Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

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

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.

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:

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

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.

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.

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