China’s ‘zero Covid’ workers revolt
Mass testing was a cornerstone of China’s pandemic strategy. But now that the country has abandoned its strict “zero Covid” controls, it’s no longer in high demand. Companies that amassed fortunes making the test kits and analyzing results have begun instituting layoffs or pay cuts.
Former employees are caught in the middle. This month, frustrated by their sudden loss of wages, people who once worked in pandemic-control industries started to revolt.
Hundreds of protesters in Chongqing, a southwestern city, chanted “pay me back” as they forced police officers in riot gear to retreat, and spilled thousands of tests on the ground. In Hangzhou, an eastern city, witnesses said angry workers climbed up on the roof of a test kit factory and threatened to jump to protest unpaid furloughs.
The disputes could portend more unrest. Factories, owed money by governments, are strapped for cash amid the broader slowdown. One expert said that workers have next to no recourse to resolve their grievances other than to lash out.
Economy: One report suggested that mass testing in large cities accounted for about 1.3 percent of China’s economic output.
Omicron: The variant made mass testing financially unsustainable. Some local governments, facing the economic slowdown, struggled to pay for the millions of free swabs that residents had to take almost every day.
Yesterday, Britain confirmed plans to send 14 tanks and a package of other sophisticated military equipment to Ukraine in the coming weeks. Later this week, two top British officials will visit the U.S., Canada, Germany and other NATO allies to discuss closer coordination on sanctions against Russia and military aid to Ukraine.
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The Chinese government cast aside its restrictive “zero Covid” policy, which had set off mass protests that were a rare challenge to Communist Party leadership.
Only months ago, such aid was considered taboo; Western countries resisted sending powerful arms to Ukraine for fear that it would prompt Russia to escalate the grinding war. But one expert said that Russia appeared to be mobilizing hundreds of thousands of new conscripts, which accelerated discussions about giving Kyiv the tanks.
What’s next: Britain said it would begin training Ukrainian forces on the tanks and guns in the coming days. Thousands of Ukrainian troops have trained in Britain over the last six months.
Dnipro: The death toll from Russia’s strike on an apartment building on Saturday has risen to 40. The U.N. has confirmed the deaths of more than 7,000 Ukrainian civilians in the war, but said the full toll was far higher.
Germany: Britain’s announcement could increase pressure on Germany to send its coveted Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, or at least allow other European countries to do so. Yesterday, the defense minister resigned after heavy criticism of her handling of the war and the slow progress of a planned military buildup.
A couple lost to Nepal’s crashes
In 2006, a pilot for a small Nepali airline died in a plane crash. His widow, Anju Khatiwada, vowed to continue his dream. She gave up her nursing career, despite her family’s opposition, and trained as a pilot in the U.S. In 2010, she began flying for the same company, Yeti Airlines.
On Sunday, the 44-year-old captain met the same fate as her husband when the propeller plane she was co-piloting crashed near the landing strip in Pokhara, a vacation destination. At least 68 other people died in the crash, Nepal’s deadliest air disaster in decades.
Her family’s tragedy is part of a worrying pattern. Nepal, whose mountains make for difficult terrain, has had more than 30 deadly air crashes since the early 1990s, according to the Aviation Safety Network. Last year, an audit expressed concerns about shortcomings in air navigation, investigation of incidents and the organizational structure necessary for implementing safety standards.
Details: A video of the plane, moments before it went down, showed one wing drop suddenly as the plane descended in clear skies.
Tourism: Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the region, relies on visitors. But experts and officials have long been concerned about airports’ ability to meet post-pandemic demand.
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In her recent book, she has turned her attention to Hong Kong, her adopted home, where Chinese history is being rewritten once again. “I know the past fairly well and I can see something is coming,” Chen told The Times.
Lives lived: Gina Lollobrigida was an Italian movie star who became one of the post-World War II era’s first major European sex symbols. She died at 95.
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Chatbots go to college
ChatGPT, a chatbot that was released in November, generates eerily articulate and nuanced text in response to prompts.
Some use it to write letters or poems. But college students have also started deploying the new technology to complete their assignments for them. “I don’t know about y’all but ima just have ChatGPT take my finals,” one student said in a video. “Have fun studying.”
In response, some professors at U.S. colleges are restructuring their classes. They’re relying more on oral exams, group work and handwritten assignments. They’re de-emphasizing take-home, open-book assignments. And more than 6,000 professors have signed up for a program that claims to quickly detect A.I.-generated text.
One professor of philosophy told The Times that he plans to weave ChatGPT into lessons by asking students to evaluate the chatbot’s responses. “What’s happening in class is no longer going to be, ‘Here are some questions — let’s talk about it between us human beings,’” he said. Instead, “it’s like, ‘What also does this alien robot think?’”
Related: Kevin Roose, a technology columnist for The Times, argues that ChatGPT’s benefits as an educational tool outweigh its risks.
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