Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times


Seiko Hashimoto, one of Japan’s two female cabinet ministers, is the new head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

Her appointment was in response to intense criticism following the resignation of Yoshiro Mori, who stepped down after saying that women talked too much in meetings. The man the committee had initially planned to turn to next — Mr. Mori’s handpicked choice — is an 84-year-old former leader of Japanese soccer.

Ms. Hashimoto, 56, an Olympic medalist in speedskating, said her first priority would be to protect against the coronavirus at the Summer Games so that “both the Japanese people and people from abroad will think that the Tokyo Games are safe and secure.”

Bigger picture: The shift reflected the potent voice that Japanese people, especially women, have found on social media, and many saw it as an achievement in mobilizing young activists. Others dismissed it as a cosmetic decision that was unlikely to empower women.

Quotable: “In the past, he would have been just criticized, and then the issue would have ended,” said Kazuyo Katsuma, a businesswoman and author of best-selling books on gender and work-life balance.

Australians woke up on Thursday to a shock on Facebook: The news was gone. Rather than pay publishers for stories, a requirement under new legislation, the tech giant wiped the site of information.

But Australians soon discovered it wasn’t just news sites. Pages for state health departments, the meteorology bureau, politicians, nonprofits and more were wiped clean. More frightening was what remained: pages dedicated to aliens and U.F.O.s; one for a community group called “Say No to Vaccines”; and plenty of conspiracy theories.

Facebook initially blamed the proposed law, expected to pass soon, and later promised to restore vital public service pages.

Divided views: Most Australians were outraged, but for different reasons. Some blame Facebook, saying the tech giant has too much market power; some fault the law, which they call too broad; and others say it might be for the best and may help small news publishers swallowed up by big tech.

Analysis: “Australia is an unwitting test lab for what happens to Facebook, news organizations and the public when Facebook is a news desert,” says Shira Ovide, writer of our On Tech newsletter.

The Hong Kong government said on Thursday that it had approved the Covid-19 vaccine made by the Chinese company Sinovac, which has faced scrutiny around the world over its shipping delays and spotty data disclosures.

Health officials in Hong Kong said the first million doses of the vaccine, called CoronaVac, would arrive on Friday and that vaccinations would start next week with essential workers and people over 60.

Hong Kong is one of only a few governments in Asia to have approved CoronaVac for use. Other countries have said they want full trial data from the manufacturer. A recent poll showed Hong Kongers would prefer the Pfizer vaccine, expected to be available there in late February.

Context: Brazilian officials in January said that the efficacy rate of CoronaVac was just over 50 percent, lower than other vaccines. Sinovac gave government-appointed experts in Hong Kong data showing a 62.3 percent efficacy rate. The data was not released publicly.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

On La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, a whistled language called Silbo Gomero that dates back centuries is still in use thanks to mandatory classes for schoolchildren, like Arantxa Cifuentes Gutiérrez, 15, above, and a community that acts as a guardian of the language.

Antonio Márquez Navarro, 71, is proud of what he calls “the poetry of my island.” And, he adds, “like poetry, whistling does not need to be useful in order to be special and beautiful.”

Belarus dissent: Two young journalists were sentenced to two years in prison for reporting via video stream from a demonstration against President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s rule, the latest episode in a campaign to silence all forms of opposition.

Australian Open: Serena Williams made a tearful exit from the tournament after losing to Naomi Osaka. Ashleigh Barty, the No. 1 seed, was out as well. Novak Djokovic beat the underdog, Aslan Karatsev. Next up are Daniil Medvedev and the fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas.

New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that all schools would make free menstrual products available to students for the next three years to reduce “period poverty” — a lack of access to pads or tampons.

Mars landing: NASA’s Perseverance rover will try to touch down on Mars in one piece, the third spacecraft to arrive on the planet this month after visitors from the United Arab Emirates and China.

U.S. immigration: President Biden’s allies introduced an immigration overhaul in Congress on Thursday that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented Americans.

Snapshot: Above, boiling snow to make it safe to drink. After a winter storm caused power failures at water treatment facilities, officials in Texas declared the water unsafe and advised residents to boil their water for safety.

What we’re listening to: In the Happiness Lab podcast, the host, the Yale professor Laurie Santos, walks us through the science of a counterintuitive truth: Having a harsh inner critic doesn’t actually help accomplish goals.

Cook: This beloved, easy-to-assemble pasta alla vodka gets dinner on the table in no time.

Watch: “I Care a Lot,” an unexpectedly gripping thriller that seesaws between comedy and horror, is cleverly written and wonderfully cast.

Do: If you want a healthy heart, the more you exercise, the better, according to an encouraging new study.

Try something new. At Home has ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

Pete Wells, our restaurant critic, wrote about his hunt for a good meal in New York City, where the coronavirus pandemic has forced restaurants to adapt to periods of closure and reopening for indoor and outdoor dining.

For months after all of the restaurant dining rooms in the city were ordered to close last March, I wrote nothing that resembled a review. The entire business and all of the people in it were suffering, and I spent my time as a reporter finding out how some of them were getting along.

Before the pandemic, I normally called chefs after I’d written a review of their restaurant but before it was published, to check facts. The chefs usually sounded as if I were calling with the results of a lab test.

The conversations I had last spring were different. They talked about going bankrupt, they talked about crying and not wanting to get out of bed. What did they have left to lose by talking to me?

By June, the crisis had settled into a kind of desperate stability. On the day outdoor dining began, I rode my bike into Manhattan to have lunch at the first open restaurant I could find. I was as thrilled to eat someone else’s cooking as I was to do something that resembled my old job.

It still took a few weeks before I wrote any reviews. At first, I worried that any opinion of mine would be unfair when restaurants were trying so hard to adapt to the new reality. Eventually, I understood that was exactly what would make the reviews worth writing. Good food in a pandemic was great; great food seemed like a miracle, and I was finding great food all around.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about Paul Rusesabagina, the “Hotel Rwanda” hero who is now accused of terrorism.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Language of Pakistan (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Kathleen Kingsbury, our Opinion editor, spoke with Nieman Lab about reimagining opinion journalism.

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