Your Wednesday Briefing

Conflicting views about masks.,


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ImageA vaccination center last week in Sydney, Australia. Residents were largely barred from leaving the city to stop the spread of the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant.
A vaccination center last week in Sydney, Australia. Residents were largely barred from leaving the city to stop the spread of the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant.Credit…Saeed Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As the more virulent Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads across the globe, masks have again become the focus of conflicting views about how best to manage the pandemic. The variant now accounts for one in five infections in the U.S.

The W.H.O. last week reiterated its recommendation that everyone — including the inoculated — wear masks in many circumstances to stem the spread of the virus. It goes against the U.S. federal health advisory from May that fully vaccinated people no longer need to mask up, even indoors.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region with slow vaccination campaigns are scrambling to slow the spread of the variant by resorting to new lockdowns, including in four big cities in Australia, as well as in Bangladesh and Malaysia.

Context: Studies have shown that Covid-19 vaccines are still largely effective against the Delta variant, though protection is significantly lower for those who are partly vaccinated.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Broadway took its first steps back with the return of Bruce Springsteen’s show. The rebound promises to benefit not just theater workers, but also hotel clerks, bartenders, taxi drivers and workers in the many industries that rely on theater traffic.

  • The British government introduced a new exemption to its quarantine rules for business travelers “bringing significant economic benefit” to England.

  • The global economy is entering a new stage of recovery, in which policymakers must prepare for “different but no less formidable challenges,” the Bank of International Settlements said yesterday.


People in the regional capital, Mekelle, of Tigray celebrated the departure of Ethiopian government forces and the arrival of the rebel Tigray Defense Forces.Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Eight months after the Ethiopian Army attacked the region of Tigray, the civil war took a turn as Tigrayan fighters seized control of the regional capital, Mekelle. Residents celebrated in the streets.

The rebel forces indicated they had little appetite for a truce. Senior rebel members said they would continue to fight and were ready to pursue Eritrean forces, who have joined the Ethiopian troops, on their territory.

The dramatic turnaround was a blow to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia; he launched an offensive in November that he promised would be over in weeks. The war now looks as if it could drag on, after eight months of violence in which Eritrean troops have been accused of atrocities.

Turning the tide: The war began with Tigrayan forces clearly on the defensive. Yet the rebels have managed to regroup. In addition, the invasion and human rights abuses have driven large numbers of recruits into the group’s arms.

The toll: Almost two million people have been displaced from their homes. The region is facing a long list of crises including a lack of water and education, along with a famine in which millions face hunger.


Search-and-rescue crew members at the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla.Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Six days after a condominium complex north of Miami Beach collapsed, rescuers say they are not giving up as they continue to search through the giant mound of rubble for the 149 people who are missing. Twelve people have been confirmed dead. Here’s what we know about them.

Despite rescuers’ efforts, many of the families waiting in a government-sponsored reunification center have been left to navigate an ugly and liminal place where mourning can feel both necessary and premature. People stood around the looming pile of debris and called out to those still missing: “I love you.” “Please come out of there.” “We are waiting for you.”

Less than three months before the collapse, the president of the condominium association warned in a letter to residents that damage in the building had “gotten significantly worse” since it was highlighted in a 2018 inspection that found “major structural damage” in the building.

News from Washington: President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, will visit the building collapse site and meet with families of the victims on Thursday.


Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times
  • Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan, warned that the country could be on a path to a chaotic, multisided civil war as U.S. and international troops prepare to leave in the coming weeks. Above, Afghan forces flying over Kabul in May.

  • Negotiations are underway between the U.S. and Turkey about continuing to secure the airport in Kabul as the Taliban advance.

  • South Africa’s highest court ordered the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma, the former president, for 15 months on contempt charges after he defied an order to appear before a corruption inquiry.

  • North Koreans say they were “heartbroken” when they saw their leader, Kim Jong-un, looking “emaciated.” The regime has turned the weight loss into a propaganda victory.


Credit…Clay Williams for The New York Times
  • New York’s dining scene has been transformed by the creative outdoor table setups made necessary by the pandemic. But as the outbreak wanes and rules loosen, how will the city keep the romance alive?

  • England triumphed against Germany to make the UEFA Euro 2020 quarterfinals. Later, Ukraine beat Sweden in extra time.

  • On the second day of Wimbledon, Ashleigh Barty beat Carla Suarez Navarro, and Venus Williams won her match. Serena Williams exited the tournament after a leg injury. And Roger Federer won his first-round match after Adrian Mannarino retired because of an injury.


Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

One year on, Hong Kong’s national security law, which brought the territory into political lock step with the Chinese Communist Party, has put the very texture of daily life under assault.

The law prompted the arrests of activists, the seizure of assets, the firing of government workers, the detention of newspaper editors and the rewriting of the school curriculum. Now, in what was once an oasis of civil liberties, neighbors are urged to report on one another, and children are taught to look for traitors. Above, a flag-raising ceremony on National Security Education Day in Hong Kong in April.

We’re living in a time of extraordinary abundance, yet we work as much, if not more, than we ever did, even though we’ve long since passed the income thresholds when past economists believed we’d work 15-hour weeks.

My colleague Ezra Klein spoke to the anthropologist James Suzman, who has spent the past 30 years studying the hunter-gatherer Ju/’hoansi people of southern Africa. This is a lightly edited extract from their conversation. Listen to the full episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” here.

The big counterintuitive argument of your work is that humanity actually had figured out a 15-hour workweek, but our very advances in technology and income and productivity are actually the things that are getting us further from it. Tell me about that.

James Suzman: Hunter-gatherer populations like the Ju/’hoansi had much less than we do in a material sense, and were deeply impoverished by modern standards, yet they consider themselves affluent and enjoyed a degree of affluence as a result of that.

We seem to be trapped in this cycle of ever pursuing more and greater growth, greater wealth, greater anything. It seems that our aspirations continue to grow endlessly. And we’re caught in this kind of treadmill in which we never stop and actually enjoy the rewards of what we have won.

Abundance doesn’t come from endless production, but from effectively regulating what you want, because then you can actually produce enough and fulfill that level. How do the Ju/’hoansi regulate want?

In hunter-gatherer life, there was a real sense that if anybody tries to accumulate resources or dominate the distribution and flow of resources, it is socially unhealthy. It produces tensions. It produces anxieties. It produces a hierarchy or an attempted hierarchy. It adds a whole level of risk and cost to the social life of the group.


Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times

This vegetable tabbouleh with chickpeas requires no cooking other than boiling water to soak the bulgur wheat. Use it as a main, a side for fish and meats or a picnic dish.

The British comedy “We Are Lady Parts” takes the “young people start band” format and makes it feel giddily new.

There is no more effective way to bring down your body temperature than with a mood-lifting slosh of cold water.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Sarcastic criticism (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Christina Goldbaum, a reporter on the Metro desk who has reported from East Africa, is joining our Afghanistan team.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the building collapse in Miami.

You can reach Natasha and the team at

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