Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

Hello. We’re covering a catastrophic fire in an Iraqi Covid neighborhood and the mysterious disappearance of Russia’s largest ransomware group.

Most of the victims were patients and the fire was so intense that at least 22 bodies could not be identified immediately. An electrical short in a ventilator detonated oxygen cartridges on Monday evening, a police spokesperson said.

Witnesses said fire extinguishers malfunctioned, fire trucks ran out of water and volunteers desperately tried to open a padlocked door. Patients on ventilators could neither move nor leave, but staff members were able to escape. At least 92 people have died.

The lack of precautions at the University Hospital in Nasiriya City and its weak capacity to fight the blaze reflected a country in deep crisis. Years of government corruption and mismanagement have drained basic government services across Iraq.

Government response: Iraq is grappling with a third wave of coronavirus infections. After the fire, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the detention of the provincial director of health, the head of civil defense and the director of the hospital.

Background: At the end of April, more than 80 people died in a similar fire at a coronavirus hospital in Baghdad. The then Iraqi health minister resigned in response.

Here are the latest pandemic updates and maps.

In other developments:

  • Indian authorities are warning that the combination of an uneven viral response and a difficult vaccination campaign could trigger a third wave of infections.

  • South Korea’s top baseball league halted its season after five players tested positive for Covid-19.

  • Gyms in Seoul are planning to put limits on the speed of treadmills and play soft music to prevent people from breathing or sweating too hard.

  • More than 1.3 million people in France have made an appointment for the Covid vaccine after President Emmanuel Macron made vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers and said that proof of vaccination or a recent negative test would soon be required to enter restaurants and cultural venues.

REvil, which is short for “Ransomware evil,” is believed to be responsible for the attack that brought down one of America’s largest beef producers, JBS. The group also took credit for a hack that affected thousands of businesses around the world during the July 4 holiday. Around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, the group’s dark web sites suddenly disappeared.

The disappearance comes just days after President Biden demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin act to shut down ransomware groups that attack US targets.

What happened? There was three main theories circulating about the disappearance of REvil. US Cyber ​​Command, working with national law enforcement agencies, could have brought him down. Russia could have too. Or REvil might have decided the heat was too intense and calmed down. Experts say the group could reappear under a different name.

In unusually blunt terms, Japan warned that Beijing’s and Washington’s military postures over Taiwan posed a threat to its security.

Japan’s defense ministry said the country should “pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever before.” In particular, the ministry noted that “the overall military balance between China and Taiwan is tilted in favor of China, and the gap appears to be widening year by year.”

The comments suggest that Japan could move closer to Washington, which has long urged it to deal with Beijing’s growing military aggression in the region.

Eyes on Taiwan: Over the past year, China has repeatedly flown military planes in the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone. In response, the United States sailed ships through the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan is located near the island of Okinawa in southern Japan.

The pink wolf snail – a carnivorous creature – has been implicated in the extinction of several species of snails in Tahiti since its arrival on the island a few decades ago. So scientists attached tiny computers to predator shells to figure out why a yogurt-colored native seems to be slipping from its clutches.

Musicians all over the world dream of playing at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City’s famous art hall. But they also dream of being paid for their work, especially after months of pandemic suffering.

The Met, which says it lost $ 150 million in earned income during the pandemic, argues it must cut the wages of its workers to survive.

The stagehands and the union that represents his choir, soloists, dancers, actors and managers have already negotiated a new contract with wage cuts. But the company has yet to come to an agreement on the pay cuts it is asking for the musicians in its orchestra, who have not been paid for nearly a year. Some have left town or have had to consider selling their precious instruments.

The Met canceled one of its scheduled operas after contract negotiations delayed rehearsals. The company plans to reopen on September 27 with its debut opera by a black composer, but longer delays could also jeopardize this new plan.

What to cook

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. – Amelie

PS Dave Philipps, our national correspondent covering the military, wrote about the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and the lessons to be learned from Vietnam almost 50 years ago.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization who has been accused of tax evasion.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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