Coronavirus Vaccine, Vladimir Putin, TikTok: Your Tuesday Briefing

Coronavirus Vaccine, Vladimir Putin, TikTok: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering China’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, a Russian referendum during an outbreak and Reddit’s push to limit hate speech.

The World Health Organization will send a team of experts to China next week to investigate the original source of the coronavirus.

The pandemic is advancing across much of Russia’s vast hinterland. But that has not deterred the Kremlin from holding a nationwide vote on constitutional amendments that could enable President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.

With Moscow seemingly over the outbreak’s peak, Mr. Putin has mobilized huge resources to ensure the delayed referendum goes ahead no matter what. Voting officially started last Thursday, but the big day on Wednesday has been declared a national holiday to encourage more participation.

In far-flung places like the Siberian city of Irkutsk, the outbreak is accelerating, with nurses despairing of finding enough beds for patients. Here, Mr. Putin’s desire to prioritize his political future over public health is fueling unusual alarm and public criticism.

Context: The Kremlin sees the vote as a way to legitimize Mr. Putin’s rule. With his approval ratings at their lowest since 1999, the push suggests he wants to rush the process before the economy and his ratings slump further.

Russian bounties: American officials said they gave a written briefing to President Trump in February concluding that Russian a military unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The White House on Monday claimed Mr. Trump was never briefed.

Coronavirus surges in many African countries are whittling away at one of their signature achievements: the growing middle class.

About 170 million of Africa’s 1.3 billion people are classified as such. But about eight million of them could be thrust into poverty because of the coronavirus and its economic fallout, according to World Data Lab, a research organization. World Bank experts say the pandemic is threatening to push as many as 58 million people in Africa into extreme poverty.

The setbacks may be felt for years.

Context: For the last decade, the middle class has helped drive educational, political and economic development across the continent. New business owners have created jobs, and tech-savvy families with money to spare have fed consumer goods demand and pushed for democratic reforms.

Quote of note: “We have been working hard to build better lives,” said James Gichina, 35, who has turned from the tourism sector in Nairobi to hawking eggs and vegetables. Now, he said, “We have nothing.”

Eric Garner said three anguished words in 2014 after a police officer held him in a chokehold in New York. George Floyd used them to appeal to a Minneapolis police officer last month. The words have prompted a sense of national outcry over law enforcement’s deadly toll on African-American people.

But over the past decade, our reporters found in reviewing videos, court documents and police reports, that at least 70 people have died in law enforcement custody after saying, “I can’t breathe.” More than half were black.

French official guilty: François Fillon, a former French prime minister and 2017 presidential hopeful, was found guilty on Monday of embezzling public funds and sentenced to prison in a scandal in which he paid his wife with taxpayer funds for a fake job.

Reddit: The message board website banned its biggest community devoted to President Trump as part of an overhaul of its hate-speech policies.

India-China clash: India’s government banned nearly 60 Chinese mobile apps on Monday, including TikTok, citing national security concerns, after tensions rose between the two countries this month.

Bangladesh river tragedy: At least 32 people, including three children, died after the passenger boat they were on collided with a ferry and capsized in Dhaka on Monday.

Snapshot: Above, Australia’s wild horses, known as brumbies, in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. They are the subject of a national debate: Scientists say that they must be culled because they are destroying rivers and endangering wildlife, but cattlemen argue that the horses are part of a rural heritage.

Drink: Once rarely found outside North America, rye whiskey is enjoying a burst of popularity, with distillers in Scotland and across Europe producing their own versions.

What we’re reading: This essay in Medium on workplace ambition. Dan Saltzstein, a deputy editor for our Special Sections desk, describes it as a thoughtful piece about “a subject we don’t often talk about: the absence — or, perhaps, reassessment — of ambition.”

Two days after George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, 15-year-old Zee Thomas posted a tweet: “If my mom says yes I’m leading a Nashville protest.” She had never been to a protest, and yet, five days later, with the help of other teenagers, she was leading a march of 10,000 people through her city.

Jessica Bennett, who covers gender and culture for The Times, spoke with Zee, Tiana Day, Shayla Turner and Brianna Chandler — four teenage girls who organized protests and are part of the young generation at the forefront of activism for racial justice.

Zee and Tiana, neither of you had ever led a protest before. What propelled you?

Zee: It’s crazy. I’ve never been to a protest before — like, ever. I got inspired by what people were doing all across America, but there was no protest in Nashville at the time. I was like, why isn’t Tennessee doing anything? Why are they silent?

So I was like, enough is enough. We’re going to do something.

Tiana: For me, I was never really an activist before. But this movement lit a fire in me. I live in San Ramon, a suburban town in California, and I’ve grown up around people who didn’t look like me my whole life. And I’ve been constantly trying to fit in. I would stay out of the sun so I wouldn’t tan. I would straighten my hair every day. There’s so many things that I did to try to suppress who I was and what my culture was. I just never felt like myself.

But I have always had this, like, boiling thing, this boiling passion in my body to want to make a change in the world. We bought three cases of water because we thought it was enough. It was, like, four miles straight of people who were there to support the movement.

How have your families responded?

Shayla: My mom actually found out I was protesting through the newspaper. She was in Walgreens and did a double take because I was on the cover of The Chicago Tribune.

What’s something about your generation that people get wrong?

Brianna: That our anger is not valid, that we don’t have a reason to be angry, that we don’t have a reason to riot. You know, there is that super popular Malcolm X quote: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.”


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

— Isabella


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

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about proposals to defund the police, featuring a conversation with a police union leader.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Baby’s bed (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The writer Kevin Powell discussed his New York Times essay “A Letter From Father to Child” on NPR’s Morning Edition.



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