TikTok gets a dose of geopolitical reality
President Trump gave the go-ahead on Monday for Microsoft to hold negotiations on a potential blockbuster deal to purchase the Chinese-owned video app’s operations in the U.S.
Mr. Trump had threatened to ban TikTok in the U.S. because of the app’s Chinese ownership, which he has called a possible threat to national security.
Tech on notice: ByteDance, the Chinese social media giant behind TikTok, took ample precautions in its drive to become a global company. TikTok was made unavailable in China so that the app’s users wouldn’t be subject to the Communist Party’s censorship requirements. User data was stored in Virginia and Singapore.
But suspicion never dissipated that TikTok might be unable to withstand pressure from Beijing. Similar doubts hang over many other Chinese tech companies. TikTok’s sudden change of fortunes could force them to re-evaluate their own international ambitions.
No ‘silver bullet’ for the coronavirus
As the world races to find a vaccine, the head of the World Health Organization warned that a breakthrough was not yet within sight and that there might never be a simple solution to defeat the coronavirus.
“A number of vaccines are now in Phase 3 clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said on Monday. “However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be.”
Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., last week said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine could be developed by the end of this year. The comments by Dr. Tedros seemed intended to guard against countries moving away from measures to slow the spread of the virus.
In other developments:
A team of W.H.O. experts has concluded a three-week visit to China to begin investigating the source of the virus — the first step in what is likely to be a monthslong inquiry.
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Phlippines has ordered Manila and its suburbs to re-enter lockdown for two weeks after the health department reported 5,032 new cases.
As the pandemic consumes global health resources, tuberculosis — the biggest infectious-disease killer worldwide — as well as H.I.V. and malaria are making a comeback.
Mass jailbreak in Afghanistan
At least 21 people were killed and hundreds of inmates escaped from a prison in Jalalabad after it came under attack late Sunday. A fierce gun battle raged until midafternoon Monday between the militants and security forces.
Loyalists to the Islamic State took responsibility for the attack. About a third of the prison’s 1,500 inmates were linked to ISIS, with the rest split among Taliban prisoners and common criminals. A Taliban spokesman denied any involvement in the attack.
The ISIS factor: The murky identity of the ISIS branch in the country has made it a spoiler threat to the peace process. While the Taliban and ISIS have fought turf wars in the east, Afghan officials have long claimed that the two groups have overlapped, sharing networks and resources for urban attacks.
If you have 7 minutes, this is worth it
Spearfishing washes pandemic anxiety away
Spear gear has been selling out at dive shops up and down Australia’s east coast since March, when the coronavirus pandemic began to restrict social gatherings and cause rising unemployment.
To understand why, our Sydney bureau chief decided to take the plunge in the hunt for wild food. He found that “spearfishing has become an increasingly popular escape for people seeking calm, control and sustenance far from the anxieties of land.” The “spearos,” as they are called, “all find something for their stomachs and souls in an act that is ancient and elemental.”
Here’s what else is happening
Pakistan media: The recent abduction of a prominent journalist, Mattiullah Jan, by state security officers has renewed concerns about press freedom. Two years into Prime Minister Imran Khan’s term, journalists and activists say censorship is on the rise.
In memoriam: John Hume, a moderate Roman Catholic politician who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dogged and ultimately successful campaign to end decades of bloodshed in his native Northern Ireland, died on Monday. He was 83.
Snapshot: Above, Tropical Storm Isaias is churning off the Florida coast. Forecasters said the storm will return to hurricane strength before reaching the Carolinas, where it could hit during a spike in coronavirus cases.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 3, 2020
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?
Should I refinance my mortgage?
- It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
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.
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What we’re reading: This article in GQ on the power of the Sultans. “This story about the country’s best wedding band is what we need right now,” writes Matt Apuzzo, our reporter based in Brussels.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: This poundcake is nothing fancy, with a result equally befitting a school bake sale or a fancy dinner party.
Read: Stephenie Meyer’s retelling of “Twilight,” Isabel Wilkerson’s examination of American racism, a biography of the drug kingpin El Chapo — here are 13 books to watch for in August.
Do: For many of us, 2020 will not be known for road trips, amusement parks or lakeside retreats. But families are finding small yet meaningful ways to escape, have fun during staycations and experience something new.
At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.
And now for the Back Story on …
The next best thing to traveling
When travel restrictions began to lock people in place all around the world, our editors on the Travel desk launched a new visual series called The World Through a Lens. The idea was to showcase beautiful and intriguing places, and to introduce readers to aspects of global culture. Here’s an excerpt from what the editors told Times Insider about the project.
Our goal with this series is slightly different from that of our typical Travel fare. Instead of inspiring travel among our readers or describing the travels of our contributors, we’re aiming to approximate elements of travel itself — to provide a kind of virtual travel substitute that soothes, transports and distracts.
But escapism isn’t the only objective. At its best, travel can transform us: It can awaken us to the restorative power of nature; it can broaden our ability to understand and appreciate dissimilar cultures; it can help us become more empathetic to people whose lives fall outside the scope of our day-to-day routines. These, too, are things we hope the series can provide, especially at a time when such transformations aren’t available to many of us via direct experience.
To achieve all that, we’ve tried to create immersive visual experiences; every story in the series is driven by images. (Instead of assigning photographers to shoot new work, we are relying on photojournalists with previously shot, and unpublished, portfolios.)
We’ve also tried to create a more intuitive and symbiotic relationship between images and text. (In most cases, the journalist who took the pictures is also the one who wrote the copy.) And as a general rule, we’ve avoided “service” information: no hotel plugs or restaurant reviews, no recommended itineraries. The focus is on the people and the places themselves, as seen and captured by some of the best photojournalists in the world.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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