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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.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com



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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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Is Turning Into A "New Israel" — Where Everyone Is A Soldier

From businessmen to farmers, Ukrainian society has been militarizing for the past six months to defend its sovereignty. In the future it may find itself like Israel, permanently armed to protect its sovereignty.

Ukrainian civilians learn how to shoot and other military skills at a shooting range in Lviv on July 30, 2022.

Guillaume Ptak

KYIV — The war in Ukraine has reached a turning point. Vladimir Putin's army has suffered its worst setback since the beginning of the invasion. The Russian army has experienced a counter-offensive that many experts consider masterful, so it must retreat and cede vast territories to its opponent.

The lightning victory that the head of the Kremlin had dreamed of never took place. The losses are considerable — Ukrainian troops on the battlefield now outnumber the Russians.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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On April 5, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted that at the end of the conflict, Ukraine would become a "big Israel". In an interview with Ukrainian media, he said then, "In all the institutions, supermarkets, cinemas, there will be people with weapons."

The problem of national security will be the country's most important one in the next decade. An "absolutely liberal, and European" society would therefore no longer be on the agenda, according to the Ukrainian president.

Having long since swapped his suit and tie for a jacket or a khaki T-shirt during his public appearances, Zelensky has undeniably become one of the symbols of this growing militarization of Ukrainian society. However, the president claimed that Ukraine would not become an "authoritarian" regime: "An authoritarian state would lose to Russia. Ukrainians know what they are fighting for."

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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