Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

Less than a month after hitting the three-million mark, India’s overall caseload has surpassed five million, making it the world’s second-largest outbreak, behind only that of the U.S.

The country’s seven-day average of new daily cases surpassed 90,000 for nearly a week.

More than 82,000 of the country’s virus patients have died, far fewer deaths per capita than many other countries. Record-keeping varies across countries, so comparisons are uncertain, but doctors say the lower death rate reflects India’s younger and leaner population. Here are our live updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • An experimental drug markedly reduced levels of the virus in newly infected patients and lowered the chances that they would need hospitalization, the drug’s maker, Eli Lilly, announced on Wednesday. The drug is a monoclonal antibody, a manufactured copy of an antibody produced by a patient who recovered from Covid-19.

  • Russia’s vaccine, which has been approved by the government but not yet fully tested for safety and efficacy, won a new customer in India, according to a Russian financial company backing the vaccine.

  • Six months after locking down the country to curb the spread of the virus, Nepal is starting to welcome back trekkers and mountaineers.

A video of a man beating his wife so severely that she jumped from a second-floor window to escape failed to sway a court in Henan Province to grant her a divorce. The court said her husband had not agreed to the divorce and that the couple should seek mediation.

The woman, Liu Zengyan, uploaded the video to WeChat, China’s dominant social media platform. Thousands rallied to her defense, and a hashtag about her case was viewed more than a billion times on the microblogging site Weibo. News media interviews soon followed.

Before long, a judge called Ms. Liu to say there was no need for mediation and the court would issue a verdict soon. In July, three weeks after she released the video, the divorce was granted.

The numbers: Two of the biggest issues facing women in China are the prevalence of domestic violence and a legal system stacked against them. About one in four women has suffered physical or verbal abuse, or had her freedom restricted by her partner, according to a survey by the All-China Women’s Federation in 2011. Activists say the numbers are far higher.

Wildfires are devastating the American West, but it isn’t alone.

This year, the Arctic, Siberia, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil and Argentina also experienced their worst wildfires in decades.

Why: In each case, the contributing factors are different, but an underlying theme runs through the story: Hotter, drier seasons, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, have made the world more prone to erupt in flames.

Quotable: “We don’t have a fire problem; we have many fire problems,” said Stephen J. Pyne, a professor at Arizona State University who studies wildfires and their history. “One, obviously, is a deep one. It has to do with fossil fuels and climate.”

Latest in the U.S.: The prospect of scattered rain in the Pacific Northwest raised hopes for better firefighting conditions in Washington and Oregon, but California remained dry.

Legend has it that the giant stinging trees in the rain forests of eastern Australia drive men to madness and has prompted horses to hurl themselves off cliffs. There’s some truth to it: the hypodermic-needle-like hairs of its leaves inject a toxin that can cause pain in waves for hours or days.

Years of experiments and countless stings later, a team of scientists has identified at least some of the ingredients that give the plants their extraordinarily painful punch — and they have a connection to spiders, among other stinging organisms.

China hacking: A group associated with China’s intelligence service has infiltrated more than 100 companies and organizations around the world to steal intelligence, hijack their networks and extort their victims, according to the U.S. Justice Department, which released indictments against five Chinese nationals.

Germany far-right: A police force in western Germany has suspended 29 officers suspected of sharing images of Hitler and violent neo-Nazi propaganda in online chat groups. The interior minister of North-Rhine Westphalia, where the chats were discovered, called them a “disgrace.”

Chinese billionaire: A court in China has barred Chen Feng, the chairman and co-founder of the HNA Group, after the company failed to pay money it owed in two legal settlements. It was a humbling turn of events for what was once one of China’s biggest business empires.

Torture in Venezuela: United Nations investigators have implicated President Nicolás Maduro and other high-ranking officials in human rights abuses amounting to crimes against humanity, including killings, torture and sexual violence. The panel identified 45 officials in two intelligence agencies as directly responsible for torture.

Snapshot: Above, floods in downtown Pensacola, Fla., on Wednesday after Hurricane Sally made landfall. The Category 2 storm brought heavy winds and flooding. Scientists say that climate change, which has also contributed to the wildfires on the West Coast, helped intensify the storm.

What we’re reading: The essay “Empire and Degradation” in The Baffler. “The world looks different to me after reading Isabel Wilkerson’s book ‘Caste,’ about how social hierarchies can use and enable viciousness,” writes Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor. “This examination of the colonial British abasement of Indian women fits right in.”

Was Yoshihide Suga a well-known figure in Japan before becoming prime minister?

Motoko: Mr. Suga was the chief cabinet secretary, effectively the chief of staff, to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In that role, Mr. Suga gave two daily press conferences, so he is a familiar face on the news. He also gained prominence last year when he unveiled a calligraphic rendering of “Reiwa,” the name chosen for the incoming era of Emperor Naruhito, earning him the nickname “Uncle Reiwa.” There are spoofs all over the internet.

Do you sense any trepidation among the Japanese?

Mr. Abe resigned because of ill health, and he and the Liberal Democratic Party kingmakers effectively handed the reins to his right-hand man. Mr. Suga has said he will keep all of Mr. Abe’s signature policies in place. He has retained the majority of Mr. Abe’s cabinet. So in that sense, it is very much the status quo.

What will be his toughest challenge?

Like virtually every other leader in the world, he has to get the coronavirus under control and help a battered economy. But he also faces rising security threats from North Korea and China, Japan’s largest trading partner.

Then there are the long-term structural issues: a low birth rate, an aging population, climate change and women who had been promised empowerment under Mr. Abe but are still waiting on many fronts.

And his first order of business?

To try to get the economy back on its feet. And to decide whether to call a snap election that could consolidate his power and give him a chance at being more than a caretaker leader.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

— Carole

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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