Your Monday Briefing

Protesters rally across Myanmar.

By Carole Landry

Good morning.

We’re covering the strong show of defiance by protesters in Myanmar, a flooding disaster in India after a Himalayan glacier broke and opening day at the Australian Open.

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.

Geopolitics: China’s decades-long relationship with the junta has been far from cordial, but now, with the U.S. and other nations denouncing the coup, Beijing has a chance to build up its influence in Myanmar.

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:

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

In the year since the coronavirus began its march around the world, China has done what many other countries would not or could not do. It has mobilized its vast Communist Party apparatus to reach deep into the private sector and the broader population.

Our reporters take a big-picture look at how China’s successes in each dimension of the pandemic — medical, diplomatic and economic — have bolstered Beijing’s reliance on authoritarianism.

Here’s what else is happening

Australian Open: Serena Williams and Venus Williams are both scheduled to play today, the first day of play at the tournament in Melbourne, as are the young prospects Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka. And there are plenty of other high-quality early matches.

HNA Group: The vast conglomerate that threw tens of billions of dollars at trophy businesses around the world is nearing the biggest corporate collapse in recent Chinese history. HNA’s insolvency will test the strength of China’s bankruptcy laws — just 76 listed companies have gone through bankruptcy proceedings in China.

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.

In memoriam: Leon Spinks, 67, who scored one of the greatest upsets in boxing history by defeating Muhammad Ali in 1978, but lost the heavyweight championship in a rematch seven months later.

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

Cook: Despite its cracked layers and rough edges, Yotam Ottolenghi’s celebration cake is still surprisingly elegant.

Watch: Christopher Plummer, who died on Friday at the age of 91, left behind a wealth of unforgettable work in film, theater and television, from Shakespeare to “The Sound of Music.”

Do: Can a long-distance relationship work in the pandemic? Here’s how to give it your best shot.

Start your week with a little enjoyment. At Home has ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

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. See you next time.

— Carole

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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