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Russia’s problematic vaccine diplomacy.

Natasha Frost

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The Slovakian prime minister had ordered two million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.
Credit…Peter Lazar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, the first in the world to be registered, has been spreading disarray and division in Europe.

When Igor Matovic, the Slovakian prime minister, ordered two million doses of the Russian vaccine to fight Slovakia’s coronavirus outbreak, his effort soon blew up in his face, costing him his job and almost toppling the whole government — just three months after Slovakia adopted a new security strategy rooted in unequivocal support for NATO and wariness of Russia.

Instead of receiving plaudits, Matovic was accused of cutting a deal with Russia behind ministers’ backs, breaking ranks with the European bloc and succumbing to what his foreign minister described as a Russian “tool of hybrid war” that “casts doubt on work” with the E.U.

Details: Similar altercations have occurred across Europe: Conversations between the French and Russian leaders over potential orders were subsequently derided by France’s foreign minister, who called the vaccine a “propaganda tool.” And the leaders of Austria and Germany have clashed over the E.U.’s failure to register the jab. The bloc has urged member states to hold off on orders until approval is granted.

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Credit…Amit Elkayam for The New York Times

Israelis called for accountability after a deadly stampede on Friday, as questions swirled about the culpability of the government, religious leaders and the police.

Forty-five people died in a night that began as a joyful pilgrimage for tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews but became one of the deadliest peacetime tragedies in Israeli history. But the tragedy didn’t come as a surprise: For years, local politicians, journalists and ombudsmen had warned that the site had become a death trap, even as officials turned a blind eye to safety concerns.

Background: Israeli governing coalitions have long courted the growing ultra-Orthodox minority, a critical voting bloc that can turn the tide of an election. Tensions between the insular group and the Israeli mainstream have increased in recent months, as parts of ultra-Orthodox society resisted virus restrictions ordered by the state, preferring to follow the counsel of their own leadership.

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Credit…Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Critics of Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, have turned on Carrie Symonds, his fiancée, in a raging scandal over his costly interior decorating.

Johnson has been accused of secretly using funds from a Conservative Party donor to supplement his public budget for redecorating his apartment on Downing Street, prompting an investigation by Britain’s Electoral Commission. But it is Symonds and her purportedly expensive taste in wallpaper and designer furniture that has become a running theme on social media and in British tabloids.

For Symonds, a former Conservative Party communications chief who now works for an animal-rights group, it is the latest trial in a year of dramatic events: Johnson’s near-fatal illness after he contracted the coronavirus; the birth of their son, Wilfred; and the bitter purging of Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, in which she is reported to have played a behind-the-scenes role.

#CarrieAntoinette: Headlines and hashtags were launched by a Tatler magazine report on Symonds that quoted an anonymous visitor deriding the Downing Street décor left by Johnson’s predecessor as a “John Lewis furniture nightmare,” referring to a British department store. Symonds’s defenders say the attacks on her are sexist.

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Credit…Claudio Peri/EPA, via Shutterstock

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Credit…Bill Ingalls/NASA, via Associated Press

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Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

A romance steeped in international espionage landed Alina López Miyares, a 62-year-old teacher with dual American-Cuban citizenship, in a Cuban prison. As in the best spy stories, big questions remain: How much did she know about the web of espionage that entangled her? Where were her loyalties?

In July 2014, a man boarded a plane in Monrovia, Liberia, and flew to Lagos, Nigeria. He felt sick with a fever when the trip began and was in worse shape by the time he landed. The Nigerian authorities took him to a hospital, where doctors eventually diagnosed Ebola.

From that first patient, infections soon began to spread in Lagos, Africa’s most densely populated city. But two months later, the crisis was over. Nigeria had no more Ebola cases, and fewer than 10 people, including the man from Liberia, had died.

How did Nigeria prevent an epidemic? It wasn’t science, or at least not science as people typically define it. It was more basic than that.

Nigeria succeeded through a combination of good governance and organizational competence. Officials conducted roughly 18,500 in-person interviews with people potentially exposed to the Ebola virus and then moved those who seemed to be at risk into isolation wards. They were released if they tested negative, and moved to a different isolation ward if they tested positive.

More recently, these same kinds of logistics have helped some countries fare better against Covid-19 than others. Canada’s rate of deaths per capita is only 37 percent of the U.S. rate, thanks partly to tighter travel restrictions. Britain and Israel are now doing better than continental Europe not because of laboratory discoveries but because of more effective vaccine distribution.

Many of the world’s biggest challenges today, like Covid and climate change, might seem to be technical problems. Further technical progress is important, but there’s a far more important part to the equation. As with Nigeria’s Ebola management, politics remains the most powerful mechanism for human progress.

The story of Nigeria’s success against Ebola appears in a new report from the public health group Resolve to Save Lives.

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Credit…Beatriz Da Costa for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Rebecca Jurkevich.

A quick stir-fry of mushrooms, Chinese spices and greens creates a flavorful, unconventional pasta sauce.

Hear new tracks by Billie Eilish, Willow, DJ Khaled and more.

Olympia Dukakis, who won an Academy Award for her world-weary and worldly wise role in “Moonstruck,” died on Saturday at 89. This week, stream the 1987 film, which has recently enjoyed a resurgence.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: You are here (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.


That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Jeffrey Gettleman, our South Asia bureau chief, joined CBS News from New Delhi to discuss the pandemic’s rapid spread in the country.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is from a four-part series on a mental health crisis in a high school in Odessa, Texas.

David Leonhardt wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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