🌍 At least 73 dead after shipwreck in the Mediterranean

🌍 At least 73 dead after shipwreck in the Mediterranean

Plus: World Bank chief steps down

Hi there Intriguer. We’ve all felt that sense of accomplishment when we persevere with a task we’re dreading but needs to be done… like checking LinkedIn. But who among us would keep plugging away at a task for 52 years? Nick Axten, that’s who. He started his PhD in 1970 and was awarded his doctorate in the UK just last year. “Some problems are so great it takes the best part of a lifetime to get your head around them. They need a long hard think”. Cheers to that!

On the topic of persevering, we’re taking next Monday off (most of our team is US-based and it’s *checks notes* President’s Day). We’ll be back Tuesday!

Today’s edition is a 5 min read:

  • 🇪🇺 The EU’s migration policy is buckling
  • 🏦 Why did the World Bank president suddenly step down?
  • ➕ Plus: Poland’s hottest new tourist attraction, how the papers are covering a drug case involving the former head of Mexico’s FBI, and our recommendations for the long (at least for us?) weekend ahead.

– VC & EP

🎧 Check out today’s episode of Intrigue Outloud on AppleSpotify, or wherever you get your podcasts!

  1. 🇳🇬 Nigeria: The Nigerian military has denied reports it’s planning a coup days before the country’s general election. Polls are predicting a tight race on 25 February, which is contributing to heightened political tensions.
  2. 🇨🇳 China: China has imposed sanctions on two Western arms manufacturers for their arms sales to Taiwan. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are now banned from mainland China, though US law already prohibited them from selling most defence gear in China.
  3. 🇵🇱 Poland: The EU Commission is suing Poland over controversial rulings by a Polish court that were said to breach a core tenet of the union: the supremacy of EU law. This latest development is likely to endanger the release of €36B in EU recovery funds for Poland.
  4. 🇨🇺 Cuba: Cuba has received a shipment of 25,000 tonnes of wheat from its ally Russia as the island struggles with shortages. Cuba has come to rely on Russian aid in times of need, given the strict sanctions imposed by the US.
  5. 🇵🇭 Philippines: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest against China’s aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea. The latest incident involved a military-grade laser being pointed at a Philippine military ship.

At least 73 dead in the latest Mediterranean shipwreck

Briefly: More than 73 people are believed to have died at sea during an attempt to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe. Only seven managed to return to Libya, from where their small boat departed sometime earlier this week.

Some context: Libya is a common departure point for folks trying to reach Europe: it’s close, and local law enforcement is near-zero. Unfortunately, this latter point means human rights abuses are common, perpetrated by both traffickers and the Libyan authorities.

Zooming out a little, migration is one of the toughest challenges for governments today. On the one hand, the UN was founded on the principle that countries govern themselves. And for many countries, that means controlling their own borders.

On the other hand, there are now 90 million people forcibly displaced around the world, and the Refugee Convention protects the right to seek asylum.

Intrigue’s take: The geopolitical angle to all this is a doozy. Countries that find themselves along the migration path (like Turkey, Morocco and Belarus) have been accused of ‘turning the migration tap’ on/off  to maximise their leverage over places like the EU.

Others that seek to manage the issue through bilateral deals (like the UK-Rwanda arrangement) can find themselves under the blowtorch of global scrutiny. And meanwhile, governments seen as sitting on their hands put themselves at the mercy of (angry) voters. We wish we could find an optimistic angle here, but there ain’t one.

Also worth noting: 


How different newspapers covered: the ongoing US drug trial involving a former high-ranking Mexican security official.

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Live look at World Bank HQ. Via Giphy.

World Bank chief quits

Briefly: World Bank President David Malpass will step down in June, a year before his term was set to expire. Malpass didn’t give a reason for his early departure. But like an AirBnB host saying their place is cosy (tiny), charming (weird) or close to nightlife (above a pub), Malpass said his exit was an “opportunity for a smooth leadership transition” (he was forced out).

Malpass, an American economist appointed by Donald Trump, has faced mounting pressure to resign since September when he declined to link fossil fuels to climate change (“I am not a scientist”). In response, the Biden Administration promised to hold Malpass accountable.

Intrigue’s take: Malpass’ critics undersell the World Bank’s commitments to climate finance, which doubled to $32B a year during his tenure. But there’s always someone else who can make you look bad: while the World Bank plans to direct 35% of its financing to climate projects by 2025, China’s own answer to the World Bank (the AIIB) is pledging to hit 50%.

Also worth noting: 

  • The current president of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is considered Malpass’ most likely successor.

Meet Gacek the Cat. Photo credits: wSzczecinie, Youtube

Feline like a visit to Poland? 

The Polish city of Szczecin is delightful this time of year, chock-full of fascinating history. Catherine the Great was born there. It’s got a 15th century castle. Restaurants. A park.

But the city’s top tourist attraction is now… Gacek, the above street cat. He shot to stardom in 2020 after a local reporter featured him in this video (which of course went viral). Ol’ Gacek has now racked up thousands of 5 star google reviews: everything from “great cat, will visit again” through to “it was worth traveling three hours to feel ignored by him”.

Of course, poor Gacek has still copped the occasional one-star review, including this scathing critique from one unhappy visitor: “not a dog”. You can’t please everyone.


Check out what our Head of Growth Aine recommends for your weekend. If you’ve got:

  • 15 mins: Read this historical account of the Black engineer at the centre of an international incident.
  • 30 mins: Try out this miso mushroom risotto recipe, savoury, delicate but full of umami!
  • 1 hour: Listen to this Guardian podcast on what happens to oil rigs when they get decommissioned.

Can a change in leadership help the Wold Bank address (some of) its problems?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Yesterday’s poll: Is the Iran nuclear deal dead?

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🥀 Yes, RIP. (79%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🕊️ No, hope is the last to die. (21%)

Your two cents: 

  • 🥀  R.D: “I doubt China will tow the line of their commitment to the P5+1 deal. They likely aren’t cozying up to Iran to convince Tehran to follow the deal.”
  • 🥀  J.G: “The US negotiated the previous version, refused to ratify and then broke it less than four years later. […] Exactly why should Iran expect different behaviour now?”
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