Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times


After nearly five years in prison, Wang Quanzhang, one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers, thought he was finally free. Instead, he was transferred to a room with barred windows where he was held for two weeks and denied permission to contact his family.


Rights activists say summary quarantines — often imposed just after detainees, like Mr. Wang, had cleared a previous one — are the latest way to silence dissent. A rights watchdog has documented nine recent cases of activists being released from prison and then held in quarantine.

Dissidents held in quarantine are “not allowed to communicate with the outside world, held in a secret location and not given the option to self-isolate at home,” said Frances Eve, the deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Australia recorded its deadliest day since the coronavirus pandemic began, with 13 deaths reported on Wednesday, all in the southern state of Victoria, which also had 723 new cases. The record numbers are tied to nursing homes, the authorities said.

  • A new analysis of one of the most mysterious and dramatic virus outbreaks — aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship early this year — points to small, floating droplets as a primary driver of virus transmission. The new findings could help make indoor spaces safer.

  • Herman Cain, who made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2012 race and was a recent contender for a top Federal Reserve job, died of the coronavirus.

  • As coronavirus cases spiked in Tokyo, with another daily high on Thursday of 367 new infections, Gov. Yuriko Koike requested that karaoke venues and bars and restaurants serving alcohol close by 10 p.m.

Weeks after the Chinese government imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong, the city’s authorities have taken aggressive steps against the pro-democracy opposition.

Officials on Thursday barred 12 candidates, including well-known pro-democracy figures, from the September legislative election. And four activists were arrested over online posts. The government said more candidate restrictions could follow.

Local news outlets reported that the government was considering postponing the election by as much as a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Critics said it was an attempt to avoid a loss at the polls.

Bigger picture: It was a blow to opposition candidates, who had hoped to ride a wave of public discontent over the security law to victory.

Trailing badly in the polls and facing an economic meltdown, President Trump suggested on Thursday that the November election be delayed, something he has no authority to order. Only the U.S. Congress can determine the timing of the election.

The president made the suggestion in a tweet, repeating his false claim that widespread voting by mail from home would result in a “fraudulent” result.

Context: Minutes before his tweet, new data was released showing that the G.D.P. fell 9.5 percent during the three months ending June 30 — the largest quarterly drop on record. On Wednesday, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic reached 150,000, the world’s highest. Polls show Mr. Trump far behind Joe Biden, the former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee.

The response: None of Mr. Trump’s allies endorsed his suggestion. “Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said. “And we’ll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3.”

Torrential rains have washed away livestock, houses and food stored for the lean season in Bangladesh. It’s the latest calamity to hit the country, population 165 million, after a cyclone and steadily rising sea levels. Above, Bogura in mid-July.

And it is projected to get worse. The country’s predicament illustrates a striking inequity of our time: The people least responsible for climate change are often the ones most affected by it.

Pakistan: The U.S. urged the country to overhaul its harsh blasphemy laws after an American accused of violating them was fatally shot in a courtroom as he went to trial. The American, Tahir Ahmad Naseem, was in Peshawar facing charges that he had claimed to be a prophet.

In memoriam: Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s first democratically elected leader, has died at 97. He led his country’s transition away from a police state to one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies, and insisted that Taiwan be treated as a sovereign state, angering Beijing.

Poland: European Union officials said they would cut funding to six towns that had declared themselves “L.G.B.T.-free.” While the funding withheld is modest, the exclusion of the towns was intended to have a deeper symbolic resonance.

Canada scandal: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will face questions from lawmakers about multimillion-dollar contracts awarded to a charity with ties to his family. Mr. Trudeau’s wife and brother earned more than $200,000 for speaking engagements with the charity.

Cook: This watermelon salad is a refreshing dish that can be made with pickled chiles for a tangy-sweet taste.

Read: “Eat the Buddha,” an eye-opening work by Barbara Demick, the former Beijing bureau chief of The Los Angeles Times, chronicles the history of Tibetan resistance to Chinese domination.

Do: A new study shows that eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods can dent our long-term health in part by changing how well our bodies respond to exercise.

At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

Alexis Soloski, a theater critic, missed going to shows so much that she enrolled in online classes to see if she could develop her theater skills at home. She spent two weeks in a homemade theater training program. Here’s an excerpt from her essay about it.

I started with vocal work, arranging a voice lesson via Broadway Plus, a concierge service that used to arrange V.I.P. access to Broadway performances and has since pivoted to online meet-and-greets and private lessons.

After polling friends about a good song for a nice lady with a Playbill-slim range and a shaky grasp of pitch, I picked “Sonya Alone,” from “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” I rehearsed when I could — in the shower, cooking dinner, under my breath at various playgrounds. By the time the lesson came around, I had it down.

Though I once won a limbo contest at a classmate’s bar mitzvah, dance has also never been my thing. Still, I figured that Beginner Theater Dance, which I signed up for through Ailey Extension, couldn’t be so hard. I figured wrong.

We warmed up to selections from “The Lion King” and “The Prince of Egypt.” I even learned a Fosse hip roll. But as we danced to “No Day but Today,” the “Rent” finale, the ballet terms — passé, coupé, rond de jambe — proliferated and the eight counts came worryingly fast. Though I had positioned my laptop camera so that it showed me only from the rib cage up. I couldn’t even fake the arms.

Maybe that’s because, as I soon learned, a level exists even below Beginner. That level is Basic. So am I. The following week, I tried Steps on Broadway’s Basic Theater Dance.

The instructor, Tera-Lee Pollin, a Broadway veteran with inhuman exuberance, guided a handful of students through “Waterloo,” the curtain number for “Mamma Mia!” and a song about defeat. Together, delightedly, we ponied, we swam, we grapevined. No jambes were ronded.

So, yes, any amateur with enough time and resilience and discretionary income can probably learn theater basics remotely. The alchemy of live acting before a live audience almost comes through onscreen — but not quite. Until it can, I will think of the thousands and thousands of people in their homes, practicing their pentameter, arabesques and key changes, waiting for curtains to rise.

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

— Melina

Thank you
To Melissa Clark 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

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