I'm taking you with me on holiday (vacation?) this week. I arrived in London bleary-eyed on Tuesday morning after a brief layover in Iceland. London greets me like an old friend, the kind you can have a pint with and pick up where you left off, even if it's been years since you've seen one another. It's the kind of place that never fundamentally changes, even when people complain about gentrification and overdevelopment and Brexit. It still feels like a warm blanket (and god, it's warm here right now thanks to the drought and heat wave spreading across the British Isles) that you can pull on when you're feeling lost about the state of the world. Despite having moved away in 2013, the city is grounding and centering to me the way any home would be. And the energy of England exists as a place in my psyche that I can always turn to in times of crisis.
I didn't stay long in London on this trip, though. I'm currently in Bristol, a city I've passed through on many occasions but never spent long periods in. I really, really like it so far. When I was younger, I instantly fantasized about living in every new location I met. My love affairs with places were numerous. That stopped three years ago after I made a home in Baltimore. But Bristol is the kind of place you can't help but see yourself in. I look around and think, I could do this. In another life, in another reality, in a world where I cared a little less about work and more about whether the world around me felt soft and pleasant. I could do this.
Sometimes that is exactly what you need to return to yourself, move outside of your existence, and imagine what else is possible.
I'm still taking time to read the news from the road, so skip down to see what I've been reading and writing.
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What I'm writing:
• A pop singer’s escape from Afghanistan to Austin. One year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, I profiled refugees who resettled in the U.S. and asked them about the challenges they face. They are often entirely reliant on the kindness of volunteers. This is Wahab Rasooli's story (from the video above), and it's free to read.
• If you haven't read my longer story about Afghan refugees resettling in Austin, Texas, you can read that for free here.
What I'm reading:
• Russian security services raided the home of Marina Ovsyannikova, the former editor of Russia’s state-run Channel One TV network who protested the Ukraine war live on air, according to the Russian organization OVD-Info.
• Satellite imagery showed that the Ukrainian strike on a Russian airbase in Crimea did far more damage than initially reported, the New York Times reports.
• Estonia will no longer issue tourist, business, or student visas to Russians, except to students completing a degree, the Washington Post reports.
• NATO concerns continue to mount over the security of a sliver of Polish territory between Belarus and Kaliningrad, the Wall Street Journal reports.
• Poland’s de-facto leader Jarosław Kaczyński vowed his government would take no further steps to meet the European Commission’s rule of law demands to unlock €35 billion in grants and loans from the EU pandemic relief program, Politico Europe reports.
• Hungary agreed to pay the debts Russia’s oil pipeline operator owes to Ukraine, enabling oil flows to continue to central Europe, the New York Times reports. According to energy administrators in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, Russian oil deliveries from the pipeline stopped last week over “technical” banking issues connected to the sanctions imposed on Russia.
• Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Finland and Sweden haven't delivered on the commitments given in a NATO deal after Sweden announced that it would deport only one wanted person to Turkey, Balkan Insight reports.
• Israeli and Palestinian militants in Gaza agreed to a cease-fire, ending a three-day conflict that killed more than 44 Palestinians and injured many Israelis, the New York Times reports.
• Colombia's Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo revealed a comprehensive plan by the country’s new leftist government to raise taxes on the wealthy and significant commodity exports to finance rural development and social programs for the poor, the Wall Street Journal reports.
• China’s 17+1 format, which it used to hold regular negotiations with the EU’s Central and Eastern European members, is falling apart, according to Politico Europe. After Lithuania’s withdrawal last year, the group became 16+1. This week, Estonia and Latvia announced they were also leaving.
• Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that China’s military drills, which were in protest against U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, are part of a plan to prepare for an invasion of the self-ruled island, Reuters reports.
• Dozens of people have died, and hundreds were arrested in anti-government protests in Sierra Leone, the Guardian reports.
• Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida removed several ministers linked to the controversial Unification Church and announced a new government team with a Cabinet reshuffle, Reuters reports.
• Shahram Poursafi, an Iranian national, plotted to assassinate at least two former Trump administration officials – including National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – in response to the 2020 killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the Wall Street Journal reports.
• The United States and Iran are weighing a new, final nuclear deal offer from the European Union, the New York Times reports.
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