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Omicron, Michigan, Gifts: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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

1. Omicron is spreading more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant in South Africa.

Scientists said that Omicron’s rapid spread resulted from a combination of contagiousness and an ability to dodge the body’s immune defenses. Omicron can also partly dodge immunity gained from a previous infection, some of the researchers said.

It’s still unclear to what degree Omicron may evade protection conferred by the current vaccines.

In Norway, an office Christmas party for only vaccinated employees may become an Omicron-spreading event after one guest who recently returned from South Africa was found to be carrying the new variant. Around half of the people who attended have tested positive for the virus, and between 15 and 20 of those cases were likely to be the Omicron variant.

2. At least 10 states in the U.S. have identified cases of the Omicron variant, from New York to Hawaii.

Senior U.S. health officials sought to reassure an anxious public that the federal government was doing all it could to track and slow the spread. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., said the nation was better equipped to fight the virus than it was a year ago. We are tracking Omicron cases in the U.S. and worldwide.

3. The parents of the teenager accused of shooting four students in Michigan have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

In a rare step, the Oakland County prosecutor announced the four manslaughter charges against each of the accused gunman’s parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, and detailed a litany of missed opportunities to prevent the shooting at Oxford High School.

School officials told the suspect’s parents during a meeting on the morning of the shooting that they were required to seek counseling for their son. The parents did not want him to be removed from school, and they did not ask him whether he had with him the handgun that they had bought for him days before, the prosecutor said.

Law enforcement officials said that the parents had gone missing, but lawyers for the parents said the Crumbleys had left town for their own safety and were returning to be arraigned.

4. The November jobs report sent mixed signals about the U.S. economy.

U.S. employers added 210,000 jobs in November, far below expectations of a 550,000-job gain and a sharp slowdown from October. In response, stocks on Wall Street slid as market turbulence triggered by the Omicron variant continued.

But the report also showed that the unemployment rate dropped, and the overall participation rate, which measures the proportion of Americans who either have jobs or are looking for one, rose to its healthiest level since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the number of jobs added was below expectations, the report showed an economy on the right track, our senior economics correspondent writes.


5. Retail theft across the U.S. is on the rise and has become more visible, brazen and violent in recent months.

Some recent robberies were carried out by large groups who rushed into stores, overwhelmed employees and fled in cars before the police could respond.

“This level of violence has taken it to a whole new level,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association. “No one has seen this before.” Retail executives and security experts say the incidents are linked to the ease of reselling stolen goods on Amazon and Facebook.


6. The new Taliban leaders in Afghanistan are rewarding their fighters with property.

Soon after the Taliban takeover on Aug. 15, the new government told a thousand families to leave their homes in Kandahar city. Some described being expelled at gunpoint in the night.

Those who fled or were forcibly removed were quickly replaced with Taliban commanders and fighters. Thousands of Afghans are facing such traumatic dislocations as the Taliban government uses property to compensate its fighters.

Separately, after five days of talks in Vienna on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, diplomats from Britain, France and Germany said that the new hard-line government in Iran was proposing unacceptable changes and that without a shift in Tehran’s stance, there was little possibility of success.


7. For one couple, fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. Or rather, right outside.

Bill Jacobs and his wife, Lynn Jacobs, don’t have a lawn. Their house on Long Island is barely visible thanks to a riot of flora — milkweeds, asters, elderberry, mountain mint, joe-pye weed, goldenrods, white snakeroot and ironweed — that they grow instead.

They believe that humans can both help repair the world and achieve a sort of spiritual transcendence that comes with reconnecting with nature.

In Brazil, climate change is intensifying droughts, turning much of the country’s northeast into a desert. Things are becoming worse.


8. Still hunting for gifts? Here are the 71 best books to give this season.

You can’t go wrong with a cookbook. These seven selections can guide you through flan, a whole fried fish, savory dumplings, Swiss almond cookies and more. Or fulfill a travel fix by gifting a book that chronicles a journey to track snow leopards in Tibet and or a trip along the Magdalena River in Colombia.

Elsewhere in holiday delight, take five minutes to fall in love — with the organ. A selection from organists, editors, critics and composers will convince you to appreciate the grandeur and colors of the organ — a full orchestra in a single instrument. Find the entire playlist on Spotify.


9. Painting the portrait of Elijah E. Cummings was a career changer.

The congressman’s official portrait was painted posthumously by the artist Jerrell Gibbs, and it will be enshrined for posterity in the Capitol, where fewer than 20 of the hundreds of portraits there are of Black leaders.

Gibbs, 33, who only started painting six years ago, was chosen for his “ability to give his subjects a discernible inner life,” said Christopher Bedford, who was on the committee that selected Gibbs.

The boldly brushed portrait will be on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art from Dec. 22 to Jan. 9 before it heads to the Capitol.


10. And finally, a teenager finds buried treasure. For real.

It was 13-year-old Milly Hardwick’s third day out with a metal detector in Royston, England, and she had not found a single item. But just after lunch, Milly stumbled upon a hoard of 65 items that included a 3,000-year-old ax. Not bad for her first find.

“We were just laughing our heads off,” said Milly, who was searching with her father and grandfather. A local committee confirmed that they had found items believed to be from the Bronze Age, when the first metal weapons and jewelry began to appear in Britain, and when people were buried with such items in individual graves.

Have a rewarding evening.


Eve Edelheit and David Poller compiled photos for this briefing.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at briefing@nytimes.com.

Here are today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

And a correction: Yesterday’s Evening Briefing featured an article on an exoplanet, GJ 367 b, that misstated the orbital period around its star. It is 7.7 hours, not days. GJ 367 b is also among the lightest exoplanets discovered, not the lightest.

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