• Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

    Your Wednesday Briefing


    Mar 24, 2021

    Claims that AstraZeneca cherry-picked data.


    Administering the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Budapest last week. 
    Credit…Akos Stiller for The New York Times

    In a two-page letter, federal health officials and an independent panel of medical experts accused AstraZeneca of cherry-picking data about the effectiveness of its Covid-19 vaccine.

    The company had said that based on its U.S. trial, the vaccine appeared to be 79 percent effective at preventing Covid-19. But the panel said its efficacy might have been between 69 percent and 74 percent, and it reprimanded AstraZeneca for an overly rosy description of the trial data.

    AstraZeneca defended the data it had released on Monday and said that the interim results appeared to be “consistent” with more recent data collected during the trial. The company said it would reissue fuller results within 48 hours.

    The results throw a wrench into the efforts of elected leaders elsewhere to rebuild trust in the shot. Faith in the vaccine had already plunged across Europe after recent reports that a very small number of recipients had developed unusual blood clots.

    Supply shortages: The European Union will today make public emergency legislation allowing it to curb exports of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in the bloc for the next six weeks. The new rules will make it harder for companies like AstraZeneca that produce Covid-19 vaccines in the E.U. to export them, and it is likely to disrupt supply to Britain.

    Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.


    Credit…Ammar Awad/Reuters

    Two exit polls, together with early results from Israel’s election, suggested no clear outcome on Tuesday night, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his potential right-wing allies with only 60 seats, short of the 61 needed to form a majority in the 120-seat Parliament.

    A third poll gave an anti-Netanyahu bloc of parties an edge of 61 seats, possibly blocking Mr. Netanyahu’s path to victory and making the election too close to call. The uncertainty is likely to lead to weeks, if not months, of negotiations, and possibly yet another election.

    Mr. Netanyahu campaigned on his record of handling the coronavirus pandemic, including a vaccine rollout that is the envy of the world. Seeking re-election even as he was on trial on corruption charges did not prove fatal to his chances.

    Prospective government: Mr. Netanyahu’s wider bloc was expected by many to form a coalition with Naftali Bennett, a rival right-winger, leaving Israel with one of the most conservative governments in its history, created from ultra-Orthodox parties, ultranationalists, a group that campaigns against gay rights and another whose leader backs expelling Arab citizens of Israel deemed disloyal to the state.


    Credit…Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

    Farmers from Punjab and elsewhere have camped outside New Delhi in protest for four months. At the heart of the dispute is a subsidy system that the government, economists and even many farmers agree is broken.

    The system was introduced in the 1960s to stave off a famine by encouraging farmers to grow wheat and rice. It included minimum prices set by the government, helping farmers sell what they grow for a profit.

    But though the system is unquestionably outdated, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s haste to remake it — his political party pushed new laws through Parliament in a matter of days — could devastate vast parts of the country where farming remains a way of life. Our reporters looked at what went wrong and took stock of the protests now.

    Context: Nearly 60 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people make a living from agriculture, though the sector accounts for only about 11 percent of economic output. For many, getting another job isn’t an option.


    Credit…David W Cerny/Reuters


    Credit…Robert Capa/International Center of Photography and Magnum Photos


    Credit…William Hartmann

    In 2017, a strange interloper came zooming through our solar system. Was it a comet? A cosmic iceberg? Or an alien space wreck?

    Astronomers this month offered the most solid explanation yet: Oumuamua, as it is known, was a chip off a faraway planet from another solar system. Long ago, a collision with an asteroid broke it off and sent it careering through space.

    TikTok’s influence is selling thousands of books. Some enthusiastic readers — mostly women in their teens and 20s — are posting videos of themselves reading or recommending novels. Occasionally, they sob into the camera after a particularly devastating ending.

    “It becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” the director of books at Barnes & Noble told The Times. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”


    Credit…Peter Flude for The New York Times

    One example: “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller. Sales spiked after a popular TikTok video last year, and the book is now selling roughly nine times as many copies a week as it was in 2012, when it won a prestigious fiction award. The book is currently third on the New York Times best-seller list for paperback fiction.

    Seeing the potential, some publishers have begun paying — or sending free books to — users with large followings. The fees range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per post. For now, though, the majority of these videos remain unsponsored, happening organically.


    Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Susan Spungen.

    Crunchy tofu coated in panko and sesame seeds pairs nicely with a coconut-lime dressing in this vegetarian dish.

    If you like the farce and brotherly conflicts of “Frasier,” you might like the British comedy “Back,” which crams more jokes and details into a single episode than some shows manage in a season.

    Lana Del Rey’s sixth major-label album, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” finds the singer “scaling back, seeking more insular insight,” our critic writes.

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Used cars? (five letters).

    You can find all our puzzles here.

    That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a wonderful Wednesday. — Natasha

    P.S. The Times introduced its 2021-22 class of fellows, who come from across the U.S. as well as Britain and Vietnam.

    The latest episode of “The Daily” features a food critic who lost her sense of smell from Covid-19.

    Sanam Yar contributed reporting. You can reach Natasha and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.