New Zealand Election, Japan’s Economy, Belarus: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering New Zealand’s election delay due to a growing cluster of cases, changing thoughts about herd immunity and how the world’s largest bike producer is dealing with booming demand.

Ms. Ardern said she had consulted all major parties before deciding to move the election to Oct. 17 from Sept. 19.

Even if the outbreak worsens, she said, “we will be sticking with the date we have.” For now, the mysterious cluster of new cases totals 58 as health workers scramble to test workers at airports and other points of entry.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Herd immunity might not be so far off. Scientists previously said 70 percent of a given population must be immune to reach the threshold, through vaccination or because they had survived the infection. Now, more than a dozen experts said the threshold could be just 50 percent, meaning it may already have been reached in cities like New York and Mumbai.

  • Australia reported 25 deaths in 24 hours on Monday, its deadliest day of the pandemic yet. All were in the state of Victoria.

  • A Christian pastor accused by South Korea’s president of impeding the government’s effort to fight the virus tested positive on Monday, officials said. His church has become the center of the country’s latest outbreak.

The economy shrank by 7.8 percent in the second quarter of the year, its worst performance on record, as the country reeled from the effects of the pandemic.

It was the third straight quarter of contraction for Japan, where a tax increase, slowing demand from China and a series of natural disasters left the country vulnerable even before the pandemic hit.

“The pandemic’s total impact on the economy up to this point is almost the same as the 2008 financial crisis,” said Michinori Naruse, an economist at the Japan Research Institute. But this time, things “got bad all at once.”

An eight-hour protest with thousands of people on Sunday was the largest rally in Thailand since a coup in 2014, and the participants show no signs of letting up.

The protesters, who gathered at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, have been taking the unusual step of criticizing the monarchy, and demanding change in a country where the military has shaped politics more than voters have. Many of the demonstrators are students.

A state of emergency in place for the pandemic made the demonstration technically illegal. Every participant could have been arrested, but the police stood by. Previous protests have been crushed with force.

Protesters’ demands: Thais want a new political order and a new constitution, and have called for the dissolution of the military-dominated Parliament. Millions are unemployed after the pandemic has pummeled the economy, with its largest contraction since 1998 in the second quarter of this year.

Late last month, Royal Dutch Shell won a deal to build a wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands. Earlier in the year, France’s Total, which owns a battery maker, agreed to make several large investments in solar power in Spain and a wind farm off Scotland. Above, a floating solar installation in Britain.

Under pressure from governments and investors to address climate-change concerns, Europe’s oil companies are accelerating their production of cleaner energy. “What the world wants from energy is changing,” BP’s chief executive said.

Huawei: The Trump administration expanded restrictions on the tech company’s ability to work with chip makers.

U.S. presidential election: The Democratic National Convention is starting in Milwaukee, and will be largely virtual. Joe Biden won’t travel there to accept the nomination in person, and most speeches will be delivered remotely.

TikTok’s deal: The app is partnering with UnitedMasters, a music distribution company, to allow artists to distribute their songs directly from the app to streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube.

Snapshot: Above, Taiwan’s Giant bicycle factory, the world’s largest producer. Demand for bikes has boomed in the pandemic, and the company’s owners are figuring out how long it could last while dealing with a U.S.-China trade war.

What we’re reading: This Washington Post feature about the karaoke superfans desperate for their favorite pastime to return. The Post’s series on the things we lose really chips away at big questions I’ve been asking myself about what life will look like next year — or the year after that.

Cook: A lobster salad doesn’t have to be relegated to special occasions.

Deal: If your college kid is learning from home this fall, we have tips to make it easier for everyone.

Read: Beach reads are a state of mind. Even if you’re far from an ocean breeze this summer, this roundup, including the latest by Kevin Kwan of “Crazy Rich Asians” fame, will help you escape.

At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

Sunday’s protests in Minsk, Belarus, were the largest in the country’s modern history. Workers booed President Aleksandr Lukashenko out of their factory on Monday. A widespread uprising came several days after an election widely dismissed as a sham gave Mr. Lukashenko his sixth term. I talked to Ivan Nechepurenko, a reporter there now, about the moment.

Why was this election different?

On Aug. 9, the incumbent seeks re-election for his sixth term. He controls everything — the electoral commissions, the law enforcement. He either jails all of his main rivals or they are forced to flee the country.

By a coincidence, one person gets to be registered: the wife of one of his viable rivals. She was only allowed to run on the ballot because he dismissed her as a housewife and he thought she wouldn’t be a threat. But people’s fatigue of him had grown so big that people voted for her, and not for him. And when the election results were announced, the exit poll results, it said that 80 percent voted for the incumbent. People were really shocked by this number. This high number didn’t represent what the mood in the country has been.

What led tens of thousands of people to come out? Was this a major shift from the norm?

The situation here has been such that people were really afraid to do anything that could invite the attention of the police. Ever since Mr. Lukashenko came to power in 1994, people were living in fear of expressing their views.

For me as a journalist, you could never get last names from people because they were afraid to give them. This was the situation for 26 years. The last week was something different.

Suddenly you see that half of that city is out. I asked some people, who say, “This is the first time I’ve expressed my opinion — the first time I’ve given my last name.”

The Times and other outlets have reported on police beatings of protesters. Is there any recourse to police brutality in Belarus?

No. You cannot even say anything. The more you complain, talk about your rights, the more they beat you. They don’t care who you are, where you come from.

Is Vladimir Putin paying attention? Is he threatened by this?

I think it’s very tempting to make it look geopolitical, but it’s not geopolitical as of now. I wouldn’t say it’s a pro-Western revolution. It’s an anti-tyranny revolution. Belarus is different from Ukraine in the sense that it is a very coherent and uniform country. There are no big regional differences: The whole country is basically pro-Russian or neutral.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the race for a vaccine.
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• The Times noted the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave most women the right to vote in the U.S., with a package of stories.

Source : Nytimes