Sunday, November 28, 2021

Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

Sunday, November 28, 2021

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We’re covering the Taliban’s new acting leadership, the lagging vaccination rate in Eastern Europe and China’s commitment to narrow the wage gap.

The Taliban chose people to fill several cabinet positions on an acting basis, stopping short of formally announcing a permanent government in Afghanistan.

Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a founding member of the Taliban and former deputy prime minister, was named the acting leader of the council of ministers — a surprise to those who thought that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who led negotiations with the U.S., would assume the top spot. Baradar was instead named acting deputy.

Taliban leaders will face immediate challenges, especially if American officials continue to withhold aid. Basic services like electricity are already under threat, and the U.N. warned that food aid would run out by the end of the month for hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

The announcement came just hours after the Taliban used force to break up a demonstration by hundreds of women and men in Kabul. The protesters called for the Taliban to respect the rights that women gained over the past 20 years. It was a remarkable public display by women, who suffered brutal subjugation the last time the Taliban were in charge.

Many countries in Western Europe overcame sluggish starts to become vaccination leaders, and more than 70 percent of adults in the European Union have been fully vaccinated. But some Eastern European countries have struggled to keep up.

Bulgaria and Romania have fully vaccinated less than a third of their adult populations, compared with rates of 80 percent in Denmark and Portugal. Those Eastern countries, along with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, also have some of the highest excess mortality rates across the European Union.

Scarcity of doses is no longer an issue. Instead, misinformation, distrust of authorities and ignorance about the benefits of inoculation seem to be behind the low uptake in Central and Eastern Europe.

The W.H.O. warned last month that 230,000 people in Europe could die of the coronavirus by December, in part because of slowed vaccination rates and a lack of proactive government measures.

Go deeper: The bloc has promised to supply its neighbors with vaccine doses. Just 23 percent of Albania’s population has been fully vaccinated; that number falls to 11 percent in Georgia and 3 percent in Armenia.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:


President Xi Jinping of China announced the Communist Party’s intention of pursuing a strategy of “common prosperity,” in which affluent businesses and entrepreneurs will be pushed to help narrow the country’s wealth gap and expand the middle class.

Xi and his allies believe that China is now rich enough to shift closer to his party’s longstanding ideal of wealth sharing. Party officials have vowed to make schooling, housing and health care less costly and more evenly available outside big cities, and to increase wages for workers.

Some of China’s biggest companies, which have also felt the sting of the government’s antitrust crackdown, have lined up pledges. Alibaba, the e-commerce company co-founded by Jack Ma, will invest $15.5 billion in common prosperity projects, as will the country’s biggest internet company, Tencent.

Data: The country’s top 1 percent own nearly 31 percent of the country’s wealth, up from 21 percent in 2000.

Context: Xi currently faces little opposition as he lays the groundwork for a likely third term beginning next year, but that could change if economic grievances continue to pile up.

Decades of population loss and divestment by state governments have left many rural American communities without the resources to educate their children. Here’s the story of Harvey Ellington, a teenager from rural Mississippi who grew up in a failing public school system.

No one expected Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s nighttime adult programming block, to be a success. But over the past 20 years, it has become a home for bizarro humor, with shows like “Rick and Morty” and “Tuca & Bertie” enjoying cult followings.

Cartoon Network executives knew a third of their audience were adults, but the network didn’t have much of a budget to make original content aimed at them. The result was simple, lo-fi animation that attracted out-of-the-box ideas, including a show starring a talking wad of meat (“Aqua Teen Hunger Force”) and a cheesy talk show hosted by a Hanna-Barbera superhero (“Space Ghost Coast to Coast”).

The production wasn’t glamorous: The editor of Adult Swim’s first original series worked from a closet. A celebrity guest on that series, unaware of the strangeness he had signed up for, walked out mid-taping. But the audience grew, and the shows stayed weird.

“There were moments we’d laugh so hard we’d literally cry because we loved our work so much,” Eric Wareheim, a show creator, said. “We were doing things we’d never seen before in comedy or on TV.” To go behind the scenes at Adult Swim, read Sarah Bahr’s article.

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