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Here’s what you need to know
Many holiday travelers still await a green light. Omicron’s rapid spread, a labor shortage, and a massive surge of travelers led to hundreds of canceled US flights over the weekend and an additional 2,800 on Monday.
The US cut covid isolation time in half. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends five days after a positive test, down from 10. Meanwhile, England can still party for New Year’s Eve, Germany is tightening up, Xi’an is disinfecting, and Israel has begun trials of its second booster plan.
Didi blocked its employees from selling shares. A Financial Times report about the indefinite ban sent the Chinese ride-hailing giant’s stock down on the US market.
2022 isn’t looking as rosy as previously thought. Economists are lowering forecasts for both US and global growth, thanks to omicron.
The Taliban made it illegal for Afghan women to travel solo. Transportation can’t be offered to a woman for a trip exceeding 45 miles (72 km) unless she is accompanied by a male relative.
China said the US government submitted visa applications for the Olympics. Washington insists they’re not official delegates, but security and medical support teams.
What to watch for
Today marks the start of Semicon Taiwan, an annual trade show in Taipei that showcases the most cutting edge computer chip designs from manufacturers around the world. This year Semicon will feature a record 650 exhibitors, a sign of Taiwan’s continued dominance in the global semiconductor market, despite mounting tensions with China and the looming threat of the omicron variant. (Organizers already had to postpone the event from September due to local covid outbreaks.)
The centerpiece of this year’s show will be a spotlight on compound semiconductors, which are chips made from two or more materials. Many manufacturers believe these could be the future of the industry, since engineers are reaching the limits of performance with chips made from silicon alone.
Reaching beyond a different kind of limit
NASA launched its James Webb Space Telescope on Dec. 25, an achievement a quarter-century in the making. The $8.8 billion project is about 10 times over budget and has been delayed by 14 years.
But, in its defense, it’s already completed some of its impressive to-do list:
✅ Rocket 870 miles above Earth
✅ Assemble an antenna to communicate back home
✅ Fly past the Moon
🔲 Use 178 different mechanisms in exactly the right order to set up a sunshield and mirrors
🔲 Take pictures 1 million miles away from Earth
🔲 Chill out in the cosmos
If everything goes according to plan—and there’s more than 300 things that could go wrong—the telescope could take its first pictures by Jan. 29.
✏️ What dropping undergraduate enrollment means for colleges
💨 Biden is gambling that clean hydrogen could be the next Tesla…
♻️ …While Ambani and Adani bet on India’s future as a renewable energy giant
🗣 The secret to having more meaningful conversations
📕 The words that defined business in 2021
✈️ Is it time for the US to require covid vaccines on domestic flights?
The successful search and rescue of a search and rescue dog. Juno was found with the help of a drone.
Hamsters drink like fishes. The rodents have a surprising tolerance for alcohol, which they’ll choose over water every time.
McDonald’s is testing stationary bike seats in China. At two locations, customers will be able to burn calories, charge their phones, and eat fries.
Wine shortages aren’t all about the grapes. The supply chain crisis has put bottles, corks, and even labels at a premium.
Retailers may tell you to keep your unwanted holiday gifts. Even if they can resell your item, it might not be worth the return cost.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, the gift you most want to return, and hamster cocktail recipes to email@example.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Nicolás Rivero, Morgan Haefner, and Susan Howson.