We’re covering Israel’s study of a fourth Covid vaccine dose and Saudi Arabia’s push to become a cultural hub.
Israel tests fourth shots
A hospital near Tel Aviv on Monday began a study to test the safety and effectiveness of a fourth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as health officials deliberated over using the strategy for vulnerable people nationwide.
Officials at Sheba Medical Center said that their study was the first of its kind in the world and involved 150 medical personnel who had received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least four months ago. Initial results are expected within days.
The moves in Israel, an early leader in Covid vaccinations and boosters, are being closely watched as governments worldwide struggle with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. The U.S. and parts of Europe have broken case records, and hospitals have started to fill up again.
Experts advising the Israeli government last week recommended the fourth doses for people over 60, the immunocompromised and medical workers.
The Philippines grapples with destruction
Super Typhoon Rai made landfall on Dec. 16. As of Monday, it had killed 389 people, injured 1,146 others and left 65 missing, official figures show. More than half a million people were still in evacuation centers or staying with friends and relatives.
Our reporters visited the aftermath, amid miles of destruction and death.
In the central province of Bohol, where many of the storm deaths were recorded, overturned vehicles were piled up; countless trees and debris littered the terrain; and people were scouring ruins to find anything left. Electricity and telecommunications had yet to be restored.
Residents in some remote areas were running out of food, officials said. The U.N. is working on getting aid money to the affected regions.
Quotable: “This is a very sad Christmas,” said Antero Ramos, 68, who lost his wife and two of his daughters when the bodega they were using for shelter in Ubey collapsed. “We had to bury them immediately because the funeral parlor could not get to the bodega because of the debris that was still on the roads.”
The future: The country’s Climate Change Commission called for urgent action at the local level “to build community resilience against extreme climate-related events and minimize loss and damage.”
Saudi Arabia builds a culture hub
Conflicts and crises have battered Arab artistic capitals like Cairo, Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad. The Middle East’s cultural mantle is up for grabs, and Saudi Arabia is spending lavishly to seize it.
The kingdom announced that it would support the production of 100 films by 2030. Stars like Hilary Swank and Naomi Campbell showed up for the recent Red Sea International Film Festival, held on a former execution ground. The government is financing initiatives to foster Saudi filmmakers, visual artists, musicians and chefs.
The movies are touching on themes that would have been taboo in the kingdom before — romance, nudity, pregnancy out of wedlock. It represents a swift change: After a 35-year ban on cinemas ended in 2018, the country now has 430 screens with a target of 2,600 by 2030.
Context: The change is driven by the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who wants to shake off the kingdom’s staid image by building an entertainment industry. Right now, it’s largely funded by oil money. But in the wealthy nation, where movie tickets are about $18 each, many are hoping it will pay off.
Roadblocks: Creators around the Middle East are hesitant to move their careers to the conservative monarchy, where alcohol is banned and dissenters are jailed for mild criticisms. Many point to lackluster results for a similar push in the United Arab Emirates as evidence that it won’t pan out.
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The Premier League has long had a gravitational pull on European soccer: English clubs serve as the most reliable market for players and send salaries soaring.
In recent years, though, the nature of that impact has changed; it no longer exists at one remove. Instead, the international ownership groups behind them have invested in overseas teams directly, while sharing staff, knowledge and tactics — which gives them unfiltered influence on championships across Europe and around the world, our columnist writes.
Some of the best books of 2021
The editors of The Times Book Review read a lot of books every year. They also compile a lot of lists, and we’re here to help you make sense of them.
From 100 notable books …: Fiction, memoirs, nonfiction or poetry — this list has it all.
… to the top 10: The editors deliberate throughout the year to whittle the list of 100 down to 10.
Gift list: Books make for excellent gifts throughout the year, and these 71 dazzling titles will delight any reader.
Design: We know not to judge a book by its cover, but we can judge the cover. The Book Review’s art director picked his favorites.