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Your Tuesday Briefing

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In an address from the White House, President Biden insisted that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan “was never supposed to have been about nation-building,” and said that there was no easy time to withdraw, even as he acknowledged that the retreat had been “hard and messy.”

“When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban,” said Biden. “The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season.” He added, “I stand squarely behind my decision.”

His unapologetic defense rallied some Democrats to his side, but the president still faces angry and increasingly public criticism from lawmakers in both parties over the chaos in Kabul. Separately, critics have blamed Afghanistan’s former president, Ashraf Ghani, for the pandemonium in Kabul, saying he has betrayed his people.

On the ground: Thousands of desperate Afghans trying to escape the Taliban takeover swarmed the airport in Kabul yesterday, mobbing the runways and even trying to cling to the fuselage of departing American military planes. Our Visual Investigations team analyzed how the government’s fall occurred.

Many churches lay in ruins from the quake. For numerous Haitians, their only source of aid throughout their lives, in the absence of strong government institutions, has been the church, a part of Haiti’s landscape since the era of European colonialism and slavery.

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In the city of Les Cayes, which was particularly devastated by the quake, clerics despaired even as they sought to project hope and resolve to rebuild. “We are the only thing here,” said the Rev. Yves Joel Jacqueline, who works at the city’s cathedral. “There is no support from the government.”

Context: The disaster could not have come at a worse time for Haiti. The Caribbean nation is still traumatized over the unsolved July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and it is still recovering from the calamitous quake that destroyed much of the Port-au-Prince area in 2010.

Tropical Depression Grace: The storm made landfall in Haiti yesterday afternoon, bringing the potential for mudslides and flooding that could hamper recovery efforts.


Some nations, including France, Germany and Israel, have authorized Covid-19 booster shots for older people. The Biden administration is developing a plan that would roll out booster shots to immuno-compromised people as early as the fall, saying the logistics are too complicated to wait for scientific certainty that the extra doses are really needed.

In the U.S., the surge of cases caused by the Delta variant has forced Americans to recalibrate. Governors and mayors who imposed shutdowns over the summer are now pushing people to get vaccines. More than twice as many new virus cases are being reported nationally compared with last August.

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Response: Officials from the W.H.O. argue that booster programs will further deprive lower-income countries of vaccines, giving the virus latitude to mutate into potentially more transmissible or virulent variants.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other virus news:

Enver Hoxha was once Europe’s most enduring and feared communist tyrant, leaving his native Albania awash with statues and portraits in his honor. Now, just one tribute remains, watched over day and night by Sabire Plaku, 80, and her daughter.

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“In his time, he was a good man, but nobody wants him anymore,” Plaku said. “I have protected him with all my strength.”

Working on sets can be challenging. Some TV and movie companies are hiring therapists to help, Alex Marshall reports.

Some projects bring in therapists before filming to help writers work with dark material. Other times, therapists are available to members of the cast and the crew once filming begins.

When Amazon’s series “The Underground Railroad,” about people escaping slavery, was filming in Georgia, a therapist, Kim Whyte, was on the set. “Some of the cast and crew were disturbed by the content — just the institution of slavery,” Whyte said. Others wanted to talk about issues at home.

It’s part of an effort to make film productions healthier workplaces. “You’re pushed, pushed, pushed and pushed to the limit, all the time,” Sue Quinn, a location manager, told The New York Times. The priority is often to make sure projects remain on budget, she said, and crew members and actors are often bullied or asked to work exhausting hours.

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Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor, a writer and producer, said she first worked with a therapist while writing a short film about her experience of seeking asylum in Britain. She then decided to make the therapist available to members of the cast and the crew on several other productions.

“It should be part of how we all work,” Gharoro-Akpojotor said. “We don’t know what anyone’s working through.”

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