US top diplomats visit Persian Gulf to reassure allies

The World
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is shown looking to his right while walking and wearing a dark face mask with a solider stands in the distance.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Qatar for talks. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is also in the Persian Gulf on a separate trip, but the two hope to reassure their Gulf allies that the Biden administration is not abandoning its partners in the Middle East by withdrawing from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban said on Monday that they had seized Panjshir province, the last remaining Afghan province not under their control. In the capital Kabul, the Taliban dispersed a protest with gunshots on Tuesday, arresting journalists covering a rally outside the Pakistani Embassy, where people were protesting against alleged Pakistani interference in Afghanistan. Hundreds of women also held a rally in the capital demanding rights for themselves, and were joined by men. As the crowds grew, the Taliban forcefully suppressed the protest.

KSM pretrial
The pre-trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is set to resume at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, after facing various delays, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Mohammed will be joined by four co-defendants as a new military judge presides over the military commission, which comes days before the 20-year-anniversary of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. The men face capital charges that could carry the death penalty if convicted. Military prosecutors and defense teams are set to meet this week. No date has been set for the actual trial.

El Salvador
El Salvador has become the first country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender. President Nayib Bukele has called the cryptocurrency a path to financial freedom. The crypto platform Bitso says it is a core service provider for Chivo, which is the Bitcoin wallet developed by El Salvador’s government. Bitso says it is working with US federally regulated Silvergate Bank to facilitate transactions in US dollars. Supporters say the move would make it cheaper and easier for those living in the US to send remittances back home. But others fear the move could risk economic stability in the country. Bukele has promised each citizen $30 in Bitcoin if they sign up for a digital wallet.

From The World

Randomized study of mask-wearing illustrates their importance in preventing the spread COVID-19

Masks work in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That's something that global health leaders have been stressing for more than a year. But preliminary results of a massive real-world study involving 340,000 people in Bangladesh are now adding some of the strongest evidence to date on how masks, especially surgical ones, can help communities slow the spread of the virus.

An Afghan journalist breaks down the sociological makeup of today's Taliban

Since the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan, there's been a lot of waiting, wondering and worrying about how they will rule the country. Much of the concern today comes from the Taliban's first takeover of the country back in the 1990s — an era marked by brutality and rights violations.

"[T]he way in which we could essentially characterize [the Taliban] is generally rural, religiously educated," said Waleed Kakar, editor of the Afghan Eye. "So, they are literate, they can read and they can write and are generally very young. So, almost in their mid-20s. Most of them don't remember the Taliban's previous government in the late 1990s. Rather, the only real remembered experience is that of living after 2001 in the US occupation.

Bright spot

"Quack quack" is likely what you're used to hearing from a duck. Now, researchers have found a human-reared musk duck in Australia who seems to quack, "you bloody fool." In a new published paper, researchers reviewed 34-year-old recordings made of the musk duck named Ripper, who instead of just the normal sounds of a waterfowl species, engaged in an aggressive display, while quacking “you bloody fool.” 🦆

In case you missed it

Listen: A new Bangladesh study shows effective ways to encourage mask wearing

People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus leave the city to travel to their native places ahead of Eid al-Fitr in Dhaka, Bangladesh

People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus leave the city to travel to their native places ahead of Eid al-Fitr in Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 7, 2021.


Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP/File photo

A trial involving 600 villages in Bangladesh has proven the effectiveness of wearing surgical masks, and shown practical ways of getting people to wear them. Also, Kai-Fu Lee explains to The Economist the role that AI will play in our jobs in 20 years. And, Germany’s commitment to returning artifacts taken from African countries is putting pressure on other Western nations to do the same.

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