Your Monday Briefing: Russia’s Pre-Holiday Push


Good morning. We’re covering Russia’s nationalist holiday, Hong Kong’s new leader and a Taliban decree targeting women.

Lee, the top architect of the crackdown on Hong Kong’s antigovernment protests in 2019, plans to push through laws on treason, secession, sedition and subversion, and to root out critics in the civil service. He inherits a city that has been tamed and cowed: Sweeping national security laws imposed two years ago have quashed dissent, gutted the free press and put critics behind bars or sent them into exile.

He will also face a city embattled by some of the world’s toughest pandemic restrictions. The economy is shrinking, unemployment is rising and growing numbers of people are leaving the city, imperiling its status as a global financial center.

Context: Beijing has always let it be known who it wants in the top job, though more subtly in the past. This time, China removed any veneer of competition and effectively neutered the pro-democracy camp with new electoral rules and the national security law.

Quotable: “Even in Iran, there is more of a contest for the head of government,” one expert said.

The Taliban decreed on Saturday that women should cover themselves from head to toe in public. The move expands a series of onerous Taliban restrictions on women that dictate nearly every aspect of public life, including their employment, education, travel and deportment.

A burqa is the preferred garment, but the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — which replaced the previous government’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs — did not mandate burqas as long as women otherwise cover themselves with a hijab.

Failure to do so could result in a jail sentence for the male head of the woman’s family. The relatively few women still permitted to hold jobs could be fired if they do not comply with the decree.

History: The Taliban required the burqa, which leaves only a woman’s hands and feet visible and includes a stitched facial netting for vision, when it ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Eid: For many Afghans, the end of Ramadan showed the dissonance between the promise of peace many had imagined and the realities of the end of the war.

Louis Faidherbe, a French general, helped shape Senegal’s former capital — and also led brutal military campaigns in West Africa. Now, the city is divided over what to do with a bronze statue of him that has stood in a central square for more than a century.

Elvis Presley never played a concert in Australia, but that hasn’t stopped tens of thousands of people from celebrating his life and work at an annual festival about a five-hour drive from Sydney.

For nearly 30 years, “Elvi” — the plural of Elvis, at least at the largest Elvis festival in the Southern Hemisphere — have blurred the line between fans and impersonators. This year, after a pandemic hiatus, there were more pompadours and leisure suits than anyone can count: About 25,000 people usually come to rejoice.

“It lets us forget everything,” said Gina Vicar, 61, a small-business owner from Melbourne who had come to the festival with a dozen friends. “With all that we’ve gone through, and what the world is going through now, it’s great to see all this joy.”

There are performances and rhinestones, gold-rimmed sunglasses and dad bods. “The festival has become a national treasure that exemplifies how Australians tend to do a lot of things: all together, with self-deprecating humor and copious amounts of alcohol,” writes Damien Cave, our Sydney bureau chief.

Read Damien’s personal account of the trip to the festival, here.


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