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Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

The National Health Service delivered its first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, making Britons the first in the world to receive a clinically authorized, fully tested vaccine.

British regulators leapt ahead of their American counterparts, who are expected to approve the vaccine as early as this week. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “amazing to see the vaccine but we can’t afford to relax now.” Hundreds of people are still dying in Britain each day from the virus.

The first 800,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were transported to Britain in recent days, and 50 hospitals will administer them to doctors and nurses, certain people aged 80 and over, and nursing home workers.

Quotable: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Margaret Keenan, 90, who got the first shot. “It means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.”

Thai health authorities are racing in their contact-tracing efforts after at least 19 Covid-19 cases in recent weeks were linked to migrant workers who slipped through the border with Myanmar. The government has also increased military patrols and uncoiled barbed wire at some border crossing points while police officers have arrested suspected smugglers.

The region depends on its porous border for economic activity, but now Thai authorities are nervous that their coronavirus containment strategy, one of the world’s most successful, may be at risk.

Countries around the world that depend on migrant workers are blaming them for the virus spread. In Southeast Asia, China, Vietnam and Myanmar have pointed fingers at neighboring countries.

Concerns: Because of their uncertain status, undocumented laborers are thought to be less likely to seek medical attention when they are sick. The dangers of overlooking foreign workers were evident in Singapore, when an outbreak began in a crowded dormitory for migrants, and in Saudi Arabia, which deported migrants who had the virus.


Reminder: The farmers are protesting changes that they say could slash crop prices and reduce their earnings. The government says it will increase investment. India for decades has allowed farmers to sell much of their produce to government-regulated wholesale markets.

Barack Obama’s memoir “A Promised Land” is both a historical account of his time as president and an introspective self-portrait. The Times’s former chief book critic, Michiko Kakutani, interviewed Mr. Obama about how his reading and writing shaped his thinking.

Mr. Obama wrote his first draft on yellow legal pads, doing his best work between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. His writing was the culmination of years of inspiration from literature, he said: “When I think about how I learned to write, who I mimicked, the voice that always comes to mind the most is James Baldwin.”

Christchurch massacre: An independent inquiry into the attack at two New Zealand mosques in March 2019 found that there was “no plausible way” the country’s government agencies could have detected the terrorist’s plans “except by chance.” New Zealand had been grappling with the question of whether the attack could have been prevented.

Sanctions over Hong Kong: The U.S. imposed travel bans and other sanctions on 14 high-level Chinese officials over the continuing crackdown in Hong Kong. Beijing responded by summoning a U.S. diplomat in the city to protest.

Mount Everest: In a sign of improved relations, Nepal and China finally agreed on the exact height of the world’s tallest mountain, located on their shared border. Mount Everest is 8,848.86 meters, or 29,031.7 feet, tall, they said. That’s two feet taller than a previous measure.

Snapshot: Above, customers lucky enough to get Christmas trees in Barrie, Ontario, on Saturday. Christmas trees are selling out in Canada and across Europe as people stuck at home in lockdown — without the family gatherings, parties and group dinners of a typical holiday season — try to shoehorn some joy into their lives.

What we’re reading: This feature in Outside magazine revealing the identity of the man who found the famed and much sought after Fenn treasure. Every element of this — the search, the searcher and what comes next — is a wild-goose chase.

Do: Pretend you’re in Dakar. It’s impossible to fully experience the West African city without making the trip, but our travel writers have come up with ways to capture at least a sliver of the magic.

Whether you’re in the mood for cookies or for comedies, At Home has ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

The United States is facing a series of pressing problems: the economy, health care, education, social justice, climate change. Our DealBook newsletter asked experts: If you could do one thing right now to help fix America — no matter how large or small — what would it be? Here is a selection of their answers.

Cut carbon emissions everywhereHal Harvey, chief executive of Energy Innovation

Success starts with cutting emissions in the four energy sectors: electric utilities, vehicles, buildings and industry. All have a path to zero carbon, and none must entail sacrifice, but each requires a national commitment. There’s a common expression: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Let’s get going.

Listen to the people you disagree with the most Heidi J. Larson, professor of anthropology at the University of London

For the past decade I’ve been working to “fix” the vaccine divide that has alienated friends, stressed parents and left children unprotected from disease. Tensions run deep. In those conversations, not even the best scientific evidence matters. The lessons around vaccine trust can be applied to polarization everywhere — including the power of listening.

So here is my proposed solution, to be applied one conversation at a time: When confronted with a different view, try to find something you can agree on.

Ban share buttons on social media — Kevin Roose, The Times’s technology columnist

Share buttons deprive us of the opportunity to make meaning out of what we share — adding the poignant caption, the funny aside, the personalized touch. They make us conduits for other people’s tastes, rather than curators of our own. By sharing less, we might actually find ourselves sharing more.


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

— Melina


Thank you
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about asylum seekers in limbo in the United States.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Exhale wistfully (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Our National desk editor, Marc Lacey, will lead a new, dedicated team supporting our jump into Live.

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