Bolsonaro, Students in the U.S., Arctic Fires:Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the coronavirus in Brazil, a U.S. move to force out international students and what will become of hostels.

ImagePresident Jair Bolsonaro speaking to reporters on Tuesday after announcing that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday that he had been infected; he had repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus in Brazil, which has been battered by the world’s second-worst outbreak after the United States.

At one point the president described the coronavirus as “a measly cold,” and when asked in late April about the rising death toll, he replied: “So what? Sorry, but what do you want me to do?”

Speaking to journalists outside the palace, Mr. Bolsonaro, 65, said he had taken a test after experiencing fatigue, muscle pain and a fever. He did not express contrition for his handling of the pandemic, saying the demands of his job had put him at risk.

“I am the president, I have to be on the front lines of the fight,” he said. He compared the virus to “rain, which is going to get to you.”

Details: Brazil now has more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and more than 65,000 deaths.

Here are the latest updates and maps of where the virus has spread.

In other developments:

  • The U.S. gave formal notice that it was withdrawing from the World Health Organization. Effective in 2021, the move will cut off one of the organization’s top funding sources.

  • The World Health Organization acknowledged that airborne transmission of the coronavirus may be present in indoor spaces and said it would review its guidance.

  • Melbourne will be locked down for six weeks after seeing a record number of daily coronavirus cases, officials said on Tuesday.

  • The virus death toll in India surpassed 20,000 on Tuesday. With more than 719,500 confirmed cases, the country has overtaken Russia to become the third hardest-hit, after the U.S. and Brazil.

  • The U.S. government will pay the vaccine maker Novavax $1.6 billion to expedite the development of 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the beginning of next year.

Credit…Cassandra Klos for The New York Times

International students in the U.S. will have to return to their home countries if their universities are moving classes online, immigration officials announced.

An exception to visa requirements had been in place, allowing students to attend classes online. But this fall, when many American universities are holding classes virtually, the students’ visas will no longer be valid.

It was a blow to students who are already struggling to pursue their education abroad during the pandemic. Many have been forced to stay at friends’ houses and are not eligible for federal financial help tied to the pandemic.

Details: More than a million international students were issued visas to study in the United States last year.

Credit…Yevgeny Sofroneyev/TASS, via Getty Images

Blazes in the Arctic have released more polluting gases into the Earth’s atmosphere in the last month than any other fires have released in 18 years of data collection.

In June, the fires released 59 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide, scientists said on Tuesday. For context, that’s more than all the carbon that oil-producing Norway emits in a year.

The Arctic is warming at least two and a half times faster than the global average rate. Smoke from the Siberian fires seems to be reaching as far as the Pacific Northwest in the U.S., scientists said.

Credit…Loon LLC

A fleet of high-altitude balloons the size of tennis courts started delivering internet service to Kenya on Tuesday, giving online access to tens of thousands of people. It’s the first-ever commercial deployment of the technology.

The “floating cell towers” provide 4G LTE network connection to an area across central and western Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi. Telecom providers in other countries are closely watching to assess whether the technology is reliable and the service can be profitable.

Deutsche Bank: The German lender agreed to a $150 million settlement with New York financial regulators after it failed to act on suspicious transactions by Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender.

Credit…Pavel Horejsi for The New York Times

Snapshot: Above, tourists at a hostel in Prague. The low-budget accommodations attract travelers who want to meet people, but that idea is being put to the test in a time of social distancing.

What we’re reading: This Star Tribune profile of the radio host Garrett McQueen. Melissa Eddy, our Berlin correspondent, calls it a “great profile of his mission to expand our idea of how we define classical music.”

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Read: “Lake Life” is a tale of a family getaway gone very wrong. The novel is less concerned with the origins of dysfunction than with how it plays out, our reviewer writes.

Do: Strength training is more physiologically intricate than most of us might have imagined. A new study shows that before our muscles become stronger, our nervous system changes.

Staying safe at home is easier when you have plenty of things to read, cook, watch and do. At Home has our full collection of ideas.

Credit…Zipeng Zhu

After China imposed a new security law on Hong Kong, Facebook, Google, Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Twitter and some other digital companies said they would temporarily stop handing over people’s information when the Hong Kong authorities ask for it. Here’s what Shira Ovide from our On Tech newsletter wrote about their decision.

Going up against the new law could force those companies to shut down service in Hong Kong. It would also be a public defiance of China’s government that we rarely see from global companies. No one knows what happens next.

U.S. internet companies face hard calls as they decide how and whether to comply with the divergent laws and norms of each country they operate in without violating their own missions.

When it comes to China, those complications are multiplied by a thousand. The government and some of its supportive citizens are willing to punish global companies and organizations like the National Basketball Association that don’t go along with the government’s views of itself or the world.

Companies with business in China have twisted themselves in knots, for example, trying not to offend the government by appearing to side with Hong Kong’s demonstrators pressing for autonomy.

This Hong Kong law, however, presents the U.S. internet powers with one of those hard choices multiplied by a thousand. If they go along with China’s new law, they will likely face backlash from American politicians and their employees.

If they don’t comply, China might make it impossible for the American internet companies to continue to operate in Hong Kong. It might seize the tech companies’ offices in the city or even arrest its employees. You can imagine how the U.S. government would respond to that.

Even while they’re banned in China, the internet companies might not be able to avoid trouble with China.

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

— Melina

Thank you
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Melissa Clark provided the recipe, and Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about what Trump’s divisive speech at Mount Rushmore reveals about his re-election campaign.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Abruptly stop texting (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Our tech reporter Taylor Lorenz spoke to ABC’s Good Morning America about her reporting on high school students exposing racism they face at school on Instagram.

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