Omicron causes thousands of flight cancellations
Thousands of flights around the world, including more than 1,000 in the United States, were canceled on one of the biggest travel weekends of the year as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus fell ill and disrupted travel plans.
The cancellations came at a time when many were flying to spend the Christmas holidays with their families. About two million people passed checkpoints every day in the United States last week, and the numbers on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day were almost double what they were last year.
With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, the US is seeing a sharp spike in Covid cases, with the average daily case count hitting this summer’s high that was powered by the Delta variant. Hospital stays are also starting to rise, though not at the same rate as cases.
Precautions: “It looks like there is a lesser degree of severity,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the United States, on the Omicron variant. He cautioned against complacency, however, noting that there were still tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans.
The resistance of Ukraine in training
Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have pledged to learn combat skills through government training programs and private paramilitary groups. The training is part of the country’s strategic defense plan in the event of a possible invasion of Russia – to encourage civilian resistance that can continue the fight if the Ukrainian military is overwhelmed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not announced whether he is planning an attack. But even the generals of Ukraine say that their regular military stands no chance in a full invasion. The programs aim to create a national resistance of around 100,000 volunteers to bolster the country’s resources, according to a general.
Civil defense is not uncommon in Ukraine; Volunteer brigades formed the backbone of the country’s armed forces in the east in 2014, the first year of the war against Russian separatists, when the Ukrainian military was in ruins. Last year the Ukrainian Army started weekend training for civilian volunteers in the newly formed Territorial Defense Forces.
Endgame: The aim is not to win against the weight of the Russian military, which would be practically impossible, but rather to create the risk of disruption that would deter an invasion.
Related: Midst Fearing an invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj has surrounded himself with people from his comedy studio. Few have experience in diplomacy or warfare.
An uncertain future for Afghans in the Netherlands
Of the around 2,000 Afghan refugees taken in by the Dutch government, around half now live in unheated tents in a makeshift camp deep in the forest near the eastern city of Nijmegen. Hopes for more solid housing appeared to be fading in the face of the lack of more permanent social housing for poor Dutch people and refugees alike.
The evacuees face an uncertain future in a region that is in the midst of a heated debate over immigration. In the Netherlands, as elsewhere in Europe, politicians fear a recurrence of the migrant crisis of 2015, when more than a million people applied for asylum in the EU and sparked a populist backlash.
Kati Piri, an opposition MP who has called for more Afghans to be evacuated to the Netherlands, called the Dutch response “shameful” and said the lists of people allowed on flights were chaotic and late. “The Dutch government has taken great care not to open the doors to too many Afghans,” she said.
According to the numbers: According to the European Commission, the EU countries have so far evacuated 28,000 Afghans and committed to taking in 40,000 more. The Netherlands has promised to take in 3,159 Afghans, including 2,000 who have already been evacuated.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the world
The icons and fashions of the late last century fascinate those who have not experienced them for the first time. Here’s what Gen Z has to say about why they can’t get enough of the 1990s.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a powerful non-violence force in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, died yesterday at the age of 90.
The best books of the year
To filter out the latest and greatest reads, the editors of the Times Book Review read a lot of books per year, then compile lists to help interested readers understand them all. Here are a few to summarize.
From 100 remarkable books …: Fiction, memoir, non-fiction, or poetry – this list has it all.
… to the top 10: The editors consider reducing the list of 100 to 10 throughout the year.
Selection of critics: The Times book critics also make their own lists based on the books they have reviewed throughout the year. (If you want to know how to get there you can read their discussion.)
Gift list: Books make excellent gifts, of course, and these 71 dazzling titles – including thrillers, cookbooks, photo collections, and more – are sure to delight any reader.
The outside: We know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but some covers deserve praise. The book review’s art director picked his favorite covers above.