We deal with the controversial Taliban claim to the Panjshir Valley and a conviction of a Belarusian opposition leader.

The Taliban claimed Monday that they had conquered the Panjshir Valley and hoisted their flag over Bazarak, the last provincial capital of Afghanistan not firmly under their control, despite opposition forces there saying they would continue fighting from the mountains.

The Taliban never managed to control Panjshir, a rugged area 70 miles north of Kabul, when they last ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. It was the starting point for the US-led invasion following the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Soviet forces invaded the territory at least nine times during their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but were repulsed each time.

Details: Taliban militants posted pictures online of militants hoisting the flag of the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban call the country, and of their troops speaking to local leaders.

Uncertainty: The National Resistance Front opposition group denied the Taliban’s claims to have conquered the entire province, but conflicting reports on what was going on on the ground were difficult to verify as internet and telephone connections to the region were cut.

A Belarusian court sentenced Maria Kolesnikova to eleven years in prison on Monday after a closed trial in the capital Minsk.

Kolesnikova tried to run for president last year. She and her colleague Maksim Znak, another opposition activist and lawyer, were charged with extremism, illegal seizure of power and damage to state security. Znak was sentenced to ten years in a high-security penal colony.

This was yet another sign of President Alexander Lukashenko’s relentless crackdown on dissent after an election widely condemned as a hoax by many Western governments. An estimated tens of thousands of opposition supporters have fled Belarus since the raid last year.

“This judgment is illegal and unfounded,” said the lawyer of the two, Yevgeny Pylchenko, and announced an appeal. “It’s not based on evidence. During the trial, neither her guilt nor the commission of the crimes of which she was charged was confirmed. “

Context: Kolesnikova became one of the most prominent opposition leaders in Belarus last year after the candidate she campaigned for was arrested and excluded from running. She threw her support behind Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who competed in the race after her husband was also banned from running and jailed. She and a third candidate, Veronika Tsepkalo, drew tens of thousands of supporters to their pre-election rallies.

New Zealand announced on Monday that it would ease restrictions outside of Auckland, ending a series of lockdowns that began in August.

Residents outside of Auckland will be allowed to return to work and school, and the nationwide alert will be lowered to Level 2 from Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference.

Auckland, a city of around 1.7 million people, will stay at level 4, which means that everyone but the most important workers will have to stay at home. Schools will reopen on Thursday morning.

Context: New Zealand is one of the last countries to pursue a so-called Covid Zero strategy and enforce strong restrictions on movement and activity. Other governments that have used this strategy, including Hong Kong and Singapore, have announced that they will be easing their measures.

Data: The average number of new cases every day remains relatively low at 36, but New Zealand’s vaccination campaign has got off to a slow start: only 49 percent of the population have received at least one dose, less than 62 percent in the US and 72 percent in the UK.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

For other developments:

News from Asia

Little ringed plover, an endangered species of bird in the United States, has a defender when roaming the beaches of New York: the plover patrol. Volunteers monitor the area and ensure that people stay away, keep their dogs off the sand, and protect the chicks from harm.

Steven Pinker, the Harvard cognitive psychologist, advocates positivity in an uncertain age. Our talk columnist asked him about his latest book, which takes on rationality.

Your new book is driven by the idea that it would be good if more people thought more rationally. What mechanisms would get more people to test their thinking for rationality? Ideally, our norms of conversation would change. Relying on an anecdote, arguing ad hominem – that should be humiliating.

The most powerful way to get people to behave more rationally is by not focusing on people. We achieve rationality by implementing community rules that make us collectively more rational than any of us individually. People subject their beliefs to empirical tests.

Are there aspects of your own life where you are consciously irrational? The answer is almost certainly yes. I probably do things that I can’t justify morally, like eat meat. I am likely taking risks that, if I did the expected consumption calculation, could not be justified, like cycling. But I still like to ride my bike.

What about love There is nothing irrational about love. Ultimately, our values ​​are neither rational nor irrational. They are our values; these are our goals.