Friday, 13 August 2021: Taliban take Kandahar, Herat in major Afghanistan offensive, Violent protests against Syrians in Turkey, EU and US criticise Poland’s media bill


Taliban take Kandahar, Herat in major Afghanistan offensive: Government forces have now lost control of most of northern and western Afghanistan. The Taliban captured the cities of Kandahar and Herat, the country’s second- and third-largest after Kabul, and a strategic provincial capital on Thursday. The capture of the city of Ghazni cuts off a crucial highway linking the Afghan capital Kabul with the country’s southern provinces, as part of an insurgent push some 20 years after US and NATO troops invaded and ousted the Taliban government. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on the Afghan government to engage with the Taliban to reach an inclusive settlement. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Thursday that Germany will not support Afghanistan financially if the Taliban gain complete power over the country and implements Sharia law. Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer ruled out another international troop deployment. The Foreign Office urged all Germans in Afghanistan to leave the country quickly. US President Joe Biden is deploying about 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to help secure the withdrawal of most staff from the US embassy in Kabul. One army and two marine battalions will head to the Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul within the next 24 to 48 hours. The British government said Thursday it will deploy troops to Afghanistan to provide support for British nationals leaving the country. France and Denmark will suspend deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers to Afghanistan, following similar announcements by Germany and the Netherlands.,,,,,,,,

Dozens of people rescued from English Channel: A group of around 40 migrants was rescued on Thursday after the dinghy in which they set out to reach Britain began to sink, French authorities and one of the fishermen who saved them said. A joint French-Belgian search and rescue effort began after a cargo ship reported that the boat was in difficulty off the coast of Dunkirk, with some people in the water. One passenger was found unconscious by the cargo ship’s lifeboat after reportedly suffering a cardio-respiratory arrest. He was airlifted to hospital in Calais where he later passed away. There has been a flurry of crossing attempts recently as people smugglers take advantage of good weather. A day earlier, French authorities intercepted more than 100 people trying to cross the Channel.,,

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Violent protests against Syrians in Turkey: Anti-migrant protesters attacked houses, shops and cars owned by Syrians in Turkey’s capital Ankara after tensions flared over the alleged killing of a local teenager. The violence erupted on Wednesday night following reports that a Syrian refugee had stabbed two Turkish men in a fight. Hundreds of locals descended on an area of Ankara where a community of Syria migrants and refugees live. Images on social media showed dozens of shouting men breaking through police cordons and then attacking cars and shops believed to be owned by Syrian families. They smashed windows with stones and crowbars and tore down the metal grill of one store before breaking in and ransacking its shelves. Anti-migrant sentiment in Turkey has been rising in recent years. Tensions have flared recently with the arrival of thousands of Afghans fleeing a rapidly escalating war in their country.,

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The challenge is now to make sure at the Glasgow summit that all major economies take ambitious enough, measurable and verifiable 2030 targets and climate neutrality commitments.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called on the world’s biggest economies to set tougher climate targets.


Rain helps firefighters in Greece: The fight against numerous forest fires continues in the Mediterranean region. Italian firefighters on Thursday reported hundreds of interventions as fire gripped the southernmost part of the mainland and two largest islands. Searing heat is expected to continue after temperatures soared to a suspected new European record of 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 degrees Fahrenheit). After ten days of battling blazes across the country, firefighters in Greece managed to contain some of them on Thursday, although a thunderstorm was a mixed blessing: the rain doused some of the smoldering fires but lightning sparked new ones. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday that radical changes were required for the prevention of and responding to forest fires. “The climate crisis is here,” Mitsotakis said at a news conference, adding that everything needed to change, citing energy policy, state services, and the way people treat the environment. In Turkey’s Black Sea region, eleven people were killed in flash floods on Thursday that sent water and debris cascading through through streets, damaged bridges and ripped up roads.,,,

EU and US criticise Poland’s media bill: Washington has said it is deeply troubled by a controversial media bill in Poland that with its chaotic passage through parliament has raised questions over the ruling Law and Justice party’s (PiS) long-term prospects. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the bill, widely seen as targeting Poland’s largest independent TV station, TVN, whose news channel TVN24 has often been critical of the populist government, “threatens media freedoms“. European Parliament President David Sassoli called the bill “very worrying” and said if it comes into force, “it will seriously threaten independent television“ in Poland. The EU Commission said it will follow the media issue very closely while the head of the EU’s top watchdog for democratic values, Vera Jourova, tweeted that the foreign ownership bill sends a negative signal. “Media pluralism and diversity of opinions are what strong democracies welcome, not fight against,” Jourova wrote.,

French health workers bid to avoid compulsory Covid vaccination: As France entered a variant-fuelled fourth wave of coronavirus, the government controversially intervened to increase the take-up of the COVID-19 jabs. The carrot for the French to get the shot was a move to make access to restaurants, cafes and bars harder for those unvaccinated — roughly 30% of the adult population, with 69% fully inoculated as of 10 August. The stick was to tell healthcare workers they had to get the vaccine by 15 September. Those who refuse face a suspension of their contract without pay. Both moves have sparked mass protests over recent weeks, with slogans such as „My body, my choice!“, „The right to say no!“ and „No to compulsory vaccination!“ often heard.

German conservatives deploy star player Merkel as lead candidate Laschet lags: Angela Merkel will step in to help fellow conservative Armin Laschet in his bid to succeed her as German chancellor as he sinks in the polls, according to media reports. Merkel will join Laschet at a campaign event in Berlin on 21 August — the day their CDU party and its Bavarian CSU sister party are planning to kick off the final phase of their election campaign, according to a report by Berlin’s „Tagesspiegel“ newspaper Thursday. Merkel, who is still extremely popular among voters, has so far played almost no role in the campaign. A new poll showed that the Social Democrats and the Greens are close to catching up with the CDU/CSU bloc, which Laschet will represent in the election, in terms of voter support.

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ECB’s new inflation plan fails to win over German analysts: The European Central Bank’s new strategy to raise inflation in the euro zone has failed to convince financial analysts in the bloc’s biggest economy, Germany, a poll showed on Thursday. The ZEW survey showed that a slight majority of 147 analysts at German banks, insurance companies and large industrial groups was unconvinced. Around 46% of participants said the ECB’s new strategy had no impact on their inflation expectations and 5% even cut their forecasts after the announcement.


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