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Sep 10, 2021
Good morning! We stand on the cusp of the 20th anniversary of a day when the world changed forever, with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Among the myriad fallouts of those tragic hours was the legitimization of private armies that nations now often hire to fight dirty wars. Read about a Russian military contractor at the heart of Central Africa’s most brutal conflicts. Meet a star of Tibetan new wave cinema. And this weekend, get yourself some house plants … that you can’t kill. Don’t miss the caption contest.
President Joe Biden issued his most direct warning yet to 80 million Americans who remain unvaccinated, announcing wide ranging mandates that will require all midsize and large private firms to ensure that their employees are fully inoculated or show regular negative tests. Federal employees and contractors working with the federal government must get vaccinated. “We’ve been patient but our patience is wearing thin,” a stern and visibly frustrated Biden said, as cases rise rapidly. Do you agree with the new vaccine mandates? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: NYT, WaPo)
2 - Abort That Law
The Biden administration has sued Texas over the state’s strict new anti-abortion law. The case will be heard by a federal court in Texas, but could make its way up to the Supreme Court, which has allowed the law to stand. (Sources: NPR, NBC)
3 - Ni Hao Joe
Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday, only their second conversation since the U.S. leader took office, amid mounting tensions between the world’s two largest economies. Biden told Xi the two countries needed to ensure that their “competition” didn’t descend into “conflict.” (Sources: FT, Guardian)
4 - Spy-Fall
Spanish authorities have arrested former Venezuelan spy chief Gen. Hugo Carvajal in Madrid, two years after he went missing fearing detention over drug-related allegations for which he faces extradition to America. Carvajal was a close aide of Venezuelan President Nicholás Maduro and has alleged political interference in his case. (Sources: AP, Reuters)
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Is this a dream? When did I fall asleep? What is this all about? These are some of the questions that viewers of Bi’s neo-noir film,Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018), are likely to never have answered. Which is probably exactly how Bi wants it — for it’s the surrealist style the 32-year-old has adopted since his award-winning debut 2015 film,Kaili Blues. The final 59 minutes of Long Day’s Journey Into Night are filmed in a single shot that’s at once strikingly ambitious and stunningly executed.
3 - Lhapal Gya
The 32-year-old director is arising star of Tibetan New Wave cinema, which captures the highlands from the perspective of ordinary Tibetans — beyond the black-and-white romanticism and conflict that often serve as the lenses through which the region is seen globally. TakeWangdrak’s Rain Boots for instance. Gya received rapturous applause at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2018 for the film, which follows the story of a Tibetan boy who finds himself the only person in his village without boots after floods strike.
A private military company? A Russian military spinoff? Whatever the Wagner Group may be, it’s made its presence felt on the battlefields of Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic and Ukraine’s Donbass region in recent years. Thought to number around 6,000 militia fighters and headed by friend of the Kremlin, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner Group operatives are also believed to have taken their “skills” beyond warzones and into Europe’s streets. Two years ago, its members are believed to have carried out the assassination of a Chechen dissident in Germany.
2 - RSF
Don’t go by their innocuous name. The Rapid Support Forces are accused of some of the worst crimes of the Sudanese civil war in Darfur. Yet the paramilitary group’s brutality is a calling card that makes them attractive mercenaries to hire for regimes seeking to outsource their wars. Now they’re fighting for Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Libya and Yemen, each warrior earning as much as $10,000 a month. They’ve even patrolled Sudan’s borders as part of a European Union initiative to curb migration.
Sure, the Florida-headquartered private security firm has rarely been involved in open conflict, but it’s proven to be deadly in other ways. Between 2008 and 2019, more than 600 weapons owned by G4S employees were reported stolen or lost in the U.S. Several of those guns were then used to kill people. Can a security firm really ensure peace when it can’t keep track of its own guns?
Houseplants You Can’t Kill
We have all been that serial plant-killer with a balcony full of wilted attempts. But with the right choice — indoor plants sturdy enough to survive your rookie mistakes — you too, can bloom into a successful #plantparent.
Got an empty spot on your window sill or bedside table? The spikyaloe vera might be your perfect redemption. Just give it a good soak every two weeks (or wait for the soil to dry out between watering), and ensure some bright, indirect sunlight. With chubby, speckled leaves and a knack for sprouting “pups” before you’ve blinked, this desert beauty will teach you a thing or two about resilience. Take care not to overwater and be rewarded with free access to homemade aloe vera gel.
2 - Pothos Perfect
The trusty pothos is a trailing vine that comes in many varieties — the golden, neon, silver and marble queens are among them. Often called the “devil’s ivy” for its ability to thrive without ample sunlight, it will also withstand reasonable under and over-watering — all while adding cheer and color to any room. But do right by it, and water your low-maintenance friend when the soil in the pot has almost dried out. Drooping leaves are a tell-tale sign that means: “You owe me a drink!”
3 - Spiders and Snakes
A toughie with sword-like leaves and sharp edges, thesnake plant or “mother-in-law’s-tongue” thrives on neglect. Don’t fuss, don’t overwater. Bright, indirect sunlight is best, but it can also tolerate a little direct dazzle. Thespider plant, whose scraggly leaves I always imagine to be the legs of a magical green spider, is far less intimidating than its name. It’s got fantastic character and simple needs. Bright, moderate light and well-drained soil (watering once a week is good, but check to confirm) and you’re all set.
Hear family secrets about former President Donald Trump from his niece, Mary L. Trump. The best-selling author and psychologist opens up about her mistrust of her family and delves into the “smoke and mirrors” upbringing that defined the character of the 45th president and how “cheating” the system and avoiding taxes has long been a family goal. Her new book The Reckoning explores how the nation can heal after her uncle’s impact.
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