biden was charged. Former President Donald Trump commented on the charges, saying that “”the only crime that Hunter Biden committed that does not implicate Crooked Joe Biden.”

Italian News 

Von der Leyen vede il bis. Incarico Ue per Draghi “grande mente europea”. Ursula von der Leyen, presidente dell’esecutivo europeo, propone la ricandidatura dell’economista Mario Draghi nella Commissione. La notizia viene accolta con una certa distanza dal centro destra italiano, “presumo che possa avere un occhio di riguardo per la nostra nazione” esordisce Giorgia Meloni. Con la prova schiacciante che l’ex presidente della Bce non si è dato alle comodità della pensione, la campagna elettorale si terrà a giugno, momento in cui verrà decretato che tipo il futuro che ci si aspetta dall’Unione.

Related:  2022 World Cup: When Excitement and Money Win Against Morality and Fairness 

Migranti, mediatore Ue indaga sul rispetto dei diritti umani nell’accordo con la Tunisia. Emily O’Reilly, mediatrice europea, solleva il problema del rispetto dei diritti umani riguardo all’accordo sigillato fra Ue e Tunisia, in cui vengono sancite regolamentazioni sui flussi migratori. Una delle domande che viene posta alla Commissione è se sia prevista una sospensione dei finanziamenti promessi in caso di violazione di tali diritti. Un’ulteriore richiesta che è stata sollevata dalla mediatrice riguarda la continua revisione dell’impatto di tali accordi sulle popolazioni interessate.

Venezia approva il ticket di ingresso dal 2024. Prenotazione on line e 5 euro per i turisti “mordi e fuggi”. La primavera 2024 sancisce l’inizio di una nuova era per Venezia, era in cui sarà richiesto il pagamento di un ticket online del costo di 5 euro per poter accedere alla città. Residenti e turisti degli hotel, assieme altre categorie di persone che necessitano di entrare e uscire dal capoluogo regolarmente, sono esonerati da questa nuova norma. Tuttavia, nonostante il ticket ponga l’obbiettivo di limitare i flussi turistici, non è stato stabilito nessun numero massimo di accessi giornalieri permessi, norma che ridurrebbe notevolmente la ricaduta negativa delle eccessive visite che la città riceve abitualmente.

Mattarella: le imprese sono veicoli di crescita e innovazione. Evitare concentrazioni di potere. Sergio Mattarella, all’Assemblea della Confindustria a Roma, esordisce con “troppi giovani cercano lavoro all’estero”. I punti focali dell’intervento del capo dello Stato snodano argomenti come l’importanza da parte delle industrie di generare ricchezza, in quanto responsabilità sociale. Citando poi Roosevelt, che nel 1929 spiegò quanto il terrore ingiustificato “paralizza gli sforzi necessari a convertire la ritirata in progresso”.

Bocconi news

This week we saw our university campus coming back to life after the summer break. What better way to experience the back-to-campus energy than taking part in some of the upcoming Bocconi organized initiatives? Have a look at a few below!

Thursday 21st September from 4 PM – Bocconi Art Gallery Inauguration: An evening full of art, photography and music. The Bocconi Campus will open its doors to the city for a cultural journey through contemporary art, with the chance to learn more about the history of the buildings on Campus and attend an exciting silent concert in the heart of the city. 

Thursday 21st September from 4 PM- 8 PM – A brand new music room will be inaugurated in Via Bocconi 12. On this date the music room will be open from 4pm to 8pm, come and take a look! The practice room will be available to all Bocconi students for free. For more info and to book a slot visit this link.

Monday 25th September at 6:15 PM – Movies & Languages Film Festival, with a free showing of The Banshees of Inisherin. For more info and to sign up click on here.  

Tuesday 26th September at 6:15 PM – BookCrossing Area Inauguration: In collaboration with the student association Bocconi d’Inchiostro, Egea and the Bocconi Library, the BookCrossing area is a place where members of the Bocconi community can donate any books they no longer need, and take any books from the shelves. 

Cartoon of the week: Formal-wear is all the rage.  

Author profile

Every week, your TiL Monday Briefing 🗞: you better read it with a cup of coffee! ☕️

Current members of the team are Bojan Zeric, Elisa Latora, Dragos Ile, Olimpia Vitali, Marco Visentin, Federica Di Chiara, Chiara Binello and Chiara Todesco

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