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Russia Plans Yuan-Denominated Bonds to Cut Dependence on Dollar

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Russia is once again considering issuing yuan-denominated bonds to reduce its financial dependence on the U.S. dollar and strengthen relations with China, the South China Morning Post writes.

Russia had first considered the possibility of selling a yuan-denominated bond back in 2016 and will become the first country to sell a sovereign bond in yuan and list it on the Moscow Exchange if successful while China will also consider selling a ruble-denominated government bond, according to the newspaper.

More than 15 Russian companies and banks have expressed interest in purchasing yuan-denominated bonds on the Moscow Exchange and on exchanges in China, says Denis Shulakov, first vice-president of Russian state-owned Gazprombank.

Additional government-led borrowing is necessary to raise money to fund large energy projects that would be mutually beneficial, he noted while speaking during a panel discussion at the St Petersburg International Economics Forum (SPIEF) last week.

Currently, China is Russia’s largest trading partner while Russia is China’s largest crude oil supplier with both countries having made joint investments in various liquefied natural gas and natural gas projects.

Most of these projects have been financed by the equity market or state subsidies and the launch of these new government bonds could add another financing channel to raise money for large energy projects that would be mutually beneficial.

Beijing and Moscow are still in talks to establish a new system for direct yuan-rouble payment settlements for trade. Currently in bilateral trade, 14% of payments are conducted in yuan while 8% is conducted in rubles.

In addition, the Russian central bank has also been substituting the yuan for the U.S. dollar in its foreign currency reserve portfolio to reduce its exposure to the U.S. dollar.

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Rome’s trash crisis sparks health fears

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Landfills in flames and rats feasting on waste in the streets have sparked health fears in Rome, as doctors warn families to steer clear of disease-ridden curbside garbage and locals launch a disgusting dumpster contest online.

Crowds of summer tourists are forced to navigate overflowing bins in the stifling heat, as the pungent perfume of neglected garbage draws scavenging animals and the threat of disease to the Eternal City and locals fume over the city’s refuse management.  

Rome’s chief physician Antonio Magi has issued a “hygiene alert”, telling AFP this could be upgraded to a health warning, with disease spread through the faeces of insects and animals banqueting on rotting waste. His warning prompted local prosecutors to open an investigation this week into the city’s refuse collection.

In the meantime, furious Rome residents have launched a contest on Twitter to find the most fetid dustbins.

Discarded pizza boxes or the remains of spaghetti lunches and fruit rinds draw opportunistic seagulls, rats and even wild boars to the streets of Rome, with wolves also spotted closer to the city’s outskirts than ever before.

Adding to the indignation of Rome residents is the steep price they are paying for their garbage to rot in the streets.  

The city spent more than 597 euros per inhabitant on household waste treatment in 2017 — by far the highest in the country, ahead of Venice (353 euros) and Florence (266 euros), according to a report by the Openpolis Foundation.

But the city lacks infrastructure: of its three main landfills, one has closed and the others were ravaged by fire in recent months.   

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Europe: Massive Rise in Central American Asylum Seekers as Trump Tightens U.S. Border

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The number of Central Americans claiming asylum in the European Union has massively increased as President Donald Trump has moved to tighten America’s southern border, with Venezuelans now the second-largest demographic of arrivals after Syrians.

According to Britain’s left-wing Guardian newspaper, the European Asylum Support Office is attributing an 11 per cent rise in political asylum claims over the last year to “people fleeing economic disasters, political repression and criminal violence in Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru.”

Asylum claims by nationals of Venezuela, where the state socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro admired by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is becoming increasingly repressive, reached 18,400 between January and May — roughly double the number for the same period in 2018.

Over a longer timeframe, the rise is even more striking, with asylum claims by Central Americans up an astonishing 4,000 per cent over the course of the last decade.

Spain, the former colonial power for much of Latin America, is the most popular destination for asylum seekers — a state of affairs the Socialist Party government may not be too displeased with, given its belief that Europe needs “new blood” and apparent embrace of its status as the new destination of choice for illegal migrants crossing the sea from North Africa since Italy’s Matteo Salvini began taking a firm stance against people-smugglers and migrant transport NGOs.

The Iberian country is not necessarily the easiest country for asylum seekers to have their claims approved, however, as it does not recognise claims from people claiming to be fleeing non-state actors, such as cartels and the drug gangs known as maras.

Other EU member-states, such as Belgium, are more open in what they will recognise as a legitimate asylum claim, meaning the Benelux country is now the third most popular destination for Salvadoreans behind Spain and Italy.

Susana Parraga, who works for Caritas International in Belgium, told the Guardian that such asylum seekers “receive housing, food, medical follow-up, legal assistance, help with learning one of the three official languages of the country and the right to social support”, and suggested that all EU member-states are obliged to offer such guarantees under the bloc’s reception directives.

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Sweden Man Blames Ramadan After Assaulting Wife and Children

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A man living in Sweden was found guilty of physically abusing his wife and children but blamed his actions on being hungry due to Ramadan fasting.

The unidentified man, who lives in the south-west Swedish province of Dalsland, was sentenced to six months in prison after being convicted of five separate counts of assault, Swedish radio broadcaster Sveriges Radio reports.

The man denied culpability, claiming that intense hunger, due to fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, had made it so that he could not control his own actions. He was accused of multiple assaults which included shoving paper into the mouth of his two-year-old daughter and beating her on the hands and feet.

The defence of “Ramadan rage” was also used by another Muslim man in France as part of a case where he was accused of shaking his five-month-old daughter to death last year. The 42-year-old man was said to have been angered by the infant crying and threw her on a hotel bed twice, with the child bouncing off the bed the second time and landing head-first into the floor. The child was later taken to a hospital with a skull fracture and died.

Earlier this year, French business owners in the city of Montpellier went as far as demanding the government provide extra security to their businesses ahead of Ramadan, arguing that they had seen an increase in violence during the holy month for the last four years.

“Ramadan rage” has not been limited to Europe. Within the first three weeks of Ramadan this year, 20 countries saw over 100 jihadist attacks with a death toll of 531 people and another 556 maimed.

Islamic State and the Afghanistan-based Taliban accounted for around 30 per cent of the total number of deaths during the three-week period.

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