Coronavirus, Seoul Mayor, Ava DuVernay: Your Friday Briefing

Coronavirus, Seoul Mayor, Ava DuVernay: Your Friday Briefing

Coronavirus, Seoul Mayor, Ava DuVernay: Your Friday Briefing

Coronavirus, Seoul Mayor, Ava DuVernay: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering coronavirus surges around the world as places reopen, a NASA scientist’s three-year ordeal in a Turkish prison, and Ava DuVernay on art and activism.

States that moved to reopen earlier, like Florida, Arizona and Texas, are driving the higher numbers. Hospitals across the South and West are being flooded with virus patients, forcing them to cancel elective surgeries and discharge patients early.

Tokyo recorded 224 new infections on Thursday, surpassing a record set in April. Most of Australia is now off-limits to people from the state of Victoria, as the country responded to an outbreak spreading through Melbourne. With virus cases soaring in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that the country had reopened parts of the economy too early.

Case study: The imposition of a second lockdown in late June in the English city of Leicester as those in other regions were returning to jobs and pubs — part of Boris Johnson’s “Whac-A-Mole” approach to the virus — has angered residents.

A different milestone: The intensive care unit at the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, Italy had no Covid-19 cases for the first time in 137 days. The hospital commemorated the occasion on Wednesday with a moment of silence, followed by a round of applause.

The authorities in South Korea said on Friday that they had found the body of Mayor Park Won-soon in northern Seoul, hours after his daughter reported him missing.

His disappearance came days after a secretary in his office told the police that he had been sexually harassing her since 2017, several news outlets reported.

Mr. Park, 64, had left his daughter a “will-like” message, according to the Yonhap news agency. He had canceled his schedule for Thursday and called in sick to City Hall. No suicide note was found at the scene, a senior detective in Seoul said, but there was also no sign that he had been killed by someone else.

Context: The mayor of Seoul was considered the most powerful elected official in the country after the president. A prominent human rights lawyer who championed women’s rights, Mr. Park had often been named as a possible successor to President Moon Jae-in.

Days after a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, Turkish police officers stopped Serkan Golge, an American NASA scientist, at the airport.

To his disbelief, they had received an anonymous tip that he worked for the C.I.A. and was part of the terrorist group accused of masterminding the plot.

It was four years before Mr. Golge ended a nightmare in which he was held in solitary confinement and became a bargaining chip in high-level disputes between the Turkish and American governments. He returned to Houston just last week.

“It is a very small room — it barely sees the sunlight, and the guards took me out only one hour a day,” he said of that confinement, in his first interview since returning home. “And I stayed in that room, in that small single cell, for three years.”

What happened: Mr. Golge was held in prisons, alongside military officers, judges and prosecutors, before moving to solitary confinement and facing charges of overthrowing the government and Constitution, which carried a life sentence. He was eventually convicted on a lesser charge and released from prison in May 2019.

Context: His experience is a rare defendant’s perspective into the Turkish judicial machine. Some 70,000 people have been accused in the Turkish courts in connection with the failed coup and many prefer to keep silent even once free.

As the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, The Times asked 29 authors to write new short stories inspired by the moment. As Rivka Galchen writes, “Reading stories in difficult times is a way to understand those times, and also a way to persevere through them.”

Read the original short stories, from authors like Leila Slimani, Margaret Atwood and Yiyun Li, this weekend.

Thailand: The cabinet approved a draft bill on Wednesday that would give same-sex unions many of the same benefits as those of heterosexual marriages. The bill, which needs Parliament’s approval, is a major step for one of the most open countries in the region for L.G.B.T.Q. people.

Russian death-for-hire plots: A Chechen man who claimed he had detailed the world of contract killing to the Austrian and Ukrainian authorities was shot near Vienna last weekend. He had said there was a price on his head.

Trump tax records: The Supreme Court has cleared the way for prosecutors in New York to see President Trump’s financial records, a stunning defeat for President Trump. But Congress cannot see them, at least for now, meaning they won’t be made public before the November election.

Melania statue: After a wooden statue of Melania Trump was burned near her hometown in Slovenia, the American artist who commissioned it wants to interview the arsonist as part of a new project.

Snapshot: Above, Cairo under lockdown. The coronavirus brought a much-needed deep cleanse to the city and stripped it of its grit, our correspondent writes. But without the noise, bustle and grind, was it really Cairo?

What we’re listening to: Behind the Bastards podcast. “I was enthralled,” writes Shaila Dewan, a criminal justice reporter, by the “mini-series on policing, including its roots in slave patrols and its embrace of the Klan.”

We’re in a moment of upheaval — hundreds of thousands marching, a pandemic, an upcoming U.S. presidential election. What’s the role of storytelling in this moment?

The story has been told from one point of view for too long. And when we say story, I don’t just mean film or television. I mean the stories we embrace as part of the criminalization of Black people. Every time an officer writes a police report about an incident, they’re telling a story. Look at the case of Breonna Taylor and her police report. They had nothing on it; it said she had no injuries. That is a story of those officers saying, “Nothing to look at here, nothing happened.” But that’s not the story that happened, because if she could speak for herself, she would say, “I was shot in the dark on a no-knock warrant in my bed.”

This is a moment of grief and rage for so many. How can those emotions be translated into art?

The answer to your question for me personally was the creation of our Law Enforcement Accountability Project — LEAP — which uses art to hold police accountable.

It links to the idea that an artist and an activist are not so far apart. Whether you call yourself an activist or not, artists use their imagination to envision a world that does not exist and make it so. Activists use their imagination to envision a world that does not exist and make it so.

Many people in the United States are just beginning the fight for racial and social justice. You’ve been in this battle a long time. What’s your advice for sustaining the fight long term?

The battle is ongoing whether you keep it going or not. The question is how are you going to react to it? That’s up to everyone to decide for themselves.

But the battle is not by choice. I would rather not do any of it. I’d rather just make my films and go about my day. But if I don’t buy into the fight, then I don’t get to make my films.

That’s it for this briefing. Have an energizing and safe weekend.

— 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 why an early scientific report of symptom-free coronavirus cases went unheeded.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Climate activist Thunberg (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• “The 1619 Project” from The Times Magazine will be developed into a portfolio of films, television and other content in partnership with Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate.

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