Welcome to Thursday, where four suspects are killed following the assassination of Haiti's president, Tokyo is placed under a state of emergency two weeks before the Olympics and a sandcastle breaks a record in Denmark. Persian-language magazine Kayhan-London takes a close look at how Iran has changed its mind on the Taliban, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
• Four people killed after Haiti president's assassination: Police have killed four people suspected of assassinating Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse. Two others have been detained, while other suspects still remain at large in the nation's capital. The 53-year-old Moïse was fatally shot on Wednesday when attackers stormed his home.
• Japanese Prime Minister declares state of emergency in Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga formally declared a state of emergency in Tokyo to respond to a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, putting restrictions in place until August 22. The measure increases the likelihood that the Olympic Games will be held without spectators.
• Zuma in custody: South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma has handed himself over to the authorities to begin serving a 15-month jail sentence. Zuma was sentenced on 29 June for contempt of court, which sparked an unprecedented legal drama in the country, and initially refused to hand himself in.
• Climate crisis may put 8 billion at risk of malaria and dengue: According to a new study, more than 8 billion people could risk getting a mosquito-borne disease, like malaria or dengue fever, by 2080 if greenhouse gasses continue to rise. Dengue, which has no specific treatment, already kills about 20,000 every year and malaria kills more than 400,000 people every year, most of whom are children.
• Global experts urge Johnson to delay opening: More than a 100 scientists and doctors have called on the UK government to delay the reopening of the country until more people are vaccinated. The reopening, scheduled for 19 July, was announced on Tuesday, while on Wednesday, the UK reported more than 30,000 new cases for the first time since January. Lifting the remaining restrictions is "dangerous and premature," according to the experts.
• Explosion in Dubai: An explosion inside a container on a ship docked at Dubai's Jebel Ali port caused a large fire and was felt across the city, as far as 15 kilometers away from the port. According to the authorities, the fire is under control and there were no reported deaths or injuries.
• New plant species found in Antarctica: Indian scientists have discovered a new plant species in the unlikeliest of places. They stumbled upon a piece of moss during an exhibition to the ice-covered continent in 2017. It took five years to determine the novelty of the moss since such identifications are laborious. The new species was named Bryum Bharatiensis, after the Hindu goddess of learning Bharati.
Weekly newspaper Haiti Liberté devotes its front page to the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse, who was fatally shot by attackers in his home on Wednesday. A manhunt is still underway while the police announced four suspects were killed and two detained.
Why Iran is actively backing the Taliban for the first time
Iran's clerical Shiite regime has seemingly overturned its long-held hostility to the Taliban, and may be readying itself to welcome the "enemies of America" as Kabul's new masters, writes Hamed Mohammadi in Persian-language magazine Kayhan-London.
There can be no doubt the situation in Afghanistan is critical. As U.S. and allied troops depart, the Taliban are exploiting the Kabul government's weakness to capture districts and towns, especially in the north. In some areas, conditions seem normal by day but as darkness falls, armed motorcades attack villages, patrols or army posts, firing on any Afghan citizen trying to resist. A UN report from May listed 50 of Afghanistan's 400 regions as being in Taliban hands. And that progression appears relentless.
There are accusations from Afghan politicians that certain foreign powers, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, were helping the insurgents. Abdulsattar Husseini, a legislator, has accused the Iranian Revolutionary guards and Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency of helping the Taliban, saying arms have been smuggled in from Iran. In the past 20 to 30 years, Afghanistan has, like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, entered the Iranian regime's "resistance" map of regions where it sought to extend its ideological sway at the West's expense.
Some years ago, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, denounced the Taliban as sworn enemies of Shia Muslims, describing them as "hard-hearted," criminal and "creatures' of the United States. But after the United States toppled them in 2001, he not only sheltered them but is now veering Iranian foreign policy toward closer ties with them. And it is the task of various figures in Tehran to start rehabilitating the terrorists. The legislator Ahmad Naderi has called the Taliban "one of the region's essential movements," with whom "we have shared enemies."
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The world's tallest sandcastle, standing at 21.16 meters (69.4 feet) in height, has been completed in Denmark. The Guinness World Records certified that the sandcastle is 3 metres taller than the previous record holder, built in Germany in 2019. The 4,860 tons of sand used to make the castle were sculpted by Dutch creator Wilfred Stijger, assisted by 30 of the world's best sand sculptors. On top of the sandcastle is a model of the coronavirus wearing a crown, representing the power the virus held over the world.
Singing cactus toy in Taiwan raps in Polish about cocaine and suicide
If not for a Polish shopper, it might have remained lost in translation for all the Taiwanese parents who've bought their kids the popular toy cactus that raps in some exotic language.
But a Polish mother living in the city of Taichung was doing some grocery shopping with her baby at the local Carrefour when she heard something that made her ears perk up: a foul-mouthed Polish rap song referencing cocaine and suicide. It turned out that the source of the obscene music was the singing cactus.
It was just "cocaine and suicide attempt, repeated over and over again. It is really shocking," the Polish woman recounted. She contacted another Polish friend of hers in Taiwan, Ela Sobczak who took the matter of the rude cactus very seriously and notified Taiwan News.
"The song itself is definitely inappropriate to play in front of children," said Sobczak.
The 32-centimeter-high cactus, which moves and grooves along to the tune, is programmed to sing a number by the Polish rapper, Cypis. Here is a video of the cactus doing its thing, along with a cat that apparently has heard it all before.
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The possibility of someone still alive is near zero.
— Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said during a news conference, as the rescue mission to find survivors in the rubble of the collapsed apartment building in Florida switches to a recovery effort. Fifty-four victims have been found and 86 are still missing. "While there seems to be no chance of finding life in the rubble," the mayor added, "a miracle is still possible."
✍️ Newsletter by Genevieve Mansfield, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger