Beirut, Hong Kong, Climate Change: Your Friday Briefing
Beirut, Hong Kong, Climate Change: Your Friday Briefing
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We’re covering growing anger at Lebanon’s government after the Beirut explosion, a surge in virus cases in France and Germany and the pain inflicted by extreme heat from climate change.
Beirut’s grief turns to anger
International rescue teams arrived in Beirut on Thursday, as the nation entered a period of official mourning over the huge explosion that has brought the Lebanese capital to its knees.
Public anger is growing over evidence that government negligence allowed more than 2,000 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate seized from a ship to be stored in the port for years. The port, a crucial economic hub, has been destroyed, and with it, the nation’s grain supply, raising concerns about food security in a country of 6.8 million people.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, but no major Lebanese politicians, visited the area. In the Gemmayzeh neighborhood, which was especially hard hit, he was surrounded by a crowd that denounced the government.
There were calls for protests, and volunteers cleaning up the streets chanted, “The people demand the fall of the regime.” The death toll rose to 137, with more than 5,000 injured and 250,000 displaced.
Quotable: “The Lebanese are in the streets, showing great solidarity, and the authorities are just absent,” said Rima Tarabay, a Beirut resident. “It’s impressive on the one hand, desolating on the other.”
Caught on video: Israa Seblani was posing for her wedding video when the camera captured the instant a deadly blast tore through the city.
Virus cases surge in France and Germany
France reported 1,695 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, and Germany on Thursday reported more than 1,000 — higher numbers than either had seen in months. Other Western European countries, including Spain and Belgium, are also facing surges.
Some health experts said Germans were becoming lax about upholding the social-distancing and mask-wearing requirements, and a French scientific panel warned that a second wave of infections by the fall was “highly possible,” urging cities to prepare for new lockdowns.
Still, the European surges are not on the level of U.S. spikes.
Covid symptoms: These days, every cough, sneeze or headache makes you wonder: Could it be Covid-19? Here’s a guide to help you understand the symptoms and this interactive graphic illustrates how the disease can affect the body from head to toe and everywhere in between.
In other developments:
A flurry of charges over Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigil
Two dozen democracy advocates in Hong Kong were charged on Thursday for taking part in the annual June 4 vigil for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which was banned for the first time this year, officially because of the coronavirus. It’s the latest sign of China’s aggressive clampdown on dissent in the territory.
Among those charged were Lee Cheuk-yan, a veteran organizer of the vigils; Joshua Wong, a prominent activist; and Gwyneth Ho, a former journalist. They were accused of “knowingly taking part in an unauthorized assembly.” Mr. Lee, a former lawmaker, faced an additional charge of “holding an unauthorized assembly” after he and several other leaders urged others to join the commemoration.
Mr. Wong and Ms. Ho were among a dozen pro-democracy candidates, including sitting lawmakers, who had been disqualified from running in legislative elections recently moved from September to next year.
Quotable: “I feel the pressure. I am overloaded with charges,” Mr. Lee said in an interview. “Even if you’re peaceful and nonviolent, they’d still want to stifle and suppress peaceful assemblies.”
If you have 7 minutes, this is worth it
A Hiroshima survivor’s message of peace
Setsuko Thurlow was 13 years old and in Hiroshima when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb there. She has fought for the abolition of nuclear weapons ever since, sharing a Nobel Peace Prize for the work in 2017. But Japan and other countries that have not signed onto a treaty banning the weapons have generally disregarded her, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has given her the cold shoulder.
Our Tokyo bureau chief’s profile of Ms. Thurlow, now 88, is part of The Times’s coverage of the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, and serves as a reminder of the urgency of hearing the stories of a dwindling number of survivors.
Here’s what else is happening
Saudi-China nuclear collaboration: U.S. intelligence agencies are scrutinizing Saudi Arabia’s work with China to build up the kingdom’s ability to produce nuclear fuel for signs that the Saudis’ real hope is to process uranium and move toward developing a nuclear weapon.
Trump misinformation: In a first, Facebook took down a video posted by President Trump’s campaign in which he claimed children were “virtually immune” to the coronavirus, a violation of the social network’s rules against virus misinformation. Twitter froze the president’s campaign account until it removed a post linking to the video.
Chinese justice: A court in the eastern province of Jiangxi has exonerated a man who spent more than 26 years in prison for the murder of two boys. The case has grabbed headlines and highlighted new, if halting, efforts at reform — but also the deep flaws in the country’s criminal justice system.
Snapshot: Above, Giuseppe Paternò, 96, fulfilling his lifelong dream of getting a university degree at the University of Palermo after being sidetracked by poverty, World War II and family commitments.
What we’re reading: This article from The Los Angeles Times on the story of Bruce’s Beach. “This look at what happened to a beach popular with Black residents back in the day — in one of the whitest towns in Los Angeles — tells so much about the struggle for Black people to even enjoy themselves,” writes Randy Archibold, our Sports editor.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 6, 2020
Why are bars linked to outbreaks?
- Think about a bar. Alcohol is flowing. It can be loud, but it’s definitely intimate, and you often need to lean in close to hear your friend. And strangers have way, way fewer reservations about coming up to people in a bar. That’s sort of the point of a bar. Feeling good and close to strangers. It’s no surprise, then, that bars have been linked to outbreaks in several states. Louisiana health officials have tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge. Minnesota has traced 328 recent cases to bars across the state. In Idaho, health officials shut down bars in Ada County after reporting clusters of infections among young adults who had visited several bars in downtown Boise. Governors in California, Texas and Arizona, where coronavirus cases are soaring, have ordered hundreds of newly reopened bars to shut down. Less than two weeks after Colorado’s bars reopened at limited capacity, Gov. Jared Polis ordered them to close.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Lift your family’s spirits with this blueberry Bundt cake, a showstopping treat adorned with a jewel-toned glaze.
Listen: We asked artists including Ivo van Hove, Justin Peck, Du Yun and others to share their favorite works from music of the past 20 years. Here are their picks from 21st-century composers.
Do: Seeds are in high demand these days, so gardeners may want to plan ahead for the next growing season. Here are some tips for saving the easiest seed varieties.
Looking for help in staying safe at home? Our At Home collection has lots more ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.
And now for the Back Story on …
The inequality of climate change
Nearly everywhere, heat waves are more frequent and last longer than they did 70 years ago. And it’s worse for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Somini Sengupta, our international climate reporter, spoke to the Briefings team about a special report prepared with photographers on one of the most dangerous and stealthiest hazards of the modern era.
How did you select which cities or countries to spotlight?
Somini: I have seen over the last couple of years the impact of what is truly a global problem. Global warming is not equal — the problem of warming and extreme heat is really felt by people who are already the most vulnerable, not just because it gets super hot where they live but because they’re already vulnerable in other ways: They may be in poor health, they may be farmers who depend entirely on the rains and so a little change in rainfall or extremely hot dry periods affect them, and because they may not be able to afford the most basic luxury to cope with the heat, like having enough water or electricity around the clock so they can turn on a fan, let alone having access to air-conditioning.
I wanted to show what’s happening now. It’s certainly projected to get worse in the future, but people are dealing with unbearably hot and humid conditions right now.
Was there any research that really stuck out?
One study said episodes of extreme heat and levels the human body cannot tolerate have more than doubled in frequency since 1979. South Asia and the southeastern coast of the U.S. have been hardest hit by this already.
People can often look at climate news and feel helpless. What sort of actionable things were experts saying could be done?
Draw down the combustion of fossil fuels. The world is capable of getting off coal in many instances, capable of vastly reducing the burning of oil and gas. The world also has to adjust to the extreme heat we’re seeing already.
It means expanding access to ways to cool down, whether that’s access to air-conditioners or fans or more trees to bring down temperatures in the city, access to water. It could also mean adjusting things you might not immediately think of, like labor laws so people don’t have to work for hours under the blistering sun, agricultural changes in farming methods, or what is grown in what place to adapt to higher temperatures and longer dry seasons.
In short, it requires doing everything pretty differently.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. Sanam Yar wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is a conversation with one of our correspondents in Beirut, who was injured in the huge explosion at the city’s port on Tuesday.
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• “Dominic Fike, at First,” a new Times documentary on the making of a pop star, premieres today on FX and Hulu.