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Your Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times

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Good morning. We’re covering the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd and China’s plans for a new world order.

Derek Chauvin, a former police officer, faces charges of manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder in the death of George Floyd. Mr. Chauvin held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck on a Minneapolis street corner in May before he died.

The case is being litigated in a criminal court in Minneapolis. Follow our live updates.

Mr. Floyd’s death spurred protests across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and a reckoning over racial justice that touched on everything from public monuments to sports team names.

The case will focus on the cause of death: In opening remarks, the defense argued that Mr. Floyd’s death was caused by his underlying heart disease, drug use and “the adrenaline flowing through his body.” Prosecutors played video footage captured by a bystander of Mr. Chauvin holding his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. The prosecution is arguing to jurors that Mr. Chauvin had used more force than was reasonable.

The jury: The racial makeup of the 12 jurors has been closely watched. The group includes two white men, four white women, three Black men, one Black women and two women who identify as mixed race, according to information provided by the court.

Quotable: “America is on trial to see if we have gotten to the place where we can hold police accountable if they break the law,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime civil rights activist, outside the courthouse.


The Covid-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are proving highly effective at preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic infections under real-world conditions, federal health researchers reported.

There has been debate about whether vaccinated people can still get asymptomatic infections and transmit the virus to others. The results suggest transmission may be extremely unlikely.

Troubling variants were circulating during the time of the study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yet the vaccines still provided powerful protection.

Details: Consistent with clinical trial data, a two-dose regimen prevented 90 percent of infections by two weeks after the second shot. One dose prevented 80 percent of infections by two weeks after vaccination.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • The origins of the coronavirus remain unclear in a new report by the World Health Organization and China, and experts recommend further studies and tracing. It’s unclear whether Beijing will let experts dig further. Western officials have voiced concern that the Chinese government had too much influence in the process of drafting the report.

  • Nepal received a donation of 800,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine from China after shipments from India were delayed. China and India have been jockeying for influence in Nepal.

  • Johnson & Johnson said that it would supply its one-shot vaccine to African Union member states, as the continent experiences a slow vaccine rollout, an uptick in cases and worries about new mutations.


President Biden wants to forge an “alliance of democracies.” China wants to make clear that it has alliances of its own.

China hopes to position itself as the main challenger to an international order led by the U.S. The world is increasingly dividing into distinct, if not purely, ideological camps, with both China and the U.S. hoping to lure supporters, our Beijing bureau chief writes.

Quotable: “They’re actually trying to build an argument like, ‘We’re the more responsible power. We’re not the spoilers or an axis of evil,’” John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, said of China’s strategy.

Related: The Communist Party’s youth wing and official news outlets used grabby memes and hashtags to start a tsunami of nationalist fury over Xinjiang cotton. Here’s how it came together.

In the Indian state of Assam, a group of women known as the Hargila Army is leading a conservation effort to rescue the endangered greater adjutant stork. The group is trying to change perceptions of the birds as pests, by, for instance, weaving motifs of the storks into traditional textiles. The work is helping the women, too. Many receive tools and training enabling them to earn extra income.

Anton Troianovski, The Times’s Moscow bureau chief, spoke to our colleagues from The Morning about Aleksei Navalny, the loudest critic of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Mr. Navalny is serving a sentence in a Russian prison camp. Here’s an excerpt.

What’s the current situation?

Navalny is in prison, and his lawyers are saying his health is in decline. This past year also saw the advent of a new phase: The arrests and repression surrounding the Navalny protests were the most severe that Russia had seen under Putin. He has tried to stifle dissent, but young people are opposing him in extraordinary numbers — only 31 percent want to see Putin remain president, according to one recent poll.

This month, the Russian government said it was slowing access to Twitter. Why does that matter?

Putin built his image and his power by controlling TV — that has always been his biggest weapon — but the internet remains essentially free in Russia. This is an experiment to see what Putin can do to squash those remaining freedoms that Russians have.

What’s next?

Navalny’s team has promised to organize another nationwide protest once 500,000 people sign up for it; they haven’t given a date. After that, the next big moment could be around the parliamentary elections in September. That’s when Putin opponents of all stripes will really try to organize opposition to the Kremlin. The opposition is going to find ways to keep the pressure on, and the Kremlin will find means of fighting back even harder.

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Joyce Carol Oates slams Brandeis over ban on ‘picnic,’ other words

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Even liberal novelists aren’t buying Brandeis University’s “Oppressive Language List,” which contains head scratchers like “picnic,” “rule of thumb” and “everything going on right now.”

Pulitzer Prize winner Joyce Carol Oates took to her popular Twitter account on Thursday to poke fun at the list, which was developed by the school’s Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center.

“What is strange is that while the word ‘picnic’ is suggested for censorship, because it evokes, in some persons, lynchings of Black persons in the US, the word ‘lynching’ is not itself censored,” Oates said in one post.

“Picnic” disappeared from the online Oppressive Language List sometime last week as reports of its existence spread, according to reports.

The university-sponsored website previously said the word “has been associated with lynchings of Black people in the United States, during which white spectators were said to have watched while eating.”

But other ultra-woke corrections remain — including suggestions to say “friends” instead of “tribe,” “give it a go” instead of “take a shot at” and “content note” instead of “trigger warning” — the latter because “the word ‘trigger’ has connections to guns for many people.”

Oates, 84, is a prolific tweeter who often uses her account to promote liberal politics and her opposition to former President Donald Trump.

Brandeis University released at list of “potentially oppressive language” from its Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center.
Brandeis University released at list of “potentially oppressive language” from its Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center.
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In another post on Thursday, the “Black Water” author worried what would become of professors and educators who disavowed the list’s recommendations.

“What sort of punishment is doled out for a faculty member who utters the word ‘picnic’ at Brandeis?–or the phrase ‘trigger warning’?” she asked.

“Loss of tenure, public flogging, self-flagellation?”

The university in a prepare statement last week said the “was developed by students” and was “in no no way an accounting of terms that Brandeis students, faculty or staff are prohibited from using or must substitute instead.”

“It is simply a resource that can be accessed by anyone who wants to consider their own language in an effort to be respectful of others who may have different reactions to certain terms and phrases,” spokesperson Julie Jette said.

About dis year BET Award

“Di BET Awards na di ultimate celebration of Black culture, and we dey look forward to spotlighting and celebrating Black women during dis year show

“Recognizing dem for everything wey dem don accomplish and applaud dem for what to come.”

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Belgian artist’s ‘portable oasis’ offers COVID protection — and fresh air

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When governments around Europe told people to create a “bubble” to limit their social contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic, this was probably not what they had in mind.

Alain Verschueren, a Belgian artist and social worker, has been strolling through the capital Brussels wearing a “portable oasis” – a plexiglass mini-greenhouse which rests on his shoulders, cocooning him in a bubble of air purified by the aromatic plants inside.

Verschueren, 61, developed the idea 15 years ago, inspired by the lush oases in Tunisia where he had previously worked. In a city where face coverings are mandatory to curb the spread of COVID-19, his invention has gained a new lease of life.

“It was about creating a bubble in which I could lock myself in, to cut myself off a world that I found too dull, too noisy or smelly,” Verschueren said, adding that he has asthma and finds breathing within his contraption more comfortable than wearing a facemask.

Alain Verschueren grabs attention from bystanders while wearing his "Portable Oasis" in Brussels, Belgium.
Alain Verschueren grabs attention from bystanders while wearing his “Portable Oasis” in Brussels, Belgium.
REUTERS/Yves Herman

“As time went by, I noticed that people were coming up to me and talking to me. This isolation became much more a way of connecting,” he said.

Onlookers in Brussels appeared amused and confused by the man wandering between the shops – mostly closed due to COVID-19 restrictions – encased in a pod of thyme, rosemary and lavender plants.

Alain Verschueren claims he finds breathing within his "Portable Oasis"  more comfortable than wearing a facemask due to his asthma.
Alain Verschueren claims he finds breathing within his “Portable Oasis” more comfortable than wearing a facemask due to his asthma.
REUTERS/Yves Herman

“Is it a greenhouse? Is it for the bees? Is it for the plants? We don’t know, but it’s a good idea,” Charlie Elkiess, a retired jeweller, told Reuters.

Verschueren said he hoped to encourage people to take better care of the environment, to reduce the need to protect ourselves from air and noise pollution.

Belgian artist Alain Verschueren wears his "Portable Oasis" while walking in a street in Brussels, Belgium on April 16, 2021.
Belgian artist Alain Verschueren wears his “Portable Oasis” while walking in a street in Brussels, Belgium on April 16, 2021.

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Chad’s longtime president Idriss Déby dies after fight against rebels

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President Idriss Déby died from wounds suffered on the battlefield during a fight against rebels.

Chad President Idriss Déby — who ruled the central African country for over 30 years — died Tuesday of wounds suffered on the battlefield during a fight against rebels, the military announced.

The stunning announcement on national media came just hours after officials had declared the 68-year-old the winner of the April 11 election, paving the way for him to stay in power for six more years.

The military said Déby had taken “the heroic lead in combat operations against terrorists who had come from Libya.”

After being wounded in battle, he then was taken to the capital, Gen. Azem Bermandoa Agouma said.

“In the face of this worrying situation, the people of Chad must show their attachment to peace, to stability and to national cohesion,” Agouma said.

Chad President Idriss Deby
A supporter carries a picture of Chad President Idriss Deby during a Peace Process rally in Darfur.
REUTERS

An 18-month transitional council will be led by the late president’s 37-year-old son, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, the military said, as it imposed a nightly 6 p.m. curfew.

Déby, a former army commander-in-chief, first came to power in 1990 when his rebel forces overthrew then-President Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses.

Chadian President Idriss Deby inspects a seized rebel technical in Adre, Chad.
Chadian President Idriss Deby inspects a seized rebel technical in Adre, Chad.
AFP via Getty Images

He had survived several armed rebellions over the years and managed to stay in power until this latest insurgency led by a group calling itself the Front for Change and Concord in Chad.

The rebels are believed to have armed and trained in Libya before crossing into Chad on April 11.

President of Chad Idriss Deby
Deby first came to power in 1990 when his rebel forces overthrew then-President Hissene Habre.
EPA

Déby was a major French ally in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa, hosting the base for the French military Operation Barkhane and providing forces to the peacekeeping effort in Mali.

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