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Your Wednesday Briefing


The global economy is expected to contract by 3 percent this year because of economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic — the steepest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday.

The grim forecast in its 2020 World Economic Outlook is an extraordinary reversal from January, when the I.M.F. predicted moderate growth at 3.3 percent. The revised forecast takes into account disrupted supply chains and sustained standstills in industries like tourism.

“The world has been put in a Great Lockdown,” said Gita Gopinath, the fund’s chief economist. “The magnitude and speed of collapse in activity that has followed is unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes.”

Though it predicted a partial rebound next year, the fund said there was still a chance the outcome could be even worse. This year’s decline in output, the I.M.F. predicts, would be worse than that of the 2008 recession, when the economy contracted by less than 1 percent, but less severe than that of the Great Depression, when output contracted by 10 percent.

Addressing the nation, Mr. Modi said the extension, to May 3, would prevent an increase in cases. He warned that more restrictions in the world’s largest lockdown could follow.

“If you look at it only economically, it has been expensive,” he said of the lockdown. “But you can’t put a price on the lives of Indians.”

Left unanswered were questions about how India’s hundreds of millions of informal workers, migrants stuck far from home and homeless citizens would fare over the coming weeks. Many have been struggling to eat.

Reminder: Though India has a low case count for its population — about 10,000 confirmed infections and 339 deaths — experts worry that a rapid transmission could bring chaos. Hospitals lack the resources they need, and densely packed neighborhoods make it hard to contain the virus’s spread. Testing is also still not widely accessible.

Li Wenliang, a doctor in the Chinese city of Wuhan, died of the coronavirus in February at the age of 34, after going online to warn friends of the strange and deadly virus rampaging through his hospital, only to be threatened by government authorities. Today people continue to gather, virtually, at his last post on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, to grieve and seek solace in the comments section.

They tell him “good morning” and “good night.” They tell him that spring has arrived and that the cherry blossoms are blooming. They send him photos of fried chicken drumsticks, his favorite snack. China’s virtual Wailing Wall has become the gentlest place on the country’s normally combative internet, writes our columnist Li Yuan.

U.S. presidential race: Barack Obama endorsed his former vice president, Joe Biden, in the 2020 contest, one day after Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mr. Biden’s last challenger, also endorsed him.

Snapshot: Above, a 150-foot-long siphonophore — a colony of cells that clone themselves to produce an extended, stringlike body — spotted off the coast of Western Australia. The organism could be the longest marine creature on Earth.

What we’re reading: This ESPN article about the complex family ties between Bruce Buffer, a mixed martial arts announcer, and Michael Buffer, a boxing announcer. Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a Times Magazine writer, calls it “a great story about two long-lost brothers who had the same calling, which was to call things — honestly, I couldn’t put this down.”

Cook kimchi soup. Use whatever meat you have on hand, or skip the meat for a vegetarian version.

Listen: There are new tracks from Laura Marling, Twenty One Pilots and Frank Ocean. Our music writers’ “Playlist” walks you through them.

Cope: Here’s how to cut hair if you’re not a barber. And why, perhaps, you should start a coronavirus diary. (Maybe to record all your weird, unsettling dreams?) You should definitely be cooking with condiments, and substituting ingredients as necessary.

Here’s our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do from our new At Home section.

William Broad, a science and health reporter, recently wrote about a decade of health disinformation promoted by President Vladimir Putin of Russia. We spoke to him about his article.

How did you become interested in this story?

Last year, I wrote about how Mr. Putin and his aides were doing their best to scare Americans into thinking the new cellphone technology known as 5G posed dire health threats. In researching that article, I noticed other areas in which the Kremlin was hypocritically ringing false alarms — especially on health issues — and started gathering string.

Mr. Putin’s personal history here seems fascinating. He seems to have spent some of his early career as a K.G.B. agent working on foreign disinformation campaigns, right?

Yes, no question. He was a K.G.B. officer who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and worked in foreign intelligence. American experts say such officers had to spend a quarter of their time conceiving and carrying out plans for sowing disinformation. So he’s been at this game for a very long time — something on the order of four decades.

Some of the public-health conspiracies promoted by Russia seem pretty out there and don’t seem to have had a big effect on American public opinion. But what do you think have been the biggest successes of this effort?

The Kremlin’s anti-vaccine campaign has done much to drive Americans away from childhood immunizations, helping stir a resurgence of measles, a disease once seen as defeated. Last year, the U.S. had 1,282 new cases, with 61 resulting in major complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis.

And what are the biggest ways that Putin’s campaign could influence coronavirus misinformation going forward?

At worst, it seems as if the false information on the coronavirus may help prolong the pandemic and contribute to new cases of incapacitation and death.

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 [email protected].

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about an allegation of sexual assault against Joe Biden.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Make laugh (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The editors of our book review wrote a letter to those whose livelihoods depend on books: “Our hearts go out to the debut authors of the season, many of whom spent years, perhaps a lifetime, waiting for the dream moment when their first book would make its way into the world.”


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