Good morning. We’re covering Olympics news, child deaths from Covid in Indonesia and a potential drawdown deal between the U.S. and Iraq.
Olympics medals start arriving
The Games opened on Friday to a sea of empty seats, and a somber opening ceremony that tried to project a world moving on from the worst of Covid-19. Naomi Osaka, Japan’s most famous athlete, lit the Olympic caldron.
The Japanese public is widely opposed to the Games. In quieter moments throughout the ceremony, protesters outside the stadium could be heard yelling “Stop the Olympics” through bullhorns. And NBC says that only 17 million people watched the opening ceremony, a record low for a Summer Olympics.
Australia: The women’s swim team won its third straight gold medal in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay on Sunday in world-record time. Ashleigh Barty, the top-seeded Australian tennis player, was eliminated from the tournament.
Japan: Yuto Horigome, the son of a Tokyo taxi driver, won the first gold ever in skateboarding, a new Olympic sport. Uta and Hifumi Abe, who are siblings, both won gold medals in judo. Osaka beat China’s Zheng Saisai in her opening tennis match.
China: Expect China to dominate diving. On Sunday, it won the first synchronized diving event, the women’s three-meter springboard. China leads the medal count, with 11 so far.
Pandemic: Two golfers, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm, dropped out after testing positive for the coronavirus. And officials changed the rules to allow medal-winners to briefly drop their masks for a photo.
In other Olympics news:
Child deaths in Indonesia
Young Indonesians, many of whom are under 5, are dying of Covid-19 at an alarming and unusual rate.
The deaths, more than 100 a week this month, represent a child mortality rate greater than that of any other country. Coinciding with the surge of the Delta variant, the rate challenges the idea that children face minimal risk from Covid-19.
Health experts said a number of factors contributed to the high number of deaths, including underlying health conditions and overstretched hospitals.
“Until now, children have been the hidden victims of this pandemic,” said Dr. Yasir Arafat, Asia health adviser to the nonprofit group Save the Children. “Not anymore.”
Cases: This month, Indonesia became the new epicenter of the pandemic. Positive tests are averaging more than 30 percent, a sign that the virus is spreading rapidly.
Vaccines: Just 16 percent of Indonesians have received one dose and only 6 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project.
In other developments:
U.S. signals Iraq pullback
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of Iraq went to Washington this weekend to demand that President Biden withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq.
The U.S. will most likely oblige. On Monday, the two countries expect to announce a deadline for the drawdown by the end of the year.
But combat troops are only one part of the U.S. military. American officials say they will remove only a small number of the 2,500 American forces and reclassify others. Al-Kadhimi will have a political trophy to take home to satisfy anti-American factions in Iraq and the U.S. military presence will remain.
Context: Al-Kadhimi’s government and many senior Iraqi military officials quietly favor the American troops staying in their current roles. But the 2020 U.S. drone killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran — the country’s other close ally — along with a senior Iraqi security official and eight others, make it politically impossible.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
Do video games need a new name?
We’re in the middle of a transformation in online idle time, a shift from passive doomscrolling to something more engaging and often more social.
Interactive activities are blurring the lines between video games and other social activities. Games like Pokémon Go, Fortnite and Among Us host hangouts for friends, pop culture moments and political organizing. In so doing, they’re redefining what a “video game” is.
And it’s not just gaming companies experimenting with interactives. Zoom has new features that include poker, trivia and mystery games. Peloton will make a game where pedaling can command a rolling virtual wheel. Netflix plans to add video games.
“It feels as if something exciting is happening,” my colleague Shira Ovide writes in our sister newsletter, On Tech. “There’s more mushing together to arrive at new digital forms that emphasize interaction rather than passive reading, watching or listening.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
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