A ‘significant resurgence’ of coronavirus cases in Europe
The World Health Organization said on Thursday that the number of new coronavirus cases in Europe increased last week for the first time in months, with a “significant resurgence” in 11 countries.
Germany, for example, has seen a spike of more than 1,500 coronavirus infections within days, calling the durability of its outbreak response into question. The new clusters, concentrated in slaughterhouses and crowded, low-income apartment blocks, prompted the authorities to lock down two counties. But cases have also risen nationwide, with 630 new infections reported on Thursday.
Details: The outbreak at the Tönnies slaughterhouse in North Rhine-Westphalia is now one of the most severe in Europe, outside of Sweden, according to European Union figures. Health workers are now trying to test all 7,000 workers from the Tönnies plant, many of them Eastern European seasonal laborers. Several hundred workers from two other slaughterhouses have also been isolated.
W.H.O. criticism: European Parliament members on Thursday questioned why the organization had praised China for its handling of the outbreak and why a travel ban was not called for earlier. “If there is anything we need to accept, as W.H.O., we will be happy to accept,” said its head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, pointing to an independent inquiry reviewing their response.
U.S. outbreak reaches record levels
Public health officials in the United States reported the highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic: 36,880 new cases on Wednesday.
The tally of new cases, based on a New York Times database, showed that the outbreak was stronger than ever, particularly in the South and the West. And the number of Americans infected is most likely about 10 times higher than official numbers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
In Texas, home to one of the largest surges, the governor paused its reopening. More than 4,300 people with the virus were hospitalized across the state — double the number at the beginning of June.
Siberia roasts in a historic heat wave
Residents of Russkoye Ustye, a Siberian village by the Arctic Ocean coast, used to ride snowmobiles in June.
Now, wildfires are spreading and people are nailing their windows shut with foil as a shocking heat wave roasts northern Siberia.
The town of Verkhoyansk topped 100 Fahrenheit last Saturday, possibly the hottest temperature ever recorded above the Arctic Circle. Verkhoyansk had been best known as a place of exile that shared the Northern Hemisphere’s cold temperature record — 90 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
Bigger picture: The Arctic is warming up more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, and its effect on thawing permafrost could unleash as much as 240 billion tons of carbon by 2100. This year’s thaw destabilized a fuel tank that released 150,000 barrels of diesel into a river.
Quotable: “Nature is taking its revenge on us, probably,” said Sergei Portnyagin, the head of Russkoye Ustye. He added that residents are developing skin problems and headaches because of the heat. “We’ve been too bloody in how we’ve treated it.”
If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it
Uncertainty for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley
Israel’s plan to annex territory in the occupied West Bank along the Jordan border has left many Palestinian residents worried that they will be cut off from their jobs, hospitals and family members by new checkpoints.
“We now fear they will try to expel us from our land,” said Abdel Rahman Bisharat, a Bedouin shepherd, above.
Here’s what else is happening
Balkan summit postponed: An American-mediated meeting between the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo planned for Saturday was delayed after Kosovo’s leader was charged with war crimes.
Syria: U.S. forces used a specially designed secret missile to kill the head of a Qaeda affiliate in Syria this month. The missile had six long blades tucked inside, which deployed seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path.
FIFA: Australia and New Zealand will co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the first 32-team women’s championship.
Congo: After nearly two years and 2,280 deaths, the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo is over, the World Health Organization said. Congo is still battling the world’s largest measles epidemic, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
Snapshot: Above, the Eiffel Tower has partly reopened after months of lockdown in France. Elevators are still off-limits, and so is the top observation deck. The Musée du Louvre in Paris is set to reopen on July 6.
In memoriam: Zeev Sternhell, a Holocaust survivor and an expert in 20th-century European fascism, died on Sunday in Jerusalem, at the age of 85.
What we’re looking at: This interactive map showing the decline of local news in the U.S., from the University of North Carolina. Marc Tracy, a media reporter, called it “indispensable for understanding this topic.”
Now, a break from the news
Cook: This galbijjim short-rib stew is fragrant and sweet, with deep caramelized flavors. The addition of greens at the end gives the dish an exciting brightness.
Watch: Looking for a movie that is off the beaten path? We did the work for you. Here’s a list of 10 movies to take a chance on.
Read: “Korean Art From 1953,” a lavish new book, is the most significant English-language overview yet of modern and contemporary art on the peninsula.
At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the Back Story on …
The dangers of flawed software
The Times’s Kashmir Hill recently reported on how Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, a black man in Michigan, was accused of shoplifting based on surveillance video that relied on flawed software, leading to Mr. Williams’s arrest in a crime he didn’t commit. (In response to Kash’s article, prosecutors apologized for what happened to Mr. Williams and said he could have his case expunged.)
Kash talked to Shira Ovide, host of the On Tech newsletter, about her article.
Shira: How did this happen?
Kash: The police are supposed to use facial recognition identification only as an investigative lead. But instead, people treat facial recognition as a kind of magic. And that’s why you get a case where someone was arrested based on flawed software combined with inadequate police work.
But humans, not just computers, misidentify people in criminal cases.
Absolutely. Witness testimony is also very troubling. That has been a selling point for many facial recognition technologies.
Is the problem that the facial recognition technology is inaccurate?
That’s one problem. A federal study of facial recognition algorithms found them to be biased and to wrongly identify people of color at higher rates than white people. The study included the two algorithms used in the image search that led to Williams’s arrest.
Sometimes the algorithm is good and sometimes it’s bad, and there’s not always a great way to tell the difference. And there’s usually no requirement for vetting the technology from policymakers, the government or law enforcement.
What’s the broader problem?
Companies that sell facial recognition software say it doesn’t give a perfect “match.” It gives a score of how likely the facial images in databases match the one you search.
But on the ground, officers see an image of a suspect next to a photo of the likeliest match, and it seems like the correct answer. I have seen facial recognition work well with some high-quality close-up images. But usually, police officers have grainy videos or a sketch, and computers don’t work well in those cases
That’s it for this briefing. Have a good, and rejuvenating, weekend.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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