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.
Sep 29, 2021
America’s top generals told senators yesterday that they wanted to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, contradicting statements made by their commander in chief. The U.S. Treasury secretary warned of fiscal “calamity” without congressional action. And Greta Thunberg chided world leaders for congratulating themselves while the planet continues to heat up.
America’s top generals contradicted their commander in chief Tuesday, telling a Senate committee the president knew they wanted U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan. Joint Chiefs head Gen. Mark Milley and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie said they favored keeping 2,500 troops to stave off the collapse of government forces — and both Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump knew this. White House press secretary Jen Psaki countered that military advisers were “split” on withdrawal. Milley rejected one senator’s suggestion about quitting in protest, saying soldiers killed during Kabul’s frenzied evacuation “can’t resign, so I’m not going to resign.” (Sources: Politico, NYT, PBS)
What do you think? Should U.S. troops have remained in Afghanistan? Tell us in the PDB poll below.
Yellen Warns of Debt Crisis as Congress Spars Over Limit
“Extraordinary” measures only last so long. That was Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s warning to Congress yesterday, noting that funding workarounds will only last until Oct. 18 while Republican senators block Democrats from raising the country’s debt ceiling. Yellen described it as “a self-inflicted wound of enormous proportions.” Congress has two days to provide stopgap funding before the fiscal year ends, but after trillions in pandemic aid, that means raising the federal debt limit. Republicans say that would open the funding floodgates for a wasteful $3.5 trillion package bolstering climate protections and America’s social safety net. (Sources: ABC, CNBC, USA Today)
3 - Ebola Outrage
Probe Finds 83 Cases of WHO Staff Sex Abuse
Was the treatment worse than the cure? An investigation commissioned by the World Health Organization determined that people involved in its Ebola response in the Congo from 2018 to 2020 were responsible for 83 reported sexual abuse cases. Alleged victims described being raped or coerced into sex in order to get jobs, and by supervisors within the agency. WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said the organization was “humbled, horrified and heartbroken” by the report, which stated a “perception of impunity” contributed to the abuse. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus apologized and said making the perpetrators accountable was a “top priority.” (Sources: Al Jazeera, Insider, UN News)
4 - Golden Gavels
Report: Scores of US Federal Judges Breached Financial Firewall
There’s no excuse. But there is something called recusal, and a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that 131 federal judges broke the law by presiding over 685 cases in which they had financial stakes. Examples include judges ruling in favor of Exxon and Comcast subsidiaries while owning thousands of dollars in the companies’ stock. After learning of the report, 56 of the jurists alerted parties to those cases, possibly setting up new proceedings or reversals. The body that regulates judicial conduct, noting that those mishandlings represent a small percentage of cases, called the revelations “troubling” and promised a thorough review. (Sources: WSJ [sub], Forbes)
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Greta Thunberg Attacks Leaders’ ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’
The future is drowning in “empty words.” The young climate activist mocked world leaders’ efforts to tackle climate change at the Youth4Climate meeting in Milan yesterday, saying, “This is not about some expensive politically correct dream of bunny hugging, or ‘build back better,’ blah blah blah, green economy.” Politicians are “shamelessly congratulating themselves,” Thunberg added, while “emissions are still rising.” About 400 youth activists from 200 nations are forging a statement ahead of November’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where world leaders will aim to draft a new agreement pledging to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. (Sources: AFP, The Hill)
2 - Democratic Hues
Will Germany Return to a Cutesy Color-Coded Coalition?
The Federal Republic is at a crossroads. Maybe that’s why the most likely governing coalition following Sunday’s election is the “Ampel,” or “traffic light.” Combinations of parties traditionally have names corresponding to the colors associated with those groups. The left-leaning Social Democrats are red, so teaming them with the self-explanatory Greens and yellow Free Democrats makes the Ampel. The less likely combination of Christian Democrats (black) with the green and yellow parties makes “Jamaica,” the hues of that nation’s flag. And what virtually nobody wants is a third round of the red-black “Groko,” or “grand coalition,” which isn’t colorful or cute. (Sources: BBC, AFP)
Read OZY’s Butterfly Effect examining how outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel is providing one final lesson for the world.
Australian Rainforest Returned to Aboriginal Inhabitants
It belongs to them. The northeastern state of Queensland today returned ownership of four national parks, including what may be the world’s oldest rainforest, to one of its oldest cultures. The handover of the Daintree forest lets the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people “own and manage their Country” including preserving their culture and regulating tourism in the 180 million-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site. That control will be phased in, though, with state authorities initially jointly managing Daintree, along with the Cedar Bay, Black Mountain and Hope Islands parks, a total of nearly 400,000 acres of popular tourist destinations. (Sources: BBC, Brisbane Times)
4 - Art Attack
Italian Town Slammed for ‘Sexualized’ New Statue
It’s a celebration of the female form. Or a mouth-breathing monument to objectification. Unveiled this weekend, The Gleaner of Sapri is a bronze statue of the subject of a 1857 Luigi Mercantini poem, a tragic female revolutionary. But she’s depicted with clingy transparent clothes, sparking a social media backlash and spurring MP Laura Boldrini to call the statue “an offense to women.” The sculptor, Emanuele Stifano, said he was “appalled and disheartened,” explaining that (not unlike Renaissance masters), “I always tend to cover the human body as little as possible, regardless of gender.” (Sources: Euronews, BBC)
5 - Beautiful Career
Simone Biles Says She Should Have Quit Olympics Sooner
“It’s like I jumped out of a moving train.” That’s what the superstar gymnast said of her Tokyo Olympics withdrawal in an interview with The Cut. She explained that she’s still recovering from spatial disorientation known as “the twisties,” which she compared to sudden blindness. “I should have quit way before Tokyo,” Biles added. She said dealing with USA Gymnastics’ sexual abuse crisis was “too much,” but she wasn’t going to let convicted team doctor Larry Nassar “take that joy away from me.” She’s now touring with Gold Over America, which aims to inspire a new generation of female athletes. (Sources: Washington Post, The Cut)
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