All Anyone Wants for Christmas Is a Covid Test

When Amir Blumenfeld was deciding what to buy for a Secret Santa gift exchange, he landed on something practical: an at-home Covid-19 testing kit. “What better gift is there than peace of mind?” Mr. Blumenfeld, a 38-year-old comedian, wrote in a direct message on Twitter.

At the heart of his quip was an urgent concern: Coronavirus cases are once again rising around the United States as the Delta variant has given way to Omicron, a highly contagious form of the virus. The surge has fueled demand for Covid tests ahead of the Christmas holiday as families seek ways to gather

Covid Live Updates: Biden Details New Measures to Fight Omicron

Credit…Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

Businesses in many parts of Europe are demanding more government help as new pandemic restrictions and heightened anxiety over the highly contagious Omicron variant have crushed what would normally be a profitable time of year.

Nowhere is this worse than in the Netherlands, where the Dutch government instituted a lockdown over the weekend, closing most shops, bars, restaurants, gyms, outdoor sports, cultural venues and schools through January.

Some business owners fear they may never reopen.…

Let’s Look Back on 2021, When We Couldn’t Stop Looking Back

I wonder if something like the opposite is happening now: The allure of presentism is causing people to romanticize contemporary perspectives at the expense of an excessively vilified past. It’s uncomfortable to dwell in gray areas, to admit imperfections, to acknowledge blind spots — better to have a 100-minute documentary or four-part podcast to allow us to tidily “reconsider” something that we got wrong the first time around, so we never have to think too hard about it again.

But to believe the linear, one-dimensional narrative that Woodstock ’99 or misogynistic media coverage of Britney Spears can only be visible …

Your Wednesday Briefing: Omicron Restrictions

We’re covering Asia-Pacific approaches to Omicron and progress in India’s ambitious water-access plan.

countries in Asia are all over the map with their containment approaches.

Heightening the urgency, data shows that Asia’s most widely used vaccines — including those made by AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Sinopharm — show no ability to stop Omicron infections six months after vaccination. (Most vaccines still seem to provide a significant degree of protection against serious illness from Omicron.)

New Zealand said on Tuesday that it was pushing back a phased opening of its borders to the end of February. It has detected 22 cases of

2 Ship Officers Plead Guilty to Light Charges in Mauritius Oil Spill

NAIROBI, Kenya — The captain and first officer of a ship that hit a coral reef and spilled toxic fuel off the coast of Mauritius last year in the worst environmental disaster in the island nation’s recent history have pleaded guilty to endangering safe navigation.

The spill was an environmental calamity for Mauritius, an Indian Ocean nation off the coast of East Africa that is famous for its stunning beaches and lagoons. It destroyed the livelihoods of fishermen and tourism workers and threatened biodiversity hot spots, including prominent snorkeling and diving areas.

The captain, Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, and the first

Libya’s Long-Awaited Election Will Most Likely Be Delayed

TUNIS — Nearly 100 candidates declared they were running for president, a few of them among the most prominent in Libyan politics. More than a third of Libyans registered to vote, and most signaled their intention to cast ballots.

Western leaders and United Nations officials had thrown their support behind the election, one they said represented the best hope of reunifying and pacifying a country still largely divided in two and dazed from nearly a decade of internecine fighting.

For more than a year now, Libya has been hurtling toward a long-awaited presidential election scheduled for Friday, the 70th anniversary

These Carol Singers Are Carrying on, Despite Omicron Variant

LONDON — Last Thursday night, many people in Britain were worrying about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, and whether the pandemic was about to disrupt Christmas plans for the second year in a row.

The country had just broken a record for new daily cases of the virus and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had urged the public to “think carefully” before going to Christmas parties.

But for three carol singers standing outside Leadbelly’s, a bar in south London, there was a more immediate problem: a lack of tenors.

Zoë Bonner, 41, a soprano and co-organizer of a caroling pub

Lawmakers Urge Big Tech and Justice Dept. to Act on Suicide Site

Families of those who spent time on the website and learned ways to die have long sought accountability from tech companies that lead people to the site, including search engines. The site draws six million page views a month, and nearly half of all traffic is driven by online searches, according to data from Similarweb, a web analytics company.

A representative for Microsoft said that in response to The Times’s investigation, the company had “taken action in line with our policies” and “addressed the ranking associated with this website in our results,” making the site rank lower for most related …

Tiny Love Stories: ‘Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian’

The year our father left, I’d thrash around on my big sister’s shaggy blue carpet at bedtime, pretending I’d fallen overboard. Melanie would hoist me into the lower bunk, singing as I dozed off. Our rescue game turned real one winter’s day at the bus stop. I bent to pack a snowball. When I stood — smack! — I was hit in the face by Melanie’s own icy projectile. Stunned, I began running, then fainted. Melanie started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and then carried me home. Our father never returned. But my sister is still here, healing life’s harshest

Cashing In Grandma’s Gold Coins, a Turkish Family Struggles to Get By

ISTANBUL — The list of things that Bilal, a Turkish factory worker, and his family have had to give up is growing longer by the day. They stopped buying meat a year ago and recently had to cut back on using their gas heater and cooking oil, and on snacks for the children.

He and his wife are already heavily in debt and with inflation spiraling higher over the past two months, they cannot make ends meet even after those sacrifices. So Bilal had to turn to his mother for financial help this month, cashing in two gold coins she