Defiance in Myanmar
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in cities and towns across Myanmar over the weekend, nearly a week after the military took back power.
Undaunted by the memory of army massacres of pro-democracy protesters as recently as 2007, the demonstrators called for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader who was detained in the coup. They carried red balloons and ribbons, the color of her party.
The internet was cut off in Myanmar on Saturday, as it was during the coup, but then restored on Sunday. Fearful of more shutdowns, protesters posted live videos on Facebook in the hours that they could.
Military tactics: The junta has resorted to familiar tactics, including mass arrests, beatings by mysterious thugs and telecommunications outages. It has also used social media bans targeting Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. An entire class of people — poets, painters, reporters and rap artists among them — has gone into hiding.
Remembering Dr. Li Wenliang
The anniversary of Dr. Li’s death from Covid-19 one year ago inspired an outpouring of online messages in China. He had sounded the alarm about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan before being silenced by the authorities.
On Sunday in China, comments with a hashtag created in remembrance of Dr. Li had attracted over 410 million views on Weibo, and — even with censorship — many longer posts took aim at the official censorship and secrecy that led to his punishment.
Some mourning Dr. Li cited his own words from an interview given days before he died: “I think a healthy society should not have just one voice.”
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
South Africa halted its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday after evidence emerged that it did not protect clinical trial participants from the more contagious variant of the virus first detected there, a devastating blow to the country’s efforts to combat the pandemic. In addition, scientists said that people who had been infected by earlier versions of the virus did not appear to be protected from the variant, known as B.1.351.
Beijing has approved a second Chinese Covid-19 vaccine, this one made by the private company Sinovac Biotech. It is to be distributed to developing countries as part of China’s efforts to be a global player in ending the pandemic. In December, China approved a vaccine made by the state-owned Sinopharm Group.
U.S. health officials are worried that gatherings of football fans for Super Bowl Sunday could set back progress in recent weeks to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
A booming kidney market preys on Afghanistan’s poor
The illegal kidney business is thriving in the city of Herat, fueled by poverty and sprawling slums, unending war, officials and doctors who turn a blind eye to organ trafficking, and a hospital that advertises itself as the country’s first kidney transplantation center.
Officials at Loqman Hakim Hospital boast that they have performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants in five years. Sellers — often motivated by debt, ailing parents or even marriages that would otherwise be unaffordable — say their hospital fees are covered by the buyers.
After a few days in the recovery ward, they are sent home. But not all recover.
Mir Gul Ataye, 28, who supports 13 family members and faced mounting debt, received $3,800 for his kidney, but was left essentially disabled.
Government inaction: Herat Province’s public health director acknowledged the rise of the kidney black market in Afghanistan, but said there was little the government could do. “There’s a lack of rule of law, and a lack of regulation surrounding this process,” he said.
If you have 10 minutes, this is worth it
How China roared back
Snapshot: Above, Indian border police officers mounted a rescue effort on Sunday after a Himalayan glacier crumbled, causing major flooding in the northern state of Uttarakhand. The flooding smashed two dam projects, killed at least seven people and left about 125 unaccounted for, many of them dam workers.
What we’re reading: This Der Spiegel article on Covid-19 vaccines developed by Russia and China. Looking at the data, it holds out the prospect that these vaccines could be game changers in the worldwide drive to end the pandemic.
Now, a break from the news
And now for the Back Story on …
Our ‘5 minutes’ series on classical music
Once a month, about 15 musicians, pop-culture figures and New York Times writers and editors each select the piece they would play for a friend, tied to a theme — be it an instrument, composer, genre or voice type. Here’s a look at our series called “5 Minutes That Will Make You Love _____.”
The series aims to make classical music as accessible to readers as a Top 40 track. You don’t need to know the difference between a cadenza and a concerto. “It’s about pure pleasure and exploration,” said Zachary Woolfe, The Times’s classical music editor.
Now two and a half years and a dozen segments into the project, Zachary said he had been surprised at readers’ appetite for the series, regardless of the theme. “It’s like, ‘OK, ‘5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Mozart’ is super appealing,’” he said. “But ‘5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Baroque Music’? Or ‘5 Minutes That Will Make You Love 21st-Century Composers’? But those both did terrifically as well.”
The series has been expanded — first to individual instruments like the piano, then to genres like opera and composers like Mozart and Beethoven. This month’s theme is string quartets.
That’s it for this briefing. And a correction: Last Wednesday’s briefing incorrectly stated that South Korea and India had ordered doses of the Sputnik vaccine. (Companies in the countries have agreed to produce the vaccine.) See you next time.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on the $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News by Smartmatic, an election technology company.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Ride a wave (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Samantha Stark, who directed the new Times documentary “Framing Britney Spears,” discussed the film’s fresh perspective on the star’s life.