European leaders travel to Ukraine
The leaders of France, Italy, Germany and Romania met with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Thursday in Kyiv, where they pledged support for putting Ukraine on a path to membership in the E.U. and said they would continue to back Ukraine’s military efforts, despite suggestions to the contrary.
President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, who had been criticized in recent days over the perception that they were seeking to pressure Zelensky into peace talks with Russia, emphasized that their support was genuine. “We are and we will remain by your side in the long run to defend your sovereignty, your territorial integrity and your freedom,” Macron said. “This is our goal, we have no other, and we will achieve it.”
All four leaders expressed support for Ukraine’s E.U. candidacy, Macron said. Scholz added that “Ukraine belongs to the European family.”
The European leaders also visited Irpin, a Kyiv suburb where investigators are looking into reports of Russian atrocities during the war. Russia dismissed their trip as empty symbolism. Dmitri Medvedev, the former Russian president, derisively called the leaders “European connoisseurs of frogs, liverwurst and pasta.”
Hesitation: Ukrainian officials are wary of pressure to negotiate an end to the war with Russia because of the 2014 and 2015 Minsk accords, in which the Ukrainians offered concessions in exchange for Russian cease-fires, which never held.
Trapped: With all of the bridges connecting the twin Ukrainian cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk destroyed and fighting still raging, thousands of civilians have been left trapped inside one of the deadliest battles of the war so far.
A call for help: Zelensky appeared in the form of a hologram at digital festivals in cities across Europe, including Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Dublin and London, to ask the region’s innovators to help rebuild his country.
But they’re not alone. Nearly four dozen countries have raised interest rates in the last six months, as central banks in the United States, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India and other nations push borrowing costs higher in a bid to contain the most rapid inflation in decades. So far in 2022, at least 45 countries have lifted rates, with more moves to come.
Why it’s happening: Higher rates are powerful tools for fighting rising prices. They make borrowing money more expensive, which weighs on consumer demand and business expansions, in turn cooling economic growth and slowing hiring. That combination can translate into weaker wage growth for households and less pricing power for companies, eventually pulling down inflation.
What’s next: The question now is whether the global economy will be able to withstand a cycle of rate increases unlike any it has recently — and possibly ever — experienced. The outlook is not promising. “The war in Ukraine, lockdowns in China, supply-chain disruptions and the risk of stagflation are hammering growth,” David Malpass, president of the World Bank, said in a report this month. “For many countries, recession will be hard to avoid.”
China rewrites Hong Kong’s history
Schoolchildren around the world have long been taught that Hong Kong was a British colony. But students in Hong Kong will soon be told a different lesson: It wasn’t.
A new narrative pushed by Beijing — which rejects how the British saw their relationship to the city — will be explicitly taught to Hong Kong high school students through at least four new textbooks that will be rolled out in the fall.
The textbook material, though still under review by principals, teachers, scholars and employees of Hong Kong’s Education Bureau, seems destined for classrooms. Local news websites published draft excerpts this week, and The Times viewed teachers’ proof copies.
Excerpts from the textbooks reinforce China’s Communist Party’s position on Hong Kong. “The British aggression violated the principles of international law so its occupation of Hong Kong region should not have been recognized as lawful,” read the teachers’ edition proof copy of one textbook.
Quotable: The narrative, one pro-democracy activist said, “is a shorthand for saying, ‘Hong Kong was always a part of China, thus Hong Kongers never could claim a right of self-determination.’”
Broader effort: The material is part of a wider campaign by China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, to overhaul Hong Kong’s schools, to “protect young minds” and to raise loyal, patriotic citizens.
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A major game’s misstep
Diablo is one of the most successful video game franchises, from one of the biggest developers in the world, Blizzard Entertainment. But the latest entry in the series, “Diablo Immortal,” has received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics who say the game’s payment model is predatory.
“Diablo Immortal” is free to download on computers and mobile devices, but it hosts a shop in which players can use real money to buy items to improve their avatars’ gear. Those improvements are not guaranteed; players are, in essence, paying for virtual scratch-off tickets. By some estimates, it can take thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars to fully upgrade a character.
Belgium and the Netherlands will not get “Diablo Immortal” as a result of anti-gambling rules that ban these types of games. And on Metacritic, a review aggregator, users have given the PC version of the game a score of 0.2 out of 10 — among the lowest of any Blizzard game. — German Lopez