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Aug 25, 2021
Happy Wednesday! As students go back to school across America, COVID-19 remains a serious concern for parents and teachers. But for girls in Afghanistan, the pursuit of education represents a more fundamental challenge. Today, meet the 23-year-old using books to resist the Taliban — even as powerful militaries crumble before the Islamist fighters. You’ll also find out why Laos is building unsafe dams, and take a trip to unlikely countries that are embracing slow living. Don’t forget to check out the winners of last week’s caption contest.
President Joe Biden is sticking to his Aug. 31 deadline to end U.S. military presence in Kabul. That’s despite growing concerns from within his own party, the CIA, Pentagon, the G7 and veterans’ groups that this could force the U.S. to leave behind thousands of Afghan allies. Biden has, however, asked his administration to prepare a contingency strategy in case plans change. In Kabul, the Taliban said it would no longer allow Afghans to leave and that working women should stay at home for the time being. Should the U.S. be rigid about its Aug. 31 deadline? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: NBC, WaPo, Sky News, CNN, BBC)
2 - Border Blow
The Supreme Court has refused to allow the Biden administration to reverse a Trump-era immigration policy widely known as “Remain in Mexico.” Under the policy, migrants must remain in the southern nation while their asylum requests to stay in America are being processed. (Sources: WSJ, Reuters)
3 - Unwanted Record
South Africa now has the world’s highest jobless rate, more than 34%, amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections. Namibia and Nigeria come next on the unwanted podium of global unemployment leaders. (Sources: Bloomberg, Al Jazeera)
4 - Drumbeat of Brilliance
LegendaryRolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts passed away Tuesday at the age of 80. Watts was in many ways the anti-Mick Jagger — calm, quiet, modest and preferring jazz to rock ‘n’ roll. (Sources: NYT, Guardian)
5 - Paralympic Phelps
You could make the case that Sarah Storey is an even greater athlete than champion swimmer Michael Phelps, winner of 23 Olympic golds. On Tuesday, Britain’s Storey won her 15th gold medal, spanning two very different sports — swimming and cycling — at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. (Source: BBC)
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A rare female governor in Afghanistan, the 40-year-old elected leader of Charkint district in northern Afghanistan mobilized aself-defense militia of ordinary Afghans as the Taliban grabbed region after region in July and August. When Afghan forces surrendered elsewhere, she refused to give up. Days after taking control of Kabul, theTaliban detained Mazari, sparking acampaign seeking her freedom. It’s unclear what the Taliban plan to do with her.
3 - Pashtana Durrani
Massoud and Mazari have relied on guns to counter the Taliban’s menace.Durrani is hoping that books will do the trick — if not now, then eventually. The 23-year-oldleads the nonprofit LEARN that focuses on educating Afghan women, and is currently in hiding (inside Afghanistan). She isn’t buying the Taliban’s promise that they’ll allow girls to attend school — something they barred when they were last in power. So she’s preparing her own radical response: Durrani is ready to risk it all bystarting an underground school for girls, if that’s what it takes.
Sneak Peek Into ... Laos
The 20th century was brutal to this landlocked Southeast Asian nation, a theater of war and imperial conflict. But it’s a land of rare beauty battling modern challenges.
You can call her Muay. The Laotian mother and tour guide first gained prominence as an environmental advocate on social media, exposing corruption in the government and its inadequate response to ecological disasters. After she posted a video on Facebook critiquing the Laos government’s meager initiatives to help survivors of a flood, she was arrested last September. But that has sparked a #FreeMuay movement, calling for her release and placing the Laotian government under heightened scrutiny for concerns of human rights violations.
2 - Mekong Be Dammed
Laos is Thailand’s top provider of electricity through its hydroelectric dams along the lower Mekong River. But despite the pandemic halving Thailand’s electricity demand, environmental consequences and the lowering costs of alternative energy sources, Laos is only expanding its dam construction. Why? With both Thailand and China historically being key investors in lucrative Laotian dam projects, Laos’s continued dam development “can be seen as an addiction to familiar technologies and development processes,” according to expert Courtney Weatherby.
3 - Bombastic Hideouts
When the U.S. rained bombs down to fight the nationalist Pathet Lao army between 1964 and 1973, the party members evaded the explosions by building a network of tunnels around the country. From there they ran the civil war and even had hospitals and schools. Now visitors can walk through the subterranean limestone shafts to learn about the underground society that lived there. Read more on OZY.
How about a fun quiz? Can you name the U.S. sportsperson of Laotian origin who won gold recently at the Tokyo Olympics? Tell us below. And Jo Anne M., Ellaine G., Joanna L., John P., Peter R. and Terry — congratulations! You got yesterday’s quiz right. Homeschooling is legal in South Africa but is forbidden in Germany and China.
Life in China over the past three decades has been defined by rapid urbanization, soaring dreams and the constant search for wealth. Now a new generation is tired of that approach, especially after a pandemic that has exposed its pitfalls. Instead, more than 100 cities and counties are embracing “slow living,” setting population limits, throttling down traffic and restricting fast food. Read more on OZY.
2 - Haiti
In the 1990s, the U.S. flooded the Caribbean country with low-quality food products after pressuring Haiti to lower tariffs — which then-President Bill Clinton eventually apologized for in 2010. Now Haitians are rebuilding their agriculture industry by adopting the slow food movement that focuses on reviving dying food cultures. From traditional artisanal rum to the country’s first fair trade cocoa business, Haiti’s building a new farm future rooted in its traditions.Read more on OZY.
3 - Brazil
Brazil’s Cerrado savanna is one of the country’s most ecologically diverse regions. But in recent years it has lost half of its native vegetation to giant agribusinesses that produce everything from beef and palm oil to corn and cotton. But Indigenous communities, conservationists and celebrity chefs are banding together in a slow food movement to promote the region’s native agri-products such as the guava-like gabiroba, the baru nut and the macuba coconut. Their aim? To get Brazil and the world excited about native Cerrado food.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shares surprising takes on the Trump presidency, why she considered running for office and why education reform is “the civil rights issue of our time.” Watch now on Amazon Prime Video.
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