Videos purporting to show tanks protecting banks against protestors appear to in fact be from an unrelated event.
A Looming Catastrophe
The Chinese government is moving to mitigate a potential financial crisis as hundreds of thousands of home buyers in at least 80 cities have joined a nationwide boycott of mortgages.
Analysts say the protests are affecting 235 property developments in 24 of China’s 31 provinces.
The immediate causes include sinking real estate prices as well as a common practice in the country in which home buyers pay upfront for properties that haven’t been built yet. The practice effectively works as an interest-free loan to the builders, but when property developers default or there are construction delays, the home buyers are left with debt and no physical property to show for it.
Construction delays and unfinished projects have become endemic in China partly because in recent years the government has curbed excessive borrowing by developers, hurting their balance sheets.
Analysts have speculated that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) fears the political instability that could result from the boycotts, which could then turn into a crisis of confidence for the party.
The boycotts could also push China over the edge of economic crisis by threatening property developers with mass defaults, exposing the banks to billions of dollars in bad debt.
China’s property sector makes up 25-30% of the country’s GDP, and some 70% of household wealth is tied up in property, a far higher proportion than in the United States.
Government censors have reportedly blocked the sharing of information about delays and boycotts online.
In recent days, the government has taken steps to mitigate the crisis, such as reassuring citizens that their homes will be delivered.
The country’s banking regulator ordered lenders to extend credit to developers so they can finish their projects.
Officials are also reportedly considering deferring mortgage payments for home buyers without penalty.
Banks, Tanks, and Frank Misinformation
Bank depositors in central China’s Henan province have been prevented from withdrawing their savings for months as the government says it is investigating fraud, sparking protests from thousands of people.
During one demonstration this month, people were attacked by a violent mob while police stood by, and many have since reported being harassed by authorities.
In one instance, police sent guards in to break up a demonstration, with many getting beaten, thrown to the ground, and dragged onto buses.
“I did not expect them to be so violent and shameless this time,” one person told CNN. “There was no communication, no warning before they brutally dispersed us.”
Videos purporting to show tanks rolling through the streets to crack down on protesting depositors have gone viral, being viewed more than eight million times on Twitter.
Multiple outlets, however, have reported that the footage appears to in fact originate from an unrelated military demonstration on July 27.
Newsweek stated that while it cannot independently verify the video’s source, it appears to have been filmed in a different province.
Henan’s banking regulator said in a statement that it is speeding up the process of addressing customer complaints and moving forward with plans to pay out some customers.
Still, recent events threaten the public’s trust in rural banking, which appears wrought with corruption and weak regulatory oversight.
See what others are saying: (Fortune) (Time) (The New York Times)
“QAnon Queen of Canada” Tries to Arrest Entire Police Department With 30 Followers
Observers fear Romana Didulo’s following will continue escalating toward violence.
You’re Under Arrest. No, You’re Under Arrest!!
A group of around 30 people attempted to conduct “citizen’s arrests” on the entire Peterborough police department in Ontario on Saturday.
They were brought there and directed to do so by Romana Didulo, the self-proclaimed “QAnon Queen of Canada,” whom they believe to be the country’s true leader in an underground war against a supposed global cabal of Satan-worshipping, pedophilic cannibals that control the world.
Didulo and her followers had been planning the event for weeks, posting about it on her Telegram, and even creating a website.
Using her supposed royal authority as justification, the group wanted to arrest the police for what they called “the COVID crime,” or the enforcement of pandemic safety restrictions like mask mandates and business closures.
“Who amongst you are prepared and ready to keep your city safe, peaceful, and secure after you’ve peacefully arrested Peterborough Ontario Police?” Didulo asked days before on Telegram.
On Saturday afternoon, while Didulo remained in her RV, the group marched from Confederation Park to the Water Street police station, but upon arriving they discovered the front door was locked. Attempts to bang on the door and use the intercom failed, so members of the group shouted at the cops through a megaphone and called 911 to ask them to come outside.
The group wandered around the property in search of another entrance for several hours, and at one point Didulo handed out vegetables and sardines on paper plates, as well as previously opened water bottles.
Eventually, members of the group found a restricted area where police vehicles are stored, at which point several officers arrived for their shift.
Some of the conspiracy theorists tried to detain the officers, who in turn arrested them instead.
Videos posted to social media show two men resisting arrest while a woman screams. One of the men is eventually seen being dragged along the ground and into the police station.
Later, the department announced that two men had been arrested and charged for assaulting police, resisting arrest, and mischief.
On Sunday, a third man was charged for assaulting an officer.
Who’s the Real Queen, Anyway?
Almost two years ago, Didulo declared herself the queen, commander in chief, and head of government in Canada.
She falsely claimed that the real Queen Elizabeth II had been executed.
According to her videos, Didulo was personally appointed by Donald Trump, as well as the U.S. military, the people she says seized the assets of the Vatican, and the “fake” royal family in the U.K.
She has also claimed to be an alien-adjacent being who is willing to share advanced medical technology with her followers.
Her Telegram counts over 60,000 followers, many of them coming from the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.
A major component of her ideology is a militant opposition to vaccines, with her having called them a “crime against humanity” and declaring Canada a “vaccine-free nation.”
In the summer of 2021, she organized her followers into groups that distributed hundreds of “cease and desist” letters to businesses, government offices, and police ordering them to halt all measures combatting the pandemic.
In November, she instructed her Telegram followers to shoot to kill anyone trying to inject children under the age of 19 with coronavirus vaccines. A few days later, she changed the wording from “shoot to kill” to “arrest.”
Shortly afterward, she said she was detained by Canadian authorities for the post and sent to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.
This summer, she issued a series of “decrees” declaring that water bills are illegal, electricity is free, and rent prices have reverted to rates from 1955. Some of her followers took the decrees seriously, then complained that their utilities had been shut off after they stopped paying their bills.
The confrontation with Peterborough police was her latest directive in a campaign that many fear will escalate toward violence.
The same day, she claimed on Telegram that “4 XR-0001 CRISPR-genetically modified supersoldiers are being pulled from cold storage and will be deployed within the hour.”
“Formed by crossing the Y-DNA of white rappers and Philippinos, We have created the strongest race known to man,” she said.
Currently, she continues a months-long tour of Canada in a fleet of RVs paid for by some of her most devoted followers.
See what others are saying: (Vice) (GlobalNews) (Newsweek)
Bank Robber Demanding His Own Money Hailed as Hero in Lebanon
Many people are directing their ire at the banks and the government, which they blame for the country’s almost unprecedented economic collapse.
A Shotgun, a Gas Canister, and a Whole Lot of Medical Bills
A man in Lebanon attracted hundreds of sympathetic protestors Thursday when he attempted to forcefully retrieve his own savings from a bank at gunpoint.
Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, 42, barged into a Beirut bank armed with a shotgun and a gas canister, threatening to set himself ablaze if he was not given $200,000 from his account.
In response to a devastating economic and financial crisis, Lebanon’s banks have imposed severe restrictions on the amount of money depositors are allowed to withdraw.
Hussein came to get the money he considered rightfully his, saying he needed it to pay medical bills for his son and his father, who is reportedly in the hospital.
The bank employees refused to hand over the money and most customers fled the building during the initial panic, leaving at least six people trapped inside after he shut the doors.
Hussein reportedly fired at least two shots, but nobody appeared to have been injured.
Police showed up and began negotiating with Hussein, and he rejected a proposed $5,000, $10,000, and $30,000 in exchange for his surrender.
Meanwhile, crowds of onlookers gathered outside the building, many of whom expressed support for the gunman.
“Down with the rule of the banks!” They chanted. “Give him his money! Give him his money!”
After a roughly six-hour standoff with police, Hussein laid down his weapon and exited the bank in exchange for $35,000 to be delivered to his brother.
One of the Worst Economic Calamities in History
Lebanon has been embroiled in an ever-deepening downward economic spiral since October 2019 that has only been put under increased stress from the coronavirus pandemic.
The United Nations has estimated that nearly 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the country’s local currency has lost over 90% of its value.
For Lebanon, which imports many essential goods, monetary depreciation hits especially hard. As a result, the country has seen widespread infrastructure failure, with 20-hour-long power cuts, as well as fuel, food, and water shortages.
Inflation rose to 145% last year, and rising food prices have made it extremely difficult for many poor residents to survive.
Currently, banks only allow depositors to withdraw a maximum of $400 per month.
The World Bank has ranked the crisis, which it called a “deliberate depression,” one of the top ten, possibly top three most severe economic collapses globally since the 1850s.
The situation is “orchestrated by the country’s elite that has long captured the state and lived off its economic rents,” the bank said. “This capture persists despite the severity of the crisis.”
Although some saw hope in the May elections that ushered in new independent candidates, the government is still largely ruled by the same families and parties that fought each other during the country’s civil war ending in 1990.
The government has so far resisted proposed economic and political reforms, leading to popular unrest.
Lebanon’s GDP plummeted from nearly $52 billion in 2019 to a projected $21.8 billion in 2021, marking a 58.1 percent contraction, according to the World Bank. It was the highest contraction in a list of 193 countries.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Vice) (World Bank)
Woman Accused of Using Fake Psychics to Trick Mom Into Giving up $140 Million in ‘Cursed’ Paintings
When her mother became suspicious, Sabine Coll Boghici allegedly confined her to her home for months with physical threats.
A woman in Brazil was arrested Wednesday with several accomplices who posed as psychics for allegedly swindling her elderly mother out of more than $140 million in cash, jewelry, and artwork.
Genevieve Boghici, an 82-year-old widow to the late art collector Jean Boghici, reportedly held mystical beliefs, which authorities say her daughter took advantage of.
In January 2020, a self-described psychic approached Genevieve and convinced her that her daughter, Sabine Coll Boghici, was sick and soon to die, according to a statement by police in Rio de Janeiro.
To save her, the psychic claimed the mother would have to fork over “exorbitant amounts” of money for spiritual treatment.
The daughter backed up the claim, also feeding personal information to several more supposed psychics, all of whom pressured the mother to make bank transfers totaling five million reais.
Next, police say the suspects told Genevieve her art collection was cursed with “negative energy,” and that it needs to be prayed over.
Meanwhile, Sabine allegedly fired her mother’s domestic employees so her accomplices could enter the home unimpeded and remove the art.
After Genevieve became suspicious of the situation, her daughter allegedly confined her to her home for months, with the suspects mistreating and physically threatening her.
In total, around $142.42 million worth of valuables was reportedly taken, including artwork by renowned Brazilian artists.
Three of at least 16 stolen paintings were from the modernist painter Tarsila do Amaral. Police estimated them to be worth around $137.69 million.