The Senate has confirmed just two of President Biden’s ambassadorial nominations, far behind the 56 confirmed envoys President Obama had at this stage, Axios reports.
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“Secretary of State Antony Blinken can expect the most aggressive questioning of his career when he testifies Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and on Tuesday before Senate Foreign Relations,” Axios reports.
“Republicans see the hearings as their first chance to directly confront a top-ranking Biden official about the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Democrats see it as a moment in which they must reject GOP efforts to blame President Biden for 20 years of bipartisan mistakes.”
The New York Times reports the U.S. is now lagging behind the UK, Canada, France, Germany and Italy — and just above Japan — in vaccination rates, though trend lines suggest the U.S. will soon slip to last place.
“Boris Johnson has outlined his vision for a decade in power as colleagues say he wants to be prime minister for longer than Margaret Thatcher,” the Sunday Times reports.
“He said he was determined to address the ‘catastrophic’ economic mistakes of the past 40 years and use Brexit to rectify inequalities across the country.”
“Setting out his pitch for the 2024 election for the first time, he said voters would be able to see his ‘great, great project’ of levelling up making progress across Britain. ‘It’s going to take a while, it’s going to take ten years.’”
“Abimael Guzmán, the founder and leader of the Shining Path guerrilla movement, which spread terror across much of Peru in the 1980s and ’90s, died on Saturday in Peru. He was 86,” the New York Times reports.
“An estimated 70,000 Peruvians were killed during the decade-long peak of the Shining Path insurgency, at least one-third at the hands of guerrillas. Shining Path advocated a violent reordering of society away from the vices of urban life. Its leaders echoed Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge with warnings that ‘rivers of blood’ would flow after their victory, and that as many as one million Peruvians might be put to death.”
New York Times: “It’s hard to exaggerate the role English has played in changing China’s social, cultural, economic and political landscape. English is almost synonymous with China’s reform and opening-up policies, which transformed an impoverished and hermetic nation into the world’s second-biggest economy.”
“That’s why it came as a shock to many when the education authorities in Shanghai, the most cosmopolitan city in the country, last month forbade local elementary schools to hold final exams on the English language.”
“Broadly, the Chinese authorities are easing the workloads of schoolchildren, amid an effort to ease the burdens on families and parents. Still, many Chinese people with an interest in English can’t help but see Shanghai’s decision as pushback against the language and against Western influence in general — and another step away from openness to the world.”
Washington Post: In China, the dream of an American education loses some of its gleam.
“Doctors, scientists, intelligence agents and government officials have all been trying to find out what causes ‘Havana syndrome’ – a mysterious illness that has struck American diplomats and spies,” the BBC reports.
“Some call it an act of war, others wonder if it is some new and secret form of surveillance – and some people believe it could even be all in the mind. So who or what is responsible?”
“North Korea has held a parade showcasing military dogs and virus workers in orange hazmat suits, but leader Kim Jong Un still managed to seize the spotlight by looking thinner and more energetic than he has in years,” the AP reports.
“President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is temporarily banning social media companies from removing certain content, including his claims that the only way he’ll lose next year’s elections is if the vote is rigged — one of the most significant steps by a democratically elected leader to control what can be said on the internet,” the New York Times reports.
“The new social media rules, issued this week and effective immediately, appear to be the first time a national government has stopped internet companies from taking down content that violates their rules.”
“The United States and Mexico restarted high-level economic talks Thursday after a four-year pause as top advisers to presidents Joe Biden and Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed eagerness to make headway on issues important to both nations such as infrastructure, trade and migration,” the AP reports.
French Health Minister Olivier Véran announced that starting next year France will offer free contraception for women up to the age of 25, Axios reports.
“Afghan women, including the country’s women’s cricket team, will be banned from playing sport under the new Taliban government, according to an official in the hardline Islamist group,” The Guardian reports.
“Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities are allowing some 200 Americans and other foreign citizens to leave the country on a flight to Qatar scheduled for Thursday, the first such departure by air since U.S. forces withdrew last month,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
New York Times: “Only one day after the Taliban named an acting cabinet to lead the nation they spent two decades trying to conquer, the dizzying challenges that accompanied victory were coming into sharp relief Wednesday.”
“Tensions flared with neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan’s longstanding humanitarian crisis deepened. And the militants’ brutal crackdown on dissent threatened to further erode public trust.”
“Boris Johnson raised taxes to their highest level since the Second World War on Tuesday, in a £36 billion move to reduce soaring NHS waiting lists and tackle the social care crisis,” the Telegraph reports.
“In one of the biggest political gambles of his premiership, the Prime Minister abandoned two of his flagship manifesto pledges from the 2019 election to cover the new spending.”
“The State Department expressed concern late Tuesday about the Taliban’s new all-male interim Cabinet in Afghanistan, which includes a minister who’s on a U.S. terrorism list,” Axios reports.
“Mexico’s supreme court voted unanimously on Tuesday to decriminalize abortion, a striking step in a country with one of the world’s largest Catholic populations and a move that contrasts sharply with tighter restrictions introduced across the border in Texas,” the Washington Post reports.
“The vote comes as a powerful women’s movement is transforming Mexico, where female politicians now make up half of Congress. While abortion remains illegal in most of Latin America, there has been a surge in demonstrations demanding more rights for women, particularly focused on rising violence.”