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In The News

U.S.-Taliban Talks, China-Taiwan Tensions, Coconuts And Prayers

U.S.-Taliban Talks, China-Taiwan Tensions, Coconuts And Prayers

Tunisia: Demonstration against President Kais Saied's coup

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hallo!*

Welcome to Monday, where American and Taliban negotiators sat down for the first time since the U.S. withdrawal, Taiwan's president pushes back on China threats and a couple is accused of selling nuclear submarine secrets. We also look at the migratory path of the international bubble tea craze.



U.S. and Taliban talks: Delegates from the Taliban and the United States have held "candid and professional" talks in the Qatari capital in the first face-to-face meeting since the hardline group took over Afghanistan, according to a U.S. official. Over the two-day discussions, the Taliban called for international recognition. Meanwhile, the U.S focused on security, "terrorism concerns", women's rights, and evacuations from Afghanistan.

COVID update: Sydney celebrates the end of 107-day lockdown as Australia aims to begin "living with" COVID-19. Cafes, gyms, and restaurants welcomed back fully vaccinated people after almost four months of closing. In the U.S., drugmaker Merck announced it has asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize emergency use of its experimental antiviral pill to treat COVID-19.

Protests in Poland amid Polexit fear: More than 100,000 Poles rallied in support of European Union membership after the country's constitutional court ruled that parts of EU law are incompatible with their constitutions. This decision, refusing any European control over Polish laws, could mark the first step towards "Polexit."

Iraq's election turnout was 41%: Polls have closed in Iraq's parliamentary election with some 41% of eligible voters casting their ballots. This is the lowest turnout since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, highlighting the growing disillusionment among Iraqis who view the political system as dysfunctional and their leaders as incompetent.

Nobel Prize economy: The Nobel Prize for economics was awarded to three U.S-based economists who used "natural experiments" in their work. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited David Card, Guido Imbens, and Joshua Angrist for having "completely reshaped empirical work in the economics sciences."

U.S. couple accused of selling nuclear submarine secrets: A U.S. Navy nuclear engineer and his wife have been charged with trying to sell nuclear secrets to what they thought was a foreign state. Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana were arrested in West Virginia on Saturday, the Justice Department announced.

Coconuts and prayers: Lost at sea for 29 days, two men from the Solomon Islands have been rescued off the coast of Papua New Guinea 400 kilometers (250 miles) away from their starting point. The duo said they survived on coconuts from the sea, oranges they had brought, rainwater they collected, and prayers.


"Exchange of chancellors saves the coalition," titles Austrian daily Salzburger Nachrichten, reporting on the resignation of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz this weekend following revelations he was under investigation for corruption. He will be replaced by Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, to save the governing coalition between his conservative party and the Greens.


Taiwan to Hong Kong to L.A., birth of bubble tea culture

Originating in Taiwan, bubble tea is an internationally beloved, tapioca-based drink is about more than consummation — it's an entire culture, reports Zhang Yan in Chinese-language digital media The Initium.

🥤 According to Alan Yu, founder of Lollicup, a restaurant chain as well a major supplier of North America's raw tapioca material, at least 20,000 stores in the U.S. specialize in this drink, and the tea is also sold in an additional 30,000 restaurants. Even fast-food chains such as Sonic Burgers, Chilli's and Taco are Mr. Yu's clients for raw materials. They all aim to profit off boba tea which has gone far beyond the Chinese-speaking diaspora to become a trendy drink among mainstream American yuppies and young people.

🧑🤝🧑 Considered "bars for minors," boba tea stores are places where youngsters from migrant families can gather with their friends after school. "Most of the boba tea stores' customers are teenagers. After going to SAT classes, they meet up there. This is a place to cram for exams, but also a place for dates and being broken-hearted. In this space, they can feel a sense of belonging, which surpasses the meaning of milk tea itself as a drink," says Clarissa Wei, a foodie writer born in Taiwan but who grew up in Los Angeles.

🌏 Born in the U.S. in 1984, Philip Wang is a second-generation Taiwanese American and a renowned YouTuber. He still recalls his teenage years when the term "Asian pride" was on everyone's lips. It was the moment when Japanese animation and South Korean pop music entered the U.S., and Asian Americans were increasingly asserting themselves as the export of Asian pop culture confronted a mainstream American culture that was overwhelmingly white. "For the first time, boba tea made me feel there was a cultural product belonging to the Asian community in the United States", said Philip Wang.

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"There should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure."

— During National Day celebrations yesterday, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen pushed back on recent aggressive words and actions from mainland China. Tsai warned that Taiwan is facing the "most complex situation" since the end of the Chinese civil war 72 years ago. Her speech came days after China flew record numbers of warplanes near the island nation and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to pursue what Beijing called "reunification" with Taiwan by peaceful means. Tsai said that Taiwan will not "act rashly," but will do whatever's necessary to defend its sovereignty.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Nazi History, Muslim Immigrants, Social Media: Talking Gaza In Germany Is A Hot Mess

The debate over the war in Israel is raging on social media. In this divisive atmosphere, it is impossible to call out anti-Semitism in Muslim communities or on the right wing without being applauded by all the wrong people. What Germans are failing to acknowledge is how much the country’s own history has to do with this.

pro-Palestinian demonstrators stand in front of a line of policemen as they chant and wave flags.

October 15, 2023: Approximately 1,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin despite a ban on such assemblies.

Michael Kuenne/ZUMA
Hannah Bethke


BERLIN — These are dark times. The brutal Hamas attacks on Israel have crushed all hope of recovery, peace, freedom – of a victory for light over darkness. The global focus has shifted to the threat of political Islam rather than the horrors of the war in Ukraine, although this and other crises remain very much alive. Whichever way you turn, there is another threat looming: the economic crisis, the migrant crisis, climate change, the possible return of Donald Trump. There is no end in sight.

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However, since October 7, which is euphemistically being referred to in media reports as the day of "escalation" in the Middle East, there has been another form of escalation, this time around the tone of public debate in Germany. As the political boundaries are shifting, so are the limits of what is unsayable.

Admittedly, social media only represents a part of the public sphere, but nonetheless it has a profound influence on the debate. We can see this shift in all forms of online communication, which shape how we speak, what we share and what we see. The current discourse on social media reflects a wider breakdown of inhibitions and taboos, which makes it all the harder to find the one thing we need in order to have a reasoned discussion: objectivity.

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