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Thursday, February 2, 2023

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Facebook put ‘profits before people,’ whistle-blower says.

Melina Delkic

We’re covering explosive testimony from a Facebook insider and schools without masks in England.

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Frances Haugen spent hours detailing to lawmakers how the social network harms young people. 
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

In testimony before Congress, Frances Haugen, the whistle-blower who sent internal Facebook documents to journalists, accused the tech giant of putting its “astronomical profits before people,” and said that congressional intervention was needed.

“They need to admit they did something wrong, and they need help to solve these problems,” Haugen said during the hearing on Tuesday. Here are the key takeaways from her testimony.

Facebook employees responded with anger and relief.

Context: Haugen had shared documents showing how Facebook made decisions that fostered hate speech and misinformation and knew that its products were harmful to teens.

What’s next: Haugen has presented damning evidence “but it’s up to lawmakers to turn that evidence into regulations that address the specific issues she raised,” our tech columnist Kevin Roose wrote in our live blog. “It’s hard to be optimistic on that front, given Congress’s record on tech regulation,” he wrote, adding: “If Congress fails to regulate Facebook effectively now, it won’t be because of a lack of evidence.”

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Credit…Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

England took a high-stakes gamble when it sent millions of students back to school last month with neither coronavirus vaccinations nor a requirement to wear face masks.

On Tuesday, the Education Department issued its report card on how the plan was working: 186,000 students were absent from school on Sept. 30 with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19, the highest number since the pandemic began.

Yet to hear many parents tell it, our correspondents write, the bigger risk would have been to force the students to keep wearing masks or, worse, to keep them home. With cases rising fastest among those 10 to 19, the English instinct to just “get on with it” is being put to the test.

Details: There are still 90 percent of the 8.4 million students in state-supported schools attending classes, and the schools are functioning close to normally.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Australia and New Zealand inched closer to reopening their economies by announcing steps to allow vaccinated people to move more freely. Australia said foreign visitors would not be able to visit until 2022 at the earliest.

  • India’s Supreme Court ordered the government to pay 50,000 rupees, about $671, to families of people who have died from Covid.


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Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Chinese tech companies are reeling from regulation. Nervous creditors are hoping for a bailout for China’s largest developer. Growing numbers of executives are going to jail. For China’s leader, Xi Jinping, it’s all part of the plan.

Under Xi, China is reshaping how businesses work and limiting executives’ power. The policies are driven by a desire for state control and self-reliance as well as concerns about debt, inequality and influence by countries like the U.S.

“The very definition of what development means in China is changing,” said Yuen Yuen Ang, a political science professor at the University of Michigan. “In the past decades, the model was straightforward: It was one that prioritized the speed of growth over all other matters.”

Details: There’s been no word from officials about a bailout for Evergrande, the troubled property giant; the central bank announced that transactions using unapproved cryptocurrency would be illegal; and authorities have cracked down on corruption and bribery.

Related: A Chinese real estate developer, Fantasia Holdings Group, missed a key payment to foreign bondholders this week, heightening fears of a coming crisis in the property sector.

Asia Pacific

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Credit…Aaron Favila/Associated Press

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Credit…Sam Tarling/Getty Images

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Credit…Daniele Volpe for The New York Times

A pastor in the Mexican border city of Matamoros took in asylum seekers. But, amid overcrowding and the pandemic, he changed his mind and kicked out 200 people. Then, our correspondent writes, his estranged brother offered to shelter them just down the road in his one-bedroom home. The efforts illustrate the overwhelming situation on the U.S.-Mexico border and the lack of support for migrants.

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Credit…Getty Images/Getty Images

“The Battle at Lake Changjin,” a government-sponsored, big-budget movie recounting a brutal battle in the Korean War, has touched a nerve for much of the public in China.

The movie depicts an against-all-odds defeat of the U.S., and it came out on the eve of China’s annual October holiday, known as Golden Week.

As a barometer of Chinese politics and culture, it’s a movie that captures the moment: aggrieved, defiant and jingoistic, a lavishly choreographed call to arms at a time of global crisis and tense relations with the world, especially with the U.S.

The villains are American soldiers and commanders, including a reasonable impersonation of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The heroes are the Chinese “volunteers” hurled against what was then viewed as the world’s most invincible army.

On Friday, its second day in cinemas, it broke China’s single-day box office record, raking in more than $60 million. By Tuesday, it had grossed more than $360 million, putting it on track to be among the most successful Chinese films ever made.

It did so despite mixed reviews, a running time of 2 hours 56 minutes, and technical errors on military history.

The battle, better known in the U.S. as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, drove the Americans and their allies out of North Korea in the winter of 1950, setting the stage for the stalemate that ended with a cease-fire three years later.

What to Cook

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Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times
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