Your Monday Briefing – The New York Times

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Good morning. We’re covering Omicron’s rapid spread, Afghanistan’s looming starvation crisis and Syria’s state-supported drug trade.

An estimated 22.8 million people — more than half of Afghanistan’s population — are expected to face potentially life-threatening food insecurity this winter. Of those, 8.7 million are already nearing famine.

The hunger is the most devastating sign of the economic crash that has crippled Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power nearly four months ago. Food prices are soaring as families flood into the malnutrition wards of hospitals.

The mass starvation could kill a million children this winter. That alone would dwarf the total number of civilians estimated to have been killed as a direct result of war.

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Background: Afghanistan has suffered from malnutrition for decades, but the country’s hunger crisis has drastically worsened without foreign aid money. The U.S. is now facing mounting pressure to ease the economic restrictions on the Taliban that have isolated the country, crippled banks and deepened the crisis.

Environment: Afghanistan is confronting one of the worst droughts in decades. The country’s wheat harvest is expected to be as much as 25 percent below average this year.

Taliban: Leaders are rewarding their fighters with property, even if that means evicting other citizens. The group also issued a decree that bans forced marriages and calls for more rights for women, but it does not say whether they will regain easier access to education or jobs.

Powerful associates of President Bashar al-Assad are making and selling captagon, an illegal, addictive amphetamine popular in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Syria has now become the world’s newest narcostate.

The industry, which emerged in the ruins of a decade of war, has grown into a multibillion-dollar operation. Captagon is now the country’s most valuable export, far surpassing legal products.

An investigation by The Times found that much of the production and distribution was overseen by an elite unit of the Syrian army commanded by the president’s younger brother. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is also a major player.

Scale: More than 250 million captagon pills have been seized across the globe so far this year, more than 18 times the amount captured just four years ago.


Thousands of U.S. and Japanese soldiers died in the Battle of Biak, a fierce World War II fight. Collectors are still finding remnants on the remote Indonesian island, which could bring solace to the families of U.S. soldiers whose remains are still missing.

Once, broadcasting the decision to quit a job might have seemed unwise, or at least uncouth. But now, many people are celebrating their departures on social media.

They are rejoicing in Instagram reels and posting giddy “QuitToks.” They’re tweeting screenshots of their “I quit” texts to their bosses, or virtually high-fiving on the Reddit forum R/antiwork.

The percentage of U.S. workers voluntarily leaving their jobs reached 3 percent this fall, a historic high. And employers are growing less choosy about who they hire. That may offer some cushion to those punching back at their former bosses.

“People are frustrated, exhausted, triggered,” J.T. O’Donnell, founder of the career coaching platform Work It Daily, said. “When people are triggered, you see fight or flight responses. This is a fight response.”

What to Cook

This raspberry-mochi butter cake with matcha glaze is an unexpectedly easy stir-and-bake dessert.

What to Read

My colleagues recommend these eight self-help books, which have tips on building healthy spaces and parenting in a changing world, and inspiring poems.

What to Watch

Flee,” a Danish documentary, uses animation to tell the poignant, complicated story of an Afghan refugee.

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