Monday, November 30

Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times


The Russian capital’s strict lockdown ended abruptly on Tuesday, while officials there continued to report more than 1,000 daily new coronavirus cases.

Barbershops, beauty parlors, veterinary clinics and photography studios were allowed to reopen, and the city’s intricate system of digital permits for leaving one’s house stopped operating. Other businesses will reopen in phases, including gyms by the end of June.

The easing of restrictions came as a nationwide vote on extending President Vladimir Putin’s rule loomed. And a grand military parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II is scheduled for the week prior. Analysts said ending the lockdown could help drum up much-needed enthusiasm.

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

In other virus news:

  • The president of the United Nations General Assembly said Monday that world leaders would not come to New York for their annual gathering in September, a first in the U.N.’s 75-year history.

  • The Hong Kong government is bailing out Cathay Pacific Airways by injecting about $5 billion and taking a direct stake in its operations.

  • The Salzburg Festival, classical music and opera’s most important annual event, will go forward in August in modified form. Audiences of up to 1,000 — about half the capacity of the main theater — will be allowed, and there will be 90 performances over 30 days, down from the original plan of more than 200 performances over 44 days.

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Findings: Of the roughly 4,600 accounts that reposted China’s leading official voices during a recent week, one in six tweeted with extremely high frequency despite having few followers. Nearly one in seven tweeted almost nothing of their own, instead reposting official Chinese accounts and others.


There has been intense debate about the use of facial recognition technology in the public and private sectors.

Law enforcement agencies and some companies use it to identify suspects and victims by matching photos or video with databases like driver’s license records. But civil liberties groups warn that facial recognition erodes privacy, reinforces bias against black people and can be misused.

Timnit Gebru, a leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence team, explained why she thinks the police shouldn’t use facial recognition. Below is an excerpt from her conversation with Shira Ovide for the latest On Tech newsletter.

Shira: What are your concerns about facial recognition?

Timnit: I collaborated with Joy Buolamwini at the M.I.T. Media Lab on an analysis that found very high disparities in error rates [in facial identification systems] especially between lighter-skinned men and darker-skinned women. In melanoma screenings, imagine there’s a detection technology that doesn’t work for people with darker skin.

I also realized even perfect facial recognition can be misused. I’m a black woman living in the U.S. who has dealt with serious consequences of racism. Facial recognition is being used against the black community.

But a police officer or eyewitness could also look at surveillance footage and mug shots and misidentify someone as Jim Smith. Is software more accurate or less biased than humans?

That depends. Our analysis showed that for us, facial recognition was way less accurate than humans.



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