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Australian Shark Attacks Jump, Raising Questions


Though the jump in deaths is attention-grabbing, the chances of being mauled and killed by a shark are still extremely slim, experts say. Last year, 11 people were involved in what the International Shark Attack File defines as “unprovoked attacks” in Australia. None of those were fatal. The most, 41, occurred in the United States, but nobody died there, either.

Sharks do not actively hunt human beings but may attack when they feel threatened or confuse people for prey. Drone footage, scientists say, has shown that sharks will often swim in the same water as surfers and bathers without attacking them. Scientists are exploring solutions that include attaching LED lights to the bottoms of surfboard to prevent sharks from confusing surfers with seals.

Still, the issue has become a “political hot potato,” Professor Brown said, with state governments rushing to invest money in beach-protection measures including setting traps for the animals, using drones to track them and enclosing beaches in shark nets — despite the fact that the meshing programs have been shown to have little success.

The deaths have also reignited debate around culling the creatures, which animals rights activists say is inhumane. Nets placed around the beaches to protect swimmers have also resulted in the accidental deaths of thousands of other marine creatures including turtles, stingrays and aquatic mammals called dugong.

Even some of those who have been attacked by sharks oppose culling or shooting them. The police fired about 25 bullets at the shark that killed Mr. Cernobori.

“I’ve always been against the culling of them,” said Phil Mummert, 28, who survived an attack off Western Australia in July. Mr. Mummert was surfing at Bunker Bay, south of Perth, when a shark bit his board in twoand punctured his upper thigh, just an inch from his femoral artery.

He said he was glad that, in the end, the authorities had not succeeded in locating the shark that had attacked him. “There’s just no way to know that’s the one,” he said.

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Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times


After years of hostility toward Europe, President Trump is leaving. But the prospect of his departure has reopened old fissures between key European allies over their relationships with the United States, with considerable doubts about what just months ago looked like a determined turn toward greater European ambition and integration.

France and Germany in particular are at loggerheads over the future of European defense and strategic autonomy, displaying the different anxieties of two countries central to the functioning of the European Union.

Analysis: NATO and the E.U. are fundamental to Germany in a way they are not to France, which maintains its own nuclear arsenal, explained Jana Puglierin of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Take them away from Germany and we feel naked,” she said.

Presidential transition: President-elect Joe Biden introduced six members of his national security team, saying that together they would reinstate the U.S. as a global leader countering terrorism, extremism, the climate crisis and nuclear proliferation. “America is back,” he said.

Britons from up to three households will be able to come together and celebrate between Dec. 23 and 27, under plans announced on Tuesday for a brief relaxation of the rules designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Normal restrictions will still apply in pubs and restaurants.

The decision, agreed upon by political leaders in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, means that people will be able to move freely around the United Kingdom between these dates, regardless of whatever local restrictions are in force. There will be an additional day at both ends for those going to or from Northern Ireland.

Public health experts have warned that lifting restrictions could lead to a resurgence of cases in January and February.

The police violently cleared out a temporary migrant camp in central Paris, forcing people out of tents, chasing them in the streets and firing tear gas. While the police regularly clear such camps, the violent evacuation of mostly Afghan migrants on Monday struck a nerve, fueling growing outrage over the government’s security policies.

The temporary camp, which comprised about 450 blue tents on the Place de la République, was in protest of the authorities’ failure to provide housing for as many as 1,000 migrants who were left to roam the streets after 3,000 people were cleared last week from a camp in Saint-Denis, a suburb north of Paris.

Official remarks: Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, expressed shock in a letter to the French interior minister, accusing the police of a “brutal and disproportionate use of force.” It came as Parliament voted on a bill on Tuesday that would make it harder for reporters or bystanders to film instances of police brutality.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated a rite of passage for Korean adoptees who were brought up overseas: reuniting with their birth parents. Many adoptees canceled long-planned pilgrimages back to South Korea after the government’s quarantine rules for foreign visitors made the trips too costly and time-consuming.

Some, like Mallory Guy, second from left in the photo above, still found a way to make the trip. The Times spoke to adoptees and birth parents about pandemic-era homecomings.

Shamima Begum: Lawyers representing the former London schoolgirl who went to Syria in 2015 to join the Islamic State called on Britain’s Supreme Court to let her return to her home country to mount her defense. The court should not assume she poses a serious threat, they said on Tuesday.

Curbing “period poverty”: In a world first, the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to make sanitary products available to anyone who needs them, introducing a legal right of free access to tampons and sanitary pads in schools, colleges, universities and all other public buildings.

Wall Street: Stocks rallied to record highs. The S&P 500 rose 1.6 percent, passing a high reached earlier in the month. The Dow Jones industrial average topped the 30,000 mark for the first time.

Uighurs in China: Pope Francis calls the ethnic group a “persecuted” people in his upcoming book. Chinese officials swiftly denied it, despite a wealth of evidence of Beijing’s crackdown on the Muslim minority group.

Snapshot: Above, a third-floor corridor at the Vilina Vlas hotel in Visegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The forest health resort promotes its therapeutic waters and fine dining, but staff members bristle with anger at any mention of its gruesome past, when it was a rape and murder camp run by a gang of Serb nationalists during the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

Lives lived: Lady Elizabeth Anson, an indefatigable party planner to “the very rich, the very idle, the very busy and the ones who simply haven’t a clue what to do,” as she put it, including rock stars and royals, died earlier this month at 79.

What we’re reading: The Economist’s package of articles explaining the power competition between China and the U.S. — and making a case for how the Biden administration should approach it. “It’s an excellent overview of one of the world’s most important stories,” says David Leonhardt, who writes The Morning.

Let us help you discover something new. At Home has ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

Preliminary analysis of the vaccine produced by the British-Swedish drugmaker and the University of Oxford showed it was 90 percent effective when the first dose was cut in half. In contrast, the combination of two full-dose shots led to just 62 percent efficacy. Our science reporters explain what’s behind those head-scratching results.

Why would that combination be more effective?

No one knows. The researchers speculated that the lower first dose did a better job of mimicking the experience of an infection, promoting a stronger immune response. But other factors, like the size and makeup of the groups that got different doses, may also be at play.

Why did the researchers test two different doses?

It was a lucky mistake. Researchers in Britain had been meaning to give volunteers the initial dose at full strength, but they made a miscalculation and accidentally gave it at half strength, Reuters reported. After discovering the error, the researchers gave each affected participant the full-strength booster shot as planned about a month later.

Fewer than 2,800 volunteers got the half-strength initial dose, out of the more than 23,000 participants whose results were reported on Monday. That’s a pretty small number of participants on which to base the spectacular efficacy results — far fewer than in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s trials.

That’s it for this briefing. Join me tomorrow for more news.

— Natasha

Thank youTheodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach Natasha and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about President Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the election. • Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Things made obsolete by iPods (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.• We asked an A.I. system to have a go at writing a Modern Love column. It wrote dozens; like all romances, some turned out better than others.• Our Beijing reporter Sui-Lee Wee spoke to Nieman Storyboard about the challenges of sourcing and reporting in China.

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U.N. Gets OK to Aid Crippled Yemen Tanker After Months of Waiting


After four months of waiting, the United Nations said Tuesday it had been granted permission by Yemen’s Houthi rebels to inspect and repair a rickety, rusting tanker moored near the coast that is threatening to leak four times the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

Even with the permission — which U.N. officials had originally hoped would take only weeks to secure — the emergency rescue of the vessel, the FSO Safer, is still saddled with uncertainties that may delay repairs until January.

Environmental experts have likened the Safer to a floating bomb, holding 34 storage tanks of oil that could befoul Yemen’s coast, poison coral reefs and paralyze Red Sea shipping lanes that are vital to supplying aid to the war-ravaged country’s 28 million people.

The 1,188-foot vessel, which requires extensive upkeep, had not been properly maintained since war broke out more than five years ago between the Houthis and a Saudi-led military coalition that has been trying to crush them. It lies just a few miles from Hudaydah, a contested Red Sea port, raising the risk that a stray shell or bomb could puncture the hull.

The Yemeni oil company that owns the Safer has said it does not have the resources to service the vessel, which historically has functioned as a floating storage facility.

The spokesman for the United Nations, Stéphane Dujarric, has been asked about rescue efforts almost daily since July, when U.N. officials said the Houthis were considering their request to dispatch a team of experts. Previous negotiations with the group had failed.

On Tuesday, Mr. Dujarric told reporters that the Houthi leaders had finally sent a letter “indicating their approval for the U.N. proposal for the planned expert mission to the tanker.” He called it “an important step forward in this critical work.”

Asked why it could still take more than a month for the experts to finally get aboard, given the urgency, Mr. Dujarric expressed some impatience, saying the details on assembling and paying for the rescue team could not begin until the Houthis had consented.

Moreover, he said, “the kind of equipment you need is not stuff you can pick up at Home Depot or your local D.I.Y. store.”

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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today


President-elect Joe Biden’s battle against the coronavirus officially began today.

Mr. Biden’s pandemic response plan had been held up by the Trump administration’s refusal to authorize the transition of presidential power. But that changed yesterday when the federal government finally signed off on the start of the transition, unlocking funds, equipment and government data to the incoming president.

So what happens now?

One of the first things that Mr. Biden will do to confront the pandemic is dispatch what are known as “landing teams” to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration. The teams will be given enormous briefing books that detail nearly everything the agencies have been working on for the past four years. (And they can expect a friendly reception at the agencies, particularly among scientists whom Mr. Trump has criticized for years, write my colleagues Sheila Kaplan and Ron DePasquale.)

At the F.D.A., the landing team will need to get up to speed on a planned vaccine rollout, as well as promising vaccine candidates and therapeutics on the horizon.

When the landing teams arrive at the C.D.C., one of the most pressing issues will be taking over a public education campaign, now in development, to persuade the public to trust — and to take — the vaccine once it becomes widely available.

The mutation, known as 614G, was first spotted in China in January, before it quickly spread throughout Europe and New York and eventually took over much of the world, edging out other variants of the virus.

For months, many scientists argued that the mutation might have simply been lucky, appearing by chance in large epidemics, like in Northern Italy, that seeded outbreaks elsewhere. But a host of new research supports the idea that the virus evolved the ability to infect people more easily than the original variant detected in Wuhan, China.

The original virus would have spread around the world regardless, researchers say. But this mutation may have supercharged it.

“When all is said and done, it could be that this mutation is what made the pandemic,” said David Engelthaler, a geneticist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona.

There is no evidence that the mutation causes more severe symptoms, or kills more people, or complicates the development of vaccines. And although some politicians have blamed the fast-spreading variant for outbreaks, researchers disagree, saying improper containment measures are to blame. Places that locked down quickly, even when the variant was spreading locally, fared far better than those that did not, scientists say.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

My husband, four adult children and four grandchildren have chosen not to celebrate Thanksgiving together for the first time in years. My husband and I made the decision to go to our youngest son’s grave site, where we will set up a table and eat our Thanksgiving meal with him. We will invite our son’s only child, our 17-year-old grandson, to join us. Thanksgiving was our deceased son’s favorite holiday, so we thought what better way to spend Thanksgiving than with him.

— Cathie Bradshaw, North Carolina

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

Sign up here to get the briefing by email.

Email your thoughts to briefing@nytimes.com.

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Priscilla Jana, Lawyer Who Battled Apartheid, Is Dead at 76


Priscilla Jana, a forthright human rights lawyer whose client list embraced both the fabled elite and the foot soldiers of the struggle against apartheid — and who acknowledged crossing a line in her native South Africa between the law courts and the clandestine war to end white minority rule — died on Oct. 10 at a care home in Pretoria. She was 76.

Ismael Momoniat, a senior government official and family friend, did not specify the cause but said her death was not related to the Covid pandemic.

Ms. Jana occupied an ambiguous space in the regimented society imposed by the South African government’s policies of racial separation, which became ever more pervasive after the whites-only National Party took power in 1948, when she was 4 years old.

Ms. Jana was descended from a family of middle-class Indian immigrants, and her status was defined by laws that consigned many people of Asian heritage to segregated neighborhoods, schools and amenities — apart from the white minority and the Black majority alike. In her early years, she said, she felt unsure about her identity.

That changed when she was 28 and heard a speech by the activist leader Steve Biko. “I listened to his definitions and was amazed,” she wrote in “Fighting for Mandela,” a memoir published in 2016. “I realized that you didn’t have to be African to call yourself Black.”

“Until now I had been aware of the vacuum in me, not belonging to Black or white, just being ‘different,’” she continued. “Now I could be part of a group. I had found solidarity, and I felt uplifted.”

“At last,” she wrote, “I knew where I really belonged.”

Ms. Jana spoke of the emotional turmoil inspired by her friendships with Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as the couple were torn apart in the early years of South Africa’s emergence from apartheid.

She had gotten to know them as their lawyer when Mr. Mandela was serving his 27-year imprisonment, much of it on the Robben Island penal settlement off Cape Town.

At the same time, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela became the target of arrest, detention, solitary confinement, harassment and ultimately banishment to a segregated Black township outside the remote village of Brandfort in what was then called the Orange Free State, a profoundly conservative province of South Africa.

Such were the racial distinctions there that people classified as Indian, like Ms. Jana, were not even permitted to stay overnight.

In her memoir, Ms. Jana said she believed that Ms. Madikizela-Mandela had “contributed more than almost any other individual to the anti-apartheid struggle that consumed our lives for so many years.”

But when Ms. Madikizela-Mandela returned from Brandfort, she became an increasingly radical figure, appealing to young protesters who took to the streets to challenge the authorities in the mid-1980s.

She was sentenced to six years in prison for kidnap and assault after the brutal murder of a teenage boy, Stompie Moeketsi. While the sentence was later reduced, “this shocking incident taints Winnie and the A.N.C,” Ms. Jana wrote, referring to the African National Congress, long the dominant political force among South Africa’s Black majority. “She had allowed herself and — more importantly — the anti-apartheid movement to be dragged in the dirt for all the world to see.”

Ms. Jana also took issue with Mr. Mandela’s decision, after his release in 1990, to stand by his wife in court hearings in the Moeketsi case, before the couple formally separated in 1992. (They divorced in 1996.) But Mr. Mandela dismissed her concerns. “That was his style,” she wrote. “He was a chieftain.”

She faulted him, too, for signaling his readiness to reconcile with former adversaries in the white minority. “I sometimes felt that one could go too far with forgiveness,” Ms. Jana wrote.

Her death further depletes the ranks of a cohort of legal veterans whose civil and human rights cases were milestones in the effort to bring democracy to South Africa, which it achieved with elections in 1994.

“She was fearless and gutsy in supporting the many activists detained and harassed by the security police during the apartheid years,” Mr. Momoniat, an anti-apartheid campaigner, said in a text message

Unlike some lawyers, who saw their contribution to South Africa’s destiny in strictly juridical terms, Ms. Jana regarded her role not simply as an attorney but as an activist linked to insurgents seeking the violent overthrow of apartheid. On one occasion, she said, she carried a cache of AK-47 assault rifles from Soweto on behalf of a client to prevent the guns from falling into the hands of the security police.

During business hours she worked on human rights cases, she wrote, but at night she joined activists “in an underground cell, plotting to bring down the government of the day.”

One of her most celebrated cases involved a 22-year-old insurgent, Solomon Mahlangu, who was sentenced to death and hanged despite an international outcry after being found guilty of murdering two white people. Mr. Mahlangu had not fired the lethal shots; he was convicted under so-called common purpose laws, which made perceived complicity in a crime just as punishable as the crime itself.

She wrote in her memoir that she was the last of Mr. Mahlangu’s supporters to see him alive on the night before his execution in April 1979, and that he had asked her to pass on a message to his followers: “Tell my people that I love them. Tell them to continue the fight. My blood will nourish the tree that bears the fruits of freedom.”

Devikarani Priscilla Sewpal was born on Dec. 5, 1943, in the town of Westville on the fringes of the South African port city of Durban, on the Indian Ocean. She was the second of three children of Hansrani Sewpal and her husband, Hansraj, a high school teacher with a keen sense of the injustices of apartheid.

While studying in Mumbai, India — then known as Bombay — she met and later married Reg Jana, a fellow South African student. They divorced in 1989. She was later briefly married to a fellow lawyer, Reagan Jacobus; that marriage, too, ended in divorce, in the early 1990s.

Ms. Jana is survived by a daughter, Albertina Jana Molefe, and a son, Shivesh Sewpal.

While her parents had initially wanted her to become a physician, she switched to studying the law in South Africa and graduated in 1974. She then joined a firm run by Ismail Ayob, a lawyer of Indian descent whose clients included the Mandela family.

In 1977 she traveled to Robben Island to visit with Nelson Mandela, a client. It was the first of many trips she would make there on behalf of detainees.

“At one time I represented every political prisoner on Robben Island,” she wrote.

After the Mahlangu case, she opened her own practice in late 1979, but within weeks she was handed a so-called banning order, subjecting her to overnight curfew, permitting her to meet with only one person at a time and restricting her movements and her ability to speak in public.

Ms. Jana had been drawn to the Black Consciousness movement, which opposed the multiracialism of the A.N.C., and she was part of an effort to prove that two white doctors who had been assigned by the police to look after the imprisoned Steve Biko had acted improperly. Mr. Biko died in custody in 1977. In 1985, a disciplinary panel found that both men, Ivor Lang and Benjamin Tucker, had behaved improperly. Dr. Tucker was stripped of his medical qualifications; Dr. Lang was reprimanded.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela walked free. Four years later, in the country’s first fully democratic elections, he was elected president.

Ms. Jana was an A.N.C. lawmaker from 1994 to 1999. She was later a diplomat for nine years, serving as the South African ambassador to the Netherlands and Ireland before joining the South African Human Rights Commission as its deputy chairwoman in 2017.

But she seemed dissatisfied with the way the post-apartheid authorities had run the country. “We finally put apartheid, colonialism and slavery behind us after 350 years, but we are not yet reaping the rewards of that great fight,” she wrote in her memoir. “It is going to take much longer.”

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Deadly Bombing Shatters an Afghan Haven From War


HERAT, Afghanistan — Twin bombs tore through a crowded bazaar in what is considered the most peaceful province in Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens more in the deadliest attack in the province in more than a decade.

The blast, which took place in the city and province of Bamiyan, happened even as international donors from dozens of countries were expected to pledge a reduced tranche of funds for Afghanistan at a conference in Switzerland. Concerns from donors have intensified over the worsening violence in Afghanistan as the peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar have stalled, and over continuing corruption within the government.

The contrasting scenes — one of the mass killing of farmers and shopkeepers in a crowded market at dusk, the other at a gilded hall in Geneva where Afghan and Western officials discussed the shape of “lasting peace” — summed up a difficult and discordant moment for Afghans caught in the violence.

Unending and unpredictable violence has been a cornerstone of the past several months as the two sides at the peace negotiations have seemed unable to move forward, and as the United States has decided to withdraw roughly 2,500 troops by mid-January. The sudden troop pullout by the Trump administration has only compounded a sense of unease in the country as Afghan security forces struggle to hold back an emboldened Taliban.

The Taliban denied carrying out the attack in Bamiyan. The province is home to mostly Shiite Hazaras, a religious and ethnic minority group that has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic State loyalists in the country. The terrorist group is seen by many as a spoiler group for any lasting peace settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Just a 30-minute flight from Kabul, Bamiyan is a tourist destination for Afghans and international visitors alike, who often travel there to see what remains of the ancient Buddha statues that were destroyed by the Taliban before the U.S. invasion in 2001. The province is one of the few places left in the country where people can walk around without constant fear of being killed, and it has served as a refuge from violence for people who are unable to leave the country.

But fighting around the province has intensified in recent years, the roads in to Bamiyan are frequently patrolled by the Taliban, with people often being pulled from their vehicles by the insurgents.

November has been a bloody month for civilians in Afghanistan, with at least 164 killed so far, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

But as the one public hospital in Bamiyan city quickly filled with wounded from Tuesday’s blast, Afghan officials in Kabul and Geneva braced themselves for news that they would receive less international aid than in years past.

The last two pledging conferences — in Tokyo in 2012, and in Brussels in 2016 — promised more than $16 billion and more than $15 billion in aid, respectively. More than 50 percent of the Afghan government’s national budget is made of international funds.

Faced with the possibility of less money this time, Afghan officials have emphasized their commitment to human rights improvements and to the peace negotiations as reason enough for continued foreign backing.

Addressing the Geneva conference from Kabul by video conference on Tuesday, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan asked the international community “to help us do more with less.”

“Financial resources — aid — will continue to be critical to our growth for the foreseeable future, even as we have balanced that dependency markedly over the past six years,” he said.

Just days before the Geneva conference, Mr. Ghani established a new anti-corruption commission, years after he pledged to do so following his election in 2014. Anti-corruption experts in Afghanistan see the commission as the latest in a repeated number of such bodies set up over the past two decades, and it is riddled with troubling issues, including a lack of independent oversight, and staffed with people close to Mr. Ghani’s office.

The Taliban, pointing to the Afghan government’s endemic corruption, said the funds from the Geneva conference should be given directly to the people or to the Taliban for the sake of transparency. The insurgent group has long-used the government’s shortcomings for propaganda purposes, especially its inability to secure the capital, Kabul.

Aside from the Taliban insurgency wreaking havoc in almost every corner of the country and killing dozens almost daily, the coronavirus has setback Afghanistan’s economic growth by years, according to a recent United Nations report.

International diplomats, whose countries’ economies are also suffering from the pandemic, have grown openly weary of the 19-year-old war, and frustrated by the Afghan government’s repeated promises to combat corruption without fully following through.

“There has always been shortsightedness on the part of the international community,” said Sayed Ikram Afzali, the executive director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan. “And that has been exploited by the government to the maximum extent.

“There is no easy way out of this whole mess. I think we’re at a stage that we cannot roll back everything and start from scratch,” he said.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. government watchdog that monitors the war in Afghanistan, flatly laid out the problem in a report released earlier this month.

“The Afghan government often makes paper reforms, such as drafting regulations or holding meetings, rather than taking concrete actions that would reduce corruption,” the report said.

On Monday, Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s senior vice president, accused members of Afghanistan’s Parliament as being corrupt, drawing a swift outcry from the legislative body.

In recent days the Parliament has moved to confirm more than a dozen ministers, a process that has been delayed for months because of political infighting. It is an open secret that many of those ministers had to pay some members of Parliament for their votes, according to officials and observers.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff reported from Herat, Afghanistan, and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva, Switzerland. Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul, and Fatima Faizi from Herat.

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‘X-Men’ actor Shawn Ashmore sells Studio City home



The market was hot for Shawn Ashmore, the actor best known for playing Iceman in the “X-Men” film series. He just sold his Studio City home for $2.125 million, finding a buyer a week after listing and raking in $26,000 more than he was asking.

The deal caps a four-year stay for the Canada native, who paid $1.855 million for the place in 2016.

In Studio City’s Footbridge Square neighborhood, the two-story home draws the eye with a striking gray exterior offset by a bright blue double-door entry. The living spaces calm things down with tan walls and hardwood floors under recessed lighting.

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The exterior. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The entry. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The open floor plan. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The living room. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The kitchen. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The dining area. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The bedroom. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The bathroom. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The office. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The deck. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The patio. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The pool. 

(Jeff Elson)

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The backyard. 

(Jeff Elson)

On the main level, a living room with a fireplace steps down to a chef’s kitchen filled with marble, quartz and stainless steel. Two of the three bedrooms are upstairs, including an owner’s suite with a private deck.

Out back, the nearly 3,000-square-foot home opens to an entertainer’s backyard under string lights. There’s a swimming pool, spa, dining patio and grill all surrounded by grassy lawns.

Ashmore, 41, played Iceman in “X-Men,” “X2,” “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” His other credits include the horror film “The Ruins” and the shows “The Following,” “The Rookie” and “The Boys.”

Ingrid Sacerio of the Agency held the listing. Matthew Chang of Great Castle Properties represented the buyer.

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Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times


As scientists dealing with Covid-19 worry about the rise of the anti-vaccine movement, South Korea’s response to fighting misinformation may offer the world a model for when vaccines become widely available.

In October, reports of deaths started popping up shortly after the country kicked off its flu vaccine campaign. Scientists determined that the deaths were unrelated to the flu shots, but they worried these accounts might lead to public distrust of vaccines altogether.

A response: Health officials ramped up efforts to communicate with the public. The government received more than 100 reports of people dying after receiving a flu vaccine. Officials promptly disclosed the causes, which were unrelated to the inoculations.

The panic has mostly died down in South Korea and 19 million people have received their flu shots so far. Still, this falls short of the country’s target of 30 million.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

New research has convinced many scientists that an early mutation in the coronavirus made it more contagious and harder to contain. The mutation, known as 614G, was first spotted in eastern China in January and then spread through Europe and New York City, displacing other variants.

The makers of a Russian vaccine said that it showed an efficacy rate of 95 percent in preliminary results from a clinical trial. The figure was based on incomplete data.

Hong Kong ordered all bars and nightclubs to close starting on Thursday as coronavirus infections spike in the city. On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 80 new cases, including 54 linked to dancers at a ballroom and Latin dance studio.

Australia’s largest airline, Qantas, will make coronavirus vaccines — once they become available — mandatory for all passengers who want to fly internationally. The head of Qantas predicted that other airlines will follow.

President-elect Joe Biden announced crucial cabinet picks on Tuesday as the presidential transition formally began in Washington. Along with the health and economic crises from the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Biden faces major challenges in foreign policy.

In Asia, President Trump has bolstered ties with Taiwan as part of his efforts to counter China’s influence. Mr. Biden will most likely continue on a similar path.

But his approach is expected to be less confrontational than Mr. Trump’s — and he is viewed in Taiwan by some as more risk averse. Mr. Biden’s transition team has already reached out to Taiwanese officials.

The latest: The Trump administration is weighing several measures that could limit Americans looking to sell products to or invest in certain Chinese companies. Officials are also weighing sanctions related to crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The police violently cleared out a temporary migrant camp in central Paris, forcing people out of tents, chasing them in the streets and firing tear gas. The crackdown fueled growing outrage over the government’s security policies.

Officers used riot shields, tear gas and dispersal grenades. The police regularly clear out people from such camps, but the violent evacuation of mostly Afghan migrants on Monday struck a nerve.

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, expressed shock in a letter to the French interior minister, accusing the police of a “brutal and disproportionate use of force.” It came as Parliament voted on a bill on Tuesday that would make it harder for reporters or bystanders to film instances of police brutality.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated a rite of passage for Korean adoptees sent to families overseas: reuniting with their birth parents. Many adoptees canceled long-planned pilgrimages back to South Korea after the government’s quarantine rules for foreign visitors made the trips too costly and time-consuming.

Some still found a way to make the trip. Above, Mallory Guy having dinner with her birth family in Cheonan, South Korea. The Times spoke to adoptees and birth parents about pandemic-era homecomings.

Qatar airport search: Prosecutors in Qatar charged airport police officers over an incident in which they strip searched women boarding a plane to Sydney, Australia, to look for the mother of a newborn found abandoned in an airport bathroom. The episode prompted outrage.

Pope clashes with China: Pope Francis called ethnic Uighurs in China a “persecuted” people in his upcoming book. Chinese officials swiftly denied his claim, despite mounting evidence of Beijing’s crackdown on the Muslim minority group.

Islamic State foreigners: Lawyers representing Shamima Begum, a London schoolgirl who traveled to Syria in 2015 to join the Islamic State, on Tuesday called on Britain’s Supreme Court to allow her to return to her home country to mount her defense, saying the court should not assume she posed a serious threat.

BTS: The Korean pop band received a Grammy Award nomination in the best group performance category for the song “Dynamite.”

Snapshot: Above, the Chang’e-5 spacecraft launching from the Wenchang space site at Hainan Island in China’s south on Monday, on a course for the moon. China aims to be the first nation to bring back lunar rock and soil samples in more than four decades.

What we’re reading: The Economist’s package of articles explaining the power competition between China and the U.S. — and making a case for how the Biden administration should approach it. “It’s an excellent overview of one of the world’s most important stories,” says David Leonhardt, who writes The Morning.

Cook: It’s hard not to love these cheesy bread balls in tomato sauce, which combine tomato sauce, melted cheese, bread balls and garlic. They’re sort of like a pizza, deconstructed.

Do: Pretend you’re in Hawaii. With a few easy-to-find items, you can discover Hawaii’s breathtaking biodiversity, wherever you are.

Read: It’s easy to forget, but for most of human history, the night sky was the best show around. These three new books invite you to stare up at the stars.

Let us help you discover something new. At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

Preliminary analysis of the vaccine produced by the British-Swedish drugmaker and the University of Oxford showed it was 90 percent effective when the first dose was cut in half. In contrast, the combination of two, full-dose shots led to just 62 percent efficacy. Our science reporters explain what’s behind those head-scratching results.

Why would that combination be more effective?

No one knows. The researchers speculated that the lower first dose did a better job of mimicking the experience of an infection, promoting a stronger immune response. But other factors, like the size and makeup of the groups that got different doses, may also be at play.

Why did the researchers test two different doses?

It was a lucky mistake. Researchers in Britain had been meaning to give volunteers the initial dose at full strength, but they made a miscalculation and accidentally gave it at half strength, Reuters reported. After discovering the error, the researchers gave each affected participant the full strength booster shot as planned about a month later.

Fewer than 2,800 volunteers got the half-strength initial dose, out of the more than 23,000 participants whose results were reported on Monday. That’s a pretty small number of participants on which to base the spectacular efficacy results — far fewer than in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s trials.

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

— Melina and Dani

Thank youCarole Landry helped write this briefing. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about President Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the election. • Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Show on which Gillian Anderson plays Margaret Thatcher, with “The” (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.• Our Beijing reporter Sui-Lee Wee spoke to Nieman Storyboard about the challenges of sourcing and reporting in China.

Categories
Business

Column: Did GM cry ‘uncle’ on emissions rules? Not really



General Motors is collecting kudos this week for abandoning its fight with California over auto emissions rules. Before joining in the chorus of applause, you should read the fine print.

The fine print says that GM isn’t actually abandoning its quest for a rollback of auto emissions standards imposed during the Obama administration. These were eviscerated by President Trump in a move that split the auto industry.

Trump’s related move to revoke the federal waiver allowing California to set its own emissions rules produced a pushback in federal court from California, 22 other states, and the cities of Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.

They’re putting down the weapon aimed at California’s waiver. But they’re still pushing for lower emission standards.

Dan Becker, Center for Biological Diversity

GM was on the Trump side in that lawsuit, which is to say: the wrong side.

Now the big automaker is starting the process of making amends. But it’s only going partway.

The process began Monday with GM’s announcement that it is “immediately withdrawing” from the lawsuit over the California waiver and “inviting other automakers to join us.”

The announcement came in a letter from Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, to the heads of 11 environmental groups that have supported California in the lawsuit. As is often the case with corporate PR, however, what the letter doesn’t say is more important than what it does say.

Barra doesn’t say that GM is bailing on its quest for reduced auto emissions standards, or that it is withdrawing from support for the second lawsuit in the matter, which involves a challenge to Trump’s rollback of emissions rules.

Nor does her letter say that GM will join Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW of North America, Audi and Volvo in reaching a deal with California to comply with the state’s emissions standards.

“They’re putting down the weapon aimed at California’s waiver,” says Dan Becker, a transportation expert at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the organizations that received Barra’s letter. “But they’re still pushing for lower emission standards.”

Gov. Newsom, whose call in September to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks in California by 2035 aimed to jump-start the building of EV-friendly infrastructure, also sounds a bit dubious about GM’s stance.

“GM’s acknowledgment of the reality that the future is zero emissions is further confirmation that it is time to move toward clean cars,” Newsom said after the GM letter was made public.

Newsom alluded to GM’s failure to join the automakers that cut their deal with California: “I hope that GM will join the ranks of other forward-looking carmakers who stand against President Trump’s attack on clean air through clean cars,” he said. “We urge them to stand with California on developing zero emission vehicles that are right for the health of our state, our economy and our communities.”

Barra’s letter indicates that GM’s change of heart over the California waiver case stems in part from the presidential election result. She refers to President-elect Biden’s commitment to a shift to electric vehicles — an evolutionary step that GM has bought into by moving toward an all-EV product line.

“We are inspired by the President-elect’s Build Back Better plan which outlines a clear intention to expand vehicle electrification in the United States,” Barra wrote.

That said, GM seems to be trying belatedly to make the best out of a mess of its own creation. By siding with Trump in his effort to roll back emissions and auto mileage rules, the company helped to sow chaos in the auto industry.

Automakers always claimed that they were merely seeking a consistent national rule. But if that were really the case, they would have thrown in their lot with California.

The state’s stringent emissions goals were supported by the Obama White House and adopted by 13 other states. That means they applied in about 36% of the U.S. auto market, making them a de facto national standard.

It was obvious, instead, that the industry’s quest was really for relaxed rules.

Until the election, GM could have convinced itself that in fighting California’s initiative and the Obama standard, it had a big bully protecting its back — Donald Trump, abetted by Trump’s team of environmental Visigoths at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation.

With the election over, GM looked around and discovered that its backup army had melted into the hills. So now it’s making nice.

GM needs something concrete from the Biden administration: an enhancement of the federal incentives for electric vehicles. As my colleague Russ Mitchell observes, the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 per electric vehicle phases out for automakers that have sold 200,000 eligible cars.

The subsidy for GM buyers expired entirely at the end of March. That means its Bolt EV, the only plug-in model in its product line right now, has effectively become more expensive.

Sales of its coming EVs, which include all-electric Hummers and Cadillacs coming as early as next year, will also become less competitive in what looks to be an EV market that is finally beginning to show some life.

GM’s partnership with Trump did a lot of damage to the fight against climate change, and will have lasting effects. Moreover, it damaged the company’s credibility with environmental advocates. “I don’t think they’re good faith negotiators we can trust,” Becker told me.

Because of Trump’s vandalism, restoring the Obama-era emissions rules will be unnecessarily complicated. Trump’s rollback was finalized by the EPA and Department of Transportation; it’s still facing a challenge in federal court, but unless the court rules that it was implemented improperly, the Biden administration will have to undertake a long and complicated administrative process to undo it.

California’s agreement with the six automakers was an end run around Trump’s rollback of the rules and his attack on the California waiver.

The rules established under the Obama administration called for average vehicular fuel efficiency to rise to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, applicable in model year 2017 and beyond.

The state’s agreement requires Ford and the other five signing companies to meet a standard of about 50 miles per gallon by 2026. That’s a modest relaxation of the rules, but still far more aggressive than the Trump administration’s plan, which freezes the auto mileage standard at the 2020 level, only 36.9 mpg.

A GM spokeswoman would say only that the California agreements “could possibly be a blueprint” for a GM deal. But the spokeswoman, Jeannine Ginivan, says the company would want to see “stronger support of electric vehicles” in any agreement.

This might include more subsidies for EV sales and an enhanced credit for all-electric vehicles that would allow GM to reach its emissions requirements emissions standards sooner.

What’s most important is that GM solidify its commitment to the environmental standards that it has tried to undermine. The 2026 goal set by California is only a start. Even tougher standards will be needed after that. GM should be leading the auto industry in supporting them. So far, it’s not there.

Categories
Innovations

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