Your Thursday Briefing

We’re covering U.S. election results indicating dissatisfaction with Democrats and a growing threat from the Islamic State in Afghanistan.

The Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, after winning the race.Credit…Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times

Are Democratic losses a sign of trouble for Biden?

Virginia has a Republican governor for the first time in more than a decade after an election on Tuesday, dimming U.S. Democrats’ hopes for midterm elections.

Another Republican posed an unexpectedly strong challenge to New Jersey’s incumbent governor, with the race still too close to call. New Jersey is usually reliable for Democrats — President Biden won the state by a large margin in the presidential election.

Other races remained undecided. In Seattle, if the results hold for the lead candidate, the city will have a Republican mayor for the first time in decades.

The results are being seen as a sign of voter dissatisfaction with Biden ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when hundreds of seats in Congress will be up for grabs.

Milestones: Michelle Wu, a Democrat, became the first woman and the first person of color to be elected mayor of Boston. Winsome Sears, a Republican, is the first woman lieutenant governor of Virginia.

Bigger challenges: With the president’s approval ratings sagging and Republicans eager to wrest back control of Congress, Biden is facing an uncertain landscape. Democrats are pushing forward on a $3 trillion social safety net and climate change bill. But after the election losses, they are wondering: Will these measures hurt or help their political standing?

Taliban police officers patrolling Jalalabad last month.Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

ISIS poses a growing threat in Afghanistan

In the two months since the Taliban took control of the country, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan — known as ISIS-K — has stepped up attacks. After spending 20 years fighting as an insurgency, the Taliban is now struggling to deliver on its promises of law and order.

Just in recent weeks, the attacks have killed at least 90 people in key cities like Kunduz and Kandahar. They have mostly been directed at Taliban units and Shiite minorities. Western officials worry that the Islamic State could gain the capability to strike international targets in six to 12 months.

Details: From Sept. 18 to Oct. 28, ISIS-K carried out at least 54 attacks — including suicide bombings and ambushes on security checkpoints, according to one analysis. That amounted to one of the group’s most active and deadly periods.

Taliban weaknesses: Colin Kahl, U.S. under secretary of defense for policy, said that the Taliban’s ability to pursue ISIS-K “is to be determined.” There is no longer reliable intelligence coming from the country after Taliban officials refused to cooperate with the U.S.

Peng Shuai qualifying for the U.S. Open in 2019.Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

A #MeToo claim reaches China’s party elite

The Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai publicly accused a former vice premier of China of sexual assault, the first time a #MeToo allegation has touched the highest levels of Communist Party power.

Peng made the allegation against Zhang Gaoli, who from 2012 to 2017 served on the party’s Politburo Standing Committee, on Weibo. She described an assault that began an on-and-off consensual relationship with Zhang. In her post, she acknowledged that she would be unable to produce evidence to support her accusation.

The post was removed within minutes, but screenshots and other references to the allegation spread like wildfire through the country’s internet.

“I know that for someone of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you’ve said that you’re not afraid,” Peng wrote in her post, “but even if it’s just me, like an egg hitting a rock, or a moth to the flame, courting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you.”

A first: Chinese authorities have charged government officials with sexual misconduct in the past, but never before has an accusation of sexual misconduct been leveled publicly against as senior a political leader as Zhang.

Censors scrambling: Searches of Peng’s name and even the word “tennis” appeared to be blocked, reflecting the extraordinary sensitivity within China toward discussing misconduct allegations against party leaders.



Demonstrators against “greenwashing’” in Glasgow.Credit…Alastair Grant/Associated Press
  • Protesters at the climate summit in Glasgow marched in opposition to “greenwashing” — when companies claim to be protecting the environment while continuing to harm it.

  • Australia, a major producer of fossil fuels that has long been criticized for dragging its feet on climate change, has done little this week to change that perception.

  • A new $10.5 billion fund will try to spur green energy projects in poor nations.


  • The World Health Organization granted emergency authorization to Covaxin, the first coronavirus vaccine developed in India.

  • The U.S. began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to kids under the age of 12 after drug regulators approved it this week.

  • President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines warned local officials that they would be punished if they failed to meet vaccination targets.

  • The Netherlands has expanded mask requirements to curb rising cases.

What Else Is Happening

An estimated 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers held at a camp after being captured by Tigrayan rebels (foreground) during fighting in June.Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
  • A U.N. report found that all sides in the war in Ethiopia committed gross human rights violations, including killings of civilians, sexual violence and attacks on refugees.

  • China could have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, according to the U.S. annual assessment of the Chinese military, but the expansion still leaves Beijing behind the U.S. and Russia.

  • A 4-year-old girl who vanished while camping with her family in a remote area of Western Australia was found “alive and well” 18 days later in a locked house.

  • Amid scandals, Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has boosted marketing efforts.

A Morning Read

From left, Noelle Verbeeken, Lea Tavares Mujinga and Simone Ngalula, three of the five women suing the Belgian state.Credit…Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times

Torn from their parents in Belgian Congo, five women born to African mothers and European fathers are seeking reparations from Belgium. They had kept their childhoods a secret for decades, even from their own families. Now in their 70s, their stories are being told in a courtroom in Brussels.

Lives lived: Sunao Tsuboi, who as a 20-year-old survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima, and who went on to devote himself to the cause of nuclear disarmament, died at a hospital in Hiroshima. He was 96.


The K-Pop band Blackpink, which has conquered markets in Asia and beyond.Credit…Netflix, via Associated Press

A cultural powerhouse

For decades, South Korea’s major global exports were cars and cellphones from companies like Hyundai and LG, while its movies, TV shows and music were mostly consumed at home and in nearby regions.

Now K-pop stars like BTS and Blackpink, the dystopian drama “Squid Game” and award-winning films such as “Parasite” feel as ubiquitous as any Samsung smartphone.

South Korea’s directors and producers say they have been studying Hollywood and other entertainment hubs for years, adopting and refining formulas by adding distinctly Korean touches.

In the last few years alone, South Korea has made its cultural mark with “Parasite,” the first foreign-language film to win an Oscar for best picture. It has arguably the biggest band in the world with BTS. Three of Netflix’s 10 most popular shows right now are South Korean.

“When we made ‘Mr. Sunshine,’ ‘Crash Landing on You’ and ‘Sweet Home,’ we didn’t have a global reaction in mind,” said Jang Young-woo, the director and producer who worked on all three hit shows. “We just tried to make them as interesting and meaningful as possible. It’s the world that has started understanding and identifying with the emotional experiences we have been creating all along.”

The growing demand is inspiring more and more independent creators to take part.


What to Cook

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times

Kachori can be filled with potatoes, dal and vegetables. We have more Diwali recipes here.

What to Listen To

Five minutes that will make you love Bach.

What to Read

Damon Galgut won the Booker Prize for his novel “The Promise,” a cutting depiction of a white family in post-apartheid South Africa.

Tech Tip

Here’s how to minimize interruptions from your phone.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Brown, bubbly drink (four letters).

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. — Melina

P.S. The Times now has one million digital subscribers outside the U.S. Take a look at our reporting from around the world.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about COP26.

You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].

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