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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 worst downturn since the Great Depression, the International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday.

It’s an extraordinary reversal from early this year, when the fund predicted that the world economy would outpace 2019 and grow by 3.3 percent. The new projections took into account weeks of shuttered factories, quarantines and national lockdowns.

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

Governments have gingerly eased lockdowns this week in hopes of reviving business activity. Though Italy extended its lockdown to May 3, the country reopened some stores on Tuesday. In Spain, workers were allowed to return to factories and construction sites. Elementary schools will open in Denmark on Wednesday, while the Czech government has lifted bans on communal sports.

Britain, with the fastest-growing outbreak in Western Europe, has understated the human and economic cost of the coronavirus.

Deaths could be at least 10 percent higher than the official toll — 12,107 as of Tuesday — which did not include people who died in nursing homes or in their own private residences, according to government data. As many as 13 percent of the country’s nursing homes have had confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the chief medical adviser estimated.

A fiscal watchdog group predicted that Britain’s economy could shrink by 35 percent in the second quarter of this year, killing two million jobs. Those new numbers cast a grim shadow over the country’s response to the epidemic.

Closer look: In one week, more than 16,000 people died of all causes in Britain — about 6,000 more than the five-year average for that time of year — a hint at the true death toll involving the coronavirus.

President Trump on Tuesday said that he would cut funding from the United States for the World Health Organization, accusing it of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the coronavirus.

With his poll numbers dropping, the president has shifted the blame in recent days as his handling of the outbreak has come under criticism. Mr. Trump said the imposition of early travel restrictions on China, something the W.H.O. had advised against as recently as February, saved thousands of lives.

It’s unclear if the funding cut is permanent, with Mr. Trump saying the payments will stop while the administration reviews the organization’s handling of the virus.

Details: Last year, the United States contributed about $553 million to the W.H.O., which has a biennial budget of about $6 billion.

Watch: Doctors voice their fears about making the wrong decisions in treating patients; some said they have had to abandon long-held ventilator protocols for certain patients.

Opinion: One epidemiologist explores how scientists can determine who is immune to the coronavirus based on only glimmers of data.

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.

52 Places, virtually: Wander into the belly of an Egyptian pyramid, explore the house where Mozart was born — we invite you on a series of virtual visits.

Relaxing watch: Our restaurant critic planned to be productive during lockdown. But he was foiled by a mesmerizing six-hour video of grazing sheep.

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 of 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 to 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 may 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.

— Isabella

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 today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: misbehave (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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