Omicron, Trump, Spider-Man: your Monday night briefing


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Good evening. Here is the last Monday at the end of the day.

1. The Omicron variant causes a push in the northeast.

In New York City, reports of new coronavirus cases have increased by more than 80% in two weeks. Rhode Island, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, is also now the US state with the most cases per capita in recent days.

Many hospitals have reached capacity, and governors in several states have mobilized the National Guard to deal with hospital staff shortages.

2. Chuck Schumer has promised to move forward with Build Back Better.

The Senate Majority Leader’s announcement on the social and environmental spending program came a day after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, in a crucial landmark vote, told Fox News he would not support the plan. Behind Manchin’s opposition lies a long history of opposition to climate action.

Votes on the plan are expected to take place in early 2022, Schumer said in a letter to colleagues, “so that every member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known in the Senate, not just on television.”

Manchin criticized White House staff for handling the negotiations, saying officials pushed him to the limit. The markets collapsed after the bill fell.

Separately, Schumer said he would try to force a fundamental change in Senate rules and potentially change the filibuster rule to pass a voting rights law.

3. Chinese authorities are using private companies to manipulate Facebook and Twitter.

Documents examined by The Times reveal in detail how Beijing generates on-demand content, attracts followers and stalks critics – as part of a global campaign to revamp its image and undermine accusations of human rights abuses.

The documents were part of a Shanghai Police tender to create hundreds of fake accounts on major social media platforms. The accounts were taken offline after The Times contacted the Chinese government about them.

Separately, Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis star who accused a former Communist Party leader of sexual coercion, told a Singaporean newspaper that she had been misunderstood. But the minutes-long interview with Peng, which took place at a ski competition in Shanghai, left many key questions unanswered, and his alleged denial aroused skepticism from human rights defenders.

4. Donald Trump sued the New York State Attorney General.

The former president is seeking to end a lengthy civil investigation by Letitia James into her business practices and to bar her office from participating in a separate criminal investigation.

The lawsuit says James’s involvement in both investigations was politically motivated, a tactic Trump has deployed in the past in the face of scrutiny by law enforcement and others. Legal experts say the lawsuit faces a high bar.

5. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced stricter rules for automobile pollution.

According to the plan, new vehicles are expected to average 55 miles per gallon starting in 2026, up from just under 38 miles per gallon today. This would prevent the release of 3.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050, according to the agency. And motorists would save about $ 1,080 in fuel costs over the life of more efficient vehicles.

The Biden administration is expected to rely heavily on executive action and regulation after the centerpiece of the president’s climate agenda was scuttled on Sunday by Senator Joe Manchin.

After decades of underinvestment, the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Biden signed last month is poised to make much-needed improvements to train travel along the North Corridor. is.

6. “Q” was silent. QAnon did not.

“Q,” the anonymous online account that sparked the QAnon conspiracy movement, has not been released for over a year. But QAnon is now even more deeply rooted in the political and social fabric of the United States.

In the absence of a leader, the movement evolved into a “choose your own adventure” conspiracy theory. More than 40 candidates who have publicly declared their support for QAnon are running for national elections in 2022, and the lies adopted by his supporters are likely to influence the midterm elections.

7. While Europe returns artefacts, Britain remains silent on the Parthenon marbles.

The sculptures – often referred to as the Elgin Marbles after the aristocrat who brought them from Athens to London in the 1800s – are probably the most famous contested museum objects in the world.

Last week, the sculptures returned to public view after an extended closure of the British Museum’s Greek galleries. They reappeared as other European governments returned similar historical objects. The British government says the fate of the sculptures does not concern it.

The chairman of the museum’s board said in an opinion piece this month that it was open to loaning the marbles to other countries. But the Greek government is awaiting their final return.

8. Give me some (moving) photos of Spider-Man!

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” raised around $ 253 million at theaters across the United States and Canada on its weekend debut. It was the highest opening weekend result in the 19-year Spider-Man franchise in eight films and the third highest in Hollywood history.

No movie has generated more than $ 90 million in domestic sales on the opening weekend since “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019. Despite the emergence of the Omicron variant, more than 20 million people have seen the blockbuster.

If you stick to the small screen, here are The Times critics’ picks for the best TV episodes of 2021.

9. One of the best Italian pastries comes from prison.

Panettone is Italy’s national Christmas cake, and Pasticceria Giotto’s version – located at Due Palazzi prison on the outskirts of Padua – has been named one of the top 10 in the country.

Cooking them is a meticulous process that takes over 72 hours of multiple kneading and proofing. To become bakers, inmates must work with a psychiatrist and then do an internship. As employees, they start at 650 euros (about $ 735) per month, then increase to 800 €, then finally to 1000 €.

As part of The Times Holiday Kitchen coverage, we visited long-haul truckers to see how they throw holiday parties on the road during a particularly busy year.

10. And finally, goodbye LeBron James and hello Mario.

Even before the pandemic, children were moving away from team sports: in 2018, only 38% of children aged 6 to 12 played regularly, up from 45% in 2008. The coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated the trend towards e- sports.

Play was “a lifeline” during the pandemic, a parent, whose children participate in a YMCA esports program, told The Times. It allowed kids to connect and gave parents a break from the expensive industrial youth sports complex. And that gives them some quiet time – unless they take their turn with the controllers.

Have an entertaining evening.

Angela Jimenez photos compiled for this briefing.

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