India-China Border, Beijing Outbreak, France Protests: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering a military clash between India and China, new spikes in coronavirus cases in Beijing and the U.S. and the galvanizing effect of protests in France.

An Indian spokesman said on Tuesday that three Indian soldiers were killed during the fighting on Monday night, which involved rocks and wooden clubs, and 17 others succumbed to injuries and cold in the high-elevation terrain. Preliminary reports indicated that the soldiers had not been shot.

The Indian news media reported that Chinese soldiers had been killed, but this was not confirmed by Beijing.

The two countries had been working to de-escalate border tensions after several face-offs between their troops along the disputed border in recent weeks.

Context: The violence is a continuation of a long-running dispute between India and China about the precise location of their jagged Himalayan border, known as the Line of Actual Control. They fought a war over it in 1962 that ended in an uneasy peace.

What’s next: “Neither side wants a war, especially India, because China has a far superior military,” Jeffrey Gettleman, our New Delhi bureau chief, told my colleague Melina Delkic. “Both sides are now trying to calm things down, at least that’s what the governments are telling us.”

Beijing raised its health alert level on Tuesday, closing schools and urging people to work from home to stop a spike in coronavirus infections.

The authorities confirmed another 58 infections, for a total of 137 cases since last week, all traced to the Xinfadi wholesale food market in the city’s south. Dozens of cities and provinces across China have in recent days stepped up monitoring and isolation measures for people from Beijing.

Cases also flared in some U.S. states that had lifted some restrictions. Officials in Arizona, Florida and Texas all reported over 2,000 new cases on Tuesday, their largest one-day increases yet.

New: In a sign of hope, scientists at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday that dexamethasone, an inexpensive steroid, reduced deaths in severely ill Covid-19 patients.

Contact tracing: Italy and Germany activated tracing apps this week as tools to avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections, fueling a debate about privacy rights.

George Floyd’s killing has set off an unexpected reckoning in France, where many young black and Muslim residents are pressing the country to acknowledge racial differences and discrimination.

France has preferred to view social justice through commitment to universal ideals like equality and secularism, saying a focus on diversity would undermine social unity. But protests, spurred by the death of Adama Traoré, 24, in police custody in 2016, have centered on racism by the police.

Context: During the coronavirus lockdown, nonwhite populations in poorer areas, like Seine-Saint-Denis, suffered among the country’s highest mortality rates. Some French argue that the country’s reluctance to discuss race has served as an obstacle to integration. It is illegal to keep racial, ethnic or religious statistics.

Quotable: “People look at us suspiciously. They ask us what we’re doing. When I take public transportation, I have to show what’s in my backpack. It’s not right to have to live like that,” said one man born in Cameroon.

In memoriam: Sarah Hegazi, an L.G.B.T. activist in Egypt who had been arrested after waving a rainbow flag, then jailed and tortured, took her life in Canada. In a final note, she wrote: “To the world. You’ve been greatly cruel, but I forgive.”

Snapshot: Above, a female platypus receiving a physical exam in Sydney, Australia. Rescued from Australia’s wildfires in December, she was part of a small fleet returned to their wetlands home earlier this spring — plumper, maybe wiser, and implanted with tracking devices.

What we’re reading: This piece in The Atlantic is an ode to the cluttered home. Maybe clinging to your stuff, like those extra jars of spaghetti sauce, is more in sync with pandemic life these days.

Cook: This compound butter adds richness and pungency to simple grilled meats, fish, toast, vegetables, beans, pasta or eggs. It’s a snap to make.

Watch: The documentary “My Father the Spy,” which follows the translator and journalist Ieva Lesinska-Geibere as she assesses her relationship with her father, a K.G.B. spy who defected to the United States in the 1970s.

Do: We have a few tips on picking a meditation app that could help you steal a few minutes of Zen.

At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

The conviction of Maria Ressa, the award-winning journalist and founder of the news website Rappler who was found guilty of cyber libel in the Philippines on Monday, is being seen as a blow to press freedom in that country.

Alexandra Stevenson, our business reporter in Hong Kong who has been covering the case, spoke to Carole Landry, on the Briefings team, about the decision.

How much of a chilling effect will Maria Ressa’s conviction have on the news media in the Philippines?

The media in the Philippines has been under pressure for some time. President Rodrigo Duterte bullies reporters and calls them “sons of bitches” at news conferences, officials have denied reporters access to official presidential events, and trolls have organized online campaigns to single out reporters and call them names like “presstitutes.” Yes, that’s a hybrid of the words press and prostitute.

The verdict of this case is different because it institutionalized some of this hostility. It was a test case for the definition of cyber libel. The case was originally dismissed by regulators because the time limitation — one year — had run out. But more senior officials applied a new argument to cyber libel, essentially saying that because an article can be updated online, it counts as continuous publication, making the libel a continuous crime. With Monday’s verdict, experts now say that publishers of online content can be sued for up to 12 years after something is published.

President Duterte has not been shy about his contempt for the media. Does this court ruling signal a hardening of his approach?

The Duterte administration has become more effective at silencing journalists. The president has threatened for years to take away the license for ABS-CBN, the national broadcaster. In May, the telecoms agency actually forced the network off the air, leaving a massive information void in parts of the country where the only source of general information for basic services and the weather is the broadcaster.

How has the coronavirus pandemic played into this shift?

We’ve seen more authoritarian-leaning governments around the world take advantage of social-distancing rules to tighten their grip on protests and freedom of expression. In that same vein you could argue that a crackdown on the media in the Philippines is easier to pull off now because the rest of the world has limited bandwidth for more news.

That’s it for this briefing. Fellow Khruangbin fans, their new album is almost here. See you next time.

— Isabella

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

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the landmark Supreme Court ruling in the U.S.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Sticky situation (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Lauretta Charlton, an editor for our Hong Kong newsroom, spoke with Glamour magazine about reporting as a black journalist.

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