Omicron, E-Sports, Christmas: your weekend briefing | Top stories

Omicron, E-Sports, Christmas: your weekend briefing

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Here are the best stories of the week and a glimpse into the future.

2. Most vaccines in the world offer almost no defense against infection with Omicron, according to studies.

3. A five-year Times investigation found that the US air wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan had left thousands of civilians dead.

The Pentagon’s hidden records show a series of failures in US airstrikes – a stark contrast to the US government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.

The military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 civilian casualty reports since 2014, obtained by the Times, show how the air warfare has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, hasty and often imprecise targeting, and death. thousands of civilians, many of them children. None of these failures resulted in a finding of wrongdoing. We are making these Pentagon archives public.

This is the first of a two-part survey. Here are the main points to remember.

4. The Congress ended its session with still bitter divisions.

President Biden and Democrats may point to some major successes in 2021, including a $ 1.9 trillion pandemic assistance plan with $ 300 per child income support that reduced poverty rates; a $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law that had eluded the two previous presidents; the confirmation of 40 judges in Biden’s first year, the most presidents since Ronald Reagan; and a House inquiry into the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill.

But those accomplishments were overshadowed by legislative setbacks and a sense that Congress was not rising to face a perilous moment in history. “It’s been a horrible year, hasn’t it? Asked Senator Lisa Murkowski.

5. We are awaiting the results of the elections in Hong Kong, but the writing is already on the wall.

The election is the first since Beijing imposed a drastic overhaul of the political system to allow only “patriots” to stand for election, thus strengthening the Communist Party’s grip on the territory.

The candidates have been vetted by the national security organs, and the establishment’s near-total control over the legislature is now guaranteed. The crackdown has driven most of the city’s popular pro-democracy candidates into police custody or exile. Authorities have urged the public to vote, but turnout is expected to be low.

Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, is the territory’s most unpopular leader, according to polls. Yet she now seems invigorated and ready for a second term, if Beijing allows her to stay.

6. Card by card, Republicans are undermining the power of black Democrats.

In several states, a growing number of black elected officials, from members of Congress to county commissioners, have been removed from their districts this year or face headwinds to retain their seats. Almost all of the lawmakers involved are Democrats. Most of the cartographers are white Republicans.

Because partisan gerrymandering has long been difficult to disentangle from racial gerrymandering, proving that motive can be troublesome. But the effect remains the same: less political power for communities of color.

Last spring, black and Asian groups mobilized in response to violence targeting their communities. But calls for unity ebbed over disagreements over one main issue: the police.

7. If Spiegel can claim a double inheritance: as a war hero and father of the artificial tree.

Spiegel, 97, is one of the last WWII bomber pilots still with us. He flew a B-17 on dozens of dangerous missions, saved his crew by landing prone in a frozen potato field in Poland, and then helped orchestrate a daring escape. But, like many other Jewish soldiers, he was refused promotion and, after the war, was excluded from the air force.

Instead, Spiegel went to vocational school and found a job as a machinist in a brush maker. His bosses decided to reuse brush machines to make Christmas trees. Spiegel perfected their design and retired from his own artificial tree company, American Tree and Wreath, in 1993 as a multimillionaire. And there is much more to his extraordinary life.

8. Generation Z is moving away from basketball and football fields to PlayStation and Xbox. The rise of esports is shaking up an entire industry.

Youth sports participation was on the decline even before Covid-19. Then, between learning at home and stopping sports for young people, a high-tech generation found even more escape and engagement on their smartphones and consoles. Even the YMCA is getting started: in April, it launched a national esports pilot program at 120 of its branches in the United States.

In case you missed it: New game consoles remain scarce this holiday season, spawning cottage industries of tipsters and scalpers who make money out of their scarcity.

9. Need a last minute giveaway that is both lazy and supply chain friendly? Look no further than your own business.

Once considered out of date, regifting is being redefined as a more thoughtful, more sustainable way to shop. (Nobody even needs to know.) We asked a group of creatives what they would offer from their collections, and the list included plant clippings, a coffee table book for Oprah’s 25th birthday. and crystals.

For more ideas, our gardening expert Margaret Roach suggests these really useful gifts for gardeners, our food columnist Tejal Rao has an eye for these vegetarian gifts, and the Wirecutter recommends 27 last-minute gifts.

10. And finally, find our favorite stories of the week.

A young snowboarding sensation is growing. Trace a sweater’s journey from Mongolia to Madison Avenue. The 25 Must-Do Foods to Eat in New York City. We’ve selected these stories and more for you from The Weekender.

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