Friday, April 23

Your Monday Briefing – The New York Times

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a bad turn in parts of Asia. Cases are climbing quickly in Japan and South Korea, which had long managed to avoid the worst. And because Hong Kong is grappling with a spike, a plan for a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore has been put on hold.

Japan has had its worst-ever jump in new cases, breaking records on four consecutive days, with at least 2,508 new cases on Sunday. Its previous worst spike dropped off after peaking at nearly 2,000 cases in early August.

South Korea has had a smaller increase, with five straight days of more than 300 cases. Last week new restrictions were announced for Seoul and surrounding areas, including limiting the number of people at events like concerts, conferences and festivals to 100.

The Kolyma Highway in the Russian Far East once delivered tens of thousands of prisoners to the work camps of Stalin’s gulag. But for many Russians, including former prisoners, the horrors of the gulag are fading.

There are now businesses that sell fake people. If you just need a couple of fake people — for characters in a video game, or to make your company website appear more diverse — you can get their photos for free on a website. These simulated people are also used by spies to infiltrate the intelligence community, right-wing propagandists who hide behind fake profiles and online harassers who troll their targets with a friendly visage.

You can spot some of the mistakes and patterns we found that our A.I. system repeated when it was conjuring fake faces. Earrings, for example, might look similar but often may not exactly match. Abstract or blurry backgrounds are often giveaways.

“It was pretty interesting to set up our own A.I. system and generate hundreds of faces to see how it’s done. This story explores how good the technology is getting and how you can spot the fakes,” Jeremy wrote.

“The hard thing about covering tech is that it is both amazingly powerful and unexpectedly flawed at the same time,” Kashmir wrote.

Have a look.

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

— Carole (a real person)

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 about the pandemic in a rural area of the U.S.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Concept of universal justice (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Because words with harmful connotations have been baked into tech communication, The Times is re-examining the language we use to describe our technology.

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