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Charlottesville, Opioid Crisis, Grammy Nominations: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Tuesday.

1. Jurors found planners of the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., liable for more than $25 million in damages, but deadlocked on federal conspiracy charges.

The verdict in the civil trial, though mixed, was a rebuke for the defendants — a mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville in 2017 to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. The “Unite the Right” rally, which featured extremists carrying torches and chanting racist slogans, turned violent and resulted in a car attack that killed one counterprotester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and injured at least 19.

The defendants were found under Virginia law to have engaged in a conspiracy to the lead-up to the rally. The charges on which the jury deadlocked related to whether defendants had engaged in a race-based violent conspiracy. The nine plaintiffs said they would consider seeking a retrial on the federal charges.

2. CVS Health, Walmart and Walgreens helped feed the opioid crisis, a jury found, the first time retailers were held accountable.

Two counties in Ohio successfully argued that the pharmacies turned a blind eye to countless red flags about suspicious opioid orders, both at the counter and at the corporate headquarters, and contributed to a “public nuisance” — a legal term that plaintiffs contend covers the public health crisis created by opioids.

The same argument was rejected twice this month by judges in California and Oklahoma in cases against opioid manufacturers. The verdict out of Ohio may be encouraging to plaintiffs in thousands of lawsuits nationwide who are relying on the same legal strategy.

The trial judge in Ohio will determine how much each company could pay the counties after upcoming hearings. The companies said they would appeal the verdict.

3. The U.S. and five other world powers will release tens of millions of barrels of crude oil to combat soaring global prices.

President Biden ordered the release of 50 million barrels of crude from the nation’s emergency stockpile, which is the largest in the world with 620 million barrels. But it remains unclear how much the action will impact the price of oil. The pledge was far less than the 100 million barrels traders had been expecting, one expert said.

Britain, China, India, Japan and Korea will join the concerted effort. The move is meant to address rising oil prices that have angered consumers across the world, and is a shot across the bow at OPEC Plus, an organization of oil-producing countries that Biden has pushed to increase production.

4. A global battle for young immigrant workers is underway as the pandemic heads into its third year.

Disruptions pushed many to retire, resign or just not return to work — a problem for rapidly aging nations that produce too few new workers. With fast-track visas and promises of permanent residency, many wealthy nations are sending a message — help wanted, now — while U.S. immigration policy remains mostly stuck in place.

There is also a growing movement to reconsider the four-day workweek. After embracing flexible work styles during the pandemic, some companies are adopting a shorter week.

5. Europe’s death toll from Covid will exceed two million by next spring, the W.H.O. projected.

Covid is now the leading cause of death in Europe, the organization said, with almost 4,200 new deaths a day, double the number at the end of September. To date, Europe, including the U.K. and Russia, has reported 1.5 million deaths. The U.S. has reported 773,100 deaths. European countries have gaping disparities in vaccination rates and officials said it was essential to drive the lagging rates up.

The fourth wave of virus infections is undermining Europe’s fragile economic recovery as governments reimpose increasingly stringent health restrictions.

6. Newly released records provide the most detailed look yet at Jeffrey Epstein’s final days, and show mistake after mistake made by jail officials.

More than 2,000 pages of prison records obtained by The Times show how Epstein created illusions until the very end, deceiving correctional officers, counselors and specially trained inmates assigned to monitor him around the clock. The disgraced financier, jailed in Manhattan on federal sex trafficking charges, died in 2019 after hanging himself with a bedsheet in his cell.

The records offer no support to conspiracy theories that Epstein’s death was not a suicide. But they do paint a picture of incompetence by some within the Bureau of Prisons, and offer a missing piece of the public account: Epstein’s own voice. “I have no interest in killing myself,” Epstein told a jailhouse psychologist, two weeks before his death.

7. This is the next animal that could go extinct.

The vaquita population has plummeted from an estimated 600 individuals in 1997 to around 10 in 2019, and scientists say illegal fishing nets known as gill nets are driving the shy porpoises to extinction. The nets trap shrimp and fish, but they also entangle and drown vaquitas. Researchers say the nets are the only known cause for the species’ catastrophic decline.

Their fate largely depends on the Mexican government. To protect vaquitas, the government prohibits gill nets in much of the upper Gulf of California, the only place where the mammals live, and it banned all fishing in a smaller section of the gulf where they’ve been spotted in recent years. But in one fishing village, it’s as if the rules don’t exist.

8. And the 2022 Grammy nominees are …

Jon Batiste, a jazz pianist and genre-crossing multihyphenate, leads with 11 nominations, including eight for his soul-inflected album “We Are.”

For record of the year, Batiste’s “Freedom” will face off against tracks from Justin Bieber, Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat and Billie Eilish, as well as Lil Nas X and Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Here’s the full list of nominees and the biggest snubs and surprises. The show will take place on Jan. 31 in Los Angeles.

9. NASA is about to launch a spacecraft with one simple mission: smash into an asteroid at 15,000 miles per hour with an eye toward saving humanity.

The mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, leaves Earth at 10:20 p.m. Pacific time to test whether slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid can effectively nudge it into a different trajectory. If successful, space agencies may use the technique to avert a catastrophic Earth impact. Here’s how to watch the launch.

And every year, the Hubble Space Telescope makes a visual grand tour of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune to see what’s changed, in something like a cosmic weather report. Take a look at new portraits of the planets.

10. And finally, this ink is alive.

Combining a printer with the bacteria E. coli may seem like an odd collaboration, but it could also be an innovative building solution. Scientists created a bacterial ink that reproduces itself and can be 3D-printed into tiny shapes — a circle, a square and a cone — all of which hold their structures like living architecture.

The ink still needs a lot of work. It can’t withstand drying out, and is not currently stable enough to be the sole basis of larger constructions, such as a house fit for a human; the researchers are working on ways to make more robust printed structures. But researchers see few limits to its possible future applications, both on Earth and on other planets.

Have a durable night.

Bryan Denton compiled photos for this briefing.

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