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Hong Kong Outbreak, Polish President, Russia-Taliban: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering Hong Kong restrictions amid a coronavirus third wave, a second term for the Polish president and how the koala is helping find a cure for chlamydia.

Gatherings of more than four people and dining in restaurants after 6 p.m. will be banned. The restrictions were a disappointing setback for a city that until recently seemed to have a successful strategy to control the virus.

They will also make it harder for the pro-democracy opposition to organize protests against a sweeping national security law, which was imposed on June 30.

Details: Health officials said that the territory’s new spate of cases, including another 52 announced on Monday, was mainly connected to taxi drivers, restaurants and nursing homes.

Italy whistle-blower: A lawsuit by a nursing home employee who lost his job will test whether health care professionals risk retribution for pointing out dangerous conditions at medical centers.

In other developments:

  • Amnesty International has called for an inquiry into the British government after Britain recorded one of the largest numbers of coronavirus-related deaths among health care workers.

  • The leader of Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, Quim Torra, said on Monday that his government would proceed with a regional lockdown.

  • On Monday, an organization in France comprising doctors and virus victims appealed to the country’s highest administrative court to impose the wearing of masks. Prime Minister Jean Castex said that he was considering making them compulsory.

  • South Africa reinstated a ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol to alleviate pressure on the health care system, saying that alcohol-related injuries take up extra hospital beds.

  • Mexico surpassed Italy on Sunday to become the country with the fourth-highest death toll from the virus; 35,000 people have died.

  • The World Health Organization admonished governments that were sending mixed messages about the pandemic to citizens, saying many nations were sliding backward.

Here are the latest updates and maps of where the virus has spread.


President Andrzej Duda of Poland was narrowly elected to a second term in the country’s closest presidential election since the end of communist rule in 1989.

His victory cleared a pathway for Poland’s government to continue with a conservative, nationalistic agenda. Mr. Duda and his governing party have fought to control the courts and the news media, while stoking fear of gay people, the European Union and foreigners.

For many in the opposition, the race was a chance to save institutions that form the bedrock of a healthy democracy.

Details: Mr. Duda’s liberal challenger, Rafal Trzaskowski, had promised that his government would support the European Union and would not control the news media. He secured a majority of votes from people under 50, but older voters gave the president the edge he needed. Turnout was about 68 percent, the highest since 1989.

Bigger picture: The two different visions for Poland echoes debates in other nations, where traditional democratic values like pluralism have come under assault from populist leaders who undermine institutions to concentrate power.


The recent American intelligence assessment that Russia had provided the Taliban with bounties to attack U.S. and coalition troops stunned political leaders in Washington. But officials told our reporters that the Kremlin began reaching out to the insurgents nearly a decade ago.

What began as a diplomatic channel has more recently blossomed into an alliance that has allowed the Kremlin to reassert its influence in Afghanistan. It has coincided with increasing hostility between the U.S. and Russia over Syria’s civil war, as well as Russia’s frustration with rising instability in Afghanistan and the slow pace of the U.S. pullout.

Both Russia and the Taliban have rejected claims that any bounties were paid.

Quotable: “We did the same,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former C.I.A. field officer in Afghanistan who retired last year as the agency’s acting chief of operations in Europe and Eurasia. “We turned the heat up as the Russians were leaving Afghanistan.”

Over the past two decades, inequality in Latin America has fell to the lowest point in its recorded history. Now, the pandemic threatens to reverse that progress.

Our reporters traveled 1,000 miles across Colombia to document this critical moment. Near the Venezuelan border, in the town of Cúcuta, pictured above, the economic shutdown has pushed women and girls into sex work. One 17-year-old said that her father had lost his job, and that she was desperate: Somebody had to bring in money, she said, “and it turned to me.”

Snapshot: Above, a wild koala at a clinic in Toorbul, Australia. Researchers there are testing a vaccine against chlamydia, the world’s most widespread sexually transmitted infection, on the marsupials.

European football: Manchester City has cleared its name on appeal after a court struck down a charge that it had misrepresented some of its financing to circumvent cost-control rules. But the case risks destabilizing a sport already shaken by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sweden: The W.N.B.A player Amanda Zahui B. wanted to join the U.S. protests prompted by George Floyd’s death. Instead, she realized that she could use her voice to confront an “unspoken history of racial inequality” at home.

What we’re reading: This Vulture profile of the writer and actress Michaela Coel, the creator of the HBO show “I May Destroy You.” It’s a master class in the celebrity profile, and one that does not shy away from the unsavory parts, including her experiences of racism.

Rice University, in Houston, is building nine big new classrooms this summer, all of them outdoors.

Five are open-sided circus tents that the university is buying, and another four are semi-permanent structures that workers are building in an open field near dorms, said Kevin Kirby, Rice’s vice president for administration. Students and professors will decorate the spaces with murals and video projections.

In the fall, the structures will host classes and student activities, while reducing health risks — since the coronavirus spreads less easily outdoors. Mr. Kirby describes the construction project as “a statement to the community.” The statement: “We’re creative. We’re resilient. And what we do matters.”

Across the country, many indoor activities are going to be problematic for the foreseeable future: school, religious services, work meetings, cultural events, restaurant meals, haircuts and more. Mask-wearing reduces the risks, but being outdoors can reduce it even more.

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That’s it for this briefing. Make some beads, yeah why not? See you next time.

— Isabella


Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about a turning point for Hong Kong.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Volcanic flow (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times Magazine’s Caitlin Roper recently joined WNYC to talk about The Decameron Project, a collection of original short stories.



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