George Floyd, Europe’s Statues, Moscow Reopens: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the world reopening while coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket, protesters targeting statues as symbols of Europe’s racist past and a final goodbye for George Floyd.

This week, as the world surpassed seven million coronavirus cases, countries continued the order of the day: reopening to salvage their economies.

Moscow ended its strict lockdown on Tuesday ahead of a nationwide vote to extend President Vladimir Putin’s rule, while officials there continued to report more than 1,000 daily new coronavirus cases.

Barbershops, beauty parlors, veterinary clinics and photography studios were allowed to reopen, and digital permits for leaving one’s house are no longer needed.

And the outbreak is still spreading rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean, pushing the region “to the limit,” the director of the Pan American Health Organization warned on Tuesday.

Bigger picture: While infection rates in the hardest-hit cities in the United States and Europe have slowed, the global peak of infection may still be months away. Without a vaccine or treatments, the only proven strategy has been limiting human contact.

In other news:

Here are the latest updates and maps of the outbreak’s spread.

The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

The funeral for George Floyd, whose killing in police custody galvanized an international movement, drew hundreds of mourners in Houston on Tuesday.

The event came after two weeks of protests demanding change in policing and systemic racism and five days of public memorials. Mr. Floyd, 46, was to be buried next to his mother.

His words — “I can’t breathe,” which he said 16 times as an officer pressed his knee onto his neck — have become a rallying cry. Mr. Floyd was remembered as a father and star student-athlete with big dreams who “wanted to touch the world.”

In a video played at the funeral, former Vice President Joe Biden offered his condolences to the family. As Mr. Floyd’s coffin exited church, onlookers chanted his name. “We will breathe!” one shouted.

Latest: Officials in Houston and Washington said they would ban their city’s police from using chokeholds. The police in Phoenix said they would end another kind of neck restraint. A New York City police officer who shoved a protester to the ground will face criminal charges.

As anti-racism protests spread across the world, some places are calling on countries to confront their racist histories by removing statues that commemorate them.

On Tuesday, a 150-year-old statue of King Leopold II of Belgium, who oversaw the brutal colonization of Congo in the 19th century that led to millions of deaths, was removed in Antwerp after protesters daubed it with red paint. On Sunday, protesters in Bristol, England, toppled a bronze statue of a 17th-century slave trader and dumped it into the river.

Now, some are focusing on statues of Cecil Rhodes, an imperialist tycoon many see as the architect of apartheid.

Context: Debate around the removal of American Confederacy monuments has also continued in the U.S., with protesters in several cities targeting those monuments that remain.

Related: Top British brands of tea, a national staple, doubled down on support for the Black Lives Matter movement after threats of boycott from some right-wing customers. (They urged #solidaritea.)

Through decades of coups, invasions and endless war, Afghans have tuned in to Radio Afghanistan twice a day to hear the names of the newly dead. The death notices were a ritual, an honor and sometimes a sign of status. For a time, the broadcast filled double its scheduled hourlong slot. Above, its senior anchor, Mohamad Agha Zaki.

Now, that all is gone. People are still dying, but many now turn to social media to disseminate the news. Mr. Zaki, however, says that people in rural areas are still listening: “This is the language of the nation.

U.S. presidential campaign: New polls shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a significant lead over President Trump, positioning him as the strongest challenger to an incumbent president since Bill Clinton in the summer of 1992.

Burundi: President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose autocratic rule of the Central African nation stifled journalists and arrested opponents, died of heart failure on Monday at 55.

Germany: The far-right Alternative for Germany party won a suit against the country’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, for posting an interview criticizing the party on a government website.

North Korea: The government cut off all communications to South Korea and called it an “enemy” in a sign of chilling relations. North Korea refused a routine daily call on the military hotline between the countries on Tuesday.

Snapshot: Above, the Compton Cowboys riding in solidarity with the black community in California. Black cowboys and cowgirls are reclaiming the traditional role of mounted riders in urban demonstrations, evoking a history of daring riding.

What we’re reading: This Money magazine article about some of the explorers who dedicated their lives to finding Forrest Fenn’s hidden treasure (which was finally discovered over the weekend). It’s riveting and will make you smile.

Cook: This crispy sour cream and onion chicken can be showered with fresh chives and lemon juice, or, if you crave something creamy for dunking, pair it with a dip of sour cream, lemon juice and chives.

Watch: The new documentary “Born in Evin” follows the director, Maryam Zaree, as she interviews family, friends, sociologists and psychologists to try to demystify the circumstances of her birth in Iran’s notorious Evin prison for political dissidents.

Read: Joyce Carol Oates’s new novel, “Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.” takes on racism and grief, and is squarely in conversation with this moment of pandemic and protest, writes our reviewer. Also, here are five new and noteworthy poetry books.

Do: The designer Todd Snyder shows you how to add patches to your jeans, using an old bandanna or shirt you are ready to rag.

We may be venturing outside, but with the virus still spreading, we’re still safest inside. At Home can help make that tolerable, even fun, with ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

There has been intense debate about the use of facial recognition technology in the public and private sectors.

Law enforcement agencies and some companies use it to identify suspects and victims by matching photos or video with databases like driver’s license records. But civil liberties groups warn that facial recognition erodes privacy, reinforces bias against black people and can be misused.

Timnit Gebru, a leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence team, explained why she thinks the police shouldn’t use facial recognition. Below is an excerpt from her conversation with Shira Ovide for the latest On Tech newsletter.

Shira: What are your concerns about facial recognition?

Timnit: I collaborated with Joy Buolamwini at the M.I.T. Media Lab on an analysis that found very high disparities in error rates [in facial identification systems], especially between lighter-skinned men and darker-skinned women. In melanoma screenings, imagine there’s a detection technology that doesn’t work for people with darker skin.

I also realized even perfect facial recognition can be misused. I’m a black woman living in the U.S. who has dealt with serious consequences of racism. Facial recognition is being used against the black community.

But a police officer or eyewitness could also look at surveillance footage and mug shots and misidentify someone as Jim Smith. Is software more accurate or less biased than humans?

That depends. Our analysis showed that for us, facial recognition was way less accurate than humans.

Do you see a way to use facial recognition for law enforcement and security responsibly?

My gut reaction is that a lot of people in technology have the urge to jump on a tech solution without listening to people who have been working with community leaders, police and others proposing solutions to reform the police.

It should be banned at the moment. I don’t know about the future.

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

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on the case for defunding U.S. police forces.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Out of dreamland (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• A Times investigation by Michael Keller, Gabriel Dance and Nellie Bowles into online child sexual abuse was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award.

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