Analysis & Comment

Your Friday Briefing

Indonesia hospitals, election hacking, Afghan peace talks: Here’s what you need to know.

By Melina Delkic

Good morning.

We’re covering Jakarta’s overwhelmed hospitals, aggressive hacks related to the U.S. presidential election and devastating wildfires in the U.S. West.

Its hospitals filling, Jakarta brings back restrictions

Officials in the Indonesian capital will reimpose a partial shutdown on Monday as hospitals near capacity. The measures include a work-from-home requirement, a ban on large gatherings and restrictions on houses of worship.

“We will pull the emergency brake, which means we are forced to re-implement large-scale social restrictions like in the early days of the pandemic,” Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, said on Wednesday.

Restrictions imposed early on in the pandemic had been relaxed to restart the economy. But in recent weeks, the number of coronavirus cases has surged past 200,000, and experts say the total is most likely many times higher. Since Sunday, Jakarta has been reporting more than 1,000 new cases a day — about one-third of the national daily total.

The governor predicted that all hospital beds would be taken by early October and that intensive care units would be full by Sept. 25 if the city did not take action to slow the spread of the virus.

Context: Indonesia’s health care system is notoriously understaffed and underfunded. More than 185 doctors, dentists and nurses have died from Covid-19, professional associations say.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

The Japanese Sumo Association said 19 wrestlers had tested positive for the virus, just days before the next major tournament was scheduled to start.

Wuhan, China, will resume international flights this month. Carriers are applying for permission to restart direct flights to cities including Bangkok; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hanoi, Vietnam; Singapore; and Tokyo, according to state media.

A U.S. stimulus package worth hundreds of billions of dollars failed to win support in the Senate, dimming chances that Congress will enact another economic recovery measure to address the toll.

Russian and Chinese hackers target U.S. campaigns

Russian intelligence has been hacking U.S. campaign officials working for the Republicans and the Democrats, while China has focused on penetrating the campaign of Joe Biden, the presidential challenger, according to an assessment by Microsoft.

The new hacks are more stealthy and aggressive than four years ago and are aimed at campaign staff, consultants and think tanks associated with the two parties — at least 200 organizations.

A U.S. assessment last month said China was supporting Mr. Biden in the race, but Microsoft found that Chinese hackers have been attacking the private email accounts of Mr. Biden’s campaign staff members.

Context: The assessment is far more detailed than any yet made public by American intelligence agencies, and comes a day after a government whistle-blower claimed that administration officials suppressed intelligence concerning Russian interference.

A lot at stake in Afghan peace talks

On Saturday, negotiating teams from the Afghan government and the Taliban will meet in Doha, Qatar, to open negotiations about power sharing after years of war.

The release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the government opened the way for the breakthrough, after months of delay and recrimination. Our correspondent Mujib Mashal outlined what to know about the talks.

What to watch: The differences on major issues are vast. Power sharing will require a difficult compromise between two clashing visions of government: an Islamic theocracy and a democratic republic. The Taliban have ramped up their attacks on government forces.

If you have 7 minutes, this is worth it

A sex abuse case in France exposes a feminist divide

A new generation of activists has led a charge against Christophe Girard, a former deputy mayor of Paris who has been accused of sexual abuse and criticized for his support of the pedophile writer Gabriel Matzneff. In a country where the #MeToo movement was slow to take off, the case has become emblematic of a divide between older, establishment feminists and their younger, more radical sisters. Above, a protest at Paris city hall.

One critic said younger feminists were too quick to confront powerful men. Younger feminists say focusing on violence against women is central. “We’re always asked to reaffirm that we’re not angry,” said Alice Coffin, a city councilor and activist in the newest wave of feminism. “But, me, I’m very angry.”

Here’s what else is happening

Beirut port fire: A large fire erupted in the port on Thursday, terrifying residents still recovering from the horrific explosion that devastated entire neighborhoods last month. The fire appeared to have started in a warehouse owned by a company that imported cooking oil.

Charlie Hebdo trial: Witnesses and survivors of the January 2015 massacre at the newspaper’s office took center stage at a courthouse in Paris this week, days into the trial that is expected to last until November. A maintenance worker recalled how his hands were covered with so much blood that he couldn’t unlock his phone to call for help.

Wall Street: Citigroup, the third-largest bank in the U.S., announced that Jane Fraser will become its chief executive in February. She would be the first woman to lead a major financial institution in the U.S.

Keeping up with the Kardashians: This week, the Kardashian-Jenner family announced that, after 20 seasons, their reality TV show would come to an end in 2021. Our Styles desk looked at how the show changed not only TV, but American culture at large.

Snapshot: Above, Berry Creek, Calif., on Wednesday after a wildfire. The wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington have killed seven people, and there are growing fears that others have died in towns destroyed throughout the West.

What we’re watching: This TikTok video of a large tortoise living in Los Angeles. “I envy the life of Tiptoe, the 175-pound tortoise, whose big outing was this stroll across the street — motivated by his ‘walking snackies,’” writes Shira Ovide, the author of the On Tech newsletter.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: A vegetarian spin on kofta curry, a saucy dish of gently spiced meatballs. It’s based on a recipe from the food writer Tejal Rao’s grandfather, though her take swaps out the meat for mashed black beans bound with bread crumbs and seasoned with ginger and herbs.

Read: “The Discomfort of Evening,” winner of this year’s International Booker Prize and written by the Dutch novelist Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, is about dairy farmers who are members of a strict Protestant sect and are mourning a son’s death.

Deal: Exercising is not only good for your body — it also helps build resilience when life hands you disruptions.

There are many more ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying at home in our At Home section.

And now for the Back Story on …

How U.S. universities botched quarantine

Our survey of 1,500 U.S. colleges has revealed at least 51,000 coronavirus cases and 60 deaths since the pandemic began. Natasha Singer, our reporter covering health and education technologies, wrote about a breakdown in college quarantines of students who have the coronavirus. She spoke to our On Tech newsletter about how students used social media to expose their university’s poor handling of the crisis.

Tell me your tales of how students using social media to shame their schools.

Natasha: Many people have seen the online videos of students stuck in quarantine or isolation documenting crummy or nonexistent university-provided meals.

But what I found went deeper: Sick students are making videos about how they felt universities abandoned them once they tested positive and moved into special Covid dorms.

And there are a bunch of students who shared online their shock that virus-infected students or people who were waiting for tests were assigned to share a room, bathroom or dorm — conditions that they worried could foster infections. In some cases, their colleges then improved services for quarantined students.

College students are also being shamed on social media for their behavior.

Yes, some kids are partying or going to bars in large numbers without masks. But epidemiologists said some schools also made the risks worse by failing to make systematic changes to help curtail the virus. Some schools reduced capacity in dorms, and that helps.

Sending infected students home is dangerous because it risks spreading the coronavirus to their families and communities. What should colleges do?

The best practice would be caring for the mental health and physical safety of students who are quarantined, and not leaving them to fend for themselves. Schools have to plan in advance for what should happen in isolation dorms, and what it’s going to be like for an 18 year old who gets sick and feels cut off.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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