Europe battles a fourth Covid wave
Europe is once again the center of the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for more than half the world’s reported Covid deaths this month, according to the W.H.O., and more than two million new cases each week. In response, governments are toughening their restrictions, despite widespread demonstrations against them.
Austria went into lockdown yesterday, and Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, warned that by the end of this winter “just about everyone in Germany will probably be either vaccinated, recovered or dead.” A rise in cases in Belgium has prompted tighter restrictions, including more working from home and wider mandatory mask-wearing.
Protests against vaccine requirements and pandemic measures raged in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In some places, the police used tear gas and water cannons in response to scattered violence. Some protesters were organized by far-right parties, but many were simply fed up with almost two years of incursions on normal life in the name of public health.
Crackdowns: Unvaccinated people in Greece, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are barred from many indoor spaces, including restaurants. Slovakia yesterday announced a “lockdown for the unvaccinated.” The possibility of a vaccine mandate in Germany is under discussion as the only way to overcome the pandemic.
Russia targets a human rights group
The Kremlin is taking aim at Russia’s most prominent human rights organization, Memorial International, as Vladimir Putin, Russia’s leader, sets his sights on rewriting the memory of one of the most painful times in Russia’s turbulent history.
Memorial International is dedicated to the remembrance of those who were persecuted in the gulags of the former Soviet Union. It grew in the period after the bloc’s collapse, when free expression could flourish. Now, prosecutors are moving to liquidate the organization’s archive and human rights center. Two court hearings may decide the center’s fate.
Activists and dissidents consider the threat to the organization a watershed moment for independent thinkers in Russia — a sobering example of the government’s determination to silence its critics and sanitize the narrative surrounding the Soviet Union.
Quotable: “Putin’s Russia builds itself on the denial” of the reform and social upheaval of the 1990s, said Aleksandr Baunov, the editor in chief of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s website.
Details: Today, Moscow’s City Court will consider allegations that Memorial International’s human rights center “justifies terrorist activities” because it included members of imprisoned religious groups as political prisoners. Later in the week, the Supreme Court will take up charges that the center violated a draconian “foreign agent” law.
Fake news lures migrants to Belarus border
Fake news on social media, particularly Facebook, has helped stoke a crisis at the Belarus-Poland border, where thousands of migrants who were lured to Belarus by easy tourist visas are camping in squalid, freezing conditions. False reports by profiteers and charlatans have preyed on the hopes of vulnerable people desperate to reach the E.U.
Some of the creators of the false reports promised to smuggle migrants across borders for hefty fees; some appeared to bask in the attention they received for sharing information; others seemed motivated by a desire to help suffering people. There has been no evidence to suggest a coordinated campaign by Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s strongman leader, to target migrants with fake information online.
Since July, activity on Facebook in Arabic and Kurdish related to migration to the E.U. through Belarus has been “skyrocketing,” said Monika Richter, head of research and analysis for Semantic Visions, an intelligence firm that tracked social media activity related to the crisis.
First person: Mohammad Faraj rushed to the encampment that migrants have nicknamed “the jungle” after seeing a video report on Facebook incorrectly claiming the border to Poland was opening. He described the 10 days that followed as being “like something out of a horror movie.”
Related: Iraqis who were deported from Belarus have been left wondering about their futures after spending all their money — and borrowing more — trying to go to Europe.
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The books of the year
Whether your literary preferences include sci-fi, poetry or nonfiction, there’s something on The Book Review’s annual roundup of 100 notable books for everyone. Here are some picks:
Fiction: “Strange Beasts of China,” by Yan Ge, is an enchanting novel about a cryptozoologist pursuing fabled creatures.
Memoir: “Somebody’s Daughter,” by Ashley C. Ford, begins with a phone call in which the author learns that her father is coming home after almost 30 years in prison, and it ends with his release.
Nonfiction: “A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance,” by Hanif Abdurraqib, makes powerful observations about race in America through music, television, film, minstrel shows and vaudeville.
Poetry: “Playlist for the Apocalypse,” by Rita Dove, is the former poet laureate’s first book in 12 years.
Stories: “Afterparties” by Anthony Veasna So, a book set in the Central Valley of California, is a deeply personal, frankly funny and illuminating debut — published eight months after the author’s death at 28.
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