Vaccines point the way out of the pandemic
The mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna set off a persistent immune reaction that may protect against the coronavirus for years, if not a lifetime, without the need for a booster shot, scientists reported yesterday.
“It’s a good sign for how durable our immunity is from this vaccine,” said Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis who led the study. It did not consider the Johnson & Johnson shot, which is made with a different technology.
Mix-and-match vaccines — one dose each of Pfizer and AstraZeneca — also provide strong immunity, a separate study found.
Caveats: The protection is most reliable if the virus and its variants do not evolve much beyond their current forms — which is by no means guaranteed. And older adults and people with immunodeficiencies may still need boosters.
Judge rejects Facebook antitrust suits
A federal judge threw out antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 states, on the grounds that too much time had elapsed since Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp, which states said cemented its monopoly over social networking.
In a major blow to attempts to rein in Big Tech, the judge also said the F.T.C. complaint failed to provide enough facts to back its claim. The agency has 30 days to refile its complaint. The ruling sent Facebook’s stock soaring, and its market capitalization exceeded $1 trillion for the first time.
Facebook’s new strategy: The company has been helping to find ways to lower the costs to bring the world online, including connecting with government agencies, internet equipment sellers and cellphone service providers.
Rebels enter Tigray’s capital
Eight months into the civil war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, Tigrayan fighters began entering Mekelle, the regional capital, last night after Ethiopian government troops retreated from the city.
The Ethiopian military has occupied the Tigray region since November. The Tigrayan forces, known as the Tigray Defense Forces, spent months regrouping and recruiting new fighters. In the past week, they began a rolling counterattack back toward the capital, in a significant setback for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
A federal government official in Tigray confirmed that Tigrayan forces had entered the city and had seized control of the airport and telecommunications network. Ethiopia’s government said that it had called a unilateral cease-fire. It was not clear whether Tigrayan forces had accepted the truce.
Scenes on the ground: Journalists for The Times in Mekelle saw thousands of residents take to the streets last night, waving flags and shooting off fireworks after hearing that Tigrayan forces had advanced to the city.
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Peering beneath the veneer of Vermeers
Art experts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington hope to settle whether two paintings credited to Johannes Vermeer are indeed the work of the 17th-century Dutch artist. Though neither is an obvious fake, they are smaller than his other works and painted on wooden panels instead of canvas.
Art experts are increasingly taking advantage of high-tech scanning techniques, including one that is also used to study Mars, writes our science reporter Kenneth Chang.
Reflectance imaging spectroscopy takes advantage of the fact that different molecules absorb light at different wavelengths. Commonly used by geologists to identify different rocks, it can also be used to pick out different pigments — themselves crushed minerals — and show how painters work.
In the case of the Vermeer paintings, infrared and X-ray imagery shows rougher brush strokes in the lower layers, where he lays out the composition. For now, there are no conclusions on the two works being analyzed, said Marjorie Wieseman, the head of the National Gallery’s department of northern European paintings.
“There are some anomalies in the paintings in terms of how they relate to other works by Vermeer,” she said. “How many can you plausibly account for, and how many remain curiosities and just something from left field?”
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That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Natasha
P.S. The Times’s feature documentary “Time,” directed by Garrett Bradley, won a 2021 Peabody Award.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about what the Japanese public thinks of the Olympics.
You can reach Natasha and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.