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'sDie Weltreports:
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
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