Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times


A day after his swearing-in, President Biden rushed to put his administration in place and to dismantle some of the Trump administration’s most contentious policies.

Mr. Biden released a national pandemic response plan, including 10 executive orders intended to increase coronavirus testing capacity, require mask-wearing on federal property and expand production of Covid-19 supplies. However, experts say that vaccine manufacturing facilities are already at or near capacity and that production capacity will not grow significantly until April. Others worry that the president’s plan for 100 million shots in 100 days is far too modest.

Masked faces in a crowd: Our interactive graphic takes a closer look at who attended Mr. Biden’s inauguration.

Climate policy: Pete Buttigieg, Mr. Biden’s nominee for transportation secretary, pledged to prioritize climate change while making policy. Here’s how he could do so.

Britain’s National Health Service, already overstretched, has resorted to ever more desperate measures as coronavirus hospitalizations rise, including calling in the military to move patients and equipment, pausing urgent operations at organ transplant centers and trimming the level of oxygen being given to patients, to save overloaded pipes.

Although vaccinations are continuing at a brisk pace, deaths are soaring. Britain has suffered more deaths per capita from the coronavirus over the last week than any other country, hospitals continue to fill up and, for the second time in a year, overtaxed health workers are scrambling to keep patients alive.

Warning signs of a winter crush had been obvious, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly avoided taking fast action, defying calls from government scientists for a lockdown and other measures for weeks or months.

Quote: “It just didn’t have to be like this,” said one London emergency-room doctor. “The first time, you could say it was unavoidable. This just feels wholly avoidable, and that’s a lot more difficult to stomach.”

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

The Russian government is threatening Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty with multimillion-dollar fines and possible criminal charges. The news organization’s editors fear they will be forced to shut down in the country for the first time since the Soviet Union collapsed.

With public discontent growing in Russia, widely available content that doesn’t toe the Kremlin line has become a problem for President Vladimir Putin. The outlet has, for example, invested in coverage of the antigovernment protests in neighboring Belarus.

Context: The government’s escalation of its pressure campaign against the news outlet shows how Mr. Putin is raising the stakes in his conflict with Washington just as President Biden takes office.

Details: RFE/RL says that in recent weeks, the Russian government has notified it of dozens of violations of new requirements that it label all of its content as having been produced by a “foreign agent.” Editors say doing so would damage the outlet’s credibility.

Robert Thomas Bigelow, above, a maverick Las Vegas real estate and aerospace mogul with billionaire allure, is offering nearly $1 million in prizes for the best evidence for “the survival of consciousness after permanent bodily death.”

In other words, was Hamlet right to call death an inescapable boundary, “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns”? Or does consciousness in some form survive bodily death — what the Dalai Lama called how we merely “change our clothes”?

Brexit: In an apparent slight, Britain is refusing to grant the European Union ambassador the same diplomatic status as other ambassadors, on the grounds that it is an international federation, not a nation-state.

Iraq bomb attack: Two suicide bombers detonated explosive vests in a crowded market in central Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing at least 32 people in the biggest such attack in several years.

Canadian politics: Julia Payette, who represented Queen Elizabeth II as Canada’s governor general and official head of state, a high-profile but largely ceremonial role, resigned on Thursday after a report harshly criticized her treatment of employees.

Australia detention: Dozens of refugees and asylum seekers were held in hotels in Melbourne for more than a year, often spending only an hour a day outside their rooms. Many seemed shellshocked when they were finally released this week.

Snapshot: After reports of a strong smell in London’s Financial District, which is largely empty due to lockdown restrictions, the police found more than 800 cannabis plants in a basement near the Bank of England. Above, the once-thriving venture.

Art Basel: The international art trade’s hopes of returning to normality were set back as organizers of the flagship fair, scheduled for June in Switzerland, announced that it would be postponed to September.

What we’re reading: Many in Britain have found this most recent lockdown especially hard on their mental health. This thoughtful article from the New Statesman explores why, and what can be done about it.

Cook: This Bolognese is spiked with harissa and made from start to finish in one roasting pan — including the pasta, which cooks directly in the sauce.

Watch: The final season of “Call My Agent!” is now available on Netflix. Expect observational wit, physical slapstick and satire alongside bouts of thoroughly Gallic farce.

Plan: Consider a more mindful approach to post-pandemic travel — perhaps completing a personal challenge, exploring your heritage or realizing a life goal.

Keep yourself safe, and occupied. At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying at home.

President Biden is inheriting tricky tech questions, including how to rein in powerful digital superstars, what to do about Chinese technology and how to bring more Americans online. Our OnTech newsletter has this glimpse of the challenges and opportunities in technology policy.

Restraining tech powers: Under the Trump administration, there were investigations and lawsuits over the power of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and other tech companies. Tech giants can expect more of the same under Mr. Biden and a Congress controlled by Democrats. The new administration is expected to continue lawsuits against Google and Facebook.