Your Thursday Briefing

Thousands attempt to flee Afghanistan

President Biden’s decision not to begin a mass evacuation from Afghanistan of interpreters, guides and their relatives earlier has left thousands in limbo. Women in particular are frantically erasing their links to the U.S. for fear that they will be targeted by the Taliban. The U.S. evacuated 2,000 people, mostly Afghans and NATO personnel, from Kabul in 24 hours.

Even going to Kabul’s airport to try to secure a place on a departing flight has become a life-or-death decision. The Taliban have blocked entrances, fired rifles and beaten some people in the crowds. Inside, 5,000 U.S. troops were stationed to evacuate people. Taliban fighters have quickly cracked down on demonstrations elsewhere in the country.

The scenes in Afghanistan have panicked European politicians, who fear that another mass movement of Muslim asylum seekers will fan the embers of the far-right and populist movements that reshaped European politics in the mid-2010s. Afghans are facing a compassion deficit in Europe that may be insurmountable.

Follow live updates here.

Financial squeeze: The U.S. blocked the Taliban from access to billions of dollars belonging to the Afghan central bank.

Britain-U.S. relations: The U.S.’s rapid withdrawal has left some British lawmakers embittered by what they see as a lack of coordination over the timing and tactics, ignoring Britain’s role in the war.

Israel battles a surge of coronavirus cases

A fourth wave of infections in Israel is rapidly approaching the levels of the country’s worst days of the pandemic last winter. The daily rate of confirmed new virus cases has more than doubled in the last two weeks, hitting a six-month high of over 8,000 new cases on Monday. At least 230 people have died from Covid this month.

Some experts fear that Israel’s high rate of infections among early vaccine recipients may indicate a waning of the vaccine’s protections over time, especially against the highly contagious Delta variant. The government has reintroduced restrictions on gatherings and is now considering a new lockdown.

Since March, the country had returned almost to its prepandemic normal, with concerts and sports events opened up to the vaccinated. “The vaccinations were supposed to solve everything,” a public health expert said. Now, he added, it is clear that masks and crowd limits must be part of the approach.

Related: New studies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. show that although vaccines remain highly effective against hospitalizations and deaths, the bulwark they provide against infection has weakened in the past few months.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

The Biden administration will roll out vaccine booster shots starting Sept. 20 and is mobilizing a federal civil rights office to press nursing homes to vaccinate their staffs and to deter states from banning school masks.

The prevalence of the Delta variant means many travelers, including some who are vaccinated, are facing sickness, quarantines and delayed returns.

‘We’re on our own’

Days after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake devastated part of Haiti’s southern peninsula and killed at least 2,180 people, some areas, including the village of Toirac, had yet to be visited by any emergency authorities or aid groups.

After at least 20 people in Toirac were killed while attending a funeral at the time of the quake, villagers dug out the dead, buried them in mass graves and built makeshift shelters from their collapsed homes as Tropical Storm Grace pelted the area with heavy rain. Here’s how it happened.

The U.N., the U.S. and an array of international aid groups have mobilized to send help, but the effort has remained patchy and limited, mostly confined to providing urgent medical assistance and basic supplies to the main population centers close to airstrips.

Quotable: “I don’t expect any help; we’re on our own,” said Michel Milord, a farmer in Toirac, who lost his wife and his house in the earthquake. “No one trusts this government here.”


Around the World

After years of delays, R. Kelly went on trial in Brooklyn. The R&B singer faces charges of commanding a criminal enterprise that recruited women and underage girls to have sex with him.

The use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops will be blocked in the U.S. Studies have linked it to brain damage in children.

Tropical Storm Grace strengthened to a hurricane as it moved toward the Yucatán Peninsula. Another storm, Henri, could become a hurricane by Friday.

What Else is Happening

European soccer’s governing body is preparing to establish a relief fund of as much as $7 billion to help struggling teams manage their growing debts. Above, A.C. Milan players in an empty arena in December.

Tired of sweatpants and bike shorts, women are gravitating toward sporty, stretchy skort-dresses for everyday wear.

A Morning Read

For a summer project, we gave sportswriters 900 words and a theme: “freedom.” Here’s what they came up with.


The science of food

J. Kenji López-Alt, a food columnist for The Times, approaches home cooking like a scientist. He spoke with Times Insider about how his kitchen is also a lab. Here’s an excerpt.

How would you describe your approach to cooking?

I try to explain the science and technique behind home cooking. My thought is always that understanding science can help you become better at something.

How did you arrive at that view?

I’ve always been into science. My father is a scientist. My grandfather is a scientist, so that was part of my education growing up. After college, I was cooking in restaurants, and I had a lot of questions about why certain things worked the way they did. I eventually transitioned to doing recipe development at Cook’s Illustrated.

What kind of meals or recipes are you drawn to?

There’s a big difference between what I write about and what I cook at home. I cook based on how much time I have and whatever leftovers I have, and I make adjustments on the fly.

So you’re not a meal planner or a Sunday meal prepper?

No, I don’t know what we’re having for dinner tonight.


What to Cook

You barely need a recipe for this easy yet complex pasta dish, which uses Parmesan and a handful of mint.

What to Watch

The mean girls from “The White Lotus” explain themselves.

What to Read

Laurent Binet’s latest novel, “Civilizations,” imagines what might have been if the Incas had invaded Europe in the 16th century.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: What orecchiette, pappardelle and trofie are types of (five letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a great day. — Natasha

P.S. A fight between the writers Ernest Hemingway and Max Eastman ended up in The Times 84 years ago this month. Hemingway said he had slapped Eastman, who claimed to have thrown Hemingway over a desk.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the Haiti earthquake.

You can reach Natasha and the team at

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