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Good evening. Here’s the latest news at the end of Wednesday.
1. Omicron infection appears less severe compared to the previous variants.
New research indicates that the Omicron variant often leads to milder disease compared to previous variants. But hospitals can still be overwhelmed with patients because Omicron is exploding so quickly.
British researchers found that compared to cases of the delta variant, individuals with omicron were, on average, 15 to 20 percent less likely to end up in hospitals and 40 to 45 percent less likely to be hospitalized overnight or for a longer period.
But the researchers also found that the Omicron virus was not much less dangerous than Delta, due to the rapid increase in Omicron and the spread of the virus. “I still can’t understand how fast this is moving,” one epidemiologist told The Times. “I think it would be really bad. I don’t know how to put it another way.”
In Britain, the number of new cases exceeded 100,000 for the first time. In South Africa, the Omicron wave may have reached its peak.
What are the symptoms of Omicron? They are similar to those in the previous variants, but completely different.
2. The White House will extend the freeze on student loan repayments until May 1, citing the economic effects of the pandemic.
The extension affects about 41 million borrowers, including nearly 27 million who have not paid their monthly bill since early 2020. About 7.2 million borrowers who defaulted received a collection deferral.
Since his early days in office, President Biden has been pressured by Democratic lawmakers who have urged him to fulfill his campaign promise to cancel $10,000 for everyone with federal student loan debt.
3. The supply chain didn’t ruin Christmas.
Warnings started pouring in early this fall: Shop early if you want to get your gifts on time. Despite these concerns, holiday shoppers received their gifts. UPS and the Postal Service delivered about 99 percent of its packages on time from November 14 to December 11; FedEx was close to 97 percent.
Many Americans have also relieved pressure on delivery companies by doing more in-store shopping. In September, in-store sales accounted for about 64 percent of retail revenue, up 12 points from the lowest level during the pandemic, but still somewhat below 2019 levels.
Not all kinks are off-chain. Americans travel hundreds of miles to buy cars. Baguette prices are rising in Paris. Holiday home designers are struggling to find supplies.
The Times visited a neighborhood next to America’s largest port and found noise, pollution and safety hazards piling up from the buildup.
4. US regulator investigates Tesla for in-car video games.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday it is investigating “Passenger Play,” which allows drivers to play games on a dashboard touchscreen while a vehicle is in motion.
The move comes after the New York Times reported safety concerns this month. The agency is separately investigating potential defects in the electric car company’s autopilot system, which can steer, accelerate and brake the vehicle on its own.
separately , The Times has examined CATL, the world’s largest maker of electric car batteries, which supplies nearly all of the world’s automakers. It got there with the help of generous subsidies from Beijing, a captive market for buyers and lax regulations.
5. Anti-Christian hysteria is spreading all over India.
The guards invade villages, storm churches, attack schools and attack worshipers. Government documents and dozens of interviews revealed that the police and members of India’s ruling party are helping them in many cases.
The pressure is greater in central and northern India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party is firmly in control, and where evangelical Christian groups are quietly invading lower-caste Hindus.
The anti-Christian forces are getting stronger by the day, and they have many faces, including a white-collar army of lawyers and staff who file legal complaints against Christian organizations.
6. The FBI deployed surveillance teams inside the Portland racial justice protests.
According to documents obtained by The New York Times and current and former federal officials, undercover agents sided with activists, subverted suspects to the aid of local police, and were secretly filmed inside one of the country’s most active movements.
Some within administrations have expressed concern that the actions could be compared to FBI surveillance abuses over the past decades and the undermining of the First Amendment right to protest.
Federal teams were initially dispatched in July 2020 to protect the city’s federal court after protesters set fires, smash windows, and set off fireworks. But the FBI’s role expanded rapidly, continuing months after activists diverted their attention from the courtroom.
7. Venture capitalists struggle over the future of cryptocurrency.
Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square and a Bitcoin evangelist, has exposed a deep internal rift over the direction of the cryptocurrency and pitted himself against some of the industry’s deepest backers.
The fight over Web3, the industry name for the blockchain-based internet that runs on cryptocurrency, is over. Supporters say it will democratize and decentralize trade. But Dorsey, who believes bitcoin is the only way forward, says venture capital firms are to blame. “He will not escape their motives,” he wrote on Twitter.
If you’re wondering what else the future of business holds, here are the CEOs to watch in 2022.
8. Exercise and alcohol often go hand in hand.
People who make one healthy habit, such as exercise, tend to engage in other healthy habits. But multiple studies in recent years have found close links between exercise and heavy drinking.
A new, large-scale study adds more evidence. More fit women were twice as likely to have moderate drinking as women with lower aerobic capacities; More fit men, moderate drinkers are twice as likely as less fit men. The study did not identify a causal relationship, but some animal studies have shown that both exercise and alcohol light up parts of the brain involved in reward processing.
9. It’s time to enter the matrix again.
Nearly two decades after the original trilogy ended, “The Matrix Resurrections” arrives today in theaters and on HBO Max. Carrie Ann Moss, who plays Trinity, is the rare woman over 50 to be the action star and romantic star of a major studio movie.
“I feel a responsibility to these women who love Trinity and I feel ignited to be authentic in this era, not an unattainable idea and perpetuating this myth about what it means to be a woman,” Moss said. times.
In her review, Manhula Dargis finds the return of Moss and Keanu Reeves enjoyable, in a film that both entertains and frustrates.
Do I need more? These are our critics’ favorite films of 2021.
10. AND FINALLY, THE MEXICAN FISH THAT DOES THE WAVE.
In ponds filled with sulfur in the state of Tabasco in Mexico lives sulfur molly. Throw a rock, and the surface of the water will erupt in pulsing, pale waves. Every few seconds, thousands of fish will repeat a fast diving motion to generate the wave.
Armed with cameras and a slingshot, the researchers believe the wave sends a message to predators: We see you. We are watching. Don’t try any funny business.
The slingshot was used to simulate a kingfisher hurling bombs, constantly shooting waves. The waves reduced the birds’ luck in getting the fish, which they seemed to realize. It appears to be one of the rare cases in which the benefits of synchronous animal behavior can be deciphered.
I wish you a synchronized evening.
Angela Jimenez Photo collages for this briefing.
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