Lingering tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Published: 2021-07-26 12:14 am
Your Monday Briefing

Lingering tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh.

An empty stadium in Tokyo moments before the Japanese and South African soccer teams took the field.Credit...Ken Belson/The New York Times

The Tokyo 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 cauldron.

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.

For Japan itself, its diverse Olympic stars, like the multiracial athletes Osaka and Rui Hachimura, are helping to redefine what it means to be Japanese. But they are often still seen as outsiders.

Over the course of the next two weeks, more than 11,000 athletes from 205 different Olympic teams are expected to participate. Here are live updates and our medal count.

Relatives of fallen soldiers at the military cemetery in Baku, Azerbaijan. While thousands died on both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia suffered the steepest losses, according to official figures.Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The disputed territory recaptured by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts is now being transformed with breathtaking speed.

Anton Troianovski, our Moscow correspondent, made a four-day journey across Azerbaijan’s recaptured lands, visiting some sites not seen by Western reporters since last year. The trip revealed a region still defined by enmity, even as it is rebuilt with breathtaking speed.

At one medieval monastery, the only place where Armenians are known to have remained, the walls are masked with camouflage netting, machine-gun nests line the courtyard under a fluttering Russian flag and cannons mounted on armored vehicles guard the mountainside where tour buses used to park.

First person: “When I came to Nagorno-Karabakh after the war last year, the sight of a hillside Armenian military cemetery brought to my mind the layers of tragedy embedded in this land,” writes Anton. “After returning in June, I left wondering just how much heartbreak a patch of earth can bear.”

An unfinished soccer stadium in Wadi al-Nis, in the West Bank, this month. The village’s team has just played its worst season in decades.Credit...Samar Hazboun for The New York Times

For the residents of Wadi al-Nis, a tiny, pastoral village in the occupied West Bank, the coronavirus has aggravated the already hardscrabble circumstances in the village, where many people suffer from poverty and inconsistent employment.

One such casualty is the team’s soccer team, traditionally a West Bank powerhouse, which will be downgraded next season to the second division. For most of its 37-year existence, the team has played in the territory’s most prestigious league. It won the top division championship in 2009 and 2014.

The financial crisis spurred by the virus has curtailed sponsorships for many Palestinian clubs. For the team in Wadi al-Nis, the loss of about $200,000 in government and private sector sponsorships was ruinous, and has meant the team can no longer practice at rented fields in neighboring towns.

Quotable: “We were called the king of the championships. We won cup after cup after cup and we would celebrate them in the center of town like we do during weddings,” said one veteran defender. “Now, the streets are empty and quiet and the feeling of despair is palpable.”

Credit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times
  • The top American general in Afghanistan suggested that airstrikes may continue, even with the allied troop pullout largely completed. Above, Capt. Sher Agha Safi coordinating an airstrike by Afghan forces on a Taliban position near Lashkar Gah in May.

  • Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of Iraq went to Washington this weekend to demand that President Biden withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq. The U.S. will most likely oblige.

  • A landslide in northern India killed at least nine people, many believed to be tourists, and destroyed a bridge.

Credit...Janos Kummer/Getty Images
Credit...Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post, via Getty Image

After the coronavirus pandemic pushed religious groups to explore new ways to operate, Facebook is now hoping to become the virtual home for faith-based community in a marriage of Big Tech and religious experience. Above, Lhoppön Rinpoche led a live Facebook meditation from the Mipham Shedra Buddhist temple in Westminster, Colo., last year.

“Our hope is that one day people will host religious services in virtual reality spaces as well, or use augmented reality as an educational tool to teach their children the story of their faith,” said Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer.

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 interactivity. 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 On Tech newsletter. “There’s more mushing together to arrive at new digital forms that emphasize interaction rather than passive reading, watching or listening.”

Credit...Jenny Huang for The New York Times
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