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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.

[*Swahili]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• 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.

A MESSAGE FROM INTERNATIONS

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

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.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

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

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

37%

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.

📣 VERBATIM

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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Society

Her Mad Existence: The Ultimate Collection Of Evita Perón Iconography

Seventy years after her death, displays in Buenos Aires, including a vast collection of pictures shown online, recall the life and times of "Evita" Perón, the Argentine first lady turned icon of popular culture.

A bookstore in San Telmo, a neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, displays pictures of Eva Perón.

Maxi Kronenberg

BUENOS AIRES — Her death in 1952 at the age of 33 helped turn the Argentine first lady Eva Perón — known to millions as Evita — into one of the iconic faces of the 20th century, alongside other Argentines like the singer Carlos Gardel, the guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and soccer stars Maradona and Messi.

Evita, née María Eva Duarte, became for many the defender of the poor — and to her detractors, the mother of Latin America's brazen populists — as she pushed for civil rights, gender equality and social programs for the poor in her time as first lady of Argentina in the mid-20th century.

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