Your Thursday Briefing

A vaccine-exporting powerhouse.

By Natasha Frost

Good morning.

We’re covering the E.U.’s vaccine exportation, the big U.S. pandemic relief plan and Russia’s decision to slow access to Twitter.

The E.U. exports millions of vaccine doses

Despite being accused of “vaccine nationalism” and protectionism, the European Union has exported 34 million doses of coronavirus vaccines in recent weeks to dozens of countries, even as it trails behind the United States, Britain and Israel in its own vaccine drive, according to internal documents seen by The Times.

That news, E.U. officials conceded privately, was bound to outrage European citizens in 27 nations who were still waiting for their shots while watching people in other countries race past them to reopen their economies and resume safer, more normal public lives.

By the numbers: Just 6.5 percent of people in the E.U. have received at least one shot, compared with nearly 58 percent of Israelis, 33 percent of Britons and 19 percent of Americans.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

A protest in Greece turned violent as anger grew about tactics used by police officers who were enforcing lockdown restrictions.

The Biden administration intends to secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine by the end of this year.

Kenya and Morocco have approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, according to RDIF, a Russian sovereign wealth fund, Reuters reported.

U.S. House passes huge pandemic relief plan

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package won final approval in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Mr. Biden is expected to sign the bill on Friday.

Under the American Rescue Plan, direct payments of up to $1,400 will be sent to Americans and a $300-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit will be extended until early September. The bill also provides substantial benefits for low-income Americans, including an expanded child tax credit, and it funds pandemic priorities such as testing, contact tracing and genomic sequencing.

The measure, which passed by a vote of 220-211, cements one of the largest injections of federal aid since the Great Depression. Republicans have attacked the plan as wasteful and excessive, but 70 percent of Americans support it, according to a Pew poll.

Related: Merrick Garland was confirmed as attorney general with strong bipartisan backing. The vote was 70 to 30 in the Senate, with 20 Republicans in support.

China boosts tech spending

Chinese leaders are freeing up tens of billions of dollars for the country’s tech industry to borrow. With a planned 7 percent boost to research and development spending every year for five years, China’s ambition is to be beholden to no one — especially not the United States.

The Trump administration angered the Communist Party leadership by restricting access to American technology for corporate giants like Huawei, and Beijing anticipates that under President Biden, the U.S. will continue to challenge China’s technological rise. The first in-person diplomatic encounter under the Biden administration is scheduled for March 18 in Anchorage.

Microchips: China only meets 15.9 percent of its chip demand domestically. But that could change: Premier Li Keqiang last week detailed proposals to accelerate semiconductor production, part of a larger strategy that includes processors, cloud computing and A.I.

Related: China and Russia announced Tuesday that they had agreed to jointly build a research station on or around the moon, setting the stage for a new space race.

If you have some time, this is worth it

A changing New York City

One year ago this month, the city famous for never sleeping began to shut down. Retailers closed their doors. Wealthy residents fled to second homes. Late-night subway service was eliminated.

We spent months documenting the city as its economy frayed and split during the pandemic. These pictures tell a story of a city ruptured — and of resilience.

Here’s what else is happening

Russia and Twitter: The government said it was slowing access to Twitter, accusing the social network of failing to remove illegal content. The restrictions are a clear escalation of a sustained offensive against American internet companies that have long provided a haven for freedom of expression.

Prince Harry and Meghan: Though fallout from their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey has reverberated globally and caused a rare public schism in the British press, many members of Britain’s political class have avoided addressing it. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has yet to comment.

Down under: While the U.S. film industry slowly chugs along, Hollywood has temporarily relocated to Australia. Dozens of international film productions have been lured to the country, where Covid-19 cases are few. In turn, actors have found something resembling paradise.

Sarah Everard: A police officer in Britain is being held on suspicion of murder in connection with the disappearance of the young woman, who went missing in South London after leaving a friend’s house. Detectives investigating the case have found human remains in a woodland area in Kent.

Snapshot: A decade after an earthquake and tsunami killed more than 19,000 people and triggered a catastrophic nuclear meltdown, many former residents of Fukushima, Japan, have yet to return. What awaits those who do, above, is often more eerie than welcoming.

Mysterious manuscript: In 1883, 15 manuscript fragments found near the Dead Sea, written in an ancient Hebrew script, caused an international sensation. Though they were denounced as fakes, a young scholar now argues that they are not only authentic but older than the Book of Deuteronomy, dating to the period of the First Temple.

What we’re reading: This Irish Times article on the Meghan and Harry interview is a decidedly Irish take on their revelations about racism and the royal family. A choice quote: “After Harry and Meghan, the monarchy looks archaic and racist. Well, duh.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Minced anchovies and garlic butter deepen this seared salmon’s flavor.

Read: Jessica Winter’s second novel, “The Fourth Child,” centers on the adoption of a child from a Romanian orphanage by a religious American family. Here’s our review.

Wear: Don’t underestimate the joy of a structured cloth coat, as a streamlined retort to both the blimpy puffer and the elastic waists of lockdown.

Switch things up. At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

The new Hong Kong

China’s crackdown on Hong Kong has happened swiftly: A rising power asserted its authority over a global financial capital, through a harsh national security law enacted last summer. Our China correspondent Vivian Wang spoke to The Morning newsletter about the new Hong Kong. Here’s an excerpt.

Why did Xi Jinping and the rest of China’s leadership decide to act now?

Vivian: The short answer is the enormous antigovernment protest movement in 2019, in response to a government proposal that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

The scale of the protests really shook Beijing. All the previous protest movements had lasted a few months, at most. This time, there was huge support, and it wasn’t dying down on its own.

From Beijing’s perspective, has the crackdown worked? And has it created any problems for the central government?

In many ways, it has absolutely worked. There are no more street protests. There’s extensive self-censorship. Virtually every prominent pro-democracy activist is in exile, in jail, awaiting trial or has disappeared from public life.

But there’s a lot of simmering anger among Hong Kongers, even if they don’t dare express it publicly anymore.

Do people within the movement see any reason for optimism?

Ever since the security law was enacted, the mood within the pro-democracy movement has been bleak. I expected at least some people to offer fiery defiance and remind people that there is still hope — if only just as a rallying cry, whether they believed it or not. But pretty consistently across people I talk to, the consensus is that there’s not much they can do to change the situation, at least for now.

Thanks for joining me. And stay tuned for our redesign, which launches on Tuesday.

— Natasha

Thank you
Thank you to Melissa Clark for the recipe and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode features a police officer’s account of the Capitol riot.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Send by UPS or FedEx (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Our Brussels correspondent Matina Stevis-Gridneff joined BBC Outside Source to discuss the E.U. hunt for coronavirus vaccines.

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