Your Wednesday Briefing

We’re covering the global scramble for migrant workers and solutions to an oil crisis.

Learning how to weld at Bildungskreis Handwerk, a regional training hub in Dortmund, Germany.Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

Wealthy nations battle it out for migrants

As the pandemic heads into a third year, a global battle for young immigrant workers is underway. With fast-track visas and promises of permanent residency, many wealthy nations are sending a message: Help wanted. Now.

The push is especially focused on immigrants with skills that fall somewhere between physical labor and specialized higher education.

A new Immigration Act in Germany offers accelerated work visas and six months to visit and find a job. Officials had warned that the country needs 400,000 new immigrants a year to fill jobs in a range of fields from academia to air-conditioning work.

Canada plans to give residency to 1.2 million new immigrants by 2023. Israel recently finalized a deal to bring health care workers from Nepal. And in Australia, where mines, hospitals and pubs are all short-handed after nearly two years with a closed border, the government intends to roughly double the number of immigrants it allows into the country over the next year.

Big picture: By keeping so many people in place, the pandemic has made demographic imbalances more obvious — rapidly aging rich nations produce too few new workers, while countries with a surplus of young people often lack work for all.

What’s next: Many developed nations are building more sophisticated immigration programs, while the U.S. is stuck in place. The Biden administration is first trying to unclog what’s already there: Its social policy bill would free up hundreds of thousands of green cards dating back to 1992.

Here are the latest Covid updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other news:

  • A group of 15 human rights organizations is asking President Biden to pressure the World Trade Organization for an intellectual property exemption on the vaccines.

  • Israel began vaccinating children ages 5 to 11.

  • South Korean officials said they shut down a religious facility in Cheonan after 210 of its 427 residents tested positive for the coronavirus.

  • The Biden administration asked a federal appeals court to let it proceed with a vaccine mandate for large employers.

President Biden spoke about the release of oil reserves in Washington on Tuesday.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Leaders try to ease oil crunch

The U.S., Britain, China, India, Japan and Korea are going to release tens of millions of barrels of crude oil to combat soaring global prices.

In the U.S., President Biden ordered the release from the nation’s emergency stockpile of crude, the largest in the world, amid a jump in gas prices. It comes after Biden pushed OPEC to increase production, but was rebuffed. The OPEC Plus nations may reconsider at their meeting next week after such a coordinated release.

It remains unclear how much it will impact the price of oil. Traders had been expecting a larger release of as much as 100 million barrels, said Richard Bronze, head of geopolitics at Energy Aspects, a market research firm. China, he said, is holding off announcing on Tuesday.

Details: The U.S. will tap into 50 million barrels. Bronze estimated that India will contribute up to five million barrels, and that Japan and South Korea will add another four million to five million barrels each. Britain said it would authorize the release of up to 1.5 million barrels.

The crunch: Oil-producing nations cut output as demand fell early in the pandemic. In the U.S., the oil rig count was down nearly 70 percent in summer 2020.

“I am not making any profit these days,” Muhammad Nazir said from his shop in Sohawa, Pakistan.Credit…Salman Masood/The New York Times

Pakistan seeks an I.M.F. lifeline

Rising prices and a weakened currency are straining households in Pakistan. Inflation surged 9.2 percent in October from the year before.

While the strain is expected to ease as bottlenecks of the global supply chain are unsnarled, Pakistan feels it can’t wait. The government on Monday announced an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for the first $1 billion of what is expected to be a $6 billion rescue package.

Protests have broken out across the country in recent weeks, shifting regional politics, and everyone from small shop owners to banks have felt the squeeze of the supply and inflation crisis combined with a longstanding government debt.

The government has chased loans from Saudi Arabia, which pledged $4.2 billion in cash assistance, and from China.

Risks: The government, under Prime Minister Imran Khan, has distributed cash to 20 million of Pakistan’s poorest families and subsidized the cost of grains, legumes and cooking oil. If Pakistan finalizes an agreement with the I.M.F., it will have to tighten its purse strings, which could hurt Khan politically.

Context: Pakistanis have seen standard gas prices jump 34 percent in the last six months, to about 146 rupees a liter.


Asia Pacific

Khurram Parvez, left, of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which publishes reports on human rights abuses in the region, in 2020.Credit…Dar Yasin/Associated Press
  • The arrest of a Kashmiri activist under India’s antiterrorism act was condemned by rights groups, amid growing concerns that authorities are abusing the law to quash dissent.

  • The support for Peng Shuai’s #MeToo story, even on the censored internet in China, shows where the country’s propaganda machine fails in crafting a narrative.

  • A Hong Kong court on Tuesday sentenced a student activist to three years and seven months in prison under the sweeping national security law.

Around the World and Beyond

The bus, which had Macedonian plates, caught fire on a highway on the way back from a trip to Istanbul, officials said.Credit…Minko Chernev/BTA Agency Bulgaria, via Associated Press
  • At least 45 people died when a bus caught fire and crashed on a highway in western Bulgaria on Tuesday.

  • Apple sued the Israeli spyware company NSO in U.S. federal court, accusing it of “flagrant” violations of its software, as well as federal and state laws.

  • This porpoise could be the next animal to go extinct.

  • The Hubble Space Telescope completed its annual visual tour of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Morning Reads

The opening of the U.S. chain Popeyes in London, where some customers said they had heard about the brand in pop culture. Credit…Mary Turner for The New York Times

Our reporters were at the opening of Britain’s first Popeyes fried chicken in London. Britons who tried out the southern American fast food joint were surprised to find that the biscuits served with the chicken were not the kind they were used to. “It looks like a scone,” said one woman, “but it doesn’t taste like one.”

Lives lived: Chun Doo-hwan, South Korea’s most vilified former military dictator, died at 90. He ruled with an iron fist for most of the 1980s.


Credit…Alva Skog

Notable books of the past year

Whether your literary habits include sci-fi, poetry or nonfiction, The Times Book Review’s annual roundup of 100 notable books includes options for you. “We whittled down an initial list of something like 500 books,” Gregory Cowles, who helped edit the project, said. Here’s a sample:

Fiction: “Strange Beasts of China,” by Yan Ge, is an enchanting novel about a cryptozoologist pursuing fabled creatures.

Memoir: “Somebody’s Daughter,” by Ashley C. Ford, begins with a phone call in which the author learns that her father is coming home after almost 30 years in prison.

Nonfiction: “A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance,” by Hanif Abdurraqib, makes powerful observations about race through music, television, film, minstrel shows and vaudeville.

Stories: “Afterparties,” by Anthony Veasna So, is a deeply personal, frankly funny and illuminating debut about Cambodian life in California, published eight months after the author’s death at 28.


What to Cook

Credit…Kate Sears for The New York Times

Make sheet-pan chicken chilaquiles.

What to Listen To

These six podcasts about unsolved mysteries.


Ever think of retiring to Italy? Here’s how one couple did it.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “As a matter of ___ …” (four letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Melina

P.S. Here’s why Times journalists don’t vote for sports M.V.P.s, Tonys or other awards.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the U.S. figuring out how to fix highway projects that damaged Black neighborhoods.

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

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