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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 18, 2021
The Taliban say they've changed. In their first presser since taking over Afghanistan, the militants said they wanted peace and wouldn't take revenge on anyone, but many Afghans are highly skeptical. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has railed against mask mandates, is isolating with COVID-19. And there was surprisingly little hiss-teria when a Sydney shopper found a snake on the supermarket spice shelf!
But can you take them at their word? The Taliban’s once shadowy mouthpiece, Zabihullah Mujahid, yesterday promised not to seek revenge on old enemies in the group’s first press conference as Afghanistan’s new rulers. He also promised to respect women’s rights (within the framework of Islam) and media freedoms, but many Afghans doubt this uncharacteristically benign face and still clamor for Western evacuation flights from the capital’s besieged airport. The U.S. meanwhile froze the Afghan central bank’s $9.5 billion to keep it from Taliban leaders, who are negotiating with former Afghan government officials like ex-President Hamid Karzai and are encouraging people to return to work. (Sources: Al Jazeera, NYT, Washington Post)
Haiti Struggles After Deadly Quake, Amid Lashing Rain
The death toll from the weekend’s massive earthquake in Haiti has risen to almost 2,000 as survivors wait for medical help with many hospitals damaged or overwhelmed. People are still showing up with broken bones at the public hospital in L’Asile in the country’s rural southwest. Much of the region was destroyed by the 7.2-magnitude quake, and Haitians continue to pull bodies from collapsed buildings there. Heavy rains and flooding from Tropical Depression Grace have slowed the process and at least nine people have drowned. The U.S. Navy is now sending the USS Arlington to the Caribbean nation with a surgical team that can deploy on any shore with landing craft. (Sources: AP, The Guardian)
Time for an Abbott face? Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, is among Republicans who’ve tenaciously fought mask and vaccine mandates. Earlier this week Abbott appeared at a packed Republican club indoor event in suburban Dallas where most supporters were maskless. The governor’s efforts to prevent mandates have gone as far as the Texas Supreme Court, as cases of the virus rise among Texans, who are among the least likely Americans to inoculate. He also issued an executive order banning mask mandates in schools. The governor himself is fully vaccinated, which he acknowledged might account for his lack of symptoms, and is now isolating at the executive mansion. (Sources: NYT, Washington Post, CNN)
4 - Hey? Big Spender?
US Retail Sales Fell in July
Retail sales at stores, restaurants and online were down 1.1% since June, more than forecast, the Commerce Department announced yesterday. At $91.9 billion, they were still 17.5% higher than in February 2020 before the pandemic stalled the economy. The biggest decline was in auto sales, but clothing and furniture also saw a downturn. The shift toward spending on services continued as Americans spent more on restaurants and bars, with sales in that category rising 1.7%, as more people got vaccinated and more lockdown measures were lifted. However, the rise of the delta variant could mean new restrictions — along with economic constriction. (Sources: WSJ (sub), Bloomberg)
5 - Also Important …
The U.S. says body parts were found inside the wheel well of an American military plane that left Kabul amid chaos this week as desperate Afghans clung to the plane, some falling to their deaths. Uganda’s Constitutional Court has quashed a “pornography” law that banned women from wearing miniskirts. And U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has announced that he and husband Chasten are adopting a child.
Coronavirus Update:Pope Francis has encouraged people to get vaccinated, saying to do so is “an act of love.” And Australian airline Qantas has announced it will require all of its employees to be immunized.
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Australians hoping to spice up their lives got a slithery shock this week when a scaly intruder popped his head out amid the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Luckily a wildlife rescuer was on hand when the snake emerged at a Woolworths supermarket on the edge of Sydney. Helaina Alati, 25, identified the non-venomous diamond python, captured it and released it into the wild. Social media users were quick to joke, with one posting, “Crikee, only in Australia!” and another noting that the snake wasn’t obeying pandemic restrictions: “Local Glenorie Woolworths had a lockdown offender today. No QR check-in and no mask.” (Sources: BBC, Yahoo News)
2 - Cracked Smile
Gen Z Says You’re Using Emojis All Wrong
Think the smiley emoji means someone’s happy? Think again, boomer. Gen Z has a whole different take on the seemingly innocuous icon. They can see it as passive aggressive or patronizing. “By sending a smile, you are ironically saying something negative. You are mocking someone,” says Sarah Wiseman, a human computer interaction specialist at London’s Goldsmiths University.” Yep, emojis have become a minefield and if you’re over 30, you probably just don’t get it. For example, older adults might take the skull and crossbones emoji as a warning, when Gen Z uses it as a way to say they’re dying of laughter. (Sources: WSJ (sub), Bustle, The Sun)
3 - Old Yeller
Scientists Discover Origins of Canine Coat Color
Does your dog have a coat in some shade of yellow like a Shiba Inu, Rhodesian ridgeback or a bull mastiff? Then your hound’s lineage can be traced back some 2 million years to when an extinct dog species split from wolves. Previously researchers believed the dogs’ coat patterns all stemmed from the grey wolf and mutations during domestication, but a new study published by Nature Ecology & Evolution found that in fact the genetic combination for the dominant yellow coat came from the white coats of ice age canid species before modern-day wolves even existed. So before you next mock your fat yellow floof, have a little respect for his legendary lineage. (Sources: Gizmodo, Newsweek, Nature)
4 - Worth 1,000 Words
Old Photos Highlight African American Lives
Know what a daguerreotype is? The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. has just purchased hundreds photographs done with the early technology employing polished metal plates. The collection shines a light on African American photographers from the 19th century and their subjects as they were at the forefront of the style, often cheaper than getting a painted portrait done. Some of the daguerreotypes were taken by well-known Black photographers and include portraits of abolitionists and women, both Black and white, who aided the Underground Railroad that brought slaves to freedom. There are also numerous pieces of jewelry incorporating tiny daguerreotypes and locks of hair in the collection, which will go on view in 2023. (Source: NYT)
Learn more about Black photographers, past and present.
Was the apology worse than the offense? Hall of Fame pitcher and media analyst Jack Morris is in hot water after he used a stereotypical ethnic accent to size up L.A. Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani as he was about to bat during yesterday’s game against the Detroit Tigers. “I sincerely apologize if I offended anybody,” Morris said, before mistakenly calling Ohtani, who is from Japan, “Jose.” Ohtani, 24, has had an amazingly successful summer, with some calling him the modern-day Babe Ruth. The superstar pitcher and designated hitter has a $3 million salary this year and is expected to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award in the fall. (Sources: Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, CBS Sports)
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