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Good morning. Wildfires continue to rage in California. A Russian opposition leader was hospitalized in a suspected poisoning. And Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president.
In September, California approved a bill with the power to reshape the state’s gig economy. Under the new law, companies are required to treat contract workers as employees if they contribute to the company’s core business, among other factors. That means providing them benefits like paid overtime and health insurance.
The new law threatened app-based companies that rely on independent labor, and the state sued Uber and Lyft in May for violating it.
“The perspective of the state is that gig work has become wildly popular, even though it does not have legal recognition in California,” said Kate Conger, who covers technology at The Times, “and the right thing to do is pull those jobs back into a traditional employment model.”
This month, a judge gave the ride-hailing companies until Thursday to comply; the companies appealed the ruling and said they may suspend their services in the state. Before the coronavirus pandemic, California accounted for 16 percent of Lyft’s total rides and 9 percent of Uber’s, The Wall Street Journal reports. The shutdown would be another hit to the businesses, which have seen a nosedive in rides since the virus hit.
The pandemic has also heightened the burden on independent contractors. “Drivers can’t take paid time off, don’t have health insurance, rides have plummeted, but they still have vehicle expenses, so they were left out on a ledge in this scenario,” Kate said.
While many drivers want to become employees, others who don’t drive full-time oppose the legislation, preferring the flexibility that comes with staying independent.
The companies have poured tens of millions of dollars into a November ballot measure that would exempt them from the law and provide minimum-wage standards and limited health benefits for drivers. They’ve also been exploring a franchise-like model, in which they would license their brands to operators of vehicle fleets in California.
The legal fight in California could influence the gig economy nationwide. Similar battles are taking place in Massachusetts and other states are monitoring the outcome closely, Kate said.
“Long term, I think we will see significant changes to gig work,” she said, “but it’s not clear to me who is going to win the tug-of-war.”
FIVE MORE BIG STORIES
1. Harris accepts V.P. nomination
Senator Kamala Harris of California accepted the nomination to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president last night, embracing the historic nature of her candidacy and name-checking a lineage of trailblazing Black women. She said the night was one that her mother, an immigrant from India, “could have never imagined.”
In the night’s other big speech, former President Barack Obama ripped into President Trump with a ferocity that he had long resisted. Watch the highlights here.
From Opinion: Our writers ranked the night’s best and worst moments.
Today’s lineup: The last night of the convention will feature Joe Biden’s keynote address. We’ll have live coverage beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern.
2. New evidence on immunity
Researchers discovered the strongest evidence yet that overcoming the coronavirus grants immunity from reinfection. According to a new study, a fishing vessel carrying 122 crew members returned to Seattle after an outbreak onboard. More than 100 sailors tested positive, but the three who had antibodies at the start of the trip remained virus-free.
“A lot of people, when they see this are like, ‘Oh come on, it could be due to random chance,’” one virologist told The Times. But in fact, the likelihood that those three sailors were randomly unaffected was incredibly small.
In other virus news:
3. Wildfires add to triple threat in California
Hundreds of wildfires fueled by strong winds, dry conditions and lightning strikes have burned more than 300,000 acres across California. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency this week as the blazes destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.
The wildfires are part of a triple threat in the state, along with high numbers of new coronavirus infections and a nearly weeklong heat wave that has prompted power outages. Smoke from the fires has also lowered air quality for millions, threatening respiratory damage and making those exposed to the virus more vulnerable.
4. Trump courts QAnon
Trump on Wednesday praised adherents of the false conspiracy theory QAnon, which alleges that the president is waging a covert war against a “deep state” cabal of Satan-worshiping Democrats involved in pedophilia and child sex trafficking.
“I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question during a White House briefing. “So I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me.”
Police brutality is widespread in India. More than 1,700 people were killed in police custody last year, according to one human rights group — a majority of them Muslims and lower-caste Hindus.
Police abuses rarely result in punishment. And while some Indians have protested against police violence, no significant grass-roots movement has arisen to oppose it.
“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,” Jeffrey Gettleman, The Times’s South Asia bureau chief, told us.
Here’s what else is happening
IDEA OF THE DAY: How to manage risk
It can be hard to know how worried to be about your chances of contracting the coronavirus. Here are some ways to think about and cope with the risks.
Practice harm reduction. Keeping in mind basic factors about your likelihood of getting sick can help you assess risk amid changing information about the virus, explains Dana Smith of Elemental. Those basics include knowing the scale of the outbreak where you live, wearing a mask and avoiding others if you’re immunocompromised or elderly.
Develop a tolerance. The virus isn’t going away anytime soon. Learning to live with it means accepting the small levels of risk that remain even after you’ve taken steps to stay safe, argues Elisabeth Rosenthal in a Times Op-Ed.
Keep perspective. Many activities — like exercising outside — are low risk. Others, like grocery shopping and even riding on an airplane while masked, seem to be less risky than you might think. Vox, Business Insider and The Times’s Tara Parker-Pope have written guides to help you weigh the risks of everyday activities.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT, CHEER
Make something comforting
Sabudana khichdi, which loosely translates to “tapioca mixture,” is a chewy pilaf studded with toasted peanuts, creamy potato and cumin seeds. It’s a simple dish that is a party of textures and flavors — here’s how to make it.
Have you ever considered the complex history of human excrement? Or how the power of surveillance can be viewed through the lens of migratory birds? Or maybe how information about the weather could help predict the spread of disease?
They seem random and unrelated, but these are all questions Latif Nasser, a science journalist known for his work on the popular program “Radiolab,” explores in his new Netflix series, “Connected.” Nasser, who has a Ph.D. in the history of science, serves as a unique guide to the world’s deepest curiosities. Read our enlightening interview with him here.
The love of the game
While live sports are back, in most cases, spectators are not. The Times asked sports fans to share what they missed most about going to games. From the simple pleasure of a minor-league baseball game with the family to the singular joy of seeing a hometown team make the playoffs, the responses were wistful, sad and full of hope. Read them here.
You can find all of our puzzles here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.
P.S. Join the actresses Tichina Arnold and Beth Behrs, stars of the TV show “The Neighborhood,” for a discussion of their experiences in Hollywood and their advocacy for women’s empowerment. The free event begins at 5:30 p.m. Eastern; R.S.V.P. here.
David Leonhardt, this newsletter’s usual writer, is on break until Monday.
You can see today’s print front page here.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Joe Biden’s long quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. And in “Nice White Parents,” our new podcast from Serial, we explore the 60-year relationship between white parents and public schools. Listen to the whole series now.
You can reach the team at [email protected].