Your Thursday Briefing: Finland and Sweden May Join NATO

We’re covering NATO’s potential expansion and the presidential campaign of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the Philippines.

Finland and Sweden are considering whether to apply for NATO membership in the coming weeks and are widely expected to join, underscoring how the invasion of Ukraine has backfired for President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Instead of crushing Ukrainian nationalism, he has enhanced it. Instead of dividing NATO and blocking its growth, he has united and perhaps enlarged it.

The prime ministers of the two nonaligned Nordic countries held a press conference in Stockholm today, with Finland’s leader saying a decision could be made “within weeks.”

Meanwhile, the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia visited Ukraine on Wednesday in a sign of support, as investigators accelerated their efforts to collect evidence of reported Russian atrocities outside Kyiv. An initial report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found “clear patterns” of violations of international law by the Russian military.

The coronavirus pandemic, now in its third year, has reached a monumental scale across the world. Countries have now logged 500 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, including more than 200 million in this year alone.

Compared with two weeks ago, cases are down 34 percent to about 1 million per day, and deaths are down 24 percent to about 3,700 per day.

But the true numbers are almost certainly much higher because of a lack of sufficient testing in many countries, including the United States. A W.H.O analysis estimated that 65 percent of Africans had been infected as of September 2021 — nearly 100 times the number of confirmed cases on the continent.

Heath experts and regional authorities have voiced concerns that the lack of adequate testing could limit the world’s preparedness. “If you don’t test,” said one epidemiologist, “then you don’t know what variants you have.”

In other pandemic developments:

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has spent much of his life defending his family’s name against accusations of greed and corruption during his father’s brutal rule, from 1965 to 1986. Now he is the clear front-runner in next month’s presidential election.

Marcos, known by his boyhood nickname “Bongbong,” is poised to rewrite the history books in more ways than one. Targeting young voters with no memory of martial law or the killing of political prisoners during his father’s regime, Marcos has cast off criticisms as “fake news” and spurned presidential debates, instead choosing to rely on social media to spread his message.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” said Maria Ress, a Nobel Prize-winning journalist who is an outspoken critic of Marcos. “If facts don’t win, we’ll have a whole new history.”

Storm deaths: Landslides caused by Tropical Storm Megi, the first such storm this year, buried a remote community in the Philippines’ central Leyte Province, leaving at least 48 people dead.

The consulting firm McKinsey & Company works for many of the world’s biggest companies, as well as for governments in the United States, Europe and Asia. A Times investigation found that working on both sides of the fence was part of McKinsey’s pitch. In the U.S., it allowed employees who worked for opioid makers and other pharmaceutical companies to also consult for the F.D.A., raising stark questions about conflicts of interest.

In “5 Minutes That Will Make You Love …,” The Times asks musicians, critics and experts to recommend songs in a certain musical style. The latest edition explores a lesser-known area: Renaissance music.

“We wanted to shine a light on music you’re most likely not going to hear at your local symphony,” Zachary Woolfe, The Times’s classical music critic, told us. “There’s an incredible variety in the compositions of the 15th and 16th centuries, but this selection focuses on some of the most beautiful choral writing ever made.”

The songs on the list evoke the experience of life centuries ago. In many of them, celestial harmonies sound as though they are echoing in a cathedral. Others are fun and surprising: “Come, sirrah Jack, ho,” a jaunty ode to drinking and smoking, is like a night in a tavern, with singers vouching that the tobacco — which is “very, very good” — is “perfect Trinidado.”

Listen here.