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

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1. Crash of EgyptAir Flight 804

An evolving story this week is the disappearance of EgyptAir Flight 804 over the Mediterranean, en route from Paris to Cairo. The fate of the 66 people aboard is unknown.

“We do not deny there is a possibility of terrorism or deny the possibility of a technical fault,” Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said at a Cairo news conference hours after the flight went down. “I will continue to use the term ‘missing plane’ until we find any debris. I don’t want to go to speculation. But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem.”

Early this morning authorities informed that debris of the plane had been found. Both US and Egyptian authorities believe the crash was likely caused by a terrorist attack.


2. Baghdad Bombings Threaten Broader ISIS Strategy

The spate of bombings in Baghdad — some 200 people have been killed in the capital in just the last few weeks — threaten not only the safety of Iraqi citizens but may derail U.S. plans for a planned assault on Mosul, the main ISIS stronghold in Iraq. U.S. commanders have for the time being talked the Iraqi government out of pulling troops from the field to defend Baghdad against suicide attacks coming from ISIS-held Fallujah in Anbar province.

Currently, about half of Iraqi security forces are committed to the defense and policing of Baghdad, but Iraqi officials warned that they may need more troops in the capital to stop ISIS truck and car bomb attacks aimed at Shia neighborhoods. A pullback to Baghdad would go against the U.S. plan to accelerate offensive moves in the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys.


3. Iran to Block Its Pilgrims from the Hajj in Saudi Arabia

In yet another sign of growing Iranian-Saudi tensions, Iranians will not make the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia this year after talks failed to break an impasse over visas, security and transportation, an Iranian minister said. The decision comes just three weeks before the start of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest period.

Tensions soared earlier this year after Saudi Arabia executed a dissident Shia cleric, and Iranians stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran in protest. That, in turn, led to the Saudis breaking off diplomatic ties and halting flights to and from Iran. All of this comes in the shadow of the ongoing war in Yemen, where Saudi forces are fighting against Iranian-backed proxies.


4. U.S. Banks Wary of SWIFT Hacks, Security

Major U.S. banks are scrutinizing security of the SWIFT network following cyber attacks in Bangladesh and Vietnam involving fraudulent transfer requests.

Major U.S. banks, including JPMorgan, want SWIFT to boost security. In particular, U.S. banks question whether SWIFT responded quickly enough after SWIFT codes for at least seven international banks were written into malware first used in an attack on Vietnam’s Tien Phong Bank. Brussels-based SWIFT is a cooperative owned by some 3,000 global financial institutions used to process international monetary transactions.


5. Google Patents “Sticky Layer” to Protect Pedestrians in Self-Driving Car Accidents

Self-driving cars took another step closer to daily reality with an innovative approach to safety just patented by Google.

The patent is for a sticky adhesive layer on the front end of a vehicle, which would aim to reduce the damage caused when a pedestrian hit by a car. The pedestrian would literally stick to the hood of the car, and thus not fall underneath or be bumped into oncoming traffic. “Ideally, the adhesive coating on the front portion of the vehicle may be activated on contact and will be able to adhere to the pedestrian nearly instantaneously,” according to the patent description.

The Guardian

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