2021-02-26 03:55:11 | Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times


Story by: Natasha Frost The New York Times World News

Two weeks after 1.45 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Germany, only 270,986 have been administered, public health officials said, even as people around the world clamor for inoculations and many countries have seen severe shortages.

Many Germans — including health workers — are skipping appointments or refusing to sign up for the AstraZeneca shot, which they fear is less effective than the one developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech, the officials say.

That reluctance has been fueled by weeks of negative coverage in the German media, which has portrayed AstraZeneca’s vaccine as “second-class” and published stories of people suffering adverse reactions.

By the numbers: Clinical trials do suggest that the Pfizer-BioNTech shot’s efficacy, at 95 percent, is higher than AstraZeneca’s, which is between 60 and 90 percent depending on factors like the spacing of doses. Still, it is difficult to directly compare vaccines unless they are tested head-to-head in the same trial.

Armenia, which lost a humiliating and bloody war with its neighbor Azerbaijan last fall, slipped into a political crisis on Thursday after what its prime minister called an “attempted military coup.”

The fracas began recently, when a political opponent accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of having failed to deploy missiles that might have prevented Armenia’s loss of territory. The prime minister insisted that he had ordered the missiles’ use but that they had malfunctioned, shifting blame to the military.

Mr. Pashinyan fired a military official who contradicted him. On Thursday, the general staff of the military called for him to resign. Mr. Pashinyan warned of a coup, but later softened his language.

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Steps toward stability: By early Thursday evening, the generals had issued a new statement, saying that the previous one had not been made in alignment with any opposition party.

A surge in pandemic-inspired baking has helped focus national attention in Canada on a toothsome question: Why does the country’s butter seem so firm?

One theory suggests palm fat in the feed of Canadian dairy cows, like those pictured above, may be the culprit, a claim that dairy farmers dispute. Either way, the controversy nicknamed “Buttergate” has spawned social media chatter, conspiracy theories and scientific rumination.

U.S. airstrikes: President Biden ordered retaliatory strikes in Syria against what the Pentagon said were Iran-backed militias behind recent attacks in Iraq, one of which killed a civilian contractor with the American-led military coalition there.

Greece: A pregnant Afghan refugee in Lesbos tried to take her own life by setting fire to her tent on Sunday, after her family’s relocation to Germany was delayed. Greek officials charged her with arson.

Electric cars: The Chinese auto manufacturer Nio hopes to dominate the electric car market, even as it loses thousands of dollars on every one it makes. Key to its success is China’s vast, well-funded supply chain for electric vehicles.

U.S. gymnastics: John Geddert, who coached the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, has committed suicide. He had been charged with human trafficking and sexually assaulting a teenage girl, among other offenses.

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India and Pakistan: The two longtime foes renewed a cease-fire pledge on Thursday along their troubled Himalayan border. Since airstrikes in 2019, communities living there have borne the brunt of skirmishes and mortar shelling from both sides.

Watch: French middle schoolers take the reins in “Un Film Dramatique,” a documentary filmed over four years in the Paris suburbs. Our review calls it “joyful” and “heartening.”

Listen: Missing live performances of Schubert or Schumann? Here are 10 highlights from the flood of online classical music content coming in March.

Add flavor to life indoors with our At Home collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

The 11-month-old invitation-only app, valued at $1 billion, delights users by letting them dip into different conversations, called “rooms.” But from the start, it’s been plagued by controversy. My colleague Kevin Roose broke down its trials and triumphs. Here’s an excerpt.

Every successful social network has a life cycle that goes something like: Wow, this app sure is addictive! Look at all the funny and exciting ways people are using it! This platform should really hire some moderators and fix its algorithms. Wow, this place is a cesspool, I’m deleting my account.

What’s remarkable about Clubhouse is that it seems to be experiencing this entire cycle all at once, during its first year of existence.

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Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Clubhouse is organized more like Reddit — a cluster of topical rooms, with a central “hallway” where users can browse rooms in progress. Clubhouse rooms disappear after they’re over, and recording a room is against the rules.

But there are still plenty of similarities, including aggressive growth-hacking tactics meant to draw new users deeper into the app. The app’s reputation for lax moderation has also attracted a number of people who have been barred by other social networks. It has also drawn scrutiny from governments, particularly those intent on clamping down dissidents.

Before I get tagged as a Clubhouse hater, let me sound a note of optimism. Most rooms I’ve been in are civil and well moderated, and if you scroll past the megapopular rooms filled with celebrities and clout-chasers, you can find some truly fascinating stuff.

I hope Clubhouse survives, if only because it could create a more thoughtful, less outrage-driven alternative to the social networks we’ve been typing into for the last decade and a half.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next week.

And a correction: Yesterday’s briefing incorrectly stated that Ghana had received 60,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines under the vaccine sharing scheme Covax. The correct figure is 600,000.

— Natasha

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on Merrick B. Garland’s long history of fighting domestic extremism.
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Source References: The New York Times World News

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