Tuesday's world stories

Oct 12, 2021 - World

European Commission pledges around $1 billion in Afghan aid

G20 meeting on Afghanistan via video conference. Photo: Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

During a G20 meeting on Afghanistan on Tuesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a roughly $1 billion aid package to Afghanistan and neighboring countries taking in refugees.

Why it matters: The aid is intended to help avert a looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan but does not indicate a legitimization of the Taliban, the European Commission underscored in the press release.

Film looks at acclaimed Cuban writer José Lezama Lima

José Lezama Lima. Photo: Ivan Canas via Voces/Latino Public Broadcasting

The life of influential Cuban poet and writer José Lezama Lima, who was heralded by the Cuban Revolution only to be silenced later for homoerotic writings and critiques of the regime, is celebrated in a film premiering this Friday.

The big picture: The VOCES/PBS documentary “Letters to Eloisa” is told through the haunting letters written by Lezama to his sister in exile, narrated by Alfred Molina.

Oct 12, 2021 - World

Hispanic Heritage: Venezuela's musical legacy

Young Venezuelan musicians of El Sistema's Simon Bolivar Youth Symphonic Orchestra play during a free concert at Teresa Carreño theater in Caracas, Feb. 16, 2012. Photo: Leo Ramirez/AFP via Getty Images

Music is considered an escape for many, but "El Sistema" — the popular name for the National Symphony of Youth and Children's Orchestras — offers any child in Venezuela the possibility of a career in music.

Why it matters: El Sistema is a free classical music education program started in the 1970s to ensure that music would no longer be "a monopoly of elites" but a "right for all the people."

Oct 12, 2021 - World

Companies still optimistic after China's youth gaming restrictions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's new regulation limiting children under 18 to just three hours of online games per week may be devastating for dedicated gamers, but gaming companies — and the advertisers that rely on them — will likely be fine if they can adapt.

Why it matters: China comprises about a quarter of the world's gaming market; the country's mobile gaming industry alone raked in more than $29 billion in 2020.

Oct 12, 2021 - World

Interview: Jacob Helberg on U.S. tech companies and China

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo courtesy the Center for Strategic and International Studies

Whether it's Google's Project Dragonfly, Zoom's termination of U.S.-based Tiananmen memorials, or LinkedIn's growing censorship, former Google global news policy lead Jacob Helberg thinks there is a fatal flaw underlying attempts by U.S. companies to make it in China's market.

Key takeaway: “I don’t believe in one company, two systems, I don’t believe it's tenable," Helberg told Axios, riffing on Beijing's formulation of "one country, two systems" as a now-defunct model for integrating a liberal Hong Kong into an authoritarian China.

Oct 12, 2021 - World

Book: The hidden U.S.-China technology war

Image credit: Simon & Schuster, 2021.

China, along with Russia, North Korea and Iran, is using commercial and dual-use technology to challenge democratic security and sovereignty, former Google global news policy lead Jacob Helberg argues in a new book.

Why it matters: It's a new type of hidden conflict that Helberg, who helped lead Google's internal efforts to fight global disinformation and state-backed foreign interference between 2016 and 2020, calls a "gray war."

Oct 12, 2021 - World

LinkedIn's unanswered questions about China censorship

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After blocking the profiles of several U.S. journalists, including mine, from its China-based website, LinkedIn has repeatedly avoided answering key questions about the censorship.

Why it matters: LinkedIn has promised transparency to its users regarding its China operations.

Oct 12, 2021 - World

U.K. COVID lockdown delay cost thousands of lives, report finds

Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

The delay of the U.K.'s first coronavirus lockdown and the government's failure to prioritize social care is one of the country's worst "public health failures" and led to thousands of avoidable deaths, British lawmakers said in a report Tuesday.

Driving the news: The inquiry was aimed at discovering why the U.K. "did significantly worse in terms of covid deaths than many countries" in the early days of the pandemic, according to the the report, compiled by the Health and Social Care Committee.

China's coal convulsion threatens climate goals

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's energy crisis is a wild card in the fraught efforts to secure a meaningful deal at the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

Driving the news: Power shortages and the push for more coal supplies are in tension with calls for Chinese officials to accelerate their climate efforts.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Oct 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Another fine mess for the IMF

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The messiness of international politics is on full display this week in Washington, D.C., at the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. That's inevitably going to make it harder for the storied institutions to help the world's poorest countries recover from the pandemic.

Why it matters: The IMF's leadership has never been weaker — managing director Kristalina Georgieva is weakened by scandal, while her #2, Trump nominee Geoffrey Okamoto, is generally regarded as inexperienced and otiose.

Evergrande isn't alone

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

China Evergrande’s debt problems aren’t an anomaly. Signs of stress are piling up in China’s real estate development sector, and more companies are signaling they may not be able to pay back their debt.

Driving the news: Fellow builder Modern Land asked its bondholders if it could delay a bond payment by three months, and Sinic said it will likely default next week, Reuters reports.

Oct 12, 2021 - Technology

Power shifts from Big Tech as digital crackdowns intensify

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Data: Freedom House "Freedom of the Net 2021" report; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Internet freedom around the world has dropped for the 11th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House, a non-profit focused on expanding freedom and democracy.

Why it matters: The findings suggest that a broader shift in power from tech companies to nation states over the past year has resulted in "a record-breaking crackdown" on freedom of expression online.

Updated Oct 12, 2021 - World

Kim Jong-un blames U.S. for tensions as Pyongyang showcases weaponry

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and military members stand next to what appears to be a hypersonic missile at the National Defense Development Exhibition "Self-Defense 2021," according to the Korean Central News Agency. Photo: KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared while attending a weapons exhibition that the country had "invincible" defense capabilities as he accused the U.S. of being the source of regional tensions, state media reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: Kim said in a speech at Monday's event that the country was strengthening its weapons arsenal but didn't want a war, per the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).