Analysis & Comment

Your Friday Briefing

European leaders who met Macron go into quarantine.

By Carole Landry

Good morning.

We’re covering quarantine for European leaders who had contact with France’s president, the unequal impact of India’s air pollution and the way the climate change crisis played out in 2020.

Macron’s positive test reverberates among European leaders

After President Emmanuel Macron of France tested positive for the coronavirus, other European leaders he recently met have begun to self-quarantine.

The Élysée Palace announced Mr. Macron’s illness without providing details on the gravity of his condition. The Spanish and Portuguese prime ministers, who had lunch with him this week, said they would self-quarantine. Mr. Macron attended a European Union summit last week.

The potential contagion complicates Europe’s efforts to overcome a crippling second wave of the pandemic.

How Mr. Macron — who, at 42, is not among the most vulnerable to a serious bout of Covid-19 — contracted the virus is a mystery. He has taken its dangers seriously, unlike more cavalier world leaders who’ve been infected — including President Trump, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain.

Europe’s vaccine rollout: The 27 countries of the European Union are preparing to launch a huge vaccination campaign, with the first inoculations expected to begin on Dec. 27-29.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

The sudden lockdown in July of 3,000 public housing residents, many of whom are immigrants, in Melbourne, Australia, violated human rights laws, an investigation has found.

The U.S. set single-day records on Wednesday for reported deaths from the coronavirus, with more than 3,600, and for newly reported cases, with more than 245,000.

An international team of 10 scientists named by the World Health Organization is expected to travel to China early in the new year to begin an investigation of the origins of the coronavirus.

Kim Ki-duk, ​59, an internationally celebrated South Korean film director, has died from Covid-19.

The start of the Australian Open will be delayed by three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Putin laughs off a question about Navalny

During his annual hourslong news conference on Thursday, the Russian president was asked about the near-fatal poisoning in August of the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny with a military-grade nerve agent.

Vladimir Putin responded with a laugh that, if Russian agents had wanted to kill Mr. Navalny, “they would have probably finished the job.”

He did, however, make a startling acknowledgment: that Russian intelligence agents had been tracking Mr. Navalny’s movements.

Blaming the U.S.: Mr. Putin insisted that American intelligence was behind the uproar over the poisoning. He also said that an investigation by an international group of journalists, published on Monday, that uncovered apparent involvement by Russian intelligence had also been engineered by the U.S.

No hacking comment: Mr. Putin did not respond directly to a question about a giant, sophisticated cyberattack attributed to Russian agents who broke into private U.S. companies and the networks of several U.S. agencies, including the State Department and parts of the Pentagon. He said Russian-American relations had become “hostage” to U.S. domestic politics, referring to criticism of President Trump as being too soft on Russia.

Indian call-center scam netted millions

The police in New Delhi say they have arrested over 50 people in connection to a two-year call-center fraud that bilked more than $14 million from over 4,500 Americans.

Details: The victims were told their assets were being frozen because their bank account details had been found at crime scenes involving drug cartels, and were offered an “alternative dispute resolution” option that would allow them to avoid facing the law.

That option involved buying Bitcoins or Google gift cards that were then transferred to a supposedly “safe government wallet” that actually belonged to the scammers.

Context: Call centers are part of India’s expansive outsourcing industry, which generates about $28 billion in annual revenue. At the same time, the country has emerged as a hot spot for online fraud in which perpetrators are rarely punished.

If you have 15 minutes, this is worth it

Who gets to breathe clean air in New Delhi?

Air pollution killed more people in India last year than any other risk factor, and Delhi, the capital, is among the country’s most polluted cities. But the burden is unequally shared.

Our reporters followed two teenagers, Monu, above left, and Aamya, for a day and measured their exposure to pollution. Only one of their families can afford air purifiers. The disparity could rob one of them of around five years of life.

Here’s what else is happening

Russian doping ban: A court in Switzerland cut Russia’s four-year ban from global sports in half, but the country’s teams will not be able to compete in the next two Olympics — the Tokyo Games next summer and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Antidoping regulators have accused the country of running one of the most sophisticated doping schemes in history.

South Korean acquittal: A man who spent 20 years in prison for the murder of a 13-year-old girl was acquitted in a retrial after South Korea’s most infamous serial killer confessed to the crime. The judge at the retrial apologized for the initial guilty verdict, saying that “the judiciary had failed to serve its role properly as the last bastion for human rights.”

Boko Haram: The leader of the Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for a raid in which hundreds of young boys went missing from their boarding school in northwestern Nigeria. The mass abduction echoes one that occurred six years ago, when nearly 300 girls were taken from a school in Chibok, in the country’s northeast.

Snapshot: Above, New York’s East Village late Wednesday as the city was hit by its biggest snowfall in years. More snow and cold are in store from the Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast.

What we’re reading: This Outside magazine account of a trip to the Great Barrier Reef, made after the writer’s husband suffered a stroke at the age of 40. “It’s a cleareyed look at bliss, travel and what ‘last-chance tourism’ really means,” writes Natasha Frost, of the Briefings team.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: These soy butter basted scallops with wilted greens and sesame come together in no time and just need a base of steamed white rice.

Watch: Binge-watching has been big this year. Our television critics picked the best TV episodes of 2020, singling out those that cut through the clutter and stuck with them.

Do: These video games are not necessarily the best or the newest, but they are the ones that our colleagues across The Times played for hundreds of hours this year.

The weekend is almost here. Let us help you unwind with our At Home collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

The year in climate

2020 was a crisis year: a pandemic, economic turmoil, social upheaval. And running through it all, climate change. Our climate team has documented the shifts, from the science to the human cost. Here are some of the big stories.

Fire: 2020 began with huge bush fires burning the coast of Australia, which had just had its hottest, driest year on record. Half a world away, California recorded its own worst fire season this fall, driven in part by hot, dry conditions.

Ice: Polar ice melted, temperatures soared and a record number of storms formed and made landfall in the U.S. — the most ever in one year. The Arctic continued its shift toward a new climate in 2020, as the effects of near-record warming surged, shrinking ice and snow cover.

Inequality: The impacts of climate change are not equally felt throughout the world. The people least responsible for climate change are among those most hurt by its consequences. In July, floods in Bangladesh left a quarter of the country under water. Nearly everywhere, heat waves are more frequent and longer lasting than they were 70 years ago. If you’re poor and marginalized, you’re likely to be much more vulnerable to extreme heat.

The pandemic: In many ways, the coronavirus pandemic echoed the threat of climate change. It was global in scale, hit the vulnerable hardest and required collective action to avert the worst. But it moved more swiftly. The virus also drove down emissions, but not in the way anyone would have wanted.

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

— Carole

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 U.S. government’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Crust, mantle or core (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Matina Stevis-Gridneff, a Brussels correspondent for The Times, discussed covering migration across continents on the Media Tribe podcast.

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