Your Tuesday Briefing

Reception to a bombshell interview.

By Natasha Frost

Good morning.

We’re covering the latest moves by Myanmar’s military to expand its control, the response to the Harry and Meghan interview and rising homelessness in Rome.

Myanmar military seizes hospitals and universities

The military rulers who ousted Myanmar’s civilian leadership on Feb. 1 are expanding their control of urban centers, setting up makeshift operations on university campuses and in hospitals and Buddhist pagoda complexes.

On Sunday, security forces stormed Yangon General Hospital and universities in Mandalay. “I think they are trying to prepare for a brutal war against the people,” a security guard at Mandalay Technological University said. The abbot of the Mahamuni Buddha Temple in Mandalay said that soldiers had taken over the pagoda’s grounds for a month.

The Tatmadaw, as the military is known, also revoked licenses from five independent media organizations on Monday, a severe blow to the country’s vibrant free press that could make the very act of reporting illegal.

More deaths: Three protesters were killed Monday as a general strike shut down workplaces across the country. More than 60 people have been killed since the coup, and about 1,800 have been detained.

Meghan and Harry’s bombshell interview

The interview first televised in the U.S. on Sunday between Oprah and Meghan and Prince Harry has sent a shock-wave across the Atlantic, shedding explosive details on the couple’s rift with the British royal family, including that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark” their son Archie’s skin might be. (Harry later said neither Queen Elizabeth II nor Prince Philip was the source of that comment.)

Meghan also disclosed that her life as a member of the royal family had become so emotionally desolate that she contemplated suicide. When she asked for help, she said, palace officials rebuffed her. Here’s what else we learned.

Many Black Britons felt a measure of vindication, after the couple made it clear that racist abuse played a role in their decision to leave the country, but they also expressed frustration that some in Britain were still skirting the issue.

Response: The palace has said nothing in the aftermath of the interview, but many Britons have agreed that it could have wide-ranging implications for the House of Windsor. The interview left the country divided, with certain major news outlets publishing biting commentary.

Rome’s rising homelessness amid the pandemic

Since November, 12 homeless people have died on the streets of Rome, where a growing number of people have ended up because of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet distancing measures have forced shelters in the city to limit capacity, leaving many homeless people vulnerable to harsh weather and other hardships.

Soup-kitchen dining areas have been closed because of the pandemic, and the homeless are given bag meals, even when it’s cold or rainy. Some of Rome’s “most isolated people,” in the words of one Red Cross volunteer, live downtown in makeshift camps under the bridges along the Tiber River.

Digits: Unofficial estimates for Rome’s homeless population from those working in social services vary widely, from 7,700 people to almost twice that, though City Hall puts the number at closer to 3,000.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Millions of students this week returned to school in England for the first time since January.

Fully vaccinated people in the U.S. can gather indoors with other vaccinated people without masks, but they should continue to wear them in public, the C.D.C. said.

Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus. His office said the two were in good health.

Palestinian laborers with Israeli work permits have started receiving the Moderna vaccine. Israel plans to vaccinate at least 110,000 Palestinians over the next two weeks, including about 80,000 employed in Israel and about 30,000 employed in the West Bank.

If you have 6 minutes, this is worth it

The Spanish village saved by the pandemic

Gósol, a tiny village of 140 people on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, had spent years begging outsiders to come repopulate it. Since 2020, about 20 or 30 newcomers have come to try the quiet life — giving the tiny school on the town plaza a second chance after parents started enrolling their children there.

“If it weren’t for Covid, the school would have closed,” said Josep Tomás Puig, a retired mail carrier who spent his life watching the village’s younger generation depart to Spain’s cities. “And if the school closed, the town might as well have closed too.”

Here’s what else is happening

George Floyd: Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in connection with Mr. Floyd’s death. Mr. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Climate crisis: Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the Paris Agreement, will help the tropics avoid episodes of high heat and high humidity that go beyond the limits of human survival, according to a new study. The region, which encircles Earth at the Equator, is home to more than three billion people.

Child marriage: The pandemic has worsened economic distress and other factors that lead to such unions, with child marriage increasing at alarming levels in many places, the United Nations said. Studies show a clear link between marrying early and dying young.

Snapshot: Above, a police officer and a soldier looking over farmland in the district of Panjwai, Afghanistan, where there is an unofficial cease-fire brokered by local officials, farmers and Taliban forces. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has proposed a United Nations-led peace conference in Turkey aimed at forming an inclusive Afghan government with the Taliban.

Severed heads: The green and orange Elysia marginata sea slug is capable of decapitating itself when its body becomes infected with parasites, scientists say. Still more bizarrely, the head gets around fine without its body. In three weeks, it regenerates a new body, perfectly functioning and parasite-free.

What we’re reading: “All I can offer is distraction,” writes the New Yorker writer Lauren Collins in the latest issue of her “Lettre Recommandée” newsletter, on life in France. It’s exceptionally welcome.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: This vegan spin on cacio e pepe uses cashew butter, a spoonful of miso and tangy nutritional yeast for a flavorful meal that comes together quickly.

Read: Imbolo Mbue’s novel “How Beautiful We Were” is set in an African village ravaged by an American oil conglomerate. Our reviewer describes it as “sweeping and quietly devastating.”

Shop: A new generation of homebound shoppers is developing a hunger for antiques and other hard-to-find items online and on Instagram.

Take time for yourself. At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

A translator’s book recommendations

The prolific translator Margaret Jull Costa, who has brought Portuguese- and Spanish-language fiction and poetry into the English-speaking world, spoke to our Books desk about what she’s reading.

What books are on your night stand?

I never read in bed, but there’s always a pile next to my favorite chair. At the moment, this includes “Buddenbrooks,” which we’re reading with a group of friends; “Le Château de Ma Mère,” by Marcel Pagnol, which my husband and I are reading with our French tutor; a collection of novellas and short stories by the Portuguese writer Maria Judite de Carvalho, who I’m keen to translate more of.

And Michael Gorra’s “Portrait of a Novel,” about the writing of “Portrait of a Lady” (possibly my favorite novel), which has been on my pile for far too long and should be read soon.

What’s the last great book you read?

“Mrs. Dalloway,” by Virginia Woolf. Her prose is sometimes poetry. Listen to this: “Fear no more says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall.” And she’s such a compassionate describer of her characters with all their flaws.

I hadn’t read the novel for years, and it was such a joy to revisit and rediscover it.

What book, if any, most influenced your decision to become a translator?

I read a lot of Russian authors when I was in my teens without even realizing they were translations! It was only when studying Spanish before going to university that I was introduced to translating, and I just fell in love with the whole alchemical process of transforming one language into another.

That’s it for this briefing. We’ll be launching a redesigned version of this morning newsletter in the near future — stay tuned.

— Natasha

Thank you
Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

P.S.
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