Monday, 29 Nov 2021

Your Monday Briefing

Good morning. We’re covering coronavirus cases in Indonesia, devastating floods in Europe and the rise of militias in Afghanistan.

Indonesia is the pandemic’s epicenter

The suffering that ravaged India and Brazil has reached Southeast Asia. Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation, now has the world’s highest count of new infections, with 57,000 new cases reported on Friday.

The highly contagious Delta variant fuels the meteoric rise in infections on the islands of Java and Bali. But even the record case numbers are a vast undercount. Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, estimates that the true number is three to six times higher.

Some hospitals are setting up emergency expansions, housing patients in large tents. But thousands of people are sleeping in hospital hallways, tents and cars, waiting for an open bed. And officials estimate that 10 percent of their health care workers, on average, are in isolation after exposure.

Scarcity: “If we go to the hospital, we have to bring our own oxygen,” said Nyimas Siti Nadia, 28, who is trying to help her aunt’s family get treatment. At one hospital in the city of Yogyakarta, 33 patients died this month after the central oxygen supply ran out.

Vaccinations: Only about 15 percent of Indonesia’s 270 million people have received a vaccine dose. Just 6 percent are fully inoculated.

Region: Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand are also facing their largest outbreaks yet.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Britain plans to lift restrictions on Monday, even though cases have surged to more than 50,000 a day. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his top finance official are self-isolating after the health minister tested positive.

Olympic organizers reported the first cases inside the athletes’ village, with the Games set to begin on Friday.

Some local governments in China have begun requiring that all students — and their families — be vaccinated before the students can return to school in the fall.

Fatal flooding in Europe

On Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel met with those who lost their homes, as volunteer rescue teams and German Army troops searched for survivors. At least 183 people have died in Germany and Belgium, including 12 disabled residents of a care home. Many hundreds remain unaccounted for, though they may simply be unreachable amid the chaos and lost communications.

The authorities ordered new evacuations on Saturday, and heavy rains in the southern German region of Bavaria caused still more flooding on Sunday.

German meteorologists called the flooding the worst in 500 years, if not a millennium. The disaster thrust the issue of climate change to the center of pivotal elections this fall.

Destruction: Videos, photos and a map show the scale of damage.

Climate: The floods are the latest sign of a global warming crisis, driving home the reality that the world’s richest nations remain unprepared for its consequences. Residents of northeastern Siberia in Russia are reeling from the worst wildfires they can remember. And in the American West, climate change is threatening vineyards in Napa Valley and making them uninsurable.

Militias rise in Afghanistan

As the Taliban takes more territory, regional power brokers are again recruiting and arming volunteers. Hundreds of people have taken up arms around Mazar-i-Sharif, a northern economic hub, to protect their homes and businesses.

“How can I be a shopkeeper with no security?” said Musa Khan Shujayee, 34, a commander of an outpost there, explaining that he would be tending his shop had the Taliban not attacked the city’s outskirts late last month.

Over the past two decades, militias have carried many names, often under the auspices of government ownership: local police, territorial army, popular uprising forces, pro-government militias and so on.

But the ragtag regional alliances feel different now. As the country slips into instability, many fear this new mutation is an all-too-close echo of the way Afghanistan fell into civil war in the 1990s.


The major oil producers known as OPEC Plus reached a deal on production increases.

Turkey accused Greece of illegally setting migrants adrift at sea, and invited journalists to witness rescues firsthand.

In Lebanon, people can’t get their money from banks, the currency has crashed and the central bank chief is facing allegations of fraud.

The bus explosion in Pakistan that killed 12 people — including nine Chinese workers — was a terrorist attack, officials say.

The Times investigated how the Ever Given, one of the world’s biggest ships, got stuck in the Suez Canal this spring.


An ex-intelligence official from Haiti gave two former Colombian soldiers an order to kill the president, Colombia says.

Washington dismissed warnings that Haitian democracy was unraveling under President Jovenel Moïse, which left a gaping leadership void after his assassination.

Residents of Moïse’s hometown blamed the elite for his death, and for their plight.

Sports and Culture

“Titane,” a wild, controversial French serial-killer story, won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Collin Morikawa, an American golfer, won the British Open.

The Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogacar claimed a second Tour de France title.

Brexit has made it a lot harder for British bands to tour Europe.

A new crop of literary magazines are helping to amplify African writers.

What Else Is Happening

Pope Francis restricted the use of the Latin Mass, reversing a decision by his conservative predecessor.

The number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in June was the largest in years, U.S. officials said.

In San Francisco, attacks against Asian Americans are raising questions about policing.

A Morning Read

After bidding scandals, human rights outrages, overburdened host cities and now a pandemic, people are wondering whether the Olympics are more trouble than they’re worth. A recent poll found that only 22 percent of people in Japan think the Tokyo Games should happen.


Culture will shape New York’s future

New York City is New York City because of its concentrated creativity. Now, arts and entertainment are at the core of the city’s push to remain vital as shops battle e-commerce, remote work reshapes central business districts and families decamp for the exurbs. But the industry faces a bumpy recovery.

Broadway hopes to be up and running in a few months, but tourism is lagging. The Metropolitan Opera has planned for September performances, but it needs to negotiate a deal with its musicians. Nightlife is hot, but clubs, comedy cellars and concert venues have struggled to access federal aid.

These hiccups could stymie the city’s recovery. Arts and entertainment is a major industry: It employed some 93,500 people before the pandemic and paid them $7.4 billion in wages. Culturally, it’s the city’s lifeblood.

“The way I look at it, there is not going to be a strong recovery for New York City without the performing arts leading the way,” said Eli Dvorkin, editorial and policy director at the Center for an Urban Future. “People gravitate here because of the city’s cultural life.”


What to Cook

A little potato starch makes this pan-fried tofu with sweet-and-sour sauce crisp and tangy.

What to watch

“Naomi Osaka,” a new three-part mini-series on Netflix, deftly explores the tennis star’s psychology instead of focusing on her technical prowess.

What to Listen to

Our pop critics pulled tracks from Pop Smoke, Xenia Rubinos and Swedish House Mafia for their latest playlist.


Farida Khelfa, one of the first Arab supermodels, has a new documentary about women living and working in the Middle East.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. The new season of “Modern Love” is coming to Prime Video on Friday, Aug. 13. Watch the trailer.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the maltreatment of Indigenous children in Canada.

You can reach Amelia and the team at

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