Your Thursday Briefing

Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein in an undated photo that was used as evidence in her trial.Credit…US District Court for the Southern District of New York/AFP via Getty Images

Ghislaine Maxwell is found guilty of sex trafficking

A federal jury in Manhattan found Ghislaine Maxwell, the former companion to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, guilty of conspiring with him for at least a decade to recruit, groom and sexually abuse underage girls.

For the most serious of the counts on which she was convicted — sex trafficking of minors — Maxwell could face up to 40 years in prison. Another count carries a potential 10-year sentence, and the three others carry sentences of up to five years each. The judge did not set a sentencing date, and her lawyers said they intended to appeal.

The trial was widely seen as the courtroom accountability that Epstein never faced after his death — by what the medical examiner ruled a suicide — in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while he was awaiting his own trial on sex trafficking charges. Maxwell was arrested a year later.

Prosecution: “Ms. Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” a prosecutor, Alison Moe, told the jury last week. “She manipulated her victims and groomed them for sexual abuse.”

Covid-19 testing stations in Copenhagen this week. Credit…Charlotte de la Fuente for The New York Times

Europe and the U.S. break Covid records

Across Europe and the U.S., records for new coronavirus infections are being set day after day as the Omicron variant tears through populations with a swiftness outpacing anything witnessed over the past two years. The W.H.O. warned that, together with the Delta variant, Omicron could create a “tsunami” of infections that could overwhelm health care systems.

Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy and Spain all set records for new daily case counts this week. At the moment, none of those nations are reporting precipitous rises in hospitalizations, although the surge is only a few weeks old.

For vaccinated people, Omicron may be milder than previous variants, but the wave of new infections is causing chaos for hospitals, testing centers and businesses. Tests are increasingly hard to find, even in places like Britain where they were once in reliable supply.

Record numbers: France set a record with 208,000 new daily cases on Wednesday, the most recorded in any European country since the pandemic began. “Every second in our country, two French people are diagnosed positive,” said the health minister, Olivier Véran.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Two years into the pandemic, “worry burnout” is real.

  • Saudi Arabia will require booster shots for those entering many public places.

  • Corporations, schools, governments and even sports leagues are reconsidering what it means to be “fully vaccinated” — and whether that definition should include booster shots.

A rally in Paris earlier this month supporting a primary of left-wing voters.Credit…Julien De Rosa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A last chance to reunite the left in France

As presidential elections in April loom, the French left is in a dismal state, with its various factions struggling to come together and unite behind a single presidential ticket. The alternative, analysts say, is being crushed by the right and the far right. Seven left-wing candidates are currently running for president. All are polling in the single digits.

Amid the ineffectual chaos, there is now a push for order. Bypassing traditional party tactics, the “Primary of the People,” a growing effort led by a group on the left that is exhausted by factionalism and fragmentation, will hold a vote in January for supporters to choose a single candidate before the French electorate weighs in as a whole.

The French left was long dominated by the Socialist Party and its social-democratic politics. But Emmanuel Macron’s victory in 2017 brought an end to the two-party system, ushering in an unruly mix on the left, mainly divided among the Socialists, the Greens and the far-left France Unbowed — as well as the other small far-left parties that emerged from the ashes of the Communist Party.

Context: In a country that is shifting to the right, the left has found itself voiceless on issues like security, immigration and national identity, and it has failed to capitalize on the wave of protests over the environment and social justice that should have provided an opportunity to gain support.


Around the World

Credit…Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times
  • Hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar are fleeing to uncertain futures rather than live in the “mouth of hell.”

  • Stand News, an outspoken pro-democracy news website in Hong Kong, announced that it would shut down after the police arrested seven people connected with it.

  • A Times reporter and former Marine returned to the site of a battle in Afghanistan to see what had changed since the Taliban took over — and to meet a commander he had once fought.

  • Thousands of cranes have died and more than half a million chickens have been culled in Israel as it tries to contain an avian flu outbreak.

News From Europe

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times
  • What did a year of Brexit bring British companies? Higher costs, time-consuming customs paperwork and countless lost opportunities.

  • Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, will speak today with President Biden about the crisis at the Ukrainian border.

  • The shuttering of Memorial — Russia’s most prominent human rights organization, which shined a light on the injustices of the Soviet past — has saddened many Russians.

What Else Is Happening

  • The Pentagon is building a secretive courtroom for war crimes trials at Guantánamo Bay.

  • Shipping delays are inconveniencing expectant parents. With a baby due, “it’s a different ballgame.”

  • At least one part of Alaska reached 67 degrees this week, the warmest December day in the state’s history.

A Morning Read

Credit…Ben Roberts for The New York Times

For almost two decades, the hulk of a never-finished hotel has marred an idyllic coastline in southern Spain. The hotel’s future remains cloudy, but the lesson is clear: It’s easier to damage the environment than to fix it.

Lives Lived

John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach who became one of the world’s most recognizable ambassadors of American football, died on Tuesday at 85. Revisit our 2013 interview with him.


The best book, according to readers

The best book of the past 125 years is … “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.

For its 125th anniversary, The Times Book Review invited readers to nominate the best book published during that time. Responses poured in from all 50 states and 67 countries — including many from readers of this briefing. (Thanks!)

In November, editors put the 25 most-nominated works up for a vote. It was a narrow victory, but about 200,000 readers chose Lee’s complex legal drama about racism, family and the American South.

Of the more than 1,300 books nominated, 65 percent were nominated by only one person. And only 31 percent nominated a book that made it to our list of 25 finalists.

Three writers — John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner — each received nominations for seven of their books. Other popular authors included James Baldwin, Margaret Atwood and Virginia Woolf, who each had five books nominated. And readers nominated four books by Joan Didion, who died this month.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

This riff on a classic Japanese curry uses chicken rather than beef. Serve over rice.


Got an eye twitch? It’s a signal from your body asking you to slow down, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

What to Read

These new books explore the many ways Covid-19 has affected our lives.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Pistachio covering (five letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. The Times reporter Erin Griffith shared what it’s like to report on the Elizabeth Holmes trial.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about a Dogecoin millionaire.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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