Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Occasions
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We cover a new analysis of Britain’s sloppy pandemic spending, a move to the right for Emmanuel Macron and an advantage too the climate crisis for Russia.
Cronyism and waste in UK pandemic spending
As the UK looked for protective gear and other gear, select companies – many of which had close ties to the ruling Conservative Party or had no experience – garnered billions from more than 2,500 contracts, according to an analysis by the New York Times.
In some cases, more qualified companies lost to companies with better political ties that were given access to a secret VIP lane, about ten times more likely to be approved for a contract.
Conclusions: While there is no evidence of illegal behavior, there are numerous indications of cronyism, waste, and lack of due diligence. Officials ignore or miss red flags, including stories of fraud, human rights abuses, tax evasion and other serious controversies.
Christmas restrictions: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to lift gathering restrictions December 23-27, despite increasing calls for the plan to be abandoned as coronavirus cases increase.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, Mr Macron put forward bills on security and Islamist extremism that raised the alarm among some French, the United Nations and human rights groups but found favor with right-wing voters. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally, is expected to be its main antagonist.
Analysis: Despite his center-left origins, Mr. Macron has always been known as a shapeshifter. His shift to the right is seen by some as a neat break from the first three years of his presidency.
Connected: A French court found 14 people guilty of supporting the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine and provided the attackers with cash, weapons and vehicles.
Gender equality: The mayor of Paris was fined nearly $ 110,000 for hiring too many women. It did so under a 2012 law designed to address the gender imbalance at higher levels of the country’s public service.
A milestone for air pollution
A 9-year-old girl who died of an asthma attack in 2013 became the first person in the UK to be officially listed as a cause of death from air pollution after exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter that exceeded World Health Organization guidelines.
The death of the girl, Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who was black, threw a harsh light on how disproportionately minorities and disadvantaged families in Britain are affected by pollution.
Legal experts said it could open a new door for lawsuits from pollution victims or their families. The girl lived near a main road in south east London. Her mother said that if she had been told that air pollution was contributing to her daughter’s illness, she would have moved.
Apr. 16, 2020, 7:32 am ET
Context: The effects of air pollution kill an estimated 7 million people around the world each year, according to the WHO, with 4.2 million caused by air pollution.
If you have some time, it’s worth it
How Russia could win the climate crisis
No country can benefit more from climate change than Russia above, where warming temperatures are changing huge parts of the formerly barren country. The spring thaw comes earlier and earlier while the rainstorms are stronger and wetter and the process is likely to accelerate.
Russia hopes to use its newly discovered longer growing seasons to remodel itself as one of the largest food producers in the world.
The following also happens
China moon mission: China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft brought a capsule made of stones and earth from the moon back to earth. The mission returned the first new cache of lunar samples since 1976.
Snapshot: Above actors from Pandemonium, a new BBC sitcom about life during the pandemic. The show follows a family stuck in a British seaside town after the coronavirus canceled their planned Disneyland vacation. A bold question arises: are we ready to laugh at Covid-19 – and is there something to laugh about?
Cricket ‘Catfishing’: With female crickets preferring louder, larger male partners, according to a new study, cricket underdogs are making mini-megaphones out of leaves to amplify their calls and get women to mate with them.
What we read: This Outside magazine report of a trip to the Great Barrier Reef made after the writer’s husband suffered a stroke at age 40. It’s a clear look at bliss, travel, and what “last chance tourism” really means.
Now a break from the news
Cook: Our favorite recipe from 2020: those jam caramelized shallot noodles that are worth slicing half a dozen allies for. Don’t skip the anchovies.
Clock: Stream nine great adaptations of novels by John le Carré, who passed away last week.
Do: How to prepare your own frankincense with sandalwood powder, herbs and essential oils.
Get inspired. At Home offers a comprehensive collection of ideas on what to read, cook, see, and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the background story about …
How do I become a newsletter professional?
If you’re reading this, you probably like newsletters. Well, there is still time to do your own thing to recap 2020. As December draws to a close, this is an opportunity to take stock and let your friends and family know how you fared in this deeply strange year. Our reporter offers tips on creating a written representation.
Step 1: tell your story
If stories from vacation or group outings are in short supply this year, think about the local adventures you’ve experienced – like adopting a cat, exploring the city on foot, learning to cook, or picking up the mandolin. If the whole family has something to share, ask each member of the household to contribute a paragraph or two.
Step 2: add pictures
Even if there is a shortage of travel photos and the school pictures for 2020 are zoom screenshots, search your photo library for other pictures to visually document your year. For a year-end family portrait that everyone is involved in, set the camera timer so the photographer has a few seconds to jump into the frame.
Snapshots of your walks around the city, outdoor dining with friends, close-ups of garden flowers, and photos of animals can capture life as you lived it in 2020, even in a lockdown or quarantine.
Step 3: design your newsletter
Now is the time to combine your words and pictures into one eye-catching document. If you’ve never laid out a layout before, most word processors come with a gallery of templates that you can use as a starting point. Apple’s Pages and Google Docs contain templates.
Choose a template from the gallery that you like and replace the sample formatted text by highlighting it and writing (or pasting) your own words. Tap or click sample images to replace them with photos from your own photo library, or find a menu option to insert new images.
That’s it for this briefing. I wish you a good Thursday.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected]
• We hear “The Daily”. Our latest episode is about a sophisticated Russian hacking operation against American agencies.
• Here’s our mini crossword puzzle and a clue: Wishy-Washy RSVP (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• The Twitter account @ 2ShotsInTheArm shares photos of doctors and nurses receiving the Covid vaccine.
• Claire Gutierrez, a story editor who worked for The Times Magazine, becomes our Great Reads editor.