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THE NEW YORK TIMES
The New York Times (sometimes abbreviated to NYT) is an American daily newspaper, founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. It has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization. Its daily circulation is estimated to 1,380,000.
War In Ukraine, Day 86: Putin Turns Up The Dial In Donbas
In The News
Irene Caselli, Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

War In Ukraine, Day 86: Putin Turns Up The Dial In Donbas

Russia may allow over-40s to enlist in military as resources are needed to step up the assault in eastern Ukraine.

Signs are pointing to Russian combat operations accelerating in the southeastern Donbas region, as the invasion in Ukraine nears the three-month mark. The British Ministry of Defence said Friday that more Russian troops are likely to be deployed to Donbas to reinforce operations there once they finish securing the strategic port city of Mariupol, where a growing numbers of Ukrainian soldiers has surrendered this week.

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainian students during a virtual address on Thursday that the war is not over yet, and is entering “the final stage (which) is the most difficult, the bloodiest.” He added that it is not time yet for him to tell Ukrainians abroad to return home.

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Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War
In The News
Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War

Russia says it has conquered new territory in Donbas, while Ukraine says it has retaken parts of the city of Kharkiv. The competing claims come as Vladimir Putin appears to be bracing for a long "protracted" conflict.

Some press reports come from the battlefield, some come from headquarters.

The latter was the source for the lead story in today’s The New York Times that declared “Ukraine War’s Geographic Reality: Russia Has Seized Much of the East,” based on an assertion of the Russian Defense Ministry that “its forces in eastern Ukraine had advanced to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk,” the two provinces of Donbas.

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The article continues with an important caveat: “If confirmed,” the report signals that Russia could soon gain control over the entire Donbas region, which could put Moscow in position to force Kyiv to agree to its terms at the negotiating table.

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Vladimir Putin greets Marine Le Pen for an meeting at the Kremlin
Russia
Lisa Berdet

Marine Le Pen’s Russian Ties: What To Know Before France's Presidential Election

What exactly are French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s past and present positions on Putin and Russia?

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has spent five years preparing for a possible rematch against Emmanuel Macron. Her dream, after losing to Macron in a 2017 runoff, was no doubt to hammer away on domestic issues like immigration and economic opportunity against a sitting president criticized for being out of touch with voters.

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

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But then, the war in Ukraine happened.

Le Pen, who is in striking distance from Macron ahead of Sunday’s election, has been forced to answer questions about her pro-Russia stance that dates back at least a decade.

The leader of the Rassemblement National party insists her views are being mischaracterized by Macron and other critics. But Le Pen also appears to be doubling down on her sympathetic views towards Russia and Vladimir Putin in a country that has largely rallied around the Ukrainian cause and a united Western front against Moscow.

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Putin's Puppet - Or Worse? Lukashenko Is The Real Wild Card On Ukraine
Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Putin's Puppet - Or Worse? Lukashenko Is The Real Wild Card On Ukraine

With Russian troops now deployed through Belarus, the risk is growing of an invasion through Ukraine’s northern border. Vladimir Putin’s regional strategy and Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorial demands are not always what they seem.

-Analysis-

Ukrainians have a joke that started in the 1990s: Russia will never feel ashamed as long as there is Ukraine, and Ukraine will never feel ashamed as long as there is Belarus.

This bit of dark humor used to reflect the economic situation in the former Soviet republics. But somewhere in the interval, after the two democratic revolutions in Ukraine, in 2004 and 2014, we acquired a different vision of things, a sense of direction and demand from society. It was as if we broke away and swam in the opposite direction, away from where Russia was heading … leading Belarus by the hook.

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Photo of hands carrying a crystal ball in front of an escalator
Work In Progress
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: The Working World In 2022

Will the Great Resignation of the past year lead to a Great Reskilling the next...?

Like the year before, 2021 was filled with Zoom meetings, travel bans, shaky economics and supply chain disruptions. At the same time, it was a singular year, defined by strikes, international labor shortages and vaccine mandates in many workplaces. As Q4 comes to an end, things are ramping up, and the work challenges of 2022 are becoming very clear.

All over the world, unemployment is high — and so is the lack of available labor. What will see a bigger increase, inflation or salary bumps? Will the Great Resignation lead to a Great Reskilling? What we do know is that white-collar workers are shifting from overtime to flexible schedules, from cogs in the wheel to drivers in the front seat, from struggling independent contractors to employees with full benefits.

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New Variant, Same Story? The Vicious Circle Of Our COVID World
Coronavirus
Anne-Sophie Goninet

New Variant, Same Story? The Vicious Circle Of Our COVID World

As we learn yet another Greek letter through the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, around the world the new wave is starting to sound very familiar.

It’s been another 72-hour global moment.

It came in the days after the news first broke last Friday that B.1.1.529, named Omicron, had been identified by scientists in South Africa and assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has supplied a series of these collective worldwide “moments:” from the first wave of lockdowns to the discovery that the vaccines were effective to the Delta variant’s new wave of infections.

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Old Folk v. Nature: 6 Endurance Conquests By World's Most Amazing Seniors
Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Old Folk v. Nature: 6 Endurance Conquests By World's Most Amazing Seniors

M.J. "Sunny" Eberhart just became the oldest person to complete the Appalachian Trail...at the ripe young age of 83. He is just one of many of the graying outdoor pioneers to set mind-boggling records that redefine staying power.

At 83, M.J. "Sunny" Eberhart has just become the oldest person to complete the Appalachian Trail, a 2,193-mile journey in the Eastern United States, setting off much well-deserved amazement among Americans.

Of course Eberhart is far from the first senior citizen to tackle a natural feat that virtually everyone, of any age, would never think of even trying. From mountain climbers to long-distance swimmers, here's a look at six hardcore adventurers to inspire young and old to get off the couch, and conquer the world...or at least go for a walk!

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at 89

Anne Lorimor on a training walk with her dog Kevan

imwatchinganne/Instagramimwatchinganne/Instagram


Anne Lorimor might not be a professional climber, but that didn't stop the Arizona woman from walking up and down the tallest free-standing mountain in only nine days. The great- grandmother is the oldest person to do so and in fact, it was the second time Lorimor climbed the almost 20,000-foot-tall Tanzanian mountain, the first back when she was a spry 85.

Although, after a slightly older man set a new age record, Lorimor knew she had to reclaim her title, and for a good cause. Her climb was a fundraiser for Creating Exciting Futures, a foundation she founded to aid disadvantaged youth. And she's not done yet: Lorimor has set her sights on hiking the Appalachian Trail, Machu Picchu and the Pacific Coast Trail.

Skiing to the North Pole at 77

A 1990 North Pole expedition

Matti&Keti/Wikipedia


Before his death in 2017 at age 95, Jack MacKenzie led an accomplished life, making more than 30 trips across the North Atlantic during World War II to bring aircraft to Britain and later helping set up Canada's pension system. He was inspired to trek to the North Pole after hearing a talk from Canadian explorer Richard Weber. Weber first took MacKenzie into the Canadian wilderness in midwinter to make sure he could handle an Arctic trip.

A Russian helicopter took the group to the 89th parallel, where they skied one degree, the equivalent of 100 kilometers, to reach the North Pole. Weber later told the Globe and Mail that MacKenzie handled skiing over ice ridges and near open water with ease, despite the negative 30 degree temperatures. Not to be outdone, then 71-year-old Zdenĕk Chvoj from the Czech Republic became the oldest person to ski to both the North and South Pole in January 2020.

Scaling El Capitan at 70

Dierdre Wolownick began climbing to connect with her son

dierdre_wolownick_honnold/Instagram


While extreme rock climber Alex Honnold might have garnered global attention for his death-defying stunts captured in the 2018 Academy award-winning documentary "Free Solo," his mother is now making a name for herself as an age-defying climber. On her 70th birthday earlier this year, Dierdre Wolownick climbed the 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California, for the second time.

Wolownick started climbing a decade ago to better relate to her son and prepared for the climb up the granite rock face by training for 18 weeks. The former author, language teacher and musician tells the New York Times, "I learned how to suffer through all kinds of discomfort because what you get from it makes it worthwhile. It's the same for anybody who wants to follow a path of bliss. There's a lot of suffering. With climbing, you just have to deal."

Climbing Mount Everest at 80

Yuichiro Miura (right) and his son after they climbed Mount Everest in 2013

Sunil Pradhan/Xinhua/ZUMA


Japanese skier alpinist Yuichiro Miura has beaten his own Everest record three times, most recently reaching the peak of the world's highest mountain in 2013. Deemed the "grandfather of extreme skiing," Miura is the son of one of Japan's most famed skiers and made a name for himself taking on increasingly dangerous feats, first skiing down Mount Fuji in 1966 and then Everest in 1970. He skied with oxygen tanks and a parachute to slow down when he reached maximum velocity.

How does he stay calm through these life-threatening feats? Through practicing meditation to reach Mu, "a Zen-like feeling of nothingness." As Miura has gotten older, he's set his sites on traversing these mountains at a slightly slower speed, summiting Everest previously in 2003 and 2008 with his son, passing on the adventurous spirit to the next generation.

Swimming the English Channel at 73

Otto Thaning swam across the English Channel in 2014

William Cheaney/PA Wire/ZUMA


Otto Thaning, a heart surgeon from South Africa, decided to swim the approximately 21 miles separating England from the European continent to show what older people who stay in good health are capable of. While currents mean this journey often ends up being closer to 24 miles, Thaning said the hardest part was the cold waters, though he was particularly lucky to have an average temperature of a balmy 64°F the day he swam in September 2014.

It wasn't Thaning's first time across, having made the journey nearly 20 years earlier. Since Thaning's swim, Linda Ashmore, from the United Kingdom, became the oldest woman to swim across the channel at age 71 in 2018.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail at 83

Eberhart has been hiking ever since his retirement, 25 years ago.

Nimblewill Nomad


For M.J. "Sunny" Eberhart — who is from Alabama and is known by the trail name "Nimblewill Nomad" — serious hiking began after retiring as an optometrist more than 25 years ago, and hasn't slowed down since. While he's logged tens of thousands of miles, the Appalachian Trail provided a particular challenge over often precarious terrain from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, which he completed Sunday after beginning last February

"You've got to have an incredible resolve to do this," he said in an interview shortly before finishing.

Truth be told, the route was well short of the longest south-to-north journey for the aging hiker, who has previously walked 4,4000 miles from the Florida Keys to northern Quebec. He wrote about that hike in a book entitled, for anyone who's counting: Ten Million Steps.

Spiderman To Jewish Stars: Global Vaccine Protests Get Ugly
Society
Rozena Crossman

Spiderman To Jewish Stars: Global Vaccine Protests Get Ugly

More protests are bound to spread after President Biden announced that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of U.S. workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.

Vaccines used to be a quiet thing: someone getting a flu shot or UNICEF shipping off jabs to children in a faraway country. No longer. COVID-19 has put vaccinations at the center of both global health policy and national partisan politics — and plenty of noise has ensued.

After some initial demonstrations earlier this year critical of slow vaccination rollouts, protests are now firmly focused on local and national policies that require vaccines, including obligatory jabs for medical workers and the so-called "green pass" vaccine-required access to certain locations and activities. No doubt more protests are bound to spread in the United States after last week's announcement by U.S. President Joe Biden that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.

Still, the protests have been nearly as global as the pandemic itself. Throughout much of the summer, France has had a weekly rendezvous on Saturday to protest against vaccine requirements. In Berlin, thousands took to the streets last month chanting, "Hands off our children!" In New York City, a smattering of nurses, doctors and other medical professionals protested compulsory vaccination, chanting "I am not a lab rat!"

Here are some of the typical and atypical ways the anti-required-vax protesters are being seen and heard:

CANADA: Upside down flags + stars of David + hazmat suits

World Wide Walkout Protest, Sept 1, 2021 — Photo: GoToVan

Canada has witnessed steady, and often offbeat or controversial, forms of protest against the vaccine requirements in provinces and cities for those who want to enter restaurants, theaters and workout classes. On Sept.1 a large crowd in the northwest city of Vancouver expressed their displeasure with vaccine requirements by marching on City Hall carrying their nation flag upside down, which according to the Canadian government, is a "signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life," the Vancouver Sun reports.

Meanwhile in Montreal, protesters compared governmental health rules to the Holocaust by wearing yellow Jewish Star of David patches; while in Toronto, Fairwiew Mall regulars would have spotted protesters in hazmat suits and white masks entering the premises. They carried a loudspeaker that blurted out a deep voice uttering eerie slogans: "Questioning masks is murder," "Big business is essential," and "Everyone loves pharmaceutical companies."

FRANCE: ‘Spiderman" scales office tower

Alain Robert and others climbers scaling up a tower in Paris — Photo: Midi Libre

As much of France was returning to work after summer vacation, one of the nation's tallest office skyscrapers was the sight of an unexpected protest against the country's stringent vaccine requirements. Alain Robert, dubbed the "French Spiderman" for his free solo climbing of urban landmarks, led the way up the 187-meter (614 foot) headquarters of energy giant TotalEnergies to protest the health passports currently required to enter bars and restaurants. "It's an attack on fundamental liberties," said the 60-year-old, who was subsequently arrested for endangering the lives of others.

ITALY: Anti-vaxxers arrested

Police car in Rome — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

"If they find out what I have at home, they'll arrest me for terrorism," an Italian man named Stefano boasted on Telegram, the encrypted instant messaging platform. He was one of about 200 Italian anti-vaxxers preparing for a violent demonstration in Rome, where they were talking about using Molotov cocktails against TV trucks and attacking parliament with a drone.

Police not only found what Stefano packed at home — a katana sword, several pepper sprays and a nightstick among other things — but also what the others allegedly hoarded: brass knuckles, guns, as well as smaller weapons, such as razor blades to be hidden between fingers. ("They're not visible, but cut throats open," a Telegram user said.)

Alas, Stefano was right: he and seven other anti-vaxxers were arrested on Sept. 9, La Stampa reported.

POLAND: Anti-vax terrorism attack at vaccine point

Photo: notesfrompoland.com

An Aug. 2 arson attack on a COVID vaccine point in the Polish city of Zamość, which follows other acts of aggression by opponents of vaccination in Poland, has been condemned by the health minister, Adam Niedzielski, as an "act of terror." During the night, both a mobile vaccination point in the central square of Zamość, a city of 65,000 in southeast Poland, as well as the local headquarters of the health authorities, which are responsible for enforcing coronavirus restrictions, were set alight.

Marek Nowak, a sociologist at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, told Gazeta Wyborcza that the pandemic has "intensified the formation of radical movements" and led "anti-vaccination movements to use terror to convince others to share their views."

U.S.: Pro-Trump group piggybacks COVID protests

Proud Boys confrontation — Photo: Flickr

A growing number of mask and vaccine mandates in some U.S. states are being met with protests, which have occasionally turned violent. This is in part due to the reappearance of some far-right groups behind the Capitol Hill insurrection in January like the Proud Boys gang, who after lying low for a few months have begun attending rallies, according to USA Today.

Some of the starkest scenes were observed in Los Angeles in August: Proud Boys members and other agitators attacked counter-protesters and journalists, sending a veteran reporter to the hospital. But some non gang-affiliated civilians are also responsible for the violence: in northern California, a parent fuming after seeing his daughter come out of school with a mask barged into the building and assaulted a teacher.

NEW ZEALAND: Down Under, one is the loneliest number

Plenty of sheep show up in New Zealand

Photo: Pixabay

Other nations have seen anti-vaccine protesters gather by the thousands, and the police in Auckland, New Zealand were ready when posts on social media alerted them about a potential gathering. They successfully managed to engage in talks with the protesters and shut down the demonstration — or, rather, the protester, as only one person showed up.

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

Kabul Blast Aftermath, Nigerian Students Freed, Hummingbirds Vs. Harassment
In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

Kabul Blast Aftermath, Nigerian Students Freed, Hummingbirds Vs. Harassment

Welcome to Friday, where evacuation flights resume at Kabul airport after yesterday's deadly attack, dozens of kidnapped Nigerian students are freed, and female hummingbirds evolve so that males get off their feathers. We also boldly explore the surprising crossroads between science fiction and real-life military strategy.





• Kabul airport blast aftermath: The death toll in yesterday's attack on Kabul's international airport rose to 90, mostly Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. military personnel. President Joe Biden promised retaliation after the attack was claimed by the country's Islamic State offshoot, saying: "We will hunt you down and make you pay." The United States said evacuation flights would continue ahead of the planned Aug. 31 American pullout.


• Dozens of Nigerian students released: Dozens of pupils who had been kidnapped from an Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger by gunmen last May have been freed by their captors. Six of the original group of 136 died, while 15 managed to escape about a month after they were abducted.

• COVID-19 update: A UK study — the largest of its kind, with close to 30 million participants — found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines present a significantly lower risk of forming blood clots than COVID-19 itself. Meanwhile in New Zealand, which is on the highest lockdown level, police broke up an Auckland protest that drew one demonstrator.


• China cracks down on celebrity fan culture: In an effort to tackle online bullying and protect children, China is barring platforms from publishing popularity lists and are regulating the sale of fan merchandise. The decision comes amid calls for popular online artists to rethink the influence they have over minors.

Apple allows developers to make money outside of iPhone apps: The tech giant agreed to a settlement that allows app makers to avoid commissions and gain greater autonomy in how they receive payments. Apple will also provide $100 million in payouts to small app developers while agreeing not to raise the commission rate they have to pay.


• Air pollution linked to more severe mental illness: A small rise in exposure to air pollution, such as nitrogen dioxide, seems to be linked to an increased severity of mental illness, according to the most comprehensive study of its kind.

Female hummingbirds avoid harassment by looking like males: According to new research, female hummingbirds are found to have evolved with bright feathers, to try and avoid being attacked by the male of the species who tends to prefer a greyer plumage. The flashy attire leaves the females with more time to search for food and protect their supply, the biologists suggest.



International newspapers devoting their Friday front page to the deadly terror attack that rocked Kabul's international airport yesterday, killing scores of people and temporarily halting the evacuation of Afghans fleeing in the wake of the Taliban takeover. Italian daily Il Messagero describes scenes of "ultimate horror" after the blast killed at least 90.


Why the world's military leaders are drafting science fiction writers

Space exploration, extraterrestrial life, time travel ... All common science fiction tropes that are as fascinating and they are mindboggingly fun — but not exactly useful in the real world, right? The military may beg to differ:

🖋️ Le Monde recently reported on the unusual collaboration between the French Ministry of Defense and the University of Paris Sciences and Lettres (PSL) that has just launched the second season of a project involving scenarios drawn up by science writers hired by the French military. The army is devising ways to make the practice as useful as possible: there's a "Red Team" consisting of authors, who have wide freedom in coming up with scenarios. They can put ideas on the table that the French army typically excludes for ethical reasons, such as Autonomous Lethality Weapon Systems (ALWS), or augmented humans.

🚀 The truth is that the practice has long existed, in different forms and sectors. Jules Verne's 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon indirectly influenced politics and military decisions in the United States. The story is about a group of men who decide to launch themselves to the moon in a cylinder-shaped projectile. This fictional shell has striking similarities to the Apollo 11 command module used to bring the first humans to the moon 104 years later: it was hollow, made mostly of aluminium, crewed by three people, launched from Florida, and it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Verne's tale inspired real people to work on the challenges of space travel, eventually prompting the 20th century space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

📚 Instead of hiring science fiction writers, the German military has opted for researching existing literature and in 2018 teamed up with a handful of academics. Their plan is to use novels to pinpoint the world's next potential conflict. As German weekly Die Zeit reports, this collaboration, dubbed "Project Cassandra" after the Trojan priestess of Greek myth who had the gift of foresight, doesn't solely focus on science fiction and future technologies, but takes into account human behavior. They look for social trends, moods, and conflicts that arose in response to political decisions and technological breakthroughs (whether real or fictional).

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com




$20 billion

Microsoft has promised to invest 20 billion dollars over the next five years to improve cybersecurity in the United States and will offer the equivalent of 150 million dollars in technical services to the federal government, states and local authorities. Google also pledged $10 billion for this same period and will train 100,000 Americans in data analysis and IT support.


"Our country is doing badly and we need a change-over."

— Former Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier told French TV as he officially entered the French presidential race as a member of the right-wing Republicans party. Barnier, 70, said his experience with Brexit taught him the importance of getting the job done, and not just talking about it in public.



Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, 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