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Masks, Gaza, Eid al-Fitr: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The C.D.C. said that vaccinated people can go without masks in most places.

The advice marks a watershed moment in the coronavirus pandemic. Permission to stop using masks in most indoor and outdoor settings also offers an incentive to the many millions who are still holding out on vaccination.

But there are caveats. Even vaccinated individuals must cover their faces and social distance when going to doctors, hospitals or long-term care facilities like nursing homes; when traveling by public transportation or while in airports and bus stations; and when in prisons or homeless shelters.

2. Israel attacked Gaza with ground forces, escalating the conflict.

It was not immediately clear if the Israeli incursion was a limited bid to destroy rocket bases or kill leaders of Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, or if it was a full-fledged invasion akin to the one in 2014 that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians. Above, Israeli troops at the Gaza border.

The incursion came as the U.S. and others urged diplomacy to end the violence that began on Monday, set off by a clash between Arab worshipers and Israeli police at the Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

3. Colonial Pipeline paid a ransom of roughly 75 Bitcoin — or nearly $5 million — to recover stolen data, clearing the way for gas to begin flowing again.

The payment was made to the Russian-based hacking group Darkside, according to people briefed on the transaction. The pipeline, which stretches from Texas to New Jersey and delivers nearly half of the transport fuels for the Atlantic Coast, was shut down because of the cyberattack on Friday.

The pipeline restarted on Wednesday, but gas prices continued to rise even as the operator said it had made progress in restoring the flow of fuel.


4. The Biden administration moved to repeal a Trump rule that weakened the government’s ability to curb air pollution and combat climate change.

The regulation curbed the power of the E.P.A. by distorting the cost of reducing air pollution. Its repeal will take effect within 30 days.

Environmental activists praised the move. “Americans can now expect stronger clean air and climate safeguards without unnecessary bureaucratic delays,” said the clean air director of an environmental group.


5. Mysterious episodes that caused brain injuries have affected over 130 U.S. personnel in the past five years, far more than previously known.

The Biden administration has begun more aggressively investigating the cases involving spies, diplomats, soldiers and others, many of which occurred in China and Cuba. Above, the U.S. embassy in Havana, where the illness struck first in 2016.

Evidence has emerged that points to Russia in some cases, but the intelligence agencies have not concluded any cause or whether a foreign power is involved.


For most of this century, the Knicks have been defined by a carousel of coaches, public drama, underachieving players and late-spring vacations. Since the 2000-1 season, they have made the playoffs only five times, and won just one series so far.

The W.N.B.A. begins its 25th season tomorrow with the returns of some big-name veterans and the debuts of promising rookies. Our reporters tell you what to expect.


7. These seven films paint a portrait of America in all its contradictions, inconsistencies and outright delusions.

A.O. Scott, a New York Times critic at large, wrote about his movie education. While moviegoing isn’t a civic duty, he writes, it can feel like a ritual of American citizenship. And it’s how many Americans learn as much about life as they do from teachers and parents.

From “Thelma & Louise” to “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the seven movies, taken together, suggest a syllabus to what Americans have aspired to be, should have been and never really were.

8. For Harlem churches, cutting out music was never an option.

The pandemic was the first time that many of Harlem’s church choirs were not able to sing together, in person, on Sundays. To bring back music last fall, Bethel Gospel Assembly created small pods of singers that would spread out in the sanctuary.

Listen to a recording of the choir performing the pastor’s favorite hymn, “It Is Well,” during a recent rehearsal. To transport you into this church, we built a 3-D model of its sanctuary and embedded 3-D audio in it, something we’ve never done before for The Times website.

We also have live coverage of the first debate in the New York mayor’s race this evening.


9. Eid Mubarak, friends!

The poet and writer Kima Jones uses Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan, to connect to herself, to her ancestors and to her family through food. She and three of her sisters in faith shared family recipes that make the holiday special, like the oxtail dish above.

“Our Eid menu is our collective gift to you,” writes Jones. “I am sharing my mother’s oxtail recipe because, like all of the other recipes, it was invented and passed through the maternal line.”


10. And finally, matchmaking for bugs.

We humans have Tinder and eHarmony. But for one ant species, sterile worker ants seem to serve as matchmakers by physically carrying their royal sisters to neighboring nests. A new study has found that this allows queens-to-be to mate with unrelated male ants and avoid inbreeding.

“This is quite exciting,” said a co-author of the study. “It’s the first case of this assisted mate choice and assisted outbreeding that we have in animals.”

Though these workers are tiny, they have been observed carrying the queens up to almost 50 feet from home before dropping off their sisters at the entrance of a foreign nest.

Have a pleas-ant evening.


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