Vaccine Race, Donald Trump, SpaceX: Your Monday Briefing
Vaccine Race, Donald Trump, SpaceX: Your Monday Briefing
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We’re covering Russian plans for a nationwide coronavirus vaccination campaign, Britain’s dilemma if President Trump loses in November and a far-right extremist group in Germany.
Russia plans mass vaccination after shortened trials
Russia is planning a nationwide vaccination campaign in October with a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to complete clinical trials. The announcement has raised international concerns that the country would inoculate the public without fully testing its product.
Officials said amid accelerated testing that approval would be expected this month — far earlier than the end-of-the-year date suggested by Western regulators. Winning the global race would be a symbol of national pride.
But critics say Russia has cut corners in research on other products, and the U.S., Canadian and British governments have accused Russian hackers of trying to steal vaccine research.
Separately, the world’s largest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute is betting on a vaccine that is in trials with Oxford University scientists. The company plans to mass produce hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine, which might not even work. But if it does, Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of Serum, will have what everyone wants — possibly in enormous quantities — before anyone else.
An American vaccine: Earlier in the year, officials set an ambitious October deadline for a publicly available vaccine. Now, some involved in the project say they fear political intervention to produce one ahead of November’s election.
Related: In Moscow, young Russians are partying again, seeking a return to normal life and willing to risk a coronavirus surge. “We are people, not robots, and want to have a life,” a bar patron (and doctor) said.
Britain’s new dilemma: What if Trump loses?
Few countries have worked harder than Britain to please President Trump. But with Mr. Trump trailing in the polls to former Vice President Joseph Biden Jr., British officials are waking up to the unsettling prospect that Mr. Trump may be out of power next year.
In Paris and Berlin, a Trump defeat would be welcomed given he has split alliances, threatened a trade war and tried to dismantle the European project. But in Mr. Biden, Britain would face a president who opposed Brexit, would look out for Ireland and who may have little interest in a trade deal.
What it means: Experts say the risk is a gradual slide into irrelevance. Mr. Biden’s emphasis, they said, would be on mending fences with Berlin and Paris, not celebrating a “special relationship” with London that got plenty of attention from his predecessor.
What’s next: Pro-government papers have begun to make the case that a President Biden would be better for Britain, and Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has already tried to keep Mr. Trump at an arm’s length even as he avoids offending him.
Brazil’s leader bows to pressure to protect the Amazon
European governments and foreign investors have been pressuring the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, to stop deforestation in the Amazon.
And it seems to be working. The man who a year ago insisted “the Amazon is ours” has set up a military operation to defend it and banned intentional forest fires used for clearing — though environmentalists and foreign officials who have pressed Brazil on conservation matters worry that the actions are little more than damage control given the economy is in deep trouble.
Points of leverage: Brazil’s poor environmental reputation has put two important foreign policy goals in jeopardy. One is a trade deal with the E.U., and the other is joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Both require Brazil to meet labor and environmental standards.
Example: This week, Nordea Asset Management, a major European investment firm, announced it had dropped from its funds the Brazilian meat processing giant JBS SA over the company’s role in deforestation and other concerns.
If you have 12 minutes, this is worth it
German case points to a bigger far-right threat
Germany has begun dealing with far-right networks that officials say are far more extensive than they had understood.
Our correspondent takes a look at the Northern Cross group, which had planned for “Day X” — a mythical moment when committed far-right extremists would round up and kill political enemies and those defending migrants and refugees. The group, which included former police officers and soldiers, was uncovered more than three years ago but only recently brought to trial.
Here’s what else is happening
Italy: Less than two years after the collapse of a bridge in Genoa killed 43 people, Italy will inaugurate a replacement on Monday. But residents fear it will not be enough to revive their aging port city, and critics of the government say it’s handling of the aftermath is troubling to investors.
U.K. politician: A Conservative lawmaker in Britain was arrested this weekend after a former employee accused him of raping her, according to British news reports. The lawmaker, who has not been publicly identified, was released on bail.
New Middle East nuclear power: On Saturday, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country to open a nuclear power plant, raising concerns about introducing more nuclear programs to the Middle East. Israel and Iran also have some nuclear capacities.
Snapshot: Above, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. The capsule carrying the astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley was the first crewed water landing by NASA since 1975.
Speaking out: Prince Manvendra of India is one of the few activists for L.G.B.T.Q. rights in the world with high-level royal ties. His journey from a lonely childhood to global advocacy included death threats and a disinheritance.
Cook: This highly textured salad gets its bite from farro, its crunch from spiced chickpeas and its sweetness from roasted corn and slivered fennel.
Listen and watch: Beyoncé’s “Black Is King,” released on Friday, is a visual album connected to Disney’s remake last year of “The Lion King.” A handful of our critics reviewed it from different angles, including Vanessa Friedman, who described the amount of fashion on display as “overwhelming.”
Taste: Our wine critic has a selection of verdicchios on offer. These white wines from the Marche region, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, offer simple refreshment while also carrying hints of complex aromas and flavors.
At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.
And now for the Back Story on …
Mao’s China, covered by my father, still echoes
Like father, like daughter: Alexandra Stevenson, a Times correspondent who covers China’s economy from Hong Kong, took a look back at the reporting her father, William Stevenson, did for The Toronto Star and The Star Weekly in the 1950s as one of the first foreign journalists to work in China after the Communist takeover.
Here’s an excerpt from an article she wrote about how much of what he described is still recognizable.
My father left behind written notes and newspaper clippings, stacks of passports with visas, photos and transcripts from his first and subsequent trips to China. They have allowed me to imagine conversations that we might have had in the six years since he died. Conversations about how the country he saw back then — brimming with hope and enthusiasm yet also tightly controlled — is in some ways the same today.
His first trip to China spanned two months and thousands of miles. He met Mao Zedong (whom he tapped on the shoulder from behind his camera, mistaking the chairman for a “humble courtier” blocking his shot) and Zhou Enlai, the premier and foreign minister at the time. But he also talked with factory workers, actors, newspaper editors and shop owners.
He described being filled with hope for the human spirit he witnessed. But he also felt despair because a government-provided handler was never too far away, ready to silence anyone who veered too far from the Communist Party line.
China defied any broad-brush statement. “And yet,” he wrote in one notebook, “under the current leadership, the way in which the government silences alternative points of view makes it hard not to.”
A version of this exists today. I have a long list of names of people who wouldn’t talk to me because I work for The New York Times, portrayed in Chinese state media as the source of “smears and lies.” Sources I’ve interviewed privately are later threatened by the local police, while stridently nationalist rhetoric dominates the state media.
Several months after I returned to Hong Kong, the Chinese government in March expelled my American colleagues as part of a diplomatic dispute with the United States. In the past month, Beijing has tightened its grip over Hong Kong with a new national security law, threatening free speech and other civil liberties in the city.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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