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Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
Aug 16, 2021
Twenty years, thousands of lives and billions of dollars later, the Taliban are back in control in Afghanistan. Haitians are digging for survivors with their bare hands after a catastrophic earthquake. And it's a bleak outlook for women after the fall of Kabul.
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It all happened so fast. Despite U.S. President Joe Biden’s promises that Kabul was safe, Taliban militants entered the Afghan capital yesterday, as President Ashraf Ghani fled. The militant group’s takeover was extraordinarily swift, leaving questions about whether the U.S. exit was well planned enough and whether the intelligence failed. And why, after pouring billions of dollars into building it up, the Afghan national army had folded within just days. Al Jazeera broadcast stunning footage from inside the presidential palace, where Taliban fighters had assembled, while helicopters rushed to evacuate the U.S. Embassy. Today, the Taliban declared the war “over,” while desperate Afghans swarmed the airport looking to get out. Several deaths were reported in the melee. Biden is expected to address the nation soon. (Sources: NYT, ABC, The New Yorker)
OZY editor Erik Nelson lived in Afghanistan for four years. Read his take on its rapid fall.
After the assassination of its president last month, the island is now struggling to cope after an earthquake on Saturday left some 1,300 people dead. In some neighborhoods, residents were using their hands to try and dig people out of the rubble, reporting an absence of relief workers. USAID is deploying a 65-member search team and the U.S. Coast Guard is helping transport badly injured people to hospital. Authorities are worried about the spread of coronavirus amid the disaster. The death toll is expected to rise. Today, Tropical Storm Grace is headed toward the Caribbean nation with heavy rains forecast. (Sources: Washington Post, The Guardian, Axios)
3 - Nazi Loot
Poland Signs Controversial New WWII Restitution Bill
The Polish government has signed a bill that will limit the ability of Jews to reclaim valuables seized by Nazis during World War II. Poland’s large Jewish community was all but wiped out during the Holocaust. Descendants have been trying to get their property back. The new bill sets a 30-year limit for claims, meaning most will now be blocked. “It is a shameful decision,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over the weekend, recalling the head of the Israeli embassy in Warsaw. Israel is discussing further measures with the U.S., which had also called on Poland not to sign the bill. (Sources: The Guardian, BBC, Times of Israel)
4 - China Challenge
World’s Second Biggest Economy Slowed in July
China’s economic growth slowed last month, hit by flooding and the COVID-19 delta variant. Although retail sales rose 8.5% compared to a year ago, that fell short of the 11.5% analysts had expected. Meanwhile, online sales of consumer goods rose a mere 4.4% in July, way below the 21% average of the last five years. Industrial production, too, was slower than expected with growth of 6.4%, below 7.8% expectations. The National Bureau for Statistics released a statement saying: “Economic recovery is still unstable and uneven.” Goldman Sachs expects 8.3% growth for China this year. (Sources: CNBC, WSJ (sub))
Coronavirus Update: Aboriginal children make up 40% of COVID-19 cases in Australia’s western New South Wales, the government has said. And Japan is set to extend its state of emergency through mid-September as delta variant cases surge.
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Women in Kabul wake up today to a harsh new reality. With a Taliban government again after 20 years of greater freedoms, they will no doubt be wondering what’s next. Under the regime in the 1990s, women were barred from school and work, forced to wear burqas, marry young and unable to leave their homes without a male relative. The official line from the Taliban is that women will still be allowed freedoms, but fighters on the ground may think differently. Already there are reports of female university students being turned away, women being made to marry by force and burqa shops doing a roaring trade. (Sources: NBC, The Guardian, France 24)
2 - Not in the Red
America’s Little-Known Biggest Digital Media Company
Ever heard of Red Ventures? No? It’s the biggest digital media company in America. The South Carolina-headquartered firm has some 4,500 employees, a conservative valuation of more than $11 billion and a staggering 751 million visits a month. What started as a digital marketing agency now owns Lonely Planet, Healthline and other sites. Puerto Rican chief executive Ric Elias survived the U.S. Airways emergency landing on the Hudson River in 2009, prompting him to start transforming Red Ventures. Elias doesn’t plan to go public and is getting involved in philanthropic causes. The company acquired CNET last fall, and is now hiring some 150 new staff. (Sources: NYT)
3 - Homes for Hounds
US Animal Shelters Fear Influx When Evictions Resume
At the beginning of the pandemic, as more people started working from home, pet adoptions from shelters surged. Now those shelters are filling up again as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions ends and people lose their homes. One rescue center in Illinois said its intake is up about 70% compared to this time last year. Another in Minnesota is also experiencing a sharp rise. In a few months, as more people are evicted, it will “become an emergency,” said Kristen Hassen, director of American Pets Alive. To combat this, shelters are currently asking more Americans to foster pets. (Sources: Washington Post, Fox)
4 - Off With Their Heads!
Nigeria’s Islamic Police Wage War on Mannequins
Islamic police in Nigeria’s Kano state are losing their heads over shop mannequins, which they say are offensive to Islam. “Islam frowns on idolatry. With the head on it looks like a human being,” said Haruna Ibn-Sina, the commander of the Sharia police, known as the Hisbah, in Kano. The police have ordered shopkeepers to only use headless mannequins. Muslim cleric Halliru Maraya, of the Islamic Council of Nigeria, has suggested non-Muslim Nigerians challenge the mannequin ruling in court as they don’t have to abide by Islamic law.(Sources: BBC)
5 - Help for Haiti
Naomi Osaka Pledges Cincinnati Tournament Money
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has said she’s devastated by the recent earthquake in Haiti. She plans to give her earnings from a tournament this week to relief efforts in her father’s country. “I know our ancestors’ blood is strong, we’ll keep rising,” Osaka, who is also half Japanese, said on Twitter. Almost 1,300 people were killed in Saturday’s 7.2-magnitude quake. Serena and Venus Williams are not taking part in the tournament, while Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are all out with injuries. Osaka will play in the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, which runs until August 22. (Sources: Reuters, NBC, AP)
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