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Struggling with shortage.

Here’s what you need to know

The coronavirus variant in India is concerning the World Health Organization. B.1.617 has now been found in 30 other countries, as the world learns of disturbing evidence of a much higher case count than the already alarming figures being reported.

Violence in Jerusalem is concerning the US. Recent deadly clashes over planned evictions of Palestinians have prompted US national security adviser Jake Sullivan to urge Israel’s government to “ensure calm.”

Malaysia is suing Deutsche and JPMorgan. The defunct 1MDB fund is also targeting the Swiss-based Coutts in an attempt to restore billions in losses.

The French government decried a letter from soldiers promising civil war. The 130,000 signatories said their country is being too friendly to Islamism—it followed a similar letter from high-ranking military last month.

Trans Americans will now be protected from discrimination by healthcare. Reversing a Donald Trump-era policy, US president Joe Biden’s administration announced that a federal law protecting sex discrimination does, in fact, extend to transgender and gay patients.

The FBI confirmed DarkSide was responsible for the pipeline cyberattack. The ransomware responsible is believed to originate in Russia, though the group insisted its demands are entirely apolitical.

Facebook’s “Instagram for kids” plan isn’t making a lot of friends. Forty-four US attorneys general urged the social media platform to abandon ship to protect children’s mental health.

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What to watch for

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China might see a larger-than-expected decline in population growth.

China will release the preliminary results of its 2020 census early this week. Having the world’s largest population gives the government a lot of power—1.4 billion human beings are a force to be reckoned with.

But there’s reason to believe that the census will show a larger-than-expected decline in population growth, or even the first population decline in 50 years. (The government denies this.) Either way, there will soon be too many old people in China and not enough young workers to support them, foreshadowing a future social system crisis. It could also show that the government’s heavy-handed push for traditional family values isn’t working, as factors like the high cost of child-rearing and the burden of everyday sexism deter women from having more children.

That may explain why the release of the results was pushed back from April to May. Chinese netizens are unhappy about the delay, and some believe that the government is fudging the data. But it could also be a reflection of just how tough it is to collect demographic data for this many people in the middle of a pandemic. (China is far from the only country facing this problem.)


Markets haiku: The power of poetry

Image copyright: Reuters/Aly Song

The markets haiku
Might not impact stock prices,
But some poems do

On Monday, shares of Chinese food delivery giant Meituan closed down 7.1%, wiping out around $16 billion off the firm’s market cap, after its CEO posted then deleted a classical Chinese poem seen by some as a subtle criticism of Beijing.

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Charting Africa’s internet shutdowns

Many leaders seem threatened by digital media, and research shows that 2020 saw 156 full or partial shutdowns of the internet or social media like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. While south Asia accounts for almost three quarters of these shutdowns, Africa was the next most affected region, with 20 shutdowns affecting 12 countries.

Governments have given varying justifications for these moves. These include: combating hate speech and fake news in Chad and Ethiopia, suppressing violence in Sudan, and preventing exam cheating in Algeria and Sudan. Disruptions in Mali in 2020 coincided with anti-government protests, while shutdowns were timed around elections in Burundi, Guinea, Tanzania, and Togo.


A few unexpected perks of in-office work

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Soccer star Willian's perfect wink.

According to recent surveys of employees working remotely during the pandemic, people miss their colleagues, but they’re also tired of being in constant contact—with their colleagues.

Perhaps what some actually miss are the specific modes of conversing that require both non-verbal communication and spontaneous encounters:

😜 Teasing is one example of a communication style that has disappeared. Dachner Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, explained that we use linguistics as “above all, exaggeration to signal that we don’t mean precisely what we’re saying.”

🤫 Gossip can have a cruel edge of course, but for the most part, it’s harmless and often bursting with useful nuggets. Not only is there now less to gossip about remotely, but the pipes are also frozen by fear.

👂 Eavesdropping can allow those with less status to keep tabs on the powerful to a degree, and supplies currency workers can use with superiors. But today, with keystroke tracking and other measures, the ability to eavesdrop sits with those who already hold power.

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Surprising discoveries

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Recognize this fellow?

The Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest is back on. The 40th annual competition will feature its parade of faux-Papas after skipping a year due to the pandemic.

2,500 train employees thought their employer gave them a cash gift. When they clicked the link in the official-looking email, it was a phishing test.

Leopards escaped a zoo in China. Now, nearby residents are upset about not knowing for weeks that three big cats were in their midst.

The most metal vaccination site ever. Tourists can receive Pfizer shots at the 14th-century Bran Castle in Romania, the castle that inspired Dracula’s lair.

Rapper J. Cole signed on to play in an African basketball league. He’ll join the Rwanda Patriots BBC for three-to-six games.


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