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Your Tuesday Briefing: Almost 800,000 U.S. Covid Deaths

todayDecember 13, 2021 3

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We’re covering the U.S. approaching 800,000 Covid-19 deaths and Jimmy Lai’s sentencing in Hong Kong.

As the pandemic nears the end of a second year, the U.S. stands on the cusp of surpassing 800,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

No group has suffered more than older Americans. Seventy-five percent of those who have died in the U.S. are 65 or older. Covid-19 has killed one in 100 Americans in that age group. For people younger than 65, that ratio is closer to 1 in 1,400.

The heightened risk for older people has dominated life for many, partly as friends and family try to protect them. “You get kind of forgotten,’’ said Pat Hayashi, 65, of San Francisco. “In the pandemic, the isolation and the loneliness got worse. We lost our freedom and we lost our services.”

Many have watched others in their communities go back to life as normal, and companies have pushed to get people back into the workplace. “There’s all these ways — subtle, overt, direct, indirect — that we are not taking the needs of older people in this pandemic into account,” said Louise Aronson, a geriatrician and the author of “Elderhood.”

Current data: Vaccines are widely available in the U.S., and older Americans have been inoculated at a much higher rate than young people: 87 percent of those 65 and older have been fully vaccinated. But in the past two months, the proportion of older people dying of Covid has increased. More than 1,200 people in the U.S. are dying from the virus each day, most of them 65 or older.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

A Hong Kong court on Monday sentenced the former media mogul Jimmy Lai and seven other prominent pro-democracy activists to prison for their roles last year in trying to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The sentences ranged from four months to 14 months. In statements read in court before the sentencing, Lai and his co-defendants made clear that they felt no regret for defying the government’s ban.

Chow Hang-tung, one of the defendants, delivered an impassioned statement condemning the government for using public health reasons to justify what she called an explicitly political prosecution. “Let us not delude ourselves that this is all about Covid-19,” she said.

Background: Activists gathered on June 4 last year before an annual vigil to honor the victims of Beijing’s 1989 suppression of protesters in Tiananmen Square. The government had banned the gathering, which has taken place for three decades, citing coronavirus concerns.

What’s next: Lai and other defendants separately face charges under the national security law, which can bring sentences up to life imprisonment.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed met for four hours — two hours longer than planned — in the first official visit to the U.A.E. by an Israeli leader, the latest sign of deepening ties between Israel and parts of the Arab world.

“I’m flying back to Israel, very optimistic that this relationship can set an example of how we can make peace here in the Middle East,” Bennett said in a video released shortly before his departure to Israel.

The pair did not discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an Israeli official who declined to comment on what regional geopolitical issues were mentioned.

Reporters were barred from the meeting, but photographs showed the leaders chatting informally and laughing. The leaders pledged to establish a joint Emirati-Israeli research and development fund, as well as a business council, according to a joint statement.

Main concerns: Iran remains a major threat to Emirati security, and the Emiratis share Israel’s fear that Iran will attain a nuclear bomb. But their country is a major trading partner with Iran and it favors a less confrontational approach than Israel. The pair’s statement said they had also discussed trade, the economy, the climate and food security.

Asia Pacific

Given both the technical progress being made and the business push behind it, we’re far more likely than our predecessors were to actually embrace the prospect of life in a virtual world, according to David J. Chalmers, a philosopher at New York University. It needn’t be rooted in visions of dystopia, he told The Times in an interview about his forthcoming book, “Reality+.”

“My analogy would be more like we’re moving to a new, uninhabited country and setting up a society,” Chalmers said.

Besides, he added, the recent evolution of virtual reality means we should be taking more seriously the age-old philosophical debate that we already live in a simulation — which could be neat.

“Discovering that we’re in a simulation would then also tell us that there’s potentially a reality beyond the reality that we experience, which is the reality of the simulating world,” Chalmers said, “and who knows what’s going on there?”

In the more immediate future, Facebook is trying to stake out the metaverse for itself. The writer who coined the term, Neal Stephenson, told Kara Swisher that we should unionize to prevent virtual worlds from becoming dystopias.

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todayDecember 13, 2021