Analysis & Comment

Your Wednesday Briefing

Britain passes a grim pandemic milestone.

By Natasha Frost

Good morning.

We’re covering tragic statistics for Britain and the world, a feud over vaccine access and the latest from Washington.

Britain passes a grim pandemic milestone

As the world surpassed 100 million known cases, Britain this week hit a tragic milestone of its own: 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

Though the country’s death toll has long been the worst in Europe, a fast-spreading variant has propelled Britain’s daily fatality rates to levels not seen since April. Per capita, Britain’s death rate has been the worst in the world over the last week. So far, one in eight adults in the country had received the first of the two required vaccine doses.

Health experts in the United States worry that new variants of the virus could cause a resurgence in numbers there, as they have in Britain, Ireland and South Africa. Such fears have prompted new lockdowns and travel restrictions around the world.

Official response: “It’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of Britain’s deaths. “You’d exhaust the thesaurus of misery. It’s an appalling and tragic loss of life.” The toll has laid bare the missteps in his government’s handling of the pandemic, as well as the tough choices Mr. Johnson faces in grappling with the new variants.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

France and Britain are among the many countries considering tightening their borders over rising cases and the threat of more contagious variants.

President Biden announced that his administration was nearing a deal with Pfizer and Moderna to secure an additional 200 million doses of their vaccines by the end of the summer. It is unlikely that it would accelerate the current pace of vaccination for months.

Shopkeepers in several cities across the Netherlands boarded up windows and sent employees home early, as the country braced for a fourth night of protests against a curfew intended to reduce virus transmission.

Hong Kong’s first virus lockdown, in a working-class neighborhood, raised questions about whether residents are being treated fairly.

A cross-Channel scrap over vaccines

As vaccine production falls behind schedule and the European Union lags in inoculating people, Brussels and London are lobbing threats and accusations at each other.

The E.U., stung by its slow progress on vaccinations, threatened this week to tighten rules on shipping Belgian-made shots to Britain, while British lawmakers have accused their European counterparts of a blackmail campaign that could embitter relations for a generation.

The feuding holds echoes of the dark, early days of the pandemic, when scores of countries banned or restricted the export of protective equipment and medical devices. Nearly a year later, that spirit of protectionism continues: Not only are vaccine supplies too scarce for many poorer countries to begin inoculations, but wealthy countries also cannot figure out how to share the available doses among themselves.

Brexit aftermath: As the world shifts to electric cars, Britain’s automobile industry risks a slow decline because the country lacks a strong domestic battery industry.

Biden and Putin agree to extend nuclear treaty

In their first call since last week’s presidential inauguration, President Biden and President Vladimir Putin of Russia avoided a renewed arms race on Tuesday as they formally agreed to extend the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between their countries.

White House officials said Mr. Biden also confronted the Kremlin leader over the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and the hacking of computer networks in the United States. The call was, in essence, the opening act of what promises to be a deeply adversarial relationship.

Change in tone: During his time in office, former President Donald Trump treated the Russian leader with remarkable deference. Mr. Biden, in contrast, had repeatedly called Mr. Putin a “K.G.B. thug,” while Mr. Putin chastised Mr. Biden for his “sharp anti-Russian” language.

Biden presidency: Mr. Biden announced new actions targeting racial inequality and police violence against Black people.

Impeachment: In a procedural vote, 45 Republicans voted to dismiss the impeachment charges against Mr. Trump, arguing that the Senate cannot try a former president. It suggests that conviction is unlikely.

If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it

A push for sustainable fashion

Sustainability in the fashion industry was once the focus of only a handful of designers, like Stella McCartney and outdoor gear companies like Patagonia. But brands everywhere are now working to improve a supply chain criticized for contributing to landfills and causing pollution.

We looked at how brands have turned their focus to sustainability by developing new materials and fibers, for example, and how the fashion world could be transformed if customers buy in.

Here’s what else is happening

Italian government: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned on Tuesday after weeks of political infighting, thrusting the country into instability during the pandemic. Opposition parties are clamoring for elections, which otherwise would be two years away.

Indian protests: Thousands of farmers protesting new farming laws poured into New Delhi on Tuesday, using their tractors to pull barricades apart and clashing with the police. It was a violent escalation in a protest movement that has challenged the government for months.

Capitol Hill attack: The Capitol Police apologized for enormous security failures in the Jan. 6 mob attack. The acting police chief acknowledged that her department knew that militia groups and white supremacists would descend on Washington, but had not done enough to prepare.

South Korean mayor: A top human rights watchdog in South Korea has released a report confirming that Park Won-soon, the former mayor of Seoul who was found dead in July, had sexually harassed and verbally humiliated a secretary.

Diary Sow: A star Senegalese student who went missing in Paris this month, setting off an outpouring of concern, is said to have turned up, though questions remain: She has yet to be seen in public and has not contacted her family.

Snapshot: Above, the Mona Lisa sitting in solitude. With the Louvre closed because of the pandemic, museum officials are pushing ahead on a grand restoration and cleanup. “For some projects, the lockdown has allowed us to do in five days what would have previously taken five weeks,” said Sébastien Allard, the museum’s general curator.

Dinosaur discourse: Ninety-nine million years ago, a 55-foot dinosaur stalked the river deltas of North Africa. But paleontologists disagree about whether it was a subaquatic killer or something more like a giant wading bird.

Futuristic lexicography: “Warp speed,” “transporter,” “moon base” and “deep space” are among the more than 400 terms whose origins are cataloged in the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, a free online resource released today.

What we’re watching: The 1994 movie “Eat Drink Man Woman,” by the Taiwanese-American director Ang Lee. It’s a feast for the senses. (Here’s our review from back when it was released.)

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Top these crisped chickpeas in spicy brown butter with a fried egg. Cooking for one? Here are our tips.

Tour: Escape your surroundings by walking the (virtual) halls of storied grand houses, including the homes of Georgia O’Keeffe and Edgar Allan Poe.

Play: Teachers share tips on how to get outside this winter, whatever the weather. An optimistic outlook is key.

Stay afloat. At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while indoors.

And now for the Back Story on …

Tracking Trump’s insults on Twitter

From 2015 until earlier this month, a team of Times journalists led by the Times editor Kevin Quealy kept a list of every one of the former president’s put-downs on Twitter. Here’s how they did it.

Times Insider: What made you decide to collect all of Mr. Trump’s insults as a list?

Kevin: It’s hard to remember now, but it was just unlike anything that had ever happened before — that this person who is a very public figure would personally insult people. So we thought that a simple list might be compelling. It was much shorter, obviously, five years ago, but it was still substantial.

How many insults are there?

Depending on how you count, it is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000.

How did you decide if something was an insult?

We were relatively conservative about whether something was an insult or just an opinion. Also, the insult’s target needed to be clear.

When we started the list, it had less gravity to it. Now that he’s been barred from Twitter, and there was a deadly attack on the Capitol that was not unrelated to his tweets, it’s more serious than when we started. The project doesn’t really bring me any joy.

What was most surprising to you?

He found new people to insult at a remarkably linear rate. He found new things to insult about once every three days or so, for years. He is also very good at branding. People still say “Crooked Hillary” or “the failing New York Times.” And I can still find myself being surprised at how nasty some of them are.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me.

— Natasha

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

P.S.

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on Dr. Anthony Fauci.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Pandemonium (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Our national political reporter Astead Herndon spoke to Slate about covering the changing Republican Party in recent years.

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