Friday, 23 Oct 2020

Your Monday Briefing

Coronavirus, QAnon, Trump: Here’s what you need to know.

By Natasha Frost

Good morning.

We’re covering the steep increase in coronavirus cases in Europe, the growing popularity of QAnon among Germany’s far-right fringe and the latest investigation into Trump’s tax returns.

A second coronavirus wave in Europe

More than six months since the start of the pandemic, European countries such as France, Spain and Britain are reporting daily infection numbers comparable to — and sometimes far beyond — those of their first peaks. New restrictions to curb transmission of the coronavirus have sometimes been met with resistance, amid what public health officials describe as “pandemic fatigue.”

Even Germany, much praised for its testing and contact-tracing capabilities, reported a record 8,000 new infections on Saturday, by far its highest single-day number, though the country’s seven-day average of new daily cases remains far below its spring peak of almost 5,600.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said on Friday that more restrictive measures would follow local ones, including an 11 p.m. curfew on bars in some places, if infections did not slow in urban hot spots. “We will go back to partying, to having fun without corona restrictions,” she said. “But right now, other things are more important.”

Here are our latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

More than one million new coronavirus cases were reported around the world in the past three days, as France, Russia, Nepal and several American states set records for the highest daily number of new infections.

The Israeli military began treating civilian coronavirus patients for the first time on Sunday, deploying to an overstrained hospital in the port city of Haifa and opening two Covid-19 wards in an underground campus.

Outbreaks at farms have made Canadians question how well vulnerable migrant workers are being protected.

Britain, which recorded over 15,000 cases on Saturday, is expected to announce a plan on Monday to rank areas in tiers; places where the virus is spreading would require tighter restrictions.

QAnon gains traction in Germany

The U.S. conspiracy theory has found fertile ground among Germany’s far-right fringe. The country has the largest QAnon following — an estimated 200,000 people — in the non-English-speaking world, and it has quickly built audiences on YouTube, Facebook and the Telegram messenger app. People wave Q flags during protests against coronavirus measures.

The mythology and language that QAnon uses — including claims of ritual child murder and revenge fantasies against liberal elites — conjure ancient anti-Semitic tropes and putsch fantasies that have long animated Germany’s far-right fringe. Now those groups are seeking to harness the theory’s viral popularity to reach a wider audience, among them vaccine opponents, fringe thinkers and ordinary citizens who question the threat of the pandemic.

A wider view: Officials are baffled that a seemingly wacky conspiracy theory has resonated in Germany. Polls show that trust in the current government is high, while the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has been struggling.

Revelations from Trump’s tax returns

The latest Times investigation into President Trump’s tax data and other records found that more than 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments had patronized the president’s properties, funneling in millions of dollars while reaping benefits from him and his administration.

Just 60 customers with interests at stake before the Trump administration brought his family business nearly $12 million during the first two years of his presidency, The Times found. Almost all saw their interests advanced, in some fashion, by Mr. Trump or his government.

Analysis: “As president, Mr. Trump built a system of direct presidential influence-peddling unrivaled in modern American politics,” writes an investigative team that has been covering the president’s finances and taxes for almost four years.

Go deeper: Here are the investigation’s key findings and a note from our executive editor, Dean Baquet, that includes links to all the team’s work.

If you have 6 minutes, this is worth it

Amazon among the vineyards

The Gard, an agricultural region in the South of France, has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. A giant Amazon sorting center planned for construction near the medieval-era village of Fournès would bring hundreds of jobs — as well as an explosion of traffic and pollution.

“The struggle against Amazon here is symbolic of a much bigger question: What kind of a society are we going to have?” a local beekeeper said. “If it is one dominated by a monopoly that uses people, threatens the environment and only cares about consumerism, that’s a world that we don’t want.”

Here’s what else is happening

Kyrgyzstan: Lawmakers in the Central Asian country selected Sadyr Japarov, a convicted kidnapper who was sprung from jail by protesters just days ago, to be the new prime minister. The arrangement may help calm street violence, but it has stirred alarm that criminal elements have prevailed in a power struggle set off by disputed parliamentary election results.

Belarus: The women who have led a movement to oust the country’s embattled leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, may ultimately be unsuccessful, but they have already shattered deeply entrenched gender stereotypes built up over generations.

French Open: Rafael Nadal routed Novak Djokovic in the final to win his 20th Grand Slam singles title and tie the men’s record held by Roger Federer.

North Korea: In a nighttime military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday, the country rolled out what appeared to be its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile. The move seemed to be aimed at displaying North Korea’s advances in military technology, but it was not immediately clear if the new missiles were real or mock-ups.

Snapshot: President Trump said he was “feeling great” as he spoke from a balcony to hundreds of supporters at a White House event on Saturday. Mr. Trump said in an interview on Sunday that he was now “totally free of spreading” the coronavirus as he prepared to resume campaigning for the Nov. 3 election.

Lives Lived: The Persian classical music singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian, who popularized the genre for a new generation only to be blacklisted by Iran for supporting antigovernment protests, has died at 80.

What we’re reading: This article in The Washington Post, which Stacy Cowley, a business reporter, calls “a heartbreaking story of how a coronavirus denier became a believer.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Roasted cauliflower with pancetta, olives and crisp Parmesan is not a side dish but dinner, according to our Food writer Melissa Clark, “and a satisfying one at that.”

Watch: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Wife of a Spy” touches on the Imperial Army’s testing of biological and chemical weapons on human subjects in Manchuria before and during World War II. The film garnered Mr. Kurosawa the best director award at the Venice Film Festival.

Do: Stretching and meditative movement like yoga before bed can improve the quality of your sleep. Here is a short and calming routine of 11 stretches and exercises.

Feeling listless? 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 animals hogging Isabella Rossellini’s limelight

The idea: a portrait session with the actress that involves sheep, dogs and chickens. She was totally game. Thankfully, so were the creatures. In this Times Insider piece, excerpted below, the reporter Libby Peterson describes what went on behind the scenes of this profile.

Shooting Isabella Rossellini can be a photographer’s dream.

“She’s just so far out and wild and game and beautiful and so much herself,” said Jessie Wender, a photo editor for The Times’s Culture desk, who sought to commission photographs that would capture the actress’s untamed spirit: portraits that would include sheep, dogs and chickens, all co-stars in the production.

Ms. Wender called on the photographer Camila Falquez, known for her distinctly formal yet whimsical portraits. “I was just excited to see what they would do together,” Ms. Wender said. “Camila is so good at creating these worlds with people.” Ms. Falquez would have only 45 minutes to create that world from the actress’s garden, while keeping a safe distance and wearing P.P.E.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Ms. Falquez said, “so I decided to light a little candle in my altar and ask for the best.”

Despite an ominous forecast for rain, drizzle gave way to an overcast sky that served as one huge, soft source of natural light, the best condition for an outdoor shoot. The animals, unperturbed by the photographer at work, ambled up to smell the camera and followed Ms. Rossellini around the house.

“I can’t believe this; I love my job,” Ms. Falquez recalled with a laugh.

For one shot, Ms. Falquez said, Ms. Rossellini was excited to put a doll on her head. For another, Ms. Rossellini fetched a chicken to hold.

Ms. Falquez had been ruminating on the effects of the pandemic for months. On that day, she recalled thinking about how unifying it seemed. “What’s beautiful is that Isabella Rossellini is changing how she does her thing. Even that woman,” she said. “We’re all in this together for real. And actually, I’m really happy with the photos. It’s art evolving through a lot of pain and challenges. It’s all of us.”

Thanks for starting your day with The Times. See you next time.

— Natasha

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 the campaign for Pennsylvania’s working-class voters.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Oolong and so on" (Four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The word “longwool” — a particularly shaggy breed of sheep — appeared in The Times for the first time over the weekend, according to the Twitter account @NYT_first_said.
• The new season of the “Modern Love” podcast kicks off on Wednesday, with new episodes every Wednesday. Listen to the trailer.

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