Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

Poland has sent thousands of troops to its border with Belarus to keep out Middle Eastern migrants who have set up camp there. The standoff has intensified a long-simmering confrontation between Belarus, a repressive former Soviet republic, and the E.U., which includes Poland, and raised new security concerns for the European bloc.

Western officials accuse Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s leader, of intentionally trying to create a new migrant crisis in Europe in an act of retaliation against sanctions imposed after his disputed 2020 election victory. Human rights groups said Poland was illegally pushing migrants who had crossed the border back into Belarusian territory.

The sharp increase in tensions has rattled European officials, with images of desperate migrants evoking the refugee crisis of 2015. Leaders are now scrambling to strike a balance between protecting the bloc’s external borders and preventing a worsening humanitarian crisis among the migrants camped along the edge of a forest in freezing weather.

Details: At least 3,000 people who hoped to enter the E.U. gathered yesterday near the Kuznica border crossing, near the Belarusian city of Grodno, Polish officials said. In response, Poland increased its forces in the area to more than 17,000 soldiers, border guards and police officers.

Reporting: Poland has prevented journalists, aid organizations and E.U. officials from traveling to the border area, making reports from the scene difficult to verify. The Polish authorities said eight people had died trying to cross the border.

African nations face a big question: Who gets to keep using fossil fuels, and for how long, during the transition to clean energy?

As world leaders meet at COP26 in Glasgow, some African leaders and activists are vocally opposing a speedier pivot to renewables for their countries. Though a swift transition is crucial in the global fight against climate change, it would be particularly costly for poorer nations, they argue, especially those with an abundance of natural gas or other fossil fuels.

Instead, they are pressing for a slower transition, one that would embrace a continued reliance on fossil fuels — particularly natural gas, which burns more cleanly than coal or oil, but which still pumps planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Wealthier nations would lead the way and then transfer technical knowledge on renewables to Africa later on.

Quotable: “There’s nothing to cut here,” Titus Gwemende, the climate director at the Open Society Foundation, a grant organization, said of Africa’s emissions. “African countries are the ones on the receiving end of this problem. It’s the bigger emitters that should have the responsibility to cut.”

People in France over the age of 65 will now have to get booster shots to remain eligible for vaccine passports that are needed to gain access to many public places, Emmanuel Macron, the country’s president, announced yesterday. The new rule takes effect Dec. 15.

“Vaccinate yourself so that you can lead a normal life,” Macron implored those who had still not gotten their first shot. He added, “Being free in a nation like France entails being responsible and showing solidarity. I’m therefore counting on you.”

Since the pandemic began, 119,000 people in France have lost their lives to Covid-19. The country now has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with 69 percent fully vaccinated. But new cases have been increasing in recent weeks, as have hospital admissions. The W.H.O. warned last week that Europe was back at the center of the pandemic.

Context: Though billed as an address on the pandemic, Macron’s 27-minute speech resembled a campaign declaration, as the president summarized what he considered his accomplishments and listed his goals for a potential second term. Macron is leading in the polls ahead of the election next April.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

At one hospital in Alaska, a state hit hard by Covid, Indigenous foods are part of the healing plan. Seal soup, caribou stew and other traditional dishes are prepared for patients who are often hundreds of miles from home.

Two years ago, the Times Magazine published “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” a project led by the journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones that made the bold claim that the moment in August 1619 when the first enslaved Africans arrived in the English colonies could be considered the origin date of what would become the U.S.

“The reasoning behind this is simple: Enslavement is not marginal to the history of the United States; it is inextricable,” writes Jake Silverstein, the editor of the magazine. “So many of our traditions and institutions were shaped by slavery, and so many of our persistent racial inequalities stem from its enduring legacy.”

That claim prompted significant pushback from some and a profoundly enthusiastic response from others. The project is now a book, and it arrives amid a prolonged debate over how American history is taught. “No matter how diligent the work has been, the book will kick up a new round of debates,” Jake writes.

Read more about the 1619 Project.

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

P.S. The National Press Foundation selected The Times’s Dean Baquet as Editor of the Year.

The latest episode of “The Daily” features a discussion with a Democratic lawmaker about President Biden’s infrastructure bill.

You can reach Natasha and the team at

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