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Your Friday Briefing



We’re covering the swearing-in of Iran’s new president, plans for Covid booster shots in Europe and a U.S. push for electric cars.

Ebrahim Raisi, an extremely conservative cleric, was sworn in as president on Thursday, bringing to power a close ally of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He takes office at a turbulent time. Iran’s economic weakness, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, a water shortage and the severely damaging effects of American sanctions, is considered his most immediate problem.

Tensions are also running high with Israel. Israeli officials have accused Iran of carrying out a deadly drone attack last week on an oil tanker in the Indian Ocean managed by an Israeli company. Israel may soon retaliate for that attack.

Who is Raisi? Before his election, Raisi, 60, was the head of Iran’s judiciary. He spent much of his career as a prosecutor and is on a U.S. sanctions list over his human rights record.

France and Germany will administer booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines to older and vulnerable people in the coming months, despite an appeal from the World Health Organization for a freeze on those shots to send doses to poorer nations.

President Emmanuel Macron said that France would begin offering people a third shot starting in September, particularly to “the most vulnerable and the most elderly.” German officials made similar statements, arguing that they needed to care for their own residents while still donating millions of doses.

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The announcements came just a day after the W.H.O. called for a moratorium on booster shots so that supplies could be focused on countries who have not yet vaccinated at least 10 percent of their populations. More than 80 percent of the vaccines administered worldwide have been used in wealthier countries, according to the W.H.O.

President Biden announced a plan that would rapidly shift Americans from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles over the next decade.

The plan, which calls for more stringent auto pollution rules and increases mileage standards, sets a target that half of all vehicles sold in the U.S. be electric by 2030. The three largest automakers signed onto the plan on the condition that Congress passes an infrastructure bill that includes funding for a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Tackling climate change: Biden has pledged to cut planet-warming emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of this decade. But that promise will be impossible to meet without a radical shift away from gas-powered cars and trucks.

China angle: Biden has voiced concerns that the U.S. is trailing China in the manufacturing of electric vehicles. He believes a retooled automotive and battery industry can generate jobs and boost American trade power.

Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has clamped down on freedoms across China’s mainland and brutally extinguished pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Now many in Taiwan worry: Are they next?

One of the first things you’ll notice at the Tokyo Games: empty stadiums.

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The organizers barred spectators from all venues in Tokyo to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks. “For athletes who once envisioned themselves performing for hordes of buzzing fans, the hushed vibe has been a bummer,” Andrew Keh wrote in The Times.

Grunts echo through vacant arenas; the hum of cicadas provides a soundtrack for outdoor competitions. At one boxing match, Keh notes, the sounds of punches were accompanied by a noisy hallway door. “The atmosphere ain’t really here,” Britain’s Caroline Dubois, one of the boxers, said afterward.

But not everyone misses the roar of the crowd. For some lower-profile Olympic sports — like taekwondo and shooting — empty seats are the norm, as Joshua Robinson and Andrew Beaton write in The Wall Street Journal. “If there were a full stadium,” the Japanese archer Takaharu Furukawa said, “I would be more nervous and make a mistake.”



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