Your Wednesday Briefing

Good morning.

We’re covering Saudi Arabia’s limits on this year’s hajj, a potential ban on U.S. travel to Europe and government abuses in Burkina Faso.

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Credit…Umit Bektas/Reuters

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that only about 1,000 people will be allowed to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage at the end of July — a decision that effectively cancels one of the world’s largest gatherings of Muslims.

The restrictions are meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the kingdom, which has one of the largest outbreaks in the Middle East. Last year, 2.5 million people took part in the pilgrimage. This year, those allowed at the hajj will have to be under 65 years of age and will be required to undergo a virus test in advance.

The announcement disappointed Muslims around the world, many of whom have saved for years to travel to Mecca, and it will deal a financial blow to the kingdom’s economy.

Quotable: “I am heartbroken, sad and disappointed, but what can one do?” said Qari Ali Gul, who runs a seminary in Peshawar, Pakistan. “This must be the will of God.”

Credit…Jeffrey Groeneweg/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images

European Union officials are racing to agree on who can visit the bloc as of July 1 as they figure out how to restart travel while keeping new coronavirus infections at bay.

A draft list of acceptable travelers includes those from China and Vietnam, but visitors from the U.S., Russia and Brazil will not be welcome, according to the document seen by The New York Times. A final decision is expected early next week.

Prohibiting American travelers from entering the European Union will have significant ramifications. Millions of American tourists visit Europe every summer. Business travel is common, given the huge economic ties between the United States and the E.U.


Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Facebook, Google, Amazon and others in the business world reacted with anger after President Trump suspended new work visas for foreigners through at least the end of the year.

  • Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, was “disappointed” by the decision. “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today,” he said in a tweet.

  • Facebook said, “Highly-skilled visa holders play a critical role in driving innovation — at Facebook and at organizations across the country — and that’s something we should encourage, not restrict.”

  • Amazon said that “preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts American global competitiveness at risk.”

Context: The order signed by the president on Monday denies employment permits for foreign workers, like those in tech, finance and more. Mr. Trump said the visa programs “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers” as the coronavirus pandemic batters the economy.

Numbers: According to government data, the suspended visa categories accounted for about 600,000 workers in 2019.

Burkina Faso has been sliding deeper into chaos over the past four years, becoming a recruiting ground for international terrorist groups in West Africa, so our correspondent and photographer traveled there to report on the crisis. Above, soldiers protecting refugees at a camp near Dori, in northern Burkina Faso.

What they found in the country’s volatile north: Government forces are now killing about as many people as jihadists are. “The government is traumatizing people,” said a herdsman and farmer. “It’s what pushes people to sign up to the armed groups.”

Australia judge: A court inquiry found that Dyson Heydon, a judge on the country’s highest court for a decade and one of Australia’s most powerful men, harassed at least six women. He has denied the accusations.

U.S.-China trade: Stocks on Wall Street followed global markets higher on Tuesday, after President Trump reaffirmed the trade war truce between the United States and China and investors focused on new signs of economic recovery instead.

Singapore: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the city-state would hold the first elections in Southeast Asia since the coronavirus pandemic began, on July 10. Shaking hands will not be allowed during the campaign, nor will political rallies.

U.S. presidential campaign: A surge in donations has helped Joe Biden cut into President Trump’s financial advantage ahead of the November vote. Mr. Biden will hold his first presidential campaign event with Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Credit…Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Snapshot: Above, people in Stockholm eating outdoors. The country’s Scandinavian neighbors have closed their borders to Swedes after the government failed to take quick action to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Sweden now has roughly twice as many infections and five times as many deaths as Denmark, Finland and Norway.

What we’re reading: This Atlantic article about blackness and racism. “Imani Perry writes beautifully about the full-body grief of being a black American,” says Jenna Wortham, staff writer for The Times Magazine.

Credit…Melissa Clark/The New York Times

Last week, the Times reporter Sarah Kliff noticed something strange. A medical lab in Dallas had charged as much as $2,315 apiece for coronavirus tests, even though a test typically costs $100. Sarah called the lab to ask about the price — and the lab quickly dropped it to $300.

It isn’t the first time something like this happened. In her years of covering health care for Vox and now The Times, Sarah has frequently reported on the arbitrary nature of medical costs, often highlighting extreme examples. After these examples receive public attention, health care providers sometimes reduce the price.

Credit…Dylan Hollingsworth for The New York Times

Of course, most medical bills don’t become the subject of journalistic investigations. Which means that medical labs, drug companies, hospitals and doctors’ offices are often able to charge high prices to insurance companies and patients, without consequence.

“If you look at pretty much any other developed country — Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Singapore, the list goes on — the government does some version of rate setting,” Sarah told The Morning newsletter recently. “The United States doesn’t.” That’s one reason that the cost of health care in the U.S. is higher than in any other country.


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

— Melina


Thank you
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Melissa Clark wrote the recipe, and Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the future of the U.S. Senate.
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