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Taliban End Game, Texas Protects Abortion Clinics, El Salvador’s Legal Bitcoin
In The News
Meike Eijsberg, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Taliban End Game, Texas Protects Abortion Clinics, El Salvador’s Legal Bitcoin

Welcome to Tuesday, where the Taliban end game is playing out in Panjshir valley, the U.S. Justice Department vows to protect abortion clinics in Texas and El Salvador becomes the world's first country to authorize the use of bitcoin as legal currency. French daily Le Monde also looks at how artificial intelligence could make the dream of automatic live translation come true.


• Taliban says they took Panjshir, but resistance holds on: The Taliban say they have officially captured the Panjshir valley, north of Kabul as of Monday but resistance groups have vowed they would continue fighting. Meanwhile, protests taking place on the streets of Kabul were met with heavy gunfire as the Taliban tried to stop it.

• U.S. Justice Department to protect Texas abortion clinics: In response to Texas' recently enacted law that imposed a near-total ban on abortions, the U.S. Justice Department said it would not tolerate any attacks against people seeking or providing abortions in the State. A spokesman said they would provide protection via the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE).

• Maria Kolesnikova sentenced to 11 years in prison: Maria Kolesnikova, a Belarusian musician and prominent opposition figure, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. A Belarusian court had charged that Kolesnikova and another opposition activist, Maxim Znak, with extremism and conspiring to "seize state power in an unconstitutional way."

• German federal police also used Pegasus: The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), the German federal police, secretly purchased the Pegasus spyware and used it for surveillance of suspects, German newspapers revealed. This follows revelations that the software had been used on a large scale in many countries, with some 50,000 politicians, lawyers, journalists, and human rights activists spied on.

• COVID-19 update: In Vietnam, a man was jailed for five years after breaching the country's strict quarantine rules and passing the virus to at least eight other people. Meanwhile, Chile has just approved China's Sinovac vaccine for children as young as six — although those younger than 12 will not be vaccinated for a while.

• El Salvador first country to make Bitcoin legal currency: From today, businesses in El Salvador will be obliged where possible to accept the controversial blockchain-backed currency as payment as the country has just become the first to make Bitcoin a legal tender. Millions of people are expected to download the government's new digital wallet app which gives away $30 (€25) in Bitcoin to every citizen.

• Australian talking duck calls you a "bloody fool": According to a new study, Australian musk ducks can imitate human speech as first touted by the recording of a duck named Ripper saying "you bloody fool" that went viral. Ripper was four years old at the time of the recordings, which researchers say he picked up from his previous caretakers, and made his vocalizations during aggressive mating displays.


French daily Le Figaro pays tribute to iconic actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, the "Ace of Aces" (a reference to his 1982 hit movie) who died yesterday in Paris at age 88. After his breakout role in Jean-Luc Godart's high-brow New Wave staple "Breathless," Belmondo went on to become one of France's most famous actors, with roles in popular comedies and action films through the 1970s and 80s.

AI, translation and the holy grail of "natural language"

In the crucial area of translation, services such as Google Translate, which has expanded its offer to 104 languages, or the German competitor DeepL now make it possible to translate entire paragraphs in a coherent and fluid manner. The dream of a machine translating live conversations is now within reach, writes French daily Le Monde.

📲 The barriers between text and image are disappearing. With the augmented reality application Google Lens, students can scan a page from a textbook or a handwritten sentence with their smartphone and translate it or get additional information online. It's all because software has learned to recognize subjects in images. Tomorrow, we could launch a search with a photo, Google believes. The American company OpenAI is exploring the creation of images from a text description. Its DALL-E prototype offers disturbing representations of invented objects: an alarm clock in the shape of a peach, a pig lamp…

👀 These innovations help make digital technology more accessible to the disabled and illiterate. With the French National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (Inria), Facebook is studying the simplification of forms, with pictograms and synonyms. In January, the company presented an automatic image description tool for the blind and visually impaired. Google has a voice recognition project for people with speech difficulties, called "Euphonia."

🤖 The prospects are promising, but also dizzying because these technologies will be used in headphones, in homes, in cars. The concerns have been gathered in an article co-authored by Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, two researchers in ethics whose dismissal by Google has caused controversy. The main concern is about the "biases" — racist, sexist, homophobic — that these softwares can reproduce, or even amplify, after training on masses of texts from the internet.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com



Report: U.S. arms abandoned in Afghanistan moved to Iran

Weaponry belonging to the Afghan army is moving into Iran, though it is not clear if it is smuggled, or moved in a deal between the Taliban and Iran's regime, Kayhan London reports.

With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, much of the U.S.-supplied military hardware formerly used by the country's armed forces have fallen into their hands. This terrorist group that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, and gave refuge to other terrorists, especially al-Qaeda, now has its hands on advanced military weaponry and know-how.

It has also become clear that neighboring Iran was keen and ready to get its own hands on this material, either to use directly or to copy the weapon design.

And this has happened amid reports that armaments including tanks and armored vehicles have been moved into Iran. Sources say Iranian dealers are particularly looking for arms and missiles the Americans abandoned in suspect circumstances, without destroying them.

It is not clear whether the Taliban or fugitive members of the armed forces are handing over the weaponry to the Islamic Republic of Iran, or if this is the work of middlemen exploiting the disorderly state of the country.

War booty is not the only thing moving into Iran though. Thousands of Afghan citizens have left their homes and towns, fleeing toward neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan.

These include the elderly and pregnant women, who are risking their lives on a desperate flight, though it seems they prefer this to living under the Taliban. Meanwhile, Western states are preparing for a new wave of refugees from Afghanistan, knowing that regional instability will push them toward Europe and beyond, even if they first pass through Pakistan, Iran or Turkey.

This is increasingly of concern to them as the refugee crisis may last a while, in spite of the contradictory positions of different Western countries, particularly those in the European Union.




$71.4 million

The first Asian superhero film by Marvel, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, broke the record for a Labor Day weekend opening and did better at the North American box office than predicted, collecting $71.4 million. With a predominantly East Asian cast, inspired by Chinese folklore, and several martial arts action sequences, the film is the latest sign that Hollywood is starting to listen to calls for more Asian representation on screen.



The people of Brazil have struggled for decades to secure democracy from military rule. Bolsonaro must not be permitted to rob them of it now.

— More than 150 left-leaning ministers, party leaders and former prime ministers wrote an open letter warning of a possible "coup" by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Ahead of Tuesday's Independence Day demonstrations and next year's national elections, Bolsonaro called his supporters to protest against the country's Supreme Court and Congress. The open letter (signed by the likes of former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and former UK Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn) declares that the rallies amount to a replay of the U.S. Capitol attack on January 6.



✍️ Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Missiles Fired At Kabul Airport, New EU Travel Restrictions, Octopus Shell Shock
BBC
Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

Missiles Fired At Kabul Airport, New EU Travel Restrictions, Octopus Shell Shock

Welcome to Monday, where U.S. defense systems intercept missiles fired at Kabul's airport, Hurricane Ida leaves New Orleans in the dark and researchers find you don't want to mess with your octopus lady. Meanwhile, Italian daily La Stampa takes the (extreme) temperature of farming as recurring droughts hit the country.



• Rockets aimed at Kabul airport intercepted: U.S. anti-missile defenses intercepted as many as five rockets fired at Kabul's airport early Monday. The attempted attack, for which no one has claimed responsibility, comes after last week's deadly suicide attack at the airport and less than 48 hours before the United States is due to complete its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

• Missile and drone attack in Yemen kills 30: A missile and drone attack on a key military base in the South of Yemen killed at least 30 troops on Sunday and wounded at least 65. It was one of the deadliest attacks in the country's civil war, which has been going on since 2014.

• COVID-19 update: The European Union is expected to reinstate travel restrictions on visitors from the U.S., Israel, Lebanon and three Balkan countries, according to a new report Monday. New Zealand, which has largely been virus free, extended its lockdown by another two weeks after a Delta variant case was imported from Australia.

• New Orleans loses power as hurricane Ida strikes: Hurricane Ida has made landfall in Louisiana with 150mph (240km/h) winds that left the city of New Orleans without power. The storm claimed its first victim on Monday. President Joe Biden has declared Ida a major disaster and ordered federal aid to supplement recovery efforts.

• North Korea restarts nuclear reactor: According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), North Korea appears to have restarted its Yongbyon nuclear reactor. The UN Watchdog said the reactor has been discharging cooling water since July, which suggests it is operational again, the first sign of operational activity since December 2018.

• Messi's Paris debut: Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi made his debut with French team Paris Saint-Germain, where he came off the bench in the second half of the Ligue 1 game against Reims. It's Messi's first appearance since he joined PSG from Barcelona where the 34-year-old had played his entire career.

• Female octopuses throw shells at annoying males: Researchers studying octopuses were taken aback when video footage showed a female throwing shells and rocks at a male who the scientists said had been attempting to mate with her. They then studied other octopuses in the wild and found that females were generally more likely to exhibit this type of behavior


The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on Hurricane Ida as the storm made landfall in Louisiana with 150mph (240km/h) winds. It arrived on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that caused more than 1,800 deaths and $125 billion in damage.


Italy's record droughts: How it looks from the farm

Giovanni Bedino, a 59-year-old Italian farmer, has been working the land since he was 15. "I love this job, but a year like this takes away your love," he told Turin daily La Stampa. "We couldn't water the fields and nothing came down from the sky. I remember, the summer of 2003 was a very difficult one — but it wasn't even close to this year. I have never seen such a drought."

🇮🇹 The earth is cracking in Italy's northwest region of Piedmont: the crops and the animals suffer. Italy has been ravaged by fires and storms, like Greece, Turkey and much of southern Europe.

⛅ Italy has recorded 1,200 "extreme" meteorological events — a 56% increase from last year. Wildfires ravaged the southern regions of Sardinia, Calabria and Sicily. The town of Florida, in Sicily, is thought to have recorded the hottest temperature ever recorded in Europe: 48.8 °C. Meanwhile, heavy rainfall devastated other parts of the country.

🚜 Coldiretti, Italy's largest agricultural association, has just summed up the bill for this Italian summer: The damages to agriculture, it says, amount to €1 billion. Wheat yields have fallen 10%; cherries 30%, nectarines 40%. Tomato and corn crops have also suffered heavy losses.

💧 This is the summer in which the news about climate change matches with reality on the ground. In northern Italy, the area that's bearing the brunt of the crisis is Cuneo province, near the French border. Livio Quaranta, the president of the consortium that manages water in 108 municipalities, says there are now no permanent snowfields on this entire stretch of the Alps: "The snow cover has changed: It doesn't remain on the ground for long — it just washes away, because of higher average temperatures."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com





3 hours

China is imposing strict new restrictions about when minors can play video games, limiting access to three specific hours each week, over growing fears of gaming addiction. Users under the age of 18 would only be allowed to play games from 8 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with online gaming companies barred from providing services to minors outside of these hours.




For us, our trophy is to get to the gate.

— says Khalida Popal, a founder of the Afghanistan women's national football team. She told The Guardian about a small dedicated team that helped the team, most of them teenagers, and other female athletes make it to the Kabul airport and to flee the country.

✍️ Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger



Algeria Cuts Ties With Morocco, COVID Plateau, RIP The “Ultimate Drummer”
In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

Algeria Cuts Ties With Morocco, COVID Plateau, RIP The “Ultimate Drummer”

Welcome to Wednesday, where tensions build between Algeria and Morocco, WHO reports that global COVID cases plateau, and Rolling Stones lovers mourn the passing of drummer Charlie Watts. Meanwhile, New Delhi-based daily The Wire looks at the patriarchal prejudices still surrounding motherhood and so-called "non-custodial mothers" in India.


Afghanistan update: President Joe Biden is sticking to the Aug. 31 pullout of the remaining 5,800 American troops, despite criticism from its G7 allies to extend the timeline for more airlifts. Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced it was ending its financial support to Afghanistan, over concerns about its development prospects, particularly for women. This comes as the UN says it has received "harrowing and credible reports" of human rights abuses that include summary executions of Afghan soldiers and civilians.

• Algeria severs diplomatic ties with Morocco: Algerian Foreign Minister Ramdane Lamamra has accused Morocco of not upholding bilateral commitments and supporting the MAK separatist movement. Lamamra also said its neighbor used Pegasus spyware to monitor Algerian officials, which Morocco denied. Diplomatic ties between the countries have grown tense in recent years, largely over the sovereignty of the Western Sahara.

• COVID update: The World Health Organization reports that global COVID-19 cases "seem to be plateauing," with 4.5 million new cases and 68,000 deaths reported last week. Meanwhile, Japan has extended its state of emergency to at least eight more prefectures, as the country reported 21,610 new cases yesterday and 42 deaths.

• Nicaragua cracks down on opposition leaders: Lawyer Roger Reyes is the 34th opposition figure who has been arrested in the lead-up to the country's Nov. 7 general election, which will see President Daniel Ortega run for a fourth term in office. Reyes, who said he anticipated the arrest, has been charged with attacking "Nicaraguan society and the rights of the people."

• Supreme Court rejects "remain in Mexico" repeal: The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Joe Biden's bid to rescind an immigration policy put in place by Donald Trump, that requires thousands of asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while awaiting U.S. hearings.

• Charlie Watts tribute: From bandmates to peers, the music world is paying homage to seminal Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, who died yesterday in London at age 80.

• Nevermind the lawsuit: Spencer Elden, who as a four-month-old was featured naked on the cover of Nirvana's iconic album Nevermind, is now suing the remaining members of the grunge band, as well as Kurt Cobain's widow Courtney Love and record labels, over "commercial child sexual exploitation."


Daily Mirror

Newspapers in the UK and abroad are paying front-page homage to Charlie Watts — "the ultimate drummer" as the Daily Mirror remembers him — a day after the passing of the stylish Rolling Stones member in London at age 80.


In India, when mothers live without their children

The stigma around so-called "non-custodial mothers" has prevented us from expanding our own imagination of what motherhood can, or does, look like when it is practiced by non-residential mothers, as Pritha Bhattacharya writes in Indian daily The Wire.

Three years ago, Shalini, a 35-year-old media professional based in Bengaluru, gave up custody of her daughter. Her child grew up in a joint family and she was very attached to her paternal grandparents. Shalini couldn't imagine taking her child away from the people she loved. But she is now on the path of discovering a new relationship with her 8-year-old daughter. Shalini is one of many women in India who are defined as non-custodial mothers, those who either decide to or are unable to live with their offspring. Despite the social stigma of giving up being a daily presence in their childrens' lives, many parents make the choice based on what they believe is best for their families.

Census data on female-headed households provides some clues into the number of existing single mothers in India. But these statistics do not reveal the full picture, as most single mothers continue to live with their extended families. A 2019-2020 report by UN Women attempted to fill this gap, highlighting that in India, the number of "lone mothers' is rising, with 4.5% (approximately 13 million) of all Indian households run by single mothers. It also found that around 32 million single mothers are estimated to be living with their extended families. Unfortunately, the report failed to include single, non-custodial mothers in its sample design, suggesting as if to give up or lose custody of one's children is enough to render someone a non-mother.

Both mothers and fathers are affected by the patriarchal ideology that promotes mothers as nurturing, selfless caregivers and fathers as peripheral providers. Sociologist Jackie Krasas argues that the horror that underlines the negative reactions to non-custodial mothers partly rests on our low opinion (and expectations) of the capabilities of fathers. It is a commonly held notion that non-custodial mothers are putting their children in harm's way by choosing not to live with them. Nevertheless, women are increasingly resisting these ideas by leaving unhappy marriages and, in some cases, by either giving up the physical custody of their children or striving to lead a full life in spite of losing custody.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

习近平思想

China's Ministry of Education has announced the introduction of a new political ideology guide in its national curriculum, to be integrated from primary school up to university. Called Xi Jinping Thought ("Xi Jinping sixiang"), it aims at helping "teenagers establish Marxist beliefs," according to governmental guidelines.

No more monkey business: Antwerp Zoo bans woman from seeing her chimp chum

There's only so much monkeying around the Antwerp Zoo will tolerate. Belgian woman Adie Timmermans learned this recently, having developed what she called a "special relationship" with Chita, a 38-year-old chimpanzee whom she visited almost every day for four years. Zoo authorities now think the bond might have grown too strong and decided to ban Timmermans from visiting her monkey friend.

Whenever Timmermans came to the zoo, Chita would walk over to the glass enclosure, blowing kisses and scratching his head. So why separate the interspecies pals? Sarah Lafaut, the zoo's mammal curator, tells Belgian news channel ATV that Chita ended up paying too much attention to Timmermans and was at risk of being excluded from his primate peers.

The Belgian woman received a letter from the zoo, saying that she could still visit, but was only allowed to take a quick look at the chimpanzee habitat. As curator Lafaut explains to ATV, "Of course, we are happy when our visitors connect with the animals, but animal welfare comes first here."

Chita's interest in humans likely comes from her growing up as a household pet until the age of 8, when he was given to the zoo because of behavioral issues. While he eventually learned to live among other chimpanzees, his attachment to people remained.

As for Timmermans, she believes she is being unfairly singled out, as she tells Flemish newspaper the Nieuwsblad: "That animal really loves me and I love him. Why would you take that away?"

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com


A catastrophe on top of a catastrophe.

Speaking with Al Jazeera, UN World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley warned that 14 millions of Afghans, including two million children, were facing food insecurity following the Taliban's takeover of the country.

Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

The Latest: China Blocks WHO, Taliban Take Kandahar, Russian Bear Mistake
Geopolitics
Worldcrunch

The Latest: China Blocks WHO, Taliban Take Kandahar, Russian Bear Mistake

Welcome to Friday, where China blocks the WHO on COVID origins, the Taliban capture Kandahar and a Russian politician makes a deadly bear error. We also have a Die Welt article on the tiny country that isn't afraid to take on China.


• Taliban capture three more provincial capitals: In southern Afghanistan, insurgents have taken control of Kandahar (the site of much fighting over the past two decades), as well as Herat and Lashkar Gah, spreading their control to over two-thirds of the country. The U.S., Britain and Canada have all sent in troops to evacuate their embassies as the Taliban moves closer to the capital, Kabul.

• Six killed in Plymouth, England shooting: Three women and three men, including the suspect, died, making it the worst mass shooting in the UK in over a decade. An eyewitness tells the BBC that the shooter kicked in the door of a home and randomly started firing; police confirm it is not terror related.

• China rejects renewed WHO efforts on coronavirus origins: Following a January 2021 investigation that failed to conclude how the pandemic started, the World Health Organization has called on China to release data on early COVID-19 cases. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu says the country opposes "political" over "scientific" disease tracing.

• U.S. Census results released: The 2020 Census shows that American population growth has slowed significantly in the past 10 years, while the country's racial diversity has risen. Asian and Latino populations saw the largest increases, as the number of Americans identifying as multiracial more than doubled.

• New influx of opposition figures arrested in Belarus: A year after protests erupted following the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, more than 20 activists, lawyers and journalists have been detained in the past two days. In response, Britain, Canada and the U.S. increased sanctions on Belarusian entities and individuals; others are calling on the International Monetary Fund to limit its financial support.

• Britney Spears' dad steps down from conservatorship: The American pop singer scored a big win in her ongoing legal battle as her father, Jamie Spears, agreed to no longer be in control of her estate. Britney Spears, who has earned hundreds of millions of dollars during her 13-year conservatorship, says she wants her father sent to jail for abusing his position.

• Millionaire Russian politician kills man he says he mistook for bear: Igor Redkin, a member of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, was given a two-month house arrest sentence for killing a man outside a dump; he said he was trying to scare away the "bear."

The Canadian daily newspaper, Toronto Star, reports on the country's expected upcoming snap election, set to take place on September 20. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, losing parliamentary support, is slated to make the formal announcement Sunday for a vote two years ahead of schedule.

The tiny country taking on the Chinese Goliath

With one of the lowest populations and smallest economies in the block, Lithuania has a reputation of being a minor actor on the European political stage. But under Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas, it's breaking from the pack, attempting to strong arm China as the People's Republic vies for increasing global dominance, Germany's Die Welt reports:

The relationship between Lithuania and the People's Republic currently resembles the Old Testament confrontation between David and Goliath. No other European state is adopting a more self-confident tone toward the billion-strong empire than the country of three million people.

So far, the Lithuanian parliament has not only declared the oppression of China's Uyghur Muslim minority to be a genocide and protested in favor of democracy in Hong Kong, but the country has also donated 20,000 doses of AstraZeneca to Taiwan. Lithuania even went on to announce that Taiwan would open a representative office in Vilnius — with the name "Taiwan" in the title. All of these actions have successfully angered the "Goliath."

But Lithuania's boldness is unlikely to be mirrored by its fellow European States. Germany, who is economically intertwined with China, categorically rejected a tougher stance toward Beijing. Nonetheless, Adomenas is hopeful and wants to see "European leadership" from the new German government after Angela Merkel's departure in September.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


57%

The number of Americans who identify as white has dropped by six percentage points, from 64% of the population to 57%, according to new census data. For the first time in the country's history, white Americans now represent under 60% of the total population, with people of color now making up 43% of the U.S. population.

Can we ever return?

— Carol Poon, an accountant who recently left Hong Kong with her husband and young family, told The Guardian she wishes she could go back. They had decided to move to the UK, taking up the country's offer for a route to citizenship, after the national security law was introduced, a "catch-all law that has no limits." She says Hong Kong is not the same anymore and therefore doesn't want her children to grow up in an environment where you "have to lie or be two-faced to survive."

Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Genevieve Mansfield

The Latest: Taliban Advance, Iran’s New President Speaks, Biles Bounces Back
BBC

The Latest: Taliban Advance, Iran’s New President Speaks, Biles Bounces Back

Welcome to Tuesday, where the Taliban have launched an attack on a strategic city in southern Afghanistan, Iran's new leader vows to fight U.S. sanctions and a world record is shattered in Tokyo. In Switzerland, there's also an odd story of a man fond of his fondue fork for criminal purposes.

• Taliban attack key Afghan city: Heavy fighting is underway in the strategic city of Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, as the Taliban move to take control of a number of key strongholds. This comes as the U.S. and Afghanistan have ramped up airstrikes in an effort to push back on the militant group's rapid advances. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the UK are accusing the Taliban of massacring at least 40 civilians in Spin Boldak, south Afghanistan.

• Missing Belarus activist found dead in Ukraine: The body of Vitaly Shishov, who led the Belarusian House in Ukraine to help Belarusians fleeing persecution, was found hanged in a park in Kyiv. A murder inquiry has been opened to determine whether the activist was killed and his death made to look like suicide.

• COVID-19 update: Authorities in Wuhan will test the central Chinese city's 11 million residents for coronavirus after the first local infections in more than a year were reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. reached the milestone of 70% of adults who received at least one shot of COVID vaccine, about a month behind President Joe Biden's Fourth of July goal.

• Iran's new president sworn in: Ebrahim Raisi, who won Iran's presidential election with 62% of the votes in June, officially took office, vowing to save the Islamic Republic from the severe economic crisis as well as take steps to lift the harsh sanctions imposed by the U.S.

• Capitol riots officers suicides: The District of Columbia's police department reports that two more police officers who were guarding the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots have died by suicide in recent weeks. This brings to four the number of suicides by police officers who were on duty that day.

• Qantas to furlough 2,500 workers: Australia's Qantas and its budget carrier Jetstar will stand down around 2,500 workers for at least two months, in response to the extended COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney. The company has lost about 60% of its domestic business from May to July.

• Olympics: Simone Biles bounces back, world record for Norway: American gymnast Simone Biles won bronze during the balance beam final in the Tokyo Olympics, after withdrawing from several other events to focus on her mental health. Norwegian athlete Karsten Warholm smashed the 400 meter hurdles world record, becoming the first man to complete the race in less than 46 seconds.

Watch Video Show less
The Latest: Worst Outbreak Since Wuhan, Out-Of-Control ISS, Rickroll Record
BBC

The Latest: Worst Outbreak Since Wuhan, Out-Of-Control ISS, Rickroll Record

Welcome to Friday, where China sees its largest COVID-19 outbreak since Wuhan, the International Space Station is (briefly) thrown out of control, and a meme-related 80s hit passes the 1-billion-views mark. Meanwhile, pan-African weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique looks at the hurdles in the way of vaccination across the continent.

• Hong Kong conviction, crowd boos China: Tong Ying-kit becomes the first person to be convicted under Hong Kong's national security law. The former waiter has been sentenced to nine years in prison for "terrorist activities and inciting secession." Meanwhile, Hong Kong police are also investigating complaints that a crowd of Olympics-viewers publicly booed China as its national anthem played, a punishable offense under Hong Kong law.

• COVID update: China has recorded its largest coronavirus outbreak since Wuhan, with almost 200 people becoming infected in the city of Nanjing. Meanwhile, India is reporting the largest increase in new COVID cases in the last three weeks. Australia is sending in the military to enforce its lockdown, and Japan is extending its state of emergency. As the Delta variant spreads, U.S. President Joe Biden also announced that federal workers will be required to either be vaccinated or follow stringent sanitary measures.

• Philippines restores key military agreement with U.S.: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reversed his promise to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which facilitates U.S. military operations in the country. Instead, the country has announced it will restore the agreement, signaling closer U.S.-Philippine relations.

• Air France/KLM suffer big loss: Airline group Air France-KLM is reporting a second-quarter net loss of almost 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion), although the group remains hopeful that "signs of recovery" are on the horizon.

• U.S. evacuates 221 Afghan interpreters: The United States has begun evacuating Afghani interpreters who assisted American armed forces out of concern that reprisal attacks will begin once U.S. and allied forces have fully exited the country at the end of August. This group of 221 people is the first of about 2,500 Afghans who are set to be relocated to the United States.

• International Space Station thrown out of control: After Russia's Nauka laboratory module accidentally fired its thrusters, the International Space Station's (ISS) position was briefly destabilized, causing an 11-minute break in communications between NASA and the ISS astronauts.

• ScarJo vs. Disney: Black Widow lead actress Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney, alleging a breach in contract. Johansson claims that Disney's decision to simultaneously release Black Widow in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service has gone against previous agreements, particularly as her salary is largely based on box office success.

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The container ship Ever Given arrives at the ECT Delta terminal in the port of Rotterdam, more than four months after it got wedged in the Suez Canal for six days, blocking shipping in one of the world's busiest waterways
BBC

The Latest: China-Taliban Meeting, Alaska Tsunami Alert, Earth Overshoot Day

Welcome to Thursday, where a Chinese official meets with Taliban leaders, an earthquake triggers a tsunami alert in Alaska, and rock fans mourn the death of a bearded icon. With the Tokyo Olympics finally underway, Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium also asks a tough question: Do we even still need this sporting event?

• Chinese official publicly meets with Taliban: China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, began two days of talks with Taliban leaders on Wednesday in the Chinese city of Tianjin. After the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops, Afghanistan has seen significant fighting between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban. China hopes to use the meetings to assist in this peace process, as well as to warm ties with the Islamist group.

• Earthquake in Alaska triggers tsunami alert: After an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Alaskan peninsula on Wednesday, U.S. officials have released tsunami warnings for the surrounding area and encouraged increased monitoring across the Pacific. So far there have not been any reports of loss of life or serious property damage.

• Vocal Chinese billionaire sentenced to 18 years in prison: Sun Dawu, a billionaire pig farmer and outspoken critic of the Chinese government, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges that include "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." He has also been fined 3.11 million yuan ($480,000).

• COVID update: Australia's largest city, Sydney, has seen a record daily rise in cases, leading the government to seek military assistance in enforcing the ongoing lockdown. In contrast, the United Kingdom announced that fully vaccinated travelers coming from the EU or the U.S. no longer need to quarantine when entering England, Scotland and Wales. Meanwhile, Google has mandated that employees be vaccinated to return to in-person work in October.

• Macron sues billboard owner for depicting him as Hitler: French President Emmanuel Macron is suing a billboard owner for depicting him on a sign as Adolf Hitler. The poster shows Macron in Nazi garb with a Hitler-esque mustache and the phrase "Obey, get vaccinated." This comes after several protesters who see France's new health-pass system as government overreach invoked the yellow star that Nazi Germany forced Jewish people to wear during WWII.

• ZZ Top bassist dead at 72: Dusty Hill, the bassist for the Texas blues-rock trio ZZ Top, died in his sleep on Tuesday at the age of 72. Hill, known for his trademark long beard, played with the band for over 50 years.

• Earth Overshoot Day: Today marks the day that humanity has exceeded its yearly allotment of the planet's biological resources. Last year, Overshoot Day fell on August 22, after carbon emissions dropped during COVID-related lockdowns. But this year carbon emissions and consumption rose again, and Overshoot Day moved forward by almost one month.

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Italy's decision to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine passport sparked angry demonstrations across the country, like here on Rome's touristic Spanish Steps
BBC

The Latest: North-South Korea Rapprochement, Capitol Riots Emotion, Fiji Twitter Rookie

Welcome to Wednesday, where North-South Korea ties keep improving, the investigation on U.S. Capitol riots is off to an emotional start and a Fiji politician is delighting Twitter users. Meanwhile from Germany, Die Welt"s Marlen Hobrack helps us deconstruct the twisted logic behind the feminist defense of prostitution.

• North-South Korea rapprochement continues: A day after restoring hotlines South and North Korea, the two countries are discussing reopening a joint liaison office that was demolished by Pyongyang last year. According to South Korea government sources, a summit to restore relations is also being discussed.

• First day of Capitol riot inquiry: Four police officers gave their emotional, first-hand accounts of the Capitol riots, at the opening hearing of the congressional panel investigating the violent Jan. 6 insurrection. The committee also shared never-before-seen footage of protesters storming onto the Senate floor.

• Ecuador revokes Julian Assange citizenship: An Ecuadorian court ruled in favor of revoking the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The decision nullifies Assange's status as a naturalized citizen of Ecuador, which was granted to him in 2017 by then President Lenín Moreno. Assange's lawyer said he would appeal the ruling.

• COVID-19 update: With the Delta variant surging, U.S. President Joe Biden said plans requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated are "under consideration." Meanwhile in the UK, plans to end the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated arrivals coming from the U.S. or amber-listed EU countries are to be announced later. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has said it will impose a three-year travel ban on citizens who travel to countries listed as "red" by the Kingdom.

• At least 18 die in India bus crash: At least 18 migrant workers were killed after a truck crashed into their bus early Wednesday morning. The bus, which was "overloaded beyond its capacity," was being fixed after its engine broke down in the Barabanki district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

• Simone Biles withdraws from Olympics: ​​U.S. gymnast Simone Biles has pulled out from the individual all-around final at the Tokyo Games. The four-time Olympic gold medallist said she wanted to focus on her mental wellbeing, a decision praised by fellow athletes. It is unclear whether Biles will participate in next week's gymnastics events.

• Fiji politician discovers Twitter: Pio Tikoduadua, a leading opposition MP from Fiji, is gaining online fame after his awkward start on Twitter. Among other things, he had to be told what "OG" means (he assumed it was short for "Old Girl").

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Celebrations in Tunis after the firing of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi
BBC

The Latest: Tunisia PM Sacked, U.S.-China Tense Talks, Skateboard Gold

Welcome to Monday, where Tunisia's prime minister is sacked over handling of pandemic, U.S.-China talks are off to a rocky start and a 13-year-old skateboarder wins the first Olympic gold medal. German daily Die Welt also looks at the geopolitics behind the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline deal between Russia and Germany.

• Tunisia PM gets sacked: After violent protests broke out over the government's handling of the pandemic and the economy, Tunisian President Kais Saied has suspended parliament and sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. The move has been condemned as an attack on democracy by his rivals but was greeted by celebrations on the street.

• Beijing accuses U.S. of treating China like imaginary enemy: The U.S.-China talks between top diplomats got off to a tense start when Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng was quoted as saying that the breakdown in U.S.-China relations is due to certain people in Washington treating China as an "imaginary enemy." The U.S. side, represented by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, has yet to release a statement on the meeting.

• COVID-19 update: China has reported the highest number of confirmed COVID cases since January, a total of 76. Indonesia has loosened some of its restrictions despite record deaths. The government now allows small businesses and shopping malls to reopen even though they have been warned it could spark another wave. Meanwhile, the French parliament has voted to make vaccine passports required, starting in August, for entering restaurants, bars, trains and planes.

• Protests in Iran over water shortages: At least three people were killed during violent protests over water shortages in Iran. People have been demonstrating for more than a week over the supply problems during Iran's worst drought in half a century.

• New Zealand accepts return of Islamic State-linked citizen: A woman suspected of being an Islamic State (IS) member will be allowed to return to New Zealand from Turkey. The 26-year-old mother and her children are citizens of the island nation, whose prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the decision to allow their return was not "taken lightly."

• Flooding in London after heavy rain: Parts of London were left waterlogged after heavy downpours on Sunday. Services were severely disrupted after vehicles became stranded and underground lines were flooded. Officials issued an amber weather alert and are advising people not to travel.

• First skateboard Olympic gold won by 13-year-old girl: Momiji Nisiya, a young school girl from Japan, has won gold in the first ever Olympic street skateboarding competition. At 13 years and 330 days, she is the second youngest champion in summer Olympics history.

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Volunteers separate items at the Nurburgring donation center after Germany's devastating flooding
BBC

The Latest: Olympics Kick Off, Xi’s Tibet Trip, Spanish Beef

Welcome to Friday, where the 2020 Olympic Games finally kick off, Xi Jinping makes a historic trip to Tibet, and there's some beef (or rather, chuletón) between Spain and the EU. We also take an exclusive look at how the so-called "salvage grocery stores' popping up around the world are finding commercially viable ways to combat food waste.

• COVID-delayed Olympics start today: The Tokyo Summer Olympics begin today, kicking off with an opening ceremony — but no spectators in attendance.

• U.S. sanctions Cuba: In the wake of large-scale anti-government protests in Cuba, the Biden Administration has announced it would sanction individuals "responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people." The sanctions targeted key government official Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Cuban special forces unit, the Boinas Negras, over claims of human rights abuses.

• COVID update: Indonesia has surpassed India and Brazil as the country with the highest count of new daily infections, with 49,500 new cases reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, New Zealand has suspended travel from Australia as the country grapples with the Delta variant despite lockdowns.

• 22 dead, several injured in Ecuador prison riots: Ecuador is declaring a state of emergency in its penitentiary system in light of the deadly riots that have left 22 dead and 57 wounded in two prisons. The riots, reportedly sparked by clashes between rival gangs, were also fuelled by severe prison overcrowding.

• Xi Jinping visits Tibet: For the first time in his presidency, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous region, once home to the now-exiled Dalai Lama. Though Xi has been to the region twice before, it is his first time as Chinese leader. Some have called the trip an effort from Xi to reinforce Chinese sovereignty over the area, as well as the disputed border with India.

• Macron switches phones: Emmanuel Macron has reportedly changed his phone and number after investigations showed the French president was among the many heads of state targeted by the Pegasus spyware.

• Google Doodle Olympic game: Today's Google "Doodle" celebrates the start of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with a full 8-bit game. Sayōnara, productivity.

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As Colombia marked the 211th anniversary of its independence from Spain this week, demonstrators took to the streets in Bogota and other big cities to push for reforms such as implementing a minimum wage and improving the country's healthcare system
BBC

The Latest: WHO And Wuhan, Nord Stream 2 Deal, Argentine Non-Binary Option

Welcome to Thursday, where China rejects WHO's plans to look into its "Wuhan lab leak" theory, U.S. & Germany reach a deal on Nord Stream 2 and two Swedish hostage takers have the weirdest ransom demand. Hong-Kong based media The Initium also explains why young people in China are still drawn to the prospect of joining the Communist Party.

• Vaccines v. Delta variant: A study has shown that full vaccination (two doses) from the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine is nearly as effective against the Delta variant as against the original Alpha variant. Meanwhile, China has rejected a WHO proposal to investigate the origins of the coronavirus because it also included plans to look into Wuhan lab leak theory, which the country views as "not scientific."

• U.S. & Germany reach Nord Stream 2 deal: The United States and Germany have come to an agreement in order to ensure that the controversial gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, will not be used by Russia to exert political pressure on Europe. The pipeline, which is close to becoming operational, will likely double Russian gas exports to Germany.

• Death toll in China floods rises to 33: The death count after torrential rains and flooding in China's Henan province has risen to 33 people, with an additional eight people missing. The public has questioned authorities' preparedness for disaster, as experts have linked the downpour to the worsening climate crisis.

• Madagascar arrests six in assassination plot: After months of investigation, Madagascan authorities have arrested six people, including a foreign national, suspected of planning to kill President Andry Rajoelina.

• Olympics opening ceremony director fired: Kentaro Kobayashi, director of the Olympics' opening ceremony scheduled for tomorrow, has been fired after a Holocaust joke surfaced from a 1998 comedy set. The organizing committee president issued a public apology.

• Argentina adds non-binary option to ID cards: Argentina has become the first Latin American country to add a non-binary option to identification cards. Citizens who do not identify as male or female will now have the option to mark the gender neutral ‘X" instead.

• Swedish hostage takers demand kebab pizzas: Two inmates in Sweden's Hallby high security prison took two guards hostage for nine hours on Wednesday, demanding a helicopter and 20 kebab pizzas as ransom. The pizzas were indeed delivered, and the guards were released unharmed.

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A woman reacts to the damage left from a gunfight between militants and police in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar
BBC

The Latest: German ‘Todesflut’ Toll, COVID In Africa, Teen In Space

Welcome to Friday, where the European flood death toll tops 100, Lebanon's prime minister steps down and a teenager gets a seat on Jeff Bezos' trip to space. We also get a look from Kommersant on the rising hopes of the reformist revolution in the post-Soviet state of Moldova.

• Germany death toll rises to at least 103, hundreds missing: "Once-in-a-century" flooding in Western Europe has left at least 103 people dead in Germany, and at least nine dead in neighboring Belgium. Hundreds remain missing as search teams continue to look for survivors. The scale of destruction has surprised even climate change experts.

• Merkel's White House farewell: In an otherwise warm final visit to the White House as Chancellor, Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden disagreed on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that the United States fears will increase European reliance on Russian gas. Biden was the fourth occupant of the White House since Merkel took office in 2005.

• COVID spreading in Asia and Africa: As Indonesia becomes Asia's new COVID epicenter, nearby countries are planning new restrictions with Singapore"s announcement it will limit social gatherings, a move that South Korea is also considering. Across Africa, cases have "surged by 43 percent in the space of a week." There is concern that the Delta variant could mutate into more dangerous variants as it sweeps through largely unvaccinated regions.

• Lebanese prime minister steps down: Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon has decided to step down after nine months of attempting in vain to form a functioning coalition of cabinet members. Hariri was designated prime minister in the wake of the Beirut port explosion and the ongoing economic crisis, and his exit will likely delay any international aid packages.

• Dutch crime reporter dies: Peter R. de Vries, the acclaimed Dutch crime reporter known for his investigations into mobsters and drug lords, died Thursday from injuries sustained when shot at close range in central Amsterdam last week.

• Pacific Rim leaders discuss post-pandemic economic recovery: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will chair a virtual meeting for members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to discuss post-COVID economic recovery plans. Presidents Joe Biden, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin, as well as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are among the other leaders to be included in today's special meeting.

• Teen to fly to space with Bezos: Oliver Daemen will become the youngest person to enter space after the anonymous public auction winner who was slated to go stepped down due to scheduling conflicts. Bezos' "Blue Origin" flight will also include Wally Funk, 82, who is set to be the oldest person to enter space.

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