Coronavirus, Assam Tribunals, Global Recession: Your Monday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering India’s coronavirus outbreak, whistle-blowers’ stories of the citizenship test in Assam and an endless honeymoon for two stranded travelers.

ImagePeople stand on their balconies and light candles or oil lamps in Ahmedabad, India, on Sunday, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the country for a lights-out vigil.
Credit…Amit Dave/Reuters

As India’s reported coronavirus cases rose past 3,000, people across the country observed a nine-minute lights-out vigil as instructed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday night.

Assam State’s vast effort to “test” individuals’ citizenship has been called a preview of what could happen across the country as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government moves to make India more Hindu.

Two key components of this campaign, which began last year, are mass reviews of every resident’s paperwork to see if they can prove citizenship, and a tribunal that has operated for decades reviewing suspected foreigners.

A Times video team went to Assam to investigate, and whistle-blowers told them how the process is making Muslims stateless. Watch the eight-minute video.

How it works: Many poor Indians lack the required paperwork to prove citizenship, like parents’ voting records and land ownership documents that have been certified by authorities as authentic, so the reviews have left a disproportionate number of Muslims potentially stateless.

And five former tribunal members and one current member described pressure to declare Muslims noncitizens. Some said they were fired for not doing so.

Response: State and central government officials declined to comment.

Snapshot: Above, Olivia and Raul De Freitas, a couple stuck on an endless honeymoon in the Maldives. They are part of a host of travelers around the world stranded indefinitely by travel restrictions and decreased flight schedules.

What we’re surfing: The Open Culture website. “I don’t have kids at home anymore,” writes our national correspondent Mike Wines. “But if I did, and if they were on 24/7 lockdown with me for uncounted weeks, this is the website I would want.”

Cook: Citrus-scented and speckled with cornmeal, one-bowl poundcake is excellent toasted and buttered for breakfast.

Explore: Expand your virtual horizons and try a new video game. Or take a virtual gallery tour with our art critics.

Cope: This elegant guide to working out in hotel rooms sure comes in handy now. As does this sly advice for how to deal with noisy neighbors. And here’s how to keep a handle on the wear and tear your home is experiencing now.

We have a lot of ideas about what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

Economists are increasingly worried about the length and severity of a global recession resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. Some 6.6 million people in the U.S. filed new unemployment insurance claims in the latest numbers — nearly 20 times that of a typical week. I spoke with Ron Lieber, The Times’s Your Money columnist.

What do you tell people who are struggling to process all this?

It doesn’t look quite like anything we’ve seen before in our lifetime. Trying to plan or make predictions is really hard — and to tell people to embrace that uncertainty is not really helpful. I think the best thing is to talk to as many people as possible who have the same uncertainty that you do.

Is there any financial housekeeping that people who are not laid off but are worried about the economy should get in order?

The problem is: It’s like if your neighbor’s house is burning down, but the fire hasn’t gotten to your house yet, it’s too late to buy insurance. It’s helpful to have an emergency fund, but trying to start one now may not be much help.

You’ve written in the past couple of months that despite the tumult in the stock market, most people should pretty much sit still. Is that still the case?

All the best economic science tells us that if — and it’s a big “if” — you’re willing to stay invested in stock for decades and decades, if you just sit still more or less, keep putting money in at regular intervals, and sell some stock when stock prices get too high and buy some stock when the prices fall, you will do better and earn more than most professional brokers.

Now, that’s a science-based answer — it’s not quite a behavioral-science-based answer. I recognize that there are people who have never been psychologically tested in this way before.


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

— Melina


Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is a bit of relief: an excerpt from a new Times audio series called “Sugar Calling,” hosted by the best-selling author Cheryl Strayed, in which she chats with her mentor and friend, the author George Saunders.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Killer of the Night King on “Game of Thrones” (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Times journalists were honored by the Overseas Press Club with awards in five categories and one citation, leading our honored competitors for a second straight year.

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