We’re overlaying Microsoft’s large wager on the metaverse and the contenders on the Australian Open.

Microsoft agreed to buy Activision Blizzard, the online game maker behind hits like Name of Responsibility and Sweet Crush, for $68.7 billion in money. The deal will place Microsoft for the subsequent technology of the web.

The acquisition, Microsoft’s largest ever, would catapult the corporate into a number one spot within the online game trade and will strengthen its hand in digital and augmented actuality. The takeover would make Microsoft the world’s third-largest gaming firm by income, behind Tencent and Sony, the corporate mentioned.

U.S. regulators face a problem in deciding find out how to strategy the large deal. Microsoft has expanded its gaming enterprise to surpass $10 billion in annual income. In anticipation of an extended evaluate, Microsoft mentioned it didn’t anticipate the Activision deal to shut till the subsequent fiscal yr, which ends in June 2023.

Metaverse: The identify for the digital worlds many corporations are placing cash into is extra of a buzzword than an enormous enterprise for now. However the Activision deal might give Microsoft a major enhance in opposition to Fb, which is taken into account the chief within the metaverse. Our tech columnist explains what the hype is about.

Context: One foremost driver of online game offers is the race for unique content material: Locking up a serious franchise like Name of Responsibility or Skyrim, as an example, might power followers to change from Sony’s PlayStation to Microsoft’s Xbox, if Microsoft selected to make a recreation unique.

A wave of Omicron instances could also be cresting within the northeastern U.S., however the variety of Covid sufferers is at a file excessive and climbing, overwhelming hospitals whose staffs have been hollowed out by the coronavirus.

The common variety of People hospitalized with the coronavirus is 157,000, a rise of 54 % over two weeks. And the quantity might proceed growing for a while. Consultants say information on deaths and hospitalizations tends to lag behind case numbers by about two weeks.

Hospital staffs are severely stretched, medical doctors’ teams say, after relentless surges within the U.S. which have surpassed these of most international locations. Many employees are sick with Covid and others have give up below the stress of the pandemic.

Although the concept of the virus turning into a manageable a part of each day life has gained traction, specialists warn that there isn’t a assure that the inhabitants is constructing sufficient pure immunity and that there isn’t a certainty round future variants.

Information: Greater than 790,000 new infections are being reported within the U.S. every day. Deaths now exceed 1,900 a day, up 50 % over the previous two weeks.

Listed below are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In different developments:

After a tumultuous yr and a four-month layoff throughout which she questioned what she needed from tennis, Naomi Osaka is back on the court.

Right this moment she’s going to play Madison Brengle within the second spherical on the Australian Open after profitable her Monday match.

Earlier than her pause from tennis, Osaka was the dominant determine within the sport and the world’s highest-paid feminine athlete at simply 23 years previous. On her return, she mentioned, “I’m undecided if that is going to work out properly.”

Additionally on Wednesday, Simona Halep will play Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Ashleigh Barty, the ladies’s No. 1, is again, too, after ending her season following the U.S. Open final yr. Her potential matchup with Osaka shall be her hardest take a look at.

Men’s players will make the most of Novak Djokovic’s absence after Djokovic misplaced a visa battle with the Australian authorities. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are tied with Djokovic for 20 Grand Slam titles every, and each need to be the primary to hit 21 and make historical past.

Asia Pacific

Many Georgians imagine that Bidzina Ivanishvili, an eccentric billionaire and the previous prime minister of Georgia, nonetheless wields energy behind the scenes. A park that opened to the general public in 2020 is a manifestation of his opaque however overwhelming presence in Georgia. Ivanishvili personally vetted most of the 200 trees that have been transplanted to the park, which value him tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars} to create, on Georgia’s Black Sea Coast.

Mainstream movies and TV typically paint motherhood in broad strokes. A mom is both endlessly dedicated to her kids, or her absence serves as fodder for a protagonist’s origin story, as our critic at large Amanda Hess writes. However extra productions at the moment are difficult these notions with complicated portrayals.

In “The Misplaced Daughter,” Leda (performed by Olivia Colman), an educational, leaves her younger daughters to pursue her profession, as many deadbeat fathers have completed earlier than her. “Kids are a crushing accountability,” she tells a pregnant character. But the film reserves judgment and depicts Leda as a human being, not a monster. “We are able to dislike her, however we’re by no means permitted to revile her,” Jeannette Catsoulis writes in a review.

There’s additionally Penélope Cruz’s character, in “Parallel Moms,” a pregnant 40-year-old lady who befriends a teenage mother-to-be and makes an immoral resolution about their newborns. “As an alternative of reassuring audiences that mommy is all the time a bastion of security, these filmmakers have created mom heroines who’re unpredictable, erratic and even a bit of bit horrifying,” Emily Gould writes in Vanity Fair.

Even the “Intercourse and the Metropolis” reboot “And Simply Like That …” is a part of the pattern. At one level, Miranda — a mom to a hormonal teenager — tells a personality who’s contemplating having kids that there are a lot of nights she needs to “go house to an empty home.”

These works, Gould writes, “current their moms as full human beings, even when their wants are structurally against these of their kids.”