Beirut, Coronavirus, TikTok Restrictions: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering growing anger in Beirut, the virus surging in Germany and France, and new restrictions on TikTok and WeChat in the U.S.

International rescue teams arrived in Beirut on Thursday as the nation entered a period of official mourning over the huge explosion that brought the Lebanese capital to its knees.

Public anger is growing over evidence that government negligence allowed more than 2,000 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate seized from a ship to be stored in the port for years. The port, a crucial economic hub, has been destroyed, and with it, the nation’s grain supply, raising concerns about food security in a country of 6.8 million people.

President Emmanuel Macron of France visited the area, but no major Lebanese politicians have done so. The absence has not been lost on the Lebanese, with calls for protests and cleanup crews chanting, “Revolution!” The death toll rose to 137, with more than 5,000 injured and 250,000 displaced.

Quotable: “The Lebanese are in the streets, showing great solidarity, and the authorities are just absent,” said Rima Tarabay, a Beirut resident. “It’s impressive on the one hand, desolating on the other.”

Caught on video: Israa Seblani was posing for her wedding video when the camera captured the instant a deadly blast tore through the city.

France reported 1,695 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, and Germany reported more than 1,000 on Thursday — higher numbers than either had seen in months. Other Western European countries, including Spain and Belgium, are also facing surges.

Some health experts said Germans were becoming lax about upholding social-distancing and mask-wearing requirements, and a French scientific panel warned that a second wave of infections by fall was “highly possible,” urging cities to prepare for new lockdowns.

Still, the European surges are not on the level of U.S. spikes.

Britain: More than nine million people have been furloughed and 2.8 million have filed unemployment claims since the pandemic began. With fields like hospitality and live entertainment uncertain, some have a dilemma: Wait for business to pick up, or try a new livelihood?

Covid symptoms: These days, every cough, sneeze or headache makes you wonder. Here’s a guide to help you understand the symptoms, and this interactive graphic illustrates how the disease can affect the body from head to toe.

In other news:

  • Italy threatened to suspend Ryanair flights, saying that the low-cost Irish carrier had repeatedly violated safety measures imposed by the government to contain the coronavirus. The company hit back, saying that it had complied.

  • Uber said on Thursday that its revenue in the second quarter dropped 29 percent, to $2.2 billion, from a year ago, as the ride-hailing giant deals with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

When President Andrzej Duda of Poland was sworn in on Thursday for a second term in office, a sea of color greeted him on the floor of Parliament.

But it was not a celebration. It was a protest by opposition lawmakers after a divisive campaign in which Mr. Duda called homosexuality a threat to the nation.

The rainbow flag, which first emerged as a symbol of solidarity for U.S. gay rights activists, has become a symbol in the culture wars that have left Poland more deeply divided than perhaps any point since the end of Communist Party rule in 1989. The ruling party sees it as representing a threat to Roman Catholic values. The party’s critics see it as a rejection of intolerance, xenophobia and hatred.

Details: Three activists were arrested and charged after hanging banners on Warsaw monuments this week. In Parliament, lawmakers wore brightly hued rainbow outfits with rainbow masks, and they lifted copies of the Constitution above their heads.

Setsuko Thurlow was 13 years old and in Hiroshima when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb there. She has fought for the abolition of nuclear weapons ever since, sharing a Nobel Peace Prize for the work in 2017. But countries that have not signed onto a treaty banning the weapons, including Japan, have generally disregarded her.

Our Tokyo bureau chief’s profile of Ms. Thurlow, now 88, is part of The Times’s coverage of the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing and serves as a reminder of the urgency of hearing the stories of a dwindling number of survivors.

TikTok and WeChat: The Trump administration announced sweeping restrictions on the two popular Chinese social media networks that would ban transactions by any person or property within U.S. jurisdiction. The restrictions will take effect in 45 days.

Russia and Iran: Washington on Thursday sent offers to cellphones in Russia and Iran of rewards of up to $10 million for information on hackers trying to attack American voting systems. Also, a Moscow court on Thursday found members of a chat group guilty of “creating an extremist society” after an infiltrator for Russia’s security services turned the conversation — initially an online discussion of hobbies, schoolwork and sometimes politics — more radical.

Hong Kong: Two dozen democracy advocates in Hong Kong were charged on Thursday after participating in the annual June 4 vigil for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests — banned for the first time this year. It’s the latest sign of China’s aggressive clampdown on dissent in the territory.

Snapshot: Above, street art in New York City. Our critic talks about why the political realities such works reveal are tied to paintings on grotto walls, drawn 17,000 years ago, from the caves of Lascaux, France.

European soccer: For months, Barcelona paid the finest player Turkey has ever produced, Arda Turna, not to play. Our soccer correspondent explores what happened.

What we’re reading: This article from The Los Angeles Times on the story of Bruce’s Beach. “This look at what happened to a beach popular with Black residents back in the day — in one of the whitest towns in Los Angeles — tells so much about the struggle for Black people to even enjoy themselves,” writes Randy Archibold, our sports editor.

Cook: Lift your family’s spirits with this blueberry Bundt cake, a showstopping treat adorned with a jewel-toned glaze.

Listen: We asked artists including Ivo van Hove, Justin Peck, Du Yun and others to share their favorite works from music of the past 20 years. Here are their picks from 21st-century composers.

Do: Seeds are in high demand these days, so gardeners may want to plan ahead for the next growing season. Here are some tips for saving the easiest seed varieties.

Looking for help in staying safe at home? Our At Home collection has lots more ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

Nearly everywhere, heat waves are more frequent and last longer than they did 70 years ago. And it’s worse for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Somini Sengupta, our international climate reporter, spoke to the Briefings team about a special report prepared with photographers on one of the most dangerous and stealthiest hazards of the modern era.

How did you select which cities or countries to spotlight?

Somini: I have seen over the last couple of years the impact of what is truly a global problem. Global warming is not equal — the problem of warming and extreme heat is really felt by people who are already the most vulnerable, not just because it gets super hot where they live but because they’re already vulnerable in other ways: They may be in poor health, they may be farmers who depend entirely on the rains and so a little change in rainfall or extremely hot dry periods affect them, and because they may not be able to afford the most basic luxury to cope with the heat, like having enough water or electricity around the clock so they can turn on a fan, let alone having access to air-conditioning.

I wanted to show what’s happening now. It’s certainly projected to get worse in the future, but people are dealing with unbearably hot and humid conditions right now.

Was there any research that really stuck out?

One study said episodes of extreme heat and levels the human body cannot tolerate have more than doubled in frequency since 1979. South Asia and the southeastern coast of the U.S. have been hardest hit by this already.

People can often look at climate news and feel helpless. What sort of actionable things were experts saying could be done?

Draw down the combustion of fossil fuels. The world is capable of getting off coal in many instances, capable of vastly reducing the burning of oil and gas. The world also has to adjust to the extreme heat we’re seeing already.

It means expanding access to ways to cool down, whether that’s access to air conditioners or fans or more trees to bring down temperatures in the city, access to water. It could also mean adjusting things you might not immediately think of, like labor laws so people don’t have to work for hours under the blistering sun, agricultural changes in farming methods, or what is grown in what place to adapt to higher temperatures and longer dry seasons.

In short, it requires doing everything pretty differently.

That’s it for this briefing. I loved these five-minute stress resets. See you next time.

— Isabella

Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. Sanam Yar wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is a conversation with one of our correspondents in Beirut, who was injured in the huge explosion at the city’s port on Tuesday.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Make a mistake (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
“Dominic Fike, at First,” a new Times documentary on the making of a pop star, premieres today on FX and Hulu.

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