Your Monday Briefing
Good morning. We’re covering an agreement at COP26, rising tensions on the Poland-Belarus border and a U.S. military cover-up in Syria.
John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, with his counterparts from the E.U. and China.Credit…Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
A global climate agreement
On Saturday, diplomats from nearly 200 countries struck an agreement to do more to fight climate change. Signed at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the pact urged wealthy nations to “at least double” funding to protect poor nations from the hazards of a hotter planet.
The pact also states that all nations will need to halve their carbon dioxide emissions this decade to hold warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to preindustrial levels. It called on governments to return next year with stronger plans to cut emissions. And it is the first global climate agreement to explicitly mention the need to curb fossil fuels. Here are the key takeaways.
However, the pact still leaves developing countries far short of the funds they need to build cleaner energy and cope with extreme weather. And it leaves unresolved how the burden of those cuts will be shared and what action is expected of individual nations.
Next steps: The plan’sarchitects hope the agreement will show governments and corporations that more ambitious action is inevitable, empowering civil society groups and lawmakers to shift toward cleaner energy sources.
Crisis at Poland-Belarus border
Thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, have limited food, water or power to charge their phones, as temperatures drop to dangerous levels. Poland said that at least nine have died there; Belarus has not released details. Watch video from the scene.
The crisis was engineered by the country’s strongman leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko. Belarus loosened its visa rules. The state-owned airline increased flights from the Middle East to Minsk, the capital. Then, Belarusian security forces ferried the new arrivals to the border and, migrants say, supplied them with wire cutters to cross fences.
European leaders have characterized the move as a cynical ploy to punish the bloc. Now, troop movements are ramping up a stalemate with chilling echoes of the Cold War.
Analysis: Europe has long paid other nations to keep refugees away from its borders, our columnist writes. That’s given countries on the periphery the leverage to use migrants as pawns.
Global impact: Sulaimaniya, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, has turned into a bustling port of departure. The bazaars are buzzing with winter clothes sales, as travel agents sell about 100 packages a week for trips to Belarus.
The latest: Hoping to stem the flow of migrants, Dubai banned Iraqi and Syrian passengers from traveling to Minsk.
A brazen U.S. cover-up in Syria
The military hid an airstrike that killed dozens of Syrian civilians in 2019, as the battle against the Islamic State came to a close.
An American attack jet dropped a 500-pound bomb on a large crowd of women and children. Then, a jet tracking the crowd dropped two 2,000-pound bombs, killing most of the survivors. The Times reported the details for the first time.
At nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed or downplayed the catastrophic attack, one of the war’s largest civilian casualty incidents.
A legal officer flagged the bombing as a possible war crime that required an investigation, but the military never conducted an independent investigation. The Defense Department’s independent inspector general began an inquiry, but the report containing its findings was stalled and stripped of any mention of the strike.
Details: The Times investigation found that a classified American Special Operations unit, Task Force 9, had called in the bombing. The task force — which was in charge of ground operations in Syria — operated in such secrecy that it did not always inform even its own military partners of its actions.
THE LATEST NEWS
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former dictator of the Philippines, said Sara Duterte, the daughter of its current leader, will back him in his bid for president.
In less than a month, assassins have killed at least eight people in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh, silencing people who have spoken out against violent gangs.
As the holiday push nears, Vietnam’s factory workers are reluctant to return to their posts after a harsh summer lockdown.
A Myanmar court sentenced the American journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence.
Pakistan has yet to approve humanitarian shipments of wheat from India to Afghanistan, where nine million people are on the brink of starvation.
China and Hong Kong
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will hold a virtual summit on Monday, as tensions between the world’s two largest economies simmer.
M+, Hong Kong’s new contemporary art museum, faces the threat of censorship.
RTHK, a venerated Hong Kong news outlet once known for its aggressive coverage, now sounds a lot like Chinese state television.
A video of decontamination workers beating a pet corgi in a quarantined resident’s apartment has stirred anger across China. There was no indication the animal had been infected.
Xi Jinping said this week that China had “overcome the impact of Covid-19,” even though it is still struggling to maintain its “zero Covid” strategy.
Austria will confine unvaccinated people to their homes in a targeted lockdown, as the country faces its worst ever surge in infections.
Brazil has fully vaccinated more of its population than the U.S.
In Sierra Leone, a country with no burn units, people wounded in a recent tanker explosion are dying of preventable infections.
After years underground, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the son of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, is running for president in Libya’s coming election.
Israel is in no rush to airlift Ethiopian Jews trying to flee the nation’s civil war.
What Else Is Happening
Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s 95-year-old monarch who hasn’t been seen in public since mid-October, missed another planned appearance.
A taxi exploded outside of a hospital in Liverpool, England, killing at least one person. Three men in their twenties were arrested several hours after the explosion.
Stephen Bannon was indicted on contempt charges after refusing to comply with subpoenas from the House’s Capitol riot inquiry.
Inflamed by persistent food shortages, young Cuban dissidents are calling for a rare national protest on Monday.
A judge ruled to end Britney Spears’s conservatorship. Check out this profile of her fiancé, Sam Ashghari.
A Morning Read
Chen Nianxi, a miner who became a celebrated poet, is a pioneering voice in a new Chinese genre: “migrant worker literature.” A voice of the country’s often-invisible laborers, he is caught between his old life and his new.
Understand the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that came after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more on their origin story and their record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be. One spokesman told The Times that the group wanted to forget its past, but that there would be some restrictions.
How did the Taliban gain control? See how the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in a few months, and read about how their strategy enabled them to do so.
What happens to the women of Afghanistan? The last time the Taliban were in power, they barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. Afghan women have made many gains since the Taliban were toppled, but now they fear that ground may be lost. Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different, but there are signs that, at least in some areas, they have begun to reimpose the old order.
What does their victory mean for terrorist groups? The United States invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago in response to terrorism, and many worry that Al Qaeda and other radical groups will again find safe haven there. On Aug. 26, deadly explosions outside Afghanistan’s main airport claimed by the Islamic State demonstrated that terrorists remain a threat.
How will this affect future U.S. policy in the region? Washington and the Taliban may spend years pulled between cooperation and conflict. Some of the key issues at hand include: how to cooperate against a mutual enemy, the Islamic State branch in the region, known as ISIS-K, and whether the U.S. should release $9.4 billion in Afghan government currency reserves that are frozen in the country.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Seeing the world through rice
“Before there was bread or pasta, much less meat or fish, there was rice,” Hanya Yanagihara writes in T magazine. Though rice has origins in both Asia and Africa, it’s hard to find a culture that hasn’t made the foodstuff its own: fried, puréed, roasted, baked or scorched. And so, for T’s winter travel issue, writers explored the world through the grain. Some highlights:
Senegal, which consumes more rice per capita than almost any other African nation, is attempting to resuscitate homegrown varieties.
Mansaf, a dish of lamb and rice, is a national symbol in Jordan and a taste of home for suburban Detroit’s Arab American diaspora.
In Mexico, rice arrived via the Spanish Conquest, making its presence there inextricable from colonialism.
And when browned on the bottom of a pot, rice becomes a treasure prized by food cultures in Iran, Vietnam, the Philippines and elsewhere.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Fancy yet fast: gochugaru salmon with toasted rice.
What to Read (Aloud)
Check out the first English translation of Hayao Miyazaki’s favorite childhood book, “How Do You Live?”
What to Listen to
“An Evening With Silk Sonic,” a collaborative new album from Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars, is a sleek ode to 1970s R&B.
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. Stuart Thompson will be our new misinformation reporter.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Sanam Yar wrote the Arts & Ideas section. You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].