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UK names Russia’s planned Ukraine leader

It says Putin intends to install a pro-Russia leader as the world braces for a possible invasion.

Russian president Vladimir Putin
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  • Susan Howson
By Susan Howson

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Here’s what you need to know

The UK named a puppet leader it says Russia plans to install in Ukraine. Washington backed up the announcement, though it’s not clear whether the installment would be contingent on a Russian invasion. Meanwhile, the EU promised immediate sanctions if an invasion does occur.

A WHO official called Boris Johnson’s covid rule rollbacks “premature.” Ending isolation and mask requirements in England is a bad idea, said WHO covid technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove. Though some US states seem to be past their omicron peak, so many workers are still out sick that Starbucks and McDonald’s have had to reduce the hours they’re open.

The Taliban began talks with western governments. During the three-day session in Oslo, official representatives and Afghan activists are expected to use frozen humanitarian aid as leverage for promises regarding human rights.

Italy’s parliament will vote for a new president. Someone other than Silvio Berlusconi, who removed himself as a candidate, will be chosen by a complex secret ballot process that starts today.

The US is poised to seize a Hong Kong cruise ship. The Crystal Symphony is currently avoiding US shores, while its parent company, Genting Hong Kong, still owes $1.2 million in fuel bills.

Beijing ramps up mass covid-19 testing. Less than two weeks before the start of the 2022 Winter Olympics, nine new cases in the city mean officials are testing entire neighborhoods and asking people to limit holiday travel.

Keep tabs on what’s shaping up to be a truly unusual Winter Games, with our Need to Know: Beijing Olympics newsletter. Hit the button below to sign up instantly, and join us as we spectate from afar.

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What to watch for

A hamster emerging from a nest of straw, nose-first.
Image copyright: Giphy

Hong Kong’s secondary schools close today in the city’s latest wave of measures meant to counteract the spread of covid. Primary schools, gyms, movie theaters, salons, and restaurants (after 6pm, anyway) have already been shuttered, but one event last week pushed the city’s relentless zero-covid philosophy into absurdist territory.

On Jan. 18, the Hong Kong government demanded that pet shops and hamster owners turn over 2,000 of the rodents after 11 in a single shop tested positive. The government also banned further hamster imports and made it clear that it planned to cull all hamsters that came into the country after Dec. 22, even though evidence for animal-to-human transmission of the coronavirus is scant.

The rigor of Hong Kong’s covid restrictions—which may be doing more harm than good—is, in some ways, also a proxy for China to extend its control over Hong Kong and its democratic movements.

In tech companies we trust more than ever

A new survey, part of the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer report (pdf), shows that people trust the tech industry more than any other—even more than healthcare, the sector the world has relied on most heavily during the pandemic.

A bar chart showing that, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, technology is the most trusted industry sector, with about 74% of survey respondents saying they trusted tech companies to do what is right, while social media scored the lowest.

The findings go against the grain of reports of an ongoing “techlash”—a wave of hostility to technology, its numerous breaches of privacy and security, and its disconcerting pace of disruptive change. Edelman’s newest numbers suggest that tech has perhaps benefited from an overall cross-sector rise in trust. But it also follows a period in which technology has proven even more indispensable to our lives during the pandemic.

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…But if you insist, try making your own makgeolli. The ancient Korean rice wine is having a resurgence as a DIY project.

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