Your Monday Briefing
We’re covering the kidnapping of missionaries in Haiti and the debate over the future of military conscription in South Korea.
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.
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.
In other developments:
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.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
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.