Your Friday Briefing


The Belarusian authorities yesterday cleared the encampments at the country’s border with Poland, where thousands of migrants had been living in frigid and increasingly squalid conditions, leaving a wasteland of garbage, abandoned tents and smoldering fires. The camps had become a major flash point that has raised tensions across Europe.

The clearing of the camps eased the immediate suffering of the migrants, as they were moved by the Belarusian authorities into a giant warehouse. But it left the Belarusian leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, with a troubling problem: what to do with all the people he lured to Belarus but who, blocked from entering Europe, are fast becoming a heavy burden on his own country?

Already, the first repatriation flight to Iraq has ferried home hundreds of migrants. But thousands remain in Belarus, and among those who returned, many said that despite the futility and mistreatment, they would try again to reach the E.U.

Across the border: In the Bialowieza Forest in Poland, some locals are searching for asylum seekers to provide them with food, water, warm clothes and power banks. They relentlessly patrol the forest, looking for people in need.

A report published yesterday in the journal Science suggests that an influential W.H.O. inquiry most likely got wrong the early chronology of the pandemic, and that the first known patient sickened with the coronavirus was a vendor at a large Wuhan animal market in China, not an accountant who lived miles from and had no connections to it.

Though some experts applauded the report’s findings, others said the evidence was still insufficient to decisively settle how the pandemic began. They suggested that the virus probably had infected a “patient zero” sometime before the vendor’s case and then reached critical mass to spread widely at the market.

The W.H.O. report from March 2021 concluded that the virus had most likely spread to people from an animal spillover, but it could not confirm that the Huanan market was the source. A lab leak was “extremely unlikely,” the authors wrote. The report has come under fire for errors and shortcomings.

Details: The scientist behind the Science report, Michael Worobey, a leading expert at the University of Arizona in tracing the evolution of viruses, came upon timeline discrepancies by combing through medical journals, as well as early Chinese news reports.

Quotable: “In this city of 11 million people, half of the early cases are linked to a place that’s the size of a soccer field,” Dr. Worobey said, referring to the market. “It becomes very difficult to explain that pattern if the outbreak didn’t start at the market.”

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:


An international furor is growing over the disappearance of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star who vanished after accusing a former vice premier of sexual assault.

The Chinese authorities have for weeks sought to suppress any mention of her story. The latest attempt to assuage public anger was to release an email purportedly written by Peng, in which she disavowed the accusations and asked women’s tennis officials to stop meddling. Critics and tennis officials immediately dismissed it as a fraud.

Response: The executive director of the Women’s Tennis Association responded, saying, “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her.”

Related: Some critics have called for a boycott of the Winter Games in Beijing over the government’s response. President Biden said that the U.S. was considering a diplomatic boycott of the Games to protest human rights abuses.

In much of the Middle East, formal sex education is minimal to nonexistent, while a patriarchal culture has left many Arab women ignorant and ashamed of their own bodies. An increasing number of activists are trying to fill the knowledge gap — one Instagram post or podcast episode at a time.

The novelist Haruki Murakami has so many T-shirts that he has resorted to keeping them in cardboard boxes. His growing collection is the subject of a book of sartorial essays, “Murakami T: The T-Shirts I Love,” which will be published next week.

Ahead of the book’s release, Murakami answered some questions from Anna P. Kambhampaty about his collection and what personal style means to him. This is an excerpt.

Your book is an ode to the most basic clothing item. At what point did you realize you had a collection of T-shirts, rather than just a lot of T-shirts?

I never really planned on having a T-shirt collection. It’s just that I’d see a shirt, think, “That looks cool” and buy it, then buy another. I never intentionally collected them — it’s more like that’s just the way things worked out. It certainly never occurred to me to make them into a book.

What does personal style mean to you as a person in the literary world?

The greatest thing about being a professional writer — along with not having to commute or attend meetings — is being free to wear whatever I want. I hardly ever wear a tie, or leather shoes. In that sense, I suppose T-shirts symbolize freedom for me.

Many of these T-shirts were purchased at thrift stores. What do you like about that, and what challenges does that present?

I usually go to thrift shops searching for old LPs. Thanks to Goodwill and the Salvation Army, I’ve managed to buy quite a few unusual records (jazz and classical music), and at a cheap price, too. When I can’t find any good records, I’ll rummage elsewhere in the store, including the T-shirt section. Thrift shops in the U.S. are like amusement parks for me.

What is your single most prized clothing item, T-shirt or not?

I don’t think I’ll be wearing it again, but it’s the T-shirt I got for completing the 1983 Honolulu Marathon, the first full marathon I ever finished. Whenever I see this shirt, it brings back a lot of memories.

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