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U.S. Debate, Vladimir Putin, African Art: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering reactions to the chaotic U.S. presidential debate, the virus-free bubble protecting President Vladimir Putin of Russia and how an Austrian ski resort became a superspreader.

Russia’s Federal Protective Service, responsible for protecting President Vladimir Putin, has helped build a virus-free bubble around Mr. Putin that far outstrips the protective measures taken by many other leaders.

Russian journalists who cover Mr. Putin have not seen him up close since March. The few people who meet him face to face generally spend as much as two weeks in quarantine first. The president conducts his meetings with senior officials by video link from his residence outside Moscow, which has been outfitted with a disinfectant tunnel.

Paranoia? Mr. Putin’s extreme caution reflects not only his age — he is 67, putting him at relatively high risk of severe illness from the coronavirus — but also what critics describe as paranoia honed during his former career as a K.G.B. spy.

Mr. Putin’s diligence is striking because, in communicating with the Russian public in recent months, his government largely declared the virus vanquished.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other coronavirus developments:

  • A former president in Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the virus. Parliament canceled plenary sessions until Oct. 20 after at least 10 lawmakers tested positive.

  • Early clinical trials have been completed for a second Russian vaccine, a health official said on Wednesday, moving it closer to registration under the Russian approach of approving vaccines for emergency use before beginning late-stage trials.

  • A study of nearly 85,000 cases in India found that children of all ages can become infected with the coronavirus and spread it to others.

  • South Africa will today begin allowing some international tourists to enter the country, but at least a dozen European countries, including Britain, France, Russia, Iceland and the Netherlands — as well as the United States and most of Latin America — remain on a no-fly list.


The chaotic debate on Tuesday between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden left allies and rivals alike questioning the state of American democracy. In world capitals, there was some shock, some sadness and some weariness.

“My own response is that it makes me despondent about America,” said John Sawers, a former British diplomat and head of a risk analysis firm. “The country we have looked to for leadership has descended into an ugly brawl.”

A shift: The Commission on Presidential Debates said it would change its format after Mr. Trump’s constant interruptions during the first of three debates leading up to the Nov. 3 election. There may be new limits on speaking times. There is no decision yet on allowing the moderator to cut off microphones.

Analysis: Mr. Trump’s claim that balloting, already underway, was a “fraud and a shame” and proof of “a rigged election” amounted to a declaration that he would try to throw any outcome into the courts, Congress or the streets if he were not re-elected, our national security correspondent writes.

Response: Republicans distanced themselves from Mr. Trump over his failure to condemn white supremacy during the debate, as he faced a torrent of criticism. Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence, were jubilant.

The election is also making investors nervous. The S&P stock index had its first monthly drop since March, finishing September down 4 percent, as investors prepared for instability after the election.


Five activists went on trial in Paris on Wednesday, accused of trying to steal an African artwork to protest colonial-era cultural theft. The case put France’s colonial legacy and promises to return the art under scrutiny.

The five were arrested in June when they tried to take a 19th-century African funeral pole from the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. A verdict is expected on Oct. 14.

African art in France: A report in 2018 identified about two-thirds of the 70,000 objects at the Quai Branly Museum as qualifying for restitution. Only 27 restitutions have been announced and only one object, a traditional sword, has been returned, to Senegal. The remaining 26 treasures that were designated for restitution, to Benin, are still in the museum.

As the coronavirus spread across Europe in late February and early March, groups of Americans, Britons and Germans arrived in Ischgl, above, one of the most famous ski resorts of the Austrian Alps. No one was alarmed, and Austrian officials played down concerns.

Then the tourists all went home. Thousands of skiers carried the coronavirus to more than 40 countries on five continents. Nine months into an outbreak that has spread to nearly every country, our reporters looked at how the era of global tourism collided with a pandemic.

Snapshot: Above, Wagner Gonçalves, the artistic director of a samba group, in front of a float from last year’s carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The parade has been suspended indefinitely amid the pandemic and Rio is reeling. For the army of dancers, choreographers, costume makers and set designers who produce the dazzling parade, the loss is personal and financial.

Fake art, anyone? An exhibition of Russian avant-garde art at the Museum Ludwig in Germany has works by Kazimir Malevich and Natalia Goncharova displayed alongside fakes. The taboo-breaking show hopes to shed light on the pitfalls of collecting Russian avant-garde art.

What we’re reading: This home tour through a dog’s eyes in The New Yorker. “It will send you off into your day with a smile, and maybe remind you to pet your dog a little more,” writes Melina Delkic, on the Briefings team.

Cook: A relatively easy recipe for pork chops by the cookbook author Toni Tipton-Martin. The pork is dressed in a glossy sauce made of capers, parsley, lemon and butter, taking it from a simple to elegant weeknight meal.

Read: “Jack,” the fourth volume in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead series, features an interracial romance facing perils in a Jim Crow city.

Watch: Are you craving an evening of truth? Check out one of these Academy Award winners for best documentary.

October is here. Let us help you enjoy the fall season with our At Home collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

We asked Times readers to share some of the details of their days during the pandemic. Some kept log books on where they went, whom they saw, what they ate and what they did. Their notes, taken together, offer a series of snapshots of everyday life during this unusual time. Here’s a bit of what they told us, and you can read more here.

  • My “remembering Dad” sunflower bloomed today. — Ann Bovee, 54, Redmond, Wash.

  • A taxi arrived at the door this morning with a gift of fresh banana leaves from our friend Nora, so that I can line a pot with them for making barbacoa de pollo later today. — Thad Mummert, 74, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, México

  • We’re at the hospital to train staff on Covid-19 infection, prevention and control. Staff are slowly, slowly arriving to the training site. Thousands of dragonflies are flitting about the courtyard. — Emily Guebert, 29, Aweil, South Sudan

  • Ran — hot (85 degrees) and humid (56 percent) today versus cool and windy yesterday. Passed two people. Wide berth. Could they be Covid transmitters? — Brant S. Mittler, 73, San Antonio, Texas

  • Locked eyes with a stag standing just beyond the patio in the backyard while on Zoom with my boss’ boss. Made the fancy boxed pasta for dinner. — Morgan Shockley, 30, Arroyo Seco, N.M.


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

— Carole


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

P.S.
• The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the chaos surrounding the first U.S. presidential debate. We’re also listening to Kara Swisher’s conversation with Elon Musk on her “Sway” podcast for Times Opinion.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Rhythm instruments (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Emily Schmall, formerly a South Asia correspondent for The Associated Press, is joining our New Delhi bureau.


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