A wounded U.S. in turmoil
By Andrea Kannapell and Melina Delkic
We’re covering the latest from Washington, a new study of in-flight coronavirus transmission and our Travel Desk’s 52 places to love (since who knows when we’ll go anywhere).
As the world watches, a wounded U.S. remains in turmoil
Since World War II, much of Europe has looked to the U.S. as a democratic model. The headlines in newspapers around the world on Thursday showed something else.
The images of a mob overrunning the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday touched a nerve in fractured Western societies, our Paris bureau chief writes: If it could happen at democracy’s heart, it could happen anywhere.
President Trump released a video on Thursday in which he condemned the violence of the day before, when supporters he had urged to march on Congress stormed the building. He conceded that a “new administration” would be sworn in on Jan. 20.
But his statement did little to quell the uproar within the government and among broad swathes of the American people.
Rising backlash: There were growing calls for Mr. Trump’s immediate removal from office and threats of another impeachment. A wave of resignations robbed him of some protectors and allies, and the Republican Party was splintering. The editorial board of The Wall St. Journal, a bellwether for the conservative establishment, urged Mr. Trump to resign.
Facebook announced it would block him from posting through the end of his term, and the Justice Department refused to rule out filing charges against him.
The rioters: The mob included infamous white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, a newly elected West Virginia lawmaker — and a lot of more anonymous people who had traveled from other states to heed Mr. Trump’s call to support his efforts to overturn the election. Here’s how they breached the Capitol.
Race and policing: That the overwhelmingly white intruders so easily overran the police and suffered no mass arrests drew criticism, especially from those who recalled harsher treatment at racial justice marches. “You can be arrested for walking while Black, but you can be white and riot and basically get away with it,” said Attica Scott, a Kentucky state representative who was arrested in Louisville last summer.
A cautionary report on an in-flight coronavirus outbreak
Most research into possible coronavirus transmission on airplanes has focused on flights that occurred last spring, when the value of preventive measures was not broadly understood. A new report details what can happen even when airlines and passengers are aware and more cautious about the risks.
The flight: An 18-hour trip from Dubai to New Zealand in September on a Boeing 777-300ER that was three-quarters empty. On arrival in Auckland, the 86 passengers quarantined for two weeks, as required.
The findings: Seven passengers, all of whom had been seated within the same four rows and two of whom had not worn masks, tested positive during the quarantine. The versions of the virus they carried were virtually identical genetically. Research led by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health determined that one passenger — who had tested negative four or five days before boarding — had initiated a chain of infection that spread to at least four others.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
Officials in France, where about 45,000 people have been vaccinated, vowed on Thursday to speed up the campaign. “2021 will be the year of hope,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said, but he added that infections and hospitalizations remained too high to loosen restrictions, end curfews or allow bars and restaurants to reopen on Jan. 20, as planned.
A vaccine made by the Chinese company Sinovac is effective, Brazilian officials said. More than 300 million doses have been sold, mostly to low- and middle-income countries, and many have been shipped in anticipation of national approvals.
There are deepening fears that the Capitol riot in Washington could have been a super-spreader event, not only among the throngs of unmasked intruders, but also for the Capitol Police and the lawmakers locked in with one another for hours during the rampage
The pandemic is upending Italy’s brain drain
Italy, along with Romania and Poland, sends the most European workers abroad. And the proportion of Italians living abroad who have a university degree is higher than that of Italy’s general population.
But in the past year, the number of Italians aged 18 to 34 returning home increased 20 percent over the previous year, according to the foreign ministry.
Italy has been celebrating. “The counter-exodus of the brain drain,” declared Italy’s Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper in September. “Now young people want to come back to Italy,” proclaimed Il Giornale di Sicilia.
Caveats: Many of those returning are still working for foreign businesses. And they may not stay. Brunello Rosa, an economist in London who is a member of the diaspora, said that they “create value abroad and income abroad” — and that just spending their salary in Italy doesn’t have a significant impact on the country.
If you have a chunk of time, this is worth it
52 places to love
Varun Suchday, of Bhuj, India, is always on the lookout for roads that don’t exist on maps, talking to locals to get their directions. When the pandemic hit, he heard of special rock formations in Kaliya Dhrow, India. He rode a motorcycle for hours and eventually happened upon “this marvelous, endless landscape of red: streaks of crimson, saffron — orange.”
He’s one of the readers who have shared stories about some of their favorite spots during a dark year. Here is our list of 52 beloved places, which this year replaces our Travel desk’s usual “52 Places to Go.”
Here’s what else is happening
Joe Biden: With his victory recognized by Congress and his party set to control both the House and Senate, the president-elect moved on Thursday to fill out his cabinet, while his aides and allies drafted plans for an ambitious legislative agenda.
Boeing settlement: The U.S. aviation giant agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to resolve a criminal charge centered on two employees who withheld information from U.S. regulators about software changes made to the 737 Max. The changes were implicated in two fatal crashes and caused the plane to be grounded worldwide in 2019.
Snapshot: Above, the actor Gabriel Byrne near his home in Maine recently. He told our reporter about how he accidentally deleted the nearly final version of his forthcoming memoir, “Walking With Ghosts,” and how he feels about his native Ireland. “I’ve always missed the country, the people, the landscape, the humor, the shared references, the fact that you don’t have to explain yourself,” he said.
World’s new richest man: A rally in Tesla stock pushed the net worth of the company’s founder, Elon Musk, to $188.5 billion at 10:15 a.m. in New York on Thursday, $1.5 billion more than that of Jeff Bezos.
In memoriam: Neil Sheehan, 84, who covered the Vietnam War exhaustively for The Times and who obtained the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the war. And Narinder S. Kapany, 94, known as the “father of fiber optics.”
What we’re reading: This essay in The Paris Review. It’s all about the perception of time.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: This pan pizza features a crisp bottom crust, a slightly sweet sauce and an enormous amount of cheese.
Listen: The flute is an instrument based on the most fundamental sign of life: breath. Listen to the best music ever written for it.
Do: Want to exercise more this year? Then adopt workout goals that are challenging but not too challenging, tough but doable. Or maybe just plan to walk at least an extra 500 steps most days.
We can help you take on a new project. At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the Back Story on …
How to fix the vaccine rollout
From our Opinion section, experts shared their ideas on how to improve vaccine distribution in the U.S. Here are some excerpts.
Make it a lottery. Which professions should be deemed frontline? If mass transit workers count, what about taxi drivers? Then there’s the practical question of how a pharmacy will determine whether someone truly is a preschool teacher or a grocery store clerk. We should focus on people over 55, and for the rest, a lottery. It would be equitable and apolitical.
Target hot spots. Things get more complicated in the second phase of vaccination. We could quickly and easily select the communities with the most new coronavirus cases per capita over the previous two weeks. We should also focus on places with a minimum absolute number of newly infected people, to gain critical mass and avoid having the scarce vaccines dispersed across small populations.
Write better algorithms. Everyone using algorithms for vaccine distribution should follow key principles, including: making sure the algorithm’s outcome is what we actually care about, taking the time to do a dry run, building public trust, and monitoring and updating your algorithm even after vaccine deployment.
That’s it for this briefing. Have a great weekend. Natasha will be back on Monday.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is how the assault on the Capitol looked to Times reporters trapped inside.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Magnolia or maple (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, the president of the International New York Times, was interviewed by I-Magazine on the newspaper’s global growth in subscribers.
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