Germany locks down ahead of Christmas
Germans will begin a strict lockdown over Christmas, after weeks of milder restrictions on public life failed to slow the spread of the coronavirus and the country had record numbers of new infections and deaths, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Sunday.
Nonessential stores, schools and hairdressers will be required to close starting Wednesday, and companies will be encouraged to offer employees an extended holiday break or allow them to work from home.
The number of people allowed to meet privately — including over Christmas — will also be further tightened. New Year’s celebrations outdoors will be all but prohibited, as public gatherings and the sale of fireworks will be banned.
Quote: “All of this will impact the holidays, we know that. But we have been forced to take action, and that is what we are doing now,” Ms. Merkel said at a news conference announcing the measures, which will remain in place through Jan. 10.
In other developments:
The most ambitious vaccination campaign in U.S. history is set to kick off this week after drug regulators approved a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. An initial shipment of about 2.9 million doses of the vaccine will be sent around the country over the next week.
In the coming weeks, major airlines, including United, JetBlue and Lufthansa, plan to introduce a health passport app called CommonPass, which aims to verify passengers’ coronavirus test results — and, perhaps soon, their vaccinations.
Bahrain said on Sunday that it had approved a Chinese vaccine against the coronavirus, following the United Arab Emirates.
John le Carré has died at 89
The British writer John le Carré, whose exquisitely nuanced, intricately plotted Cold War thrillers elevated the spy novel to high art, died on Saturday at 89 in Cornwall, England.
Born David John Moore Cornwell in Poole, Dorset, in 1931, Mr. le Carré had a ragged, destabilizing childhood dominated by his father, Ronald, a flamboyant con man who went in and out of prison for fraud, lurching the family from extravagance to destitution. Except for two years when he taught at the elite English secondary school Eton, Mr. le Carré was a spy of some kind for 16 years, for M.I.6. and its domestic counterpart, M.I.5.
In a career spanning more than a half-century, Mr. le Carré wrote more than two dozen books and set them as far afield as Rwanda, Chechnya, Turkey, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
Details: In contrast to Ian Fleming’s spy novels on the glamorous James Bond, Mr. le Carré’s books portrayed British intelligence operations as cesspools of ambiguity in which right and wrong were too close to call and it was rarely obvious whether the ends justified the means.
China’s promise to tackle global warming
Speaking on the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, said on Saturday that by 2030, China would reduce its carbon intensity by over 65 percent.
Carbon intensity is a measure of greenhouse gas emissions relative to economic activity. Meeting the goal would mean that as China’s economy grows, so would its emissions, but at a slower rate than before. Mr. Xi also said China would triple wind and solar power capacity to more than one billion kilowatts and expand its forests.
Context: China is the biggest producer of planet-warming gases, and whatever it does to tamp down its emissions is a key to addressing climate change. Environmental advocates had hoped Mr. Xi would pledge to reduce carbon intensity more sharply, but the economic downturn spurred by the coronavirus pandemic may have tempered Beijing’s plans.
Related: European Union leaders have agreed to cut net carbon emissions by 55 percent in the next decade, overcoming the concerns of nations heavily dependent on coal and taking a critical step to become climate-neutral by 2050. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain promised to end direct taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects as soon as possible.
If you have some time, this is worth it
A mother stalked her daughter’s killers
Over the course of three years, Miriam Rodríguez captured nearly every member of the Mexican crew that had abducted and murdered her 20-year-old daughter, Karen. On Mother’s Day, 2017, weeks after she had chased down one of her last targets, she was shot and killed in front of her home.
For many in the northern city of San Fernando, her story represents so much of what is wrong in Mexico, our correspondent writes. The country is so torn apart by violence and impunity that a grieving mother had to solve her daughter’s disappearance largely on her own, and died violently because of it.
Here’s what else is happening
Russian hacking: The Trump administration acknowledged on Sunday that hackers acting on behalf of a foreign government — almost certainly a Russian intelligence agency — broke into a range of key government networks, in what looked to be one of the most sophisticated attacks on federal systems in the past five years.
Brexit: Britain and the European Union have agreed to extend their trade negotiations beyond Sunday’s deadline after what was described as a “useful” call between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Mass kidnapping: Hundreds of Nigerian students are unaccounted for and feared missing after gunmen raided a secondary school in the northern state of Katsina. The military later exchanged fire with the attackers in a forest.
Vladimir Putin: The Russian leader has reportedly built two identically appointed offices for video calls, one at a government residence outside Moscow and the other on the warmer shores of the Black Sea, allowing him to spend time at the beach without risking a potential political backlash.
Snapshot: Above, bike commuters heading to Manila in October. After public transit was restricted in the Philippine capital because of the coronavirus pandemic, residents hopped on bikes instead. The biking boom led officials to announce a plan for building a 400-mile bike lane network.
Treasure: Venezuela’s economic meltdown had pummeled the village of Guaca, once at the center of the fish processing industry. Yet, since late September, villagers have found hundreds of pieces of gold and silver jewelry and ornaments washed up on their shore, offering a wondrous — if brief — reprieve.
What we’re reading: This Guardian article asks: Has a year of living with Covid-19 rewired our brains? It’s a sweeping view of how we might approach life when this is all over.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: This brown sugar roulade with burnt honey apples nods toward the classic Christmas chocolate log, also known as bûche de Noël. Yotam Ottolenghi, a food columnist, calls it “a cloud of festive meringue.”
Listen: Charley Pride, who died on Saturday of complications from Covid-19, was country music’s first Black superstar on the strength of hits including “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone.”
Read: Our poetry columnist has picked the year’s best books of poetry, including “Emporium,” by Aditi Machado.
Let us help you start off your week with something new. At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the Back Story on …
One extraordinary year and half a million photos
The Year in Pictures project is an annual celebration of photojournalism. In 2020, photographers were living what they captured. Here’s how it came together.
In recent months, two photo editors — David Furst of the International desk and Jeffrey Henson Scales of the Opinion section — reviewed around half a million published and unpublished photographs.
“I don’t know that I have ever come across a body of work that’s as complicated as this one,” David said.
In addition to an introduction written by Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor, the project includes firsthand accounts from photographers, who provide behind-the-camera context. There are always photographers around the world living the story they cover — under oppressive governments or in residential neighborhoods that turn into battlefields of war — but in 2020, everyone lived it.
The first photo that appears was taken on Jan 1. Just seconds into 2020, in the heart of Times Square, the photographer, Calla Kessler, captured what was most likely the first New Year’s photo of a same-sex couple kissing to be printed on the front page of The Times.
Nearly every editor and writer who worked on The Year in Pictures had the same reaction to the celebratory scene in the frame: “These people had no idea what was coming.”
When asked what he wanted readers to come away feeling, Jeffrey responded: “It was a long year, filled with heroics. And, thus far, we’ve made it through. Be glad of that.”
That’s it for this briefing. Have a great week.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on the runoff elections in Georgia that will decide the control of the U.S. Senate.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Start of a group email (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The word “selzterator” — a homemade, DIY sparkling-water maker — appeared for the first time in The Times yesterday, as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.
• The Times print edition on Sunday, Dec. 13, includes the annual Puzzle Mania section. There’s a super mega crossword, as well as a meta contest with a grand prize of $1,000. Copies will be sold at our store at a later date.