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Sep 06, 2021
Guinea emerged from military rule just over a decade ago but now it seems the army is in charge again after a weekend coup deposed President Alpha Condé. The Taliban says they’ve captured the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan’s last bastion of resistance. And Yale’s “happiness professor” says we all need more fun after months of pandemic pain.
President Detained in Coup in Volatile West African Nation
The U.S. and the U.N. have condemned a military putsch in Guinea on Sunday that ended the more than decade-long rule of President Alpha Condé. After heavy fighting in the capital Conakry, soldiers in the West African nation detained 83-year-old Condé and announced on TV that the government had been dissolved. Condé had lost popularity in recent years, after seeking a third term despite constitutional limits. The former French colony has a history of instability, with the first-ever democratic vote held in 2010 and won by Condé. The military junta has ordered government ministers to attend a meeting later today. (Sources: AP, BBC, CNN)
It’s a terrible blow for the Afghan resistance. The Taliban now have complete control of the country, after reportedly capturing the holdout province of Panjshir. The remote valley is where beloved Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud fought the Soviets and then the Taliban. His son, Ahmad Massoud, has been leading the National Resistance Front, which the group’s spokesman said would continue to fight. Meanwhile, over the weekend women protesters in Kabul were beaten up and a pregnant female police officer was shot dead, reportedly in a targeted killing. The Taliban said today they would be announcing the country’s new leader soon. (Sources: Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Washington Post)
3 - US Jobless Aid Ends
Fear as 7 Million Unemployed to Lose Pandemic Benefits
Millions of Americans will today lose their unemployment benefits, which were put in place at the beginning of the pandemic last year by Congress. Some 7 million people will lose all their benefits, while another 3 million will lose a $300 weekly stipend. The White House is concerned that the sudden shift could push millions into poverty, but Republicans argue the supports are driving a labor shortage. About $680 billion in unemployment benefits have been distributed since March 2020. President Joe Biden has encouraged individual states with high unemployment rates to extend assistance using existing federal funds, but few look willing to do so. (Sources: Washington Post, AFP, NYT)
What do you think? Should the benefits be continued? Vote here or on Twitter.
4 - It’s Business, Man
Corporations Largely Silent on Texas Abortion Laws
Many U.S. companies have been keen to show their social justice credentials in recent years, whether supporting Black Lives Matter or opposing voting restrictions. But most major corporations have remained silent since Texas brought in strict new anti-abortion laws last week. Contacted by The New York Times, companies including Delta, Coca-Cola, PwC and McDonald’s declined to comment. However, Austin-based dating app Bumble is donating funds to groups supporting Texan women seeking abortions. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley transport companies Uber and Lyft vowed to pay the legal costs of any of their drivers reported under the new law who assist women seeking abortions. (Sources: NYT, HuffPost)
5 - Also Important …
A former U.S. Army sniper and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran killed four people, including a baby, in Florida yesterday. South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma, who was jailed earlier this year for contempt of court, has been released on medical parole. And dozens of people have been injured in clashes in Montenegro over the appointment of a new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Coronavirus Update: A quarter of countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, have school systems that are at risk of collapse because of the pandemic, Save the Children has said. And COVID-19 cases are on the uptick in the U.S., averaging about 160,000 new cases a day as the country marks Labor Day weekend, compared to the 25,000 daily cases around Memorial Day weekend.
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After a Miserable 18 Months, Professor Prescribes ‘Fun’
The world needs a “funtervention.” That’s according to Laurie Santos, Yale University’s “happiness professor.” After a boring, lonely lockdown at best, and a year of loss and grieving at worst, people are in need of some joy that involves contact with others and doing new things. We’re burned out from work, the psychology professor says, adding “the irony is, if we put more fun into our lives then we wind up becoming more productive.” Not only is it better for your mental state, it’s important for your physical health too, as research has found loneliness is as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (Sources: The Guardian)
2 - Racist Robots
Facebook Under Fire After A.I. System Mislabels Video
Not so intelligent after all. Facebook has apologized after its artificial intelligence labeled a video of Black men as “primates.” It was “clearly an unacceptable error and we disabled the entire topic recommendation feature,” said the company’s spokesperson, Dani Lever, after users who watched the content were asked if they wanted to “keep seeing videos about primates.” It’s not the first time artificial intelligence has shown racial bias, with Google Photos in 2015 labeling Black people as “gorillas.” The Federal Trade Commission has warned it will hold companies “accountable” in such cases. Facebook is currently studying whether its algorithms are racially biased.(Sources: Slate, The Verge)
3 - Goodbye Godzilla?
Komodo Dragons Are Facing Global Extinction
The last time Komodo dragons got so much press it was after one bit Sharon Stone’s husband on the foot. The world’s biggest lizard is back in the headlines after being added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of endangered species. The native Indonesian dragons are being affected by climate change, with rising temperatures and sea levels reducing their habitat. Komodo dragons are not the only creatures under increased threat from global warming, with 37% of shark and ray species also threatened with extinction, the group said at their annual congress, which runs until Sept. 11 in Marseilles. (Sources: NPR, The Cut, IUCN)
4 - Royal Rebels
New Meghan and Harry Film Tackles Palace Racism
“The Firm” and the tabloid press are the main villains in Lifetime’s third movie about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the film’s executive producer Merideth Finn says. The latest instalment looks at the couple’s decision to “step back” as working royals and move to the U.S. as well as their now-infamous Oprah interview during which they made allegations of racism against members of the royal family. It doesn’t look as if William and Kate come across too well, either, with William, in one fictionalized scene, calling his brother and sister-in-law “the most woke bloke and his feminist bride.” It airs tonight on Lifetime (Sources: Washington Post)
5 - Paralympics Pride and Perseverance
Uplifting Games End After Raft of Groundbreaking Firsts
It was a life-affirming and stereotype-defying few weeks. The Paralympics ended in Tokyo yesterday with a vibrant closing ceremony. Unlike the opening of the Games, it included two Afghan athletes who had managed to escape Kabul after it fell to the Taliban last month. The participation of Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli, who had initially been unable to get to Japan, was one of the highlights of the event. And there were multiple others, including the first para-taekwondo event, and cyclist Sarah Storey becoming Britain’s most-medaled Paralympian. The Paralympic flag has now been handed over to France, with Paris set to host the 2024 Games. (Sources: AFP, Time Out)
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