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Your Thursday Briefing: Variant Déjà Vu in India


We’re covering Omicron in India and unrest sweeping Kazakhstan.

Just a few months ago, as government leaders vastly underestimated the dangers and publicly flouted official advice, the Delta variant ravaged India. Now, with the rise of Omicron, the mixed signals from the government and rapid spread through cities are fueling a sense of déjà vu.

As the Omicron wave began last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the nation to be vigilant. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the Delhi region, introduced night curfews, shut down movie theaters and slashed capacity in restaurants and public transport.

But then both men hit the campaign trail, appearing unmasked in rallies with thousands of people. Large election rallies are being held across several states that are going to the polls in the coming months.

Numbers: Mumbai reported more than 15,000 new infections on Wednesday, its highest of the pandemic. In New Delhi, the daily number nearly doubled overnight.

Added concern: The worries are compounded by some research showing that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been used in about 90 percent of India’s vaccinations, does not protect against Omicron, though it appears to help reduce the severity of the illness.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:


Thousands of people across Kazakhstan are taking to the streets over a surge in the cost of fuel. The demonstrations are the biggest wave of protests to sweep the oil-rich country in decades.

Protesters on Wednesday stormed government buildings in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, setting ablaze the former presidential residence and the offices of the governing Nur Otan party. Police said the protesters damaged 400 businesses, and that 200 people had been detained. According to local media, the police opened fire in Atyrau, killing at least one person.

Anger has swelled despite concessions from the ruling party: The cabinet and prime minister were dismissed. As protests continued, the president promised to “act with maximum toughness.” Authorities shut off the internet and blocked social media and chat apps.

Background: Protests began Sunday after the government lifted price caps for liquefied petroleum gas and the cost of fuel doubled. In the days since, demonstrators have demanded the ouster of the authoritarian political forces that have ruled the country since Kazakhstan became independent in 1991.

Russia is watching: Kazakhstan is at the heart of what President Vladimir Putin of Russia sees as the Kremlin’s sphere of influence. Pro-Kremlin media portrayed the events as a plot against Russia.

Here’s what’s behind Kazakhstan’s biggest crisis in decades.


Beijing’s crackdown on the tech sector is killing entrepreneurial drive and quashing jobs that attracted college graduates, our columnist Li Yuan writes.

Companies like iQiyi, a video platform that aspired to be China’s Netflix, are laying off young, well-educated workers. Some have even been forced to shut down. Regulators say they are trying to clean up the companies’ practices, but many say regulatory actions have gone too far. Major corporations have been hit with antitrust fines, and media and entertainment platforms are pulling popular content and influencers, wary of repeated government warnings that the content is not ideologically appropriate.

Details: In the third quarter of last year, China’s biggest internet company, Tencent, posted its slowest revenue growth since its public listing in 2004. The e-commerce giant Alibaba’s profitability declined by 38 percent from a year earlier. Didi, once the most valuable start-up in the country, reported an operating loss of $6.3 billion for the first nine months of 2021.

Around the World

In Padua, Italy, two city councilors caused a stir with a proposal to include a female philosopher in a monument whose 78 sculptures are all men. They say that placing a statue of Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman in the world to graduate with a university degree, obtained in 1678, “would be a sign for the future.”

I was a freelance classical music critic for The Boston Globe. A close friend from my class at Yale, Bob Walden, was declining fast from AIDS, and I went to visit him in New York. I’d brought some chicken salad for lunch, though Bob, having shriveled to about 100 pounds, hardly ate. He died on Jan. 1, 1988, at 39.

Despite my sadness, maybe because of it, I needed to write about Bob. During this early, brutal period of AIDS, many were writing about the deaths of their gay friends. But music, specifically Mozart, would be a unifying thread of my article. Bob liked classical music, but used to think that Mozart was above him, which baffled me.

As we ate lunch on that fall day in 1987, a tape started playing Mozart’s consoling choral motet “Ave verum corpus.” As if chastising his own musical cluelessness, he said, “It’s so damn simple.”

That’s what I wrote about: Bob’s epiphany about Mozart seemed linked to insights he was making about life, as he approached death.

From then on, I kept writing profiles and interviews after joining The Times. And I learned that you can tell people’s stories by describing the music they create.

What to Cook


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