Your Monday Briefing: U.S. Lawmakers Visit Taiwan


Good morning. We’re covering a visit by U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan and Salman Rushdie’s road to recovery.

A delegation of five U.S. lawmakers arrived in Taiwan yesterday. Their visit came less than two weeks after a contentious trip by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, which infuriated Beijing and provoked Chinese military drills off Taiwan’s coast.

Taiwanese officials said they appreciated the U.S. show of solidarity during the escalating tensions with Beijing. The U.S. delegation planned to meet today with Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president, and consult with the foreign affairs and national defense committees of Taiwan’s legislature, Taiwan said.

China had no immediate response, but the presence of the five U.S. lawmakers so soon after Pelosi’s visit was likely to elicit a sharp reaction and possibly inspire more military exercises, analysts said.

Context: After Pelosi’s visit, Beijing fired five missiles into waters that are part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, a warning to Japan and to the U.S. about coming to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a conflict there. Last week, China wrapped up live-fire exercises that encircled the island and simulated a blockade. But Taiwan appeared undeterred, and China went easy on its economy.

After Salman Rushdie was stabbed roughly 10 times on Friday during a speech, “the road to recovery has begun,” his agent said yesterday. Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and could speak a few words.

A 24-year-old man was charged with attempted murder and assault with a weapon. Prosecutors said the attack was premeditated and targeted.

Rushdie has been living relatively openly after years of a semi-clandestine existence that followed the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses,” which fictionalized parts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. In 1989, about six months after the book came out, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the leader of Iran, issued an edict known as a fatwa that ordered Muslims to kill Rushdie.

Details: Because of the attack, the author may lose an eye, has a damaged liver and has severed nerves in his arm, his agent said.

Background: In 1991, the Japanese translator of “The Satanic Verses” was fatally stabbed. The crime remains unsolved. The novel’s Italian translator, its Norwegian publisher and a Turkish novelist who published an excerpt all survived attempts on their lives.

A year into Taliban rule, Afghanistan has seemed to hurtle backward in time, my colleagues write in an analysis. For many Afghans — particularly women in cities — the sense of loss has been devastating.

Two decades of U.S.-financed reforms have been reversed by mounting restrictions on daily life, enforced by police-state tactics like door-to-door searches and arbitrary arrests. Schools and jobs are again restricted for women. Music has been banned, and beards are mandatory for men — an echo of the Taliban’s first rule in the 1990s.

“Now it’s gone — all of it,” said Zakia Zahadat, 24, who used to work in a government ministry after she earned a college degree. She is mostly confined to her home these days, she said. “We have lost the power to choose what we want.”

International isolation is exacerbating Afghanistan’s economic and humanitarian crisis, which may deepen after U.S. officials accused the Taliban of harboring the leader of Al Qaeda this month. But the country has been better off in one way: It is largely at peace after decades of war that upended the lives of rural Afghans in particular.

Background: Here are photos from the Taliban’s offensive last year, with context and reflections from our Kabul bureau chief.

Profiles: A group of Afghan employees from our Kabul bureau are adjusting after their evacuation to the U.S. Their new lives are challenging but full of opportunities.

Anime idealizes intimacy and romance, but tends to be notably coy in its depictions of physical encounters.

A hug, therefore, has thus taken on symbolic importance, Maya Phillips writes in a video-filled essay. It often is a different kind of consummation, especially when characters embrace as they fall through the air.

The photographer Tsukasa Yajima, known for his stark, poignant portraits of the former sex slaves for Japan’s soldiers in World War II, has won praise for blowing the whistle on South Korea’s treatment of “comfort women.” But it has also come at a cost.

Recently, he exposed subpar conditions at South Korea’s best-known shelter for those survivors, the House of Sharing, where he runs its international outreach program. Along with South Korean employees, Yajima exposed how donations meant for survivors’ welfare were enriching South Korea’s biggest ​and most powerful ​Buddhist order, Jogye.

An investigation by a joint panel of government officials and civilian experts confirmed most of the whistle-blowers’ ​accusations and more, and it lead to criminal indictments. Angry donors have sued ​the House of Sharing.

Yajima, a Japanese national, has borne the brunt of a backlash from past and present shelter employees. The whistle-blowers face dozens of defamation​ and other lawsuits; four of them quit last month, complaining about harassment. But Yajima has insisted on staying on​.


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