Good morning. We’re covering French anger over a U.S.-Australian submarine deal, a home quarantine pilot program in Australia and the fallout from a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan.
Submarine tensions escalate
Relations between France and the U.S. have sunk to their lowest level in decades, after the U.S. and Australia secretly negotiated a plan to build nuclear submarines.
The two countries went to extraordinary lengths to keep Paris in the dark on the plan, which scuttled a French defense contract worth at least $60 billion for diesel-electric submarines.
In response, President Emmanuel Macron recalled France’s ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia. It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the U.S., dating back to 1778, that Paris recalled an ambassador in this way.
Engineering: Australia feared that the French-built, diesel-electric submarines would be obsolete by the time they were delivered. The country expressed interest in seeking a fleet of quieter nuclear-powered submarines based on American and British designs that could patrol areas of the South China Sea with less risk of detection.
Right now, it can be incredibly difficult to enter Australia. Travelers spend two weeks in a government-appointed facility, but quarantine spots are hard to find and the country has a tight limit on the number of arrivals.
In the new pilot program, 175 people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will instead isolate in their homes for seven days. The police will employ location-based tracking and facial-recognition technology to monitor their movements.
Details: Australia has surpassed its goal of providing one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to 70 percent of people over age 16, said Greg Hunt, the federal health minister.
In other developments:
A mistaken U.S. drone strike
The Pentagon admitted that an August drone strike that killed 10 civilians in Kabul, Afghanistan, was a “tragic mistake.”
But this rare U.S. apology did nothing to ease the sense of vulnerability among surviving family members and co-workers. If anything, their fears and feelings of exposure have only increased.
The brother of Zemari Ahmadi, the Afghan aid worker targeted in the strike, described his family as having been tarnished twice over. First, for being suspected by the U.S. of being linked to the Islamic State in Khorasan, an enemy of the Taliban. And second, because the strike revealed that his brother worked for an American aid organization, which the Taliban view with suspicion.
“There’s a big threat against us, now that everyone knows that he was working for the Americans,” Emal Ahmadi said. But to prove that the family was not connected to ISIS, he said, “we had no choice but to tell the media.” The family is seeking assistance from the U.S. in leaving Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported.
Impact: The Pentagon’s deeper review of the strike followed a Times investigation casting doubt on Zemari Ahmadi’s connection to ISIS-K and on any explosives being in his vehicle.
Shifting power: The Panjshir Valley, with its history of resistance and reputation for impenetrability, would be an ideal place to base an insurgency against the Taliban. But on a recent visit, Times reporters found few signs of an active fight.
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Fight fire with goats
In the rush to prevent worsening wildfires in the American West, state and local agencies that want to remove excess weeds rely on herbicides and machinery as well as prescribed burns: intentional fires that periodically clear underbrush, dead trees and other fuels.
Lani Malmberg, a goat herder, takes a different approach. She deploys her 200 goats to graze strategically, a technique she developed in graduate school. It’s a two-part strategy, one aimed at preventing fires rather than simply quelling them.
First, the goats, which can stand up to nine feet tall on their back legs, eat the grass, leaves and tall brush that cows and other grazers can’t reach. This type of vegetation is known as the fire fuel ladder and leads to wider spread when wildfires spark.
Then, their waste returns organic matter to the soil, increasing its potential to hold water. A 1 percent increase in organic matter can hold an additional 16,500 gallons of water per acre, Malmberg said.