Omicron, Iran, Stephen Sondheim: Your weekend briefing

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Here are the top stories of the week and a look ahead.

1. A new coronavirus variant has turned the world upside down: Omicron.

Countries around the world are making efforts to stop the spread after the WHO identified Omicron as a “variant of concern,” its most serious category. According to the WHO, the variant, first discovered in southern Africa, carries a number of genetic mutations that could enable it to spread quickly, possibly even among those vaccinated. However, scientists say vaccines are likely to work against this.

Omicron has been spotted in Hong Kong and Belgium and could be in other countries outside of Africa as well. Germany, Italy and the UK reported cases yesterday. African officials proposed against new travel bans, saying the continent is once again bearing the brunt of panic politics in western countries and vaccine hoarding has helped pave the way into this crisis.

2. Despite great victories, democrats struggle to strengthen their base.

Even as President Biden clinches some victories like the $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, Democrats warned that many of their most loyal supporters see inaction on key party priorities such as voting rights, immigration, and criminal law reform. As a result, the party base is dissatisfied and unmotivated ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

Growing frustration has sparked an electoral strategy debate that has raged within the party since 2016.

Biden’s approval ratings slipped by the mid-1940s, even though practically all of his laws were supported by a majority in the same polls. Nate Cohn explains the breakup.


3. Israel and Iran have been waging covert cyber warfare against each other’s military for years. Now the shadow war is expanding and affecting millions of ordinary citizens.

In the past few weeks, a cyber attack on the Iranian fuel distribution system paralyzed the country’s 4,300 gas stations. It took 12 days for service to fully restore. A few days later, cyber attacks in Israel hit a major medical facility and a popular LGBTQ dating site. The recent attacks are believed to be the first to cause great damage to large numbers of civilians.

With hopes of a revival of the Iranian nuclear deal fading ahead of talks due to begin tomorrow in Vienna, such attacks are likely to only intensify.

Separately, Iran violently cracked down on protests against growing water shortages. Weather experts say 97 percent of the country is grappling with water scarcity.


4. Hondurans have voted in what may be their country’s most significant elections in more than a decade.

Voters will elect a new president, a political competition overshadowed by violence that is being closely watched in Washington. Polls show a close race between Nasry Asfura, 63, a charismatic mayor, and Xiomara Castro, leader of a major protest movement and wife of a former president. If elected, she could become the country’s first female head of state.

The outcome could have ramifications for the Biden government, which is focused on controlling immigration and fighting corruption in Central America.

In Brasil, Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has fought back a spate of corruption and is making a comeback ahead of next year’s presidential campaign.


6. For years, Uber’s secret service has been operating behind the scenes. Then a former employee accused his colleagues of illegal activity.

Uber, like many other tech companies, has recruited a team of former CIA officials, law enforcement officers, and cybersecurity experts to gather intelligence about the threats and competition the company is facing. But in 2017 one of the team members turned against the others, accusing them of stealing trade secrets, wiretapping and destroying evidence. Four years later, he withdrew the allegations and admitted that they were not true.

Flooded with other scandals, Uber had denied the allegations but failed to rectify the file on behalf of the intelligence team. Some of the men involved spoke to The Times for the first time about this chapter in their careers and its aftermath.

7. Brian Shelton may be the first person to be cured of type 1 diabetes. Diabetes experts were astonished, but cautioned.

Shelton was the first patient to receive an infusion of laboratory-grown cells that produce insulin. Now your body automatically controls its insulin and blood sugar levels. The study continues, but the results so far give experts hope for the 1.5 million Americans living with the disease.

“It’s a whole new life,” Shelton said. “It’s like a miracle.”


8. From turkey to latkes.

Hanukkah starts tonight, and while there will be plenty of potato pancakes this week, Joan Nathan suggests this one-pot matzo ball stew. During her long career as a writer on Jewish cuisine, Nathan focused on finding lost recipes. But the inspiration for this recipe came from a group of mothers who shared recipes in the playground. We have many other recipes, even.

9. When winter approaches, there is at least one place where plants still grow: a terrarium.

With these miniature landscapes you can expand your houseplant collection far beyond typical houseplants. The first thing to keep in mind when building your own is that the same rules apply to these miniature gardens that apply to maintaining your outdoor garden, writes our gardening expert Margaret Roach.

You know you’ve built a good terrarium when you “feel like you can live here,” says a terrarium designer.

For more inspiration, these are not your traditional Christmas wreaths. T Magazine spoke to a new generation of florists who are creating garlands of dried flowers, herbs and grasses.



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