Your Monday Briefing

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Good morning. We’re covering a fatal plane crash in the Philippines, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and a fight against the Delta variant in Australia.

A military plane in the Philippines crashed on Sunday, with 96 soldiers and crew on board.

The plane missed a runway while trying to land on the island of Jolo. At least 45 people died, including three civilians on the ground. Officials fear the death toll will continue to climb.

The soldiers were heading to Jolo to bolster the military’s operations against Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamist group that the Philippine government considers a terrorist organization.

Context: The Philippine military has been trying to modernize its aging fleet. The plane that crashed first flew in 1988, and it was used by the United States Air Force until the Philippines bought it in January. Three helicopters have also crashed this year.

American troops and their Western allies have left the base at the center of the sprawling war in Afghanistan, effectively ending major U.S. military operations there after nearly two decades.

A contingent of 650 troops will remain to protect the American Embassy in Kabul. The top U.S. commander, Gen. Austin Miller, will remain for “at least a couple more weeks,” a Pentagon spokesman said, as President Biden signals to Afghans that the U.S. is not abandoning them.

The withdrawal on Thursday happened with little fanfare and no public ceremony, and in an atmosphere of grave concern over the Afghan security forces’ ability to hold off Taliban advances across the country.

Some U.S. intelligence estimates predict that the Afghan government could soon fall to the Taliban, who are inching closer to Kabul after having taken about a quarter of the country’s districts in the past two months. President Ashraf Ghani and his aides have become increasingly insular, and the city is vibrating with unease and trepidation.

Quotable: “There’s no hope for the future,” said Zubair Ahmad, 23, who runs a grocery store in Kabul. “Afghans are leaving the country. I don’t know whether I am going to be safe 10 minutes from now.”

Relics: Just a mile from Bagram Air Base, shops sell items left over from two decades of fighting. Each one tells a story.


The Delta variant is spreading through Australia, a challenge to the country’s pandemic exceptionalism. Until now, its strict “Covid zero” policies have succeeded: No one has died from the virus in 2021.

But less than 8 percent of Australians are fully vaccinated and the caseload, now at around 200, grows every day. Half of the country’s 25 million people have been ordered to stay home. On Friday, the country doubled down on travel restrictions and announced that the trickle of a few thousand international arrivals allowed each week (and quarantined) would be cut by half.

For every nation pursuing a Covid-zero approach, among them China and New Zealand, it amounts to a warning: Absent blanket vaccinations, a pandemic fortress cannot hold without ever more painful restrictions.

Quotable: “This is the beginning of the end of Covid zero,” said Catherine Bennett, the chair of epidemiology at Deakin University in Melbourne. “We may be able to get it under control this time, but it’s just going to be harder and harder.”

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • President Biden pressed ahead with a celebration of “independence from the virus” on July 4, even though the country did not quite meet his self-imposed goal of a 70 percent partial vaccination rate. Travel peaked, and the White House planned a 1,000-person party.

  • Iran’s president warned of a potential fifth wave, as the Delta variant spreads.

  • Brazilians, already angry over the slow pace of vaccine acquisition, took to the streets to protest a vaccine corruption scandal.

  • Indian police are investigating whether scammers gave out thousands of shots of salt water instead of Covid-19 vaccines.

Some Chinese millennials are chilling, a nascent countercultural backlash against the country’s hypercompetitive work culture. Now, China is suppressing online discussion of “lying flat,” which it views as a direct affront to the country’s long-held prosperity narrative.

Adam Ferguson, a photographer, worked with migrants in Mexico to create a series of self-portraits as they waited to cross the border into the United States.

Ferguson mounted an analog, medium-format camera onto a tripod with a cable release and then stepped back. The migrants themselves chose the moment to press the button, becoming both subject and photographer.

Often, photographs of vulnerable people are taken without their consent or knowledge. In these, they convey a piece of their journey in their own way.

“I’d seen so many photos of poor, marginalized migrants scrambling across the river in makeshift watercraft, crying and being detained,” Ferguson told The Times. “I wanted to make a set of photos of people we so often see as victims and make them more human and relatable.”

What to Cook

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the debate over critical race theory. On the latest episode of “The Argument,” a debate over who has power in American society.

You can reach Amelia and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

Credit: www.nytimes.com

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