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It's the decision that could kickstart intra-Afghan dialogue, and pave the way to ending the US occupation in Afghanistan after 20 bloody years.

On Sunday, after days of deliberations that involved thousands of Afghan delegates packing into one tent (what's COVID again), President Ashraf Ghani agreed to release hundreds of Taliban prisoners from government jails. The move opens the way to intra-Afghan dialogue under a deal that the US brokered directly with the Taliban earlier this year.

The Trump administration has touted this development as a major step towards peace, but after nearly two decades of war, the relevant players are still miles apart when it comes to laying out a common vision for the conflict-ridden country. What do they all want?

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20.4: The UK economy is now officially in a recession for the first time in 11 years, after British economic growth plunged by 20.4 percent quarter-on-quarter from April to June 2020. The quarterly decline — attributed to the economic crisis fueled by the coronavirus pandemic ­— is double that of the US and second only to Spain's in Europe.

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Civil rights activist Janet Murguía joins the 'That Made All the Difference' podcast to discuss her upbringing as the daughter of immigrant parents and how that experience informs her life's work advocating for Hispanic-Latino civil rights and battling systemic inequality.

Listen now.

Vietnam vs coronavirus (round 2): After going three months with no local transmissions of COVID-19, Vietnam is worried about a resurgence of the disease after a recent outbreak in the coastal city of Da Nang that has already spread to 11 other locations throughout the country. Authorities in Vietnam — widely considered a global success story in handling the pandemic thanks to its aggressive testing, contact-tracing and quarantines — believe the Da Nang outbreak is tied to an influx of domestic tourism there after lockdown restrictions were recently eased by the government. As a precaution, they have converted a 1,000-seat Da Nang sports stadium into a field hospital to treat the sick in case local hospitals become overwhelmed. More than 1,000 medical personnel, assisted by Cuban doctors, have been sent there to screen residents, and the capital Hanoi plans to test 72,000 people who recently returned from Da Nang. Will Vietnam prevail again in its second battle against COVID-19?

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The global race is on to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. While it usually takes many years to develop and widely distribute vaccines, scientists around the world are now trying to get one ready within an unprecedented time frame: 12-18 months. And while there is some international cooperation in that effort, there's also fierce competition among countries, as everyone wants to develop a vaccine on their home turf first, not only for prestige, but also to get their citizens at the front of the line for the shots when they are available. There are hundreds in development, but to date only eight vaccines have progressed to Phase III of the clinical trial process, meaning they are being tested on thousands of people and the results are compared with those who receive a placebo drug. Phase III is the final stage before approval. Who's gotten there so far?

"Go ahead, take it," President Putin says to you.

"Take what?" you ask.

"This Covid vaccine," he continues, turning a small syringe over in his hands. "It's safe. Trust me. We… tested it on my daughter."

Would you do it? Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that a lot of people will say yes. On Tuesday he announced that Russia has become the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine, and that mass vaccinations will begin there in October.

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45: A new poll says that 45 percent of Italians would support leaving the European Union if the UK economy remains in a "good state" five years after Brexit. Calls for a national referendum on "Italexit" are gaining steam in Italy, where a new anti-EU party is capitalizing on the sentiment that the EU abandoned the country at its darkest hour with COVID-19 (despite Italy later getting the lion's share of the EU's coronavirus rescue package).

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Belarus' post-election fire rages on: At least one person has died and over 2,000 have been arrested in violent protests that erupted in Belarus after strongman President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory with about 80 percent of the vote — results deemed fraudulent by international governments. The opposition claims Sunday's election was rigged — as has regularly been the case in the country since Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator," took over in 1994. Lukashenko, who some young people refer to as "Psycho 3%" for his denial of the coronavirus and low (unofficial) approval ratings, has shut down the internet and is blaming Russian agitators for the protests amid a recent fallout with Vladimir Putin, his long-time ally and fellow strongman. Putin wants to keep Belarus in Russia's sphere of influence and is wary of the country getting closer to his rivals in Brussels. Meanwhile, Svetlana Tikhanouskaya — the political unknown wife of a jailed opposition blogger who has defied Lukashenko's tight grip on power — has fled the country and is now in Lithuania. As the situation remains in flux, it's unclear how stability could return to Belarus anytime soon.

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