Analysis & Comment

Your Friday Briefing

We’re covering a shootout and a search for assassins in Haiti, and Olympic spectators being barred as Tokyo’s virus situation worsens.

Haiti hunts down assassins of president

Nearly 24 hours after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti, the security forces engaged in a chaotic shootout with a group they described as suspected assailants, killing four and taking several into custody. Here are the latest updates.

Details were emerging of the six people detained, including an American citizen. Haiti’s police chief, Leon Charles, said that the security forces were in control of the situation even as he acknowledged that others believed to be members of the hit squad remained at large.

As the threat of wider violence loomed, and the country was under a “state of siege,” the U.N. Security Council was set to meet about the crisis on Thursday. Members called for calm.

Political stalemate: The interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, declared that he was now in charge, but his hold on power is tenuous given that a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, was scheduled to be sworn in this week. Henry said that Joseph was “no longer prime minister.” Adding to the challenges, Haiti, a parliamentary democracy, has no functioning Parliament.

Moïse’s mixed legacy: Both supporters and opponents of the Haitian president saw his assassination as a sign of turmoil to come. In Montreal, one of the many Haitian diaspora communities, Frantz André had organized a protest in March against him. “Educated people saw him as a threat to democracy, and others have been protesting against him because they have nothing to eat,” André, a leading Haitian human rights advocate, said.

Biden says staying in Afghanistan doesn’t make sense

President Biden on Thursday gave his first formal address on Afghanistan since American troops left their operations center last week, effectively ending U.S. military operations after two decades of war. He argued that the U.S. could no longer afford the human costs, in a speech that acknowledged that America could not alter the country’s course.

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build,” Biden said. “And it’s the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”

As U.S. troops leave, the situation on the ground is increasingly dire. Over two months, the Taliban have seized at least 150 of Afghanistan’s 421 districts. Biden seemed to recognize that reality when he said, “The mission hasn’t failed — yet.”

When asked if the U.S. would be responsible for civilian deaths in the country, he said, emphatically, “No, no, no.”

Plans: The Biden administration has committed $266 million in humanitarian aid and $3.3 billion in security assistance, as well as three million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and oxygen supplies.

Related: Britain has withdrawn nearly all of its troops from Afghanistan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Tokyo Olympics bar spectators

Olympic organizers said on Thursday that they would bar spectators from most events at the Games, which are scheduled to open in two weeks, a decision that followed a new state of emergency in Tokyo amid a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.

Officials have insisted that they could hold the Tokyo Games safely. Last month, they announced that they would allow domestic spectators at the events despite public fears that the Games could spike infections.

On Wednesday, Tokyo reported 920 new cases, the highest number since May, and organizers held an emergency meeting on Thursday to respond to the new pandemic challenges. A few events will be held in locations not affected by the new state of emergency, making it possible that some fans could go.

The announcement came only hours before the Olympic torch was set to begin the last leg of its trip through Japan. Officials decided this week that there would be almost no actual running during its two-week perambulation, instead holding a series of ceremonies that would be closed to the public.

Details: The state of emergency announced on Thursday will start on Monday and be in effect for the duration of the Olympics, starting on July 23. It is the fourth time that Tokyo has been under a state of emergency.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Africa has just had its “worst pandemic week ever,” the W.H.O. said on Thursday. Sixteen countries are reporting surging cases. Vaccines are running low, and health systems are overwhelmed.

The world passed four million known coronavirus cases.


Search teams in Surfside, Fla., have officially changed their mission from a rescue operation to a recovery effort. By Thursday, the death toll had risen to 60.

Jacob Zuma, the former South African president, was taken into custody. A court last month ordered him imprisoned for 15 months for failing to appear before a corruption inquiry.

President Biden gathered top advisers to develop a strategy to counter ransomware attacks by Russian hackers, after an attack over the Fourth of July holiday.

A coalition of 130 nations is working to overhaul the global tax system that Ireland has depended on to lure multinational businesses trying to reduce the taxes they pay.

England beat Denmark, 2-1, and advanced to Sunday’s Euro 2020 final against Italy, which beat Spain.

Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova will face off at the Wimbledon women’s finals on Saturday, after they each won their Thursday matches.

A Morning Read

For almost every video game restriction, children and teenagers will find a way around it. But the room to maneuver is shrinking in China, where underage gamers are required to log on using their real names and identification numbers as Beijing restricts screen time with a curfew barring those under 18 from playing games after 10 p.m. This week, the company Tencent said it would even use facial recognition to help the government do that.


The ‘wolf warrior diplomat’ of Twitter

In the past two years, a once-obscure Chinese diplomat has completely transformed how China communicates with its allies and adversaries. His unbridled style of rhetoric has spread throughout the Chinese diplomatic corps, replacing the evasive diplomatese and abstruse Communist jargon that has long characterized the nation’s public statements.

How? By tweeting.

At first, Zhao Lijian was seemingly on his own, wielding Twitter as his personal cudgel while only a small number of other Chinese diplomats were even on the platform. But his timing was exquisite. As China’s leader, Xi Jinping, forged a more muscular and confident foreign policy, Zhao was there to introduce a new, chaotic tone into Chinese diplomacy.

Online and in the media, Zhao was called the “wolf warrior” diplomat, a moniker taken from a pair of ultranationalistic action films. His recent ascent through the ranks mirrors China’s broader awakening to its own power. Now a newly wary world is watching as China discovers its voice, one that sounds a lot like Zhao Lijian.


What to Cook

This steak marinade uses coriander, cumin, ginger and garlic for simple, umami-laden flavor in as little as 30 minutes.

What to Read

“Disquiet,” by the Turkish novelist Zulfu Livaneli, takes the form of a documentary investigation by an Istanbul journalist into his childhood city’s transformation and role at the center of the refugee crisis.

Life Tips

You’re probably washing your jeans too often.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: See eye to eye (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Melina

P.S. Our Opinion editor, Kathleen Kingsbury, recently participated in a Reddit AMA about the Opinion section.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the end of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan. On “Sway,” Kara Swisher interviews the comedian Chelsea Handler.

Whet Moser wrote the Arts and Ideas. You can reach Melina and the team at

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