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A girl wearing a protective mask depicting the TikTok logo poses for a picture inside a slum in Mumbai
Image copyright: Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas
Who can break the spell?

Here’s what you need to know

The US sanctioned Chinese officials. Washington is blacklisting Politburo member Chen Quanguo and three others, citing alleged human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority. About a million Muslims are estimated to have been detained in camps, while Beijing denies mistreatment. The Trump administration says Chen is the most powerful Chinese official to have faced US sanctions.

Turkey ruled on the Hagia Sophia. A court announced today that the conversion of the Istanbul mosque into a museum in 1934 was illegal, providing a route for the restoration of the building, which began as a Byzantine church, to a mosque. Christian leaders have expressed concern at the move.

The mayor of Seoul was found dead. Police found the body of Park Won-soon, a South Korea presidential hopeful who was known for championing women’s rights, after he went missing on Thursday. The mayor had recently been accused of sexual harassment.

Poles vote again. Incumbent Andrzej Duda and Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski enter the second-round run-off of the presidential race on Sunday, after the first round failed to deliver a conclusive victory. A narrow win by either side will further polarize the country.

Muji filed for Chapter 11. The Japanese retail company’s subsidiary in the US plans to renegotiate rents and close unprofitable stores. Muji, known for minimalist clothing and housewares, joins retailers Brooks Brothers and J. Crew in seeking bankruptcy protection as coronavirus infections surge in parts of the US. Hong Kong and Australia are also clamping down amid renewed outbreaks.

Southeast Asia’s first pandemic election

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wearing a face mask.
Image copyright: AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singaporeans head to the polls today in a general election that’s expected to extend the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) uninterrupted grip on power since the country’s independence in 1965—much of the time under the leadership of a single family.

And while the new political risks for global companies in rival financial hub Hong Kong could work to the city-state’s benefit, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong still must answer for a grim economic outlook and a bungled coronavirus response.

Despite the plethora of parties—including one supported by the prime minister’s estranged brother—rights groups have long cautioned that Singapore’s elections aren’t truly competitive—with problems that include gerrymandering (pdf), a lack of oversight, and prohibitively high candidate registration costs. This year, there are two added obstacles.

First, due to the pandemic, physical rallies have been banned and campaigning restricted to social media. Opposition parties say this disadvantages them, while the ruling party says it levels the playing field.

That might be true, if it wasn’t for the second challenge: the country’s controversial so-called fake news law, which took effect last October. Opposition figures and news outlets have already been charged with violations, and ordered to affix “correction” notices to their online posts.

Charting US spending on Covid-19 research

On July 6, the US government announced an investment of $1.6 billion to help pharmaceutical company Novartex produce 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines. This is just the latest large investment made by the US in coronavirus medical research: since Feb. 11, the US government has handed out over $5 billion in funding, most of which has gone to vaccine development.

Bar chart showing that most of the $5 billion spent on coronavirus research has gone to vaccines.

For members: The virtual conference reboot

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Quartz’s latest presentation provides an overview of the new landscape of virtual conferencing, with tips from top experts for anyone hoping to make an impression through their screen. From lighting tricks to background arrangements to the neuroscience of persuasion, we cover all the small tweaks and big ideas you’ll need to have a big impact.

✦ To access the full presentation and the Quartz field guide on the virtual conference reboot get started with a seven-day free trial. ✦

You asked about gene therapy

“Is any research being done in the area of genetic engineering, through CRISPR-Cas9, or some other gene editing process? If not … why not?” —Norm

CRISPR, the buzzy gene editing enzyme that became a staple of biotech labs within the past decade, has shown promise in treating a number of health conditions such as congenital blindness, sickle cell disease, various forms of cancer, HIV, and others. But all of those findings have so far been through experiments and clinical trials; to date, no CRISPR application has been made widely available.

However, the US Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization (pdf) to a rapid diagnostic test created by bioengineering company Sherlock Biosciences. The company claims it is the first commercial use of CRISPR.

So how did this newcomer cut the line and hit the clinic first? In the Sherlock test, CRISPR isn’t being used to place altered cells into the body—something that still gives regulators pause.

📬 Send us your burning question about how coronavirus is changing the world. 

Surprising discoveries

The future of renewable energy is cheap and wet. Nissan’s got a battery that’s 90% less expensive than lithium-ion, while scientists designed a generator powered by raindrops.

A mathematician calculated how to keep fans safe at Yankee Stadium. Based on social distancing guidelines, only 11% of seats should be filled.

There’s an AI for judging tuna quality. The Tuna Scope app will tell you if your fish is sushi grade.

Heinz wants you to make ketchup and mayo ice cream. It’s selling kits for five types of condiment-based frozen desserts.

Backyard putting greens are all the rage for the rich. They need some way to practice their short game during the pandemic.

Time to click some links, hit the links, or just link up with a friend.