Your Friday Briefing

Vaccinations in San Francisco this summer. Infections are down more than 40 percent since August.Credit…Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

Was this the final Covid surge for the U.S.?

After a brutal summer surge, driven by the Delta variant, the coronavirus is again in retreat in the U.S. weBut given how many Americans remain unvaccinated, it is too soon to abandon basic precautions, scientists warn. The potential emergence of a new variant remains a wild card, while the protection afforded by vaccination could start to wane more substantially.

What comes next is hard to predict. Most experts said they would not be surprised to see an increase in cases later this year as people spend more time indoors and travel for the holidays. Britain and Israel continue to struggle with outbreaks, despite high vaccination rates. “We should all just be mindful that this is not completely over yet,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan.

Speaking at the White House yesterday, President Biden warned that the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t yet over, but that the U.S. “was headed in the right direction.” He called on states and private businesses to support vaccine mandates in an effort to avoid another surge in cases.

The numbers: The U.S. is now recording roughly 90,000 new infections a day, down more than 40 percent since August. Hospitalizations and deaths are also falling. Nearly 70 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, and children under 12 are likely to be eligible for their Covid vaccine shots in a matter of weeks. Federal regulators could soon authorize the first antiviral pill for Covid-19.

Related: An F.D.A. advisory committee has recommended Moderna booster shots, in addition to booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for people over 65 and those considered at high-risk.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • President Biden announced the donation of millions of Covid vaccines to a group of African countries during a meeting with Uhuru Kenyatta, the Kenyan president.

  • Faced with the highly contagious Delta variant, many Black Americans changed their minds about Covid vaccines.

  • Coronaviruses discovered in bats are surprisingly adept at infecting human cells, showing that such deadly features can indeed evolve outside of a lab, according to a new study.

Fighting Thursday in Tayouneh, in southern Beirut.Credit…Ibrahim Amro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Deadly violence in Beirut

Armed sectarian militias clashed in Beirut yesterday, transforming neighborhoods of the city into a deadly war zone. Gunmen hid behind cars and dumpsters to fire automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at their rivals. At least six people were killed and 30 wounded, in some of the worst violence in years to convulse the Lebanese capital.

After the near-collapse of the Lebanese state, the country is facing political and economic crises, inviting recollections of its civil war that ended more than three decades ago. Since the fall of 2019, its currency has plummeted more than 90 percent in value, reducing to poverty those who were once comfortably middle class.

Grave fuel shortages in recent months have left all but the wealthiest Lebanese struggling with prolonged power blackouts and long lines at gas stations. The country’s once vaunted banking, medical and education sectors have all suffered profound losses, as professionals have fled to seek livelihoods abroad.

Context: The violence broke out at a protest led by two Shiite Muslim parties — Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. The protesters were calling for the removal of the judge charged with investigating the huge explosion at the Beirut port last year.

A Boeing 737 Max 7 aircraft.Credit…Lindsey Wasson for The New York Times

Former Boeing pilot indicted in 737 Max inquiry

A federal grand jury indicted a former top pilot for Boeing, Mark Forkner, in connection with statements he and the company made about the troubled Boeing 737 Max jet. He would be the first individual to face criminal charges related to the 737 Max’s problems. The six fraud charges in his indictment carry maximum penalties totaling several decades in prison.

Forkner is accused of deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration about flight control software implicated in two crashes in 2018 and 2019 in which 346 people were killed, and of “scheming to defraud Boeing’s U.S.‑based airline customers to obtain tens of millions of dollars for Boeing,” the Justice Department said.

Lawyers for the pilot, who has been under investigation for more than a year and half, said last year that he “didn’t lie to anyone” and added that “he would never jeopardize the safety of other pilots or their passengers.” He is expected to appear in court for the first time today.

Background: Boeing and the Justice Department in the last days of the Trump administration announced that they had agreed to a $2.5 billion legal settlement to resolve a criminal charge that the company had conspired to defraud the F.A.A. The scandal has already led to the firing of the chief executive and cost the company billions of dollars.


Other Big Stories

Credit…Mathieu Bitton/Netflix
  • The comedian Dave Chappelle’s comments on transgender people in “The Closer,” his Netflix special, have led to outside criticism and internal unrest at the company that has upended Hollywood.

  • The police in Norway charged a Danish man in connection with a bow-and-arrow rampage that killed five people and wounded three others. The authorities said it appeared to be an act of terrorism.

  • The U.N. biodiversity conference is underway this week as part of an effort to stop the rapid collapse of species and systems that scientists say could equal climate change as an existential crisis.

Around the World

Credit…Woo Swee Kay, via Reuters
  • At least 46 people have died after a fire tore through a 13-story building in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s main port city.

  • A monthslong investigation by the authorities in Mexico City into a fatal collapse in the capital’s metro system last spring attributed the failure to a series of construction flaws.

  • A 2.8-pound meteorite hurtled through the ceiling of a home in British Columbia, landing on a woman’s bed and narrowly missing her.

  • State-owned oil companies in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America are cranking up production to take advantage of cutbacks by investor-owned oil companies.

What Else Is Happening

  • Cybersecurity experts criticized plans by Apple and the E.U. to monitor people’s phones for illicit material related to child sex abuse as ineffective and invasive.

  • LinkedIn plans to shut down service in China, citing a “challenging” environment. It had been forced to censor posts.

  • The U.S. regained a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, which the Trump administration abandoned in 2018.

A Morning Read

Credit…Pedro Pardo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Columbus statue that once gazed down on Mexico City’s main boulevard will be replaced with a pre-colonial Indigenous figure — notably, a woman. But not everyone is pleased with the announcement, on either side of the cultural divide.


What Jane Goodall is reading

The primatologist talked to our Books desk about what she’s learned from reading.

What books are on your night stand?

“The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West,” to remind me to reread. It is brilliant and I know the author, Imran Ahmad. And “Cult: Following My Escape and Return to the Children of God,” by Bexy Cameron. I skimmed it, and it is an extraordinary and chillingly true autobiography.

Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

People and projects around the world that show the resilience of nature, the indomitable human spirit, the power of informed young people, the amazing innovation of scientists fighting climate change.

If you could require President Biden to read one book, what would it be?

I asked someone connected with the Biden administration, and he said that Biden is swamped daily in horrible news and that I should recommend my book “The Book of Hope.” In which, prompted by the interviewer Doug Abrams, I outline my conviction that if we take action now we can turn things around.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Shakespeare, Tolkien, Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë. Or, oh — I want Keats, Byron, Rachel Carson, Dickens, Darwin — and, oh, I so want Churchill and, and, and — my dinner party will need a banqueting hall to fit them all in!

What do you plan to read next?

No plans, no time. There are so very many books I want to read. Perhaps there’ll be more time postpandemic, when I can travel again and read on flights.


What to Cook

Credit…Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Amy Wilson.

Mix dry coconut, dry chile and garlic together to brighten a batch of roasted winter squash.

What to Watch

The subtle drama “Luzzu” follows a young Maltese fisherman torn between fidelity to his trade and the demands of a modern world.

Fitness Tips

The secret to better running may be finding a distraction.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Humble ___ (bit of false modesty) (four letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. Mujib Mashal is our new South Asia bureau chief based in New Delhi.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the lawlessness in the Rikers jail complex in New York.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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