Wednesday, 4 Aug 2021

Your Friday Briefing

Hundreds missing in Europe flooding

Flooding caused by violent storms yesterday in Western Europe left at least 69 dead, including two firefighters who died during rescue attempts, in Germany and Belgium. At least 1,300 people remained missing as of last night, according to the German authorities.

Swift-moving water from swollen rivers has surged through three western German states. In the center of Liège, Belgium, the Meuse River overflowed its banks, forcing inhabitants to evacuate. The storms also battered Switzerland and the Netherlands.

“We have no exact numbers of dead, but can say that we have many people who have become victims of this flood,” said Armin Laschet, the governor of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. “Many people lost everything that they own after the mud flowed into their homes.”

Readers’ comments: “I live in the upper Meuse Valley in Belgium,” said Yves C. “After yesterday’s and this night’s rainfalls, torrents of water were rushing down the hills at many places in the valley this morning. Roads were impassable. I had never seen that before; and we are not one of the worst-hit places.”

Africa records a million cases in a month

The coronavirus is sweeping across Africa, with one million Covid infections reported on the continent in the past month alone, pushing the overall caseload to six million, according to the W.H.O.

The Delta variant has been detected in 21 of Africa’s 54 countries. Algeria, Malawi and Senegal are among the countries experiencing surges in infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Only about 1 percent of people on the continent have been fully immunized.

The resurgence has pushed several governments to impose new lockdown measures, including restrictions on movement between cities, extended curfew hours and school shutdowns.

Quotable: “Africa’s third wave continues its destructive pathway, pushing past yet another grim milestone,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the W.H.O.’s director for the continent.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Myanmar’s military junta has ordered that lifesaving oxygen be withheld from private clinics and has even stopped charities from giving it away, medical workers say.

Politicians and medical experts in Australia are pointing fingers over the country’s slow vaccine distribution.

Theaters in London have canceled performances as positive tests send entire casts and crews into quarantine.

Death toll in South Africa hits 117

South Africa has been rocked to its core over the last week by looting and vandalism that have left at least 117 people dead, with hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, officials said. It was among the worst episodes of violence the country had seen in the nearly 30 years since the end of apartheid.

The government has deployed 10,000 troops to quell the violence, and the defense minister requested 15,000 more. As tensions cooled a bit yesterday, many were bracing for a difficult road ahead.

Set off by the arrest of Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former president, the unrest has quickly become about broader grievances against the government and its failure to uphold the promises of a democratic South Africa.

Scenes in Soweto: The manager of a supermarket gutted by looters fretted over what its loss would mean for him and his community. “Our livelihoods are gone,” said the manager, Tau Chikonye. “I really have to get down to the drawing board and see how to survive.”

Job losses: Unemployment, which has climbed above 32 percent, in part because of the pandemic, will almost certainly increase because many businesses were destroyed in the unrest.

THE LATEST NEWS

News From Europe

Poland escalated a six-year struggle with the E.U. over the rule of law, as its constitutional court ruled that the country did not have to comply with an order from the European Court of Justice about its oversight of judges.

President Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany stressed their shared values yesterday in meetings at the White House, even as both acknowledged differences over a major Russian pipeline and how best to approach China.

The Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries has died after being shot in the head last week. Two people have been arrested.

The highest court in Europe ruled that employers could suspend workers who refused to remove head scarves or other religious symbols.

Other Big Stories

The Haitian authorities detained the head of palace security for President Jovenel Moïse as they investigated whether insiders facilitated his assassination last week at his home, above.

Tech workers swore off the Bay Area during the pandemic. Now they’re coming back, bringing bumper-to-bumper traffic, commuter buses and rent increases with them.

China was critical of the American presence in Afghanistan. But as U.S. troops leave, Beijing is growing worried about the region’s instability.

Saad Hariri, the designated prime minister of Lebanon, resigned after nine months of trying to form a new government amid overlapping crises.

Sports News

The British Open will run until Sunday. First played in 1860, the golf tournament has had decades of greatness. In recent years, it has proved to be an opportunity for veteran players to show that they still have what it takes.

Bukayo Saka, an English soccer player who was recently subjected to racist ire after he missed a penalty kick, urged Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to crack down on online abuse.

From Opinion

It seems odd that we would just let the world burn, Ezra Klein believes. In this essay for our Opinion section on the inadequacy of climate change policy, he writes, “We are engineering a world that is so much worse than it need be and that will be lethal for untold millions.”

A Morning Read

Since 2003, when he was paralyzed by a severe stroke after a car crash at 20, a man nicknamed Pancho has been unable to speak. Now, in a scientific breakthrough, his mere attempts to talk allow electrodes implanted in his brain to transmit his words to a screen.

ARTS AND IDEAS

When Rembrandt met an elephant

Rembrandt never traveled outside the Netherlands. But in 1638, he made “Adam and Eve in Paradise,” in which a rotund and surprisingly realistic elephant romps in the background of the etching.

A new exhibition at the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam explains this verisimilitude: In the 17th century, a female Asian elephant named Hansken was brought to the Netherlands from what is now Sri Lanka. She spent the rest of her life in Europe and became a popular and famous spectacle.

During her short life of about 25 years, Hansken had outsize importance in art, popular entertainment and science, according to the Dutch naturalist and art historian Michiel Roscam Abbing.

She was depicted at least three times by Rembrandt; she traveled to the Baltics by ship, and by foot all the way up Denmark and down to Italy; and she became the first Asian elephant to be described by Western science.

“It’s a very tragic story, actually, but it’s also fascinating,” said Leonore van Sloten, a curator at the Rembrandt House. “She was brought to a world where she didn’t belong, but she became a kind of window onto how life was at that time.”

Read more about Hansken and the exhibition here.

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook

This spiced coffee cake, studded with blueberries, makes an ideal weekend brunch or afternoon pick-me-up.

What to Listen to

Five years after her last album, the latest release from the British songwriter Laura Mvula cranks up the beat and trades orchestras for synthesizers.

Peacocks on Parade

After months of zoom-core dressing, the men of fashion have flocked once again to the streets of Europe.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Take one’s turn in Pictionary (four letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a great weekend. — Natasha

P.S. Apollo 11 blasted off for the moon 52 years ago today. By the next day, the three astronauts aboard were “streaking across the black sea of space,” The Times reported at the time, “in man’s first attempt to walk on another world.”

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the Cuban protests.

You can reach Natasha and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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