Your Wednesday Briefing

The Russian capital’s strict lockdown ended abruptly on Tuesday, while officials there continued to report more than 1,000 daily new coronavirus cases.

Barbershops, beauty parlors, veterinary clinics and photography studios were allowed to reopen, and the city’s intricate system of digital permits for leaving one’s house stopped operating. Other businesses will reopen in phases, including gyms by the end of June.

The easing of restrictions came as a nationwide vote on extending President Vladimir Putin’s rule loomed. And a grand military parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II is scheduled for the week prior. Analysts said ending the lockdown could help drum up much-needed enthusiasm.

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

In other virus news:

  • The president of the United Nations General Assembly said Monday that world leaders would not come to New York for their annual gathering in September, a first in the U.N.’s 75-year history.

  • The Hong Kong government is bailing out Cathay Pacific Airways by injecting about $5 billion and taking a direct stake in its operations.

  • The Salzburg Festival, classical music and opera’s most important annual event, will go forward in August in modified form. Audiences of up to 1,000 — about half the capacity of the main theater — will be allowed, and there will be 90 performances over 30 days, down from the original plan of more than 200 performances over 44 days.

The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

As the U.S. and China spar over the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing’s top officials are using Twitter to come out on top.

A swarm of sympathetic accounts has emerged to repost and cheer on government messaging. But in addition to genuine supporters, many of them appear to be part of a coordinated Twitter campaign, our reporters found.

It is far from clear that the Chinese government is behind the mass tweets supporting President Xi Jinping’s agenda, but The Times’s findings add to other recent evidence of Twitter being used to amplify it.

Findings: Of the roughly 4,600 accounts that reposted China’s leading official voices during a recent week, one in six tweeted with extremely high frequency despite having few followers. Nearly one in seven tweeted almost nothing of their own, instead reposting official Chinese accounts and others.

The funeral for George Floyd, whose killing in police custody gave rise to an international movement, drew hundreds of mourners in Houston on Tuesday.

The event came after more than two weeks of protests demanding change in policing and systemic racism, and capped five days of public memorials in Minneapolis, North Carolina and Houston. Mr. Floyd, 46, will be buried next to his mother.

His words — “I can’t breathe,” which he said 16 times as an officer pressed his knee into his neck — have become a rallying cry. Mr. Floyd was remembered as a father and star student-athlete with big dreams for his life and his community.

In a video played at the funeral, former Vice President Joe Biden offered his condolences to the family.

Through decades of coups, invasions and endless war, Afghans have tuned in to Radio Afghanistan twice a day to hear the names of the newly dead. The death notices were a ritual, an honor and sometimes a sign of status. For a time, the broadcast filled double its hourlong slot. Above, its senior anchor, Mohamad Agha Zaki.

Now, that all is gone. It is not that people are not dying, but many now turn to Facebook and other social media to disseminate the news. But the man at the helm says that people in rural areas are still tuning in: “This is the language of the nation.”

North Korea: The government cut off all communications to South Korea, vowing to treat the country as an “enemy,” in a sign of chilling relations. North Korea refused to pick up the phone on Tuesday morning when the South made its routine daily call on the military hotline between the two countries.

U.S. presidential campaign: A wave of new polls shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a significant lead over President Donald Trump, placing him in a stronger position to oust an incumbent president than any challenger since Bill Clinton in the summer of 1992.

Snapshot: Above, the statue of King Leopold II, who oversaw the brutal colonization of Congo in the 19th century, was removed in Antwerp after protesters daubed it with red paint. Protesters calling on countries to confront their racist histories have also toppled a statue of a slave trader in Britain.

What we’re reading: This Money magazine article about some of the explorers who dedicated their lives to finding Forrest Fenn’s hidden treasure (which was finally discovered over the weekend). It’s riveting and will make you smile.

Cook: This crispy sour cream and onion chicken can we showered with fresh chives and lemon juice, or, if you crave something creamy for dunking, pair it with a dip of sour cream, lemon juice and chives.

Watch: The new documentary “Born in Evin” follows the director, Maryam Zaree, as she interviews family, friends, sociologists and psychologists to try to demystify the circumstances of her birth in Iran’s notorious Evin prison for political dissidents.

Read: Joyce Carol Oates’s new novel “Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.” takes on racism and grief, and is squarely in conversation with this moment of pandemic and protest, writes our book reviewer. Also, here are five new and noteworthy poetry books.

Do: The designer Todd Snyder shows you how to add patches to your jeans, using an old bandanna or shirt you are ready to rag.

We may be venturing outside, but with the virus still spreading, we’re still safest inside. At Home can help make that tolerable, even fun, with ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

There has been intense debate about the use of facial recognition technology in the public and private sectors.

Law enforcement agencies and some companies use it to identify suspects and victims by matching photos or video with databases like driver’s license records. But civil liberties groups warn that facial recognition erodes privacy, reinforces bias against black people and can be misused.

Timnit Gebru, a leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence team, explained why she thinks the police shouldn’t use facial recognition. Below is an excerpt from her conversation with Shira Ovide for the latest On Tech newsletter.

Shira: What are your concerns about facial recognition?

Timnit: I collaborated with Joy Buolamwini at the M.I.T. Media Lab on an analysis that found very high disparities in error rates [in facial identification systems] especially between lighter-skinned men and darker-skinned women. In melanoma screenings, imagine there’s a detection technology that doesn’t work for people with darker skin.

I also realized even perfect facial recognition can be misused. I’m a black woman living in the U.S. who has dealt with serious consequences of racism. Facial recognition is being used against the black community.

But a police officer or eyewitness could also look at surveillance footage and mug shots and misidentify someone as Jim Smith. Is software more accurate or less biased than humans?

That depends. Our analysis showed that for us, facial recognition was way less accurate than humans.

Do you see a way to use facial recognition for law enforcement and security responsibly?

My gut reaction is that a lot of people in technology have the urge to jump on a tech solution without listening to people who have been working with community leaders, police and others proposing solutions to reform the police.

It should be banned at the moment. I don’t know about the future.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
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 on the case for defunding the U.S. police force.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Netflix selection (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• A Times investigation by Michael Keller, Gabriel Dance and Nellie Bowles into online child sexual abuse was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award.

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