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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 19, 2021
Afghanistan’s new rulers are showing signs of their 1999 selves, reportedly gunning down protesters and hunting for members of the defeated Afghan government. Visions of a playful, carnival-loving Taliban proved short-lived, according to a Russian broadcaster. And Haitians fear a post-earthquake debacle like the one in 2010.
An “active bomb threat” involving a possible explosive device near the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., prompted the evacuation of most of the U.S. Capitol complex this morning. Capitol Police tweeted that they’re investigating the threat involving a pickup truck and issued alerts to congressional staff and closed roads leading to the building at Washington’s center. The FBI and other agencies were assisting. As Congress is on vacation, it’s unlikely that any legislators were in their offices, but the alerts rekindled memories of the Jan. 6 assault on Congress, when pipe bombs were found near Republican and Democratic national committees’ national offices. (Sources: AP, NPR, USA Today)
After vowing to forgive those who helped foreign forces, Afghanistan’s new rulers’ actions tell a different story. When protesters replaced newly mounted Taliban flags with Afghan ones in two cities Wednesday, the militants’ gunfire reportedly killed several who were involved. A leaked U.N. document says the group is rounding up government officials. Numerous reports tell of fleeing Afghans barred from entering Kabul’s airport, where everything from gunfire to stampedes have killed 12 since Sunday’s takeover. Inside, thousands of U.S. troops preside over an evacuation the Pentagon says has airlifted 8,000 people and may extend beyond President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 military withdrawal deadline. (Sources: NYT, Reuters, The Guardian)
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Is it just history repeating? For many in Haiti, where the death toll from this weekend’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake rose to nearly 2,200 yesterday, it feels like it. Crowds of survivors have mobbed arriving aid flights, while police have fired into the air to keep them back. The nation, already riven by its president’s recent assassination, now struggles as it did after the devastating 2010 quake thought to have killed 200,000. But one aid director, Katiana Anglade, said that disaster taught those conducting relief efforts to “do the research and find grassroots organizations” that can get the help to where it’s most needed. (Sources: AFP, Al Jazeera, NBC)
4 - Border Bashing
Belarus Using Refugees as ‘Weapons’
With riot shields and batons, they manned their border. In videos released by Lithuania this week, Belarusian police appeared to force migrants across the Lithuanian border into the European Union. The EU accused the country, faced with sanctions over its repressive policies, of weaponizing Middle Eastern refugees in retribution. Lithuania said 4,100 Iraqis have crossed the same border this year, while neighboring Latvia and Poland report similar influxes. Belarus in turn accused the Lithuanians of roughing up the migrants. Now Lithuania’s planning a fence, which could be the sort of embarrassing reaction Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is looking for. (Sources: BBC, Balkan Insight)
5 - Fed Fears
Stimulus Relaxation Talk Triggers Asia Stock Slump
They definitely heard that. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s late July meeting minutes, board members seemed to agree that it was time to let off the economic gas. That means curtailing the central bank’s monthly buy-ups of Treasury and mortgage securities aimed at stimulating growth. That rattled investors, who shaved 1% off the S&P 500 index yesterday and spooked their colleagues in Asia. There, stocks hit their lowest 2021 levels today, while the safe-haven dollar jumped as high as it’s been in nearly 10 months. While the more volatile market is worrisome, CNBC investment guru Jim Cramer said it’s a great time for bargain prices. (Sources: WSJ (sub), Reuters, CNBC)
Coronavirus Update: Alabama officials say the state has run out of ICU beds amid a delta variant surge. And a Singapore court has sentenced a British man to six weeks in jail for failing to wear a face mask.
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Taliban Depicted as Loveable, Carnival-Loving Guys
“Everything is very civilized.” So reported Russian state TV this week after the Taliban took over Kabul, portraying the fundamentalist Islamists “displaying unprecedented liberalism” on women’s rights. Despite Western fears, “everything turned out not to be so scary.” Rossiya-24 played footage of fighters with Soviet-designed Kalashnikovs riding around in bumper cars and hopping on a trampoline at an amusement park. Glossing over reports of women being beaten and barred from workplaces, it listed activities the Taliban would open to men and women. But yesterday, the same channel reported that the fun was over: The militants had torched the amusement park, citing merry-go-round horses as idolatry. (Sources: Daily Beast, India Today on YouTube)
2 - Viral Justice
Crowdsourced Video May Boost Rioter’s Sentence
They rained on his parade. Marylander Robert Reeder had proudly admitted to a misdemeanor: parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building — during the storming of Congress. His plea would have limited his jail time to two months at yesterday’s sentencing. Except that Sedition Hunters, online volunteers probing cases of the 575 people charged in the Jan. 6 assault, found footage that appears to show Reeder shoving a policeman. That’s prompted a sentencing delay. Before his new Oct. 8 court date, the government is expected to file new charges of assaulting a police officer or seek the maximum “parading” penalty of six months’ imprisonment. (Sources: WUSA9, HuffPost)
3 - Life Lesson
Texas School Fights Mask Ban With Dress Code
Call it a safety dance. The Independent School District of Paris, Texas, wants to protect its kids from the surging delta variant, but the state’s Republican government has forbidden mask mandates. So it made the face coverings part of its dress code. The district said state law gives it sole authority to establish a dress code, and that the mask mandate ban doesn’t seem to involve a suspension of local health and safety authority — meaning the loophole is safe. This came with the news that anti-mandate Gov. Greg Abbott is isolating with COVID-19, which provides a teachable moment for Paris educators and their students. (Sources: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, USA Today)
4 - Calling Shots
Fox News Forces Employees to Report Vax Status
It’s a fair and balanced policy. Adweek has reported a leaked Fox News document instructing employees to upload their vaccination status into a company database and for non-immunized staff to mask-up when in close quarters with co-workers. Make sense? Perhaps not to network star Tucker Carlson, who has questioned the efficacy of vaccines, slammed mask mandates and told journalists asking his vaccination status that they’re seeking to invade his privacy. But the company nonetheless created a system to certify the inoculated for free-range privileges. Fox spokespeople didn’t comment yesterday to rival network CNN about the alleged facial cover-up. (Sources: CNN, Adweek, Fox News)
5 - Pigskin Purse
Green Bay Fan Page Tops Facebook List
Cheeseheads, rejoice. The Green Bay Packers website topped Facebook’s U.S. top 20 most-linked list for the second quarter of 2021. The ranking is an effort to counter the common view that the online giant is dominated by far-right idealogues like Ben Shapiro, which lists like Twitter’s @FacebooksTop10 consistently show as generating the highest traffic. Facebook provided its own carefully caveated report containing a list topped by the Wisconsin football team’s site, followed by purehempshop.com and a UNICEF COVID-19 response site for India. The less polarizing results might change as many minds as your angry uncle’s political posts. (Sources: Washington Post, Facebook)
Find out how an OZY investigation uncovered the social network’s hosting of political proxies for India’s ruling party.
You may know Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette in Hamilton, for his acting work in Blindspotting or Soul or his rap or writing careers. Today, this multi-talented artist joins The Carlos Watson Show to share how his “reckless commitment” to blending these skills together led to the illustrious career he now has, and opens up about growing up in the East Bay as the child of a Jewish mother and Black father. Plus, he reveals how his desire to stand near his partner, Emmy Raver-Lampman, shaped the Hamilton staging forever. Don’t miss it!
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