The World

10 ESSENTIAL STORIES

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1 | Israel

Easing the Gaza Blockade

Israel announced that it would ease its controversial three-year blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, three weeks after an Israeli raid on an aid flotilla killed nine and drew international condemnation. The Israeli government said it would immediately allow all goods--except weapons and other materials that could be militarized by Hamas--into the Palestinian territory. That includes previously banned items like potato chips and towels as well as construction materials for sorely needed housing and schools, as long as those projects are under international supervision.

While many goods were prohibited entry into Gaza, Israel has begun to allow the passage of a number of items.

Donkeys, horses, goats, cattle and chicks have been denied entry, while animal feed and hay are permitted

Chocolate, nutmeg, vinegar, dried fruit and sweets were allowed on June 22; fresh meat is still prohibited

Toys and mattresses are now allowed; musical instruments, sewing machines and some school supplies are still off-limits

Wood, plaster and cement are still barred, but Israel said it will eventually allow the construction materials

SOURCE: GISHA

2 | China

Central Bank Loosens Currency Restrictions

Expecting its monetary policies to be a topic at the upcoming G-20 summit, China's central bank announced on June 19 that it would ease restrictions on its currency. For two years, the central bank has pegged the yuan's value to the dollar, causing other nations to argue that China was keeping its currency undervalued to encourage cheaper exports. Following China's announcement, the yuan increased 0.42% against the dollar, a move which, while minuscule by other currencies' standards, is huge for China. It was the largest bump since 2005.

3 | Brazil

Severe Floods Leave Thousands Homeless

Floods caused by torrential rain in northeastern Brazil left 42 people dead and at least 600 unaccounted for, while the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco reported more than 100,000 residents displaced by the deluge. The Brazilian government pledged $100 million in food, water and reconstruction aid, half of which is slated to go directly to victims.

4 | Washington

A Patients' Bill of Rights

On the three-month anniversary of the passage of President Obama's $1 trillion health care overhaul, the White House rolled out insurance regulations it dubbed a patients' bill of rights. The provisions include guaranteed coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, a ban on lifetime-coverage limits and a prohibition of canceling the policies of those who fall ill. The regulations will take effect in September.

5 | Zimbabwe

Dealing with Mugabe's Diamonds

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