U.S. outbreak reaches record levels
Cases have been rising in 29 states, and public health officials in the United States reported the highest total since the start of the pandemic: 36,880 new cases as of 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 West.
In Texas, home to one of the largest surges, the governor announced a pause on reopening. More than 4,300 people with the virus are hospitalized across the state — a doubling of the number at the beginning of June.
As of Wednesday, 2.3 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 121,925 have died, by far the largest outbreak in the world.
Israel touts partnership with the U.A.E. to fight virus
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the new partnership on Thursday, portraying it as a significant step toward normal ties between the two key U.S. allies in the Middle East.
But hours later, the Emirates issued a statement of its own, announcing what it described as an agreement between two private Emirati companies and two Israeli companies to develop technology to fight the virus.
The Emirati statement appeared to take the wind out of what Mr. Netanyahu was touting as a diplomatic achievement. And it comes at a time when Israel is drawing up plans to annex part of the occupied West Bank.
A database in China to help protect from abuse
The government of Yiwu, in eastern Zhejiang Province, is preparing to roll out a database that would allow people getting married to check if their prospective partner has a history of domestic violence.
The move, described as the first of its kind in the country, is meant to address domestic violence, which has worsened during lockdowns. Some are already calling for the searchable database, which goes live on July 1, to be rolled out nationwide.
“In many cases, the parties involved only know about domestic violence after marriage. By establishing an inquiry database, partners can know beforehand and consider whether to marry,” Zhou Danying, vice chairman of the Yiwu Women’s Federation, said.
If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it
Uncertainty for Palestinians in Jordan Valley
Israel’s plan to annex territory in the occupied West Bank along the Jordanian border has many Palestinian residents worrying about where it would leave them. Many wonder if they will be cut off from jobs, hospitals and family members by new checkpoints or fences. Above, Abdel Rahman Bisharat, a Bedouin shepherd.
“We have no idea what annexation would mean for us, because nobody is telling us anything,” said Hamdan Saeed, who runs a coffee stand along the main highway through the Jordan Valley.
Here’s what else is happening
U.S. asylum: The Supreme Court ruled that immigrants whose requests for asylum were rejected in bare-bone proceedings may not contest the denials in federal court. The case concerned Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a member of Sri Lanka’s Tamil ethnic minority who was apprehended near the Mexican border in California.
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.
Unilever: The cosmetics company will drop the word “fair” from its “Fair & Lovely” skin lightening products, it said on Thursday, after a global backlash over racism.
Congo: After nearly two years and 2,280 deaths, the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo is over, the World Health Organization said. The country continues to battle the world’s largest measles epidemic as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
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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 on the basis of 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. See you next time.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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