Omicron causes thousands of flight cancellations
Thousands of flights around the world, including more than 1,000 to the United States, were canceled during one of the biggest travel weekends of the year, as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus made the sick crews and disrupted travel plans.
The cancellations came at a time when many flew out to spend the Christmas holidays with their families. About two million people passed through screening checkpoints in the United States every day last week, and the numbers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were almost double the equivalent numbers from last year.
As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly, the United States is seeing a sharp increase in Covid cases, with the average daily workload surpassing this summer’s peak, which was driven by the Delta variant. Hospitalizations are also starting to increase, but not at the same rate as cases.
Precautions: “It appears to be a lesser degree of severity,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, of the Omicron variant. But he cautioned against complacency, noting that there were still tens of millions of Americans unvaccinated.
Ukraine’s resistance to training
Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have registered to learn combat skills in training programs run by the government and private paramilitary groups. The training is part of the country’s strategic defense plan in the event of a potential Russian invasion – to foster civilian resistance that can continue fighting if the Ukrainian army is overwhelmed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not indicated whether he intends to launch an attack. But even Ukraine’s own generals say their regular army is unlikely to participate in a full-fledged invasion. The programs aim to build a national resistance of around 100,000 volunteers, according to one general, to bolster the country’s resources.
Civil defense is not unknown in Ukraine; the volunteer brigades formed the backbone of the country’s forces in the east in 2014, the first year of the war against Russian separatists, when the Ukrainian army was in shambles. Last year, the Ukrainian army began weekend training for civilian volunteers of the newly formed Territorial Defense Forces.
End of Game: The goal is not to achieve victory against the weight of the Russian army, which would be practically impossible, but on the contrary to create the threat of disturbance which would serve as a deterrent to an invasion.
Related: Among Out of fear of an invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky surrounded himself with people from his comedy studio. Few of them have any experience of diplomacy or war.
An uncertain future for Afghans in the Netherlands
Of the roughly 2,000 Afghan refugees accepted by the Dutch government, around half are now living in unheated shared tents in a temporary camp deep in a forest near the eastern town of Nijmegen. Hopes for more solid housing seemed to be fading, given the shortage of more permanent social housing for poor Dutch people and refugees.
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 repeat of the migrant crisis of 2015, when more than a million people sought asylum in the EU, triggering a populist backlash.
Kati Piri, an opposition MP who called for the evacuation of more Afghans to the Netherlands, called the Dutch response “shameful”, saying that the lists of people allowed to board on flights had been drafted in a chaotic and belated manner. “The Dutch government has been extremely careful not to open the doors to too many Afghans,” she said.
In numbers : According to the European Commission, EU countries have so far evacuated 28,000 Afghans and pledged to take in 40,000 more. The Netherlands has pledged to admit 3,159 Afghans, including 2,000 already evacuated.
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The best books of the year
To select the latest and greatest reads, the editors of The Times Book Review read many books each year, then compile lists to help avid readers understand them all. Here are a few to recap.
From 100 notable books …: Fiction, memoir, non-fiction or poetry – this list has it all.
… in the top 10: Editors deliberate year round to narrow the list from 100 to 10.
Critics’ Choice: The Times book reviews also make their own lists based on the books they’ve reviewed throughout the year. (If you want to know how they get there, you can read their discussion.)
Gift List: Books are great gifts, of course, and these 71 dazzling titles – including thrillers, cookbooks, photography collections, and more – will delight any reader.
The exterior: We know that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, but some covers deserve praise. The Book Review art director picked his favorite covers from above.