The World Today for September 16, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

AFGHANISTAN

The Forever Insurgency

The Taliban claimed victory after the recent end of the US-led NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Now, while they face serious challenges governing their traumatized nation, as Deutsche Welle explained, they at least won’t have to deal with the terrorism that they inflicted on foreign troops and their own people during 20 years of war, right?

Wrong.

The Taliban faces their own insurgency in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khorasan, or ISIS K, a name that derives from a western region of Afghanistan. As the Guardian reported, ISIS K advocates “jihadi Salafism,” a brand of ultra-extremist Islam that originates in the Persian Gulf and is even more radical than the Taliban’s mix of religious reactionism and folk traditions.

The Taliban seek to create an emirate within the borders of the internationally recognized state of Afghanistan, for example, whereas ISIS K wants to inaugurate a worldwide caliphate, according to the Interpreter, a publication of the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

The two groups have been fighting for years while the Taliban were also fighting US-led NATO forces. In 2018, the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index ranked ISIS K alongside the Taliban among the four deadliest terrorist groups in the world.

ISIS K took credit for the Aug. 26 bombing at the Kabul airport that killed around 170 civilians and 13 American troops, an attack intended to undermine the Taliban’s legitimacy, to prove that the victors in the long war were unable to provide security and to demonstrate the tenacity of ISIS K to Afghans and the world.

Before the attack, CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward interviewed an ISIS K leader who claimed to command 600 men. He told her he was “lying low and waiting to strike,” she said, adding that he could easily pass through checkpoints and enter the capital city of Kabul. A former Taliban fighter, he broke with his colleagues because, he claimed, they were not orthodox enough.

Despite the best efforts of Western governments to stamp out the terrorist group over the years, ISIS K has managed to attract sufficient fighters and assemble enough material to remain a small but potent killing force, wrote Abdul Sayed, an expert in radical militant groups in the region, in the Washington Post.

The airport attacks, for instance, were also surely meant as recruiting tools, especially for veteran Taliban fighters reluctant to turn their swords into ploughshares, claimed US Military Academy terrorism expert Amira Jadoon and George Washington University research fellow Andrew Mines in the Conversation.

American generals are now suggesting they could potentially work with the Taliban to destroy ISIS K, Politico reported.

And so goes the story of Afghanistan.

WANT TO KNOW

EUROPEAN UNION

Where the Chips May Fall

The European Commission announced the creation of a “European Chips Act” to increase the bloc’s design and production of microchips amid a global shortage, Politico reported Wednesday.

Under the plan, the European Union aims to boost its share of the global chips market to 20 percent by 2030 to reduce the bloc’s reliance on Asian semiconductor producers.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasized that the act is not just about the EU’s competitiveness, but also “a matter of tech sovereignty.”

EU nations are currently compiling an investment plan under its Important Projects of Common European Interest program, and the Commission is working with firms to create an industrial alliance.

The announcement comes as non-EU countries are investing heavily in the production of chips. For example, the United States is close to finalizing a $52 billion subsidy package for its chipmakers, according to the Financial Times.

However, business leaders noted that the EU must offer at least $23 billion in subsidies if it wants to “move the needle” on the bloc’s computer chipmaking.

On the other hand, analysts disagreed that amount would do much to ameliorate the shortage and warned that tit-for-tat government subsidies could turn into an “arms race.”

CHINA

Demoralizing Verdict

A Chinese court dismissed a landmark sexual harassment case against one of the country’s most prominent TV hosts, dealing a blow to China’s #MeToo movement, the BBC reported Wednesday.

The court ruled that the plaintiff had insufficient evidence that Zhu Jun, a well-known host at state broadcaster CCTV, had sexually harassed her.

The case began in 2018 when plaintiff Zhou Xiaoxuan claimed in an online essay that Zhu had forcibly groped and kissed her while she was his intern four years before. The piece helped spark China’s #MeToo movement, prompting many others to come forward with their own experiences of sexual harassment.

Zhou later launched legal action against the TV host, who has denied the allegations. Zhu then launched a countersuit against her for damaging his reputation and mental well-being.

The plaintiff said she would appeal the dismissal.

The decision marks a somber moment for victims of sexual harassment and the issue of women’s rights in China. In January, China approved a new civil code that clarifies what amounts to sexual harassment.

Even so, analyst Darius Longarino said Chinese courts rarely grant hearings of such cases and that survivors face a tough battle if they can’t provide “hard” evidence such as video recordings of the incident.

HAITI

The Blame Game

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry replaced Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude on Tuesday, just hours after he’d sought to charge Henry in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, NPR reported.

In seeking charges against the prime minister, the erstwhile prosecutor argued there was enough evidence for an indictment, noting that the prime minister had made two phone calls hours after the assassination to former Justice Ministry official Joseph Felix Badio, a key suspect in the case.

The prime minister’s office ordered Claude’s dismissal over “serious administrative faults,” but there is some question whether he was officially removed before he made the request to the judge, according to the Associated Press.

Analysts suggested that the former prosecutor’s accusations are part of a broader political struggle between Henry’s supporters and backers of the late president. They noted that Claude’s dismissal will not stop a judge from acting against Henry. The new Port-au-Prince prosecutor is Frantz Louis Juste, a prosecutor who oversaw a case involving a fire that killed children at an orphanage near Haiti’s capital city last year.

Even if a judge takes action, Haitian law only allows the president to authorize the arrest of a prime minister – which is currently impossible, since no new president has assumed office since Moïse’s assassination on July 7.

Meanwhile, Henry – who has denied any involvement in the July plot – has signed an agreement with 69 Haitian political and civic groups that put him in control of Haiti until elections in late 2022, the Wall Street Journal wrote.

The accusations mark another strange turn in a complicated murder investigation that has implicated around 40 people, including Colombian mercenaries, Haitian politicians, US business owners and members of Moïse’s security team.

The case has been plagued with issues and threats since the beginning: The first judge who was overseeing the probe resigned after claiming that he didn’t have enough support to continue the investigation.

He quit less than two days after one of his assistants was murdered.

DISCOVERIES

Looking For Fresh Air

Earth’s atmosphere is about to get cleaner.

The world’s largest facility to capture carbon dioxide and turn it into rock began operating last week in Iceland, Reuters reported.

The Swiss startup Climeworks AG, in cooperation with Icelandic carbon storage firm Carbfix, has developed an industrial facility that can suck more than 4,400 tons of CO2 from the air per year.

The Orca – which is named for the Icelandic word for “energy” – is made up of eight large containers that use high-tech filters and fans to extract the greenhouse gas. The gas is then mixed with water and placed deep underground where it slowly becomes rock.

To maximize its impact, it is powered by renewable energy taken from a nearby geothermal power plant.

The Orca is just one out of 15 similar plants that capture more than 9,900 tons of CO2 per year. Scientists said that technologies such as direct air capture are vital in limiting the effects of global warming, such as heatwaves, wildfires and rising sea levels.

However, such technology doesn’t come cheap, and the currently operating plants only capture a fraction of the global CO2 emissions – which last year totaled nearly 35 billion tons, according to the International Energy Agency.

Climeworks hopes that costs will become lower as more companies and consumers try to reduce their carbon footprint.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 226,415,584

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,660,278

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 5,781,402,095

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 41,536,615 (+0.41%)
  2. India: 33,347,325 (+0.09%)
  3. Brazil: 21,034,610 (+0.07%)
  4. UK: 7,346,852 (+0.41%)
  5. Russia: 7,091,368 (+0.26%)
  6. France: 7,007,819 (+0.01%)
  7. Turkey: 6,738,860 (+0.42%)
  8. Iran: 5,360,387 (+0.37%)
  9. Argentina: 5,232,358 (+0.05%)
  10. Colombia: 4,934,568 (+0.03%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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