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Omicron, Michigan, Rockefeller Center: Your Weekend Briefing

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Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.

1. Omicron has plunged the world into collective uncertainty.

The highly mutated variant of the coronavirus has reached more than 40 countries and has been detected in 12 U.S. states. According to scientists in South Africa, Omicron appears to spread faster than any other variant, thanks to a combination of contagiousness and an ability to dodge the body’s immune defenses. But the contribution of each factor is not yet certain.

2. The parents of a Michigan teenager accused of fatally shooting four classmates were arrested after a manhunt.

The couple, James and Jennifer Crumbley, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges. Officials said their 15-year-old son, Ethan Crumbley, carried out the shootings at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit using a handgun his parents had bought for him.

The Crumbleys, who had failed to show up for their arraignment and apparently fled town, were taken into custody yesterday in a commercial building in Detroit after the police received a tip. “They did not resist,” Detroit’s police chief said, describing the couple as “distressed.”

The actions of Oxford High School officials are also under a microscope, prompting questions about the school’s responsibility. School officials let Ethan Crumbley back into a classroom despite concerns about his behavior.


3. President Biden will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin this week, days after U.S. intelligence revealed that Russia was preparing a possible invasion of Ukraine.

An unclassified U.S. intelligence document details plans that Moscow has drawn up for a military offensive involving an estimated 175,000 troops as soon as early next year. Experts say Ukraine’s military would stand little chance.

U.S. officials stress that Putin’s intentions remain unclear and the intelligence does not show that he has decided to carry out the apparent war plan. But about half of the Russian forces that would be used in an invasion are already near Ukraine’s border. The video call on Tuesday comes as US.-Russian relations have been spiraling downward.

4. The star anchor Chris Cuomo was fired by CNN over his efforts to help his brother, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, fight off a sexual harassment scandal.

The move came just days after a new batch of testimony and text messages released by the New York attorney general revealed that the CNN anchor had played a bigger role in his brother’s political affairs than the network said it had previously known.

The announcement completed a stunning downfall for Chris Cuomo, the top-rated anchor at CNN who had built a successful broadcast career outside of his famed political family. Andrew Cuomo resigned as governor of New York in August, unable to withstand a barrage of sexual harassment allegations.


5. The Mississippi abortion case brings into sharp focus shifting and competing conceptions of the Supreme Court’s role.

For decades, conservatives have argued that Roe v. Wade amounted to judicial activism and was not a right found in the Constitution. Now, after nearly half a century of precedent, the argument may have come full circle. Many liberals say that overturning Roe would amount to flagrant political activism. Both arguments are grounded in concerns about the court’s legitimacy.

In The Times Magazine, the writer Merritt Tierce reflects on the abortion she never had: “It was traumatic for me to become a mother when I did, and I want to be able to acknowledge that openly, without that acknowledgment’s operating as some kind of hex on my son’s life.”


6. A drug empire is flourishing in the ruins of Syria’s decade-long war.

An investigation by The Times found that an illegal drug industry in Syria has grown into a multibillion-dollar operation, eclipsing legal exports and turning the country into the world’s newest narcostate.

Powerful associates and relatives of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, are making and selling an illegal amphetamine called captagon. The drug is now the country’s most valuable export, far surpassing legal products. Last year, the street value of the captagon seized globally may have been as high as $2.9 billion.

In Europe, the Belgian port city of Antwerp is grappling with a flood of cocaine blamed for a surge in violence. Customs officers in Antwerp are on track to intercept 100 tons of cocaine this year — an amount equal to about twice the volume seized in the whole of the European Union 10 years ago.


7. The percentage of U.S. workers leaving their jobs is historically high. Many are saying “I quit” loud and proud.

People are celebrating their resignations in Instagram reels or “QuitToks” and tweeting screenshots of texts to their bosses declaring they have quit. Even chief executives are making public displays of resignation. Last week, the head of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, shared on his own platform that he was stepping down.

If quitters think they can punch back at their old bosses without alienating future employers, they might be right. The supply-demand curve of the labor market is working in their favor.


8. For two decades, Correll Jones has been the man to ask about New York’s most famous tree — and where to find the public bathrooms.

Jones is the main greeter at Rockefeller Center. His company-issued business card reflects his status: “C.J. mayor of Rockefeller Center.” And each winter, as countless visitors arrive to see the Christmas tree, Jones essentially becomes its concierge. To him, it’s “the best job in the world.”

While New Yorkers may hate crowds during the holidays, they have bigger problems to deal with these days: a schmear shortage. Supply chain problems that have hit businesses across the country are threatening the quintessential New York treat of a fresh bagel with cream cheese.


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