In The News

Biden-Xi Call, Denmark Lifts COVID Restrictions, Ig Nobel Prizes

Biden-Xi Call, Denmark Lifts COVID Restrictions, Ig Nobel Prizes

Thousands of people have begun to return to their homes in Daraa, Syria, after the army entered the formerly rebel-held areas.

Ammar Safarjalani/Xinhua/ZUMA
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Jambo!*

Welcome to Friday, where Biden and Xi Jinping hold their first call in seven months, Denmark becomes the first EU country to lift all COVID restrictions and an unexpected romance is making news in Spain. Die Welt reporter Daniel-Dylan Böhmer also meets with key Taliban officials in Kabul to give a glimpse of Afghanistan's (possible) future.



• Joe Biden and Xi Jinping phone call: As tensions remain high between their two countries, the American and Chinese leaders had a strategic discussion on coordinating their efforts on climate change, the pandemic and other international issues. During the 90-minute call, cyber security was also a central issue, as the U.S. has accused China of massive ransomware attacks.

• COVID update: As many as 100 million Americans — close to two-thirds of the country's workforce — could now face vaccine mandates under new Biden administration requirements for federal employees, healthcare workers and large companies. Elsewhere, Denmark is the first EU country to lift all pandemic-related restrictions and Cuba has begun vaccinating children as young as two years old.

• Russia and Belarus open war games: NATO countries have raised the alarm about the week-long "Zapad-2021" exercise, which will involve hundreds of thousands of army personnel, tanks, aircrafts and ships to show off Russia's growing military might. With service members from Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia also taking part, some are concerned of an accident that could launch an international crisis.

• Vietnam and Taiwan brace for twin tropical storms: The Asian nations are preparing for torrential rain, flooding and mudslides. Taiwan has issued a sea warning for Super Typhoon Chanthu, which will likely pass over the island tomorrow. Tropical storm Conson in the South China Sea will probably hit Vietnam on Sunday, impacting upwards of 800,000 people in the country's northern provinces.

• Latest Afghanistan evacuation effort: An international commercial flight carrying about 100 foreign nations has left Kabul Airport, the first large departure since all U.S. forces pulled out a week ago. Meanwhile, female demonstrators and journalists have been beaten and arrested by the Taliban, who have made protests illegal without government approval.

• Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline completed: The project, which will double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany, was constructed by Russian energy behemoth Gazprom. The 1,200-kilometer pipeline has been subject of international controversy for bypassing an existing route in the Ukraine and for its environmental impact.

• The Spanish bishop & Satanic erotic novelist: Spain's youngest bishop resigned after falling in love with a woman who writes Satanic-tinged erotic fiction.



TIME magazine, 20 Years Ago

By the time United Airlines Flight 175 sliced into the second tower, news reporters and editors around the world knew they were facing the most monumental story of their lifetime. The Sept. 11 attacks forever changed the world, and put the powers of modern journalism, from real-time video coverage to deep news analysis (on deadline), to the test like never before. With events unfolding on that Tuesday morning in New York and Washington, newspapers around the world could go to print that evening with special editions for Sept. 12 that offered the proverbial "first draft of history" on their respective front pages.

To mark 20 years since the history-shifting attack, we've put together a worldwide collection of newspaper front pages and magazine covers from the day and days after.


An exclusive glimpse into the Taliban's inner circle

Reporter Daniel-Dylan Böhmer of Die Welt gained access to key Taliban officials in Kabul, and visited the heavily armed security forces at the airport, to get a sense of what Afghanistan's future may hold.

🤝 No one knows what will become of Afghanistan. The radical Islamist Taliban have driven out the most powerful nations in the world and for the second time in three decades they have the opportunity to establish a new state. But what kind of state will that be? The Ministry for Peace declared its aim is reconciliation within Afghan society. At its head, Ahmadullah Ahmadzai, 38, insists that the call for reconciliation is sincere. There is no other way to solve the country's problems: unemployment, supply issues, lack of money.

🌐 Even staunchly secular Afghan experts recognize in the Taliban's current leadership a younger generation that is more modern in its thinking and behavior, a generation that wants to give the movement a new image. Perhaps the most important representative of this generation is Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. He says the most important thing for Afghanistan now is reconciliation and wellbeing, and that the government wants to boost the economy and create more jobs. To achieve this it will need help from the international community, including Germany.

⚠️ Mujahid knows that the international community will make respecting human rights a condition of any aid. That is why many onlookers suspect the Taliban is merely pretending to have changed its ways. Experts say that alongside the more moderate members, there are still of course hardliners in the movement, whose influence is particularly strong on young, less educated fighters in the provinces.

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According to researchers from the University of Utah researchers behind the study, a bearded face can absorb 37% more energy than a clean-shaved one. For their hairy find (which explored whether beards served an evolutionary purpose to fare better in a fistfight), the scientists were awarded the 2021 Ig Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1991, science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research have held the annual competition to award amusing — yet real — research discoveries. This year's winners include an economist who found a high correlation between obesity rates and national corruption and a group that determined that the best way to transport a tranquilized rhinoceros is upside-down.


I can say: Yes, we should all be feminists.
— In a public discussion, Angela Merkel declared herself a "feminist" and defined her position on feminism after she had refused to give a clear answer on that topic a few years ago at a women's summit and had said she didn't want "labels." "I was a bit shyer when I said it. But it's more thought-out now," said the German chancellor. Merkel added that she wanted to leave office with a clear conscience after more than 15 years in power, knowing she had done what she could to improve her country's situation. Germans will vote on September 26 to elect a new parliament which will choose Merkel's successor.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

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

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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