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Vaccine Mandate, Voting Rights, N.F.L. Playoffs: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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

1. The Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers, dealing a blow to a key part of the White House’s Covid strategy.

The court allowed a more modest mandate, requiring vaccinations for health care workers at facilities receiving federal money. The employer mandate would have required workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or wear masks and be tested weekly. Parts of the rule, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued in November, had been scheduled to take effect on Monday.

The ruling came as the White House was ramping up its response to the surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant. Biden said he was directing his staff to purchase an additional 500 million at-home tests, bringing the total number of promised tests to one billion. But it is unclear when the tests will be available.

The president also announced that the administration was sending military medical personnel to six states to help hospitals tackle the surge.

2. President Biden’s push for new voting rights laws hit a major obstacle when Senator Kyrsten Sinema said she would not support changes to the filibuster to enact the legislation.

Sinema, a key Democrat, said that while she backed the two new measures, she believed that a unilateral move to weaken the Senate filibuster would foster growing division. Her comments came after the House approved the voting rights bills along party lines, hurriedly sending the legislation to the Senate to force a showdown over the measures and the reach of the filibuster.

A sweeping 2021 law in Georgia is one of a handful of Republican-backed measures to restrict voter access. Despite a legal challenge from the Justice Department, state legislators are now considering several new measures focused on ballot access and fraud investigations.


3. The leader of the Oath Keepers militia was charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol riot.

The F.B.I.’s arrest of Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right group, marked the first time that prosecutors had filed charges of sedition in the investigation of the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper who went on to earn a law degree at Yale, has been under investigation for his role in the riot since at least last spring.

Separately, Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, said he would refuse to cooperate with the House committee investigating the attack after the panel requested to interview him.


4. A German court convicted a Syrian ex-officer of crimes against humanity, in one of the world’s first criminal trials on atrocities in Syria’s war.

Anwar Raslan, the highest-ranking Syrian official to be held accountable for abuses during the country’s war, was sentenced to life in prison. A former security officer, Raslan was accused of overseeing a detention center where prosecutors said at least 4,000 people were tortured and nearly 60 were killed. He had been living in Germany since 2014.

An international network of lawyers, activists and war survivors have struggled for years to bring Syrian officials to justice. President Bashar al-Assad and his senior advisers avoid traveling to places where they might be arrested. It’s unlikely that they will stand trial soon.


5. Prince Andrew was stripped of his military titles and royal charities as a sexual abuse case proceeds against him.

Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, has been accused by Virginia Giuffre of raping her when she was a teenager — a charge he denies — during a period in which he was friendly with Jeffrey Epstein.

The stinging rebuke by the British royal family came a day after a federal judge in New York allowed the case to go ahead. Buckingham Palace said that Andrew, 61, would not “undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”

The palace also said Andrew, who is known as the Duke of York, would no longer be referred to as “His Royal Highness” in any official capacity.

6. Doctors are divided over new guidelines that say teenagers should undergo mental health screenings before receiving hormones or gender surgeries.

The guidelines, developed by an international group of experts focused on transgender health, say that adolescents must undergo psychological assessments and that they must have questioned their gender identity for “several years” before receiving drugs or surgeries. The 350-page document, which informs what insurers will reimburse for care, removed such language for adults.

Experts in transgender health are divided on the recommendations for teenagers, reflecting a debate over how to weigh conflicting risks for young people. The public is invited to comment on the guidelines until Sunday. A final version is expected by spring.


7. “We go through our life with the mute button on our nose. Turn off that mute button. Listen with your nose.”

Intuitively, humans know to avoid bad smells. Yet for a half-century, Chuck McGinley has returned again and again to the stinkiest places in order to measure, describe and demystify smell. Inventions like the Nasal Ranger, a smell-measuring device, and an odor wheel, which helps people find the right terms — like nutty, eucalyptus, hot electric or tingle — help categorize what people are smelling.

McGinley is not only the go-to guy for helping people name that weird stench coming from down the street. His inventions have taken on a powerful role in a movement to recognize odor as a pollutant, worthy of closer study and perhaps tighter regulation.


8. Behind every great quarterback is his offensive coordinator.

Heading into the N.F.L. playoffs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank second in the league in scoring, in large part because Byron Leftwich adapts the offense to the playmakers who revolve around Tom Brady, their star quarterback. This season, Leftwich has altered his play calls to get the most out of its hodgepodge of stars, injury replacements and holdovers, sometimes calling Brady late in the evenings to vet designs and adjustments to plays.

“You can’t call plays for a guy unless you know a guy,” Leftwich said. “You can’t.”

The postseason’s first weekend starts on Saturday with the third matchup between the Patriots and the Bills, and for the Cardinals and the Rams.

9. These animated movies for adults are generating Oscar buzz.

Since the inception of the best animated feature Oscar category in 2001, the Academy has sporadically celebrated mature works alongside box-office powerhouses. This awards season is no exception. The current batch of contenders showcases storytelling with emotional substance, tackling grown-up matters with idiosyncratic visual flair.

Among them is “Belle,” from the Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda, which follows a high school student as she journeys into a virtual world and finds herself amid cute, kooky and menacing fellow users. “Colors and hearts explode in ‘Belle,’ and your head might too while watching this gorgeous anime,” writes our film critic Manohla Dargis.


10. And finally, one fish, two fish, everywhere an icefish.

The Polarstern research ship had come to the Weddell Sea to study other things in the Antarctic waters when the vessel’s camera picked up an icefish nest the size of a hula hoop. Then, another, and another, revealing an uninterrupted horizon of icefish nests every 20 seconds. “It just didn’t stop,” one researcher said. “They were everywhere.”

The sighting in February 2021, it turns out, was the largest fish breeding colony ever discovered. Scientists estimate that the icefish colony stretches across 92 square miles, with a total of 60 million active nests. Many had males standing guard to protect eggs from lurking predators.

Have a serendipitous night.


Bryan Denton compiled photos for this briefing.

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

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