India’s coronavirus cases, Himalayas, K-pop: Your Monday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering India’s growing outbreak, the tensions between India and China in the Himalayas and Lebanon’s financial crisis.

On a day when India reported more than 28,000 new coronavirus infections, one case in particular caught the whole country’s attention: Amitabh Bachchan, a Bollywood star and one of India’s most revered figures.

Mr. Bachchan, known as Big B, announced on Saturday to his 43 million followers on Twitter that he had tested positive, before urging his recent contacts to get tested themselves. His son, Abhishek, and daughter-in-law, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, both actors, have also become infected.

India, which closed down early and then reopened to save its battered economy, is now racking up about 30,000 new reported infections each day — more than any other country except the United States and Brazil. And it is rapidly catching up to Brazil. With more than 850,000 cases nationwide, hospitals in India are overflowing.

case study:

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

In other developments:

Weeks after a deadly brawl erupted along the border between China and India, thousands of both countries’ troops are amassed over a contentious, jagged line in the Himalayas.

New satellite photos reveal a major Chinese buildup, including new tents, storage sheds, artillery pieces and even tanks. It all adds up to a growing Chinese push into the Indian region of Ladakh, a move locals say has been in the works for years.

Our reporter spoke to some of the few thousand Ladakhis trapped in between, who are Tibetan in culture but who identify as Indian. They say that incursions have happened for years within a code of silence.

Details: Indian Army officials, who declined to comment, did not act when Ladakhis told them of Chinese incursions into the area, perhaps avoiding conflict or refusing to face the fact that a more powerful and aggressive military was steadily nibbling away at it.

Context: Analysts say China may be taking a more aggressive approach in the area, and may have been provoked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brand of renewed Indian nationalism.

Hong Kong’s opposition party said on Sunday that over 600,000 residents of the city cast ballots in primaries that some viewed as a symbolic vote against tough national security laws.

The unofficial poll will decide the strongest pro-democracy candidates to contest elections in September for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. The party is aiming for a majority in what is usually a pro-Beijing body by riding a wave of anti-China sentiment stirred by the new laws.

Though the primaries are only for the opposition camp, participation can be seen as a gauge for popular opinion. It remains to be seen whether Beijing’s new powers will make that path impossible.

Quotable: “A high turnout will send a very strong signal to the international community, that we Hong Kongers never give up,” said Sunny Cheung, 24, one of a batch of aspiring young democrats out lobbying and giving stump speeches.

For all their hero status, health workers around the world face intense pressure and stress, intensified by this pandemic. Dr. Lorna Breen, above, was known for being an unflappable emergency room doctor in Manhattan — until the virus. She suffered a breakdown in the midst of the crisis, and she died by suicide in April.

Dozens of her loved ones shared memories of her with our reporters, and told them about how she was devastated that she could not help many of her patients. “She had something that was a little bit different,” recalled her colleague and friend Dr. Barbara Lock, “and that was this optimism that her persistent efforts will save lives.”

China: Xu Zhangrun, a law professor in Beijing known for criticizing the Communist Party, was allowed to go home after being detained a week ago, people familiar with him said.

K-pop: Fans of the band Blackpink, many of them in India, unleashed a torrent of criticism, including accusations of cultural appropriation and disrespect, after a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha flashed onscreen in a music video. The video was removed, and the band apologized. It was another example of how eagle-eyed K-pop fans will come together to push for issues they believe in.

Roger Stone: President Trump’s commutation of the sentence of his former campaign adviser for obstructing an investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign was the latest example of Mr. Trump bending legal machinery to his advantage.

In case you missed it: The center-right People’s Action Party, which has never been out of power, won again in Singapore’s elections, but by a narrower margin than usual. The opposition racked up a record 10 of Parliament’s 93 seats.

Snapshot: Above, the police drag protesters in Beirut on Sunday. Our correspondents took stock of how Lebanon’s financial crisis has sent inflation soaring and closed businesses, replacing the city’s once raucous nightlife with an eerie desolation.

What we’re reading: This South China Morning Post article about students derailed by U.S. visa restrictions. “U.S.-China tensions are playing out not just on the world stage but at schools like the University of Rochester, where 19 percent of students are Chinese,” writes Jennifer Jett, an editor in Hong Kong. “But it’s not as simple as one side against the other.”

Cook: David Tanis’s vegetarian burger doesn’t mimic the texture or look of ground meat, but it isn’t meant to. It’s more like deluxe refried beans, with an egg on top.

Read or listen: The Times Magazine’s “Decameron Project,” inspired by Boccaccio’s 14th-century tales during the plague, brings together 29 new short stories from writers including Margaret Atwood, Yiyun Li, Esi Edugyan and Charles Yu. You can listen to two of the stories here.

Make: You can turn your copy of The Times (or any other newspaper) into ornamental beads, with a little glue and our templates.

Reopening and reclosings seem to be everywhere. For those minimizing their exposure, At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do.

Paul B. Brown, a freelance writer, entered the pandemic believing he was in good shape financially, but he lost most of his income virtually overnight. Now, he says, he has a lot more to do. He shared some of the lessons he has learned.

Keep even more cash on hand.

The standard personal finance advice is to have at least three months of living expenses stashed away in something liquid and ultrasafe. I am going to try to get that number up to a year’s worth of reserves. The goal is more to create peace of mind than to increase my net worth. I never want to worry about meeting day-to-day expenses again.

Manage debt more aggressively.

I’ve always paid off my full credit card balances each month, so I have never had credit card debt. But I do have three mortgages. I always paid more than I had to each month on each mortgage, because I considered prepaying a kind of forced savings. The mortgages have different interest rates. From now on, I am going to put all extra payments toward the one with the highest interest rate.

Keep the big picture in mind.

You never buy insurance because you hope to submit a claim someday. You do it to protect against a time when something awful may happen. I have always thought of saving money the same way.

But the pandemic has made me realize that I’m not sure how much I’ll really need to have salted away to protect my family and to keep our solidly middle-class standard of living intact, both now and into the future.

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

— Melina

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on the fate of President Trump’s tax records.
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• “The Jungle Prince of Delhi,” a Times story about the mysterious royal family of Oudh from the reporter Ellen Barry, is being adapted for an Amazon series by the director Mira Nair.

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