Your Monday Briefing

A ruined tank left over from Somalia’s civil war in the 1990s, in Mogadishu in April.

A faltering shadow war in Somalia

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. dispatched tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan, a mission that recently ended in crushing defeat. But it turned to a different playbook in Somalia, relying on spies, Special Operations raids and drone strikes. Now, it seems, that playbook is also failing.

Despite a decade of American covert action there, the Qaeda-linked militant group Al Shabab are at their strongest in years. They roam the countryside, bomb cities and run an undercover state, complete with courts, extortion rackets and parallel taxes, that netted at least $120 million last year, by American government estimates.

The Biden administration is mulling whether to send back some of the 700 troops that Donald Trump withdrew in January. During the Trump administration, airstrikes in Somalia surged, killing several civilians and further complicating the situation in a country effectively run by insurgents.

Analysis: Without a new approach in Somalia, including a political settlement with Al Shabab, some fear that the U.S. will be trapped in another “forever war” with an inglorious end. The U.S. government has been reluctant to commit troops to the country since 18 service members died in the “Black Hawk Down” episode of 1993.

U.S. fatality: Michael Goodboe, a C.I.A. paramilitary specialist killed in an ill-fated November raid, was a rare casualty of an American way of war now under greater scrutiny than ever. He had been deployed to help hunt down a notorious bomb maker, Abdullahi Osman Mohamed, who is believed to still be at large.

Itzia Jimenez lost her job as a gym cleaner because she refused to become vaccinated.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Choosing unemployment over vaccination

The willingness of some workers in the U.S. to give up their livelihoods rather than receive a Covid-19 vaccine helps explain the country’s struggle to contain the pandemic. In New York, roughly 4 percent of 150,000 public school employees did not comply with a vaccine mandate and lost their jobs; in Massachusetts, at least 150 state police officers resigned or filed paperwork signaling plans to do so.

To public health officials, and a majority of Americans, the defiance is unreasonable and incomprehensible. Who would jeopardize financial security over a shot that reams of scientific data show is overwhelmingly safe and effective? But misinformation has been powerful, and fear and doubt have hardened into obstinacy for many vaccine refusers.

Holdouts cite different reasons for their choices: The vaccines are too new, too risky, pumped out too quickly, some said. Others cited their religious faith. Many refused in part because they objected to being forced. In the U.S., 21 percent of eligible adults have not gotten a single vaccine dose.

Context: The mandates are similar to those that have been instituted in the past for schoolchildren for diseases like polio, mumps and measles. They appear to be working: About 84 percent of adult New Yorkers have now received at least one vaccine dose.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other virus developments:

  • In the past two weeks, infections in Germany have increased by 57 percent, while the number of deaths has increased by 11 percent.

  • China on Saturday reported 26 new cases linked to domestic vacation travel.

  • Singapore will require vaccination or daily tests for workplace access next year.

  • The singer Ed Sheeran announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and that he would be canceling public appearances and working at home, in quarantine.

Followers attending the evening liturgy at the Church of the Last Testament in southern Siberia.

Russian repression reaches the depths of Siberia

Since the early 1990s, followers of the Church of the Last Testament have practiced their faith in relative obscurity in Siberia and without government interference. But in September 2020, its leader and two aides were spirited away by Russia’s top federal prosecutorial authority. The three men are still being held in a prison, and no trial has been scheduled.

Scholars and criminal justice experts say the arrests underscore the government’s intolerance of anything that veers from the mainstream — even a small, marginal group living in the middle of the forest, led by a former police officer claiming to be God.

Followers believe their independence is what made their church a target. “We’ve created a self-sustaining society, and our freedom is dangerous for the system,” said one disciple, also a former police officer. For many of the believers, their leader’s arrest, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, is a sign that Judgment Day approaches.

Context: Since taking power at the turn of the century, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s leader, has gone to great lengths to silence critics. The state has also cracked down on nonconformist religious organizations, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was outlawed in 2017 and declared an “extremist” organization, on par with Islamic State militants.


Around the World

Credit…Kyodo, via Reuters
  • A Japanese princess who will soon marry a commoner represents the third generation to suffer intense emotional distress in a country that often consigns women to rigid roles.

  • Cambodian officials say the Met Museum’s collections include artifacts that a notorious temple thief looted during decades of war.

  • Colombian military forces captured Dairo Antonio Úsuga, the leader of a drug cartel and the most wanted man in the country.

News From the U.S.

Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times
  • President Biden met with top Democrats to iron out crucial spending and tax provisions as they raced to wrap up their expansive social safety net legislation, which is likely to cost $2 trillion over 10 years.

  • Amazon warehouse workers who get sick are often underpaid — or fired — because of the company’s flawed system for employee leave.

  • Local residents spent years trying to get their corner of Montana declared a national heritage area. But their efforts were no match for online misinformation.

A Morning Read

Credit…Courtesy of Laura Ashley

If you are a woman who grew up in the 1980s or early ’90s, chances are you have a memory of coveting, wearing or living with something by the British label Laura Ashley, known for its floral chintz fashions and housewares.

While other designers were inspired by the cosmopolitan and the new, Laura Ashley looked to the Victorian past, with its sense of propriety and correspondingly modest silhouettes, and to its designer’s ultimately rather pastoral life. Decades later, the aesthetic is now inspiring a wide range of dressers and brands.


Wes Anderson, right, with Benicio Del Toro.Credit…Searchlight Pictures

Life in Wes Anderson’s whimsical universe

You can expect certain things from a Wes Anderson movie: vibrant color palettes, eccentric characters, symmetrical shots — and at least a few familiar faces: The director returns to the same group of actors again and again, including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton and Anjelica Huston. (He first cast Swinton in one of his films, “Moonrise Kingdom,” after she sent him a fan letter.)

Anderson’s latest movie, “The French Dispatch,” is no different. Several of the film’s actors, including Swinton and Frances McDormand, spoke to The Times about what life is like on set — exacting during the work day, full of family-style feasts at night — and what keeps them coming back.

“Sometimes you can feel isolated when you make a film, American films especially — the stars are in their trailers,” the actress Léa Seydoux said. “With Wes, he needs a deep connection with his actors, that’s why I think he works with the same people all the time.”

Anderson added: “What I like to do is go to a place and have us all live there and become a real local sort of production, like a little theater company.”

The film itself, which follows the happenings at a fictional magazine inspired by The New Yorker, is typical of the director, who has a taste you either enjoy or don’t, like cilantro or Campari, A.O. Scott writes in a review.


What to Cook

Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Roscoe Betsill. Prop Stylist: Maeve Sheridan.

Mild white fish gets a lift from an aromatic marinade packed with lemongrass, ginger, shallots and scotch bonnet chile. The longer you let it steep, the better.

What to Watch

A watchable, if schlocky, South African thriller is among these five international movies to stream now.

What to Read

In “The Radical Potter,” Tristram Hunt writes about Josiah Wedgwood, the man behind the brand once synonymous with fine china.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Superman’s birth name (five letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Wishing you a great start to the week. — Natasha

P.S. Christine Chung, Amanda Holpuch and Vimal Patel are joining The Times’s Express desk as reporters.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Muammar el-Qaddafi’s son.

Sanam Yar contributed reporting to today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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