Your Wednesday Briefing

Good morning. We’re covering new estimates of India’s Covid death toll, raging wildfires in the American West and growing tension between the U.S. and China.

India’s Covid toll could be 10 times greater

The number of people in India who have died during the coronavirus pandemic is likely to exceed three million — nearly 10 times the official virus death toll, according to a new study.

The Center for Global Development, a Washington research institute, attempted to quantify excess deaths from all causes during the pandemic based on state data, international estimates, serological studies and household surveys.

The study estimated that 3.4 million to 4.7 million more people than would normally be expected died from January 2020 to June 2021, and suggested that deaths from Covid-19 alone might have reached four million.

A chorus of experts have called official government numbers a gross understatement.

Vaccinations: About 6.3 percent of India’s population is fully vaccinated. The country is still reporting nearly 40,000 new cases and about 500 deaths a day on average, according to a Times database.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Off the coast of East Africa, South Korea is airlifting the entire crew from a navy destroyer after hundreds of sailors tested positive for the virus.

Indonesia is extending coronavirus restrictions at least until Monday as the country celebrates a muted Eid al-Adha, one of the most important Muslim holidays.

A new study suggests that just one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may not work against the Delta variant.

The Delta variant now accounts for an estimated 83 percent of all U.S. cases, the C.D.C. director said.

Extreme weather batters the U.S.

Wildfires raged across the American West as another scorching heat wave was helping fuel a drought. Smoke from the blazes made its way across the continent, spreading to New York City and elsewhere on the East Coast.

In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire so far this year in the U.S., is so hot that it is generating its own weather. The blaze has a towering cloud of hot air, smoke and moisture that reached airliner heights and spawned lightning.

“Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do,” said a spokesman for the Oregon forestry department. “In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”

Context: Climate change is causing wildfires to be larger and more intense, as months of drought and last month’s blistering heat wave dry out the landscape.

The future: In Oakley, a small city in Utah, officials have stopped building in an effort to preserve the little water they have left. Oakley is not alone: Droughts and fires are challenging the future of development across the West.

Elsewhere: France passed a new climate law that bans some short-distance flights, requires more vegetarian meals in schools and curbs plastic packaging. But activists say the measures won’t significantly affect climate change.

U.S.-China ties are fraying

Beijing was no fan of the U.S. during the Trump administration. President Biden seems like he might be an even tougher adversary.

In six months, the Biden administration has imposed sanctions over the repression in Xinjiang and the deteriorating business climate in Hong Kong. Now, it has rallied other nations to accuse China of cyberespionage.

The torrent of attacks has infuriated Beijing. China has responded with tit-for-tat measures, but these are not yet an effective counter to Washington’s new strategic approach.

Escalation: Although both sides have said that they want to avoid a new Cold War, they are plunging into an increasingly ideological conflict that shows little sign of easing. Around Taiwan, the quickening tempo of military operations increases the chances of armed confrontation — even if accidental.


Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, completed a short flight to space. He was accompanied by the youngest person ever to go to space, and the oldest.

Thomas Barrack, a close friend and top fund-raiser for Donald Trump, was indicted on a lobbying charge.

Israel briefly shelled southern Lebanon in response to rockets fired by militants.

Pedro Castillo, a leftist political outsider, won Peru’s presidency.

Kris Wu, one of China’s biggest stars, faces allegations of targeting and pressuring young women for sex.


The Olympic debut of surfing promises big talent but as predicted, and feared, the waves on Tsurigasaki Beach may be woefully small.

The U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams are the latest to be disrupted by the coronavirus.

Dentsu, the Japanese advertising giant, stood to be the biggest winner of this year’s Olympic Games. But the expectation of an enormous payout has dwindled in the pandemic.

While her competitors spent their days training for the Olympics, Joan Poh, a Singapore rower, spent much of the past year working long hours as a nurse. Follow our Olympics live updates.

What Else Is Happening

Ben & Jerry’s will stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied territories.

New laws across India are seeking to ban all interfaith marriages to curb what right wing members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu party deemed a “love jihad.”

Prince Harry will write a memoir that Penguin Random House, the publisher, said would be “the definitive account” of his experiences.

A Morning Read

In Bangladesh, families usually crowd markets to pick out prime animals to sacrifice for Eid al-Adha, one of two major religious festivals of Islam. This year, as coronavirus cases surge, many people are turning to online marketplaces, and getting the animals delivered right to their doors.


A look at U.S. Olympic stars

The Tokyo Olympics start Friday, and we’ll be bringing you a lot of coverage through the Games. Americans will be closely watching three sports where the U.S. teams are especially strong this year.

Gymnastics: The U.S. women are favorites to win the team event for a third consecutive time, led by Simone Biles. If she can win the all-around competition again, she will be the first woman to repeat as the Olympic champion in over half a century.

Understand the Covid Crisis in India

    • What to Know: Shortages of oxygen and hospital beds, along with low vaccination rates, have added to the surge in illness and deaths in India.
    • Case Counts: Experts say the true death count far exceeds official figures. This chart illustrates how known Covid cases have grown over the last few months across the country.
    • Travel Bans: The U.S. has begun to restrict travel from India, and Australia has banned all incoming travel from the country, including among its own citizens.
    • How to Help: Donors around the world are giving money for meals, medical expenses, P.P.E. and oxygen tanks, among other essential supplies.

    Swimming: Like Biles, Katie Ledecky has a claim on being the world’s best athlete. She won five gold medals in 2016, and could win six more this year — three in events for which she holds the world record.

    The sprinter Caeleb Dressel — the “next Michael Phelps,” as ESPN says — is the favorite in his three individual races. This year’s U.S. team is also unusually young, with 11 teenagers — the most since 1996.

    Track and Field: Allyson Felix is racing in her fifth Olympic Games. If she wins a medal, it will be her 10th, matching Carl Lewis’s record for the most won by an American track and field athlete.

    The marquee event may be the women’s 400-meter hurdles, with two American favorites: Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad. They have raced each other three times since 2019, The Washington Post notes, and the winner has set a new world record each time.


    What to Cook

    This thin but juicy burger maximizes flavor over volume, yet is still fit for a chargrill.

    What to Watch

    “The New Bauhaus,” a documentary on the legacy of the artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, makes the case that he should be a household name.

    What to Read

    “What Strange Paradise” presents a narrative set against actual events: the wars and revolutions of the Middle East and the migrant crisis that followed.

    Now Time to Play

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Egypt’s neighbor to the west (5 letters).

    And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

    You can find all our puzzles here.

    That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia and Lauren

    P.S. Roger Cohen, The Times’s Paris bureau chief, received the Legion of Honor, the French government’s highest award.

    The latest episode of “The Daily” is Facebook vs. the White House.

    Tom Wright-Piersanti wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Amelia, Lauren and the team at [email protected]

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