Your Tuesday Briefing

We’re covering scenes of desperation and panic in Afghanistan and a debate over third vaccine doses.

Biden stands by withdrawal amid panic in Afghanistan

President Biden insisted in an address from the White House that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan “was never supposed to be about nation-building,” and said there was no easy time to withdraw.

“The choice I had to make was either to follow through on the agreement to drawdown our forces,” Biden said, “or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat and lurching into the third decade of conflict.”

He added: “I stand squarely behind my decision.”

His speech came amid a heartbreaking week for the Afghan people. After the Taliban took Kabul, thousands flooded the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport, which was under the protection of U.S. soldiers. Here are the latest updates.

It was a scene of desperation and sadness. At one point, Afghans swarmed a departing U.S. military plane, clinging to the hulking aircraft even as it left the ground, an image that quickly circulated around the world.

Satellite images show the chaos of those trying to escape the country.

Thousands of U.S. Marines were en route as their government was evacuating American citizens and “particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.” The Pentagon said on Monday that all flights had been suspended — military or civilian — into and out of the airport.

Perspectives: Ajmal Ahmady, the central bank governor for the Ghani government, broke down the swift timeline of the Taliban’s takeover on Twitter. “It did not have to end this way,” he wrote. “I am disgusted by the lack of any planning by Afghan leadership.”

Global health officials debate third dose

As the Delta variant of the coronavirus rages around the world, a heated debate has arisen over whether public health officials should recommend booster shots.

Some nations, including France, Germany and Israel, have authorized Covid-19 booster shots for older people. The Biden administration is developing a plan that would roll out booster shots as early as this fall, saying the logistics are too complicated to wait for scientific certainty that the extra doses are really needed.

Last week the U.S. authorized a booster for people with compromised immune systems. Officials have said that authorizing third doses for immunocompromised people was a separate issue from considering whether booster doses were needed for the rest of the population. Studies have shown that the vaccines are less effective for people with weakened immune systems.

Officials from the W.H.O. argue that booster programs will further deprive lower-income countries of vaccines, giving the virus latitude to mutate into potentially more transmissible or virulent variants.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other virus news:

Malaysia’s prime minister and his entire cabinet resigned over his handling of the coronavirus.

Australia’s vaccine campaign is struggling to reach Aboriginal communities.

Haiti’s death toll climbs

As of Sunday evening, a day after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck 80 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the death toll totaled nearly 1,300. The civil defense agency did not provide a promised update on casualty figures on Monday morning.

Hundreds were missing and thousands injured in an area that is bereft of medical resources. The homes of as many as 1.5 million Haitians across the southern peninsula are structurally damaged, according to an internal U.S. government assessment.

The need to expedite help intensified as Tropical Depression Grace threatened to cause possible mudslides and flooding where hundreds of thousands of survivors are sleeping in the open. Officials worried that the storm could bring disease and hunger.

Context: The co-founder of the relief agency Partners in Health, which oversees several hospitals in Haiti, told The Times that the country’s ability to respond to an earthquake has improved since the 2010 disaster that killed some 300,000. But struggling infrastructure and political volatility persist.


News From Asia

Japan’s economy grew in the second quarter, but record-high coronavirus case levels and a low vaccination rate risk a return to the country’s cycle of expansion and contraction.

Heavy rains on Sunday caused flooding across southwestern Japan, The Guardian reports, as well as a mudslide in Nagano that left three people presumed dead.

The major Hong Kong pro-democracy umbrella group Civil Rights Human Front disbanded in the wake of the security law imposed by Beijing, CNN reports.

Khieu Samphan, 90, the last living leader of Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime, began a courtroom appeal Monday seeking to overturn a 2018 conviction on genocide charges.

A Chinese giant panda at a Singapore wildlife park has given birth to a cub — the first born there, Reuters reports, and a rare event for an endangered species.

Around the World

The Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema won a decisive victory in the presidential election over Edgar Lungu, who has led the southern African nation since 2015.

The death toll rose to at least 59 a fifth day after flash floods in Turkey, and more than 70 people remain missing.

Canada will hold an early election next month. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes it will give his Liberal Party a majority in Parliament.

Roger Federer will miss the U.S. Open and undergo his fourth knee surgery since 2016. He will be on crutches and off the tennis court “for many months.”

The U.S. will investigate Tesla’s autopilot system after several crashes.

A Morning Read

The image of Enver Hoxha, a feared tyrant, was once everywhere in Albania. His last intact statue is watched over by a partly blind, 80-year-old defender.


A new must-have for TV and movie shoots

Working on sets can be challenging. Some TV and movie companies are hiring therapists to help, Alex Marshall reports.

The jobs vary: Some projects bring in therapists before filming to help writers work with dark material. Other times, therapists are available to the cast and crew once filming begins. When Amazon’s series “The Underground Railroad,” about people escaping slavery, was filming in Georgia, the therapist Kim Whyte was on the set. “Some of the cast and crew were disturbed by the content — just the institution of slavery,” Whyte said. Others wanted to talk about issues at home.

It’s part of an effort to make film productions healthier workplaces. “You’re pushed, pushed, pushed and pushed to the limit, all the time,” Sue Quinn, a location manager, told The New York Times. The priority is often to make sure projects remain on budget, she said, and crew and actors are often bullied or asked to work exhausting hours.

Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor, a writer and producer, said she first worked with a therapist while writing a short film about her experience of seeking asylum in Britain. She then decided to make the therapist available to members of the cast and crew on several other productions. “It should be part of how we all work,” Gharoro-Akpojotor said. “We don’t know what anyone’s working through.”


What to Cook

For a next-level chicken parm, try grilling it.

What to Watch

Giant killer moths, a Russian Batman and a crazed pastor are the stars of five action movies worth streaming.

What to Read

In “Four Thousand Weeks,” a self-help book skeptical of self-help, Oliver Burkeman offers his perspective on how we might spend our fleeting time.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Beyoncé’s husband (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. Andre Braugher, star of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” will play Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor, in an upcoming movie.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the fall of Afghanistan.

Whet Moser helped write this briefing. Sanam Yar wrote the Arts and Ideas. You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].

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