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Your Wednesday Briefing

We’re covering Omicron’s spread in Europe and a bumpy economic recovery in India.

Two people who tested positive for the coronavirus in the Netherlands more than a week ago were infected with the Omicron variant, Dutch health officials reported on Tuesday.

The timing is significant because it suggests the variant was present in the country at least a week before the arrival of two flights from South Africa, and before the W.H.O. labeled Omicron a “variant of concern.”

Little is known yet about how transmissible Omicron is, or whether it can evade vaccines. But officials fear that Omicron will add pressure on European countries already in the grip of some of their worst Covid surges. So far, 44 cases of the new variant have been confirmed in 11 European countries.

Andrea Ammon, the top European disease control official, said that all the people in Europe who were confirmed to have contracted the Omicron variant have exhibited mild symptoms or none at all.

Surges: France on Tuesday reported about 47,000 new cases in 24 hours and sharply rising hospitalizations — mostly thought to be driven by the Delta variant. The country is rolling out booster vaccines and will not renew health passes required to enter restaurants and other venues for those who refuse the extra shot. See where Covid is surging across Europe.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other Covid developments:


India on Tuesday reported a big jump in economic growth, of 8.4 percent, in the July-to-September period, compared with a contraction of 7.4 percent for the same period in 2020. But the number conceals lingering damage from Covid-19 and a lack of steady jobs, which hurts demand.

India’s two coronavirus waves since early last year have robbed the country of more than a year of badly needed growth.

The lagging recovery is most felt in India’s middle class. Consumers in the middle class who were spending more a year ago have become anxious and frugal, even as wealthy consumers return to shops and India’s stock market rallies.

Context: The weak recovery is putting pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do something about growth, and it’s renewing focus on India’s long-term problems from even before the pandemic: slowing demand, a manufacturing sector that is struggling to take off and shrinking labor participation.


More than 100 former members of the Afghan security forces in four provinces have been killed or disappeared at the hands of the Taliban in the first two and a half months since the fall of the government in Kabul, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The deaths are part of a string of assassinations and summary executions, largely considered revenge killings, that have been happening across Afghanistan.

The Taliban had promised amnesty for former government workers and people who helped the U.S. military, which withdrew from Afghanistan in August after nearly 20 years of war.

Details: Human Rights Watch outlined the killings or forced disappearances of 47 members of the security forces, who had either surrendered to the Taliban or were detained by them. The group’s research indicates that the Taliban are responsible for the deaths or disappearances of at least another 53 former security force members.

Response: A Taliban spokesman said that some fighters might have taken the law into their own hands to settle old scores, but that the killings and disappearances were not Taliban policy. Lower-rank commanders and foot soldiers are believed to be behind most of the forced disappearances and executions.

Asia Pacific

The Gucci family is speaking out against the star-studded film “House of Gucci,” saying it glorifies a traumatic event in their lives — the murder of Maurizio Gucci — and wrongly depicts their family dynamics. People have always complained about biopics, our fashion critic writes. But at what point does artistic license go too far?

As Tom Ford, who witnessed the events firsthand, recently wrote: “In real life, none of it was camp. It was at times absurd, but ultimately it was tragic.”

There was the black tennis tutu for Serena Williams at the U.S. Open in 2018, and the custom harness Timothée Chalamet wore on the red carpet. There were seemingly endless designs featuring quotation marks, and sneakers playfully adorned with security tags. But those were just the objects; the legacy of their designer, Virgil Abloh, extends far beyond material goods.

Abloh, who died on Sunday at 41 of a rare cancer, was the artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear and the founder of his own line, Off-White. Only a few months ago, he took on a more expansive role at LVMH, which made him the most powerful Black executive in the most powerful luxury group in the world, Vanessa Friedman, The Times’s chief fashion critic, writes.

With degrees in engineering and architecture, Abloh was a latecomer to fashion. Growing up, he embraced skate culture and hip-hop, and their influences were clear in his work. “He wasn’t known for his mastery of fashion’s technical skills, but he understood popular culture and what it meant to move through the world using clothing as a signifier of belonging,” Robin Givhan writes in The Washington Post.

“Look around at the way young men now think about clothes, design and music, and the ways in which those pursuits all intersect,” Jon Caramanica, The Times’s pop music critic, writes. “It’s hard not to see Abloh everywhere.”

What to Cook

These cherry rugelach are jam-filled and coated with cardamom sugar.

What to Read

“Intimacies” by Katie Kimura is among the 10 best books of the year, which were chosen by The Times Book Review. Read the full list here.

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