Three more provincial capitals fell to the Taliban over the weekend. The militants overwhelmed Afghan government forces, which are struggling since the U.S. withdrew its troops. Kunduz, Sar-e-Pol and Taloqan were all captured on Sunday, while two other provincial capitals were overrun by the group on Friday and Saturday. In southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces major fighting continues. Government airstrikes yesterday killed dozens of Taliban fighters, but also reportedly hit a clinic and a school. Only about 650 U.S. troops remain on the ground. Though Washington is conducting limited airstrikes, they’re unlikely to make a dent in the Taliban’s advances. (Sources: Al Jazeera, NYT, BBC)
Read more about what’s at stake in Afghanistan on OZY.
2. Greek Island Residents Flee as Firefighters Battle Blaze
About 2,000 residents of the Greek island of Evia have been forced to flee wildfires amid an unprecedented heat wave, bringing temperatures of 113F. Evia is the country’s second largest island, northeast of the capital Athens. Large parts of it have already been destroyed, with elderly residents being carried onto ferries to escape the inferno. Firefighters are battling the blaze, while water bombs being dropped by planes are evaporating even before they hit the ground. Local officials have criticized the government, which many think has not done enough to help. France, Germany and the U.K. are sending assistance. (Sources: AFP, BBC)
What do you think? Should we be prepared for worsening fires every year. Vote here.
3. Black Father, Son, Realtor Handcuffed at House Viewing
A Black real estate agent was showing a Black client and his teenage son around a house in Wyoming, Michigan, last week when they were suddenly surrounded by police with guns pointed at them. The three, including the 15-year-old, were ordered out of the house and handcuffed after a neighbor wrongly reported a break-in following a home invasion the previous week. Roy Thorne, the client and an army veteran, and real estate agent Eric Brown, say they were racially profiled and feared they could be killed. Local authorities have denied race was a factor. Police Chief Kimberly Koster plans to meet with the three to discuss the incident. (Sources: Washington Post)
4. Events, Office Reopenings Delayed as COVID Cases Rise
Spiraling delta variant cases are forcing companies to rethink plans for fall, including when to bring workers back to the office. Firms are also delaying events and continuing to restrict business travel. Amazon staff were expected to return in September, now it’s January. Many other companies may not end remote working before next year either. Wells Fargo has moved its planned return to office to October, and Dell has yet to set a new reopening date. Meanwhile, organizers of this month’s New York International Auto Show have canceled the event and the October New Orleans Jazz festival has been rescheduled for spring. (Sources: WSJ (sub))
5. Also Important …
An 8-year-old Hindu Pakistani boy has become the youngest person charged with blasphemy after allegedly urinating in a madrassa. Melissa DeRosa, the top aide to embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has resigned. And Lionel Messi broke down in tears at his farewell Barcelona press conference.
Coronavirus Update: Officials in Austin, Texas, are warning of “catastrophe” as ICU capacity in hospitals falls due to COVID-19 cases. And hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in France over the weekend against a vaccine health pass needed for a variety of activities.
Ever look down at your plate of food and wonder where the ingredients came from? OZY’s hit podcast franchise The Future of X is back, and this season we’re investigating The Future of Farming with our friends at Vital Farms. Each episode will take a look at the all-important field, from how data will revolutionize farming to the impact of Big Agriculture. Plus, explore the possible solutions to food insecurity and climate change, such as regenerative agriculture. Ready to dig in? Binge the series now onApple,Spotify,Stitcher orwherever you get your podcasts!
Increased global warming is a given — even if countries cut back on emissions. That’s according to a startling U.N. climate report released today. Previous inaction means rising temperatures are now irreversible and will bring heat waves, floods and droughts, the authors said. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned the report “is a code red for humanity.” The next two decades are expected to bring a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the International Panel on Climate Change said. There is still a chance to prevent things from getting even worse though, it said, if countries coordinate a swift move away from fossil fuels. (Sources: NYT, The Guardian)
2. Japanese Parents Go Against the Grain With Rice Babies
Did lockdown mean you missed getting to hug new arrivals in your family? Japan has come up with an unusual solution for grandparents and other relatives who are unable to meet newborns. Companies are selling rice babies — bags of rice weighing exactly the same as the infant in question, and plastered with an image of its face. New parents can send the rice babies to relatives to hug in lieu of the real thing. Far-flung or pandemic-separated relatives can “hold them and feel the cuteness,” said Naruo Ono, owner of one of the rice shops producing the unusual $30 gifts.(Sources: The Guardian)
3. In Transit: Singapore Loses World’s Best Airport Status
Have you missed the duty-free shopping and expensive coffee at international airports during the pandemic? If you’re looking for some terminal time soon, try the best one in the world — in Doha. Hamad International Airport in the Gulf city just overtook Singapore’s Changi as the best after the southeast Asian city-state’s long run at the top. Tokyo Haneda Airport came second in Skytrax’s annual ranking, pushing Changi to third. In North America, Vancouver International Airport came out on top. Travelers on Doha’s Qatar Airlines, who have a connection at Hamad airport, can enjoy free city tours depending on length of layover. (Sources: CNN, Skytrax)
Friends star Jennifer Aniston has joined ranks with Hollywood celebrities advocating for vaccines. She’s even cut off friends who’ve refused to get their shots. Asked on social media why she was worried as she’s had the jab herself, the actor responded: “Because if you have the variant, you are still able to give it to me” and she could then give it to someone else. Singers Dolly Parton and Ariana Grande have also encouraged fans to get inoculated. While celebrity endorsements can change some minds, says sociologist Damon Centola, the opinions of friends and neighbors appear to count more. (Sources: Washington Post, Vanity Fair)
5. Pandemic Olympics End With US on Top
One of the more unusual Olympic Games in history came to an end yesterday, as Tokyo put on the closing ceremony for the pandemic-plagued and spectatorless event. In the final medal tally, the U.S. just beat China in the number of golds, with 39 to 38, and also took the most medals overall with 113. The U.S. managed to overtake China on the last day of events, with the women’s basketball team winning its seventh gold in their game against Japan. The Americans also beat Brazil in women’s volleyball. Host nation Japan came in third followed by Great Britain. The next Olympics is set to take place in Paris in 2024. (Sources: NYT, The Guardian)