Your Monday briefing: Russia before the holidays

Hello. We cover Russia’s Nationalist Day, Hong Kong’s new leader and a Taliban edict targeting women.

Lee, the main architect of Hong Kong’s 2019 crackdown on anti-government protests, plans to push through treason, secession, sedition and subversion laws, and stamp out criticism in public office. He inherits a city that has been tamed and bullied: sweeping national security laws imposed two years ago have stifled dissent, gutted the free press and put critics behind bars or sent them into exile.

He will also have to deal with a city besieged by some of the toughest pandemic restrictions in the world. The economy is shrinking, unemployment is rising and an increasing number of people are leaving the city, jeopardizing its status as a global financial center.

The context: Beijing has always made clear who it wants to hold the top job, although more subtly in the past. This time, China removed any veneer of competition and effectively neutralized the pro-democracy camp with new election rules and national security law.

Quoteable: “Even in Iran, there are more competitions for the head of government,” an expert said.

The Taliban decreed on Saturday that women must cover themselves from head to toe in public. The move expands a series of onerous restrictions imposed on women by the Taliban that dictate almost every aspect of public life, including their employment, education, travel and behavior.

The burqa is the preferred garment, but the Ministry for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice – which replaced the previous government’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs – did not mandate the burqa as long as women cover themselves otherwise in a hijab.

Failure to do so could result in a prison sentence for the male head of the female household. The relatively few women still allowed to hold jobs could be fired if they do not comply with the decree.

Story: The Taliban required the burqa, which leaves only a woman’s hands and feet visible and includes a sewn-in face net for vision, when they ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Eid: For many Afghans, the end of Ramadan showed the dissonance between the promise of peace that many had imagined and the realities of ending the war.

Louis Faidherbe, a French general, helped shape Senegal’s former capital and also led brutal military campaigns in West Africa. Now the city is divided over what to do with a bronze statue of him that has stood in a central square for more than a century.

Elvis Presley never gave a concert in Australia, but that didn’t stop tens of thousands of people from celebrating his life and work at an annual festival about a five-hour drive from Sydney.

For nearly 30 years, “Elvi” – the plural of Elvis, at least at the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest Elvis festival – has blurred the line between fans and impersonators. This year, after a pandemic pause, there were more pompadours and leisure wear than anyone can count: around 25,000 people usually come to rejoice.

“It allows us to forget everything,” said Gina Vicar, 61, a small business owner from Melbourne, who came to the festival with a dozen friends. “With everything we’ve been through and what the world is going through now, it’s great to see all this joy.”

There are performances and rhinestones, gold-rimmed sunglasses and dad bods. “The festival has become a national treasure that exemplifies how Australians tend to do many things: all together, with self-deprecating humor and copious amounts of booze,” writes Damien Cave, our office manager in Sydney.

Read Damien’s personal account of the trip to the festival, here.

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