Infecting the U.N.
September 20, 2021
- How sea otters can fight climate change (BBC)
- How India’s air pollution is being turned into floor tiles (BBC)
“For me, a better democracy is a democracy where women do not only have the right to vote and to elect but to be elected.” — Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Talibanning Women From Work (Bulent Kilic via Getty Images) In mid-August, with American troops still present, the Taliban vowed to respect women’s rights, forgive those who fought against them, and ensure that Afghanistan won’t become a haven for terrorists. Zabihullah Mujahid, long-time Taliban spokesman, gave his first ever public news conference, saying leaders had encouraged women to return to work and girls to return to school. He reiterated that Taliban leaders offered full amnesty to Afghans who worked for the U.S. and the Western-backed government, saying “nobody will go to their doors to ask why they helped.” He said private media should “remain independent,” but then added journalists “should not work against national values.” Likewise, he promised women would retain their rights, but qualified that as being “within the framework of Islamic law” — specifically, Sharia law. To no one’s surprise, it was just ‘happy talk’ meant to allay suspicions of world powers and the fears of Afghans. Soon there were ample reports of Taliban soldiers going house to house, searching for “traitors” and executing them. Working women were told to stay home and schools were shut down, although it was labeled a temporary security measure. In Kandahar, women bank tellers were forced out of their jobs at gunpoint. In the next days and weeks the group’s new government issued decrees restricting more rights of girls and women. Female students in middle and high schools were told they couldn’t return to classes, although boys were allowed to. Female university students were informed studies would now take place in gender-segregated settings, and they must abide by a strict Islamic dress code. Other crippling measures from when the Taliban ruled in the 1990s surfaced unofficially, including a requirement that Afghan women have a male guardian accompany them in any public place. On Friday, female employees in Kabul city government were told they couldn’t return to work if their job could be performed by men, meaning almost 1,000 women who were part of the city’s workforce of nearly 3,000 lost their jobs. The Taliban shut down the Women’s Affairs Ministry, replacing it with a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” tasked with enforcing Islamic law. On Sunday about a dozen, mostly younger women staged a protest outside the ministry. Ten minutes later, after a brief verbal confrontation with a man, the women got into cars and left. Over the past months, Taliban fighters have broken up several women’s protests by force. The Taliban has tried to present itself as guarantors of security. But an explosion Sunday in Jalalabad was the second attack in as many days targeting Taliban in their enemy’s Islamic State stronghold. Sunday’s attack killed five, including two civilians and a child. (Guardian, BBC)
Jair the Not-So-Honorable (Johannes Eisele via Getty Images)
- An argument could certainly be made that Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has shown the following characteristics while in office: a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement; exploitation of others without shame or quilt; frequent demeaning, bullying and intimidation of others; disregarding or violating others’ rights; difficulty showing remorse or empathy; and socially irresponsible behavior. These attributes will be on full display Tuesday when he attends the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York without being vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The U.N. demands that world leaders in attendance adhere to an “honor system” to attest they’re fully vaccinated. Bolsonaro’s argument is that he contracted the virus last year and thus has antibodies making him naturally “vaccinated,” never mind that he can contract it again, maybe the Delta variant this time, and still infect others.
- Brazil has the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll with nearly 590,000 deaths; only 37% of its population is fully vaccinated. U.N. officials said they’re unable to enforce a vaccination mandate, so unvaccinated people won’t be barred from entering its building and participating in U.N.-related events. (WaPo, $)
- Last Friday Pentagon officials admitted an August 29 drone strike in Afghanistan that killed up to 10 civilians, including seven children, was a “tragic mistake.” The intended targets of the strike were ISIS-K fighters blamed for perpetrating an earlier attack on the Kabul airport.
- Officials maintained for weeks the mission had been successful in killing Islamic State members despite the inadvertent deaths of some civilians. Several news sources in Kabul had reported that the hellfire missile had actually targeted a vehicle driven by Zemerai Ahmadi, a longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization, and that there was no evidence the vehicle contained explosives. The missile struck Zemerai’s car as it pulled into the family’s driveway and children ran to greet him.
- On Saturday the AP reported the Ahmadi family is demanding an investigation into who fired the drone, and punishment for military personnel responsible for the strike. Zemerai’s younger brother, who lost his 3-year-old daughter, said the family is also seeking financial compensation for their losses, and relocation to an unspecified third country. (NPR)
- Boxer Manny Pacquiao to run for Philippine president in 2022 (Reuters)
- Russia election: Opposition complaints on final day of voting (BBC)
- SpaceX’s Inspiration4 Civilian Crew Completes 3-Day Mission (NYT, $)
- Cuba vaccinates children as young as 2 in strategy to reopen schools, economy (CNN)
- Volcano Erupts On Spanish Island Near Morocco (NPR)
- Canadians could make Trudeau pay for his gamble (WaPo, $)
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Search Over In Sarasota
- An FBI official said Sunday the body of a missing 22-year-old woman believed to be Gabby Petito was found Saturday at a campground in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. Petito had gone missing during a cross-country “van life” trip with her fiance, Brian Laundrie, 23.
- The couple left Long Island on the East Coast in July, hoping to reach Oregon by November. But Laundrie returned alone to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida on September 1. Petito’s family filed a missing persons report September 11 in Suffolk County, New York. On Friday, Laundrie’s parents reported their son missing.
- Over the weekend more than 50 police officers, FBI agents and others, using drones, dogs and all-terrain vehicles, searched for Laundrie, believed to be hiding out somewhere in the vast 24,000 acre Carlton Wildlife Reserve in the Sarasota area. The case drew national attention in part because the couple reported and discussed their travels on social media. (Guardian)
- Over the weekend, U.S. border agents transported 3,300 migrants out of Del Rio, Texas, where thousands of mostly-Haitian immigrants had set up a makeshift camp under a bridge after wading across the Rio Grande River from Mexico. A member of an advocacy group tracking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement flights said three planes bound for Haiti left Texas on Sunday, one from Laredo and two from San Antonio.
- Authorities announced a new daily schedule of flights to Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, and security on the U.S. side of the border has been strengthened. The U.S. Border Patrol chief said his goal was to “process the 12, 662 migrants that we have underneath that bridge as quickly as we possibly can.” Even so, new migrants continue trying to cross the river into Texas every day.
- The surge of people seeking safety in the U.S. stems from widespread poverty, gang violence, and constant natural disasters back home. According to one man who braved the journey to the U.S., “There’s no safety in Haiti and there’s no work.” He, like many of the other Haitians turned back by the U.S., plans to stay in Mexico instead of going back home. (Reuters)
- How Accounting Giants Craft Favorable Tax Rules From Inside Government (NYT, $)
- Suburbs take center stage as US growth slows (NBC)
- How a California climate program lets companies pollute (LA Times)
- California recall vote show Trump’s big lie is now Republican playbook (Guardian)
- Canada election: Why it’s easier to vote in Canada than the US (BBC)
- Fauci: FDA vote against Covid booster shots ‘not the end of the story’ (Guardian)
- Despite court rulings, South Dakota’s Noem pushes for school prayer (MSNBC)
Pure Prehistoric Pronghorns
- Chillingham Wild Cattle Park in historic Northumberland, England’s northernmost county, is home to one of the world’s last remaining wild cattle herds. The cattle have roamed the park’s forests and meadows free from human interference for most of 1,000 years.
- A professor of animal science and a trustee of the Chillingham Wild Cattle Association says this is “the only British breed of cattle to have escaped ‘improvement’ by selective breeding during the so-called Agricultural Revolution of approximately 200 to 300 years ago.” These cattle are so isolated they number only about 130, making them rarer than giant pandas, Siberian tigers or mountain gorillas.
- But here’s the thing about isolation — the Chillingham Wild Cattle gene pool is so concentrated, every animal is essentially a primeval genetic clone. The bulls are small, about one-third the size of modern breeds. Even the cows’ udders are small, producing just enough milk to feed one calf at a time. Every individual is white as snow, with sinewy frames, a fierce temperament and vast horns that curve menacingly into jet-black tips. The secluded beasts are unpredictable, with identical bad tempers, and can chase intruders down at speeds up to 30 mph.
- The damaging effects of inbreeding are well known. Many scientific studies have shown it causes animal populations to be more prone to birth defects and infectious diseases than those drawing on a wide gene pool. Inbreeding results in populations dying out, but, by a quirk of evolutionary fate, it’s had the opposite effect in the Chillingham cattle. The cattle have managed to purify their gene pool through inbreeding and instinctively maintain this genetic equilibrium: about 20 years ago, a calf was born with a mutation — it was missing its tail. Its mother abandoned it, and the calf (and its genetic mutation) died within 24 hours. (BBC)
- Arc de Triomphe wrapped in fabric, a tribute to late artist Christo (CNN)
- The way we view free time is making us less happy (BBC)
- Giraffes Prefer a Fair Fight (NYT, $)
- How to enjoy coffee (Psyche)
- Devious Licks TikTok challenge has students destroying bathrooms and swiping school supplies (WaPo, $)
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