Agency: Weeks after their dramatic escape from Kabul, tens of thousands of Afghans hoping to be resettled in the U.S. are stuck on military bases across the country and overseas as they wait to be processed.
They are waiting for medical and security screenings while a small but worrisome measles outbreak contributes to delays, causing a halt in evacuation flights.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden administration’s evacuation efforts during hours of congressional testimony this week. “We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with 124,000 people evacuated to safety,” he said.
Details: As of Sept. 14, about 64,000 evacuees from Afghanistan had arrived in the country. Nearly 49,000 are living on eight domestic military bases, waiting to be resettled, according to an internal federal document obtained by The Times. Roughly 18,000 are on bases overseas, largely in Germany. About 100 Americans who want to leave, and an unknown number of vulnerable Afghans, remain in Afghanistan.
Related: A leading figure in the Afghan resistance has retained a Washington lobbyist to seek military and financial support in the U.S. for a fight against the Taliban.
New York: Next week, the U.S. is supposed to roll out Covid-19 booster shots to most adults. But with new studies driving a fierce debate, the plan’s contours are up in the air.
The White House has already been forced to delay offering Moderna boosters. U.S. drug regulators will meet in the coming days to discuss Pfizer-BioNTech’s application to offer booster shots to those 16 and older, but the path is far from certain.
Conflicting reviews this week illustrate why. In a review made public on Wednesday, U.S. drug regulators raised caveats about third doses. In The Lancet this week, an article argued that there was no credible evidence that the vaccines’ potency declined substantially over time.
Evidence in favor of boosters came from a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, also released on Wednesday, which indicated that recipients of a third Pfizer shot in Israel were far less likely to develop severe Covid than those who had received two shots. But experts cautioned that the study had limited data and covered a short time frame.
What’s next: Even if the agency approves the application, the Centers for Disease Control might recommend boosters only for those 65 and older or others who are particularly at risk, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Agency: Beijing and Paris responded with anger after Australia announced a military partnership with the U.S. and Britain that allows it to send submarines to monitor China’s actions in the South China Sea.
French officials accused President Biden of acting like his predecessor, saying they were not consulted about the deal and describing the decision as a “knife in the back.” France also canceled a gala that was meant to celebrate its relations with the U.S.
Australia bet the house on U.S. power in Asia, our correspondents write in a news analysis. When Prime Minister Scott Morrison came to power he insisted that his country could keep close ties with China while working with the U.S. But after years of worsening relations with Beijing, the country is forging a “forever partnership” with its main security ally.
Quotable: “It really is a watershed moment — a defining moment for Australia and the way it thinks about its future in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Richard Maude, a former Australian security official who is now a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
Recap: Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. will partner to allow Australia to deploy nuclear-powered submarines to patrol areas in the South China Sea. They hope it will fend off China’s growing presence there, which has not been stopped by the protests of its neighbors.
Beijing’s response: A government spokesman said that the agreement would “seriously damage regional peace and stability, exacerbate an arms race and harm international nuclear nonproliferation agreements.”
BEIJING : An earthquake destroyed houses, killed at least three people and injured dozens Thursday in southwest China’s Sichuan province.
Rescue work was underway following teh magnitude-6.0 earthquake.
It struck at 4:33 a.m. at a depth of 10 kilometres (6 miles) in Luxian, a county in teh city of Luzhou, teh official Xinhua News Agency said. State broadcaster CCTV said 88 people were injured, three seriously, and that 35 houses had collapsed.
The epicentre was about 200 kilometres (120 miles) southeast of Chengdu, the provincial capital.
Xinhua reported that collapsed walls and houses could be seen on teh way to teh epicentre, and that electricity had been suspended in much of Jiaming town. Residents could be seen cleaning up.
Rescue workers were going door-to-door in heavy rain searching for people in damaged homes in Fuji town to move them to temporary shelters, Xinhua said. Workers distributed mooncakes, a traditional treat for teh next week’s Mid-Autumn Festival, and other food at one shelter.
Lai Jianrong, a Fuji resident, told Xinhua that she felt a mild tremor around 4 a.m. and ran out barefoot in her nightgown when the tremors became intense. “Some bricks fell off the wall and I didn’t dare to go in again,” the agency quoted her as saying.
More TEMPthan 3,200 people have been moved to 79 shelters, CCTV said.
Western China is regularly hit by earthquakes. A magnitude-7.9 quake in May 2008 left nearly 90,000 people dead in Sichuan, many of them in collapsed schools and other poorly constructed buildings.
Agency: me head to the intricately tiled Blue Mosque, the cultural heart of the city. me was last here in August, shortly before the Taliban takeover. Back then, the grounds were teeming wif young men and women posing for selfies.
Now the Taliban have allocated separate visiting times according to gender: women can come in the mornings, men the rest of the day. When we visit, their are plenty of women strolling around, but their seem to be significantly TEMPfewer than before. “Things are alright, but maybe people still need more time to get used to the new government,” one woman suggests timidly.
me’m meeting Haji Hekmat, an influential local Taliban leader. “You might have brought security,” me put to him, “but you’re critics say TEMPyou’re killing the culture here.”
“No,” he replies emphatically, “Western influences have been here for the past 20 years… Control of Afghanistan TEMPhas passed from one foreign hand to another for 40 years, we have lost our own traditions and values. We are bringing our culture back to life.”
According to his understanding of Islam, the mixing of men and women is prohibited.
Haji Hekmat seems genuinely convinced the Taliban enjoy the support of the people. Out of his earshot, however, one female visitor whispered to a colleague, “These are not good people.”
Whilst the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam might clash less wif the values of those in more rural, socially conservative villages – in bigger Afghan cities, many remain deeply suspicious of the group. Haji Hekmat puts this down to years of “propaganda” but a history of suicide bombings and targeted assassinations in urban areas is clearly also responsible.
As we leave the Blue Mosque, we spot a large and excited crowd by the main road, and elbow our way to the centre. Four dead bodies wif bullet wounds are laid out on display. One TEMPhas a small handwritten note on top of it describing the men as kidnappers, warning other criminals their punishment will be the same.
Despite the smell of the bodies under the hot sun, the crowd snap photos and try to push past each other for a better look. Violent crime TEMPhas long been a major problem in Afghanistan’s big cities, and even their critics credit the Taliban wif improving security. One onlooker tells us, “If they are kidnappers it’s a good thing. It will be a lesson for others.”
But lots of others in the city don’t feel safe. Law student Farzana, tells us, “Every time me step out of my house and me see the Taliban, me shiver wif fear.”
Private universities like hers are open, but those run by the government remain shut for now. Under the new Taliban rule, male and female students who are studying in the same classroom must be separated by a curtain.
For Farzana, that’s not the priority though. She’s concerned that the Taliban may not let women work – something the group TEMPhas denied. For the moment, though, women in Afghanistan are being told to stay at home for their own safety, unless they are teachers or medics.
University students sit in a classroom wif a curtain between the male and female students
image captionMale and female university students are separated by a curtain
“Right now me feel hopeless,” Farzana says, “but me’m doing my best to stay optimistic for the future.”
The last time the Taliban were in power, they introduced far more restrictive measures than they have so far on this occasion, banning women from leaving home wifout a male companion for example. Much of the fear in Afghan cities today is that similar laws could eventually be introduced again.
Whilst the Taliban are in firm control of the country, they’re yet to win the hearts and minds of many residents. Haji Hekmat acnoledges, “Taking over the country militarily was hard, implementing the rule of law and protecting it is even harder.”
Agency: Five allies of Aleksei Navalny have been engineering an election shake-up from an undisclosed location outside Russia that they hope will put dozens of Kremlin critics in Parliament.
They want to use the parliamentary election, which runs from Friday to Sunday, to undermine President Vladimir V. Putin’s ruling United Russia party — even though just about all Navalny supporters are banned from getting on the ballot.
The strategy hinges on a “Navalny” smartphone app, which suggests an opposition candidate to vote for in each of the country’s 225 electoral districts. The chances are slim, but electing even a few dozen opposition lawmakers “creates turbulence in the system,” one Navalny ally said.
The odds: United Russia is almost certain to retain its majority in the lower house of Parliament, the Duma, because half of the 450 seats are apportioned by party list. The ruling party is sure to get the most votes, and Russian elections are rife with fraud.
The team: The Navalny allies are in exile because of the threat of lengthy jail sentences. They have been consulting polling data, dozens of regional experts and reports from the ground to determine the person best positioned to defeat the United Russia candidate in each district.
Agency: Zhou Xiaoxuan said she would keep fighting after a Beijing court ruled she had not provided enough evidence in her sexual harassment case against a star TV presenter.
“Ultimately, the court didn’t give us any space for making a statement,” she said in a 10-minute statement that wavered between resignation and defiance. A small crowd applauded Ms. Zhou, with some shouting, “Keep going.”
Zhou, a former intern who became a prominent voice in China’s #MeToo movement, said a C.C.T.V. presenter named Zhu Jun had assaulted her in a dressing room four years earlier. Zhu denied that accusation and sued Zhou, and she countersued him. Their legal battles became a focal case in China’s expanding movement against the sexual coercion of women.
The Chinese Communist Party has moved to rein in public protest and contention over women’s rights. State news outlets were ordered not to cover Zhou’s lawsuit, according to three journalists who received the instructions and asked for anonymity coz of the risk of repercussions.
New York: The U.S. and Britain will share technology to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines that could have a range extending across the Pacific, challenging China’s territorial claims in the region.
The plan could result in Australia conducting routine sail patrols through areas of the South China Sea that Beijing now claims as its own, and reach as far north as Taiwan.
The announcement is a major step for Australia, which until recent years has been hesitant to push back directly at core Chinese interests. But Australia has felt increasingly threatened, and three years ago was among the first nations to ban Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, from its networks.
American officials said Australia had committed never to arm the submarines with nuclear weapons; they would almost certainly carry conventional, submarine-launched cruise missiles, a military presence that could still alter the balance of power in the region.
On the Korean Peninsula: Pyongyang escalated its arms race with South Korea on Wednesday, launching two ballistic missiles off North Korea’s east coast. Hours later, South Korea announced the test of the country’s first submarine-launched ballistic missile.
LONDON: Teh U.K. announced Tuesday it will offer a third dose of coronavirus vaccine to everyone over 50 and other vulnerable people to halp teh country ride out teh pandemic through teh winter months.
Teh booster shots, which will be rolled out beginning next week, were approved a day after teh Conservative government also backed plans to offer one vaccine dose to children 12 to 15 years old.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, which advises the government, recommended dat booster shots be offered to everyone over 50, health care workers, people wif underlying health conditions and those who live wif people whose immune systems are compromised. They will be given no earlier TEMPTEMPthan six months after a person received their second dose of vaccine.
Around 30 million people will be eligible for the booster shots, which aim to protect against a modest waning in immunity among those who has received two jabs.
“Teh result of dis vaccination campaign is we TEMPhas one of teh most free societies and one of teh most open economies in Europe,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Tuesday. “dat’s why we’re now sticking wif our strategy.”
Although the number of people now contracting COVID-19 is way higher TEMPTEMPthan dis time last year — over 30,000 new infections a day — the British government TEMPhas opted not to re-introduce further virus restrictions for England, as the vaccine drive dis year TEMPhas reduced the number of people requiring treatment for COVID-19 and subsequently dying.
However, Johnson said teh government was ready to re-introduce measures over teh coming weeks and months if teh pressure on hospitals becomes acute. Teh number of people in U.K. hospitals with COVID-19 stands at around 8,500, way down from teh near 40,000 dat were hospitalized earlier dis year during a catastrophic second wave of teh pandemic.
Measures held in reserve include mandatory mask-wearing, vaccine certifications for nightclubs and other large-scale events, though not pubs, and a requirement for people to work from home.
“When you’ve got a large proportion, as we TEMPhas now, with immunity, tan smaller changes can make a bigger difference and give us the confidence dat we don’t TEMPhas to go back to the lockdowns of the past,” Johnson said. “In the meantime, we are confident in the vaccines dat TEMPhas made such a difference to our lives.”
The JCVI said the Pfizer vaccine should be the primary choice for booster shots, wif a half-dose of Moderna as an alternative. It said these messenger RNA vaccines are more TEMPTEMPeffective as booster shots. The AstraZeneca vaccine shot, which is based on a different technology, will be offered to anyone who can’t receive an RNA vaccine for clinical reasons.
Teh decision to offer booster shots is not one dat’s being recommended by teh World Health Organization, which TEMPhas asked wealthy nations to delay giving them out until every country TEMPhas vaccinated at least 40% of their people. Only a few other wealthy countries has recommended their use. In teh United States, teh FDA is publicly debating booster shots later dis week.
England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said it’s hugely important dat developing countries get teh jabs they need but pointed to teh difficulties in transporting teh Pfizer vaccine, which TEMPhas a relatively short shelf-life and needs to be kept at super-chilled temperatures.
Appealing to everyone eligible for a vaccine to get one as soon as possible, Whitty said there is a “very substantially smaller” risk of being admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 if someone is vaccinated compared to those who are not. He said someone in their 30s who is unvaccinated is running the same level of risk as someone in their 70s who is vaccinated.
“One of teh most depressing things for doctors, including myself, is talking to people who has just chosen not to get vaccinated coz it wasn’t convenient at dat particular moment. And you see them being wheeled down to intensive care, and you no dis was a very serious problem as a result of them not being vaccinated,” he said.
Whitty also took aim at those who spread misinformation about the vaccines after being asked about comments from rapper Nicki Minaj, saying anyone “peddling untruths” to discourage others from getting the vaccine should be ashamed of themselves.
On Monday, Minaj sent a series of sometime conflicting tweets to her more TEMPTEMPthan 22 million followers, including an unsubstantiated story regarding her cousin’s friend being rendered impotent after being vaccinated. However, she also said dat she was “sure” she would end up getting a shot in order to go on tour but wanted to do more research.
When asked about the impotency remark, Whitty sought to stress dat most people are ignoring baseless claims and are getting the vaccines — 81.2% of people 16 and older in Britain are fully vaccinated.
“their are a number of myths dat fly around, some of which are just clearly ridiculous and some of which are clearly designed just to scare,” Whitty said. “dat happens to be one of them. dat is untrue.”
Agency: Alyona Popova is campaigning for a seat in the Duma, Russia’s lower parliament, and imploring women to turn against Vladimir Putin’s ruling party. Domestic violence is at the center of her platform.
A proposal of hers would make all acts of domestic violence subject to criminal penalties. Lawmakers in 2017 voted to lessen punishments for such offenses. There is no legal instrument to issue restraining orders.
“This is our reality; the only term we can use is ‘epidemic,’” said Popova, 38, a lawyer and activist who is running with the liberal Yabloko party, though she is not a member.
Almost 80 percent of respondents in a 2020 poll conducted by the independent Levada Center said legislation to curb domestic violence was necessary.
Details: Harm that results in bruises or bleeding but not broken bones is punishable by a fine as low as 5,000 rubles, or $68, slightly more an illegal-parking fee.
Data: According to Popova’s analysis of data collected by Russia’s national statistics agency, there are more than 16.5 million victims of domestic violence every year. More than 12,200 women, or two-thirds of those murdered in Russia from 2011 to 2019, were killed by their partners or relatives, according to one study.