Your Monday Briefing

We’re covering the kidnapping of missionaries in Haiti and the debate over the future of military conscription in South Korea.

The missionaries who were kidnapped were located just outside Port-au-Prince.Credit…Federico Rios for The New York Times

U.S.-based missionaries were kidnapped in Haiti

A gang in Haiti’s capital kidnapped a group of 17 people associated with an American aid group, including five children, according to local authorities.

The group, Christian Aid Ministries, said its members were taken on their way home from visiting an orphanage in a suburb east of Port-au-Prince. Those taken include 16 Americans and a Canadian. The police have identified the gang they believe to be responsible: 400 Mawozo, considered to be among the country’s most dangerous. The gang has introduced a new type of kidnapping in Haiti — kidnapping en masse.

Haiti has been in political upheaval for years, and kidnappings are common. In the wake of a presidential assassination in July, things have only grown worse. But the abduction of such a large group of Americans shocked officials for its brazenness.

Big picture: Violence is surging across Port-au-Prince. By some estimates, gangs now control roughly half of the city. Last Monday, gangs shot at a school bus, injuring at least five people, including students. A public bus was hijacked as well.

Many Haitians have been calling for the U.S. to send troops to stabilize the situation, but the Biden administration has been reluctant to commit boots on the ground.

Coronavirus patients were treated at a hospital in Manjeri, India, in August.Credit…Krishna Das/Reuters

Hurdles remain in global access to Covid treatment

Merck, which recently announced that its antiviral medication had proved effective against the coronavirus, said it would allow its pills to be sold by generic manufacturers in India at a significantly reduced price in more than 100 poorer countries.

The move by the drug maker was largely celebrated by advocates who see it as a step closer to equity while the vast majority of vaccinations have gone to wealthy nations. If all goes according to plan, the generic version of the treatment could help significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths in regions like sub-Saharan Africa, where vaccination rates are as low as 3 percent.

But obstacles still remain. It is unclear how much of the generic product will be available next year, and distribution agreements are not set for many undervaccinated nations, such as Ukraine, that have been hit hard by Covid-19. Additionally, testing, which is limited in some poorer regions, is necessary for reliable and efficient treatment.

Data: The poorest nations may be able to buy molnupiravir, Merck’s antiviral medication, for well under $20 per five-day course, compared to $712 for the U.S., which has agreed to purchase 20 percent of what the drug maker says it can produce this year.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • New Zealand held a national “vaxathon” over the weekend, administering well over 100,000 doses in one day, including to people aboard a Boeing 787 jet.

  • Airlines in Japan and South Korea have taken creative steps in an effort to revive demand.

Lee Yongsuk spent over a year in prison for refusing to serve in the military in 2005.Credit…Woohae Cho for The New York Times

South Koreans are increasingly questioning the draft

South Korea’s military conscription, a rite of passage for millions of young men since the Korean War, is facing increasing calls for reform.

While South Korea is still technically at war with North Korea, its draft has become less popular across the country. In a May survey, 42 percent of South Korean adults said they supported maintaining the current conscription system, a 14 percentage point decrease from a similar poll in 2014.

Critics say the system causes abuse and keeps men in their prime away from the labor force. Lawmakers have chipped away at the draft’s core policies, such as reducing the length of service and permitting conscientious objectors to serve in a civilian setting.

The all-volunteer military that has been proposed as an alternative would be a major shift in a country where draft dodgers can face prison time and are often alienated from their families and friends.

Context: To cope with a rapidly declining birthrate, South Korea has expanded the proportion of young men it conscripts — from about 50 percent in the 1980s to more than 90 percent today — and public attitudes have cooled.

Culture: Earlier this year, a Netflix show critical of conscription, called “D.P.” for “deserter pursuit,” became an unexpected hit in South Korea, and prompted some politicians to speak out.


News From the Middle East

At least six people were killed in armed clashes in Beirut last week.Credit…Bilal Hussein/Associated Press
  • Beirut’s sectarian clashes last week, the worst in years, revealed tensions lurking just beneath the surface in a diverse city haunted by 15 years of civil war.

  • The U.S. once threatened to kill the Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as his militia battled occupying forces. Now, after an election in which his party gained seats in the parliament, he is helping America by keeping Iran at bay.

  • The Syrian government on Saturday accused Israel of assassinating a high-ranking Syrian official, shot by an apparent sniper near their shared border.

What Else Is Happening

Pedestrians walk near a poster in Caracas, Venezuela, last month.Credit…Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press
  • The U.S. extradited a top ally of Venezuela’s authoritarian government, prompting the Venezuelan government to re-apprehend six oil executives, including 5 American citizens, in a retaliatory move.

  • In Britain, questions are being asked about whether in-person meetings with voters — known as constituency surgeries — can continue unchanged after the lawmaker David Amess was killed at one such event on Friday. Here’s the latest on the attack.

  • A Roman Catholic diocese in Sicily imposed a three-year prohibition on naming godparents, arguing that it has lost its spiritual significance and become merely a way to fortify family — and mob — ties.

  • When one of Tunisia’s only monuments to its 2011 revolution was damaged this year, few cared in a country where there is now more regret than a wish to remember.

  • Police in Norway, who initially pointed to Islamic extremism after a man killed five people last week with weapons including a bow and arrow, now say the attacker was “not well, mentally.”

A Morning Read

Crowds waited by the entrance of Kabul’s international airport in August.Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Asma, an 8-year-old Afghan girl, was severely burned by a U.S. tear gas canister while she and her family were trying to reach the airport in Kabul after the city fell to the Taliban. Soon after, a remarkable intervention involving secret American military commandos, a C.I.A. base and three strangers in the U.S. took shape.


Embracing imperfection

Issa Rae, the star and co-creator of “Insecure.”Credit…Natalia Mantini for The New York Times

When “Insecure” begins its final season later this month on HBO, it will return to the thing that made it both subtly groundbreaking and appealing for Black viewers especially: consistent focus on the ups and downs of Black women’s friendships.

As only the second television comedy created by and starring a Black woman, “Insecure” countered the racial homogeneity of its predecessors. It wowed viewers with the sleek and inviting looks and sounds of the show’s world, including the fashion of its characters.

But the most revolutionary aspect of “Insecure” was the abundance of decidedly unsexy moments — when the characters messed up, hurt themselves and others, indulged in the kinds of mistakes and bad decisions most of us make as young adults.

True representation is the ability to show your vulnerability and be able to say, ‘I don’t have it all together, just like the next white person doesn’t have it all together,’” said Issa Rae, the show’s star and co-creator.

For more, our contributing critic at large, Salamishah Tillet, interviewed the stars and showrunners of “Insecure” about the show’s conclusion.


What to Cook

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times

Studded with salty olives, pancetta and Parmesan, this is not your average roasted cauliflower.

What to Watch

Here are the 50 best shows on Netflix right now.


Artists from places like Colombia, Egypt, Mozambique and Japan shaped Surrealism, the 20th century’s most provocative art movement. They are now on view at the Metropolitan Museum.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Party handout (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Matthew

P.S. The Times Crossword has a group of ten testers, fact checkers and reviewers. Here’s what it is like to do their job.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the great supply chain disruption.

You can reach Matthew and the team at

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