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Winter Covid, Mexico, Exoplanets: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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

1. President Biden laid out his plan to battle Covid-19 this winter as the world confronts another worrisome variant.

The strategy includes hundreds of vaccination sites aimed at families, boosters for all adults, new testing requirements for international travelers and free at-home tests that will be covered by private insurers or available at community health centers.

2. The new variant has already curtailed travel, just as the global economy was rebounding. It could knock a fragile recovery off course.

According to one forecasting firm, a virulent, vaccine-resistant strain could send the economy into a tailspin, while a mild one could allow the recovery to get back on track. Its broader impact isn’t likely to be known for several weeks.

We visited a shipping terminal in Kansas that reveals the fundamental problem in the chaos of the global supply chain — no one can plan, and no one is sure what will happen next.

3. With the Supreme Court now looking likely to weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade, activists and both political parties are mobilizing for a new political reality.

Democrats are worried that they may soon face a more urgent state-by-state fight and are planning new drives to take control of statehouses. But the issue could give new resonance to their arguments that a Democratic Congress is needed to protect access and seat judges who are not hostile to abortion rights.

For opponents of abortion, a win could embolden their socially conservative supporters across the country. Activists said that there would be more to push for on a policy level, such as restricting access to abortion-inducing medication online.

4. The Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” asylum policy is set to resume.

The U.S. and Mexico reached a deal to restart it, following a judge’s order. The program requires certain migrants to wait in Mexico until American immigration officials decide their cases.

The Biden administration had tried to end the program but it was forced to restart it under a court order. Doing so required the cooperation of the Mexican government, which had been reluctant to do so without commitments to address humanitarian issues.

In other news from Washington, the House approved a deal to keep the government funded through mid-February, but a group of Senate Republicans are threatening to block it over vaccine mandates. Unanimity in the Senate would be needed to hit a midnight deadline on Friday.

6. Supporters of the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai are finding creative ways to voice their frustration.

Fans have started to use obscure references online to talk about Peng, who disappeared from public life after posting sexual assault allegations against a former top Chinese official. Instead of using her Chinese name or the details of her allegations, some people have evaded censors with phrases like “the spat” or “huge melon” (the Chinese metaphor for a bombshell).

The International Olympic Committee had its second video call with Peng on Thursday, but officials did not release details.

In other sports news, for the first time in nearly three decades, baseball is in a work stoppage after the owners of the M.L.B.’s 30 clubs and the players failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

7. What does it mean to save a neighborhood?

Nearly a decade after Hurricane Sandy, residents of Lower Manhattan are still vulnerable to rising seas. The fight over a plan to protect them reveals why progress on our most critical infrastructure challenges around the country remains so hard.

“Incrementalism is how we think about progress today,” Michael Kimmelman, our architecture critic, writes. “The question is: Are there other ways to think about it?”

The story kicks off Headway, a new initiative at The Times exploring big challenges: clean water, extreme poverty, H.I.V. and more. The first series from the Headway team examines the lessons of hindsight. Take our Hindsight quiz to see how well you read the tea leaves.

8. One composer, four players, 80 minutes and a smattering of percussion.

Andy Akiho is an increasingly in-demand composer who rose as a steel pan virtuoso. But his new work, “Seven Pillars,” is a breakthrough for him in its length — 80 minutes — and its conceptual complexity. The 11-part piece, which includes a customized table of tuned metal pipes, a glockenspiel and a marimba, “is pretty much as pure as music gets,” Zachary Woolfe, our classical music editor, writes. The result is “a lush, brooding celebration of noise.”

And, if you’re in New York, check out the posthumous exhibit from the philosopher-artist Etel Adnan at the Guggenheim, a new show at the Brooklyn Museum that examines Andy Warhol’s relationship with Catholicism and the Carrie Mae Weems showcase “The Shape of Things” at the Park Avenue Armory.

9. With less than a month left in the year, we’re starting to reflect on 2021. There was a lot to laugh and cry over — and an emoji for both.

Tears of joy prevailed as the most-used emoji in 2021, according to data from a digital text consortium. To the people who create and study emojis, the persistence of tears of joy, also known as the laughing-crying emoji, comes as no surprise.

Our critics are also starting to round up their best of 2021 lists. Here are their favorite podcasts, dance performances, jazz albums and wine books. When it came to the best albums across all genres, the ones with big feelings and room for catharsis made the most powerful connections.

10. And finally, the featherweight champion of exoplanets.

Astronomers have discovered the lightest exoplanet to date, a tiny world designated GJ 367 b, with about half the mass of the Earth. The exoplanet — the term for planets around other star systems — zips around its parent star in a speedy 7.7 days and is unusually dense, appearing to be made of almost pure iron.

The discovery offers scientists a way to study how worlds closer to stars form. The lightweight entity’s existence challenges aspects of planetary formation theories and could be hinting that miniature worlds come in a much wider diversity than previously believed. One scientist described the findings as “mind-blowing.” Another: “It’s a weird ball.”

Have an out-of-this-world night.

Eve Edelheit 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.

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