Good morning. We’re covering the Taliban’s rapid advance, the end of the Olympics and the Delta variant’s surge across Asia.
These strange Olympics end
Few athletes attended the closing ceremony on Sunday, a giddy performance in front of tens of thousands of empty seats.
Aside from a few glancing mentions of the pandemic, which delayed the Games a year, the pomp and circumstance mostly looked normal — at least on television. But the arena was eerily quiet, a fitting end to a claustrophobic, uncanny event.
“The flame was doused with everyone playing their parts as if nothing were wrong, with the Olympic movement or the world,” my colleague Victor Mather reported from Tokyo.
Pandemic: Since early July, a total of 436 people related to the Olympics have tested positive for the virus. And since the Games opened on July 23, daily cases outside the bubble in Tokyo have more than tripled.
Quotable: “Some parts were extremely enjoyable,” Caeleb Dressel, the U.S. swimmer who won five gold medals, said of his two weeks in Tokyo. “I would say the majority of them were not.”
Memorable moments: A spicy rhythmic gymnastics finale. A 62-year-old medalist. A former prodigy with a gold. Here’s a recap of the magic.
Next up: The Paralympics begin on Aug. 24 in Tokyo. And Paris is preparing for 2024.
Outbreaks surge across Asia
A number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region are being overwhelmed by their biggest coronavirus waves in months, as the Delta variant of the virus races through populations with relatively low vaccination levels.
Thailand: Only 6 percent of people are fully vaccinated, according to Times data. On Saturday, the government reported 21,838 new coronavirus cases and 212 deaths, both single-day records. In Bangkok on Saturday, more than 1,000 people protested the government’s failures to handle the pandemic.
The Philippines: Less than 10 percent of the country is fully vaccinated. The health ministry recorded more than 11,000 new infections, the highest daily total since April. On Friday, after the capital imposed a two-week lockdown, desperate people jammed vaccination sites.
Australia: Less than 20 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The country recorded the most new cases since last August, with a vast majority in New South Wales where a weekslong lockdown has failed to stem an outbreak that began around Sydney.
Malaysia: Just over 25 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The country reported 20,889 new cases on Friday, its third consecutive day of record numbers.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
THE LATEST NEWS
For centuries, some Albanian women have declared themselves men and become “sworn virgins” to circumvent the patriarchal society. Now, as the country modernizes, younger women have other avenues to gain independence and respect.
Understand the State of Vaccine Mandates in the U.S.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Why celebs love cooking shows
Paris Hilton is the latest celebrity with a cooking show, joining the likes of Selena Gomez and Amy Schumer in the genre of famous people leveling up their culinary skills. These shows are often a way for celebrities — particularly women who are aging out of Hollywood’s narrow range of roles — to maintain their relevance or expand their empires, as Jaya Saxena writes in Eater.
In “Cooking With Paris,” on Netflix, Hilton prepares themed meals using glittering cooking utensils for famous friends like Kim Kardashian West and Saweetie. The show was inspired by a viral YouTube video of Hilton from last year, in which she made lasagna, and it plays into her heiress persona. “Excuse me, sir, what do chives look like?” she asks a worker in one episode. “What do I do with it?”
This style of clueless cooking connects with many viewers, Kelsi Matwick, a lecturer at the University of Florida, told The Times. “It’s intimacy at a distance — cooking show hosts are considered our friends and families,” she said.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia
P.S. Ben Mueller, who has been covering the pandemic from London, is joining the Health and Science desk as a medical reporter.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about unvaccinated people in the U.S.
Sanam Yar wrote the Arts and Ideas section. You can reach Amelia and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.