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Data suggests Russia’s COVID-19 death toll is far higher than reported

Macky_CH/iStock(ST. PETERSBURG, Russia) -- At the start of June, St. Petersburg’s local administration stopped publishing information about how many COVID-19 patients had been hospitalized in the Russian city. The sudden disappearance of the previously daily reported figures happened to coincide with the opening of one the city‘s most prestigious annual events, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The forum, a gathering of Russia’s elite and a showcase for its biggest companies, has become a flagship event under President Vladimir Putin. Over five days, 13,000 people were expected to attend the event, where Putin told the audience that life was "gradually returning to its normal routine” after the pandemic. But the forum was opening just as St. Petersburg was seeing a   ... Read More

1st Afghan interpreters to arrive in US as Blinken fails to reach deal in Kuwait

Flickr/U.S. Department of State (WASHINGTON) -- The first Afghans who worked for the U.S. military and diplomatic missions are being evacuated and will arrive in the U.S. late Thursday night or early Friday morning, according to a source familiar with the plans. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that they would arrive "very, very soon," speaking during a press conference in Kuwait. He confirmed that the U.S. and Kuwait have had diplomatic discussions about hosting another group of Afghans, including during the day's meetings, but he did not announce an agreement to do so. These arrivals are the first after President Joe Biden's pledged to support Afghan interpreters, guides and other contractors who served alongside U.S. troops and diplomats --   ... Read More

Blinken warns of ‘deeply, deeply troubling’ reports of atrocities in Afghanistan amid US withdrawal

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged Wednesday during a joint press conference in India that the situation in Afghanistan is headed in the wrong direction -- noting the Taliban is "making advances" and calling reports that the group has committed atrocities "deeply, deeply troubling." They "certainly do not speak well of the Taliban's intentions for the country as a whole," he told ABC News. Blinken made a quick visit to New Delhi, where he and senior Indian officials focused on deepening U.S.-Indian cooperation on key challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, China, and climate change. But with the security situation in nearby Afghanistan deteriorating quickly, their meetings also focused on the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the Taliban's   ... Read More

Tokyo reports record number of COVID-19 cases as Olympic games continue

hocus-focus/iStock(TOKYO) -- Tokyo reported a record number of 3,177 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday as the Olympic games remain underway. It's the second day in a row in which Japan's capital reported record-breaking cases. On Tuesday, the city reported 2,484 COVID-19 cases, which exceeded its previous record of 2,520 cases set on Jan. 7, 2021, according to Kyodo News. Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Disease (NIID) has estimated that the highly contagious delta variant is responsible for nearly 80% of infections in Tokyo. Patients who make up the new cases mainly involve people ranging in age from their 20s to 40s, according to the NIID, which reported an increase in hospitalization in people under the age of 50. As of Wednesday,   ... Read More

Iceland hotel seeks photographer to capture northern lights

ansonmiao/iStock(HELLA, Iceland) -- Hotel Rangá in Iceland is looking for a photographer to chase the northern lights, also known as aurora borealis. This dream job consists of three weeks chasing the lights from September to October. The hotel is located in the Icelandic countryside, where temperatures typically average 40 to 50 degrees during the fall season. The photographer chosen for the job will be required to provide high-quality photos and videos in order to receive travel to and from Iceland. The requirements also include giving the hotel “unlimited license to mutually agreed-upon photographs and videos.” "In exchange for providing content of the northern lights at the hotel, this seasonal employee will receive free room and board along with access to   ... Read More

Experts warn of prolonged COVID-19 pandemic due to vaccine inequality

iStock/Ridofranz(LONDON, HONG KONG and JAKARTA) -- A perfect storm with the coronavirus appears to be brewing across the Asia-Pacific region: surges in the highly contagious delta variant combined with slow vaccination uptake. Tight vaccine supplies are a major factor and experts caution that unless most of the global population is vaccinated, and richer countries share more of their vaccines, the world will face a far longer bout with the coronavirus than anticipated. The issue extends from countries at the center of the current surge, like Indonesia, to those that fared relatively well with the disease early on in the pandemic, like South Korea. Even as countries like the U.S. and U.K. face rising cases despite their largely vaccinated populations, hospitalizations   ... Read More

U.K. to allow fully vaccinated travelers from U.S, E.U., without quarantine

lightkey/iStock(LONDON) -- Beginning next month, the United Kingdom will allow fully vaccinated U.S. citizens to enter the country without quarantining. In a statement, the U.K. Department for Transport says the policy will apply to travelers from countries on their "green" and "amber" lists, but not for those from several dozen nations on the "red list." It will go into effect on August 2, and will cover vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the Swiss vaccination program. Those arriving in the U.K. will still be required to complete a pre-departure test before landing in England, as well as a PCR test for COVID-19 within their first two days there. Separate   ... Read More

At least one killed, over a dozen injured in explosion at German chemicals site

fstop123/iStock(BERLIN) -- At least one person was killed and more than a dozen others were injured in an explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies in western Germany on Tuesday morning, officials said. The powerful blast at Chempark's site in Leverkusen reverberated through the surrounding city and sent dark plumes of smoke billowing into the air just before 10 a.m. local time. Germany's Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance classified the explosion as "an extreme threat" and urged residents in the area to stay inside and keep all windows and doors closed. Currenta, the operator of Chempark, which is home to dozens of chemical companies including Bayer, confirmed the death of one employee and said four others   ... Read More

Blinken makes first trip to India amid heightened tensions with China

Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images(NEW DELHI) -- If this week is the Biden administration’s full-court press in Asia, then Secretary of State Antony Blinken is playing point guard with his first trip to India. President Joe Biden has made it a top foreign policy priority to rally against the rising authoritarianism of China, Russia. That makes Blinken’s visit to the world’s largest democracy critical, amid global challenges like COVID-19 and climate change that Blinken has stressed require global cooperation and as ties with China harden. That relationship took another nasty turn this past weekend. Beijing issued a strident warning to Washington as Blinken’s deputy Wendy Sherman met her Chinese counterparts in China on Sunday – again accusing the U.S. of bullying   ... Read More

Socialist school teacher to be sworn in as Peru’s president on 200th independence anniversary

Kris Hoobaer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A rural schoolteacher and son of illiterate campesinos from the Andean highlands is poised to be sworn in as Peru's president Wednesday, the same day the country will commemorate its 200th anniversary of independence from Spain. His inauguration comes after a fiercely contested presidential runoff last month. The moonshot candidacy and ultimate victory of leftist Pedro Castillo, whose ascension from political oblivion as a fiery union leader, was announced last week after one of the most protracted political battles in Peru's history. His far-right challenger, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, refused to concede for over a month, alleging widespread voter fraud with sparse evidence. Castillo's win has rattled Peru's coastal elites and   ... Read More

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