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Coming Back Around, One Year Later: What COVID Took Away

Getting a coffee in Rome
Getting a coffee in Rome
Mattia Feltri

ROME — The 70-something barista who served me an iced tea last July was proud of his historic cafe next to one of the city's best-known theaters. It was soon after the end of Italy's first lockdown, and the theater was still closed due to the pandemic. At the end of our short conversation, the aging barman bid me farewell with a shout of: "Long live freedom."

It's almost exactly a year later, as I return, and the weather is hot again. I order an iced tea, and take off my mask to drink it. The lady at the counter asks me if I'm vaccinated, if I'm going to the theater; she says that unfortunately, she's been too busy to see the show. She got the first dose of the vaccine and is looking forward to the second, and also to the third and fourth and fifth if they are needed. My guess, from her manner and appearance, is that she's the barista's wife.

That was when my grandson was born.

Something keeps me from asking about her husband. She talks and says she had an "irrelevant" bout of COVID, half a day of fever and after ten days she tested negative. It was last November, she adds. That was when my grandson was born, she adds. She also recalls that they closed the cafe down so fast they accidentally left the coffee machine on.

Last November, she adds one last time, was when my husband died — in the span of two weeks: he was hospitalized even as he was overjoyed with the news that he'd become a grandfather; he was sure he could make it. Then after they put a CPAP helmet on him, I didn't talk to him again, that was the last time I ever saw him. I don't even know if he got to see our grandson's picture on a phone.

I tell her that the last time I was there, he had told me: long live freedom. She cries, I say I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. She wipes her eyes, picks up my empty glass and says: but like him, how many like him? The nightly news give us the numbers. All of them like him.

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How A Xi Jinping Dinner In San Francisco May Have Sealed Mastercard's Arrival In China

The credit giant becomes only the second player after American Express to be allowed to set up a bank card-clearing RMB operation in mainland China.

Photo of a hand holding a phone displaying an Union Pay logo, with a Mastercard VISA logo in the background of the photo.

Mastercard has just been granted a bank card clearing license in China.

Liu Qianshan


It appears that one of the biggest beneficiaries from Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to San Francisco was Mastercard.

The U.S. credit card giant has since secured eagerly anticipated approval to expand in China's massive financial sector, having finally obtained long sought approval from China's central bank and financial regulatory authorities to initiate a bank card business in China through its joint venture with its new Chinese partner.

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Through a joint venture in China between Mastercard and China's NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, dubbed Mastercard NUCC, it has officially entered mainland China as an RMB currency clearing organization. It's only the second foreign business of its kind to do so following American Express in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the development is linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting on Nov. 15 with U.S. President Joe Biden in San Francisco, part of a two-day visit that also included dinner that Xi had with U.S. business executives.

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