Your Wednesday Briefing
We’re covering explosive testimony from a Facebook insider and schools without masks in England.
‘Profits before people’
In testimony before Congress, Frances Haugen, the whistle-blower who sent internal Facebook documents to journalists, accused the tech giant of putting its “astronomical profits before people,” and said that congressional intervention was needed.
“They need to admit they did something wrong, and they need help to solve these problems,” Haugen said during the hearing on Tuesday. Here are the key takeaways from her testimony.
Facebook employees responded with anger and relief.
Context: Haugen had shared documents showing how Facebook made decisions that fostered hate speech and misinformation and knew that its products were harmful to teens.
What’s next: Haugen has presented damning evidence “but it’s up to lawmakers to turn that evidence into regulations that address the specific issues she raised,” our tech columnist Kevin Roose wrote in our live blog. “It’s hard to be optimistic on that front, given Congress’s record on tech regulation,” he wrote, adding: “If Congress fails to regulate Facebook effectively now, it won’t be because of a lack of evidence.”
Global Facebook outage: For more than five hours on Monday, the world got a taste of life without Facebook and its apps. In India, Latin America and Africa, its services have become almost a public utility, usually cheaper than a phone call.
Schools in England go maskless as cases rise
England took a high-stakes gamble when it sent millions of students back to school last month with neither coronavirus vaccinations nor a requirement to wear face masks.
On Tuesday, the Education Department issued its report card on how the plan was working: 186,000 students were absent from school on Sept. 30 with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19, the highest number since the pandemic began.
Yet to hear many parents tell it, our correspondents write, the bigger risk would have been to force the students to keep wearing masks or, worse, to keep them home. With cases rising fastest among those 10 to 19, the English instinct to just “get on with it” is being put to the test.
Details: There are still 90 percent of the 8.4 million students in state-supported schools attending classes, and the schools are functioning close to normally.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
Australia and New Zealand inched closer to reopening their economies by announcing steps to allow vaccinated people to move more freely. Australia said foreign visitors would not be able to visit until 2022 at the earliest.
India’s Supreme Court ordered the government to pay 50,000 rupees, about $671, to families of people who have died from Covid.
China brings business to heel
Chinese tech companies are reeling from regulation. Nervous creditors are hoping for a bailout for China’s largest developer. Growing numbers of executives are going to jail. For China’s leader, Xi Jinping, it’s all part of the plan.
Under Xi, China is reshaping how businesses work and limiting executives’ power. The policies are driven by a desire for state control and self-reliance as well as concerns about debt, inequality and influence by countries like the U.S.
“The very definition of what development means in China is changing,” said Yuen Yuen Ang, a political science professor at the University of Michigan. “In the past decades, the model was straightforward: It was one that prioritized the speed of growth over all other matters.”
Details: There’s been no word from officials about a bailout for Evergrande, the troubled property giant; the central bank announced that transactions using unapproved cryptocurrency would be illegal; and authorities have cracked down on corruption and bribery.
Related: A Chinese real estate developer, Fantasia Holdings Group, missed a key payment to foreign bondholders this week, heightening fears of a coming crisis in the property sector.
THE LATEST NEWS
The son of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos announced his plan to run for president of the Philippines.
Fumio Kishida, the new prime minister of Japan, held his first talk as leader with President Biden.
American-made weapons and equipment that were provided to Afghan soldiers who surrendered to the Taliban are now being openly sold in Afghan gun shops.
Around the World
More than 200,000 minors were abused by clergy members in the Roman Catholic Church in France since 1950, an independent commission found.
Three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on how human behavior is influencing climate change.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken held meetings in Paris to rebuild trust between the U.S. and France following a secretive submarine deal.
The crisis gumming up the world’s supply chains is weighing on Germany. Recent surveys and other data point to a sharp slowdown of German manufacturing.
The C.I.A. has admitted to losing dozens of informants who have been hunted down by Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan and, in some cases, turned into double agents.
A Russian film crew boarded the International Space Station to shoot scenes for the first feature-length film in space.
A Morning Read
A pastor in the Mexican border city of Matamoros took in asylum seekers. But, amid overcrowding and the pandemic, he changed his mind and kicked out 200 people. Then, our correspondent writes, his estranged brother offered to shelter them just down the road in his one-bedroom home. The efforts illustrate the overwhelming situation on the U.S.-Mexico border and the lack of support for migrants.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A Chinese blockbuster about American defeat
“The Battle at Lake Changjin,” a government-sponsored, big-budget movie recounting a brutal battle in the Korean War, has touched a nerve for much of the public in China.
The movie depicts an against-all-odds defeat of the U.S., and it came out on the eve of China’s annual October holiday, known as Golden Week.
As a barometer of Chinese politics and culture, it’s a movie that captures the moment: aggrieved, defiant and jingoistic, a lavishly choreographed call to arms at a time of global crisis and tense relations with the world, especially with the U.S.
The villains are American soldiers and commanders, including a reasonable impersonation of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The heroes are the Chinese “volunteers” hurled against what was then viewed as the world’s most invincible army.
On Friday, its second day in cinemas, it broke China’s single-day box office record, raking in more than $60 million. By Tuesday, it had grossed more than $360 million, putting it on track to be among the most successful Chinese films ever made.
It did so despite mixed reviews, a running time of 2 hours 56 minutes, and technical errors on military history.
The battle, better known in the U.S. as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, drove the Americans and their allies out of North Korea in the winter of 1950, setting the stage for the stalemate that ended with a cease-fire three years later.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
This weeknight pasta with eggplant and ricotta is inspired by traditional caponata, a tangy, salty-sweet Italian dish.
What to Read
In “The Neighbor’s Secret,” L. Alison Heller gives us a dishy tale of nosy neighbors, mysterious vandalism, family shame — and murder.
What to Watch
Our picks for the best new streaming options for Australia in October include “Colin in Black & White,” “Poltergeist” and “Diana: The Musical.”
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Board game of global conquest (four letters).
And here is today’s Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Melina
P.S. For the latest on the M.L.B. postseason, including analysis of the biggest games, sign up for our newsletter here.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court term.
You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].
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