Your Monday Briefing – The New York Times

We discuss a visit to Afghanistan by President Biden’s Secretary of Defense and India’s race to curb a second wave of coronavirus.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Kabul on Sunday morning and became the first member of President Biden’s cabinet to set foot in the country, home to America’s longest-running war.

The journey comes at a crucial time: the US intends to withdraw its forces from the country on 1 May. Mr. Biden said in an interview last week that the deadline would be “difficult”. He did not announce any clear plans for the exit.

Mr. Austin’s arrival in Kabul comes on Nowruz, the Persian New Year – a date on which the Islamic State in Afghanistan has promised to carry out attacks. The trip was therefore intended to remain confidential until two hours after he left, but local reporters made the news of his visit after meeting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The interests: A withdrawal from the US could increase the risk that the Taliban will overtake the country’s most important cities. Asked about the concerns Afghans may have about a withdrawal, Mr. Austin said: “We have done a lot to work with the Afghan security forces. And I do not want to speculate about what may happen in the future or what may not happen. ”

The numbers: About 3,500 US troops are now stationed in Afghanistan. US troops have been continuously present in the country since 2001.

The coronavirus is rippling across India again. Confirmed infections rose daily to about 31,600 from a low of about 9,800 in February. In a recent two-week period, deaths from the virus have increased by 82 percent.

The outbreak is aimed at the state of Maharashtra, home of Mumbai. Entire districts closed again. Scientists are investigating whether a new strain found in the state is more virulent, such as variants found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

Officials are under pressure to set up testing and vaccination aggressively, especially in Mumbai. The sharpening of vaccinations in India could have an impact worldwide. India is a key link in the vaccine supply chain: it has given away or sold tens of millions of doses to other countries, even though it struggles to vaccinate its own people.

The foreign minister said the availability of vaccines in India would determine how many doses go overseas. India’s slow vaccination campaign has also been plagued by public skepticism.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

The Chinese government has increased the political landscape in Hong Kong. The plan to drastically revamp the local electoral system, by demanding the absolute loyalty of candidates who elect the candidate, makes the factions across the political spectrum wonder how participation, if any, is still possible.

Moderates are not sure they will pass Beijing’s litmus test, and opposition leaders are not sure if they will try to run again. The changes are also likely to reduce the number of directly elected seats in the local legislature, meaning that the majority of legislators will be elected by government colleagues.

Quote: “If we participate in this game, it is as if we accept what they are doing,” said a pro-democracy activist. “It will make me feel like an accomplice.”

Context: The changes to the voting system point to a weakening of a promise that has been central to Hong Kong since its return to Chinese rule in 1997: that residents could one day choose their own leaders, rather than be subjected to the whims of London. of Beijing.

Chandro Tomar may look like a typical Indian grandmother, but she is anything but: At 89, she is believed to be the oldest professional sniper in the world, and she has dozens of medals to show for it. She is also a feminist icon in India.

In memory: Nawal el Saadawi, an Egyptian writer, activist and doctor who became an emblem of the struggle for women’s rights in the patriarchal Arab world and campaigned for female genital mutilation. She was 89.

Caity Weaver, a member of The Times’ Styles Bureau, ventured to Santa Fe, NM, to try Equus, an equestrian experience with a long list of famous clients such as Bette Midler and Jeff Bezos. The program’s website encourages customers to ‘suggest them to create the life you really deserve.’ In a recent conversation, she reflected on her experience as she researched a story about whether we can learn something from horses.

What did you know about Equus before you arrived in Santa Fe?

Not much. They deliberately do not have many photos on their website. The founders told me that they do not want people to have a specific idea of ​​how their experience will be, because if it goes differently, customers may be disappointed.

So what elevated it to ‘I have to try it’?

One thing you always wonder with interesting experiences is: Does anyone really pay to do it? And often the answer is no. But the client list was so impressive – Margaret Atwood, Microsoft, many other names I recognized. So I was curious to get out of there, presumably, no matter what they get out of it. I want my life to be as good as Bette Midler’s – I think.

What is something fun or unexpected that you have learned?

Candace Croney, a professor of animal behavior and wellness at Purdue University, told me to think of horses as you think of a cat – they are not like a dog, that wants to be with you and wants attention. . A horse does not really want to be the main thing – maybe he wants to be petted and caressed, maybe not. I did not learn it before I went, but if I ever meet another horse, I will think of it just like a big cat.

This is it for today’s briefing. See you next time. – Carole

PS Die New York Times Climate Hub, a 10-day event featuring live journalism, thought leadership and action on climate change, is being held in November in conjunction with the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) in Scotland.

The latest episode of ‘The Daily’ is about the career of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

You can reach Carole and the team at

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