the cover of Espresso magazine.

For all Mr. Berlusconi’s seeming unsuitability to fill the role of head of state, his allies argue that Italians elected him multiple times, that political considerations motivated the magistrates who hounded him for decades and that he was a self-made and brilliant businessman who built an empire.

But his outsize appetites and self-interested use of power fueled a backlash that seeded and grew the enormous anti-establishment Five Star Movement, co-founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo, who once derided Mr. Berlusconi as a “psychotic dwarf.”

Five Star took power in 2018 as Italy’s leading party, and Mr. Berlusconi’s support dwindled. He took a back seat to the rising nationalists, first Mr. Salvini and then Ms. Meloni, and railed against Five Star as incompetent good-for-nothings and a threat to democracy. He mocked their trademark universal welfare plan as a joke. He called their power structure communist.

Five Star has since imploded and scattered members into a mixed group of lawmakers desperate to avoid new elections that would almost certainly cost them their jobs and pensions. Mr. Berlusconi has explicitly promised to keep the legislature going as president, has called the universal income plan good for the poor and showered gifts on former rivals.

Luigi Di Maio, the Five Star leader who once refused to join any government with Mr. Berlusconi, this Christmas accepted a centuries-old oil painting of Venice from the mogul’s collection, according to a person close to Mr. Di Maio, who declined to comment.

As Mr. Berlusconi worked the phones alongside his girlfriend, who is also a member of Parliament in his political party, he sat next to Vittorio Sgarbi, one of his former ministers and a lawmaker and television personality who is well liked by many Five Star members.

When Mr. Sgarbi called Mr. Romaniello, the former Five Star lawmaker, who was interrupted while making Carnevale masks with his two small children, he jokingly introduced Mr. Berlusconi as “a Grillo-following friend.”

In an interview, Mr. Romaniello said that he was flattered by the call and added that friends contacted by Mr. Berlusconi also respected the former prime minister’s phone banking and “positive charisma.” But Mr. Romaniello said that he still considered himself, politically, “an adversary,” adding that Five Star had been born “as the antithesis of Berlusconi.” A phone call, he said, would not win his vote.

By Tuesday, even Mr. Sgarbi had bailed on Mr. Berlusconi and was urging him to be a kingmaker.

“I don’t think he can do it,” he said in an interview, saying that the duo had only persuaded about 15 lawmakers to back him, far short, even if he had a base of about 450 conservative supporters, to win the election. “It’s useless to try if you don’t have the numbers.”

On Wednesday, as Mr. Berlusconi’s lawyers in Milan successfully argued for a delay in a bribery trial related to his bunga bunga tribulations until after the presidential vote, his team snapped back and vowed that he would persist and, as always, speak for himself.

“I will not disappoint those who have trusted me,” Mr. Berlusconi said.

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A Ban on 19 Singers in Egypt Tests the Old Guard’s Power

CAIRO — The song starts out like standard fare for Egyptian pop music: A secret infatuation between two young neighbors who, unable to marry, sneak flirtatious glances at each other and commit their hearts in a bittersweet dance of longing and waiting.

But then the lyrics take a radical turn.

“If you leave me,” blasts/explodes/shouts the singer, Hassan Shakosh, “I’ll be lost and gone, drinking alcohol and smoking hash.”

The song, “The Neighbors’ Daughter,” has become a giant hit, garnering more than a half- billion views of its video on YouTube alone and catapulting Mr. Shakosh to stardom. But the explicit reference to drugs and booze, culturally prohibited substances in Egypt, has made the song, released in 2019, a lightning rod in a culture war over what is an acceptable face and subject matter for popular music and who gets to decide.

The battle, which pits Egypt’s cultural establishment against a renegade musical genre embraced by millions of young Egyptians, has heated up recently after the organization that licenses musicians barred at least 19 young artists from singing and performing in Egypt.

arrested teenage girls who posted videos of themselves dancing, which is a crime there. And in 2020, Northwestern University in Qatar called off a concert by a Lebanese indie rock band whose lead singer is openly gay.

But online streaming and social media platforms have poked giant holes in that effort, allowing artists to bypass state-sanctioned media, like television and record companies, and reach a generation of new fans hungry for what they see as more authentic and relevant content.

Iran’s draconian restrictions on unacceptable music have produced a flourishing underground rock and hip-hop scene. The question facing Egypt is who now has the power to regulate matters of taste — the 12 men and one woman who run the syndicate, or the millions of fans who have been streaming and downloading mahraganat.

Mahraganat first rose out of the dense, rowdy working-class neighborhoods of Cairo more than a decade ago and is still generally made in low-tech home studios, often with no more equipment than a cheap microphone and pirated software.

DJ Saso, the 27-year-old producer of Mr. Shakosh’s blockbuster hit.

Many lawyers and experts say the syndicate has no legal right to ban artists, insisting that Egypt’s Constitution explicitly protects creative liberty. But these arguments seem academic in the authoritarian state of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has stifled freedom of speech, tightened control on the media and passed laws to help monitor and criminalize immoral behavior on the internet.

The syndicate’s executive members have adamantly defended their move, arguing that a key part of their job is to safeguard the profession against inferior work that they say is made by uncultured impostors who tarnish the image of the country.

YouTube.

He is one of the Arab world’s leading performers. Since he was barred, he has performed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq, and “The Neighbors’ Daughter” has become one of the biggest Arabic hits to date.

“It’s not the same old love songs,” said Yasmine el-Assal, a 41-year-old bank executive, after attending one of Mr. Shakosh’s concerts before the ban. “His stage presence, the music, the vibe, it’s fresh and it’s all about having fun.”

Mr. Shakosh would not agree to be interviewed, preferring to keep a low profile, his manager said, rather than to appear to publicly challenge the authorities. The ban has been harder on other artists, many of whom do not have the wherewithal or the international profile to tour abroad.

They have mostly kept quiet, refusing to make statements that they fear could ruffle more feathers.

Despite the squeeze, however, many are confident that their music falls beyond the grip of any single authority or government.

Kareem Gaber, a 23-year-old experimental music producer known by the stage name El Waili, is still burning tracks, sitting in his bedroom with a twin mattress on the floor, bare walls and his instrument, a personal computer with $100 MIDI keyboard.

“Mahraganat taught us that you can do something new,” he said, “and it will be heard.”

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Live Updates: Former Syrian Colonel Guilty in War Crimes Trial in Germany

ImageA Syrian campaigner holding pictures of civil war victims outside the courthouse where Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian officer, was on trial on Thursday in Koblenz, Germany.
Credit…Bernd Lauter/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A court in Germany found a former Syrian security officer guilty on Thursday of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison. He is the highest-ranking Syrian official to be held accountable for abuses committed by the government during a decade of civil war.

The former officer, Anwar Raslan, was accused of overseeing a detention center where prosecutors said at least 4,000 people were tortured and nearly 60 were killed.

The verdict marks a watershed moment for an international network of lawyers, human rights activists and Syrian war survivors who have struggled for years to bring officials who sanctioned or participated in the violence to justice.

Through nearly 11 years of civil war, the Syrian government bombed residential neighborhoods, used poison gas and tortured countless detainees in state lockups, but until now, no high-level officials had been held accountable for these acts, which human rights lawyers describe as war crimes.

Mr. Raslan’s guilty verdict, they say, bolsters the ability of European courts to pursue similar cases while sending a message to war criminals around the world that they could one day face consequences.

“This is the first time that members of the Assad regime have had to stand trial before an ordinary criminal court,” said Stefanie Bock, the director of the International Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials at the University of Marburg in Germany. “This sends a clear message to the world that certain crimes will not go unpunished.”

But while Mr. Raslan, a former colonel, held a high rank in a Syrian intelligence service, he was more of a cog than a pillar in the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its vast apparatus of repression.

After more than a decade of war, Mr. al-Assad remains in power, and there appears little chance that he or his senior advisers or military commanders will stand trial soon. They rarely travel abroad, and go only to countries they can count on not to arrest them, like Russia, a staunch supporter of Mr. al-Assad.

Other potential avenues for justice have also been blocked. Syria is not party to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and Russia and China have used their vetoes on the United Nations Security Council to prevent Syria from being referred to the court.

Germany is among a few European countries that have sought to try former Syrian officials for war crimes based on universal jurisdiction, the principle of international law that says that some crimes are so grave that they can be prosecuted anywhere.

That is how Mr. Raslan ended up on trial in the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, a small city in western Germany.

Mr. Raslan, 58, oversaw a security office and detention center in Damascus, the Syrian capital, during the early days of the war.

German prosecutors argued that his position gave him oversight of torture that included beating, kicking, electric shocks and sexual assault. Witnesses in the trial said they were fed inedible food, denied medical care and kept in overcrowded cells.

At least 58 people died because of abuse under Mr. Raslan’s authority, prosecutors said. In a statement to the court, Mr. Raslan denied that he had been involved in torture.

He entered Germany on a visa in 2014 and lived there legally until the German authorities arrested him in 2019.

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‘Davos Man,’ Marc Benioff and the Covid Pandemic

He frequently tells the story of his supposed inspiration for founding Salesforce. Despite success at Oracle, where he worked early in his career, Mr. Benioff was plagued by existential doubt, prompting him to take a sabbatical to southern India. There, he visited a woman known as “the hugging saint,” who urged him to share his prosperity.

From the incorporation of Salesforce in 1999, Mr. Benioff pledged that he would devote 1 percent of its equity and product to philanthropic undertakings, while encouraging employees to dedicate 1 percent of their working time to voluntary efforts. Salesforce employees regularly volunteer at schools, food banks and hospitals.

“There are very few examples of companies doing this at scale,” Mr. Benioff told me in an interview. He noted that people were always talking to him about another business known for its focus on doing good, Ben & Jerry’s. He said this with a chuckle, clearly amused that his company — now worth more than $200 billion — could be compared to the aging Vermont hippies who had brought the world Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Mr. Benioff is by many indications a true believer, not just idly parroting Davos Man talking points. In 2015, when Indiana proceeded with legislation that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender employees, he threatened to yank investment, forcing a change in the law. He shamed Facebook and Google for abusing the public trust and called for regulations on search and social media giants. Early in the pandemic, Salesforce embraced remote work to protect employees.

“I’m trying to influence others to do the right thing,” he told me. “I feel that responsibility.”

I found myself won over by his boyish enthusiasm, and his willingness to talk at length absent public relations minders — a rarity for Silicon Valley.

His philanthropic efforts have been directed at easing homelessness in San Francisco, while expanding health care for children. He and Salesforce collectively contributed $7 million toward a successful 2018 campaign for a local ballot measure that levied fresh taxes on San Francisco companies to finance expanded programs. The new taxes were likely to cost Salesforce $10 million a year.

That sounded like a lot of money, ostensible evidence of a socially conscious C.E.O. sacrificing the bottom line in the interest of catering to societal needs. But it was less than a trifle alongside the money that Salesforce withheld from the government through legal tax subterfuge.

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Live Updates: NATO Urges Russia to Ease Crisis Over Ukraine

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Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, said significant points of contention remain with Russia following talks aimed at easing tensions with the West and averting a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Olivier Hoslet

BRUSSELS — The leader of NATO said on Wednesday that “significant differences” remained between the bloc and Russia after four hours of talks aimed at holding off a further Russian invasion of Ukraine and calming tensions between Moscow and the West.

“Our differences will not be easy to bridge,” the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, told a news conference after the talks at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels.

Mr. Stoltenberg said that NATO allies urged Russia to “immediately de-escalate the situation in Ukraine,” where close to 100,000 Russian troops have massed near the borders, and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors. Russian representatives did not commit to pulling back the troops, nor did they reject the demand, officials said.

NATO allies reaffirmed their refusal to accept Russian demands to stop further enlargement with countries that wished to join the alliance and to withdraw all allied troops from NATO members bordering Russia. Wendy R. Sherman, the deputy secretary of state who led the U.S. delegation to the talks, called some of Russia’s demands “simply non-starters.”

“This wasn’t an easy discussion, but that is exactly why this meeting was so important,” Mr. Stoltenberg said, adding that NATO allies and Russia had “a very serious and direct exchange on the situation in and around Ukraine, and implications for European security.”

The meeting at NATO’s Brussels headquarters was the second stop in a diplomatic roadshow focused on the Kremlin, after talks in Geneva on Monday between Russian and American officials. Looming over the high-level diplomacy is whether the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, will invade Ukraine as he seeks to pressure the West to roll back NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe, or de-escalate.

The United States and its NATO allies hope that Mr. Putin will decide to negotiate, as he is now confronted with threats of punishing economic sanctions and even of new deployments in NATO allies bordering Russia.

Mr. Stoltenberg said that NATO allies offered Russia a series of further meetings on wider issues of European security, including arms control and missile deployments. But while the Russian delegation was generally positive, he said, they would or could not commit to a new meeting. That is another indication that even Russia’s top diplomats may not know what Mr. Putin’s intentions really are.

Briefing reporters in Brussels, Ms. Sherman said that NATO officials laid out for the Russians areas “where we can work together and make real progress,” including on arms control and greater transparency in military exercises. But she reiterated the U.S. position that Russia first had to pull back from threatening Ukraine, adding that the fate of the Moscow-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, intended to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, would depend on Russian de-escalation.

Ms. Sherman said the United States was prepared to talk further with the Russians, but seemed unsure whether Moscow would follow through.

“If Russia walks away,” she said, it would be “quite apparent that they were never serious about pursuing diplomacy at all.”

The leader of the Russian delegation — Aleksandr V. Grushko, who was Russia’s permanent representative to NATO from 2012 to 2018 — was expected to brief reporters later on Wednesday.

The talks were formally a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, which was established in 2002 to discuss mutual security concerns but has been essentially moribund since April 2014 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

NATO has 30 members and so, in a sense, the meeting was 30 against one. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, though the alliance promised in 2008 that it would be someday.

NATO officials emphasized that they wanted to keep the focus on Russia’s large and continuing military buildup surrounding Ukraine, rather than on Russian desires to force a renegotiation of the post-Cold War security architecture in Europe.

After Monday’s talks, Sergei A. Ryabkov, who led the Russian side, denied that Russia had any intention of a new military invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, Mr. Ryabkov warned that if the West did not agree to Russia’s demands to pull back NATO’s footprint in Eastern Europe and reject any future membership for Ukraine, it would face unspecified consequences that would put the “security of the whole European continent” at risk.

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The Army of Millions Who Enforce China’s Zero-Covid Policy

China’s “zero Covid” policy has a dedicated following: the millions of people who work diligently toward that goal, no matter the human costs.

In the northwestern city of Xi’an, hospital employees refused to admit a man suffering from chest pains because he lived in a medium-risk district. He died of a heart attack.

They informed a woman who was eight months pregnant and bleeding that her Covid test wasn’t valid. She lost her baby.

Two community security guards told a young man they didn’t care that he had nothing to eat after catching him out during the lockdown. They beat him up.

a strict lockdown in late December when cases were on the rise. But it was not prepared to provide food, medical care and other necessities to the city’s 13 million residents, creating chaos and crises not seen since the country first locked down Wuhan in January 2020.

the weaknesses in China’s authoritarian system. Now, with patients dying of non-Covid diseases, residents going hungry and officials pointing fingers, the lockdown in Xi’an has shown how the country’s political apparatus has ossified, bringing a ruthlessness to its single-minded pursuit of a zero-Covid policy.

Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is in a much better position than Wuhan in early 2020, when thousands of people died of the virus, overwhelming the city’s medical system. Xi’an has reported only three Covid-related deaths, the last one in March 2020. The city said 95 percent of its adults were vaccinated by July. In the latest wave, it had reported 2,017 confirmed cases by Monday and no deaths.

read a self-criticism letter in front of a video camera. “I only cared about whether I had food to eat,” the young man read, according to a widely shared video. “I didn’t take into account the serious consequences my behavior could bring to the community.” The volunteers later apologized, according to The Beijing News, a state media outlet.

Three men were caught while escaping from Xi’an to the countryside, possibly to avoid the high costs of the lockdown. They hiked, biked and swam in wintry days and nights. Two of them were detained by the police, according to local police and media reports. Together they were called the “Xi’an ironmen” on the Chinese internet.

Then there were the hospitals that denied patients access to medical care and deprived their loved ones the chance to say goodbye.

The man who suffered chest pain as he was dying of a heart attack waited six hours before a hospital finally admitted him. After his condition worsened, his daughter begged hospital employees to let her in and see him for the last time.

A male employee refused, according to a video she posted on Weibo after her father’s death. “Don’t try to hijack me morally,” he said in the video. “I’m just carrying out my duty.”

commented that some local officials were simply blaming their underlings. It seemed, the broadcaster wrote, only low-level cadres have been punished for these problems.

There are reasons people in the system showed little compassion and few spoke up online.

An emergency room doctor in eastern Anhui Province was sentenced to 15 months in prison for failing to follow pandemic control protocols by treating a patient with a fever last year, according to CCTV.

A deputy director-level official at a government agency in Beijing lost his position last week after some social media users reported that an article he wrote about the lockdown in Xi’an contained untruthful information.

In the article, he called the lockdown measures “inhumane” and “cruel.” It bore the headline “The Sorrow of Xi’an Residents: Why They Ran Away from Xi’an at the Risk of Breaking the Law and Death.”

diary, no citizen journalists Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin or Zhang Zhan posting videos. The four of them have either been silenced, detained, disappeared or left dying in jail — sending a strong message to anyone who might dare to speak out about Xi’an.

The only widely circulated, in-depth article about the Xi’an lockdown was written by the former journalist Zhang Wenmin, a Xi’an resident known by her pen name, Jiang Xue. Her article has since been deleted and state security officers have warned her not to speak further on the matter, according to a person close to her. Some social media users called her garbage that should be taken out.

A few Chinese publications that had written excellent investigative articles out of Wuhan didn’t send reporters to Xi’an because they couldn’t secure passes to walk freely under lockdown, according to people familiar with the situation.

The Xi’an lockdown debacle hasn’t seemed to convince many people in China to abandon the country’s no-holds-barred approach to pandemic control.

told Xi’an officials on Monday that their future pandemic control efforts should remain “strict.”

“A needle-size loophole can funnel high wind,” he said.

Claire Fu contributed research.

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Tivoli Lighting Offers Magic Linear Bar for Maximum Color Options

IRVINE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–With more than 50 years of innovation and linear lighting leadership, Tivoli Lighting introduces its Magic Linear Bar offering more than one million color options for architectural lighting for building facades, bridges and media display applications.

Available in 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-foot units, Magic Linear Bar provides high-color resolution with three (3) pixels per foot, delivering 44 frames per second. The linear fixture delivers dynamic resolution control ranging from the entire fixture length down to 4” segments with red, green, blue and white (4000K) LED channels. The fixture can be precisely synchronized with a standard DMX-12/Artnet system and ESD protection.

Magic Linear operates on a 24 VDC and has a 145°x 105° beam angle. The energy efficient fixture delivers up to 106 lumens per foot, while consuming only three (3) watts. With an IP67 rating, Magic Linear Bar will perform in wet conditions. The slim 1.12” W x 2.48” D x 39.37” L fixture comes with two mounting brackets per fixture.

Designed for a long performance life, Magic Linear Bar is 3G rated. It operates in temperatures from -4°F to 122°F, maintains 70% of its lumens at 60,000 hours and comes with a 3-year warranty. The fixture is cETLus, CE, RoHS certified to comply with North American safety standards. For more information about the Magic Linear, contact Tivoli Lighting at 714-957-6101 or visit (https://tivolilighting.com/tivoli-product/magic-linear-bar/) and (https://youtu.be/lFGXb-cE3LA).

About Tivoli

With more than 50 years of innovation and experience, Tivoli continues to lead the linear lighting industry with its award-winning architectural and theater LED-based products that offer improved appearance, quality, performance and energy saving advantages. Tivoli’s team continues to strive to incorporate innovation, color quality, and longevity of life into every product it manufactures and engineers for high quality performance and extended service life.

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Live Updates: U.S. and Russia Meet Amid Fears of War in Ukraine

ImageU.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and her Russian counterpart, Sergei A. Ryabkov, at the United States Mission in Geneva on Monday.
Credit…Denis Balibouse/Reuters

GENEVA — With the threat of Russian military action in eastern Ukraine stirring concern across Europe, American and Russian officials met on Monday to try and find a diplomatic path to ease tensions and avoid the potential for bloodshed.

The official delegations, led by a Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, and the American deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, sat down at the U.S. Mission in Geneva just after 9 a.m. local time, the State Department said.

Minutes earlier, the police escorted a convoy of black sedans and silver minibuses carrying Russian officials into the sprawling American diplomatic compound on a hill above Lake Geneva.

The talks — the first in a series of discussions that will take place across Europe this week — revolve around the demands for “security guarantees” from Western powers that the Kremlin made in a remarkable diplomatic offensive late last year.

Monday’s negotiations were expected to take up much of the day, with American and Russian officials scheduled to brief reporters separately afterward, in the early evening.

In December, Russia published a proposal for two agreements with the United States and NATO that would roll back Western military activity in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, in essence re-establishing a sphere of Russian influence in what used to be parts of the Soviet Union.

Many of the proposals appeared to be nonstarters for Western officials, who insist that Cold War-style regions of influence are a relic of the past and that countries should be able to choose their own alliances.

But an ominous Russian military buildup near the country’s border with Ukraine that analysts see as a preparation for a potential invasion has seized the attention of the West; the Biden administration agreed to engage with Russia to try to find some common ground.

On Sunday evening, Ms. Sherman met Mr. Ryabkov for a preliminary, two-hour dinner meeting in a nondescript residential building on the Geneva lakefront. “The deputy secretary affirmed that the United States would welcome genuine progress through diplomacy,” the State Department said in a statement.

Mr. Ryabkov described the dinner meeting as “businesslike” and predicted that Monday’s negotiations would not be a waste of time.

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said on Monday that Western allies “are aiming for an agreement on a way forward” and repeated his warnings to Russia of “severe costs — economic, political costs — if they once again use military force against Ukraine.”

He spoke before a meeting of the NATO-Ukrainian Commission, timed for the day of the Geneva talks, that included the foreign minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, and Olga Stefanishyna, one of Ukraine’s four deputy prime ministers. Ms. Stefanishyna said that “any discussions on the security guarantees should start with the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory.”

Appearing on Sunday talk shows in the United States, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the negotiations could also possibly revive the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned the deployment, in Europe or in Russia, of medium-range nuclear missiles. Both the Obama and Trump administrations accused Moscow of violating the accord, and the United States left the treaty in 2019.

But Russia insists that its demands go well beyond arms control, and involve a wholesale redrawing of the security map in Europe, which the Kremlin claims the West forced upon a weak Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

If Russia does not get what it wants, President Vladimir V. Putin said last month, the Kremlin is prepared to resort to military means to achieve its aims.

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Covid Test Misinformation Spikes Along With Spread of Omicron

On Dec. 29, The Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that often spreads conspiracy theories, published an article falsely implying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had withdrawn authorization of all P.C.R. tests for detecting Covid-19. The article collected 22,000 likes, comments and shares on Facebook and Twitter.

On TikTok and Instagram, videos of at-home Covid-19 tests displaying positive results after being soaked in drinking water and juice have gone viral in recent weeks, and were used to push the false narrative that coronavirus rapid tests don’t work. Some household liquids can make a test show a positive result, health experts say, but the tests remain accurate when used as directed. One TikTok video showing a home test that came out positive after being placed under running water was shared at least 140,000 times.

And on YouTube, a video titled “Rapid antigen tests debunked” was posted on Jan. 1 by the Canadian far-right website Rebel News. It generated over 40,000 views, and its comments section was a hotbed of misinformation. “The straight up purpose of this test is to keep the case #’s as high as possible to maintain fear & incentive for more restrictions,” said one comment with more than 200 likes. “And of course Profit.”

Previous spikes in pandemic-related falsehoods focused on the vaccines, masks and the severity of the virus. The falsehoods help undermine best practices for controlling the spread of the coronavirus, health experts say, noting that misinformation remains a key factor in vaccine hesitancy.

The categories include falsehoods that P.C.R. tests don’t work; that the counts for flu and Covid-19 cases have been combined; that P.C.R. tests are vaccines in disguise; and that at-home rapid tests have a predetermined result or are unreliable because different liquids can turn them positive.

These themes jumped into the thousands of mentions in the last three months of 2021, compared with just a few dozen in the same time period in 2020, according to Zignal Labs, which tracks mentions on social media, on cable television and in print and online outlets.

The added demand for testing due to Omicron and the higher prevalence of breakthrough cases has given purveyors of misinformation an “opportune moment” to exploit, said Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online conspiracy theories. The false narratives “support the whole idea of not trusting the infection numbers or trusting the death count,” she said.

policies that prohibit misinformation that could cause harm to people’s physical health. YouTube said it was reviewing the videos shared by The New York Times in line with its Covid-19 misinformation policies on testing and diagnostics. Twitter said that it had applied a warning to The Gateway Pundit’s article in December for violating its coronavirus misinformation policy and that tweets containing false information about widely accepted testing methods would also violate its policy. But the company said it does not take action on personal anecdotes.

Facebook said it had worked with its fact-checking partners to label many of the posts with warnings that directed people toward fact checks of the false claims, and reduced their prominence on its users’ feeds.

“The challenges of the pandemic are constantly changing, and we’re consistently monitoring for emerging false claims on our platforms,” Aaron Simpson, a Facebook spokesman, said in an email.

No medical test is perfect, and legitimate questions about the accuracy of Covid-19 tests have abounded throughout the pandemic. There has always been a risk of a false positive or a false negative result. The Food and Drug Administration says there is a potential for antigen tests to return false positive results when users do not follow the instructions. Those tests are generally accurate when used correctly but in some cases can appear to show a positive result when exposed to other liquids, said Dr. Glenn Patriquin, who published a study about false positives in antigen tests using various liquids in a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Using a fluid with a different chemical makeup than what was designed means that result lines might appear unpredictably,” said Dr. Patriquin, an assistant professor of pathology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Complicating matters, there have been some defective products. Last year, the Australian company Ellume recalled about two million of the at-home testing products that it had shipped to the United States.

But when used correctly, coronavirus tests are considered reliable at detecting people carrying high levels of the virus. Experts say our evolving knowledge of tests should be a distinct issue from lies about testing that have spread widely on social media — though it does make debunking those lies more challenging.

said in July that it would withdraw its request to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization of one specific test at the end of the year. Hundreds of other Covid-19 tests are still available from other manufacturers, the C.D.C. later clarified.

Still, posts claiming that the agency had withdrawn support of P.C.R. tests went viral on Facebook. The most widely shared post pushing the falsehood in July collected 11,500 likes, shares and comments, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned social media analytics tool. The post added the falsehood that the C.D.C.’s advisory meant that P.C.R. tests could not distinguish between the coronavirus and the flu, when in fact the agency had simply recommended the use of tests that could simultaneously detect and distinguish between the flu and Covid-19.

Despite being fact-checked within days, the claim never fully went away. The Gateway Pundit article revived the claim at the end of the year, collecting nearly double the earlier post’s likes, shares and comments on Facebook. On Instagram, screenshots of the article also went viral, collecting hundreds of likes.

Mr. Gregory said a similar phenomenon had occurred with social media posts claiming various liquids turned at-home coronavirus tests positive.

On Dec. 23, 2020, a video on YouTube showed coronavirus tests turning positive after being tested on kiwi, orange and berry fruit juice. It collected over 102,000 views. In the same month, a video producing the same results with Coca-Cola was posted on YouTube, collecting 16,800 views.

One year later, a spate of similar videos with the same theme appeared on TikTok and Instagram.

For Ms. Koltai, the re-emergence of false narratives even after social media companies labeled them a year earlier shows the power of misinformation to “thrive when it can latch on to a current event.”

“That is how narratives can peak at different times,” she said.

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