People demonstrate in defense of media freedom in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In mid-August, Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, or PiS, introduced a bill that would ban non-European ownership of Polish media properties. Detractors saw a blatant attack on TVN, the biggest independent television news source in the country and frequent PiS critic, which is owned by U.S. media conglomerate Discovery. Despite the opposition, PiS pushed the bill through the lower chamber of parliament with the help of some dubious procedural maneuvers and the votes of several MPs from an allied party, sparking widespread—and at times colorful—accusations of political corruption. The resulting political maelstrom leaves Poland with its freedom of […]

A woman holds a poster demanding the evacuation of people out of Afghanistan during a demonstration in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 17, 2021 (photo by Markus Schreiber).

The abrupt collapse of Afghanistan’s NATO-backed government in the wake of the departure of U.S. forces cast a sharp, critical spotlight on U.S. President Joe Biden. But the American president was not the only Western leader who came under enormous political pressure as the scenes of mayhem outside of Kabul’s international airport played out live on television around the world. The fall of Kabul has already riled the waters across Europe, where multiple governments are struggling to defend themselves against waves of criticism. In the Netherlands, currently still governed by a caretaker coalition months after the most recent elections, there […]

Sunbathers on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, July 9, 2021 (AP photo by Joan Mateu).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.  The island of Malta is known as a tourist destination for its scenic views. Perhaps less recognized is that it now has the world’s highest coronavirus vaccination rate, with 80 percent of the total population, including children, and 90 percent of people over the age of 12 fully vaccinated. It […]

An iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger (AP file photo by Jenny Kane).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Kate Jones is filling in this week for Emily Taylor. Efforts to regulate social media platforms are gathering pace in the United Kingdom. In May, the British government published its draft Online Safety Bill, which will be studied by a Joint Committee of Members of Parliament and the House of Lords chaired by MP Damian Collins this autumn. Collins led parliament’s exposé of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal and is a leading U.K. voice on disinformation and digital regulation. In parallel, the House of Commons’ Sub-Committee on Online Harms and Disinformation will also lead an enquiry […]

Older residents watching children play with bubbles at a residential compound in Beijing, Oct. 14, 2016 (AP file photo by Andy Wong).

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the world’s population, two of the world’s most powerful countries, China and the United States, have released troubling new census data. Both countries, it seems, are facing national demographic declines that may soon threaten their economic prosperity—though the former will be much more affected than the latter. In April, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the slowest population growth—7.7 percent in a decade—since the 1930s. The nosedive was due to a combination of a declining birth rate, decreased immigration flows and significant mortality amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the […]

Farmers in a drought-stricken field in Changfeng county, Hefei city, Anhui province, China, Oct. 20, 2019 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

This month’s harrowing report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has particularly disquieting implications for the world’s poor. Global warming and associated biodiversity loss will hinder progress toward each of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, a set of 17 internationally agreed objectives for advancing global prosperity, social welfare and environmental conservation through the end of the decade. COVID-19 has already dealt these aspirations a massive blow. But these pandemic setbacks pale in comparison to the long-term challenges that climate change presents for meeting and exceeding basic human needs, and placing developing countries on the path toward sustained—and sustainable—growth. United Nations member states unanimously endorsed the […]

The first plane with returnees from Afghanistan arrives in Spain with 53 people, five of them Spanish and the rest Afghans who have collaborated with the Spanish government and their families, Madrid, Spain, Aug. 19, 2021 (Photo by Juan Carlos Rojas for A

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. International attention has remained focused on Afghanistan this week, where the U.S. along with its NATO allies continued efforts to evacuate their nationals as well as Afghan civilians at risk of retribution from the Taliban. Although the situation remains chaotic and volatile, it has so far not deteriorated in the week since the Taliban […]

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The swift return of the Taliban to power has sparked panic in Afghanistan and sent shockwaves around the world. With U.S. military forces taking control of the Kabul airport and the evacuation of foreign nationals and thousands of Afghans proceeding, important questions loom about the future of Afghanistan and the impact of the convulsive events that unfolded over the past few days. Here are some of the major unknowns going forward, the answers to which, as they emerge over the coming weeks, months and years, will determine how exactly the radical group’s return will reshape the country, the region and, […]

Life jackets at the waste disposal site near Molivos, Lesbos, Greece, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Grigoris Siamidis).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Six years after the peak of the 2015 migrant crisis, which upended European politics, the European Union is faced with the prospect of another wave of refugees and asylum-seekers, as the continent braces itself for the fallout from the rapid departure of the U.S. and its NATO allies from […]

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi after addressing a media conference at an EU summit in Porto, Portugal, May 8, 2021 (pool photo by Francisco Seco via AP).

During his first six months in office, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has notched several key accomplishments. In June, he secured the European Union’s approval for Italy’s COVID-19 rescue package, totaling 191.5 billion euros, or roughly $224 billion, giving it the largest share of the bloc’s 750-billion-euro pandemic recovery fund. Then, in late July, Draghi’s Cabinet signed off on a contentious overhaul of the Italian justice system, a goal that had eluded many previous governments.  His success might come as a surprise given Italy’s reputation for political tumult. The previous coalition had collapsed at the beginning of the year after months […]

A German military aircraft prepares to land at the German camp in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2008 (AP photo by Anja Niedringhaus).

The collapse of the Afghan government over the weekend, culminating in the Taliban’s entry into Kabul and declaration of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, stunned most observers with its rapidity, even if the outcome itself was not a surprise. Ever since it became clear that U.S. President Joe Biden would withdraw U.S. military forces from the country whether or not a peace deal and power-sharing agreement had been reached, the prospect of a Taliban military victory seemed likely, if not necessarily guaranteed. The speed with which the Afghan security forces unraveled, provincial leaders swapped allegiance and the national government dissolved, […]

Afghan security personnel work at the site of a powerful explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul)

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. This week, the Taliban continued its offensive, which has now overrun 11 provincial capitals in Afghanistan, including in parts of the country outside of the group’s historical base of support. Today’s Weekly Wrap-Up recaps and distills several WPR articles from the past week, including three that take a closer look at the roots of the Afghan army’s […]

A man watches as wildfires approach Kochyli beach near Limni village on the island of Evia, about 100 miles north of Athens, Greece, Aug. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Thodoris Nikolaou).

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest, highly anticipated report on the state of Earth’s climate. The report, which updates the previous effort from eight years ago, represents the collective assessment by several hundred scientists from around the world of efforts to keep global temperatures from rising to levels that would trigger catastrophic changes in Earth’s environment and weather conditions. Spoiler alert: It’s bad. The report rules out any possibility of preventing the 1.5-degrees-Celsius rise in global temperatures that was the most ambitious target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. That threshold will be reached by […]

A woman cools-off in a fountain in downtown Milan, Italy, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Antonio Calanni).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.  PALERMO, Italy—The temperature reached a record-high 48 degrees C, or 116 degrees F, yesterday in Sicily, where the sunny skies have at times been obscured by haze from nearby wildfires from which hundreds of people have been rescued in the past two weeks. This week, another African anticyclone has arrived, trapping hot air […]

Uzbek armored personnel carriers participate in joint military drills between Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at Harb-Maidon firing range, about 20 kilometers north of Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Didor Sadulloev).

The ongoing withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is transforming diplomatic and security dynamics in Central Asia, creating opportunities for Russia and China to enhance their engagement with increasingly anxious governments in the region. The resurgence of the Taliban that began in the spring—and their takeover of large swaths of Afghanistan’s territory, including at least eight regional capitals so far—is unnerving senior officials in Central Asia.  Russia, meanwhile, is eager to take advantage of the U.S. withdrawal by shoring up its influence in Central Asia, enhancing its security footprint and preventing Washington from resuming military operations in any Central Asian […]

A man distributes free food outside an eatery in Ahmedabad, India, Jan. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Ajit Solanki).

2020 will forever be known as the plague year, but it was also a year of increased hunger around the world. That’s according to a multiagency United Nations report released last month, which found that the number of undernourished people in the world rose by 118 million, to a total of about 768 million—nearly one-tenth of the global population. Much of that increase was due to COVID-19, a crisis that “continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems,” the report warned. Today on Trend Lines, Julie Howard, a senior adviser to the global food security program at the Center for […]

Candles and a ribbon with the inscription “Roma lives matters” on the sidewalk where Stanislav Tomas died, in Teplice, Czech Republic, June 24, 2021 (CTK photo by Ondrej Hajek via AP).

A man from a long-marginalized minority group dies after a police officer kneels on his neck, triggering protests and bringing issues of police brutality and systemic injustice into focus.  The place is not Minneapolis, but the small city of Teplice in the Czech Republic. The date is not May 25, 2020, but June 19, 2021. And the victim is not George Floyd, but Stanislav Tomas—a 46-year-old Roma man. The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe, numbering 12 million to 15 million, according to Julija Sardelic, a political scientist at Victoria University of Wellington and author of “The Fringes […]

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