Your Tuesday Briefing
Old rifts divide the first day of COP26
The opening day of a climate summit in Glasgow was heavy on dire warnings and light on substantive proposals as prime ministers and presidents met to discuss a warming world. Longstanding tensions emerged over who should bear responsibility for cutting emissions, while less-developed countries demanded more aid and swifter action from wealthier ones.
The aim of the summit is for countries to nudge each other into strengthening their own climate plans and keep warming limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, so that the worst effects of climate change can be averted. “We are standing at an inflection point in world history,” President Biden said, calling climate change an “existential threat to human existence as we know it.”
Every corner of the world will feel the effects of global warming, but they will be most drastic for small island nations — particularly low-lying ones, like Fiji or Barbados, that could be swallowed whole by rising seas.
Britain’s about-face: Once a leading polluter, the country is now trying to be a leader on using renewable energy. But experts question whether its commitment is sufficient, and whether it can persuade other nations to meet meaningful goals.
‘It seems like an irony’: Biden called for a dramatic reduction in the use of oil, gas and coal. But only days earlier, he was urging the world’s largest oil producers to pump more of the fossil fuels that are warming the planet.
Five million lives lost to Covid-19
The coronavirus is responsible for more than five million confirmed deaths around the world as of yesterday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Such a loss would wipe out almost the entire population of Barcelona, Spain, or most of the nation of New Zealand.
The real number of people lost to Covid-19 could be as high as twice the reported figure, experts say. Countries like India are unable to accurately record deaths from the virus, while researchers have questioned the veracity of data from other countries, like Russia.
The U.S. has reported the highest number of deaths, with more than 745,000 confirmed in total, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia. Globally, around 7,000 new deaths are recorded per day, down from a peak of about 10,000 in August.
Vaccine success: The pace of confirmed deaths seems to have slowed slightly since the world reached four million in early July, despite the rapid spread of the Delta variant since then — a sign that the spread of vaccines could be having an impact, at least in some parts of the world.
In other developments:
Thailand reopened to fully vaccinated tourists from 63 countries as it tries to revive its economy.
Vaccine inequity is having an impact on the COP26 climate summit, with activists saying that some of the nations most affected by climate change are not being properly represented.
Barclays’s C.E.O. steps down after Epstein inquiry
The British bank Barclays announced yesterday that its chief executive, James Staley, stepped down as a result of an inquiry by regulators into how he characterized his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who killed himself in 2019 after facing new allegations of trafficking underage girls.
Staley also agreed to give up his position on the board, the bank said in a statement. It noted that the investigation did not find that the executive “saw, or was aware of, any of Mr. Epstein’s alleged crimes.” He will be succeeded as chief executive by C.S. Venkatakrishnan, Barclays’s co-president and head of global markets.
Staley was one of many powerful businessmen to associate with Epstein and who have since denied knowledge of his misconduct. Epstein played a crucial role in Staley’s ascent, including connecting him with future employers. The two maintained a relationship even after Epstein’s 2008 plea, and Staley visited Epstein after his conviction.
Details: Barclays learned of the preliminary conclusions of the inquiry on Friday. British regulators declined to provide any details about what their inquiry had found, saying in a joint statement that they “do not comment on ongoing investigations or regulatory proceedings.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
At least four people were killed and as many as 100 feared trapped after a building collapsed at a construction site in Lagos, Nigeria.
Egypt is poised to pass legislation that will strengthen the hand of the country’s authoritarian government.
Pakistan reopened a key national highway yesterday that had been occupied by supporters of a militant Islamist group, following a secret pact between the government and the group.
News From the U.S.
The U.S. Supreme Court hinted that it may allow a challenge to a restrictive Texas abortion law. The fight could set the precedent for women’s abortion rights in the country.
A U.S. military jury condemned the torture of a terrorist by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks and urged clemency.
Senator Joe Manchin said he would not support President Biden’s revised spending plan without “greater clarity” about its effects on the economy, complicating Democrats’ efforts to pass it and a separate infrastructure bill.
What Else Is Happening
Amazon will launch its first two prototype internet satellites next year, the first step in the company’s larger goal to offer high-speed internet in remote locations from thousands of similar satellites positioned in low Earth orbit.
After outrage over a fine levied against the Norwegian women’s beach handball team for playing in shorts, rather than bikini bottoms, the sport’s international federation said it was changing its rules.
New Zealand holds an annual Bird of the Year contest. This year, the birds lost.
A Morning Read
Between 2014 and 2020, the photographer Frank Herfort visited more than 770 metro stations in 19 former Soviet cities, creating a remarkable archive of architectural and artistic splendor.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A lesson from South Africa on surviving two pandemics
Writing in the Coronavirus Briefing, Lynsey Chutel, a reporter for The Times in the Johannesburg bureau, describes how the country has learned from its past as it tackles new public health disasters.
South Africa has been under varying levels of lockdown since March 2020 and has had the highest number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in Africa.
It is not the first time in recent memory that a pandemic has made South Africans face their collective mortality. The coronavirus has turned our world upside down for less than two years, but H.I.V./AIDS shook South Africa’s foundation for more than a decade.
Lessons from that earlier pandemic have helped to inform South Africa’s fight against Covid-19. Many of the scientists who have led the country’s Covid response were the same faces we saw trying to make sense of H.I.V./AIDS. The coronavirus pandemic has also primed South African society to more readily accept a science-based response. Misinformation is still common, but not as widespread as it was two decades ago, when the nation’s health minister suggested that fruit and vegetables could be used to treat AIDS.
“With H.I.V., there was no political will,” said Sibongile Tshabalala, the chairwoman of a group that lobbied for access to H.I.V./AIDS drugs. She said that this time the government had worked hard to acquire Covid-19 vaccines, with limited but tangible success.
The pace at which vaccines have arrived has been reassuring. About 21 percent of South Africans and fewer than 6 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated — a slow rollout compared with some regions, but the Covid vaccines arrived faster than antiretroviral drugs did in Africa during the H.I.V./AIDS pandemic.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
What to Read
In her debut essay collection, “My Body,” the model Emily Ratajkowski takes stock of what she’s lost and gained from selling her image.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Filler word akin to “you know” or “I mean” (four letters).
And here is the Spelling Bee.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Natasha
P.S. The Times’s DealBook summit this year will feature Tim Cook, Meghan Markle and more.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about deaths at the hands of the police during traffic stops.
You can reach Natasha and the team at email@example.com.