Tue. Jan 19th, 2021

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The Real News Network

Your Tuesday Briefing

6 min read

Thailand, Japan and China impose new restrictions.

By Melina Delkic

Good morning.

We’re covering new virus outbreaks in Asia, why China’s version of freedom is enticing to some and how a Tuscan village is going back to the basics.

Troubling new outbreaks in Asia

Thailand, which had been among the most successful countries in containing the coronavirus, imposed wide-ranging new restrictions on Monday as cases hit a daily high of 745. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha urged people to stay home, and Bangkok ordered schools, bars and entertainment venues to close.

In Japan, officials considered a state of emergency for Tokyo — which set a daily case record of 1,337 — the first such declaration since April. The country has closed its borders to foreign travelers after discovering cases of the new variant that first emerged in Britain.

And China has imposed “wartime mode” measures in several regions in the north of the country, conducting mass tests, sealing off villages that had confirmed infections and limiting entry into some districts.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

The government in India has defended regulators’ decision to approve a homegrown coronavirus vaccine called Covaxin, developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech, that is still under trial. (Here’s how Bharat’s shot works.)

An 82-year-old in Britain became the first person to receive the clinically authorized and fully tested vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca. It is expected to become one of the most widely used forms of inoculation.

What Trump’s call means to U.S. allies

President Trump’s extraordinary attempt to overturn the presidential election results this weekend has shaken many Europeans — even those who had grown used to his tactics.

The president’s threatening phone call to state officials in Georgia, whom he asked to “find” him the votes needed to flip the state, was not just shocking for its disregard of democratic norms, writes our chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe.

Many foreign leaders now worry that the Trump effect will last for years, damaging trust in America.

Quotable: “A lot of people will just roll their eyes and wait for the clock to run down,” said Leslie Vinjamuri of Chatham House, the British research institution. “But by far the most troubling thing is the number of Republicans who are willing to go along with him, and what it’s doing to the Republican Party, playing out in real time.”

Reminder: In an hourlong call, Mr. Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to change the vote totals in the state to overturn his loss. “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” he said. Here’s the transcript.

China’s version of freedom

Despite a few outbreaks mentioned above, China — where the coronavirus originated — has become one of the safest places in the world. Daily life includes packed restaurants, full hotels, and face-to-face meetings, and the economy is predicted to grow this year, unlike most of its rivals.

Beijing’s success is upending ideas about freedom, our New New World columnist writes: Chinese citizens have the freedom to move around and lead a largely normal day-to-day life, provoking envy around the world. But it comes at the cost of nearly every other kind of freedom. People are surveilled, and restrictions are extreme when virus outbreaks emerge.

The method: “It’s kind of a one-size-fits-all approach: Just completely take care of the problem,” said an investor who came to Shanghai from San Francisco. “So when it comes to a virus, maybe that’s not too bad a thing. When it comes to certain other problems, maybe not such a good thing.”

If you have 8 minutes, this is worth it

Should second doses be delayed?

Officials in Britain have decided to delay second doses of coronavirus vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Pfizer as a way of more widely distributing the partial protection they offer. Many experts are adamantly against the idea; vaccine makers are also divided.

Our reporters looked at the debate as scientists ponder ways to get more shots into more arms. Above, people waited for the vaccine in Florida last week.

Here’s what else is happening

Hong Kong lawyers: Chinese legal authorities have threatened to revoke the licenses of two lawyers hired to help a group of Hong Kong protesters who were arrested last year while trying to flee to Taiwan by speedboat.

Julian Assange: A British judge ruled on Monday that the WikiLeaks founder cannot be extradited to the U.S. to face trial on espionage charges, saying he would be at extreme risk of suicide.

Iran: The country said it began increasing its uranium enrichment levels to 20 percent, bringing it closer to developing the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.

Snapshot: Above, Castellina in Chianti, Italy. The small community in Tuscany, devoid of tourists amid the pandemic, is clinging to age-old essentials like agriculture and the local pharmacy.

What we’re reading: This South China Morning Post article about young employees rebelling against China’s demanding work culture. Young people are saying they won’t give their all to low-paying jobs (they call it “touching fish”), and the trend also hints at a deeper dissatisfaction with China’s economic response to the pandemic.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Silky leeks, earthy parsnips and a few spices make this simple, creamy soup.

Watch: What started as a TikTok meme became “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical.” And it could have lessons for Broadway, our reviewer writes. The slapdash show is only streaming for a few more hours.

Read: “Red Comet,” a new Sylvia Plath biography by Heather Clark, and “Snowdrift,” a Swedish crime novel from Helene Tursten, are on our editors’ 9 Books to Read list this week.

At Home has many more ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

The year in emails

Steve Kenny, The Times’s senior editor for nights, keeps the newsroom informed of what happened while many of us were sleeping. Five nights a week, Mr. Kenny sends an email to editors and reporters in New York and all over the world that recaps the news and prepares others for the day ahead. Here are a few of his “late notes” that tell the story of 2020.

THURSDAY, JAN. 9, 2020. 2:08 A.M.

Sui-Lee Wee and Donald McNeil gave us the breaking news that researchers in China have identified a new virus that is behind a mysterious pneumonialike illness that has caused a panic in the central Chinese region. “There’s no evidence that the virus, a coronavirus, is readily spread by humans, and it has not been tied to any deaths,” they write. “But health officials in China and internationally are watching it carefully.”

THURSDAY, MARCH 12. 3:52 A.M.

Within a five-minute period tonight, President Trump wrapped up his coronavirus speech, Tom Hanks announced on Instagram that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive, and the N.B.A. said it was suspending its season until further notice.

TUESDAY, JUNE 23. 12:40 A.M.

The White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, set off alarms late tonight when he told Fox News that the trade deal with China was “over.” He took it back pretty quickly — or said, rather, that his remarks had been taken “wildly out of context” — but not before stock markets in Asia began to dive.

TUESDAY, OCT. 6. 1:58 A.M.

We got off to a hectic start, with Trump’s return to the White House and his dramatic maskless salute on the balcony overlooking the South Lawn. Then he released a video recorded at the White House in which he told Americans that Covid-19 was nothing to fear.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

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

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the Georgia runoff elections.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Public transit option (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Jeffrey Henson Scales spoke to ABC News about The Times’s Year in Photos.

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