France’s envoy to return to US after Macron, Biden talks

France will send its ambassador back to Washington next week after French President Emmanuel Macron and President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call Wednesday to meet next month over a submarine spat that sent relations between the longtime allies into a tailspin.

The two heads of state “have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence,” the Elysee and the White House said in a joint statement. Macron and Biden will meet at the end of October in Europe, the statement said.

In an unprecedented move, France recalled its ambassador after the U.S., Australia and Britain announced a new Indo-Pacific defense deal last week. As part of the pact, Australia will cancel a multibillion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire U.S. nuclear-powered vessels instead.

The French ambassador will “have intensive work with senior U.S. officials” after his return to the United States, the statement said.

5 Charming Vietnamese Villages to Visit in Vietnam

Most foreign tourists come to Vietnam to experience the bustling vibes of big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Danang. Nonetheless, a few might be in search of a tranquil experience in picturesque traditional villages of Vietnam. If you’re among the latter, this article is surely a must-read for you. These are selectively the 10 most charming Vietnamese villages, each of which reflects the unique charms of different regions of the country. All the information about locations and transportations will also be found below.

1. Duong Lam Ancient Village (Hanoi)

Location: Duong Lam commune, Son Tay Town (45 kilometers to the west of Hanoi)
Transportation: public bus, car, motorcycle

Duong Lam Village, one of the oldest villages in Vietnam, is renowned by its beautiful, traditional architecture with old alleyways, fishbone brick roads and awe-inspiring banyan trees. A visit to Duong Lam is often compared to a journey back in time, as most relics are well-preserved under the heritage conservation regulation of Vietnamese government. In no other place can you see a more vivid image of the traditional Red River Delta village than here in Duong Lam.

In addition to the picturesque beauty, Duong Lam is also known as home to many historical events. Two mighty kings of Vietnam, Phung Hung and Ngo Quyen were born here, leaving historical relics of the great defeats against Chinese invasion. Temples and tombs are erected in the village to honor their contribution to the country.

The best thing to do in Duong Lam is probably strolling around and taking photos. It’s strongly recommended that you arrive in Duong Lam during daytime, to make the most of the daylight for your photos. There are a number of communal houses, residential houses and a worship house to check out. Just take all the time you need for an escape from the bustling city vibe.

2. Bat Trang Village (Hanoi)

Location: Gia Lam District (13 kilometers from the center of Hanoi)
Transportation: public bus, car, motorcycle

With a history dating back 7 centuries, Bat Trang is famous for its traditional porcelain and pottery making. Located in the heart of the Red River Delta, Bat Trang had trades with Japan, China and even the Western countries.

Based on a rich clay area, Bat Trang possessed an advantage to produce high-quality ceramics, serving various demands including housewares, fine-art ceramics and worshipping items. The secret technique is conserved and passed through multiple generations, leaving Bat Trang one of the leading exporters of ceramics in Vietnam.

A visit to a handicraft village usually means a hands-on experience, and there’s no difference in Bat Trang. After strolling around the market and gazing at meticulous artworks, you will have a chance to try making them yourself. Pottery making is not as easy as it looks, we guarantee! Also, be careful, or else you will get addicted and spend a whole day just to play with pots and clays, like many other tourists.

Pedaling through Different Parts of Hanoi
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3. Pom Coong Village (Mai Chau)

Location: Mai Chau Town, Hoa Binh Province (145 kilometers from Hanoi) Transportation: public bus, car, motorcycle

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in an indigenous culture, Pom Coong is a destination you should not miss. “Pom Coong” in Thai language means “hill”. Pom Coong Village is a hilly village mostly inhabited by the Thai ethnic people, widely known for their sophisticated embroidery techniques.

Home to nearly 70 households with more than 300 people, Pom Coong is a lively village of traditional architecture and cultural activities. Thai people mostly live in stilt houses, which are built with bamboo stalks, wooden pillars and rattan leaves. The distance between the ground and the floor is 2 meters and there is a staircase connecting them at the side of the house.

In Pom Coong you will find a number of exquisite handmade items such as bags, scarves and purses on sale, along with other special cuisines. The most recommended dishes include sticky rice cooked in bamboo cylinders, “man” pig and “can” liquor. Also, don’t miss the chance to experience the homestay service, join a traditional performance and pick up some mesmerizing dances from the sweet Thai girls.

4. Vung Vieng Fishing Village (Ha Long Bay)

Location: Bai Tu Long Bay (24 kilometers from the mainland)
Transportation: boat, cruise

If you have been to the exotic Floating Market of Can Tho, you will also find Vung Vieng fishing village worth an experience. Observing life on floating houses, you will get a better grasp into the history of the fishing industry in Vietnam. Vung Vieng is in the center of Bai Tu Long Bay and not quite developed as a tourist attraction, so you’re advised to pay a visit on a cruise in which a visit to the village is included.

Featured with charming scenery, the village preserves the typical characteristics of the fishermen’s lifestyle. The daily activities of fishermen take place on small boats and rafts of bamboo and styrofoam, including catching, processing and selling fish.

Coming to Vung Vieng, tourists will certainly enjoy a fishing experience with locals, enjoying the freshly caught seafood or simply just lying on the beach to chill. Another unique feature which must not be missed is the thousands of limestone karsts forming the backdrop of the village. This is also the distinctive characteristic of Ha Long Bay islands.

5. Cat Cat Village (Sapa)

Location: Muong Hoa Valley (2 kilometers from Sapa Town)
Transportation: train, bus

Cat Cat village is one of the biggest villages in Sapa, inhabited by the Mong ethnic people. Formed in the middle of the 19th century, the indigenous culture is well preserved by its habitants. Every corner of the village is filled with bits of cultural beauty and traditional crafts.

Mong people are keen on farming and weaving brocades in different sizes, colors and patterns. Agriculture plays an important role in Mong people’s life: a number of picturesque terraced fields will be found scattered across the village, where people grow rice and corn for a living. Mong women preserve the traditions of making their own clothing, on which lively patterns of trees, leaves, flowers and animals are weaved.

The traditional architecture in the Cat Cat Village is a three story house with po-mu wooden roofing. The main door stays closed during the year and only opened for special occasions like weddings, funerals and New Year. Inside the house, there is a worshipping space, a storage floor, a sleeping area, a kitchen and a space for guest welcoming.

  1. Coming to Cat Cat, make sure you are able to capture awesome photographs with the handicraft stores, the rustic Gem Valley homestay & cafe, the waterfall, traditional houses and most noticeably the green terrace fields. Buying some brocades as souvenirs is also a good idea and a way to support the locals

Biden defends departure from ‘forever war,’ praises airlift

A defensive President Joe Biden called the U.S. airlift to extract more than 120,000 Americans, Afghans and other allies from Afghanistan to end a 20-year war an “extraordinary success,” though more than 100 Americans and thousands of others were left behind.

Twenty-four hours after the last American C-17 cargo plane roared off from Kabul, Biden spoke to the nation and vigorously defended his decision to end America’s longest war and withdraw all U.S. troops ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline.

“I was not going to extend this forever war,” Biden declared Tuesday from the White House. “And I was not going to extend a forever exit.”

Biden has faced tough questions about the way the U.S. went about leaving Afghanistan — a chaotic evacuation with spasms of violence, including a suicide bombing last week that killed 13 American service members and 169 Afghans.


US airstrike hits suicide bombers targeting Kabul airport

A U.S. airstrike Sunday targeted a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate before they could target the ongoing American military evacuation at Kabul’s international airport, officials said.

There were few initial details about the incident, as well as a rocket that struck a neighborhood just northwest of the airport, killing a child. The two strikes initially appeared to be separate incidents, though information on both remained scarce.

The strike came as the United States winds down a historic airlift that saw tens of thousands evacuated from Kabul’s international airport, the scene of much of the chaos that engulfed the Afghan capital since the Taliban took over two weeks ago. After an Islamic State affiliate’s suicide attack that killed over 180 people, the Taliban increased its security around the airfield as Britain ended its evacuation flights Saturday.

Hurricane Ida winds hit 150 mph ahead of Louisiana strike

Hurricane Ida rapidly grew in strength early Sunday, becoming a dangerous Category 4 hurricane just hours before hitting the Louisiana coast as emergency officials in the region grappled with opening shelters for displaced evacuees despite the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

As Ida moved through some of the warmest ocean water in the world in the northern Gulf of Mexico, its top winds grew by 45 mph (72 kph) to 150 mph (230 kph) in five hours. The system was expected to make landfall early Sunday afternoon on the exact date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier.

The hurricane center said Ida is forecast to hit at 155 mph (250 kph), just 1 mph shy of a Category 5 hurricane. Only four Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the United States: Michael in 2018, Andrew in 1992, Camille in 1969 and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Both Michael and Andrew were upgraded to category 5 long after the storm hit with further review of damage.

Ida threatened a region already reeling from a resurgence of COVID-19 infections, due to low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.New Orleans hospitals planned to ride out the storm with their beds nearly full, as similarly stressed hospitals elsewhere had little room for evacuated patients. And shelters for those fleeing their homes carried an added risk of becoming flashpoints for new infections.

Supreme Court orders ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy reinstated

The Supreme Court says the Biden administration likely violated federal law in trying to end a Trump-era program that forces people to wait in Mexico while seeking asylum in the U.S.

With three liberal justices in dissent, the high court on Tuesday refused to block a lower court ruling ordering the administration to reinstate the program informally known as Remain in Mexico.

It’s not clear how many people will be affected and how quickly. Under the lower court ruling, the administration must make a “good faith effort” to restart the program.

There also is nothing preventing the administration from trying again to end the program, formally called Migrant Protection Protocols.

A federal judge in Texas had previously ordered that the program be reinstated last week. Both he and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused the administration’s request to put the ruling on hold.


Through four wars, toll mounts on a Gaza neighborhood

The electricity is out again tonight in what’s left of Zaki and Jawaher Nassir’s neighborhood. But from the shell of their sitting room, its wall blown open by Israeli missiles, twilight and a neighbor’s fire are enough to see by.

Here, down a narrow lane called Al-Baali, just over a mile from the heavily fortified border separating northern Gaza and Israel, cinderblock homes press against each other before opening to a modest courtyard below the Nassirs’ perch.

Until this neighborhood was hammered by the fourth war in 13 years between Israel and Hamas militants, the Nassirs often sipped coffee by a window, watching children play volleyball using a rope in place of a net. Other days, the couple looked out as relatives pulled fruit off the yard’s fig and olive trees.

Igor Vovkovinskiy, tallest man in US, dies in Minnesota

Igor Vovkovinskiy, the tallest man in the United States, has died in Minnesota. He was 38.

His family said the Ukrainian-born Vovkovinskiy died of heart disease on Friday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. His mother, Svetlana Vovkovinska, an ICU nurse at Mayo, initially posted about his death on Facebook.

Vovkovinskiy came to the Mayo Clinic in 1989 as a child seeking treatment. A tumor pressing against his pituitary gland caused it to secrete abnormal levels of growth hormone. He grew to become the tallest man in the U.S. at 7 feet, 8.33 inches (2 meters, 34.5 centimeters) and ended up staying in Rochester.

His older brother, Oleh Ladan of Brooklyn Park, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that Vovkovinskiy was a celebrity when he arrived from Ukraine because of his size and the flickering Cold War of the late 1980s. But Ladan said Vovkovinskiy “would have rather lived a normal life than be known.”

Vovkovinskiy appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and was called out by President Barack Obama during a campaign rally in 2009, when the president noticed him near the stage wearing a T-shirt that read, “World’s Biggest Obama Supporter.” In 2013, he carried the Ukrainian contestant onto the stage to perform in the Eurovision Song Contest.

US regulators give full approval to Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

The U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday, potentially boosting public confidence in the shots and instantly opening the way for more universities, companies and local governments to make vaccinations mandatory.

The Pentagon promptly announced it will press ahead with plans to require members of the military to get vaccinated amid the battle against the extra-contagious delta variant. Louisiana State University likewise said it will demand its students get the shot.

More than 200 million Pfizer doses have been administered in the U.S. under special emergency provisions — and hundreds of millions more worldwide — since December. In going a step further and granting full approval, the Food and Drug Administration cited months of real-world evidence that serious side effects are extremely rare.

Taliban warns of ‘consequences’ if US delays withdrawal

The Taliban will not agree to an extension of the evacuation mission from Afghanistan, and is “warning of consequences” if it is prolonged.

The move would mean “extending occupation” and that is “a red line”, Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban delegation in Doha, the capital of Qatar, said on Monday.

United States President Joe Biden said on Sunday that the “hard and painful” airlift of Americans and tens of thousands of others from Afghanistan’s capital is accelerating, but he would not rule out extending it beyond the August 31 deadline he set before the Taliban’s swift takeover.