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Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times

The Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul has been a magnet for thousands of conservative Christians who fear South Korea is turning communist under President Moon Jae-in.

But the church’s political crusade is now colliding with the pandemic, as a large outbreak centered on the church spreads through the capital, Seoul, and beyond.

Church members have participated in some of the largest antigovernment protests the country has seen in years, and many have contracted the virus. In the past week, the church has had to shut down because of the outbreak, and the congregants have had to isolate themselves.

Details: The church outbreak pushed the country to 288 new cases on Thursday, the seventh straight day of triple-digit jumps.

Every year, scores of Indians are killed and hundreds more are tortured to death in police custody. But the killings rarely provoke widespread outrage.

Even after the death of George Floyd in police custody in the U.S. unleashed searing examinations of police abuse and injustice around the world, no large movement has emerged in India.

For many Indians, crime is the more pressing issue, and they often side with the police, or fear speaking against them. Jeffrey Gettleman, our South Asia bureau chief, told me: “Some intellectuals, human rights observers and advocates for members of minority communities speak out about police abuse, but it doesn’t usually go wider than that.” Hear more from him in our Back Story at the bottom of this briefing.

What usually happens: The use of torture is banned in India, but it happens in police stations, activists said, under the euphemism of “third-degree interrogation.” Police officers who spoke to The Times acknowledged it involves physical torture.

Details: At least 1,731 people were killed in custody last year, according to a report by the National Campaign Against Torture, an Indian rights group. The majority of the victims were Muslims and lower-caste Hindus.

A new Communist Party push to ensure loyalty has police officers, judges, prosecutors and feared state security agents across the country studying Mao’s methods for political purges in the 1940s.

The officials have been ordered to “drive the blade in” and “scrape poison off the bone,” setting aside personal loyalties to expose any wayward colleagues. Experts and recent Chinese studies say the leadership has struggled to manage its many-headed bureaucracy of police forces, security agencies, courts, prosecutors and prisons.

“Root out ‘two-faced people’ who are disloyal and dishonest to the party,” Chen Yixin, a chief enforcer of the campaign, said at a kickoff meeting last month. In the first week, 21 officials came under investigation for corruption and other abuses.

Context: The campaign is shaping up as a sharp tool for the party leader, Xi Jinping, to increase domestic discipline as he faces rising tensions with the U.S. and other countries and prepares for a party congress in two years that will install a new cohort of central officials and, most likely, extend Mr. Xi’s time in power.

Yellowed newspapers stacked high. Wilted plants. A lesson plan dated March 12. Times photographers visited three offices around New York — including our own headquarters — that have been abandoned since March, when the city locked down for the coronavirus.

And a team of writers surveyed employees, who seemed largely happy working from home, and explored what became of workplace gossip, handshakes and work attire, all to answer the question: What does the future hold for the office and the workers who once inhabited it?

Steve Bannon: The former Trump campaign adviser was one of four people arrested on charges of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors to an online fund-raising effort that collected $25 million for a border wall.

Aleksei Navalny: Russia’s most prominent opposition leader was in serious but stable condition in intensive care in Siberia after becoming ill on a flight bound for Moscow. His spokeswoman pointed to poisoning, which Russian security services have been accused of using against dissidents and others.

2020 presidential campaign: Senator Kamala Harris of California accepted the nomination to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president, saying the night was one that her mother, an immigrant from India, “could have never imagined.” The last leg of the convention will feature Joe Biden’s acceptance of the presidential nomination.

North Korea: Official state media reported that Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader, admitted that his ambitious five-year economic plan had failed, a rare acknowledgment of mistakes. A Workers’ Party congress set for January is to chart a new course.

Snapshot: Above, a fire in California’s Bay Area. Fires in Sonoma and Napa Counties have forced many residents to evacuate. As climate change worsens, the region’s fire season has expanded to be nearly year-round.

What we’re reading: Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker essay on the meditative and restorative power of gardening. “I’m not a gardener. But it turns out that reading about people who are can be a psychological salve,” writes Ian Prasad Philbrick from the Briefings team.

Cook: Samin Nosrat’s Sabudana khichdi, a savory tapioca dish with creamy potato and cumin seeds, is the perfect comfort food.

Deal: Can’t decide whether to accept wedding invitations during the pandemic? Here are some important questions to ask.

Go: See art shows from Lisa Alvarado, Luc Sante and Wang Xu, in person or virtually.

There are plenty of ways to stay busy safely, and our At Home collection adds more ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do every day.

Jeffrey Gettleman, our South Asia bureau chief, has been reporting on police brutality in India, and the lack of an organized response to it. He spoke to us about what he’s finding.

What kind of relationship does the average person have with the police in India? What are their duties?

Many Indians are afraid of the police. Their duties are like anywhere else, to maintain law and order. The difference between the situation here and in the United States, for example, is that the officers who abuse people, and even at times kill them, rarely get punished. Police brutality is a problem the world over. But in India, prosecutors, the judiciary and other branches of government rarely step in.

How did residents you talked to respond to the topic of police brutality?

Many people are frustrated with the impunity of the police. We’ve heard some very chilling accounts of brutality, and even killings, at the hands of the police that barely get investigated, even if the brutality has been thoroughly documented.

Do people talk about any ties between the current state of the police and British colonialism?

Some Indians have told me that the way India is policed is a holdover from colonial times, when the police force was used to control the public, not necessarily to serve them. During the British period, the police were deployed to quell uprisings and go after people who challenged the government. Many Indians we’ve spoken to say things haven’t really changed.

Some intellectuals, human rights observers and advocates for members of minority groups speak out about police abuse, but it doesn’t usually go wider than that. Many Indians are so fed up with crime and corruption, they don’t mind giving the police a free hand to do whatever they want to those who are seen as criminals, whether the suspects have been given due process or not.

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

— Melina

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

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