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Your Thursday Briefing

After eighteen months of the pandemic, governments in Asia, Europe, and the Americas are urging people to return to their previous way of life and learn to coexist with the coronavirus, which they say is a sign of progress. The spread of more transmissible variants, however, has led some scientists to believe that these strategies are premature.

Rolling lockdowns and restrictions have become a necessary part of the recovery process, as governments prioritise preventing severe illness and death over infections, which are more difficult to prevent. Even countries with zero-carbon ambitions, such as Australia and Singapore, are rethinking their policies in response to the global climate crisis.

In places where vaccines have been widely available for months, such as Europe, countries have placed a large bet on their immunisation programmes as a means of both avoiding the pandemic and keeping hospitalizations and deaths to a minimum during the outbreak. England has gone even further, removing almost all restrictions from the country this week.

Among other health-related news, in the United States, life expectancy has dropped by 18 months, to 77.3 years from 78.8 years, marking the steepest decline in the country’s history. African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans were disproportionately harmed.

At least 25 people were killed in and around Zhengzhou, a city of five million people, when severe flooding was caused by the heaviest rainfall on record in the area. Twelve of the victims were trapped on a subway train when the water level began to rise.

Floodwaters breached a retaining wall near an entrance to the subway’s Line 5, which travels in a loop around the city centre on Tuesday evening. While travelling between two stations, water poured into the train’s water system, flooding the train car. Trapped passengers posted videos as the disaster unfolded.

Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered authorities to give top priority to the safety of the people, and he described the flooding as “extremely severe.” Despite the fact that flooding is common in China, scientists have linked the extreme weather that has been sweeping the world to the effects of climate change.

A youth conference held in Poitiers, France, in October has exposed the gulf between the country’s republican values and the emerging sensibilities of a new generation.

Sarah El Hary, the minister of youth and herself the daughter of immigrants, met with more than 100 teenagers who had spent the previous two days delving into the sensitive subjects of religion and discrimination. They said their lives had little to do with her vision of France as a nation that is ostensibly secular, colorblind and of equal opportunity.

According to polls, France’s younger generation has more liberal attitudes toward race, religion, and gender than older generations in a society that is becoming more diverse. The age difference between El Hary, 32, and her audience, which was only about 15 years, was itself a testament to how quickly things are changing in the world.

France, according to El Hary, “does not look at you by your religion, it does not look at you by the colour of your skin, it does not look at you by the social standing of your parents.” It provides you with the opportunity to participate as a full citizen and to establish your own identity within the pact.” However, that was not the perspective of the teenagers.

These 115 essential people were among the 2.5 million service workers who kept New York alive in its darkest months.

At Althea Finamore’s job on Staten Island, she works with developmentally challenged adults, assisting them in getting dressed, bathing themselves and eating properly. She worked back-to-back shifts when the lockdown was implemented. “If they needed us, we were available at all hours of the day and night,” she said.

A viral video of a rap song, “Let’s Talk Straight,” has garnered more than four million views on social media since May for its frank portrayal of the divisions between Arab and Jewish Israelis.

Uriya Rosenman, who grew up on Israeli military bases and served in the army, is seated in a garage over a small plastic table with Sameh Zakout, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who grew up in the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Ramla and is a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Roger Cohen, our reporter, describes the performance as “a work that dares listeners to move past stereotypes and discover their shared humanity.” The two exchange insults and clichés, tearing away the veneer of civility that has been placed over the simmering resentments between the Jewish state and its Palestinian minority.

The video pays homage to Joyner Lucas’s “I’m Not Racist,” a similar exploration of the stereotypes and blindness that lock in racial fissures in the U.S.

In Israel, the response to the video has been overwhelmingly positive, as if it had revealed something previously unknown. The two men, who have become friends, are currently working on a second project that will examine how self-criticism in Jewish and Arab societies can result in positive change. Instead of blaming the government, it will ask: What can you do to improve your situation?


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