Your Thursday Briefing

Vaccine, United Nations, virus-sniffing dogs: Here’s what you need to know.

By Melina Delkic

Good morning.

We’re covering progress in the largest vaccine trials in the U.S., a creative jobs plan in China and sniffer dogs detecting the coronavirus in Finland.

A one-shot vaccine enters final testing in the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson has begun the final stage of clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine that could have a big advantage over its competitors: It would require just one shot instead of two.

The trials, which began on Monday, will be the largest in the U.S., with plans to enroll 60,000 participants. “It would be fabulous if we had something at a single dose,” said Dr. Judith Feinberg, the vice chairwoman for research in medicine at West Virginia University, who was not involved in the study.

Only Phase 3 trials, which compare the effects of a vaccine with those of a placebo, can determine if a single dose is indeed effective, Dr. Feinberg said.

Another plus: The vaccine does not need to be frozen. The freezing requirement could make distribution difficult, especially to places without advanced medical facilities.

What’s next: The company’s chief scientific officer said Johnson & Johnson might be able to determine by the end of the year if the vaccine is safe and effective.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Foreigners with valid residence permits for work, personal matters and family reunions in China will be allowed to enter the country again without having to apply for new visas starting next week.

The Metropolitan Opera, the largest performance arts organization in the U.S., canceled its entire 2020-21 season, through next September. The decision sent a chilling signal that cultural life in the U.S. is still far from resuming.

Plastic face shields do little to contain the spread of microscopic airborne particles created by such activities as talking, singing or sneezing, according to recent research from Japan.

Saudi King assails Iran in first U.N. speech

King Salman of Saudi Arabia used his first address to the United Nations General Assembly to brand Iran as a force for chaos in the Middle East. But there was no mention of his country’s own controversies.

“The Kingdom’s hands were extended to Iran in peace with a positive and open attitude over the past decades, but to no avail,” the 85-year-old king said in a pre-recorded video.

He accused the Iranian government of having exploited international efforts to contain its nuclear activities, supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen and targeting Saudi oil facilities in missile strikes.

The king said nothing negative about Saudi Arabia’s own military role in Yemen, which the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. He expressed support for the Trump administration’s efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but refrained from mentioning the possibility of opening diplomatic ties with Israel.

China’s new idea to rev up growth: Elevators

In the past, Beijing has responded to economic slowdowns by greenlighting multibillion-dollar construction projects to quickly pump money into the economy. The latest idea is much less grandiose than a superhighway or a high-speed rail line.

Elevators will be retrofitted in as many as three million older, walk-up buildings. While elevators may pack a smaller economic punch, they provide a social benefit for a rapidly aging population.

Officials are hoping a national elevator project could help mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic, particularly on blue-collar workers. It could provide jobs to tens of millions of still-unemployed Chinese migrant workers.

If you have 9 minutes, this is worth it

No good choices in the center of Mexico’s epicenter

Latin America has been devastated by the pandemic. In Mexico City, the Iztapalapa neighborhood, home to the largest produce market in the Western Hemisphere, became the epicenter of the epicenter, registering more deaths from the coronavirus than any other part of the capital, which is itself the center of the national crisis.

Our reporters visited Iztapalapa, where poverty, a dense population and bustling commerce combined with devastating effect. The workers in the area were left with little choice. “I’ve got nothing left,” said one vendor who tried to stay home but ran out of money. “It’s either go out there and face the virus or sit here and starve.” By May, one of every 10 people put on a ventilator in Mexico City had been in the market.

Here’s what else is happening

Belarus: Despite weeks of mass demonstrations against his rule, Aleksandr Lukashenko was sworn in for a sixth term as president in a secret ceremony on Wednesday. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an opposition leader, denounced the ceremony as a “farсe.”

Breonna Taylor: One police officer was charged with “wanton endangerment” in the killing of the 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot while she was sleeping. Two other officers who fired shots were not indicted. Protesters gathered in Louisville, Ky., where Ms. Taylor was killed, expressing anger and disappointment. Other cities prepared for protests as well.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Supreme Court justice was honored as a pioneer of women’s rights during a ceremony at the court in Washington. Her coffin was then brought outside, where she will lay in repose as Americans bid farewell over the next two days.

Pakistan fire: Eight years after the country’s worst industrial fire killed 264 people and injured 60 others at a garment factory in Karachi, a court has sentenced two men to hang for arson. The verdict fell short for the victims’ families, who wanted to see the owners of the factory held to account.

Snapshot: Above, a sniffer dog in Finland trained to recognize the scent of the coronavirus. A few canines working at the Helsinki airport have been trained to detect an infection on arriving passengers in about one minute.

What we’re watching: This table read of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Carole Landry of the Briefings Team writes: “The performances/readings by these stars — Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey among them — are something to behold. It’s incredible fun.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: This corn polenta with baked eggs is featured in Melissa Clark’s “From the Pantry” series, which started back in March to help people stuck at home cook and bake away their pandemic anxieties. Melissa is retiring the series and, as a parting gift, here are five recipes that shined.

Read: In “Let Love Rule,” Lenny Kravitz recounts the first 25 years of his life, ending with the release of his debut album in 1989. The story he tells isn’t about stardom, but about the influences that inspired his distinctive musical hybrid of soul and classic rock.

Watch: Looking for a few fresh streaming options? Here’s our list of 10 unusual movies for unusual times.

Being bored at home is not an option with our full At Home collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

And now for the Back Story on …

China’s shift on climate

Under international pressure to do more to address global warming, President Xi Jinping has made a surprise commitment to drastically reduce emissions — but he offered few details. Steven Lee Myers, our Beijing bureau chief, took a closer look at what it means.

Mr. Xi’s pledge is a tectonic shift in policy, not yet practice. Under the Paris climate deal, China pledged that its emissions would peak around 2030. Mr. Xi promised on Tuesday to move up that timetable, though he did not provide specifics. The bigger surprise, analysts said, was his pledge to reach carbon neutrality — meaning China’s net carbon emissions will reach zero — by 2060. China now is the biggest producer of the world’s emissions, pumping out 28 percent of the global total.

China would need to reverse recent emissions trends. Analysts have warned about worrisome trends in the country. Coal consumption, which had declined from 2013 to 2017, began to rise again in recent years as the government sought to stimulate growth.

After the shutdown during the pandemic, China’s economy roared back. Research has shown that by May, carbon dioxide emissions were 4 percent higher than the year before. China also granted more construction permits for coal-fired power plants in the first six months of 2020 than it had each year in 2018 and 2019.

The impact could affect all 1.4 billion people in China. Li Shuo, a policy adviser for Greenpeace China, said the pledge required a complete transformation of the Chinese economy.

“Think about it: The way we eat, the way we consume energy, the way we produce our food, the way we commute to work will need to be completely rearranged,” he said. Preserving the Communist Party’s power remains Mr. Xi’s first priority, but pollution and other environmental threats are increasingly seen as threats to the party’s standing.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

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