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Your Wednesday Briefing

In a White House address, President Biden mentioned his administration would distribute 500 million fast exams free to the general public starting in January to curb the specter of the Omicron variant. He has directed his protection secretary to deploy 1,000 army medical professionals and introduced new vaccination and testing websites, he mentioned.

“I do know you’re drained, actually, and I do know you’re annoyed,” Biden mentioned, including, “All of us need this to be over, however we’re nonetheless in it.” An unvaccinated Texas man is the first known U.S. death from Omicron.

Public well being specialists warned that the Biden administration’s measures would not be sufficient to stop a grim rise in infections and hospitalizations over the subsequent few weeks. Some expressed frustration and alarm about what they described as a timid public well being response and bemoaned the obvious lack of will amongst politicians and society at massive for extra aggressive steps.

Europe: The Omicron surge has led to tighter restrictions on gatherings in Germany, Sweden, Portugal and Scotland. Swedish officers warned {that a} surge of infections pushed by the variant would proceed rising till mid-January. Governments in Britain and France announced support for businesses because the continent’s busy season turned silent.

Over the previous eight years, the Russian authorities has promoted the concept that the nation is surrounded by enemies, enforcing that message in schools, the military, the media and the Orthodox Church. Now, as Russia lots troops on the Ukrainian border, the regular militarization of society below Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, looms massive and seems to have inured many to the concept that a struggle may very well be coming.

Chatting with Russian army leaders on Tuesday, Putin insisted that Russia didn’t need bloodshed, but it surely was ready to reply with “military-technical measures” to the West. State tv is portraying all of Russia’s efforts in Ukraine as defensive maneuvers.

A number of the newest propaganda ways embrace a $185 million four-year program began by the Kremlin this yr that goals to drastically improve Russians’ “patriotic schooling.” It features a plan to draw no less than 600,000 youngsters as younger as 8 to hitch the ranks of a uniformed Youth Military.

Quotable: “The authorities are actively promoting the thought of conflict,” Dmitri A. Muratov, a Russian newspaper editor who shared this yr’s Nobel Peace Prize, mentioned in his acceptance speech. “Individuals are getting used to the considered its permissibility.”

The newest: Vice President Kamala Harris mentioned that the U.S. would impose sanctions on Russia “like you’ve not seen before” if it invaded Ukraine. She instructed CBS that the White Home was making that clear in direct discussions with Putin.

Greenback-slice outlets, a staple of New York Metropolis’s eating scene, face an existential crisis as costs for almost all the pieces — together with pizza packing containers, pepperoni, flour and oil — have skyrocketed. Many homeowners of dollar-slice companies, together with those that have now raised their costs, mentioned their revenues are half of what they had been in 2019, earlier than the pandemic.

The U.S. is experiencing the best inflation in nearly 40 years, whereas prices are rising all over the world. The surge stems from a confluence of things, a lot of them associated to the coronavirus pandemic. Factories have shuttered and ports are clogged, disrupting the availability of products that individuals caught at residence have needed to purchase, like electronics and residential furnishings.

In Turkey, an financial disaster has been precipitated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s direct interference in financial coverage, together with reducing rates of interest within the face of staggering inflation — exactly the other of what economists prescribe. Working households at the moment are struggling to make ends meet and have needed to in the reduction of on primary requirements.

When Vinod Menon, a physics professor at Metropolis School of New York in Harlem, opened an unusual field that had been sitting within the mailroom for months, he was startled by its contents: $180,000 in cash.

In Britain, the custom of door-to-door caroling dates to no less than Victorian occasions and is talked about in Charles Dickens’s novels. Final yr, most carol singing was canceled due to the pandemic. This yr, a gaggle of roving singers was decided to hold on, regardless of the specter of the Omicron variant, Alex Marshall reports for The Times.

Final Thursday, three carol singers went pub to pub to boost cash for a homeless charity. (By the tip of the night time, their quantity had swelled to eight.) Rapidly, an intricately harmonized rendition of “Deck the Halls” summoned drinkers from their chairs — and, ultimately, solicited donations into pink assortment tins.

The pub crawl was not with out threat, mentioned Meg McClure, one of many organizers, who described it as “caroling on the sting.” However each singer had finished a fast antigen check earlier than attending, she mentioned, and the group had deliberate to carry out exterior if any of the pubs they visited had been too busy.

That turned out to not be the case: At The Brunel, one of many pubs on the tour, there have been simply 5 prospects, two of them visibly drunk. However as quickly because the group began singing, they grabbed their viewers’s consideration.

One patron, stirred by the harmonies, pantomimed a coronary heart assault. One other mentioned she had initially deliberate to go to a live performance by the rapper Little Simz that night, however had determined to not go, as a result of she was frightened about catching the virus. “So that is wonderful,” she mentioned. “It’s the subsequent neatest thing.”

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