Compared to the US and Europe, the coronavirus is still relatively strong in check in much of East Asia. With cases rising to alarming levels again in recent weeks, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong had to quickly recalibrate their strategies.

Pandemic fatigue didn’t help. Medical staff are exhausted, young people are bored and entrepreneurs are frustrated because they have to cut back or close early. The setbacks highlight the challenges the world will continue to face until there is a widely available vaccine.

The outbreaks: Japan and South Korea are seeing some of their highest single-day numbers since the pandemic began, largely due to clusters in metropolitan Tokyo and Seoul. While Hong Kong is still below its high for the year, it is poised to surge to the level of its summer wave, in large part carried by experts who call incomprehensible “silent” broadcasts.

Covert attacks in Iran are nothing new, but 2020 saw a devastating series of attacks culminating in the assassination of the country’s best nuclear scientist. Now the Iranians are discussing how to react at a delicate moment.

Hardliners are calling for swift retaliation for Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s murder, but Tehran is also considering how to make a fresh start with President-elect Joe Biden’s less hostile government. Intelligence officials say there is little doubt that Israel was behind the murder.

The attack: Followed by a truckload of bodyguards, Mr Fakhrizadeh drove to his in-laws’ house in the town of Absard, near Tehran, on Friday. An empty Nissan parked at a roundabout exploded. Gunmen jumped from a parked vehicle, along with others on motorcycles and snipers. The scientist, who was hit by at least three bullets, fell out of his car and fell to the floor, bleeding. He was pronounced dead when a rescue helicopter was able to take him to a Tehran hospital. All 12 assassins got away unharmed.

Analysis: The attack threatens to cripple Mr Biden’s efforts to revive the Iranian nuclear deal before he can even begin his diplomacy with Tehran. And that could have been a primary target of the operation, writes our national security correspondent.

For years, China has been pushing aside its neighbors’ sovereignty claims in order to consolidate its position in territorial disputes by unilaterally changing the facts on the ground that are difficult to reverse.

So it is with his new village high in the Himalayas, where the Chinese region of Tibet meets the Kingdom of Bhutan. The village of Pangda is more than a mile within what Bhutan considers its territory.

Satellite photos: The exact location of Pangda was determined in a series of satellite imagery recently released by Maxar Technologies, a Colorado-based company. They revealed that construction began late last year and appeared to be completed not long before October 1, China’s national holiday.

Other examples: China used the same tactic in the South China Sea, where it fortified and armed the swarms claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, despite promising the US not to do so.

Last spring, Bergamo became one of the deadliest killing fields for the virus in the western world, marked by unimaginable suffering and sirens from ambulances. Rescue workers have withdrawn parents of children, husbands from wives and grandparents from their families.

A Times investigation found that flawed guidelines and bureaucratic delays in closing the northern Italian region made the toll far worse than it needed to be.

Civil War in Ethiopia: The government achieved victory in its conflict with the Tigray region on Saturday after a one-day series of artillery strikes against the regional capital Mekelle. With communication turned off, there was no way to independently confirm the claim.

Upcoming US Cabinet: President-elect Joe Biden will be appointing the rest of his administration’s top officials in the coming days and weeks. This complicated task requires, among other things, mastering tricky currents in terms of ideology, gender and racial identity. Here is a look at some of the competitors.

Tony Hsieh: The tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist, who died of a house fire at the age of 46 on Friday, ran Zappos, a huge online company that sells shoes and clothing. He also tried to revive a corner of Las Vegas.

Snapshot: Above, the Ugandan musician spoke to politician Bobi Wine at a rally last week. Mr Wine is one of several high profile opposition leaders in East Africa who have recently been imprisoned, exiled or silenced for challenging leaders and political parties.

Cook: Spicy turtière, the French-Canadian meat pie, calls for ground pork and warm spices with braised pork shoulder pieces and shredded chicken or turkey – but the possible combinations are endless.

Read: “Tokyo Ueno Station”, a novel by Yu Miri whose main character is the ghost of a homeless construction worker, won the National Book Award for Translated Literature.

Do: Air pollutants can reside in your own walls and seep out of your stove or even that new couch. Here are some of the most common indoor air problems – and how to deal with them.

We love to share more ideas from our At Home collection with you on what to read, cook, see and do while being safe at home.

Since season four of Netflix’s dramatic reconstruction of the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II. On November 15, more than three million readers of The Times have devoured articles about “The Crown,” including one that explores the question whether they are members of the royal family watch. Eleanor Stanford, a senior editor at the London-based Culture Desk, wondered why the royals are captivating the audience. Here is a short form.

Millions of people have read the dozen stories you posted about the show in the past few weeks. Did you expect so much interest?

Eleanor: “The Crown” has become a TV juggernaut in the style of “Game of Thrones”, albeit on a smaller scale. And we all absolutely want counter-programs for anything that has nothing to do with the election or the pandemic. This is a very juicy time of year too, and since it covers the 1980s, most of the people involved are still alive. It’s this escapist show that is true too – you can google things later to see what actually happened.

The show is not a documentary of course, but in general a good guide to British history?

It provides viewers with a good foundation for elements of 20th century British history such as the IRA and the Falklands War. I’ve talked to a lot of people in England who saw it and then said, “Oh, shoot, I should have known”.

What are some of the more unusual stories you have dealt with?

We spoke to Gillian Anderson about a play that included everyone who played Margaret Thatcher. And people kept mentioning the music in the season, so we have a piece about 80’s pop music. And we have a story about how African women of the generation Diana and older have this strong emotional bond with her and what it was like for them to watch this season.

That’s it for this briefing. Until next time.

– Carole

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

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