Your Wednesday Briefing - The New York Times

Good morning. We’re covering India’s calamitous Covid surge and China’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age. India’s Covid c...

Good morning. We’re covering India’s calamitous Covid surge and China’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age.

“Crematories are so full of bodies, it’s as if a war just happened. Fires burn around the clock. Many places are holding mass cremations, dozens at a time, and at night, in certain areas of New Delhi, the sky glows.”

Jeffrey Gettleman, the New Delhi bureau chief for The Times, wrote a first-person account of life in the pandemic’s global epicenter. Friends are sick. Neighbors are sick. Colleagues are sick.

“I’m sitting in my apartment waiting to catch the disease,” Jeffrey writes. “We know the terrifying force of this second wave, hitting everyone at the same time.”

India now records more infections per day — as many as 350,000 — than any other country has since the pandemic began. Most experts think that official number is a vast underestimation.

A few days ago, the positivity rate in New Delhi hit a staggering 36 percent. Even wealthy and well-connected people cannot skirt lines or get oxygen, now in short supply. There are just no more strings left to pull.

Science: A new variant, a “double mutant” is wreaking havoc. The science is still early, but it seems the variant is more contagious and more resistant to vaccines.

Grim predictions: Epidemiologists say the numbers will keep climbing, to 500,000 reported cases a day nationwide and as many as one million Indians dead from Covid-19 by August.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

China plans to delay retirement — now at 50 or 55 for women, and 60 for men — as its population ages and pension funds run low. The idea is deeply unpopular.

Older people say they will be cheated of their promised timelines. Younger people worry that competition for jobs, already fierce, will intensify.

China said last month that it would “gradually delay the legal retirement age” over the next five years. Its graying population — and declining birthrate — means the labor force is shrinking. A 2019 report predicted that the country’s main pension fund would run out by 2035.

Context: The Chinese government abandoned an effort to raise retirement ages in 2015 in the face of an outcry. This time, it seems determined to follow through and address one of the country’s most pressing issues.

A strong reaction: After the announcement, retirement-related topics trended for days on Chinese social media, racking up hundreds of millions of views and critical comments.

Background: China’s current standards were set in the 1950s, when life expectancy was, on average, in the early 40s. But as the country has swiftly modernized, citizens can now expect to live nearly 77 years.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, was left standing during a meeting in Turkey this month while her colleague, a man, and the president of Turkey, also a man, took the only two chairs set out for the official talks.

Von der Leyen, the first woman to head the European Commission, spoke frankly of her hurt and frustration on Monday. “Would this have happened if I had worn a suit and a tie?” she said. “In the pictures of previous meetings, I did not see any shortage of chairs. But then again, I did not see any woman in these pictures, either.”

She said that no government protocol explained how she was treated — she and her male counterpart rank equally in the European Union’s hierarchy. “So, I have to conclude, it happened because I am a woman.”

Watch: A video of the meeting held at the Turkish presidential palace showed Von der Leyen’s clear surprise as she let out an “um” at the lack of appropriate seating. The images caused a storm on social media. #GiveHerASeat soon started trending on Twitter.

On Monday, Shohei Ohtani became the first player since Babe Ruth to start a game as a pitcher while also leading Major League Baseball in home runs. Nearly every other modern player is either a hitter or a pitcher. Ohtani is simultaneously one of the world’s hardest-throwing pitchers and best sluggers — and a fleet base runner. He is “a unicorn, a miracle, a revelation unto himself,” Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri has written.

There is a problem, though. Since moving from Japan in 2018 to join the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani has often been injured. He has needed arm surgery, and has had knee problems and blisters. Many people have begun to wonder if Ohtani should avoid extra strain and stick to only hitting.

“Everybody’s rooting for him, but if he continues to struggle with regular pitching duties, it’s almost like a Bo Jackson kind of career — we know he’s capable of being a two-way star (in Bo’s case, football and baseball),” our colleague Tyler Kepner told us. “But we only get a taste of it, and we’re always left hungry for more.”

In his appearance on Monday, Ohtani gave up four runs in five innings — and had two RBIs — as the Angels beat the Texas Rangers, 9 to 4.

This one-pot wonder of chicken, black beans and rice will delight everyone at the table.

In “Mom Genes,” the author Abigail Tucker climbed the mountain of inconclusive science about how humans succeed at the terrifying task of mothering only to find the answers closer to home.

The way you dress your bed should communicate something about how you want to live. Here’s what the pros know about the art of making your bed.

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Your Wednesday Briefing - The New York Times
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