Your Wednesday Briefing

We’re covering the Taliban’s rapid advance and the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York.

Taliban take two more capitals

Another two provincial capitals, Farah in western Afghanistan and Pul-i-Khumri in the north, all but fell to the Taliban on Tuesday, local officials said, the seventh and eighth cities to be overrun in under a week.

The Taliban had been encroaching for a while on Farah city, the capital of the province with the same name. The province has been a focal point for its offensive operations in the country’s west for years.

A police officer told The Times that government officials had fled to an army headquarters miles outside the city and that the main prison had been breached. The streets, he said, were full of freed inmates.

In the north, the monthslong Taliban stranglehold on the capital of Baghlan Province, Pul-i-Khumri, finally succeeded, forcing government officials to retreat. The city is on the highway connecting the northern provinces to Kabul.

In-depth: Video calls provide a rare, intimate look into the daily life of Romal Noori, who grew up near Bagram Air Base, worked for the U.S. military for nine of his 31 years, and is now waiting on a Special Immigrant Visa for his family.

‘Helpless’: Travelers still locked out of the U.S.

In June, as the U.S. made headway in its vaccination campaign, E.U. leaders recommended that member countries reopen their borders to Americans. They expected it to be reciprocated.

But nearly two months later, even as Europe has overtaken the U.S. in vaccinations, borders remain closed to most European travelers, even those who are vaccinated. The same is true for Canadians, whose country opened its border to Americans this week.

The closed borders are frustrating Europeans who haven’t seen loved ones in a year and a half, and don’t know whether to accept jobs in the U.S. Officials in Europe have gone so far as to say they may reimpose travel restrictions against U.S. travelers.

The White House has offered little explanation on why the restrictions remain, even though some countries with higher infection and lower vaccination rates don’t face a similar ban. At a news conference last week, Jen Psaki, the White House spokeswoman, cited the advice of medical experts and continued concerns about the Delta variant.

Quotable: “I felt helpless and broken down,” said one man who was sent home to Hanover, Germany, on the way to his great-granddaughter’s christening in New York City.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Thousands of people flocked to vaccination sites in Manila as new virus restrictions were imposed in the Philippines.

The latest wave of Covid-19 infections in several South Asian nations has been complicated by a surge in dengue.

South Korea reported more than 2,000 new Covid cases, its highest daily tally yet, Reuters reports.

For the first time since February, the U.S. is averaging more than 100,000 new cases a day. See the latest charts.

The U.S. military plans to mandate vaccinations for 1.3 million active-duty troops.

Gov. Cuomo of New York to resign

The New York leader who emerged as the face of the pandemic response in America’s first virus epicenter is stepping down in the face of mounting sexual harassment allegations. Here are the latest updates, and a timeline of the scandals that led to his resignation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his resignation would be effective in 14 days. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, will be sworn in to replace him. She will become the first female governor of New York.

The governor left denying the charges, saying his resignation was necessary so the inquiry into him would not be a “distraction.” “Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said in a speech on Tuesday.

He acknowledged that some actions, including hugs, kisses on the cheeks and referring to women as “honey” or “darling,” might have made women uncomfortable.

The allegations: The state attorney general last week released a damning report in which 11 women spoke out about the governor’s unwanted touching and inappropriate comments.


News From Asia

Wishma Rathnayake, a 33-year-old Sri Lankan migrant, died in a migrant detention center in Japan. An official report on her case placed little blame, while reform advocates say the immigration system needs a complete overhaul.

Evergrande, a vast real estate empire that is one of China’s worst debtors, epitomizes the vulnerability of the world’s No. 2 economy.

The U.S. is giving Myanmar $50 million in aid as the humanitarian crisis there worsens, Reuters reports.

SoftBank on Tuesday reported a profit of 762 billion yen, or $6.9 billion, for the three months that ended on June 30.

A Chinese court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence of a Canadian man convicted of drug trafficking, one of several legal cases that has driven a diplomatic rift between Beijing and Ottawa.

Around the World

Lionel Messi signed with Paris St.-Germain, the French soccer powerhouse bankrolled by the state of Qatar.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil launched a full-throated attack on the electronic voting system the country has relied on for 25 years. It prompted fears of a power grab.

The Biden administration said it intended to disclose long-classified documents that some Sept. 11 victims’ families believe could link the Saudi government to the attacks.

Daniela Espirito Santo died in England after an assault by her boyfriend, who had been arrested, then released, by police. Her case is emblematic of Britain’s failure to protect victims of domestic abuse.

Virginia Giuffre, one of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers, sued Prince Andrew of Britain, saying that he had raped her when she was 17.

A Morning Read

When the Berlin Wall fell, the East German secret police, known as the Stasi, tried to destroy records of extensive spying and surveillance of the population. Over the past 30 years, researchers have been reconstructing 40 to 55 million documents by hand to give former citizens the chance to see.


A Russian view of Chernobyl

Two years after HBO aired its critically acclaimed series “Chernobyl,” the Russian film “Chernobyl 1986” has arrived on Netflix. While the HBO series focused on the failures of the Soviet system that led to the nuclear plant’s explosion, the movie on Netflix follows the lives of “liquidators” — people who prevented the fire from spreading to the other reactors and helped avoid an even larger disaster.

The movie, which was partly funded by the Russian state, has received some criticism within Russia and Ukraine for not emphasizing the government’s missteps enough. Alexander Rodnyansky, one of the film’s producers, who as a young documentary filmmaker captured the disaster zone in the days after the catastrophe, said that was never his goal.

“For years people spoke about what really happened there,” he told The Times, adding that most people understand the government’s role in the disaster. The Russian film, instead, trains its lens on the role of individual heroism.

Today, the power plant site has fewer than 2,000 workers who monitor a giant sarcophagus that ensures no nuclear waste is released, Valerie Hopkins writes. Read her story.


What to Cook

Plantains with jammy tomatoes and eggs is based on “tomato eggs,” a popular dish across West Africa.

Live Music

As the concert business amped up again, our critic booked six weeks seeing shows in honky-tonks, clubs and arenas. But concerns about Covid-19 became the unannounced guest on nearly every lineup.

What to Read

“In the Country of Others,” Leila Slimani’s new book about her interracial grandparents in Morocco, is the first installment of a planned trilogy fictionalizing the author’s family history.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Piña colada ingredient (three 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. Rebecca Davis O’Brien will cover criminal justice for The Times after seven years at The Wall Street Journal.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the Taliban’s advance.

Sanam Yar wrote the Arts and Ideas. You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].

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