Europe’s economic recovery is already flagging
Over the summer, European countries seemed poised for an economic revival after a historic plunge. The coronavirus seemed to have been successfully contained in many countries, while the promises of the European Central Bank, which vowed to do whatever it took to stabilize the economy and support lending, helped to inspire confidence.
But wider political concerns and the resurgence of the virus could undo much of that progress. The British government’s threats to abandon Europe without a deal governing future commercial relations would imperil its own economy, as well as those of its major European trading partners like the Netherlands, France and Spain.
At the same time, the virus is regaining strength, yielding an alarming increase of cases in Spain, France and Britain. In turn, consumers have scrapped holidays, limited their exposure to shopping areas and opted to economize in the face of threats to businesses and jobs, further imperiling recovery.
Quotable: “It’s hard to imagine a recovery that’s going to be strong and sustained given the current situation,” said one eurozone economist. “There’s not a lot of engines of growth.”
In other coronavirus developments:
An experimental drug, a manufactured copy of an antibody produced by a patient who recovered from Covid-19, 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.
For the first time since it opened its doors in 1958, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue will remain shuttered over the Jewish High Holy Days due to a nationwide lockdown in Israel.
The coronavirus is the “No. 1 global security threat in our world today,” the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, said Wednesday.
The U.S. says it plans to start distributing a vaccine within 24 hours of approval. The goal, according to federal officials, is that no American “has to pay a single dime” out of their own pocket.
German officers suspended for neo-Nazi propaganda
After a police department in western Germany discovered five online chat groups with extremist content, 29 officers suspected of sharing images of Hitler and violent neo-Nazi propaganda have been suspended.
The 126 images shared included swastikas, a fabricated picture of a refugee in a gas chamber and the shooting of a Black man, officials said. At a news conference on Wednesday, Herbert Reul, the interior minister of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, described the images as “far-right extremist propaganda” and the “ugliest, most despicable, neo-Nazi immigrant-baiting.”
German politicians and security chiefs have long rejected the notion of far-right infiltration of the security services, speaking only of “individual cases.” But after the government disbanded an entire company of German special forces this summer because it was deemed to be infested with far-right extremists, the authorities have acknowledged the scale of the problem.
In China, even footage of abuse can’t guarantee a divorce
Footage of a man beating his wife so severely that she jumped from a second-floor window to escape failed to persuade a court in Henan Province to grant the woman, Liu Zengyan, a divorce. The court said that her husband had not agreed to the divorce and that the couple should seek mediation.
After Ms. Liu 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 for 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.
If you have 4 minutes, this is worth it
These gorgeous green leaves are not for touching
To believe the legends, the giant stinging trees in the rainforests of eastern Australia drive men to madness and have even prompted horses to hurl themselves off cliffs. It’s not totally unfounded: The hypodermic-needle-like hairs of their leaves inject a toxin that can cause waves of pain 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.
Here’s what else is happening
Wildfires: Almost every continent has experienced its worst wildfires in decades this year. The common factor? Hotter, drier seasons, driven by the burning of fossil fuels.
Refugee camp fires: Four Afghan migrants were charged with arson on Wednesday for what the authorities said was their role in fires that destroyed most of a large migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Torture in Venezuela: U.N. 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 who should be investigated and prosecuted.
Snapshot: Above, floods in downtown Pensacola, Fla., after Hurricane Sally made landfall on Wednesday. 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.
Melania Trump: A life-size wooden statue of the first lady, erected last year near her hometown in Slovenia, was set on fire in July. It has been replaced with a bronze replica intended to last a little longer.
Lives lived: The critic and essayist Stanley Crouch, who elevated the invention of jazz into a metaphor for the indelible contributions that Black people have made to American democracy, died at 74 on Wednesday at a hospital in New York City.
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.”
Now, a break from the news
And now for the Back Story on …
What’s in store for Japan’s new leader
The Japanese Parliament on Wednesday officially elected Yoshihide Suga to be the prime minister, replacing Shinzo Abe, who led the country for nearly eight years. I talked to Motoko Rich, our Tokyo bureau chief, about the man taking the helm of the world’s third biggest economy.
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 news 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 birthrate, 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.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a wonderful Thursday.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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