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Travel, Astroworld, Elon Musk: Your Monday Evening Briefing

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

1. “Her fingers, her touch, her kiss.”

It was a day of joyous reunions for vaccinated Europeans and others who were allowed to travel to the U.S. after 18 months of missed anniversaries, births, weddings and funerals.

“You can make daily calls, stay connected by FaceTime, but you want to experience her fingers, her touch, her kiss,” said Nirmit Shelat, who greeted his girlfriend, Jolly Dave, at Newark’s Liberty International Airport for the first time since last winter after her 16-hour flight from India.

2. Before the Astroworld tragedy, the rapper Travis Scott’s “raging” — whipping up mosh pits, crowd-surfers and stage-divers — made him a star.

Then eight people died during his performance in Houston on Friday. Authorities are still investigating what caused the surges in the audience of 50,000 and how that contributed to the “mass casualty event,” which lasted for an estimated 40 minutes, according to law enforcement.

Twice before, Scott has been arrested and accused of inciting riots at his concerts, pleading guilty to minor charges. In an ongoing civil case, one concertgoer said he was partly paralyzed in 2017 after Scott encouraged people to jump from a third-floor balcony and then had him hoisted onstage.

The Houston police chief said that on the day of the show, he visited Scott in his trailer and shared his concerns about the crowd.

Housing investments including assistance to first-time home buyers and money for developing new units were cut by half, to about $150 billion. As much as $25 billion could go to replace lead service lines that can cause toxic drinking water, well short of the $45 billion President Biden originally proposed and $60 billion sought by industry experts.

And a proposal that would have invested $20 billion to reconnect Black and Latino communities that were split by highways was cut to $1 billion.

4. Romania now has the world’s highest Covid death rate.

On Tuesday, nearly 600 Romanians died, the most during the pandemic. The country’s death rate relative to population is almost seven times as high as in the U.S., and almost 17 times as high as Germany’s.

An Orthodox Church bishop’s anti-vaccine clarion call, echoed by prominent politicians, influential voices on the internet and many others, helps explain why. Around 44 percent of adults have had at least one dose, the second-lowest share in Europe.

The country’s history of communism has also made many people suspicious of what officials and doctors tell them to do. And, said Valeriu Ghorghita, an army colonel leading Romania’s vaccination effort, “Fake news has a huge influence on our population, and in Eastern Europe in general.”

5. Redistricting, explained.

With an extremely slim Democratic margin in the House of Representatives this year, redrawing voting maps in a few key states could determine control of Congress in 2022. And the new maps will last for a decade.

But in most states, redrawing the districts is done by state lawmakers, who have a built-in bias to cluster voters — subtly or egregiously — in a way that advances a political goal.

Our Politics reporters have teamed up to give you a visual, interactive way of understanding redistricting.

6. The cost of heating your home this winter could be almost double a year ago.

Several factors — lower global fuel inventories, incentives for producers to let prices rise, and a mismatch between supply and demand as economies emerge from the pandemic — may combine to push bills higher.

That’s regardless of how severe the winter is. In the U.S., the winter months account for about 50 percent to 80 percent of residential fuel consumption.

The increase is sure to hover over debates about inflation in Washington, which is already moving to offer homeowners relief. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program received $4.5 billion in additional emergency grants this year.

7. Barack Obama, who helped seal the Paris climate accord, arrived at the Glasgow talks to cheers from delegates and pushback from some activists.

In an address, the former president rallied nations to heal the planet, saying that “we are nowhere near where we need to be,” while quoting Shakespeare on the pace of progress: “What wound, he writes, did ever heal but by degrees?” He received a standing ovation, but some activists criticized the U.S. for not helping poor countries address climate change.

In the final week of the U.N. conference, attendees were sharply divided over how much progress is being made. “There’s a lot of good talk and less real action,” said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a research institute based in Kenya.

8. How to decide whether to sell stock? Elon Musk asked the Twittersphere.

The Tesla chief executive took to Twitter over the weekend to ask followers whether he should sell 10 percent of his stock. After 3.5 million votes, “yes” had 58 percent of the tally. Musk had said he would abide by the poll.

He owns 17 percent of Tesla’s shares, which at its current stock price would be worth about $200 billion. That means he pledged to sell roughly $20 billion worth, a sale that could roil Tesla’s stock. Today, the shares fell 5 percent.

Either way, Musk may soon need to sell a big chunk of his shares: nearly 23 million stock options that will expire in August 2022. Musk would owe income taxes when he exercises the grant, which at current prices would be worth just under $30 billion. That tax bill could top $10 billion.

9. Van Morrison and the pandemic.

The 76-year-old musician, who was born in Belfast and knighted in 2016, has dismissed the coronavirus pandemic as media hype.

In June, he denounced Northern Ireland’s health minister from a concert stage, saying the minister’s Covid-19 restrictions were “very dangerous,” and one of his protest songs claimed that scientists were “making up crooked facts” about the virus.

Now, the health minister, Robin Swann, has sued Van Morrison for defamation. A trial is expected early next year.

10. And finally, the hermits that predated the hermit crab.

A study published today suggests that the practice of hiding out in borrowed shells dates back hundreds of millions of years before the hermit crab.

The early hermits were priapulan worms — carnivorous, ocean mud-dwellers commonly known as penis worms, according to the study. The finding suggests that sea life in the Cambrian period, more than 500 million years ago, was more complex than previously thought.

“They’re a neat group of animals with an unfortunate name,” the author of the study said.

Have a cozy evening.

Yeong-Ung Yang and Laurence Tan compiled photos for this briefing.

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

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