Lebanon’s government steps down
Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his cabinet resigned on Monday, opening up a political void as the country reels from an enormous explosion last week in Beirut.
In a televised address, Mr. Diab said he and cabinet ministers were blocked at every turn by political foes. He will take on a caretaker role as the parties in the Parliament consult with President Michel Aoun on choosing a new prime minister. The process could take months, and it is unclear who will take the reins of the government until a new cabinet is in place.
The fall of Mr. Diab’s government reflected how deeply last week’s explosion — which killed more than 150 people, wounded 6,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands — has rattled Lebanon. Many saw it as a sign of decades of mismanagement. (You can read about the anger among residents in Beirut neighborhoods in our Back Story below.)
On the ground: Protesters gathered near the Parliament building, saying resignations so far fell short of their demands for the ouster of the country’s political elite. “I have nothing to lose,” said Krystel El Khoury, a 24-year-old protester. “I just graduated. I’m an architect. I’m unemployed and I don’t have hope. Either we do this or we leave this country.”
Context: Lebanon is also struggling with soaring inflation and unemployment rates, protests over corruption, and rising coronavirus cases.
Hong Kong arrests Jimmy Lai
The Hong Kong police arrested Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media tycoon and a high-profile critic of the Chinese Communist Party, on charges of violating a new national security law imposed by Beijing.
Hundreds of police officers raided the newsroom of Mr. Lai’s newspaper, Apple Daily, as reporters livestreamed video. They also arrested his two sons, who are not involved in his media business, and four executives from his company, Next Digital.
Mr. Lai is the most prominent person detained under the sweeping legislation, and the arrests have heightened concerns that the law will be used to stifle the press. In May, he wrote an Op-Ed for The Times in which he anticipated his arrest.
Sanctions: China on Monday imposed sanctions on 11 American nonprofit leaders and lawmakers, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in retaliation for U.S. measures targeting Hong Kong officials over their roles in suppressing dissent.
Related: The top U.S. health official’s visit to Taiwan this week — where he lauded its democracy and response to the coronavirus — pointed to the increasingly important strategic role the island plays amid U.S.-China tensions.
Mexico is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world. At least 52,000 people have died — the world’s third-highest toll after the U.S. and Brazil. The country’s struggle has been made harder by a pervasive phenomenon: a deeply rooted fear of hospitals. Above, a family gathering at the grave of a loved one in Tonanitla, Mexico.
Many Mexican people see the Covid hospital ward as a place where only death awaits — to be avoided at all cost. That means many sick people don’t seek care until their condition is so bad that doctors can do little to help them.
Here’s what else is happening
U.S. protests: Bridges to the shopping districts were raised and the Chicago police arrested more than 100 people after looting battered the city’s downtown. A police official said the events grew out of a shooting that took place on the South Side on Sunday afternoon.
McDonald’s: The fast-food chain sued Steve Easterbrook, its former chief executive who was fired for sexting with a subordinate. Eight months after the firing, the company accused him of concealing evidence during an investigation into his conduct.
In memoriam: Fay Chew Matsuda, a social worker turned preservationist who directed the Museum of Chinese in America, in New York City, died at 71. She was instrumental in saving vanishing artifacts and recording eyewitness reminiscences of Chinese immigrants.
Snapshot: Above, Causeway Bay Books in Taipei, Taiwan. Lam Wing-kee, the store’s owner and manager who fled from Hong Kong, has recreated his shop there, and it has become a symbol of Taiwan’s vibrant democracy as Hong Kong’s fades.
What we’re reading: This useful guide for not being on your phone all the time from Vice. “There are tips for logging off and also an invitation to think about why it is you can’t stop scrolling,” writes Carole Landry from the Briefings team.
Now, a break from the news
Do: Crayola, Old Navy and Disney are among the brands making colorful masks for children. Child psychologists see this as a positive step toward “normalcy.”
At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do.
And now for the Back Story on …
Three Beirut neighborhoods united in rage
Our Beirut bureau chief visited three devastated neighborhoods — one middle class, one poor and one upscale — after the explosion last Tuesday. He found residents in all three who are furious at their government, which they see as corrupt and ineffectual. Here are stories from each neighborhood:
Gemmayzeh. If you ever received a postcard from Beirut, the photo on it was probably taken around Gemmayzeh. The main drag is lined with bars and restaurants where patrons, in better times, overflowed into the street through the night.
This was where Rabih Mouawad and his business partner, Chantal Salloum, tried their luck with The Barn, a healthy and hip eatery with organic produce. They invested $450,000 to get it ready.
But the blast heavily damaged the neighborhood, punching through apartments, killing residents in their homes and blocking roads with rubble and uprooted trees. The Barn was destroyed six days before it was scheduled to open.
The Quarantine. Named for its history as a holding area for potentially infectious travelers, the neighborhood is poor, polluted and squeezed between the port, a major highway and a garbage processing facility.
“The Quarantine has always been neglected,” said Fakhrideen Shihadi, a Quarantine native who oversees its tin-roofed mosque. His employer, the processing facility, has stopped paying him since the economy contracted. He kept working anyway so he wouldn’t lose his job.
The explosion tore through the neighborhood, shaving walls from its tenements, killing four of Mr. Shihadi’s neighbors and filling the streets with smoke and wounded people. He and his family escaped their building unscathed.
Downtown. After the country’s devastating, 15-year civil war ended in 1990, Beirut’s downtown was rebuilt, with investments from the Persian Gulf and wealthy Lebanese, as a showcase meant to reclaim Lebanon’s reputation as the “Switzerland of the Middle East.” But the area never fully took off.
Most Lebanese couldn’t afford the apartments or restaurants. Political turbulence and fear of Iran-backed Hezbollah, the militant group and political party, kept wealthy tourists away. The area became a battleground of tear gas, fires and flying rocks over the weekend as angry protesters tried to shake a political order they felt had failed them.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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