October 22, 2021

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FirstFT: US launches air strike in Kabul

Coronavirus pandemic updates

Good morning. This article is an on-site version of our FirstFT newsletter. Sign up to our Asia, Europe/Africa or Americas edition to get it sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. You can reach us at firstft@ft.com

The US launched a drone strike to protect the Kabul evacuation effort yesterday, as the Biden administration and its European allies promised to help people leave Afghanistan after Tuesday’s deadline for withdrawal.

The US military said it had carried out a “self-defence” air strike on a vehicle in the Afghan capital, which posed an “imminent Isis-K threat” to the international airport. Isis-K, the local branch of the Islamist terror group, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Thursday that killed more than 100 Afghans and 13 US troops.

“We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material,” said Captain Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman.

In the UK, some of the country’s last military personnel to leave Afghanistan arrived in Oxfordshire yesterday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the “colossal exertions” of Britain’s armed forces in rescuing British and Afghan citizens from Afghanistan. But anxious UK Afghans have raised doubts over Britain’s resettlement scheme.

The human toll of the war in Afghanistan, Estimated number of people killed

More on Afghanistan:

‘Herat is now like a ghost city’: how Afghanistan’s third-largest city is adapting to Taliban rule.

Isis-K: the extremist group that claimed responsibility for Kabul airport attack are rivals of Afghanistan’s new rulers.

US’ Indo-Pacific allies: regional partners in Asia have rejected claims that chaotic withdrawal from Kabul has shaken defence ties.

Underestimating the enemy: why Biden’s Afghanistan exit went so badly wrong.

Follow the latest coverage of Afghanistan on FT.com.

Five more stories in the news

1. Huarong finally releases financial report Huarong, China’s biggest bad debt manager, has released a long-awaited financial report that outlines a record Rmb103bn ($16bn) loss last year, ending a five-month delay that sparked a debate over Beijing’s approach to corporate failure.

2. US hit by ‘life-threatening’ storm on Katrina anniversary Hurricane Ida slammed into the US Gulf Coast on Sunday afternoon as an “extremely dangerous” category 4 storm, prompting fears of widespread devastation in Louisiana and other states in the region.

Jones Park in Gulfport, Mississippi is flooded early Sunday © AP
Jones Park in Gulfport, Mississippi is flooded early Sunday © AP

3. IMF chief: emerging economies cannot afford ‘taper tantrum’ Emerging markets cannot “afford” a repeat of the 2013 “taper tantrum” market disruption that occurred when the US Federal Reserve signalled a sooner-than-expected withdrawal of stimulus, sparking a surge in global borrowing costs, Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s chief economist has warned.

4. Japan’s Paidy considers listing amid ‘buy now, pay later’ boom Paidy, the Japanese fintech “unicorn”, is considering becoming a publicly listed company on the back of rapid growth driven by the “buy now, pay later” trend in one of the world’s most cash-obsessed societies, according to its founder. 

5. Beijing court takes aim at ‘996’ overtime culture Beijing’s top court has said a “996” overtime policy, under which employees work 9am to 9pm, six days a week, is illegal, in the latest blow to China’s tech sector, which had until recently embraced the practice.

Coronavirus digest

Japan is investigating the deaths of two men in their 30s after they received Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines that were among supplies that were later suspended because of a risk of contamination.

Pfizer is hiring a new salesforce to promote its Covid-19 vaccine as it gears up to compete with rival pharma groups to offer annual booster shots in the US.

US intelligence agencies have failed to reach a conclusion on whether Covid-19 first spread to humans through animals or a lab accident.

Foreign businesses are threatening to leave Hong Kong over strict quarantine rules as a top official acknowledges companies are suffering.

Leading coffee roasters have been dealt a blow as a strict lockdown in Vietnam has led to higher bean prices on the back of worries about export supplies.

Read the latest on our coronavirus live blog.

The day ahead

Japan monthly retail sales numbers Ahead of the release of July’s retail sales today, a Reuters poll showed that the key measure of consumer spending was expected to post its fifth consecutive month of year-on-year gains. (Reuters)

Earnings Zoom, the San Francisco-based start-up that was the darling stock of lockdown, and the Bank of China are among the companies reporting earnings today.

Biden hosts Zelensky at White House Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet US President Joe Biden in Washington today after an invitation was extended earlier this summer. (AP)

FT Weekend’s live festival makes its in-person return on Saturday September 4 in the expansive grounds of Kenwood House in north London. For more inspiring conversations, in-depth storytelling, a bit of escapism and a lot of fun, don’t miss our new FT Weekend podcast, hosted by Lilah Raptopoulos.

What else we’re reading

Chinese tech titans’ mission to give away billions A sudden burst of benevolence has seen billions of dollars redirected from company coffers and personal bank accounts to state-linked causes as China’s executives try to appease President Xi Jinping. But the donation drive has been met with scepticism.

Long live the labour shortages The pandemic devastated rich countries’ economies. But there are signs that a productivity boom could be emerging from the wasteland, writes Martin Sandbu. Sign up here to receive Martin’s newsletter Free Lunch.

Singapore is on climate’s front lines Singapore is a city built in defiance of its climate. The country’s founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, believed that air conditioning made civilisation possible in the tropics. The way the island confronts climate change may offer a template for Asia’s expanding megacities.

Why are there so few female economists? It seems extraordinary that academic economics is inaccessible or unattractive to women. The lack of family-friendly career paths is part of the problem, writes Tim Harford.

Tim Harford: ‘Academic economics remains a largely male activity, and the more senior the job grade, the more male-dominated it is’
Tim Harford: ‘Academic economics remains a largely male activity, and the more senior the job grade, the more male-dominated it is’ © Anna Wray

The battle over the future of work is about autonomy The pandemic highlighted autonomy — or lack of it as many of our freedoms were curtailed. Yet for many white-collar workers it proved liberating to work more flexibly. While the debate around offices reopening pits the workplace against the home, the real issue is control, writes Emma Jacobs.

Sport

The college sports season kicked off over the weekend and for the first time stars such as football quarterback Bo Nix can earn money from sponsorship deals. But are these athletes ready for the pressures of social media-driven sports fame, asks Sara Germano. The Scoreboard newsletter has more on the business of sport. Sign up here.


The gulf between Sydney McLaughlin’s sporting achievement and her apparent professional dissatisfaction may be an indication that something is amiss in the industry for elite athlete advertising © Kirby Lee/USA TODAY/Reuters

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