Your Monday Briefing – The New York Occasions
A new blow against the open borders of Europe
As new variants of the coronavirus spread rapidly, European countries like Germany and Belgium have introduced new border restrictions that contradict the freedom of movement that has long been considered a cornerstone of the European Union.
The European Commission, the EU executive, has been trying since March to prevent countries from restricting free movement because it disrupted the bloc’s internal market. The result has been an ever-changing patchwork of border rules that has sown chaos and has not always successfully limited the spread of the virus.
But many countries cannot resist regaining control of their borders. A Commission proposal to lift new restrictions sparked a swift backlash from Germany, although the new rules caused disruptions in the supply chain and long queues for commuters from Austria and the Czech Republic.
Background: Countries within the Schengen area have the explicit right to reintroduce controls at their borders, but they have to overcome some legal hurdles to do so and are not supposed to keep them in the long term.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
As the American death toll nears 500,000, more Americans have now died of Covid-19 than on the battlefields of World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. No other country has counted so many deaths in the pandemic.
To ensure the release of an Israeli civilian imprisoned in Syria, Israel secretly – and controversially – agreed to fund the delivery of Russian-made Covid-19 vaccines to Damascus.
Australia began vaccinating its population against the coronavirus on Sunday, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and 19 others receiving their shots. The first woman vaccinated was an 84-year-old woman living in a nursing home.
Myanmar security forces open fire on protesters
Witnesses said two people were killed and dozen injured when security forces opened fire on protesters in Mandalay city, Myanmar, on Saturday. It was the bloodiest day of the protests against the military coup on February 1 to date.
The shootings took place as authorities tried to force workers back to their jobs at a local shipyard. The stoppage of work to protest the fall of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civil leader, has paralyzed river traffic on the Irrawaddy, the country’s main commercial waterway, according to Radio Free Asia.
Details: Authorities used water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, slingshots and live ammunition to break up the crowd. According to medical professionals, at least 40 people were injured.
A chance for Arabs in the Israeli elections
Accelerated by Israel’s election campaign, two trends converge: On the one hand, Arab politicians and voters increasingly believe that in order to improve the lives of Arabs in Israel, they must seek power within the system rather than exerting external pressure.
Regardless, mainstream Israeli parties recognize that they need to attract Arab voters in order to win a very close election – and some are ready to work with Arab parties as potential coalition partners.
Both trends are due to political pragmatism rather than dogma. But while the moment has the potential to give real power to Arab voters, it could backfire and split the Arab vote and ultimately lower the number of Arab lawmakers in the next parliament.
Context: Arab politicians and voters have not filed all complaints about Zionism and Israeli politics in the Occupied Territories. However, there is a growing awareness that problems of the Arab community in Israel – gang violence, poverty and discrimination in access to housing and land – cannot be solved without Arab politicians shaping politics at the highest level.
If you have 7 minutes, it’s worth it
Libraries in honor of women lost to violence
Najiba Hussaini, who died in a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul in 2017, was a determined, highly skilled scholar who got a prestigious job in the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum.
Today, her memory lives on in the Najiba Hussaini Memorial Library in the Afghan city of Nili, symbolizing progress on the path to gender equality and access to education in Afghanistan. As of 2018, 3.5 million girls were enrolled in schools nationwide, and a third of teachers were women.
In the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, many fear that a peace deal could result in the progress made by Afghan women over the past two decades being lost.
The following also happens
Aleksei Navalny: A Russian court has cleared the way for the possible transfer of the opposition leader to a penal colony. This is the latest move by the authorities to silence the country’s most vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin.
Libya weapons: Erik Prince, former head of security firm Blackwater Worldwide and supporter of former President Donald Trump, violated a United Nations arms embargo against Libya by sending weapons to a militia commander who, according to UN investigators, was trying to overthrow the government in Tripoli. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Venezuela: Millions of women in the difficult South American country are no longer able to find or afford birth control. The situation has driven many into unplanned or illegal pregnancies Abortions at a time when they can barely feed the children they have.
ISIS: French women who have joined the Islamic State and are now held in poor detention centers in Syria have gone on hunger strike to protest France’s refusal to bring them back.
Snapshot: Above, Novak Djokovic won his third consecutive title at the Australian Open. His victory over fourth-placed Daniil Medvedev earned him his 18th career Grand Slam title. Naomi Osaka defeated Jennifer Brady for her fourth Grand Slam title.
Cephalopod detection: An octopus’ arms can sense and respond to light – even if the octopus can’t see it with their eyes upside down, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Bollywood: In new Hindi productions, mothers and women are increasingly portrayed as full and complex people – no melodramatic supporting characters, but pronounced, independent leading actors who are responsible for their own fate.
What we read: The USA could experience a wonderful summer this year – even if the pandemic is not over yet, writes health journalist James Hamblin in this long reading from the Atlantic.
Now a break from the news
Cook: This shrimp etouffée is inspired by Cajun and Creole cuisine.
Listen: The radio play, especially from its golden age in the 1930s to the 50s, is now freely available thanks to the internet. There are six shows to enjoy here.
Do: Many mothers have felt obliged to be the last to face during the pandemic. But if you take the time to self-care, you may get what you need to keep going.
Restore your self-esteem. At Home offers a comprehensive collection of ideas on what to read, cook, see, and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the background story about …
Inventory of 500,000 deaths
A chart on the front page of the New York Times on Sunday shows the entirety of the devastation of Covid in the United States. From a distance the graph looks like a gray blur, but up close it shows something much darker: almost 500,000 individual dots, each representing a single life lost to the coronavirus.
This isn’t the first time the Times designers have used the front page to portray the magnitude of the toll on the pandemic. When Covid-19 deaths hit 100,000 in the US last May, the page was filled with names of the lost – nearly a thousand of them, then just 1 percent of the country’s deaths.
And as that number neared 200,000, the main photo on the side showed the courtyard of an artist in Texas who had his lawn filled with a small flag for every life lost to the virus in his state.
However, this is the first time that all deaths in the US have been featured on the front page. “I think part of this technique that is good is that it overwhelms you – because it should,” said Lazaro Gamio, graphics editor at The Times.
That’s it for this briefing. See you on Tuesday.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]
• We hear “The Daily”. Our latest episode is about children and Covid.
• Here is our mini crossword puzzle and a hint: What light flows into it (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• Claire Cain Miller, a reporter who worked on our “The Primal Scream” series about working mothers, spoke to NPR about the impact of the pandemic on women.