An unsolved murder, a defiant president, an exiled journalist, and an unimpressed - but possibly slightly embarrassed - athlete.
Welcome to September!
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Tonga’s royal family have denied links to a decades-old unsolved murder, after an Australian tabloid published a piece claiming the former king was involved in a cover up.
Background: In 1984, a horse trainer called George Brown was tortured and killed in a gruesome crime that has never been solved. Police believe he was killed by members of the horse racing community. The tabloid alleged a well-known former bookmaker called Bill Waterhouse, and his friend - the now deceased former king of Tonga - helped Tongan killers escape.
Nike is closing its corporate offices, giving workers a week off to “prioritise mental health,” according to a company statement. “Take the time to unwind, destress and spend time with your loved ones.,” the Nike senior manager of global marketing science, Matt Marrazzo, said in an open message to staff posted on LinkedIn.
Reminder: this paid break comes just before employees are required to return to the office three days a week. The Independent reports that unlike other companies that have pushed back returning to the office because of the Delta variant of coronavirus, Nike hasn’t changed its plans
BIDEN DOUBLES DOWN
“I was not going to extend this forever war. I was not extending a forever exit.” - President Biden, speaking on Tuesday
In a defiant speech, President Biden continued to defend the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Below is a quick summary of the speech’s key points;
- Biden acknowledged the assumption the Afghan government could stay in power and avoid such a rapid Taliban takeover “turned out not to be accurate”.
- He sent another warning to IS-K: “We are not done with you yet. ... to those who wish America harm, to those engaged in terrorism against us or our allies, know this: The United States will never rest.”
- Biden also said the withdrawal was also about “ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries”.
- CNN published a piece claiming the US had a “secret arrangement” with the Taliban in recent days, whereby they agreed to escort evacuating Americans to the gates of Kabul airport.
- The UK Government and the Taliban are now in talks in Doha, Qatar, to organise the evacuations of further citizens stranded in the country.
- Very interesting read: If you have a Financial Times subscription, read this - Why France was more clear-eyed about Afghanistan than the US.
ON TODAY’S AGENDA…
UK Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is due to appear before a Foreign Affairs Select Committee today at 2pm.
What will be the session’s focus? Raab will have to answer questions posed to him about the situation in Afghanistan, such as how the UK will deal with the Taliban and how they will hold them accountable for their human rights violations.
- BBC News: Japan finds black particles in Moderna vaccine
- The Guardian: ‘People are broken’: Afghans describe first day under full Taliban control
- The Financial Times: US withdraws from Afghanistan bringing an end to 20-year war
- Al Jazeera: Biden says Afghanistan exit marks end of US nation-building
- The Irish Times: Conor Pope: My summer of Irish staycations cost nearly €10,000
THE EMERALD AISLE
- Ireland’s population is more than five million for the first times since 1851. Of the nearly 65,000 people who immigrated to Ireland between April 2020 and April 2021, more than half are believed to be Irish nationals returning home.
- UNSC Presidency: From today, Ireland takes over the presidency of the UNSC - the United Nations Security Council. It is a rotating presidency that changes each month.
- A roadmap for reopening the country and lifting coronavirus restrictions has been outlined by the Irish government. Also, public transport reverts back to allowing full capacity from today. The best explainer of the easing of restrictions I have seen came from Richard Chambers;
BBC Russian correspondent Sarah Rainsford has been expelled from Russia, where she has lived and reported from for more than 20 years.
Why? For “anti-Russian activity,” namely criticism of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and his ally Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus. The BBC described the move as a “direct assault on media freedom”.
In her last piece from Moscow, she wrote;
“I'm writing this in the middle of the night at my kitchen table in Moscow, looking over towards the dim red stars and golden domes of the Kremlin. But by the time you read it I'll be on my way back to England, expelled from Russia as a national security threat.”
SOCIETAL SHIFTS IN TEXAS
The state’s six-week abortion ban took effect in the early hours of Wednesday morning, following “inaction” by the Supreme Court.
As CNN pointed out, the law is one of the strictest in the country, and means many people will be unable to get an access abortion by the time they find out they are pregnant.
Also from today, a series of new gun laws come into effect in the state. Most notably, ‘constitutional carry’.
What does this mean? From today, a gun can be openly carried in Texas without a permit. While background checks will still be carried out on each person buying a gun, they will no longer be allowed to complete training.
SERVING SOME SASS
Tennis star Andy Murray said he said he “lost respect” for fellow player Stefanos Tsitsipas, after the Greek player beat him in a five sets at the US Open.
Why? Tsitsipas took extended breaks - two bathroom breaks longer than seven minutes and a lengthy medical time out. It’s worth noting he didn’t break any rules, however, and defended himself by insisting that the breaks were lengthy because he changed clothes, which “takes a little bit of time.”
Andy Murray said it was “disappointing” in a post-match interview, adding “I feel it influenced the outcome of the match”.
The Washington Post pointed out Murray also “strategically used a bathroom break to his advantage at the U.S. Open nine years ago” during the final against Novak Djokovic. Murray spoke about the positive impact of this bathroom break at the time.
THE POWER OF A PICTURE
The photo below - of a roadrunner bird at the US/Mexico border - just won the Bird Photographer of the Year.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE…
Best part of this? The dog’s name is actually ‘Storm’.