Your Thursday Briefing

Breonna Taylor, coronavirus vaccine, Belarus: Here’s what you need to know.

By Natasha Frost

Good morning.

We’re covering protests after a decision in the Breonna Taylor case, the final round of testing for a U.S.-made coronavirus vaccine and Finland’s canine front line against the pandemic.

A single-shot vaccine enters final testing in the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson has begun the final stage of clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine that could have a few advantages over its competitors: It would require just one shot, instead of two, and does not need to be frozen, easing distribution. The trials, which began on Monday, will be the largest in the U.S., with plans to enroll 60,000 participants.

Right behind Johnson & Johnson are Sanofi and Novavax, whose vaccines may prove just as good as or better than the leading contenders. “We need multiple vaccines to work,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist who led the development of the technology used in Johnson & Johnson’s trial. “There are seven billion people in the world, and no single vaccine supplier will be able to manufacture at that scale.”

What’s next: The company’s chief scientific officer said Johnson & Johnson might be able to determine by the end of the year if the vaccine is safe and effective.

Official comments: President Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that a vaccine will be ready before Election Day, said Wednesday that the White House “may or may not” approve new Food and Drug Administration guidelines requiring outside experts to weigh in before the agency approves a coronavirus vaccine.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

The Metropolitan Opera in New York canceled its entire 2020-21 season, through next September, casting a shadow over the likelihood that cultural life will soon resume in the U.S.

Saudi Arabia said it would allow up to 6,000 Saudi citizens and residents a day to visit Mecca’s Grand Mosque beginning Oct. 4.

France raised its Covid-19 alert level in a number of areas across the country on Wednesday, introducing further restrictions on public gatherings in several cities.

In a novel approach, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes of Belgium has loosened the rules, requiring masks in crowded places only, as opposed to everywhere outdoors, as she had ordered in the summer.

About 600 pubs that serve only drinks can reopen in Northern Ireland on Wednesday for the first time in six months.

Belarus’s leader is sworn in for a sixth term

Despite more than a month of mass demonstrations against his rule, Aleksandr Lukashenko was sworn in for a sixth term as president of Belarus in a secret ceremony on Wednesday.

“This is the day of our victory, a convincing and fateful one,” Mr. Lukashenko told the roughly 700 guests invited to his inauguration, according to a transcript published on the presidential website. “We didn’t just elect the country’s president. We defended our values, our peaceful life, our sovereignty and independence.”

Voices of the opposition: An opposition leader, Pavel Latushko, denounced the president’s move and called on the public “to immediately start a civil disobedience campaign.” And Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Mr. Lukashenko’s main opponent in the election, denounced the ceremony as a “farce” and said in a statement that she was “the only leader that was elected by the Belarusian people.”

Crowds march for justice for Breonna Taylor

After 100 nights of protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor and a monthslong investigation, a grand jury charged a former Louisville, Ky., police officer with endangering Ms. Taylor’s neighbors with reckless gunfire. Two other officers who fired shots were not charged, and no one was charged in her death.

Ms. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency room technician, was killed during a botched drug raid at her home in March, thrusting her name and image into a national movement demanding social justice.

Protests broke out in cities around the country. In Louisville, demonstrators cried out in disgust after learning of the grand jury’s decision. Later in the evening, two police officers were shot.

Legal explanation: Because the officers did not shoot first — it was the young woman’s boyfriend who opened fire; he has said he mistook the police for intruders — many legal experts had thought it unlikely that the officers would be indicted.

Go deeper: A New York Times investigation explores how Ms. Taylor landed in the middle of a deadly drug raid.

If you have 9 minutes, this is worth it

Few choices in the heart of Mexico’s pandemic crisis

Though much of Latin America has been devastated by the pandemic, Mexico has been hit especially hard, with more than 73,000 dead. In Mexico City, the Iztapalapa neighborhood, home to the largest produce market in the Western Hemisphere, above, became the epicenter of the epicenter, registering more deaths from the coronavirus than any other part of the capital, which is itself the center of the national crisis.

Our reporters visited Iztapalapa, where poverty, a dense population and bustling commerce combined with devastating effect. The workers in the area were left with little choice. “I’ve got nothing left,” said one vendor who tried to stay home but ran out of money. “It’s either go out there and face the virus or sit here and starve.” By May, one of every 10 people put on a ventilator in Mexico City had been in the market.

Here’s what else is happening

Aleksei Navalny: The Russian opposition leader has been released from a hospital in Germany and may make a full recovery from poisoning with a highly toxic nerve agent, doctors said on Wednesday, as European leaders wrestled over a response to Moscow.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Supreme Court justice, who died on Friday, was honored as a pioneer of women’s rights during a ceremony at the court in Washington. Her coffin was then taken outside, where she will lay in repose as Americans bid farewell over the next two days.

Migrant crisis: The European Union announced on Wednesday that it would cajole reluctant member nations into agreeing to a common system for handling asylum seekers by offering them cash incentives and moving more quickly to deport people who are denied asylum.

Snapshot: Above, a sniffer dog in Finland trained to recognize the scent of the coronavirus. A few dogs working at the Helsinki airport have been trained to detect an infection on arriving passengers in about one minute.

Lives lived: Juliette Gréco, the singing muse of bohemian postwar Paris who became the grande dame of chanson française and an internationally known actress, died at 93 on Wednesday.

What we’re watching: This table read of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Carole Landry of the Briefings Team writes: “The performances/readings by these stars — Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey among them — are something to behold. It’s incredible fun.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: This corn polenta with baked eggs is featured in Melissa Clark’s “From the Pantry” series, which started back in March to help people stuck at home cook and bake away their pandemic anxieties. Melissa is retiring the series: As a parting gift, here are five particularly exceptional recipes.

Read: In “Let Love Rule,” Lenny Kravitz recounts the first 25 years of his life, ending with the release of his debut album in 1989. The story he tells isn’t about stardom, but about the influences that inspired his distinctive musical hybrid of soul and classic rock.

Watch: Looking for a few fresh streaming options? Here’s our list of 10 unusual movies for unusual times.

There’s no reason to be bored at home. Our At Home collection has almost endless ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

And now for the Back Story on …

China’s shift on climate

Under international pressure to do more to address global warming, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has made a surprise commitment to drastically reduce emissions — but he offered few details. Steven Lee Myers, our Beijing bureau chief, took a closer look at what it means.

Mr. Xi’s pledge is a tectonic shift in policy, but not yet in practice. Under the Paris climate deal, China pledged that its emissions would peak around 2030. Mr. Xi promised on Tuesday to move up that timetable, though he did not provide specifics. The bigger surprise, analysts said, was his pledge to reach carbon neutrality — meaning China’s net carbon emissions will reach zero — by 2060. China is now the biggest producer of emissions, pumping out 28 percent of the global total.

China would need to reverse recent emissions trends. Analysts have warned about worrisome trends in the country. Coal consumption, which had declined from 2013 to 2017, began to rise again in recent years as the government sought to stimulate growth.

After the shutdown during the pandemic, China’s economy roared back. Research has shown that by May, carbon dioxide emissions were 4 percent higher than the year before. China also granted more construction permits for coal-fired power plants in the first six months of 2020 than it had each year in 2018 and 2019.

The new policy could affect all 1.4 billion people in China. Li Shuo, a policy adviser for Greenpeace China, said the pledge required a complete transformation of the Chinese economy. “Think about it: The way we eat, the way we consume energy, the way we produce our food, the way we commute to work will need to be completely rearranged,” he said.

That’s all for today’s briefing. Wishing you a great Thursday.

— Natasha

Thank you
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 [email protected]

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