World Events

Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

Flanked by controversial plexiglass barriers, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris of California met on Wednesday night for their only debate of the 2020 U.S. election. Their face-off was more civil than the unruly presidential event last week, but the vice-presidential candidates still had sharp exchanges on the virus, foreign policy and health care. Mr. Pence sought to recast President Trump’s record on the pandemic and other issues, often in plain defiance of the facts.

Earlier in the day, in a video recorded outside the White House, Mr. Trump called his coronavirus infection “a blessing from God” and portrayed as a miracle cure the unproven therapeutic drug he was given after testing positive last week. He pledged to provide the drug to Americans free of charge, without offering any details.

White House outbreak: Mr. Trump told the White House medical staff that he was feeling “great.” He is symptom-free and has required no supplemental oxygen, according to his physician. The White House has instructed staff members to follow new safety protocols, including surgical masks and protective eye covers.

Last call: For many very old, ill and infirm Americans who know themselves to be participating for the last time, this election is an opportunity to vote for their children and grandchildren — a final heartfelt, empowering act as American citizens.

Two months ago, New Zealand celebrated 100 days with no community spread of the coronavirus — until a major new outbreak forced a retreat. Now, after a second round of lockdowns, the country is hoping it has suppressed the virus for good.

On Wednesday, the country lifted the last restrictions in Auckland, its largest city, after 10 days with no new cases linked to a cluster that surfaced there in August. People are no longer required to wear masks in public but must continue to keep records of locations they visit, maintain good hygiene and, if unwell, stay home and get tested for the virus. The border remains closed to almost all foreign travelers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is facing an election on Oct. 17, said there was a 95 percent probability that New Zealand had eliminated local transmission of the virus.

The strategy: Ms. Ardern called it the “go hard and go early” approach, combining lockdown measures with a blitz of testing, contact tracing and quarantining.

Here are our latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other virus developments:

  • The World Bank warned on Wednesday that the pandemic could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty this year, elevating the global poverty rate for the first time in more than two decades.

  • More than 40 percent of patients in intensive care units in the Paris region have Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, officials said, warning that local hospitals were coming under increasing strain from an influx of new cases.

  • Scotland will further tighten restrictions on its hospitality sector, closing pubs and canceling events around Glasgow, to avoid a second lockdown.

  • State governors in Germany agreed Wednesday to restrict domestic travelers from booking rooms in hotels or resorts if they are coming from a virus hot spot, unless they can present a negative test result.

Concurrent crises throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia are destabilizing the long-held regional influence of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, as well as his carefully curated image of a master tactician on the world stage. Once seen as sure-handed in foreign affairs, he seems to have lost his touch.

“There is nothing good about these conflicts for Moscow,” said Konstantin Zatulin, a senior Russian lawmaker and Putin ally who specializes in relations with what Russians call their “near abroad.”

The spate of new challenges to Russian influence in countries like Belarus and Kyrgyzstan threatens Mr. Putin’s yearslong effort to cast himself as the leader who restored the great-power status lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even as the Kremlin denied Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election, state television gleefully reported on the American allegations as a sign that Moscow was being reckoned with again on the world stage.

Years of gross mismanagement and American sanctions have brought Venezuela’s colossal oil sector to a near halt. Above, the state-owned El Palito refinery, which sacrificed basic maintenance to keep production going and recently had a large oil spill.

A decade ago, Venezuela was the largest producer in Latin America, earning about $90 billion a year from oil exports. It is expected to net about $2.3 billion by year’s end. Our correspondents detail a decline that has diminished Venezuela beyond recognition.

Kenya mall attack: A court in Kenya on Wednesday found two men guilty of aiding the Shabab militants who assaulted an upscale mall in Nairobi in 2013, killing 67 people. These were the first convictions in the attack.

Chechen murder: A trial opened in Germany on Wednesday for a Russian man accused of murdering a former Chechen field commander in a Berlin park last year, allegedly at the behest of the Russian state.

Nobel: The prize in chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work on the development of the Crispr tool, a method of altering the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms. It was the first time that a science Nobel has been awarded to two women.

Islamic State: Two detainees from Britain — half of a team of four called “the Beatles” by some of their victims — were being taken to the U.S. on Wednesday to face charges over accusations that they jailed and played a role in torturing and beheading dozens of Western hostages, including the journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Snapshot: Above, Greek riot police officers clashed with protesters in Athens on Wednesday after a court found the neo-fascist party Golden Dawn guilty of running a criminal organization during the financial crisis, systematically targeting migrants and left-wing critics.

Lives Lived: The unabashedly elitist British journalist Peregrine Worsthorne, an arch-Conservative newspaper editor, contrarian columnist and defender of empire and aristocracy, died at 96 on Sunday.

What we’re reading: This Anchorage Daily News article on the 2020 winner of the Fat Bear contest. His name is 747, and we were rooting for him all along, writes Carole Landry of the Briefings Team.

It’s easier to catch up with all the latest trends with our At Home collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

If your inbox is overflowing with analyses, briefings and carefully curated personal missives, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve reached peak newsletter.

Throughout the pandemic, more than 30,000 journalists have been laid off or furloughed or have had their pay reduced. Many have since found their niche on Substack, a newsletter service that allows individuals to create and send newsletters. The most successful of these — like Sinocism, from the China expert Bill Bishop, or Popular Information, from the liberal political writer Judd Legum — earn their authors six-figure salaries.

But, as this Wired story by the writer Michael Waters explores, journalists have long fled the constraints of traditional media for the unchecked liberty of their own newsletters.

“In the 1930s, as today, the shift to newsletters arose amidst a crisis of confidence in the newspaper industry and was enabled by the spread of new technology,” he writes. “Now, regular people could become their own publishers for a one-time cost of just $50 to $100 — equivalent to about $500 to $1,000 in today’s dollars.”

And it hasn’t just been journalists. In the 1970s, conservative activists like Ayn Rand and Phyllis Schlafly produced their own successful periodicals. More recently, writers such as Daniel M. Lavery, who writes The Shatner Chatner, or the essayist Charlotte Lane, of the cult hit Prostitute Laundry, have used the format to tell stories you’d never find inside a broadsheet.

In every event, the content is at the behest of the writer, and those prepared to pay for it. “It’s mostly personal journalism — a place where the individual can be his own boss, free from worries about advertisers or money-managing publishers,” one newsletter editor said, in 1979. “Some of us call it the Fourth and a Half Estate.”

Thanks for starting your morning with The Times.

— Natasha

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the state of the coronavirus in the U.S.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Germ of an idea” (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The word “rebunkering” appeared in The Times for the first time on Wednesday, according to the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.
Genevieve Ko, the Los Angeles Times cooking editor, is joining The New York Times’s Food department and the NYT Cooking team as a senior editor.


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