Your Friday Briefing

We’re covering the rush to buy Covid treatment pills in Asia, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and climate questions facing China.

A makeshift coronavirus testing site in Seoul, South Korea, last month.Credit…Ahn Young-Joon/Associated Press

A rush to buy Covid pills

At least four countries in the Asia-Pacific region announced agreements with the drug maker Merck to purchase a pill that the pharmaceutical company says could halve the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19.

Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea have all announced agreements to buy supplies of molnupiravir, the Covid treatment pill, even though their regulatory agencies have yet to approve the drug. Thailand and Taiwan are also reported to be in talks to purchase supplies of the pill.

The announcements came less than a week after the pill’s manufacturer released results from clinical trials that showed its effectiveness. The countries are the first to agree to buy the pill other than the U.S., which purchased enough pills for 1.7 million treatments for $1.2 billion in June.

Treatment: Merck’s pill, the first oral antiviral drug that can be taken at home, is expected to help limit future coronavirus outbreaks and to reduce the need for costly hospital stays.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other virus developments:

  • Pfizer and BioNTech asked U.S. drug regulators to authorize emergency use of their vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

  • Moderna said it planned to build a vaccine manufacturing factory in Africa, which the company said could eventually produce up to 500 million doses a year.

  • France will begin charging unvaccinated people for Covid screening tests in an effort to encourage inoculations.

“We need electricity, like we need to eat and sleep,” said factory manager in Dongguan, China.Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Will China deliver on climate change?

Just weeks before a critical U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, attention is riveted on China and whether it will do more to cut emissions.

The world’s top energy agency said last week that China “has the means and capacity” to reduce its emissions. Its actions could be consequential for the planet’s climate.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has promised to start reducing carbon dioxide and other gases generated by burning coal, gas and oil by 2030, and to stop financing new coal power plants in other countries. But China is also currently building several huge gas-fired power plants and still plans to build 247 gigawatts of new coal power — nearly six times Germany’s entire coal capacity — according to the U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.

Growth: The additional energy is demanded in China, where its manufacturing sector produces a third of the world’s factory goods. The biggest driver of China’s emissions, however, is its insatiable appetite for steel and cement, which are needed for apartment towers, bullet train lines, subways and other large construction projects.

Incentives: To encourage the use of renewable energy, the Chinese government has ordered electric utilities to charge customers up to five times as much when power is scarce, and generated mainly by coal, as when renewable energy is flooding into the grid.

Abdulrazak Gurnah at his home in Canterbury, England, on Thursday.Credit…Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Abdulrazak Gurnah wins the Nobel for literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah for his works that explore the lingering trauma of colonialism, war and displacement. He is the first African to win the award in almost two decades.

In an interview with The Times, Gurnah, who moved to Britain at 18 as a refugee, said he “stumbled into writing,” partly as a way to cope with his sense of dislocation. He began by writing recollections of his homeland and other snippets without ever intending to publish them, but over the years, stories started to take shape. He has now written 10 novels. The most recent one, “Afterlives,” explores the generational effects of German colonialism in Tanzania, and how it divided communities.

“The thing that motivated the whole experience of writing for me was this idea of losing your place in the world,” Gurnah said. “Misery, poverty, homesickness, those kinds of things, you start to think hard and reflect on things.” Here are The Times’s reviews of his work.

Upcoming: The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday, which draws the most attention and is often considered the most prestigious of the prizes. Last year’s winner was the World Food Program, the U.N. agency that addresses hunger.


Asia Pacific

Residents removed the debris of their damaged houses in Pakistan on Thursday.Credit…Banaras Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 20 people and damaging hundreds of residential and office buildings.

  • The C.I.A. plans to create a new China Mission Center meant to better position U.S. intelligence to study China and analyze its activities.

  • President Biden will meet virtually with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, for their first summit by the end of this year.

  • Two non-Muslim teachers in Kashmir were killed on Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks largely targeting Hindu and Sikh civilians in the region.

Around the World

Pro-European demonstrators protesting in August in front of the constitutional court in Warsaw.Credit…Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press
  • Poland’s highest court ruled that its Constitution trumps some laws set by the E.U., a decision that threatens to dissolve the glue that holds together the bloc’s 27 members.

  • The U.N. Human Rights Council voted to appoint a watchdog to investigate and report on abuses by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

  • Olaf Scholz, Germany’s would-be next chancellor, is moving closer to forming the first three-party governing coalition since the 1950s.

  • A U.S. federal judge halted enforcement of a strict Texas law that banned nearly all abortions in the state.

  • Top Senate Democrats and Republicans announced a deal that would allow the U.S. to temporarily avoid the threat of a first-ever default on the national debt.

A Morning Read

A farm in the Yvelines region of France serves as a training ground for tech savvy farmers.Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

France is the European Union’s main breadbasket. Yet half of its farmers are over age 50 and set to retire in the coming decade, leaving nearly 160,000 farms up for grabs. A new business venture called Hectar is aiming to recruit a diverse group of 2,000 young people each year to lead a farm-tech revolution and carry French farming into the future.


Credit…The New York Times

The benefits of journaling

It’s not just for teenage girls or the literati. If you’re going through a difficult time or if you are feeling down, try putting pen to paper. Journaling has become a hallmark of the “self-care” movement.

Studies have found that writing in a journal can lead to better sleep and more self-confidence, Hayley Phelan writes in The Times. She started keeping a diary a few years ago, when she was unhappy in her marriage and her career.

“I was in a place where I would have tried anything to feel better,” Hayley writes. “If someone had told me that a daily practice of morning somersaults helped her get through a difficult time, you better believe I would have started rolling.”

Wondering how to start or what to write about? Here are tips.


What to Cook

Credit…Beatriz Da Costa for The New York Times

This quick stir-fry makes for a flavorful, unconventional pasta sauce.

What to Read

In “Taste,” the actor Stanley Tucci opens up about the meals he’s eaten, the people he knows and his cancer diagnosis.


Nicholas Braun is by no means like his character on “Succession,” Cousin Greg. He’s a guy with regular problems.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Hard rock genre (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Matthew

P.S. The U.S. war in Afghanistan began 20 years ago this week. Here’s a look back in photos by the Times photographer Tyler Hicks.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the state of the coronavirus pandemic.

Claire Moses wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Matthew and the team at [email protected].

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