Sweden, U.S. Election, French Open: Your Friday Briefing

Here’s what you need to know.

By Natasha Frost

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Good morning.

We’re covering the disintegration of Sweden’s famous social safety net, the forecast for the remaining U.S. presidential debates and the French Open.

The holes in Sweden’s welfare state

With a top personal tax rate of over 57 percent, Swedes pay some of the highest taxes on earth in exchange for extensive government services. They include state-furnished health care and education, more than a year of parental leave and generous cash assistance for those who lose their jobs.

Yet, among the nearly 6,000 people in Sweden whose deaths have been linked to the coronavirus, 2,694, or more than 45 percent, had been among the country’s most vulnerable citizens — those living in nursing homes.

That tragedy is, in part, the story of how Sweden has, over decades, gradually yet relentlessly downgraded its famously generous social safety net by slashing taxes and diminishing government services, particularly in the care of older people. In the current crisis, staff members at care homes have found themselves grappling with impossible situations.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

People across rural India are defying virus rules, propelling the nation’s caseload toward the No. 1 spot globally.

The British government is considering a tiered system that would tighten restrictions on pubs and restaurants in the areas of England with the highest rates of infection.

The European Union signed a deal with Gilead, the California-based pharmaceutical company, to ensure uninterrupted access to remdesivir, also known as veklury, an antiviral drug being used to treat Covid-19.

In Germany, the head of the federal institute responsible for tracking the coronavirus warned on Thursday that the country could soon see an “uncontrolled” spread of the virus, with more than 10,000 new cases a day.

More turmoil as the U.S. election nears

Days after being released from a hospital where he was being treated for the coronavirus, President Trump said he would refuse to take part in next Thursday’s debate, which organizers said would be held virtually to prevent spreading the virus.

The White House physician said Mr. Trump had completed his treatment for Covid-19 and could resume public events as soon as Saturday, 10 days after he tested positive.

In response, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign said it would participate in a televised town hall with voters instead. The Democratic candidate’s share of the vote is up to 52 percent in The Times’s average of polls, a rarity at this stage in the race. If that share holds, Mr. Trump would lose the popular vote by five points even if undecided voters broke his way.

Vice-presidential debate: Speaking to Fox Business Channel, Mr. Trump referred to Senator Kamala Harris as a “monster.” Mr. Biden called the comment “despicable” and said it was apparent that Mr. Trump “has great difficulty dealing with strong women.”

White House: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, said he had not been to the White House since early August because of resistance there to masks and social distancing. “Their approach to how to handle this is different from mine,” Mr. McConnell said.

A prize to ‘repair the planet’

Prince William on Thursday announced the establishment of a major environmental prize to reward climate change solutions over the next 10 years, saying it was an effort to “turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism.”

It will comprise five awards, each worth 1 million pounds (about $1.3 million), in each of the next 10 years, and will be centered on “earthshots,” or goals such as fixing the climate, cleaning the air, protecting and restoring nature, reviving oceans and tackling waste.

Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist behind dozens of documentaries chronicling the planet’s biodiversity, has joined a council overseeing the prize and helped promote its debut.

If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it

The many sides of Novak Djokovic

As the French Open moves into its final weekend, the eyes of the tennis world are trained on the No. 1 seed, Novak Djokovic, who is searching for absolution after a year in which he contracted the coronavirus at a poorly organized event, lost his temper enough to get disqualified at the United States Open and drew attention for questioning vaccines.

Where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are private and controlled, Djokovic is an emotional exhibitionist, our reporter writes in this profile of a rare modern athlete who allows people to see large parts of his persona.

Here’s what else is happening

Nobel Prize: The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded on Thursday to Louise Glück, one of America’s most celebrated poets, for writing “that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” Unfamiliar with her work? Here’s a primer.

Harry and Meghan: The couple have won an apology in an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against a major U.S. celebrity news agency over photographs taken with a drone and zoom cameras of their 14-month-old son, Archie, playing in their backyard.

Migrant crisis: The Italian authorities are investigating the death of a 15-year-old boy from Ivory Coast who spent days on a “quarantine vessel” where migrants are being confined as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Snapshot: Above, students in the Philippines attending class from home. Manila’s mayor banned the daytime use of “karaokes, videokes and other sound-producing devices” after complaints from irate parents home-schooling their children.

Lives Lived: The Pulitzer-winning journalist Jim Dwyer has died at 63. Our colleague was the son of a public school custodian and an emergency room nurse who grew up to become one of the great chroniclers of New York life. He crusaded against injustice and covered 9/11, the police, the subway, the coronavirus and more, for six daily newspapers.

What we’re reading: Jim’s last column for The Times, about the pandemic. “In times to come, when we are all gone,” he wrote in May, “people not yet born will walk in the sunshine of their own days, because of what women and men did at this hour to feed the sick, to heal and to comfort.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: This breezy tofu scramble delivers a satisfying combination of flavors and textures, with scallions, soy sauce and cumin. Cooked vegetables or leafy greens make delicious additions.

Deal: If you’ve had trouble sleeping during the pandemic, you’re not the only one. Several recent studies shed light on sleepers’ preoccupations.

Read: “What Were We Thinking,” by Carlos Lozada, and “Trump on Trial,” by Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan, offer an intellectual history on the Trump era.

Bring a little joy to every day spent indoors: At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

And now for the Back Story on …

A bumpy education in what it means to be French

Elaine Sciolino arrived in France in 1978 as a foreign correspondent for Newsweek, before beginning a posting in 2002 as The Times’s Paris bureau chief. She is now a contributing writer for The New York Times. For this Times Insider piece, lightly edited and condensed below, she explores the complexities of life in France as an American.

In 2009, when I was writing “La Seduction,” a book about seduction as the key to understanding France, I interviewed the nation’s former president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. I asked him to imagine he was dining with Americans and that one of them asked, “Mr. President, could you explain to us how we can understand your country?”

Mr. Giscard d’Estaing turned cold. “You cannot,” he said. “I have never met an American, never, who has really understood what drives French society.” His message was a reminder of the enduring cultural divide between the Old World and the New, the sophisticated Frenchman and the clueless American.

I have spent the last week watching the latest iteration of the clueless American in Netflix’s new series “Emily in Paris” — and reflecting on my long and complicated relationship to France.

Within the clichés were grains of truth. A few of them:

The smile: “Stop smiling,” Emily’s boss, Sylvie, commands. “People will think you are stupid.” Americans smile at strangers; Parisians do not, which helps explain why some Americans find Parisians rude.

The voice: “Why are you shouting?” a colleague asks when Emily makes her first presentation. Yes, Americans tend to speak much more loudly than the French. As a journalist accustomed to yelling on international calls, I had to be reminded by my two daughters to lower my voice on the Métro.

Perfume: Emily confesses that she is “not usually a perfume girl.” It’s true, perfume is integral to French ambience, and to the identity of many women here. “I want to get to know you better,” a female French friend said, after asking me what perfume I wear.

Work: “Are you crazy,” Sylvie tells Emily when she talks business at an evening reception. We are at a “soiree,” not on a “conference call,” she adds. In Washington, cocktail parties and dinners were thinly veiled excuses to buttonhole sources and get scoops. In Paris, evenings are for relaxation and social discourse. Work, if it is done at all, has to be sneaked in and barely noticeable.

To navigate Paris as an American is to be forced to slow down and embrace the process, ideally with a sense of humor.

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

— Natasha

Thank you
To Ali Slagle for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the vice-presidential debate.
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• The word “whitesplainers” first appeared in the Times — in an article about Black communities on LinkedIn — according to the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.
• The New York Times Company’s advertising team unveiled Pivotal, a new platform that draws on audience data and extensive research to offer marketers deep consumer insight.

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