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Omicron, student loans, Matrix: your Wednesday night briefing


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Good evening. Here is the latest Wednesday at the end of the day.

1. Omicron infections appear to be less serious than previous variants.

New research suggests that the Omicron variant often results in milder disease compared to previous variants. But hospitals could still be inundated with patients because Omicron is blowing up so quickly.

British researchers found that compared to cases of the Delta variant, people infected with Omicron were on average 15 to 20% less likely to end up in hospital and 40 to 45% less likely to be hospitalized overnight or more.

But the researchers also found that the Omicron virus was not much less dangerous than Delta, due to the speed of the Omicron outbreak and the contagiousness of the virus. “I still can’t figure out how quickly this is changing,” an epidemiologist told The Times. “I think it’s gonna be really bad. I don’t know how to put it another way.

In Britain, 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 of the previous variations, but subtly different.

2. The White House will extend the freeze on student loan payments until May 1, citing the economic impacts of the pandemic.

The extension affects around 41 million borrowers, including nearly 27 million who have not paid their monthly bill since early 2020. Around 7.2 million borrowers in default have been granted a deferral of collection.

Since his early days in office, President Biden has come under pressure from Democratic lawmakers who urged him to keep his campaign pledge to erase $ 10,000 per person with federal student loan debt.


3. The supply chain didn’t ruin Christmas.

The warnings started going out in early fall: buy early if you want to receive your gifts on time. Despite these fears, holiday shoppers received their gifts. UPS and the Postal Service delivered approximately 99% of their packages on time from November 14 to December 11; FedEx followed closely at 97 percent.

Many Americans have also eased the pressure on delivery companies by buying more in stores. In September, in-store sales made up about 64% of retail revenue, up 12 points from their low during the pandemic, but still slightly below 2019 levels.

Not all problems are off the chain. Americans travel hundreds of kilometers to buy cars. In Paris, baguette prices are rising. And vacation home decorators struggle to find supplies.

The Times traveled to a neighborhood near America’s largest port and found noise, pollution, and security risks were overflowing with the backlog.


4. An American regulator is investigating Tesla for its on-board video games.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Tuesday it was investigating “Passenger Play,” which allows drivers to play games on a dashboard touchscreen while the car is in motion.

The move comes after The New York Times reported the security issue this month. The agency is separately investigating potential faults in the electric car maker’s autopilot system, which can steer, accelerate and brake a car on its own.

Separately, The Times looked at CATL, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric car batteries, which supplies nearly all of the world’s auto makers. It got there thanks to lavish subsidies from Beijing, a captive buyer’s market and lax regulation.


5. Growing anti-Christian hysteria is spreading across India.

The vigils sweep the villages, storm the churches, attack the schools and attack the faithful. In many cases, police and ruling party members in India are helping them, government documents and dozens of interviews have revealed.

The pressure is greatest in central and northern India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party is firmly in the driver’s seat, and evangelical Christian groups are quietly making inroads among lower-cast Hindus.

The anti-Christian forces are growing stronger by the day, and they have many faces, including an army of white-collar lawyers and clerks who file complaints against Christian organizations.

6. The FBI has deployed surveillance teams inside racial justice protests in Portland.

According to documents obtained by the New York Times and current and former federal officials, incognito agents stood side-by-side with activists, vandalism suspects hunted down to aid local police, and stealthily videotaped one of the most important movements. most active in the country.

Some in departments feared the actions could be compared to FBI surveillance transgressions of decades past and undermine the right to protest the First Amendment.

Federal teams were initially dispatched in July 2020 to protect the city’s federal courthouse after protesters started fires, smashed windows and launched fireworks. But the role of the FBI quickly expanded, persisting for months after activists diverted their attention from the courthouse.

7. Venture capitalists clash over the future of cryptocurrency.

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square and Bitcoin evangelist, exposed a deep internal divide over the direction of crypto and opposed some of the industry’s wealthiest backers.

The fight is over Web3, the industry name for a blockchain-based internet that runs on crypto tokens. Supporters say it will democratize and decentralize commerce. But Dorsey, who thinks Bitcoin is the only way to go, says venture capitalists are in charge. “It will never escape their prompting,” he tweeted.

If you’re wondering what else the future holds for businesses, here are the CEOs to watch in 2022.


8. Exercise and alcohol often go hand in hand.

People who develop a healthy habit, such as exercising, tend to adopt other healthy habits. But several studies in recent years have found strong links between training and alcohol consumption.

New large-scale study adds more evidence. Fittest women were about twice as likely to be moderate drinkers as women with poor aerobic capacity; fitter men twice as likely to be moderate drinkers than less fit men. The study did not determine a causal relationship, but some animal studies show that exercise and alcohol shed light on parts of the brain related to reward processing.

9. It is time to enter the Matrix.

Almost two decades after the original trilogy ended, “The Matrix Resurrections” hits theaters and on HBO Max today. Carrie-Ann Moss, who plays Trinity, is the rare woman over 50 to be both an action star and the romantic lead role of a major studio film.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to these women who love Trinity and felt ignited by her for being genuine at this age, and not being an elusive idea and perpetuating this myth about what it means to be a woman,” Moss said. The temperature.

In her review, Manhola Dargis finds the return of Moss and Keanu Reeves a pleasure, in a film both entertaining and frustrating.

Need more? These are our critics’ favorite genre films in 2021.


10. And finally, Mexican fish that make the waves.

In the sulfur infused ponds of the state of Tabasco in Mexico lives the sulphurous molly. Add a boulder and the surface of the water will erupt into pale, pulsating waves. Every few seconds, thousands of fish will repeat a rapid diving motion to generate the wave.

The researchers, armed with cameras and a slingshot, believe the wave is sending predators a message: we see you. We look. Don’t try any fun business.

The slingshot was used to simulate a dive kingfisher and consistently set off the waves. The waves reduced the birds’ chances of catching fish, which they seemed to be doing. It appears to be one of the few cases where the benefits of synchronized animal behavior can be deciphered.

Have a synchronized evening.


Angela Jimenez photos compiled for this briefing.

Your evening briefing is posted at 6 p.m. EST.

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