Worrying peaks in Asia
The coronavirus pandemic is taking a bad turn in parts of Asia. In Japan and South Korea, which had long managed to avoid the worst, the falls are climbing fast. And because Hong Kong is struggling with a spike, a plan for a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore has been put on hold.
Japan had its worst jump ever in new cases, breaking records for four consecutive days with at least 2,508 new cases on Sunday. The worst spike yet fell after peaking nearly 2,000 cases in early August.
South Korea saw a smaller increase with more than 300 cases for five consecutive days. Last week, new restrictions were announced for Seoul and the surrounding area, including capping the number of people at events such as concerts, conferences and festivals to 100.
Coronavirus and the rise of a right-wing media star
Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a Hong Kong researcher, became a right-wing media sensation after appearing on Fox News in the United States to make the unsubstantiated claim that the coronavirus was a Chinese-made bio-weapon.
How it happened: Two increasingly allied groups selling misinformation worked at Dr. Yan’s rise together. One is a small but active corner of the Chinese diaspora, the other the influential right-wing extremist in the United States
The players: Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese billionaire, and Stephen Bannon, a former adviser to Mr. Trump, have been on a mission to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party for years. They put Dr. Yan boarded a plane to the United States, gave her a place to stay, trained her on media appearances, and helped secure interviews with popular conservative television presenters.
Trump’s gifts to Israel
The US decision to lift the parole restrictions on Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of espionage for Israel in the 1980s, will set him free to move to Israel, where he is considered a hero. It is also one of the many gifts from the Trump administration to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Trump’s treatment of Mr. Netanyahu was downright lavish, writes our chief of the Jerusalem office.
Mr Trump broke sharply with his predecessors’ approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and represented the Israeli side. His Middle East team put pressure on the Palestinians to get them to consider a unilateral peace proposal and then brokered deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan for Israel – deals that shattered Arab solidarity behind the Palestinian cause .
Pollard story: Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, spent 30 years in a US prison for stealing American secrets during the Cold War. His case, which the Justice Department raised on Friday, had long been a sore point in relations between the two countries. The US continues to regard Mr. Pollard, 66, as a traitor who has done great harm.
If you have 8 minutes, it’s worth it
Stalin’s “Street of Bones”
The Kolyma Highway in the Russian Far East once brought tens of thousands of prisoners to the labor camps of Stalin’s gulag. But for many Russians, including ex-prisoners, the horrors of the gulag are subsiding.
Our reporter and photographer drove down the freeway to the remote settlements that are now shrinking and in ruins. “Everything here is built on bones,” said Andrey Kolyadin, a regional official.
The following also happens
US elections: President Trump’s legal efforts to question Pennsylvania’s election results faced defeat and sharp judicial reprimand on Saturday, and some Republicans began to acknowledge that he had lost both the state and his bid for re-election.
Afghanistan speaks: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Qatar with Afghan and Taliban negotiators trying to break a deadlock in their stalled peace negotiations. At least eight people were killed in a rocket attack in Kabul on Saturday, and the Islamic state group assumed responsibility.
G20: A final statement released on Sunday by the Group of 20 Summit was perhaps the Trump presidency’s final reminder of the great divide between the US and its allies in dealing with global threats like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
Pompeii discovery: Excavations at a suburban villa outside the ancient city, frozen by the Vesuvius eruption nearly 2,000 years ago, have revealed the remains of two residents tentatively identified as wealthy landowners and a younger enslaved man.
Snapshot: Above, kimchi lessons for the Shin Tae-sook family in Goesan. November is kimchi season, but in the age of meal sets and on-demand food delivery, the tradition is declining. Some families make pilgrimages to the country where they can learn how to cook it themselves.
What we see: The Guardian’s video report of North Korean women working in Chinese factories making PPE for export worldwide. It’s a terrifying look at what modern slavery can mean.
Now a break from the news
Cook: The key to mastering a simple French omelette is managing the heat so the eggs don’t brown and whisking the eggs in the pan so they set on the outside but stay fluffy on the inside.
Read: Our book review editors have published this year’s list of 100 Notable Books, covering all genres, to help you choose your bedside reading for the months to come.
Do: A 9th century Viking adventure, a game about robots, and an escape from hell: here’s what’s new in video games.
Start your week with a new project. At home, you have ideas for what to read, cook, see, and do while being safe at home.
And now for the background story about …
Faces born from a computer
We developed our own AI system to understand how easy it is to generate various fake faces. Kashmir Hill, a tech reporter, and Jeremy White, a graphics editor, were working on a gallery of portraits of people who might look real but are not.
There are now companies selling the wrong people. If all you need is a few fake people – for characters in a video game or to add variety to your business website – you can download their photos from a website for free. These simulated people are also used by spies to infiltrate the intelligence community, right-wing propagandists hiding behind fake profiles, and online harassers who troll their targets with a friendly face.
You can spot some of the mistakes and patterns our AI system repeated when conjuring up fake faces. For example, earrings look similar, but often don’t match exactly. Abstract or blurry backgrounds are often freebies.
“It was pretty interesting to set up your own AI system and generate hundreds of faces to see how it’s done. This story examines how good the technology is getting and how you can spot the fakes, ”wrote Jeremy.
“The difficult thing about technology coverage is that it is amazingly powerful and unexpectedly flawed at the same time,” Kashmir wrote.
Have a look.
That’s it for this briefing. Until next time.
– Carole (a real person)
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We listen to “The Daily”. Our latest episode is about the pandemic in a rural area of the United States
• Here is our mini crossword puzzle and a clue: Concept of Universal Justice (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• As words with harmful connotations have been burned into technical communication, The Times reviews the language in which we describe our technology.