Friday, October 22, 2021

Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times

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We are covering the violence in Beirut and a high-stakes meeting to stop the collapse of biodiversity.

At least six people were killed and dozens injured during clashes between militias that briefly turned Beirut neighborhoods into a war zone on Thursday. Here are the latest updates.

The violence erupted in a protest led by two Shiite Muslim parties: Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. The protesters called for the removal of the judge in charge of investigating the massive explosion in the port of Beirut last year.

The fighting marked a new low in Lebanon’s descent into political and economic crisis.

Conflict: Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians are Lebanon’s largest religious groups, and tensions between denominations and Hezbollah have often escalated to violence, most catastrophically during the country’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990.

Context: Lebanon’s currency has collapsed, hitting the economy. Bitter infighting between officials has hampered the way forward. The explosion in the port of Beirut exposed the results of what many Lebanese see as decades of bad governance.

A high-level meeting is taking place this week as part of an effort to stop a collapse in biodiversity that scientists say could equate to climate change as an existential crisis.

The UN conference on biodiversity seeks to address the rapid collapse of species and systems that collectively support life on Earth, anticipating the global climate summit in Glasgow, which begins in October. 31

The stakes in the two meetings are equally high, say many leading scientists, but the biodiversity crisis has received far less attention. Humans have destroyed the land through agriculture, mining, logging, overfishing, and more. Scientists say transformational change is needed.

Quotable: “If the global community continues to see it as a side event, and they continue to think that climate change is now the real thing to listen to, by the time they realize biodiversity, it may be too late,” said Francis Ogwal, one of those of the leaders of the working group charged with shaping an agreement between nations.

Details: The average abundance of native species in most major terrestrial biomes has declined by at least 20 percent, mostly since 1900, according to a major report on the state of the world’s biodiversity. If you lose too many players in an ecosystem, it will stop working.


President Biden warned that the coronavirus pandemic was not over yet, but said the United States was “going in the right direction.” He called on states and private companies to support vaccine mandates in an effort to prevent another spike in cases.

“We have critical work to do and we cannot back down now,” Biden said in a speech at the White House on Thursday. “I am calling on more companies to step up. I am calling on more parents to vaccinate their children when they are eligible.”

He projected optimism amid a drop in new cases compared to a devastating summer wave.

The numbers: The United States now reports about 90,000 new infections a day, more than 40 percent less than in August. Hospitalizations and deaths are also declining. Almost 70 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, and many children under the age of 12 are likely to be eligible to receive their vaccinations within weeks.

A new cable car and hundreds of giant murals have illuminated lives in one of Mexico City’s most crime-affected areas, but poverty and attacks on women are still pervasive. Many wonder if the beautification project will be enough to change the sense of danger.

The primatologist I spoke to our book desk about what he has learned from reading.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

“The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West”, to remind me to read again. It’s brilliant and I know the author, Imran Ahmad. And “Cult: After my escape and return to the children of God”, by Bexy Cameron. I skimmed it and it is an extraordinary and chillingly true autobiography.

At the end of a day of Zooms, Skype, and emails, my eyes are too tired to read, so I turn to audiobooks. I need something relaxing. Like Agatha Christie.

What is the last great book you read?

Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” – The author has created another world that becomes totally real even when the story grabs you.

What has been your reading for much of your life during the decades you lived among wild chimpanzees? What books, or what kind of books, did you read in that period?

I read no books, as I was completely focused on first finding, then observing the chimpanzees, and transcribing my field notes at night. Each day in the mountains at dawn, back at dusk.

What kind of reader were you as a child? What childhood books and authors stick with you the most?

There was no television when I was a kid. I learned from books and from nature. I read all the books about animals that I could find. Dr. Dolittle and Tarzan led me to dream of living with animals in Africa.

What to cook

Or you like it Manhattan clam chowder or you don’t. (James Beard called it “horrendous”).

What to see

The subtle drama “Luzu” follows a young Maltese fisherman torn between fidelity to his trade and the demands of a modern world.

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