Your Friday Briefing

Britain and the U.S. spar over the coronavirus vaccine.

By Natasha Frost

Good morning.

We’re covering “vaccine nationalism” in Britain and the U.S., the release of three human rights workers in Egypt and Singapore’s cruises to nowhere.

A trans-Atlantic spat over ‘vaccine nationalism’

A day after Britain became the first Western country to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, British and American officials bickered over which government’s drug-approval process was better, leading scientists to warn that the debate could undermine public faith.

“Vaccine nationalism has no place in Covid or other public health matters of global significance,” said Jeremy Farrar, a scientific adviser to the British government. “Science has always been the exit strategy from this horrendous pandemic — that science has been global.”

Several top British lawmakers have also incorrectly cast the country’s split with the European Union as the reason it authorized a vaccine first. In fact, Britain remains under the bloc’s regulatory umbrella and was able to move more quickly because of an old law enabling it to make its own determinations in public health emergencies.

Access to vaccines: Advanced and developing countries alike could suffer significant economic damage if lower-income nations do not get a fair share of coronavirus vaccines, according to a new report from the Eurasia Group, a political research and consulting firm.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Vaccination for the coronavirus in France will be free and focused first on those who are most at risk.

Cyberattacks are being aimed at the companies and government organizations that will distribute coronavirus vaccines around the world. It is unclear whether the goal is to steal the refrigeration technology needed for the vaccines or to sabotage their transport.

The U.S. on Wednesday recorded its greatest daily virus death toll, 2,885, surpassing the record set in April. The number of people hospitalized for Covid-19 was more than 100,000, nearly double the high point in the spring.

Germany and Greece extended their lockdowns, while Austria loosened restrictions. Russia readied the Sputnik V vaccine to be administered starting on Saturday.

Three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — said they would be willing to get an approved vaccine publicly to reassure Americans that it was safe.

Egypt frees human rights workers

Weeks after arresting three employees of one of Egypt’s last and best-known human rights groups, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the authorities have released the men amid rising international pressure.

While the Egyptian government has barred many human rights leaders from traveling, frozen their assets and hindered their work, most had avoided prison until last month, when the three men became the latest casualties of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s wide-ranging campaign to stifle dissent.

Thousands of other perceived political opponents, including activists, protesters, lawyers, journalists and political critics, have gone to prison since Mr. el-Sisi took power in 2014.

International attention: Diplomats, Western policymakers and even celebrities pressed for the workers’ freedom. But some activists said the catalyst for their release might have been President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who signaled that the incoming administration would take a sterner position with Egypt on human rights issues.

A Liberian warlord faces trial for war crimes

Decades after the end of Liberia’s bloody civil wars, a Swiss court has charged the former warlord and rebel leader Alieu Kosiah with murder, rape, recruiting child soldiers and cannibalism. Rights advocates hailed the move.

The hearing is the first time that any Liberian has been brought to trial specifically in connection with atrocities committed during the first of the country’s back-to-back civil wars, from 1989 to 1997, believed to have caused a quarter-million deaths. Perpetrators have never been tried in their own country, where former warlords walk free and hold some of Liberia’s highest offices.

Analysis: “The trial is extremely significant for Liberians and a powerful statement that courts thousands of miles away and many years after the event can play an important role combating these crimes,” said Balkees Jarrah, an expert on international justice.

If you have some time, this is worth it

Life and death in a Covid-19 epicenter

In a vibrant corner of Queens, N.Y., above, the coronavirus blazed a terrible path, killing nearly 1,400 people in six months. This gripping, deeply human portrait tells the story of six residents, and their families, who were among those caught in the crossfire.

Here’s what else is happening

Russian hacking: The U.S. deployed operatives to Estonia in the weeks before the November election to learn more about defending against Russian hackers, as part of a broader effort to hunt down foreign cyberattacks.

Tigray: After Ethiopian military forces captured the capital of the rebellious region last weekend, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed boasted that his forces had scored the victory without killing a single civilian. But doctors at the city’s main hospital reported dozens of deaths amid looting and a looming crisis.

Warner Bros.: Seventeen movies from the film production studio will each arrive in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously next year, in the biggest challenge yet to Hollywood’s traditional way of doing business.

Jimmy Lai: The founder of Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper, was denied bail on fraud charges on Thursday and ordered jailed until April by a court.

South Korea examinations: Nearly a half-million high school seniors hunkered down on Thursday to take the annual university-entrance exam — a nine-hour marathon of tests that could decide their futures.

Snapshot: Above, aboard the World Dream, one of Singapore’s cruises to nowhere. The city-state, along with Japan and several countries in Europe, has encouraged voyages on a limited and highly controlled basis to help the struggling cruise industry. That means socially distanced buffet lines, electronic monitoring and hand sanitizer at the slot machines.

Lives lived: The historian and Holocaust expert David Hackett, who translated “The Buchenwald Report,” a vital account of life at the concentration camp, died of the coronavirus at 80 last month.

England dispatch: Confronted with deserted streets during the pandemic, London taxi drivers are turning in their rented black cabs by the hundreds. Fields of abandoned taxis reveal the scale of the trade’s devastation.

What we’re reading: This Bloomberg article on QAnon’s rise in Japan. “It’s a look at how conspiracy theories are tailored to the Japanese experience, and there’s an odd veneration of Michael Flynn,” writes Carole Landry, from the Briefings team.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: This main-dish marinated celery salad with chickpeas and Parmesan is especially satisfying with a poached egg or some charcuterie on the side.

Watch: Our critics share their picks for the best movies of 2020, including “David Byrne’s American Utopia” and the quasi-western “First Cow.”

Stroll: Get up and exercise for 11 minutes — or 35, if you can — each day to counter the adverse effects of sitting for long periods.

Get busy: At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

How to fix America

With the U.S. facing so many challenges, our DealBook newsletter asked top experts for one idea we could do right now to make the country a better place. Here is a selection of their answers, excerpted.

Cut carbon emissions everywhereHal Harvey, chief executive of Energy Innovation

Success starts with cutting emissions in the four energy sectors: electric utilities, vehicles, buildings and industry. All have a path to zero carbon, and none must entail sacrifice, but each requires a national commitment. There’s a common expression: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Let’s get going.

Let mental health experts answer 911 calls — Chris Magnus, police chief of Tucson, Ariz.

Appropriately triaged calls involving mental health crises coming into an emergency dispatch center can assure “the right work in the right hands” and help 911 center call takers, police officers and mental health personnel work together to provide persons in crisis with the best possible care.

Think of education as more than just school — Kwame Owusu-Kesse and Geoffrey Canada, chief executive and president of Harlem Children’s Zone

An emerging field of practice centered on where a child grows up has championed the providing of comprehensive services to neighborhoods to effectively combat poverty. These services include high quality education and cradle-to-career youth programming, physical and mental health support, work force development, affordable housing and community leadership development.

Create paid internships for every college graduate Félix Matos Rodríguez, chancellor of the City University of New York

Internships provide students with real-world opportunities that match their aspirations, complement their academic work and become integral to their college experience. Paid internships also put money in students’ pockets, assisting with food, transportation and housing needs. These opportunities are pivotal for students who can’t afford to take unpaid internships.

Ban share buttons on social media — Kevin Roose, The Times’s technology columnist

Share buttons deprive us of the opportunity to make meaning out of what we share — adding the poignant caption, the funny aside, the personalized touch. They make us conduits for other people’s tastes, rather than curators of our own. By sharing less, we might actually find ourselves sharing more.

That’s it for this briefing. Have a restful weekend.

— Natasha

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected]

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about abuse victims at the Boy Scouts of America.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Unrefined oil (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Our call for six-word stories of gratitude reaped a surprise bonus: a marriage proposal. (She said yes!) Our reporters tell the story.
• Jane Coaston, formerly of Vox, is the new host of The Times Opinion podcast “The Argument.”

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