Trump is Bent on a New Arms Race

Nuclear Arms Control, or a New Arms Race? Trump Seems Bent on the Latter.

Daryl G. Kimball

Even as the world’s nuclear-armed states squander tens of billions of dollars each year on nuclear weapons amid an epic and costly pandemic, the Trump administration is compounding the damage to global stability through ill-considered, unilateral actions that are destroying major pillars of the international security architecture. At risk are key agreements and arms control treaties that Republican and Democratic administrations have built to safeguard not only the United States but also its closest allies.

Multiple actions and comments just this month signal the administration’s intentions. In an interview published May 7 in The Washington Times, President Donald Trump’s new arms control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, suggested the United States may abandon the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is due to expire in February 2021 unless Trump takes up a Russian offer to extend the agreement by five years. New START verifiably limits each of the two nations’ long-range (i.e. strategic) nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.

But instead of extending New START, which effectively caps Russia’s strategic arsenal, Billingslea is doubling down on Trump’s gamble that Russia accept U.S. terms for a new arms control agreement involving not only Russia but also China. In remarks during an online discussion with the Hudson Institute on May 21, the envoy said the United States is prepared to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in order to win a new nuclear arms race, if they don’t agree to Trump’s terms for a new deal.

Then on Friday night, May 22, The Washington Post revealed that senior Trump officials recently discussed the option of conducting the first U.S. nuclear test explosion in 28 years as a way to pressure the Russian and Chinese leaders to accept the U.S. terms. The idea itself is provocative and reckless. A U.S. nuclear test blast would certainly not advance efforts to rein in Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals or create a better environment for negotiations. Instead, it would break the de facto global nuclear test moratorium, likely trigger nuclear testing by other states, and set off a new nuclear arms race in which everyone would come out a loser.

Unless the Trump administration comes to its senses and adjusts course—or a new presidential administration led by Joe Biden is elected and pursues a more enlightened approach—New START may disappear, other critical nuclear risk reduction agreements may fall by the wayside, and the door to an ever-more dangerous and costly global nuclear arms race will swing wide open.

Trump’s Record of Failure

The Trump administration came into office without a clear strategy to deal with what arguably is the paramount responsibility for a U.S. president: managing and reducing nuclear weapons risks. Trump arrived in the Oval Office with an irrational dislike for anything that President Barack Obama had been involved in creating but without a viable strategy for coming up with something better.

The administration’s official nuclear policy document, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, barely discusses arms control as a risk reduction tool. It passively states that “the United States will remain receptive to future arms control negotiations if conditions permit.” The result has been the dismantling of key nuclear and security agreements and failing efforts to make progress on new ones.

In 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally and formally withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a. the Iran nuclear deal, and re-imposed nuclear-related sanctions in violation of the agreement, despite the fact that Iran was meeting all of the restrictions mandated by the seven-party deal. The JCPOA had been a major success: it curtailed Iran’s capacity to produce bomb-grade nuclear material; requires a very robust international inspection system; and it prevented a major proliferation crisis and potentially a war. But Trump insisted the deal was not good enough. In addition to resuming sanctions that had been waived under the deal, he demanded more concessions from Tehran. The result; no new deal, no negotiations, and Iranian retaliatory steps to bypass many of the nuclear restrictions that were set by the original deal.

Last year, the Trump administration withdrew from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated 2,692 U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles and prohibited either country from deploying these weapons. The withdrawal followed a brief and perfunctory effort by the United States to find a resolution to allegations that Russia tested and deployed a missile in excess of the treaty’s 500 km range limit and Russian concerns the United States might use missile defense launchers in Europe for INF-prohibited offensive missiles. The U.S. withdrawal doesn’t eliminate the Russian missiles of concern, knows as the SSC-8, and now both sides are free to test and deploy INF-class missiles, which are inherently destabilizing because their relatively short time-to-target capability increases the risk of miscalculation in a crisis.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced the administration’s intention to unilaterally withdraw from yet another international security treaty that helps to keep the post-Cold War peace with Russia and is widely supported by the United States’ allies in Europe: the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. Open Skies helped preserve the post-Cold War peace by allowing the 34 participating nations, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation aircraft over one another’s territory. This helps preserve a measure of transparency and trust, thereby enhancing stability and reducing the risk of conflict.

Like many treaties, especially one involving hundreds of flights over others’ territories, there have been troublesome implementation disputes, including restrictions set by Moscow on flight over its Kaliningrad enclave. Such problems can and should have been resolved through professional, pragmatic diplomacy, not by abandoning treaty commitments.

In a rebuke of Washington, 11 European nations, including France and Germany, issued a statement on May 22 expressing “regret” about the U.S. decision. They said they will continue to implement the treaty, which “remains functioning and useful.”

Though the Open Skies Treaty won’t necessarily die without the United States, it would be wounded. And the U.S. stands to lose valuable capabilities that cannot be replaced with other intelligence tools. Open Skies flights provide valuable information about Russian military exercises, they have helped counter Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and they have been used by the United States to overfly Russia’s former nuclear weapons test site.

Is New START Next?

On Feb. 5, shortly after the next presidential inauguration, New START is due to expire unless extended by mutual agreement “for a period of no more than five years unless it is superseded earlier by a subsequent agreement,” as allowed for in Article XIV of the treaty.

With eight months left before the expiration date, there is simply not enough time to negotiate, sign and ratify a new follow-on agreement. And New START is too important to throw away.

U.S. military and intelligence officials greatly value New START’s warhead and delivery-system ceilings and the associated monitoring and verification provisions, which provide predictability and transparency and help promote a stable nuclear deterrence posture vis-à-vis Russia.

Without the New START extension, the United States and Russia will be without limitations on their nuclear stockpiles for the first time since 1972. An already difficult relationship between the two nations will become far worse. Potentially, each side could rapidly upload – within months – hundreds of strategic warheads on their land- and sea-based strategic missile systems and exceed the original treaty limits. Without the treaty’s robust verification, on-site monitoring, and information-exchange requirements, each side’s confidence in assessing the other’s nuclear capabilities and plans would diminish.

For these and other reasons, all U.S. allies, in NATO and in East Asia, support the treaty’s extension. And among Americans, 80 percent of the public, based on recent polls, say they support the treaty’s extension. A bipartisan coalition in Congress supports extending New START.

In a video appearance on May 20, President Ronald Reagan’s former secretary of state, George Schultz, called on the White House to extend New START. “It’s up to us, the U.S. Let’s get going.”

But with the clock winding down on the treaty, Trump and his team continue to rebuff President Vladimir Putin’s offer to extend New START. In his Hudson Institute remarks, Billingslea made clear the administration is not satisfied with New START and may not extend it. “Any potential extension of our existing obligations [i.e. New START] must be tied to progress towards a new era of arms control,” Billingslea said, without defining “progress.”

The goal of “a new era of arms control,” he says, is a new agreement that limits both Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons and its tactical nuclear weapons, and that also involves China. Experts have debated and discussed how to move beyond talks on bilateral U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions to third-country nuclear arsenals for some time. The practical challenge is how and when. Tough rhetoric from U.S. officials will not, by itself, deliver results, given the fact that Bejing has never been part of such a negotiation and has a nuclear stockpile of about 300 nuclear weapons, which is less than one-tenth the size of the U.S. and Russian arsenals.

Not surprisingly, senior Chinese officials have repeatedly said they are not interested in an arms control deal so long as Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals remain orders of magnitude larger than theirs. Russian officials say they are open to talks with China, but it is up to the United States to bring China to the table.

When asked what should motivate the Chinese to join U.S. and Russian officials in arms control talks, Billingslea argued that “if China wants to be a great power — and we know it has that self-image — it needs to behave like one. It must demonstrate the will and the ability to reverse its destabilizing nuclear buildup, and it should engage us bilaterally and trilaterally.”

Really? Maybe that argument works for Kim Jong-un, who craves the legitimacy that is conferred by direct talks with Trump. But that isn’t going to persuade Chinese President Xi Jinping to agree to talks with Washington on unspecified limitations on China’s arsenal.

New Types of Russian Weapons Systems

As for U.S. and Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons, negotiations to account for, reduce, and eliminate those arms are overdue, but they won’t be easy either. Russian officials say they are prepared to do so, but only if U.S. leaders are willing to address Russian concerns, including U.S. missile defenses—an issue U.S. officials say is non-negotiable.

Trump officials also say they are worried that several new types of Russian strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems may not be covered by New START. “They should simply wrap those programs up and discard them,” Billingslea told The Washington Times.

Billingslea is either ignoring or is ignorant of the fact that Moscow announced earlier this year that New START would, in fact, cover two of those new Russian systems: Sarmat, a new intercontinental ballistic missile, and Avangard, a hypersonic glide vehicle. Without an extension of New START, these weapons, like all of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons, would not be limited by any treaty. The other new Russian weapons—a nuclear-armed long-range torpedo and a nuclear-powered cruise missile—are still under development. Independent experts estimate they will not be ready for deployment before 2026, which would be after the maximum period New START could be extended in any case.

At the close of his May 21 Hudson appearance, Billingslea warned Russia and China that if they don’t agree to Trump’s terms, “the president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here. We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it,” Billingslea claimed.

No One “Wins” Arms Races

Such bravado ignores the fact that the White House doesn’t approve federal spending, no country can afford an all-out nuclear arms race, and no one “wins” arms races.

The estimated price tag for the U.S. plan to replace and upgrade its nuclear arsenal is currently estimated to be around $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years. This plan was excessive, unaffordable and unsustainable before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, with the exploding federal debt, the need for trillions more spending for economic stimulus and relief, plus the other demands of the $700 billion plus annual defense budget, Congress will want to — and will need to — delay, trim, or even cancel some of the major elements of the nuclear modernization plan. Options for trimming the scale and the massive cost can be pursued in a way that maintains the U.S. nuclear force at New START levels, or at lower levels as part of a strategy for further U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions.

A Better Way

Trump’s impulse to pursue more ambitious nuclear arms control talks is laudable; attempts to cajole adversaries with threats of further treaty withdrawals or nuclear test explosions are not. Negotiations to achieve deeper, verifiable reductions in all types of U.S. and Russian weapons are not a new idea, and they are very much overdue. After all, in 2013 Obama sought such talks to achieve a further one-third cut in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, but Putin rejected the idea.

Engaging China and the other nuclear-armed states more deeply in the nuclear disarmament enterprise is also important for international peace and security. Such negotiations, however, if they are to actually start and are to be successful, need to be pursued smartly and without threats of arms racing. They require persistence and skill, as they will complex and time-consuming.

At the moment, team Trump has no realistic chance of concluding a new agreement along these lines before New START is due to expire. It would be irresponsible to gamble away New START, or to conduct a nuclear test explosion, in a desperate attempt to coerce unilateral concessions from China and Russia on a new arms control deal. But that is what Trump’s circle of advisors seem to be contemplating.

Instead, if Trump were to agree to extend New START by five years, he would create the time and the necessary environment for a follow-on deal with Russia that addresses other issues of mutual concern, including tactical nuclear weapons and missile defenses. A New START extension also could put pressure on China to provide more information about its nuclear weapons stockpile, and perhaps agree to freeze the overall size of its nuclear arsenal or agree to limit a certain class of weapons, such as nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

The decisions made in the next few months will determine whether we face an even more complex and dangerous nuclear future, or a slightly more stable one with good options for halting and reversing the nuclear weapons competition and the risks that entails.

 

Russia’s New’Invincible’ Hypersonic Nuclear Missiles (Daniel 7)

Russia Building Stealth Bomber That May Carry ‘Invincible’ Hypersonic Nuclear Missiles: Report

On 5/27/20 at 5:15 AM EDT

Reuters reported that the prototype build for the stealth bomber—known as the PAK DA—has now begun, citing a report by the state-run Tass news agency which cited two sources “in the military industrial complex.”

One source told Tass that work building the cockpit of the PAK DA—an acronym that stands for the Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation program—has already begun.

The source said that the production of the airframe will be handled by a plant run by the United Aircraft Corporation, an aerospace and defense corporation in which the government is the majority stakeholder. “Material shipping” for the project has now begun, the source added.

A second unnamed source said that the prototype should be ready by 2021 though Tupolev—the aerospace company designing the bomber which is overseen by UAC—declined to comment. Newsweek has contacted Tupolev to request clarification on the reports.

Tass said that the PAK DA will be able to carry a range of “advanced” missiles and bombs, including hypersonic weapons. Russia has invested huge sums in its hypersonic program over recent years, now fielding aircraft- and intercontinental ballistic missile-launched hypersonic arms able to deliver nuclear warheads.

Tass did not specify which weapons, but Russia has already put its Kinzhal—meaning “dagger”—hypersonic missile into service following successful tests being fired by MiG-31 fighter jets and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers.

The Kinzhal was among the weapons unveiled by Vladimir Putin in 2018, which the Russian president described as “invincible.” It reportedly travels at around 10 times the speed of sound at a range of 1,250 miles, capable of hitting land-based or naval targets.

The PAK DA will be Russia’s first stealth bomber. Moscow has lagged behind the U.S. in developing stealth aircraft, fielding its first stealth fighter jet—the Su-57—in 2010. The Su-57 has since been deployed to Syria, though has not yet been produced in large numbers.

Its development was beset by delays and cost overruns, prompting frustration in India which was a partner on the project. New Delhi eventually pulled out of the project in early 2018, suggesting that the aircraft no longer met its military requirements.

Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Alexey Krivoruchko said in December that the draft PAK DA project had been approved, and later added that the first engine test for the aircraft would be held sometime this year.

Tass said the aircraft will be designed in the “flying wing” style like the American B2 stealth bomber, which entered service in 1997 and has been deployed in various U.S. military operations since. Tass said the aircraft will be subsonic and equipped with “the newest communications and jamming equipment.”

This file photo shows Russian MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jets carrying hypersonic Kinzhal missiles over Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2018.KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images/Getty

Let the Arms Race Begin (Daniel)

The Bunker: Let the Arms Race Begin

May 27, 2020

By Mark Thompson Filed under analysis

We’re up in arms here at The Bunker this week: arms spending, arms control and arms sales. So let the arms race begin!

DOES THE PENTAGON NEED A VENTILATOR?

The virus that ate the defense budget

Two weeks ago, The Bunker wrote about the Pentagon’s strategy to keep spending money on new weapons by killing old ones amid the coronavirus scourge. But it’s increasingly looking like that may be, um, bunk, as real budget cuts increasingly look like a sucking chest wound that merely moving money around won’t fix. “Given what’s going on in this country over the last two or three months…my personal expectation is we’re not going to see three to five percent growth” that the Pentagon wants, Army General Mike Murray, chief of the aptly-named Army Futures Command said May 19. “We’ll be lucky to see a flat line.”

Translation: cuts, perhaps deep, could be coming out of the Pentagon’s hide. It’s going to boil down to what scares more Americans more: a plague and its resulting economic morass, or foes salivating at the prospect of a weakened U.S. ripe for military exploitation. But, like everything else in this country these days, the two sides are far apart.

“Congress must remain focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and distributing needed aid domestically,” 29 Democratic House members wrote to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee May 19. “We must remain focused on combating the coronavirus and not on increasing military spending that already outpaces the next 10 closest nations combined.”

Balderdash! This is no time to lift the bugle and sound Retreat, counters Bradley Bowman, a former GOP Senate aide now with the Center on Military and Political Power at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Since the crisis began, Moscow has sent bombers to probe American air defenses near Alaska. China escalated its belligerent activity in the South China Sea. Iran has harassed U.S. naval vessels in international waters. North Korea launched a barrage of missiles. Hackers have pummeled defense networks and suppliers with cyberattacks. All the while, terrorists have continued attacking U.S. and partner forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he wrote at Breaking Defense May 20.

Bunker Thought Bubble: if rhetoric were money, all of our problems would evaporate.

Eventually, either wisely or painfully, the nation is going to have to recalibrate its national-security strategy. American politicians have a mile-long to-do list for the U.S. military, which is simply a recipe for doing a lot, poorly. That’s codified in the White House’s National Security Strategy, which routinely, in a long bipartisan tradition, assigns the military too many tasks given the budget the White House proposes and Congress disposes. “If we’re going to meet the demands of the National Security Strategy, we need to resource it to be able to do that,” Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, said May 20. “Or, the other choice is, you change and lower the demands of the National Security Strategy.”

“Lower” is probably not be the right word, General. But at least you’re thinking in the right direction.

ARMS UNCONTROLLED

Citing cheating by others, the U.S. is bailing from arms-control pacts

President Trump has decided to pull the U.S. out of the 34-nation Open Skies Treaty, a 28-year old confidence-building deal designed to let nations fly aircraft over potential foes to sweep up data about their military operations. Although satellites can do the same thing, many signatories lack such capabilities. While the president suggested the U.S. could be lured back into the accord, some see it as a sign he is shaping the battlefield, as they say, for a much bigger to-do: scuttling the existing New START deal that caps both U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons at 1,550 each. That deal expires in February, and the president has said he’ll exit unless it expands to include China, something Beijing has said it will not do.

This would follow a well-trod path: Trump bailed out of the 2015 multilateral deal restricting Iran’s nuclear-weapons push in 2018 (it was a lousy deal, he said), and withdrew from 1987’s Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and Russia in 2019 (because the Russians were cheating, he said).

There’s plenty of cheating going on, at least by potential foes. That’s according to the State Department’s latest annual report on who’s following the rules. “In 2019, the United States continued to be in compliance with all of its obligations under arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements,” the April 15 assessment says (no word on whether there was any finger-crossing going on as that was being typed). Other participants in such agreements—let’s call them the actors of evil—are violating at least part of the agreements they have signed. They include China, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia and Syria.

More significantly, U.S. intelligence has concluded that “Russia has conducted nuclear weapons-related experiments that have created nuclear yield,” according to the report. That would violate the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bars all nuclear-weapons tests. It could be all the evidence the Trump administration needs to resume nuclear testing on its own. Disconcertingly, that topic surfaced at a May 15 session among top Trump administration national-security officials, according to the May 22 Washington Post.

Russia, like the U.S., signed the CTBT in 1996. Moscow ratified it in 2000. The U.S. has not. Which raises a, ahem, critical question: Is it more important to ratify a treaty and ignore it, or adhere to it before pulling out?

THE ART OF THE DEAL

Trump’s merchant of menace

President Trump has made it clear that he is eager to sell weapons around the world for the well-paying jobs they generate for Americans. (Of course, they create relatively fewer jobs per dollar than almost any other kind of work, but what’s a little income inequality among friends?) He’s doing a pretty good job at it. Trump is “a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine,” as they said of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. His administration has brokered nearly a quarter-trillion dollars through the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales program, according to a Center for International Policy study released May 21.

“Arms sales have been a persistent preoccupation of the Trump administration,” the study says. “Ever since his first few months in office, when he announced a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the President has been promoting arms sales as a job creator and a boon to the U.S. economy, as strategic and human rights concerns take a back seat to economic considerations.”

Better make that inflated economic considerations. Following that Saudi deal, Trump said it would create a half-million or so U.S. jobs. Not true, the CIP report says: “The President’s claims of up to 500,000 jobs from arms sales to Saudi Arabia are more than ten times the actual total of 20,000 to 40,000 jobs.”

But, on the other side of that ledger, U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia have played a major role in turning the civil war in Yemen, which has killed more than 100,000 people in the Arab world’s poorest nation, into the globe’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Blood money, indeed. And in deed.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Here’s what has caught The Bunker’s eye recently

“We never really fought to win”

That’s what President Trump said about the last 18 years of war in Afghanistan, per May 18’s Washington Post. While a bittersweet statement—especially for the families of the 1,899 killed in action there—it also happens to be true. The Bunker can well remember the day the U.S. invaded, October 7, 2001, to oust the Taliban for sheltering al Qaeda as the terrorists plotted the 9/11 attacks. But the Taliban were removed from power by 2002. Then the U.S. government, and its military, simply began treading blood, and spending trillions. That’s what can happen when you have a gutless Congress unwilling to declare war, and an all-volunteer military that comes from only 1 percent of America.

Refreshing…

….to see Pentagon research chief Mike Griffin say that he’s “extremely skeptical” about putting laser weapons on warplanes, in this May 20 article from Breaking Defense. Not sure what triggered his change of heart—he was a laser-lover only a year ago—but the head-snapping U-turn is welcome, whatever its cause.

Flyover country…

The Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels have been conducting flyovers to honor the nation’s health-care workers battling the coronavirus. Here’s a piece from Proceedings, the U.S. Naval Institute’s shipshape magazine, about that aerial tradition.

War hero

June Willenz was the driving force behind the 1997 creation of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial just outside Arlington National Cemetery. While she never served in uniform, she spent much of her life fighting for women in uniform and female veterans, according to her May 24 obituary in the New York Times. 1924-2020. R.I.P.

Stolen valor

Here’s a Pennsylvanian who said he was a disabled veteran wounded in Iraq. Actually, he went AWOL from basic training in 2007 and ended up stealing nearly $17,000 from his local American Legion post. Stars & Stripes reported May 21 that a county judge sentenced him to up to 12 years in prison, including a year behind bars for lying about his military record. The Bunker knows some vets who would argue he got off light. Hard to believe it has been nearly 25 years since B.G. “Jug” Burkett stopped by my office in Washington to tell me of the book he and Glenna Whitley were writing called Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History. Burkett was driven to show how the public’s perception of him and his fellow Vietnam veterans was distorted by a slew of popular films like Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and Taxi Driver. The press didn’t come out so well, either.

Speaking of long ago…

Seeing as, for us old-timers, Memorial Day will always be celebrated on May 30, guess there’s still time for a final nod to that most solemn of U.S. military holidays. Here’s something I penned May 21 for the news website in my Rhode Island hometown. It’s about the first Memorial Day I can really remember. It happened this coming Saturday, May 30, 55 years ago. Damn, The Bunker’s getting up there…

Thanks for reading, and stay safe as this strange, unofficial summer officially starts.

Center for Defense Information

The Center for Defense Information at POGO aims to secure far more effective and ethical military forces at significantly lower cost.

America WILL Conduct Another Nuclear Test

America Should Never Conduct Another Nuclear Test | Nuclear Bombs

• The White House has reportedly discussed testing a nuclear weapon, the first such test in 28 years.

• The test—or threat of a test—would reportedly be used as a bargaining chip in arms control negotiations.

• The test is technically possible, but the negative aspects of resuming testing outweigh the positives.

The White House has discussed conducting a new nuclear weapons test, the first in nearly three decades. The idea of a test reportedly came up during a meeting of the President’s National Security Council, as a bargaining chip in arms control discussions with Russia and China. The test would be unnecessarily provocative and would weaken attempts to limit the nuclear arsenals of countries such as North Korea, Pakistan, and others.

According to the Washington Post, the matter was brought up at the meeting, but:

The meeting did not conclude with any agreement to conduct a test, but a senior administration official said the proposal is “very much an ongoing conversation.” Another person familiar with the meeting, however, said a decision was ultimately made to take other measures in response to threats posed by Russia and China and avoid a resumption of testing.

The U.S. conducted 1,030 nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1992, the year the tests ended. After the end of the Cold War, America’s nuclear arsenal was gradually de-emphasized: weapons were taken off high readiness alert; new bombers, missiles, and other delivery systems were cancelled or deferred; and the number of warheads were reduced by arms control agreements.

In 2018, the U.S. accused Russia of violating the 1987 INF Treaty, which it left in 2019. The U.S. has also accused Russia and China of recently conducting extremely low-yield nuclear tests, but has not offered enough details to allow independent verification. Presumably, the tests are an effort to “get tough” with both countries, demonstrating American resolve.

The U.S. government has signaled it’s open to a new deal limiting nuclear weapons, but wants China involved in a new three-way agreement. The U.S. currently has 6,185 nuclear warheads, while Russia has 6,490 nuclear warheads. China has approximately 290 weapons.

The U.S. could still test a nuclear weapon, and relatively quickly. The U.S. government, despite nearly three decades of inactivity, still has the means to do a nuclear test. The Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the National Test Site, was the site of hundreds of nuclear tests, and there are still unused testing shafts dug decades ago and available for use.

Simply put, the government would lower a nuke into the shaft and then detonate it. The test would likely be conducted on the northern side of the NNSS—the growth of nearby Las Vegas has limited how much of the range is still useful.

The use of a nuclear weapons test as a bargaining chip would cut both ways. On one hand, a new nuclear test would signal to other countries the U.S. is willing to restart the expensive process of developing new nuclear weapons, forcing them to do the same thing unless an arms control agreement were reached. A test of a weapon drawn from the national stockpile would also help prove the reliability of the arsenal.

The negatives of such a test outweigh the positives. If the U.S. resumes testing, Russia and China will likely follow suit, and the U.S. isn’t the only country that can refine its nuclear designs through testing. The test weapon might not work, a result we would definitely not want our enemies to know about. Finally, a U.S. nuclear test would encourage rogue countries such as North Korea to continue testing and developing their own nuclear weapons.

A new nuclear test is far from a done deal, and was reportedly opposed by the National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. That suggests that support for the test is drawn more from political considerations than practical ones.

The U.S has spent decades building goodwill by refusing to test. It would be a mistake to squander that goodwill on an unnecessary demonstration of strength that ends up benefitting no one.

Trump’s nuclear brinksmanship is about to backfire

President Trump at the White House on May 22. (Eric Thayer/For the Washington Post)

Trump’s nuclear brinksmanship keeps backfiring, but he keeps doubling down – The Washington Post

May 26, 2020 at 3:27 PM EDT

For someone who in 2015 gave every indication that he had never heard of the nuclear triad, President Trump has a strange and worrying fascination with the ultimate weapon. “For me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me,” he said in 2015. As president, he has threatened both North Korea and, more obliquely, Iran with nuclear annihilation; he even bragged that his “Nuclear Button” is “much bigger & more powerful” than Kim Jong Un’s. As if that weren’t enough, Axios reported that he asked aides if he could nuke a hurricane.

Despite his hair-raising rhetoric, Trump has not turned out to be a madman eager to start World War III. Rather, his strategy has been to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal to pressure other countries to agree to “beautiful,” “strong,” “classy” and (insert favorite Trump adjective) nuclear deals. His approach has been a dismal failure, but he keeps doubling down anyway — most recently by announcing an exit from the Open Skies Treaty and contemplating resuming nuclear testing — thereby raising the risks of nuclear proliferation.

Trump pioneered these dubious brinkmanship tactics with North Korea, and no doubt he still thinks Kim will denuclearize. In January, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Kim “made a commitment that he would denuclearize,” and “he has not walked back that commitment.” In reality, Kim made no such commitment and has continued expanding his nuclear and missile programs since the Singapore summit in June 2018.

In May 2018, Trump announced he was pulling out of the Iran nuclear accord in the apparent hope that Tehran would agree to more draconian curbs. Instead, Iran has ramped up its nuclear program. Its enriched uranium stockpile is now five times larger than the agreement limit, reducing its breakout time to build a nuclear weapon.

Undaunted, Trump in October 2018 announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which since 1987 had led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet missiles. Part of the rationale was alleged Russian violations, but withdrawal was also premised on the idea that arms-control agreements should include China. Trump said in August 2019 that both China and Russia were “very, very excited” about a trilateral treaty. Actually, neither country has shown any interest, and negotiations haven’t started.

Then last week the administration announced it is withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement first proposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and signed in 1992 under President George H.W. Bush. It is designed to reduce the risk of war by allowing 34 signatory nations to carry out overflights of each other’s territory to monitor military developments.

Next up for elimination could be the 2010 New START Treaty, limiting the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads each. The administration is giving every indication that it will allow New START to expire next year and try to negotiate a three-way deal with China. The Post reports that the administration has even discussed conducting the first U.S. nuclear test since 1992, in violation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which the Senate has never ratified but past administrations abided by.

Trump’s arms-control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, explained last week that this nuclear posturing is part of a strategy for three-way arms control with China and Russia: “We know how to win these races, and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it.” All administration officials are expected to flatter Trump, of course, so Billingslea went on to laud the president as a “master at developing and using leverage” over a “long and successful career as a negotiator.”

Actually, Trump has had a long and failed career as a negotiator because he never takes the time to master his brief (or even glance at it) or to learn from his mistakes. If he had, he would realize that China, which is estimated to have 320 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, compared with 6,370 for Russia and 5,800 for the United States, has no incentive to enter an arms-control agreement unless the other two countries want to reduce their arsenals by 95 percent. (Spoiler alert: They don’t.)

Trump should also realize that it makes no sense to launch a costly and dangerous nuclear arms race in the middle of a pandemic and economic depression. The United States already spends too much on nuclear weapons and too little on public health, yet Trump wants to increase nuclear spending by 19 percent to $19.8 billion while cutting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget to $12.6 billion. With a projected federal budget deficit this year of $3.7 trillion, we can’t afford to spend anyone “into oblivion.”

Trump should be shifting funds away from nuclear weapons rather than wasting money on his juvenile obsession with showing that his arsenal is bigger than anybody else’s. The last thing the world needs is more nuclear weapons.

The Post’s View: Putin wants to extend arms control. What’s Trump waiting for?

Michael Singh: Trump is right to bide his time in renewing a nuclear treaty with Russia

David Ignatius: Are we seeing a tactical tilt toward Russia?

Michael McFaul: Here’s how Trump can get a win with Russia — and actually help all Americans

Dana Milbank: Why can’t we use nuclear weapons against bedbugs?

Max Boot

Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam,” a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in biography. Follow

The Horns of Prophecy Ramp Up Nuclear Testing

Photo: Nuclear test carried out on 18 April 1953 at the Nevada test site. Source: UN News.

‘Abolition 2000’ Warns Against Resumption of Nuclear Testing

By Radwan Jakeem

NEW YORK (IDN) – “Resumption of nuclear explosive testing is absolutely unacceptable. Even discussing nuclear testing again is dangerously destabilizing,” the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons has warned. Such testing would, in any case, be in contravention of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBTO), signed by the United States, yet pending entry-into-force, the Abolition 2000 adds in a statement emerging from its annual general meeting (AGM).

The CTBT, opened for signing in 1996, obliges states:

1. Not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control.

2. To refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.

“A Trump nuclear test would cross a line no nation thought the US would ever cross again, and is threatening the health and safety of all people,” declared Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), in a statement.

“It would also blow up any chance of avoiding a dangerous new nuclear arms race. It would complete the erosion of the global arms control framework and plunge us back into a new Cold War. Only a multilateral solution can shore up these bilateral treaties Trump is ripping up. The TPNW is that solution, the ICAN chief added.

TPNW is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on July 7, 2017 by a vote of 122 States in favour with one vote against and one abstention. It opened for signature by the UN Secretary-General on September 20, 2017. It will enter into force 90 days after the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession has been deposited.

Meanwhile, 37 nations have ratified the Treaty.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic Abolition 2000 took the unprecedented step of holding its AGM online, allowing participants from some 40 countries to join.

The unanimous statement released on May 23 explained that the U.S. resumption of nuclear testing would lead to testing by other states, possibly China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. It would accelerate the emerging nuclear arms race, and damage prospects for nuclear arms control negotiations.

“A nuclear explosive test is itself a kind of threat. Testing would generate fear and mistrust and would entrench reliance on nuclear arms. It would move the world away from rather than towards a world free of nuclear weapons,” warns the statement. For that reason alone, nuclear explosive testing must not happen, and there must not even be signals of its possibility. Instead, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty should be brought into legal force.

The statement goes on: This episode comes in the context of ongoing upgrading of nuclear forces by the world’s nuclear-armed states. It is supported by extensive laboratory research and experimentation which in part serves as a substitute for functions once served by nuclear explosive testing.

“So, even as we demand that such testing not be resumed, we must recognize the dangers inherent in the ongoing nuclear weapons enterprise. Those dangers are now mostly out of sight of the public and subject to little media scrutiny, but they are real. They too must be addressed, which in the end will require the global abolition of nuclear arms,” the Abolition 2000 concludes.

The unanimous statement was drafted on behalf of the AGM by: John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Daniel Ellsberg, author of ‘The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Plannee; and Andrew Lichterman, Senior Research Analyst, Western States Legal Foundation.

“Testing of nuclear weapons evokes nuclear apocalypse, as in the days of U.S.-Soviet brinksmanship. It must not be resumed. At the same time, we must recognize that the capabilities for apocalypse remain in place, and are being maintained and improved in the absence of nuclear explosive testing. This too must be brought to an end,” Burroughs said.

Ellsberg, famed whistleblower of the Pentagon Papers, alerted: “Renewed nuclear testing initiated by the U.S. would enable India, Pakistan and North Korea to test and develop ‘H-bomb’ thermonuclear warheads, which the existing moratorium on testing has prevented them from deploying.  They could then join the U.S. and Russia in threatening the world with the capability to cause nuclear winter, global famine, and near-extinction of humanity.”

He added: Obviously, no nation on earth should possess this power. Rather than inviting its spread, the U.S. and Russia should neither maintain nor ‘modernize’ but dismantle their own Doomsday Machines.

Cabasso, “a founding mother” of Abolition 2000 said: 25 years ago, we launched the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons with an 11-point statement which includes a call to abolish all forms of nuclear testing. For more than a quarter of a century the moratorium on full-scale explosive nuclear testing has been largely adhered to.

“US resumption of such tests at this time would rock the foundations of an increasingly fragile world order and would set back efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons by decades. It must not be allowed,” she accentuated.

The Abolition 2000 network was formed in April 1995, during the first weeks of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference, when activists from around the world recognized that the issue of nuclear abolition was not on the agenda.

An international network of organizations and individuals working for a global treaty to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons, Abolition 2000 is open to all organizations endorsing the Abolition 2000 Founding Statement. [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 May 2020]

Photo: Nuclear test carried out on 18 April 1953 at the Nevada test site. Source: UN News.

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

facebook.com/IDN.GoingDeeper – twitter.com/InDepthNews

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. Feel free to share, remix, tweak and build upon it non-commercially. Please credit to the author and IDN-InDepthNews.

The Russian Horn Prepares the Doomsday Nuke (Daniel 7)

Russia’s ‘doomsday drone’ prepares for testing

One year after the fatal accident with a nuclear-powered missile in the White Sea, Russia’s weapon designers say a test launch the Poseidon nuclear powered underwater drone will take place this fall.

The test-launch will take place from the “Belgorod” submarine, a source in the military-industrial complex told RIA Novosti.

The drone, formed as a giant torpedo, is built to carry a several megatons nuclear warhead and is described by weapons analysts as a “doomsday nuke”. Powered by a small nuclear reactor, the Poseidon has a believed range of 10,000 km across the world’s oceans.

Launched from the Barents Sea or other waters in the Arctic, the drone can autonomously cross the North Atlantic. If detonated outside the east coast of the United States, the nuclear warhead could create a several tens of meters high tsunami wave additional to damage caused by the nuclear blast itself.

The Barents Observer first reported about the existence of the weapon in 2016. In March 2018, President Vladimir Putin confirmed the existence of the upcoming giant underwater drone.

Poseidon was one of six new strategic nuclear weapons presented by the President.

In July 2018, Russia’s Ministry of Defense released a video showing the workshop where the drone was assembled and an animated film demonstrating how the drone potentially could be used in a real warfare situation.

Screenshot from the video by Russian Ministry of Defense

One of Kremlin’s controlled media, Radio Sputnik, on Tuesday aired an interview with former GRU colonel Aleksandr Zhilin who elaborates on the drone’s advantages.

“A drone has several advantages. A submarine with a crew on board is, of course, a powerful weapon, but there are certain restrictions on the human factor. The Poseidon can practically be on alert and perform assigned tasks at any time,” he says.

Today, Zhilin is head of the Centre for Study of Public Applied Problems of National Security with the Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod.

Safe against hackers

He calms those worrying about the potential of seeing the drones being hacked by computer terrorists.

“The appearance of this class of drones, of course, requires a lot of responsibility, because it is managed via software. It is clear that there are certain risks when in operation hackers can try to take control. But, talking with our engineers, designers, I came to the conclusion that there is massive protection against external interference,” Aleksandr Zhilin said to the radio channel.

With the deep-diving Poseidon drone, Russia will counter any U.S. missile defense systems and by that ensure deterrence, a second-strike capability.

The plan is to deploy 16 Poseidon drones on combat duty with the Northern Fleet. Two special-purpose submarines are to carry the weapons, the “Belgorod” and the “Khabarovsk”, both built at the Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk.

“Belgorod” is a prototype submarine based on a prolonged hull of an Oscar-II class nuclear-powered submarine. It was launched in April 2019, and is expected to start sea trials within a few months.

“Belgorod” was taken out of the shiphall at Sevmash yard on April 23 2019 in a solemn ceremony. Photo courtesy of Oleg Kuleshov

“Khabarovsk” sub

The second submarine to carry the Poseidon is “Khabarovsk” a special prototype submarine based on the hull of Russia’s 4th generation ballistic missile subs of the Borei-class.

RIA Novosti earlier this spring reported that “Khabarovsk” will be launched from the workshop at Sevmash in June this year at the earliest. Then, a two-years testing period will follow.

Nothing is said about where the testing of the Poseidon drone will take place, but new submarine-based weapons are normally tested in the White Sea, which has the advantage of not being international waters where other countries’ navies or spy-ships can sail. Also, the testing areas are close to Severodvinsk where the subs and drones are built.

Nuclear-powered missile explosion

Last August, a Burevestnik missile exploded during what is believed to have been a recovery operation. The explosion that killed five men and caused a radiation peak in nearby Severodvinsk happened at a barge located some four kilometers from the shore outside Nenoksa (also spelled Nyonoksa) missile test site.

Map: Barents Observer / Google maps

Russian officials have not published any information about possible radioactive substances that could be released to the marine environment from the upcoming testing of the 24 meters long nuclear-powered underwater drone Poseidon.

In these unsettling times, the Barents Observer needs your support more than ever. If you like what we’re doing, please consider making a donation. Your financial contributions, however big or small, will help keep our independent news coming from the north, about the north.

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Babylon the Great to be expelled from Syria, Iraq

United States to be expelled from Syria, Iraq, says Ayatollah Khamenei

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the US will soon be expelled from Syria and Iraq, “where it is illegally present in the two Arab countries”

IANS

Published: 18 May 2020, 10:00 AM

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the US will soon be expelled from Syria and Iraq, “where it is illegally present in the two Arab countries”.

Khamenei made the remarks in a video-conference meeting with the Iranian students on Sunday, reports Xinhua news agency.

“For sure, Americans will not remain in Iraq and Syria, and they will be expelled” from those countries as the Americans “have supported terrorism” and “are abhorred” by the regional nations, he added.

His remarks come almost two months after he called the US “the most evil enemy of the Iranian nation”

The Plague Continues to Spread (Revelation 6:8)

Pandemic Swells in South America, as the U.S. Nears 100,000 Deaths

Gaza reports its first coronavirus death. New York is allowing gatherings of up to 10.

Published May 23, 2020Updated May 24, 2020

The Higienópolis neighborhood of São Paulo on Tuesday. Brazil overtook Russia in reporting the second-highest count of infections worldwide.Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

As the U.S. death toll nears 100,000, infections are rising in Latin America.

Since the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the world has tracked a pandemic that rapidly spread west, proliferating across Asia and Europe, seeding hot spots across Africa and exploding in North America. For weeks, the United States has been the global epicenter, confirming more than 1.6 million cases, and the number of deaths nearing 100,000.

And now the pandemic appears to be arriving at new milestones. China on Saturday reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases for the first time since the virus emerged. And surges of Covid-19 in several of South America’s most populous countries are raising concerns of a new front.

On Friday, Brazil overtook Russia in reporting the second-highest count of infections worldwide, reaching more than 330,000 to date. Peru and Chile rank among the hardest-hit countries in the world in terms of infections per capita, around 1 in 300. And data from Ecuador indicate that the country is suffering one of the worst outbreaks in the world.

Brazil is home to several of the world’s largest metropolises, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. While other countries around the world began sounding the alarm as the virus arrived in February and March, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, largely played down the threat, urging people to continue working and keeping businesses such as gyms and beauty salons open.

Worldwide, the pace of new infections is still climbing with over 100,000 new cases reported daily since Thursday. These numbers are among the very worst since the pandemic began, second only to a single day in April, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

The list of countries seeing sharp increases is not limited to those in Central and South America. In India, infections have surged to over 125,000 people, and Iran, which experienced one of the earliest and most significant outbreaks, is undergoing a resurgence of new cases.

Over all, infection rates are slowing in the United States, but they remain steady in about 25 states. Six — North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Maine and Wyoming — have reported rises in newly reported cases over the last 14 days, in part because some have recently ramped up testing.

Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak

The virus has infected more than 5,402,700 people in at least 177 countries.

Gaza reports its first pandemic death, underscoring its success and vulnerability.

A mural of coronavirus in Gaza City in April. Even though Gaza has been largely unscathed by the virus, experts continue to warn that its health infrastructure could collapse in the face of a large-scale outbreak.Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Officials in Gaza announced on Saturday that a 77-year-old woman had died after contracting the coronavirus, becoming the first known pandemic death in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

The woman, identified as Fadila Abu Raida, was found to have Covid-19 on Tuesday, said Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry run by Hamas, the militant movement that controls Gaza.

She had diabetes and high blood pressure, and died while receiving intensive care at a field hospital on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Mr. Qidra said.

Gaza, just 25 miles long and less than eight miles across at its widest, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, but so far has reported only 55 infections in a population of some two million.

That appears to be the result of tight Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on the movement of people in and out of Gaza, as well as Hamas’s decision to isolate all returning residents in quarantine facilities.

Hamas officials have said that all known carriers of the disease have been individuals returning from abroad and have not mixed with the territory’s broader population.

Still, the death underscored Gaza’s vulnerability were its outbreak to grow.

“It would be a very problematic situation,” said Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians. “The health system suffers from many chronic weaknesses.”

There are currently only 87 ventilators in Gaza, most of which are already in use, he said.

Trump goes golfing for the first time since shutdowns began.

President Trump leaving the White House on Saturday.Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

President Trump spent Saturday at his members-only golf club in Virginia, his first outing there since the coronavirus pandemic led to government restrictions on business and social activity across the country.

The trip comes as the administration has encouraged reopening, and a day after Mr. Trump announced that he was ordering states to allow churches and other places of worship to reopen, threatening to overrule any governor who defied the order. Some of his health experts also appeared to give him the green light to carry on with his normal weekend activity, which has been suspended for weeks.

“You can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls,” Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said at a news conference on Friday. “You can go to the beaches” if you maintain distance from other beachgoers, she told Americans heading into a holiday weekend.

The White House did not provide any details about what Mr. Trump was doing at his golf club, or whom he was playing with. Reporters spotted him leaving the White House residence dressed in a white polo shirt and a white baseball cap.

Black Covid-19 patients have more advanced cases, study finds.

Black patients were hospitalized at nearly three times the rate of white and Hispanic patients, California researchers found.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

As the coronavirus spread across the United States, sweeping through low-income, densely populated communities, black and Hispanic patients have been dying at higher rates than white patients.

Crowded living conditions, poorer overall health and limited access to care have been blamed, among other factors. But a new study suggests that the disparity is particularly acute for black patients.

Among those seeking medical care for Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, black patients were hospitalized at nearly three times the rate of white and Hispanic patients, according to an analysis of patient records from a large health care system in Northern California.

The disparity remained even after researchers took into account differences in age, sex, income and the prevalence of chronic health problems that exacerbate Covid-19, like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

The finding suggests that black patients may have had limited access to medical care or that they postponed seeking help until later in the course of their illness, when the disease was more advanced.

Black patients were also far less likely than white, Hispanic or Asian patients to have been tested for the virus before going to the emergency room for care.

Black patients “are coming to us later and sicker, and they’re accessing our care through the emergency department and acute care environment,” said Dr. Stephen H. Lockhart, the chief medical officer at Sutter Health in Sacramento and one of the authors of the new study.

The study, which was peer reviewed, was published in Health Affairs.

Gatherings of up to 10 people are now allowed in New York.

The Kirkland family celebrated the birthday of Nichole, left, and the high school graduation of KJ, top, in Brooklyn on Friday.Calla Kessler/The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York slightly loosened coronavirus restrictions, saying that gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed “for any lawful purpose or reason” anywhere in the state — including New York City — provided that social-distance protocols were followed.

The revision, issued Friday night in an unexpected executive order, was swiftly condemned by Councilman Mark D. Levine, who represents Upper Manhattan and is chairman of the City Council’s health committee. He stressed that the order had not been made by health professionals.

“No one should interpret this as advice to change their behavior,” he added.

The new orders come as the daily number of coronavirus-related deaths dipped below 100 for the first time since late March. Mr. Cuomo reported 84 deaths on Saturday, the lowest daily death toll since March 24.

He called the number of new casualties on Saturday “a tragedy, no doubt,” but he said he could not ignore that the downward trend was a positive sign. “For me, it’s just a sign that we are making real progress.”

Minnesota, under pressure, is opening churches next week.

St. Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minn., on Friday. Leaders of Catholic and Lutheran churches in the state said earlier this week that they planned to hold services in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz’s orders.Jim Mone/Associated Press

Minnesota’s governor said Saturday that he will allow houses of worship to open their doors next week after pressure from some church leaders and a day after President Trump demanded that religious institutions be deemed essential.

Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said religious leaders could hold in-person services beginning on Wednesday, but that they would need to limit indoor crowds to 25 percent of their building’s capacity, up to a maximum of 250 people. The move follows pressure from the leaders of Catholic and Lutheran churches in the state, who said earlier this week that they planned to hold services in defiance of Mr. Walz’s orders.

Many are expected to gather to worship in person across the United States on Sunday. Mr. Trump said he would override governors if they did not allow worshipers to do so, although legal experts said he does not have that authority.

In California, a federal appeals court, in a two-to-one decision on Friday, declined to block the restrictions on religious services in the state’s emergency orders. A Pentecostal church in San Diego had sued Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, arguing, among other things, that his orders had violated their right to freely practice their religion. Mr. Newsom has said he will provide more guidance regarding religious gatherings on Monday.

In Minnesota, Mr. Walz said Vice President Mike Pence had called him on Thursday to discuss reopening religious institutions and given him a heads up that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be releasing new guidelines for houses of worship this past Friday.

Even as he announced the looser restrictions at a news conference on Saturday, Mr. Walz seemed pained at the thought of the large gatherings that would be allowed under his new executive order, which also permits weddings, funerals, scripture studies and other planned events to be held at ceremonial venues, with restrictions.

“To be candid, the 250 terrifies me,” Mr. Walz said of the maximum number of people who would be allowed to gather for ceremonies under his new guidelines.

There have been nearly 20,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Minnesota and about 860 deaths, but health officials believe the state has not yet hit its peak.

“The thing that frustrates me is when I see elected leaders stand in front of places, celebrating and demanding they be open,” Mr. Walz said. “They’re not with me when I have to open the new morgue.”

Jan Malcolm, the state’s health commissioner, said religious leaders must thoroughly clean their buildings and ensure that congregants stay six feet apart. She and Mr. Walz said that although the state was loosening restrictions, they still recommended that services be held remotely.

If you’re gathering for Memorial Day weekend, here’s how to do it safely.

Groups at a beach in Seaside Heights, N.J., on Friday.Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

It’s Memorial Day weekend in the United States, when beaches and backyard barbecues beckon. While dozens of states are cautiously allowing small gatherings in public spaces, restrictions and closings may still be in effect.

Many of New York City’s beaches are open, but swimming, grilling and organized sports are prohibited. Strict social-distancing guidelines are being enforced across much of New Jersey’s coastline. Many California beaches are open only for “active uses” like running, swimming and surfing, but not sunbathing or extended stays.

Away from the shores, many parks across the country are open, but some are capping the number of people allowed inside and encouraging brief visits.

As many places continue to reopen, here is guidance on lowering the coronavirus risk and managing anxiety while being out during the pandemic.

The F.D.A. bars nearly 30 antibody tests, many made overseas, from the U.S. market.

A medical worker taking a blood sample for an antibody test in Los Angeles this on Wednesday.Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration has barred the sale of nearly 30 coronavirus antibody tests because the manufacturers, many of them based overseas, failed to prove that they were accurate.

A number of the manufacturers are based in China, including Bioscience (Chongqing) Diagnostic Technology Company, Hangzhou Clongene Biotech Company and Zhengzhou Fortune Bioscience Company. Other affected companies are LifeAssay, based in South Africa, and Promedical, based in Australia.

The tests are devised to detect whether an individual has antibodies to the virus, which would show whether they had been infected previously. Many people are getting tested on the assumption that the antibodies confer some immunity to the virus, though researchers are not yet certain how long any immunity might last or how strong it might be.

Earlier this year, all of the manufacturers had notified the F.D.A. that they had validated the tests, but in one study scientists found that only three of 14 tests they examined gave consistently reliable results. A federal study also concluded that “a concerning number” of the tests, also known as serology tests, yielded invalid results.

The F.D.A. then gave the manufacturers until May 18 to prove the tests worked as advertised.

The F.D.A.’s announcement on Thursday did not specify whether the manufacturers had neglected to submit an application, provided faulty data or otherwise failed to meet the requirements, thought it did note that a half-dozen had voluntarily stopped sales.

The volunteers included Diazyme Laboratories, BioMedomics and Shenzhen Landwind Medical Company.

Abhijit Datta, the vice president for operations at Diazyme Laboratories, said the company had never actually sold the rapid antibody detection test listed on the F.D.A.’s website, but was continuing to sell a high-throughput antibody test used in labs around the country.

The N.B.A. considers resuming its season at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., after the game between the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans was called off on March 11 over coronavirus worries.Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The N.B.A. is in the early stages of discussions with the Walt Disney Company to restart its suspended season in late July at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, a league spokesman said Saturday.

The restart would be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which would act as “a single site for an N.BA. campus for games, practices and housing,” said the spokesman, Mike Bass.

“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place,” Mr. Bass said in a statement.

The N.B.A. was among the first major sports leagues to suspend its season on March 11 as a result of the coronavirus, beginning a cascade of other leagues doing the same. Since then several players, including the Nets star Kevin Durant, have tested positive for the virus.

Several hurdles remain to a resumed season. One is testing. The league was criticized when some of its teams were able to obtain tests for their players even though there was a nationwide testing shortage, raising questions of greater accessibility for the wealthy.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bass said, “Regular testing will be key in our return to play,” and that the league wanted to ensure that it “does not come at the expense of testing front line health care workers or others who need it.”

Any return to play must also come with a green light from the players’ union. A union spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is also unclear how many, if any, fans would be allowed into an arena for games.

As of Friday, unions representing athletes in major North American team sports were still negotiating specific plans for returning to play, including extra protection for the most vulnerable employees. For some athletes and team staff members with conditions that put them at greater risk from the coronavirus, balancing health needs against the zeal to play is an especially delicate matter.

A Missouri hair stylist may have exposed 91 people by working while sick.

A hair stylist in Missouri worked for eight days at a salon while sick with the coronavirus, health officials said, potentially exposing 84 clients and seven co-workers.

The possible spread was an extreme example of what health officials warn is likely to be the cost of reopening businesses. Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, a Republican, allowed many businesses, including salons, to reopen on May 4.

While symptomatic, the stylist showed up for eight shifts at the Great Clips hair salon in Springfield between May 12 and Wednesday, after getting sick following travel within the state, health officials said.

“I’ll be honest — I’m very frustrated to be up here today, and maybe more so I’m disappointed,” Clay Goddard, who leads the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said at a news conference on Friday.

Mr. Goddard said that the 91 clients and co-workers who were potentially exposed would all be tested, and that health officials would begin contact tracing.

He said that while the stylist had not exercised enough personal responsibility, he hoped the salon’s strict enforcement of health policies had prevented many possible infections. The stylist and all of the clients had worn masks, he said, and Great Clips kept detailed records that allowed health officials to contact the clients who might have been exposed.

Mr. Goddard said that the stylist had also visited a fitness center, a Dairy Queen and a Walmart in the last 10 days.

“I’m going to be honest with you: We can’t have many more of these,” he said. “We can’t make this a regular habit, or our capability as a community will be strained, and we will have to re-evaluate what things look like going forward.”

Federal scientists finally publish remdesivir data.

Nearly a month after federal scientists claimed that an experimental drug had helped patients severely ill with the coronavirus, the research has been published.

The drug, remdesivir, was quickly authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of coronavirus patients, and hospitals rushed to obtain supplies.

But until now, researchers and physicians had not seen the actual data.

The long-awaited study, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on The New England Journal of Medicine’s website on Friday evening. It confirmed the essence of the government’s assertions: Remdesivir shortened recovery time from 15 days to 11 days in hospitalized patients. The study defined recovery as “either discharge from the hospital or hospitalization.”

The trial was rigorous, randomly assigning 1,063 seriously ill patients to receive either remdesivir or a placebo. Those who received the drug not only recovered faster but also did not have serious adverse events more often than those who were given the placebo.

Pandemic Swells in South America, as the U.S. Nears 100,000 Deaths

Gaza reports its first coronavirus death. New York is allowing gatherings of up to 10.

Published May 23, 2020Updated May 24, 2020

This briefing has ended. Follow our latest coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Higienópolis neighborhood of São Paulo on Tuesday. Brazil overtook Russia in reporting the second-highest count of infections worldwide.Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

As the U.S. death toll nears 100,000, infections are rising in Latin America.

Since the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the world has tracked a pandemic that rapidly spread west, proliferating across Asia and Europe, seeding hot spots across Africa and exploding in North America. For weeks, the United States has been the global epicenter, confirming more than 1.6 million cases, and the number of deaths nearing 100,000.

And now the pandemic appears to be arriving at new milestones. China on Saturday reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases for the first time since the virus emerged. And surges of Covid-19 in several of South America’s most populous countries are raising concerns of a new front.

On Friday, Brazil overtook Russia in reporting the second-highest count of infections worldwide, reaching more than 330,000 to date. Peru and Chile rank among the hardest-hit countries in the world in terms of infections per capita, around 1 in 300. And data from Ecuador indicate that the country is suffering one of the worst outbreaks in the world.

Brazil is home to several of the world’s largest metropolises, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. While other countries around the world began sounding the alarm as the virus arrived in February and March, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, largely played down the threat, urging people to continue working and keeping businesses such as gyms and beauty salons open.

Worldwide, the pace of new infections is still climbing with over 100,000 new cases reported daily since Thursday. These numbers are among the very worst since the pandemic began, second only to a single day in April, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

The list of countries seeing sharp increases is not limited to those in Central and South America. In India, infections have surged to over 125,000 people, and Iran, which experienced one of the earliest and most significant outbreaks, is undergoing a resurgence of new cases.

Over all, infection rates are slowing in the United States, but they remain steady in about 25 states. Six — North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Maine and Wyoming — have reported rises in newly reported cases over the last 14 days, in part because some have recently ramped up testing.

Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak

The virus has infected more than 5,402,700 people in at least 177 countries.

Gaza reports its first pandemic death, underscoring its success and vulnerability.

A mural of coronavirus in Gaza City in April. Even though Gaza has been largely unscathed by the virus, experts continue to warn that its health infrastructure could collapse in the face of a large-scale outbreak.Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Officials in Gaza announced on Saturday that a 77-year-old woman had died after contracting the coronavirus, becoming the first known pandemic death in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

The woman, identified as Fadila Abu Raida, was found to have Covid-19 on Tuesday, said Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry run by Hamas, the militant movement that controls Gaza.

She had diabetes and high blood pressure, and died while receiving intensive care at a field hospital on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Mr. Qidra said.

Gaza, just 25 miles long and less than eight miles across at its widest, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, but so far has reported only 55 infections in a population of some two million.

That appears to be the result of tight Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on the movement of people in and out of Gaza, as well as Hamas’s decision to isolate all returning residents in quarantine facilities.

Hamas officials have said that all known carriers of the disease have been individuals returning from abroad and have not mixed with the territory’s broader population.

Still, the death underscored Gaza’s vulnerability were its outbreak to grow.

“It would be a very problematic situation,” said Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians. “The health system suffers from many chronic weaknesses.”

There are currently only 87 ventilators in Gaza, most of which are already in use, he said.

Trump goes golfing for the first time since shutdowns began.

President Trump leaving the White House on Saturday.Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

President Trump spent Saturday at his members-only golf club in Virginia, his first outing there since the coronavirus pandemic led to government restrictions on business and social activity across the country.

The trip comes as the administration has encouraged reopening, and a day after Mr. Trump announced that he was ordering states to allow churches and other places of worship to reopen, threatening to overrule any governor who defied the order. Some of his health experts also appeared to give him the green light to carry on with his normal weekend activity, which has been suspended for weeks.

“You can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls,” Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said at a news conference on Friday. “You can go to the beaches” if you maintain distance from other beachgoers, she told Americans heading into a holiday weekend.

The White House did not provide any details about what Mr. Trump was doing at his golf club, or whom he was playing with. Reporters spotted him leaving the White House residence dressed in a white polo shirt and a white baseball cap.

Black Covid-19 patients have more advanced cases, study finds.

Black patients were hospitalized at nearly three times the rate of white and Hispanic patients, California researchers found.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

As the coronavirus spread across the United States, sweeping through low-income, densely populated communities, black and Hispanic patients have been dying at higher rates than white patients.

Crowded living conditions, poorer overall health and limited access to care have been blamed, among other factors. But a new study suggests that the disparity is particularly acute for black patients.

Among those seeking medical care for Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, black patients were hospitalized at nearly three times the rate of white and Hispanic patients, according to an analysis of patient records from a large health care system in Northern California.

The disparity remained even after researchers took into account differences in age, sex, income and the prevalence of chronic health problems that exacerbate Covid-19, like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

The finding suggests that black patients may have had limited access to medical care or that they postponed seeking help until later in the course of their illness, when the disease was more advanced.

Black patients were also far less likely than white, Hispanic or Asian patients to have been tested for the virus before going to the emergency room for care.

Black patients “are coming to us later and sicker, and they’re accessing our care through the emergency department and acute care environment,” said Dr. Stephen H. Lockhart, the chief medical officer at Sutter Health in Sacramento and one of the authors of the new study.

The study, which was peer reviewed, was published in Health Affairs.

Gatherings of up to 10 people are now allowed in New York.

The Kirkland family celebrated the birthday of Nichole, left, and the high school graduation of KJ, top, in Brooklyn on Friday.Calla Kessler/The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York slightly loosened coronavirus restrictions, saying that gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed “for any lawful purpose or reason” anywhere in the state — including New York City — provided that social-distance protocols were followed.

The revision, issued Friday night in an unexpected executive order, was swiftly condemned by Councilman Mark D. Levine, who represents Upper Manhattan and is chairman of the City Council’s health committee. He stressed that the order had not been made by health professionals.

“No one should interpret this as advice to change their behavior,” he added.

The new orders come as the daily number of coronavirus-related deaths dipped below 100 for the first time since late March. Mr. Cuomo reported 84 deaths on Saturday, the lowest daily death toll since March 24.

He called the number of new casualties on Saturday “a tragedy, no doubt,” but he said he could not ignore that the downward trend was a positive sign. “For me, it’s just a sign that we are making real progress.”

Minnesota, under pressure, is opening churches next week.

St. Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minn., on Friday. Leaders of Catholic and Lutheran churches in the state said earlier this week that they planned to hold services in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz’s orders.Jim Mone/Associated Press

Minnesota’s governor said Saturday that he will allow houses of worship to open their doors next week after pressure from some church leaders and a day after President Trump demanded that religious institutions be deemed essential.

Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said religious leaders could hold in-person services beginning on Wednesday, but that they would need to limit indoor crowds to 25 percent of their building’s capacity, up to a maximum of 250 people. The move follows pressure from the leaders of Catholic and Lutheran churches in the state, who said earlier this week that they planned to hold services in defiance of Mr. Walz’s orders.

Many are expected to gather to worship in person across the United States on Sunday. Mr. Trump said he would override governors if they did not allow worshipers to do so, although legal experts said he does not have that authority.

In California, a federal appeals court, in a two-to-one decision on Friday, declined to block the restrictions on religious services in the state’s emergency orders. A Pentecostal church in San Diego had sued Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, arguing, among other things, that his orders had violated their right to freely practice their religion. Mr. Newsom has said he will provide more guidance regarding religious gatherings on Monday.

In Minnesota, Mr. Walz said Vice President Mike Pence had called him on Thursday to discuss reopening religious institutions and given him a heads up that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be releasing new guidelines for houses of worship this past Friday.

Even as he announced the looser restrictions at a news conference on Saturday, Mr. Walz seemed pained at the thought of the large gatherings that would be allowed under his new executive order, which also permits weddings, funerals, scripture studies and other planned events to be held at ceremonial venues, with restrictions.

“To be candid, the 250 terrifies me,” Mr. Walz said of the maximum number of people who would be allowed to gather for ceremonies under his new guidelines.

There have been nearly 20,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Minnesota and about 860 deaths, but health officials believe the state has not yet hit its peak.

“The thing that frustrates me is when I see elected leaders stand in front of places, celebrating and demanding they be open,” Mr. Walz said. “They’re not with me when I have to open the new morgue.”

Jan Malcolm, the state’s health commissioner, said religious leaders must thoroughly clean their buildings and ensure that congregants stay six feet apart. She and Mr. Walz said that although the state was loosening restrictions, they still recommended that services be held remotely.

If you’re gathering for Memorial Day weekend, here’s how to do it safely.

Groups at a beach in Seaside Heights, N.J., on Friday.Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

It’s Memorial Day weekend in the United States, when beaches and backyard barbecues beckon. While dozens of states are cautiously allowing small gatherings in public spaces, restrictions and closings may still be in effect.

Many of New York City’s beaches are open, but swimming, grilling and organized sports are prohibited. Strict social-distancing guidelines are being enforced across much of New Jersey’s coastline. Many California beaches are open only for “active uses” like running, swimming and surfing, but not sunbathing or extended stays.

Away from the shores, many parks across the country are open, but some are capping the number of people allowed inside and encouraging brief visits.

As many places continue to reopen, here is guidance on lowering the coronavirus risk and managing anxiety while being out during the pandemic.

The F.D.A. bars nearly 30 antibody tests, many made overseas, from the U.S. market.

A medical worker taking a blood sample for an antibody test in Los Angeles this on Wednesday.Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration has barred the sale of nearly 30 coronavirus antibody tests because the manufacturers, many of them based overseas, failed to prove that they were accurate.

A number of the manufacturers are based in China, including Bioscience (Chongqing) Diagnostic Technology Company, Hangzhou Clongene Biotech Company and Zhengzhou Fortune Bioscience Company. Other affected companies are LifeAssay, based in South Africa, and Promedical, based in Australia.

The tests are devised to detect whether an individual has antibodies to the virus, which would show whether they had been infected previously. Many people are getting tested on the assumption that the antibodies confer some immunity to the virus, though researchers are not yet certain how long any immunity might last or how strong it might be.

Earlier this year, all of the manufacturers had notified the F.D.A. that they had validated the tests, but in one study scientists found that only three of 14 tests they examined gave consistently reliable results. A federal study also concluded that “a concerning number” of the tests, also known as serology tests, yielded invalid results.

The F.D.A. then gave the manufacturers until May 18 to prove the tests worked as advertised.

The F.D.A.’s announcement on Thursday did not specify whether the manufacturers had neglected to submit an application, provided faulty data or otherwise failed to meet the requirements, thought it did note that a half-dozen had voluntarily stopped sales.

The volunteers included Diazyme Laboratories, BioMedomics and Shenzhen Landwind Medical Company.

Abhijit Datta, the vice president for operations at Diazyme Laboratories, said the company had never actually sold the rapid antibody detection test listed on the F.D.A.’s website, but was continuing to sell a high-throughput antibody test used in labs around the country.

The N.B.A. considers resuming its season at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., after the game between the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans was called off on March 11 over coronavirus worries.Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The N.B.A. is in the early stages of discussions with the Walt Disney Company to restart its suspended season in late July at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, a league spokesman said Saturday.

The restart would be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which would act as “a single site for an N.BA. campus for games, practices and housing,” said the spokesman, Mike Bass.

“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place,” Mr. Bass said in a statement.

The N.B.A. was among the first major sports leagues to suspend its season on March 11 as a result of the coronavirus, beginning a cascade of other leagues doing the same. Since then several players, including the Nets star Kevin Durant, have tested positive for the virus.

Several hurdles remain to a resumed season. One is testing. The league was criticized when some of its teams were able to obtain tests for their players even though there was a nationwide testing shortage, raising questions of greater accessibility for the wealthy.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bass said, “Regular testing will be key in our return to play,” and that the league wanted to ensure that it “does not come at the expense of testing front line health care workers or others who need it.”

Any return to play must also come with a green light from the players’ union. A union spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is also unclear how many, if any, fans would be allowed into an arena for games.

As of Friday, unions representing athletes in major North American team sports were still negotiating specific plans for returning to play, including extra protection for the most vulnerable employees. For some athletes and team staff members with conditions that put them at greater risk from the coronavirus, balancing health needs against the zeal to play is an especially delicate matter.

A Missouri hair stylist may have exposed 91 people by working while sick.

A hair stylist in Missouri worked for eight days at a salon while sick with the coronavirus, health officials said, potentially exposing 84 clients and seven co-workers.

The possible spread was an extreme example of what health officials warn is likely to be the cost of reopening businesses. Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, a Republican, allowed many businesses, including salons, to reopen on May 4.

While symptomatic, the stylist showed up for eight shifts at the Great Clips hair salon in Springfield between May 12 and Wednesday, after getting sick following travel within the state, health officials said.

“I’ll be honest — I’m very frustrated to be up here today, and maybe more so I’m disappointed,” Clay Goddard, who leads the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said at a news conference on Friday.

Mr. Goddard said that the 91 clients and co-workers who were potentially exposed would all be tested, and that health officials would begin contact tracing.

He said that while the stylist had not exercised enough personal responsibility, he hoped the salon’s strict enforcement of health policies had prevented many possible infections. The stylist and all of the clients had worn masks, he said, and Great Clips kept detailed records that allowed health officials to contact the clients who might have been exposed.

Mr. Goddard said that the stylist had also visited a fitness center, a Dairy Queen and a Walmart in the last 10 days.

“I’m going to be honest with you: We can’t have many more of these,” he said. “We can’t make this a regular habit, or our capability as a community will be strained, and we will have to re-evaluate what things look like going forward.”

Federal scientists finally publish remdesivir data.

Nearly a month after federal scientists claimed that an experimental drug had helped patients severely ill with the coronavirus, the research has been published.

The drug, remdesivir, was quickly authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of coronavirus patients, and hospitals rushed to obtain supplies.

But until now, researchers and physicians had not seen the actual data.

The long-awaited study, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on The New England Journal of Medicine’s website on Friday evening. It confirmed the essence of the government’s assertions: Remdesivir shortened recovery time from 15 days to 11 days in hospitalized patients. The study defined recovery as “either discharge from the hospital or hospitalization.”

The trial was rigorous, randomly assigning 1,063 seriously ill patients to receive either remdesivir or a placebo. Those who received the drug not only recovered faster but also did not have serious adverse events more often than those who were given the placebo.

In a nervous America, the car becomes a safe space.

A showing of “Trolls World Tour” at the Four Brothers Drive-In in Amenia, N.Y.John Minchillo/Associated Press

The role of the automobile has been reinvented in the coronavirus era.

Once simply a way of getting from one place to another, the car has become a mini-shelter on wheels, a cocoon that allows its occupants to be inside and outside at the same time.

When people pack up their families and friends, they can still adhere to social distancing rules. They remain under a roof, within closed doors, sealed off and separated from the rest of their fellow human beings.

Mobile safe distancing has generated a new way of life — a society on wheels.

Uproar in Britain grows over a polarizing official’s trip while infected.

“You’re supposed to be more than two meters apart,” Dominic Cummings, an aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, told reporters as he left his house in London on Saturday.Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Violations of the lockdown by prominent figures are a recurring theme in Britain, and the latest involves Dominic Cummings, an enigmatic figure who helped mastermind the Brexit campaign.

Mr. Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most influential adviser, has become the focus of outrage after reports that he had driven from London to northern England in April to see relatives while he was ill with the coronavirus, in violation of the country’s lockdown rules.

“The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings,” said a spokesman for the opposition Labour Party. Leaders of two other opposition parties demanded that Mr. Cummings resign or be fired.

Mr. Cummings became ill in late March, days after Mr. Johnson and another top adviser tested positive.

Confronted by reporters outside his home on Saturday, Mr. Cummings said, “I behaved reasonably and legally.” Asked whether his decision had been “a good look,” he replied: “Who cares about good looks? It’s a question of doing the right thing. It is not about what you guys think.”

Mr. Johnson released a supportive statement on Saturday, saying that Mr. Cummings had made the trip because his sister and nieces had offered to help with child care.

The uproar comes as Mr. Johnson continues to field criticism over his handling of the country’s outbreak, one of the world’s largest, with more than 254,000 infections and more than 36,000 deaths.

He is also under pressure to reward the doctors and nurses of the country’s beloved National Health Service, with some Britons even urging that the weekly applause for health care workers end and that the government instead give them higher pay. Many have died during the outbreak, and they have cared for patients while short on protective equipment like masks, gloves and visors.

German church opens its doors to Muslims amid restrictions on Eid celebrations.

Muslims praying inside the evangelical church of St. Martha’s parish in Berlin on Friday.Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

As Muslims around the world this weekend prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, a church in Berlin has opened its doors to let Muslims hold Friday Prayer while observing strict social distancing because of the pandemic.

The Dar Assalam mosque in Berlin has been able to welcome only a fraction of Muslim worshipers during Ramadan because of national rules on social distancing. So the Martha Lutheran church in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, the German capital, stepped in to help.

“During prayer, I could only say yes, yes, yes, because we have the same concerns and we want to learn from you,” the church pastor, Monika Matthias, told Reuters. “And it is beautiful to feel that way about each other.”

Because of stay-at-home orders and social distancing rules, many Muslim and Christian services have moved online. Communal prayers, feasts and parties that usually mark Eid have been being restricted or scrapped.

In Indonesia, where the number of coronavirus cases has risen sharply in recent days, Islamic leaders have encouraged Muslims to celebrate the holiday without gathering for traditional iftar dinners to break their fast on Saturday evening. And the country’s largest mosque, Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, plans to offer televised prayers on Sunday.

In Bangladesh, the government has banned the huge communal Eid prayers that normally take place in open fields, saying worshipers must gather in mosques. It also asked people not to shake hands or hug after praying, and advised children, older people and anyone who was ill to stay away from communal prayers.

As for mosques, the government has said that they must be disinfected before and after each Eid gathering, and that all worshipers must carry hand sanitizer and wear masks while praying.

Moderna’s upbeat vaccine news fueled a stock surge — and a telling backlash.

Hours after announcing positive results from a small trial of its coronavirus vaccine, Moderna Therapeutics unveiled a stock offering that sought to raise $1.3 billion.Bill Sikes/Associated Press

Last Monday, when the Massachusetts biotech company Moderna announced positive results from a small, preliminary trial of its coronavirus vaccine, the company’s chief medical officer described the news as a “triumphant day for us.”

But the episode has become a case study in how the coronavirus pandemic and the desperate hunt for treatments and vaccines are shaking up the financial markets and the way that researchers, regulators, drug companies, biotech investors and journalists do their jobs.

The vaccine, the first to be tested in humans, appeared safe and stimulated antibody production in 45 study participants. Eight people had in further testing produced so-called neutralizing antibodies, which should prevent illness.

But there were no details — no charts, no graphs, no numbers, nothing published in a journal.

Still, Moderna’s stock price jumped as much as 30 percent, and the widely covered announcement helped lift the stock market.

Nine hours after the initial news release, Moderna announced a stock offering with the aim of raising more than $1 billion to help bankroll vaccine development. The company’s chairman, Noubar Afeyan, later said it had been decided only that afternoon.

By Tuesday, a backlash was underway. With no further data, scientists could not evaluate Moderna’s claim. The government agency leading the trial, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — led by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci — had made no comment. And there were concerns that the company might have timed things to jack up the price of its stock.

“You have these wild swings, based on incomplete information,” said David Maris, managing director of Phalanx Investment Partners and a longtime analyst covering the pharmaceutical industry. “It’s a crazy, speculative environment, because the pandemic has caused people to want to believe that there’s going to be a miracle cure in a miracle time frame.”

D.C. gauges reopening plans as regional cases surge.

Medical personal equipping personal protective equipment at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital this month in Leonardtown, Md. Virginia and Maryland have continued to see stubbornly high rates of new infectionsWin Mcnamee/Getty Images

Leaders in Washington this weekend are weighing whether to reopen the nation’s capital even as the region has emerged as one of the most concerning hot spots for the coronavirus.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said at a news conference on Thursday that the city was eyeing a gradual reopening beginning on Friday but that she would announce a final decision informed by the latest data on Tuesday.

The Washington metro area now has the highest percentage of positive test results nationwide, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at a news conference on Friday.

Virginia and Maryland, which both contain counties that serve as bedroom communities for Washington, have continued to have stubbornly high rates of new infections, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Prince George’s County in Maryland, which flanks Washington’s eastern border, has twice as many cases as Baltimore.

The mayor said she would make her decision independently, regardless of what neighboring states were doing in the coming weeks.

As of Friday, Washington had reported 7,893 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 418 deaths.

Under a proposal involving four phases, gatherings of up to 10 people would be immediately allowed, and a variety of parks and outdoor sports facilities could reopen. In the second phase, office spaces could open provided there are limits on capacity, with restaurants and bars following in the third phase.

The city’s proposed reopening guidelines hinge on a 14-day decrease in community spread. As of Thursday, public health advisers had noted an 11-day decrease, but cases continue to tick upward in the metro region.

An antigovernment rally protests Spain’s response to the pandemic.

A protest organized by Vox, Spain’s far-right party, in Madrid on Saturday.Javier Soriano/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Antigovernment protesters drove along the main avenues of Madrid and other Spanish cities on Saturday, hooting and calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez over his handling of the coronavirus.

The rally — organized by Vox, Spain’s far-right party — was the loudest protest against the Socialist-led coalition government since it declared a state of emergency in March to stem the virus’s spread.

“It’s time to throw out a government that wants to transform Spain into a Communist state,” said Pedro Fuentes, who wore a mask embroidered with the Spanish flag.

Saturday’s rally followed smaller protests this month, particularly in Madrid’s wealthier neighborhoods where residents vote mostly for right-wing parties. The conservative politicians that run Madrid’s City Hall and its region have been at loggerheads with the central government over how quickly Madrid should exit the lockdown.

While the government has allowed about half of the country to move into a more advanced phase of easing the lockdown, Madrid and Barcelona were the exception. Only on Friday did the central government recommend that the two cities ease some of their restrictions starting Monday.

Mr. Sánchez said on Saturday that the country would open to foreign tourists beginning in July, and that its globally popular soccer league La Liga would restart on June 8, part of the “de-escalation process” from its harshest pandemic restrictions.

The pandemic is colliding with another menace: climate change.

Volunteers trying to repair a damaged dam after the landfall of Cyclone Amphan in Buri Goalini, Bangladesh, on Thursday.Munir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The hits came in rapid succession: A cyclone slammed into the Indian megacity of Kolkata, pounding rains breached two dams in the Midwestern United States, and on Thursday came warning that the Atlantic hurricane season could be severe.

It’s a stark reminder that the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 325,000 people, is colliding with another menace: changes in the global climate that threaten millions of people, especially the world’s poor.

In eastern India and Bangladesh, lockdowns had already left many people relying on food aid even before Cyclone Amphan hit. Then, high winds and heavy rains ruined newly sown crops that were meant to feed communities through next season.

“People have nothing to fall back on,” Pankaj Anand, a director at Oxfam India, said in a statement on Thursday.

Lockdowns around the world have resulted in a sharp drop in greenhouse gas emissions, but the decline has been nowhere near enough to shake loose the thick blanket of gases that already wraps the planet.

And lockdowns have put an end to the main alternative to farming and fishing — heading to urban areas for work. Traditional sources of protection during storms are also now more dangerous, with the risk of the coronavirus spreading quickly in shelters.

Will the coronavirus kill what’s left of Americans’ faith in Washington?

Long before the coronavirus crisis, another one was brewing: a drop in how many Americans trust the federal government.

It has been declining for decades, through Democratic and Republican administrations. And last year it reached one of the lowest points since the measure began: Just 17 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time,” according to the Pew Research Center.

That doesn’t necessarily mean people want no government at all. Polls consistently show much more faith in local government, and some governors are getting high marks for their handling of the pandemic.

But in a week of more than 20 interviews, Americans said that the government in Washington was not rising to meet the challenge.

Many noted that corporations seemed to be getting the lion’s share of federal relief money while small businesses suffered. They expressed bafflement that people had been asked to stay home but were not given enough financial support to do so. Some said it made no sense for entire states to be locked down when some places within were affected far more than others.

And while answers did follow a partisan pattern — Democrats tended to be more skeptical of Washington because they disapprove of President Trump — Americans also expressed a dissatisfaction that has been building for years.

“I don’t trust these people, I don’t believe them,” said Curtis Devlin, 42, an Iraq War veteran who lives in California, referring to national political leaders of both parties. “The people whose interests they represent are donors, power brokers, the parties.

The novelist Haruki Murakami gives Japanese radio listeners sounds to beat the blues.

The novelist Haruki Murakami, who once ran a jazz cafe.Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

The celebrated Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is taking to the airwaves to “blow away some of the corona-related blues.”

Mr. Murakami, 71, who for several years ran a jazz cafe, is known for his passion for jazz and has also featured music in his literary works.

His “Murakami Radio” show typically airs every two months, and his program on Friday was recorded not in a flagship studio in Tokyo but from his home, in a nod to the stay-at-home requests issued by the authorities in Japan’s major cities.

“I wish music or novels could comfort you even a little bit,” he told listeners, saying that he understood the struggle to meet high rents and pay employees when his cafe had to close for months.

He opened the “Stay Home Special” with the song “Look for the Silver Lining” by the Modern Folk Quartet, and over two hours treated listeners to the likes of Bruce Springsteen’s “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” and “Sun is Shining” by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Mr. Murakami, whose critically acclaimed novels include “Norwegian Wood,” “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and “1Q84,” also challenged the warlike language used by some politicians to describe efforts to end the pandemic.

“Hostility and hatred are not needed there,” he said. “I don’t want them to refer it to a war. Don’t you think?”

How to sell a lockdown in New Zealand: straight talk and mom jokes.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand at a news conference at Parliament in Wellington, the capital, last month.Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Pandemics are often described as crises of communication, when leaders must persuade people to suspend their lives because of an invisible threat. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand excels at that — by brightening epidemiology with empathy, and leavening legal matters with mom jokes.

It’s been strikingly effective.

Ms. Ardern helped coax New Zealanders — “our team of five million,” she says — to buy into a lockdown so severe that even retrieving a lost cricket ball from a neighbor’s yard was banned. Now the country, despite some early struggles with contact tracing, has nearly stamped out the virus.

Still, at a time when Ms. Ardern, a 39-year-old global progressive icon, is being widely celebrated, some epidemiologists say that New Zealand’s lockdown went too far and that other countries suppressed the virus with less harm to small businesses.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

Today’s Question: How can I protect myself while flying?

If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

But behind Ms. Ardern’s success are two powerful forces: her own hard work at making connections with constituents, and the political culture of New Zealand, which in the 1990s overhauled how it votes, forging a system that forces political parties to work together.

“You need the whole context, the way the political system has evolved,” said Helen Clark, a former prime minister who hired Ms. Ardern as an adviser more than a decade ago. “It’s not easily transferable.”

In New York, a neighborhood that stifled gangs and guns confronts a new killer.

Au Hogan, the president of the Baisley Park Houses Tenants Association in Queens, delivering face masks to residents this month.James Estrin/The New York Times

Not long ago, the main public health threat facing people living in an area of Queens in New York was one that had taken too many young lives: gangs armed with guns.

When a 14-year-old was killed accidentally in October by a bullet fired in a gang dispute, the death galvanized the neighborhood to take action. Community leaders negotiated a cease-fire, and shootings had dropped significantly by earlier this year.

Now, the area faces an even greater crisis as the coronavirus spreads through its brick high-rises and blue-collar homes. And this time the victims are mostly older residents with little or no connection to gun violence, residents and officials said.

“We are losing the matriarchs and patriarchs in our neighborhood,” said Erica Ford, who founded LIFE Camp, a nonprofit that tries to stem street violence. “We had just managed to bring shootings down. Then the virus made its way here.”

During the peak of the crisis in early April, nearly 70 percent of residents in the ZIP code who were tested for the coronavirus were found to be positive, according to city Health Department data.

At least 144 people from the ZIP code have died in the pandemic.

Can antibodies from recovered patients help those who are sick? For now, it’s unclear.

The F.D.A. has approved the use of convalescent serum in very sick Covid-19 patients.Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

Scientists are scrambling to learn whether antibodies drawn from the blood of patients who have recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, might help those who are severely ill.

The treatment has been around for more than a century, but it mostly has been given to patients without thorough testing. Now, blood banks around the world are collecting samples from people who have these antibodies, hoping they will turn out to be an effective remedy.

A study released on Friday night has yielded disappointing results. The research has not yet been peer-reviewed nor published in a scientific journal, but it is said to be the largest examination of the use of so-called convalescent plasma in severely ill Covid-19 patients.

Thirty-nine hospitalized patients were given intravenous infusions of antibodies. The course of illness in patients who received the convalescent plasma was compared to that of similar patients identified through electronic health records who did not receive the treatment.

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York reported that 18 percent of those who got the plasma of convalescent serum became sicker, compared with 24.3 percent of the patients who did not receive the treatment.

The death rates were 12.8 percent among those who got the antibodies, compared with 24.4 percent among the patients who did not get the treatment.

But the number of participants was small, and the patients who did not receive antibodies may not have been exactly like those who did, making comparisons unreliable.

Still, convalescent plasma did not appear to be the silver bullet that scientists have been hoping for. At the moment, only the antiviral drug remdesivir has been shown to be modestly effective in treating patients severely ill with Covid-19.

Even without evidence, however, the Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of convalescent plasma in very sick Covid-19 patients.

“That train has left the station,” said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, an immunologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

South Korea is closing bars and karaoke parlors after new infections.

Health workers spraying disinfectant in the Itaewon nightlife district of Seoul this month.Yonhap, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The authorities in South Korea’s major cities have shuttered thousands of bars, nightclubs and karaoke parlors after identifying them as new sources of infection.

The measures are a response to a new coronavirus cluster — 215 cases as of Friday — traced to nightlife facilities this month. The outbreak is believed to have started in Itaewon, a popular nightclub district in Seoul.

Anyone who visits the venues, as well as the owners who accept them, can face fines, and the government can also sue them for damages amid an outbreak. And unlike other patients, those who contract the virus in these facilities while they are barred must pay their own coronavirus-related medical bills.

South Korea is not the only the place in the region to crack down on nightlife in the pandemic.

Hong Kong closed its night clubs and karaoke establishments in April after a “bar and band” cluster was identified in a popular nightlife district. They are scheduled to reopen next week.

And in Japan, an association representing entertainment workers issued guidelines on Friday that cover nightclubs and hostess bars. The guidelines suggest that hostesses tie up their hair and avoid sitting directly in front of customers.

The association, Nihon Mizushobai Kyokai, also said that microphones in karaoke parlors should be disinfected regularly and that customers should keep their masks on while singing.

Europe’s military plan becomes a victim of the pandemic.

Troops from a European tank battalion that consists of Dutch and German soldiers.Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

The coronavirus has upended the best-laid plans and priorities of many, including the European Union. And one of the biggest casualties may be European efforts to build a more credible and independent European military.

For several years — especially since President Trump came to office with his skepticism about NATO, European alliances and multilateral obligations — leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France have pushed for the continent’s ability to defend itself and act militarily in its neighborhood without so much reliance on the United States.

But even before the virus hit, and despite loud calls that the bloc was in greater peril from new technologies and a more aggressive Russia and China, the European Commission was slashing projected European military spending in the next seven-year budget.

Now, with the pandemic having cratered the economy, there will be an even fiercer budgetary battle. Recovery and jobs will be the priority, and Brussels continues to emphasize investment in a European “Green Deal” to manage the climate crisis.

“We Europeans truly need to take our fate in our own hands,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany after Mr. Trump’s election. In February, Mr. Macron called again for “a much stronger Europe in defense.”

Brazil overtakes Russia in confirmed cases as the pandemic spreads in South America.

Burying a relative in Rio de Janeiro this month.Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

With the World Health Organization warning that South America is becoming the “new epicenter” of the pandemic, Brazil has overtaken Russia in its number of coronavirus cases, registering 330,890 infected people — a figure second only to that of the United States.

Brazil registered 1,001 daily coronavirus deaths on Friday, raising the country’s total to 21,048, according to the Health Ministry. And the true toll is probably higher as Brazil, Latin America’s top economy, has been slow to ramp up testing.

The coronavirus toll has been rising sharply in Brazil, where the country’s health minister resigned this month just four weeks into the job, having replaced a predecessor who was dismissed by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Despite having robust public health care system, the country’s response to the pandemic has been chaotic and contradictory, and it is not the only Latin American nation facing a surge in coronavirus cases.

Data from Ecuador indicate that the country is suffering one of the worst outbreaks in the world. And in Argentina, the pandemic threatens to push the country into even further financial difficulty.

On Friday, Argentina missed a bond payment and inched closer to another crushing default that would plunge it into a new period of economic isolation and deepen a recession that has been made worse by the pandemic.

China reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases.

A line for testing last week in Wuhan, the Chinese city hit hardest by the coronavirus.Aly Song/Reuters

China reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases on Saturday, the first time that both tallies were zero on a given day since the country’s outbreak began.

The authorities reported 28 asymptomatic cases, two of which were imported.

The announcements came as the authorities in Wuhan, where the global outbreak began, are aiming to test all of the city’s 11 million residents. In what is knows as a “10-day battle,” begun on May 14, the government initiative aims to obtain a truer picture of the epidemic in the city — most crucially of people who have the virus but show no symptoms.

Some public health experts are watching the campaign to see whether it can serve as a model for other governments that want to return their societies to some level of normalcy.

And while China’s Hong Kong security laws are attracting wide attention outside the country, its domestic news media outlets are keeping the focus on President Xi Jinping. He is using China’s biggest political event of the year, the annual session of the National People’s Congress, to project strength at a time when external criticism of his government’s handling of the pandemic is growing.

Some coronavirus patients in Portugal recognized their doctor from the soccer field.

Frederico Varandas, president of one of Portugal’s biggest soccer teams, is a doctor who has treated coronavirus patients.Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

He swapped his blazer and tie for personal protective equipment and left the boardroom for the emergency room at Lisbon’s military hospital.

There, as a doctor pressed into service in the pandemic, he faced feverish, coughing patients and helped line up their care. But some of them had a curious question. “From just looking at my eyes,” he said, “they would say, ‘Hey, are you not the Sporting president? Can I have a selfie?’”

Frederico Varandas is the president of Sporting Clube de Portugal, one of the country’s biggest soccer teams. He is also Dr. Frederico Varandas, a reserve military physician who completed a tour in Afghanistan a decade ago before switching his career.

Dr. Varandas, 40, was recently on call at the hospital for about six weeks, treating military staff members and their families. His main task was to test and evaluate patients as they arrived, before handing off the more serious ones to his colleagues in the intensive care unit.

He is not the only sports figure pressed into medical service in the pandemic. In Canada, Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in hockey turned medical student, has been gathering protective equipment for workers and helping with efforts to track the spread of the coronavirus.

In Dr. Varandas’s case, he said, “Sports had stopped in Portugal, and I thought that I am more important to the country working as a doctor.”

In Britain, a call to end weekly clapping for health care workers.

Clapping for the National Health Service in London last month.Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The woman credited with starting the weekly applause for health care workers fighting the coronavirus in Britain has suggested that the “Clap for Carers” should end on Thursday, the 10th week after it started.

Her logic? The public has shown its appreciation enough and it is now up to the government to reward doctors and nurses. Many have died during the outbreak, and they have cared for patients while short on protective equipment like masks, gloves and visors.

The woman, Annemarie Plas, told BBC Radio 2 that the clapping could be replaced by an annual remembrance. “Next week will be 10 times,” she said. “I think that would be beautiful, to be the end of the series.”

Ms. Plas is not the only one seeking to end the tribute: A doctor, writing in The Guardian, said: “Enough with the rainbows. When this ends, people need to show their value of key-working staff in practical ways; pay them enough to be able to live in our cities, and recognize, support and welcome immigrant staff who prop this country up.”

While the British government has been accused of mishandling the pandemic — such as announcing only on Friday, months after a lockdown began, that international travelers to the country would be required to self-isolate for 14 days — its National Health Service has been seen as a rallying point.

Britons started clapping at 8 p.m. on March 26, weeks after Italy, France, Spain and other countries in Europe had begun showing support in a similar fashion. New Yorkers also step out to applaud daily at 7 p.m.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that his government was considering how to reward health care professionals — weeks after other governments in Europe announced bonuses. Under pressure, he also ordered the end to the extra medical fee that non-British workers at the N.H.S. must pay to use the service.

The moves come as pressure grows for Mr. Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, to resign after news outlets reported that he had visited his parents at their home in March while he had coronavirus symptoms.

According to The Guardian and The Mirror newspapers, Mr. Cummings traveled to Durham, 270 miles north of his home in London, a week after he had begun to self-isolate, flouting guidance from Mr. Johnson for people to stay home to help curb the virus’s spread.

The government defended Mr. Cummings on Saturday, saying that he had not violated the lockdown guidelines, and suggested that the purpose of the trip had been to secure child care.

The virus doesn’t spread easily on surfaces, the C.D.C. says.

Cleaning the surfaces in a classroom in Odessa, Texas, last month.Ben Powell/Odessa American, via Associated Press

Guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published this week are clarifying what medical experts know about the spread of the coronavirus.

The virus does not spread easily via contaminated surfaces, according to the agency — a relief for people worried about wiping down grocery bags or disinfecting mailed packages.

The agency has been using similar language for months. If anything, the news headlines highlighting this guidance in recent days pulled into sharper focus what is already known.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from one person to another, typically through droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks at close range — even if that person is shows no symptoms.

The C.D.C.’s website also says that “touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes” is a possible way for people to become infected. But those transmissions are “not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

Separated by Plexiglas: A correspondent on what it’s like to visit a nursing home in France.

Elian Peltier and his mother were reflected in a Plexiglas partition as they visited Mr. Peltier’s grandfather René Bindel at his nursing home. Mr. Peltier’s grandmother Marie-Thérèse Bindel is also at the home.Lydie Peltier

Elian Peltier covered the pandemic in Spain before returning to his home country, France. We asked him to tell us about a visit to his grandparents.

When France went under lockdown in March, my mother was relieved. Her parents were in a nursing home, and with travel restrictions in place, she and her sister could no longer drive the 80 miles south of Paris every weekend to visit them.

At least in the home, my grandparents would get the care they needed. Then the virus slipped inside nursing homes, and relief turned to alarm.

So began a long vigil of daily calls, weekly video chats and customized postcards created online.

When I told my grandfather about reporting in Spain, I didn’t mention the bodies taken out of apartment buildings in Barcelona and the health care workers in hazmat suits disinfecting nursing homes in isolated villages. It felt better to update him on European soccer leagues and reminisce about our penalty-kick practices in his garden in Beaugency, where I spent my summers as a child.

The coronavirus has killed about 14,000 residents of France’s nursing homes — half of the country’s death toll. We are lucky that, so far, none of those deaths occurred at my grandparents’ home, where the caregivers were vigilant about social distancing.

As France began easing its lockdown last week, we were finally able to visit, or rather sit outside the home, as my grandparents sat inside, a few feet away. To allow us to hear each other, the staff opened the door, but placed a table with a Plexiglas partition in the doorway.

We could see my grandparents only one at a time, since they are in different parts of the home that can no longer socially mix. My grandfather, a former stone mason, misses many things that we cannot yet deliver, like shorts, because of the home’s strict rules. It is my grandmother’s company he misses most.

My grandmother, once a wonderful cook known for her poulet basquaise and cherry cakes, has Alzheimer’s. When she struggled to recognize me, I broke the rules and took down my mask for a second. A nurse gently caressed her hair as we spoke. My mother and I were a little envious that the nurse could do what we could not.

For now, I plan to finally read my grandfather’s journals of his military service in Chad when he was around my age. He gave them to me at Christmas; I thought I had plenty of time to read them. That was before he had a stroke, and before the pandemic created a new normal.

A British utility will pay its customers to keep the lights on.

Working on an electrical pylon in Leicestershire, England, in March. Negative electricity prices have become increasingly common in Europe.Tim Keeton/EPA, via Shutterstock

The pandemic has played havoc with energy markets. Last month, the price of benchmark American crude oil fell below zero as the economy shut down and demand plunged.

And this weekend, a British utility will pay some of its residential consumers to use electricity — to plug in appliances and run them full blast.

These negative electricity prices usually show up in wholesale power markets, when a big electricity user like a factory or a water treatment plant is paid to consume more power. Having too much power on the line could lead to damaged equipment or even blackouts.

Negative prices were once relatively rare, but during the pandemic they have become almost routine in Britain, Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The reason is similar to what caused the price of oil to plunge: oversupply meeting a collapse in demand.

In Britain, Octopus Energy is offering to pay some customers 2 pence to 5 pence per kilowatt-hour for electricity that they consume in periods of slack demand, such as are expected on Sunday.

“This needs to become the normal,” said Greg Jackson, the company’s and chief executive, who said the pandemic was offering a preview of “what the future is going to look like.”

In recent weeks, renewable energy sources have played an increasingly large role in the European power system, and the burning of coal has decreased.

The virus’s ‘different pathway’ in Africa may be a function of the continent’s younger population.

Coronavirus testing in Juba, South Sudan, last month.Alex Mcbride/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The coronavirus is taking a “different pathway” in Africa compared with its trajectory in other regions, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Mortality rates are lower in Africa than elsewhere, the W.H.O. said, theorizing that the continent’s young population could account for that.

The virus has reached all 55 countries on the continent, which recently confirmed its 100,000th case, with 3,100 deaths. When Europe’s infection count reached that point, it had registered 4,900 deaths.

“For now, Covid-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the organization’s regional director for Africa.

More than 60 percent of people in Africa are under 25, and Covid-19 hits older populations particularly hard. In Europe, around 95 percent of virus deaths have been among people 60 and older.

Many health experts have cast doubt on the W.H.O.’s numbers, however, saying that most African countries’ testing capability is extremely limited — partly because they struggle to obtain the diagnostic equipment they need — and that deaths as a result of Covid-19 are undercounted.

Reporting was contributed by Julfikar Ali Manik, Ian Austen, Peter Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, José María León Cabrera, Stephen Castle, Damien Cave, Michael Cooper, Steven Erlanger, Tess Felder, Jacey Fortin, Jeffrey Gettleman, Abby Goodnough, Denise Grady, Maggie Haberman, Christine Hauser, Mike Ives, Jennifer Jett, Yonette Joseph, Sheila Kaplan, Annie Karni, Gina Kolata, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Mark Landler, Judith Levitt, Ernesto Londoño, Louis Lucero, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Zach Montague, Sharon Otterman, Richard C. Paddock, Tariq Panja, Elian Peltier, Daniel Politi, Suhasini Raj, Adam Rasgon, Stanley Reed, Luis Ferré Sadurní, Edgar Sandoval, Choe Sang-Hun, Marc Stein, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sabrina Tavernise, Katie Thomas, Anton Troianovski, Hisako Ueno, Shalini Venugopal, James Wagner, Sui-Lee Wee, Noah Weiland, Jin Wu and Elaine Yu.

Iran Refuses to Save the Oil and Wine (Revelation 6:6)

Iran Ships Fuel to Venezuela, Flouting U.S. Pressure on Its Foes

Show of defiance comes in face of Trump administration sanctions aimed at unseating their authoritarian governments

By Kejal Vyas and Benoit Faucon

May 24, 2020 5:36 pm ET

The first of five tankers carrying Iranian fuel has reached gasoline-starved Venezuela in a show of defiance by two U.S. adversaries flouting American sanctions aimed at unseating their authoritarian governments.

As the first vessel entered Venezuelan waters late Saturday, Iran’s national anthem sounded on Venezuela state television against images of the late Islamic revolutionary Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as black-chador-covered women march with an Iranian flag—jarring sights for the rum-and-beauty-pageant-loving South American country.

Venezuelan officials claimed triumph in the face of warnings by U.S. officials of possible new actions to impede trade between the countries on top of existing sanctions on both countries’ energy industries. The Trump administration, wary of further escalation with Iran, doesn’t plan to use force to stop the vessels, U.S. officials said.

Despite a punishing economic crisis and spreading malnutrition, the tanker’s arrival gave Venezuela’s government another reason to celebrate three weeks after it put down a botched raid by mercenaries, including two former U.S. soldiers now detained in Caracas.

“Thank you, brothers,” Venezuela’s oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, said in a Twitter post. “This energy cooperation points to the benefit and development of our peoples.”

The shipments, which total 1.5 million barrels of gasoline, are a small reprieve for the embattled country, enough to satisfy Venezuelan demand for about two weeks. Though it has the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela’s lifeblood energy industry has crumbled amid a seven-year economic depression and rampant corruption. Oil production has fallen to about 600,000 barrels a day from 3 million a decade ago and refineries are in poor shape.

A rash of U.S. sanctions leveled more than a year ago against Venezuela’s oil sector has sent President Nicolás Maduro’s government scrambling for new fuel sources. Amid the shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic, shortages force citizens to line up for more than a day for gasoline. With no way to power farming equipment, much of the country’s little food output rots in the fields, according to Venezuela’s national agricultural federation.

The daily struggles have even ardent Maduro critics hoping that the U.S. refrains from disrupting gasoline flow.

“There’s just no benefit to stopping the fuel because we really need it,” said Gilberto Morillo, a former finance director of state-oil-giant Petróleos de Venezuela SA, who still lives in Venezuela. “The sanctions aren’t responsible for what’s happening in the country, but in a way, they’ve pushed the regime to get closer to Iran and to radicalize even more.”

Venezuelan Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami celebrated the Iranian oil shipments on Saturday.

PHOTO: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS

Iran and Venezuela, both founding members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, sought to build an anti-U.S. alliance more than a decade ago under the leadership of Venezuelan firebrand Hugo Chávez and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The two leaders signed business ventures including bicycle and tractor factories to housing construction in Venezuela.

That relationship concerned U.S. authorities working to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Mr. Chávez once publicly boasted that Iran was helping explore for uranium in Venezuela—a mineral used in some nuclear weapons. There’s no evidence that Mr. Chávez’s plans moved forward.

In 2009, American agents helped Turkey intercept Iranian vessels destined for Venezuela that were carrying nitrate and sulfite chemicals that could have been used for bombs or unmanned aerial vehicles prohibited under the arms-sale restrictions of the United Nations Security Council, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks.

Economic troubles and political turmoil in Venezuela doomed the business ventures. But the two nations renewed their efforts this year after Mr. Maduro appointed Mr. El Aissami to revamp Venezuela’s oil industryand effectively privatize oil fields, in a major reversal of Caracas’ state-led economic model.

In 2017, Mr. El Aissami was sanctioned by the U.S. as an alleged narcotics trafficker. Then in March, U.S. prosecutors indicted him along with more than a dozen Venezuelan officials on drug charges. The accusations, which Mr. El Aissami denies, have effectively barred him from traveling to U.S.-allied nations, leaving Iran among Venezuela’s last partners.

“We are seeing countries under sanctions working together,” said Ali Soufan, a former U.S. counterterrorism official who now heads the Soufan Group, a New York consulting firm. For Iran and Venezuela, the “biggest common point is having the United States as an enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Since mid-April, Iranian carrier Mahan Air—also sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury—has transported technicians and some 700 tons of fuel-processing components, much of it from China, to Venezuela’s ailing Paraguana Refining Complex, said Iván Freites, a Venezuelan oil union leader. But the equipment hasn’t been enough to restore the decrepit Paraguana installations—the biggest refinery in the Western Hemisphere—that were custom designed decades earlier by major U.S. engineering firms, Mr. Freites said.

Despite capacity to process 1.3 million barrels a day, Venezuela’s refineries produce almost nothing. They are hobbled not only by old equipment but also by a lack of qualified technicians, many of whom have joined the exodus of 5 million refugees out of the country, said Mr. Freites. “Iran can’t save Maduro. This only buys time.”

Loly Dobarro, a former deputy oil minister under Mr. Chávez and ex-legal adviser for OPEC, said Iran’s oil deliveries won’t go far in her home country where gasoline is state subsidized and virtually free. Oil analysts estimate that Venezuela now uses about a quarter of the 700,000 barrels of fuel a day that it consumed when Mr. Maduro took office in 2013. Large portions of that oil was smuggled to neighboring countries, but no longer.

“The only solution is to pay real-world prices,” Ms. Dobarro said. “But this is a government of inaction so it’ll be surprising if they do anything” to fix those distortions.

The U.S. and its allies have deemed Mr. Maduro illegitimate since a 2018 election marred by fraud allegations. They back main opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s true president, though Mr. Maduro maintains control of the armed forces and most state institutions.

Mr. Guaidó in a recent address accused the Maduro government of paying for Iran’s help with tons of “blood gold” extracted from lawless and violent southern Venezuela, where Mr. Maduro has promoted mining to offset plunging oil revenue.

“Together, we can guarantee the development of our countries without being dependent on the White House and the gringos,” Iran’s ambassador Hojjatollah Soltani said on Union Radio in Caracas.