Your Friday Briefing

Those over 60 would be eligible for a fourth shot in Israel.Credit…Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Israel weighs a fourth dose of a vaccine

Israel is considering whether to approve a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose for those over age 60, the immunocompromised and health care workers to contain the fast-spreading Omicron variant, despite debate among scientists and a lack of evidence about another booster.

Though there is not much scientific data, the pandemic response advisers concluded that the potential benefits outweighed the risks, pointing to signs of waning immunity a few months after the third shot and arguing that a delay in additional vaccine doses might prove too late to protect those most at risk. Fourth doses could be given as soon as Sunday.

“The price will be higher if we don’t vaccinate,” Dr. Boaz Lev, the head of the advisory panel, said at a news conference late Wednesday. But other members of the panel worried about a diminished immunological response in older people after multiple vaccinations within a short period of time.

Context: Israel was among the first countries to offer its residents a third shot, starting over the summer, and it would be well ahead of other nations in administering a fourth dose.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Spain introduced an outdoor mask mandate after the country reported almost 50,000 new coronavirus cases, its highest ever daily total.

  • The F.D.A. authorized a second Covid pill for high-risk adults, this one from Merck, but said doctors should use the more effective Pfizer treatment if available.

  • Omicron has driven up the number of cases in the U.S. past Delta’s peak.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, at his annual news conference on Thursday.Credit…Yuri Kochetkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

Putin demands quick answers on Russian security

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, speaking at his annual news conference, sounded a positive note about forthcoming security talks with the U.S., which he said would be held in Geneva in January. But he refused to take the threat of war against Ukraine off the table, saying that Moscow was merely defending historically Russian territories.

“It was the United States that came with its missiles to our home, to the doorstep of our home,” Putin said in response to a British reporter’s question as to whether he would rule out an attack on Ukraine. “And you demand from me some guarantees. You should give us guarantees. You! And right away, right now.”

Last week, Russia published what many saw as an ultimatum: draft agreements with the U.S. and NATO that would ban the alliance from expanding to include former Soviet nations such as Ukraine, or from conducting any military activity there. NATO quickly rejected the most far-reaching demands.

Related: The Pentagon plans to provide Ukraine with battlefield intelligence that could help the country respond to a possible Russian invasion, officials said.

A Greek Coast Guard ship on patrol in the Aegean Sea in July.Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

A deadly migrant boat crash in the Aegean Sea

In the second deadly episode of people-smuggling off the shores of Greece this week, at least four people have died trying to cross the Aegean Sea after a boat carrying migrants struck an islet, Greek authorities said. About 90 people were stranded by the crash. Greece remains a key route for migrants, though arrivals have dropped sharply in recent years.

The authorities, alerted to the accident when the migrants called the 112 European emergency number, sent two vessels and a helicopter to the scene. But dark and windy conditions hindered the rescue effort, leaving unclear when the migrants could be pulled from the islet to safety.

Elsewhere in the Aegean, rescue teams searched to no avail for additional survivors from the crash late Tuesday of a migrant boat off the island of Folegandros that killed at least three people and left dozens unaccounted for. Thirteen people survived that crash.

Tragedies: The deaths come just a month after 27 people died in an attempt to cross the English Channel to Britain from France — and in a week in which at least 70 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya.


Around the World

Credit…Mujib Mashal/The New York Times
  • Over five desperate days, more than 120 Times employees and family members barely made it out of Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover earlier this year. It required an unsettling collaboration.

  • The Canadian government will compensate Indigenous people billions of dollars for the decades that many have lived with dirty water, and it will also fund the cleanup.

  • An Australian landowner and two companies have been hit with hundreds of animal cruelty charges after a land-clearing operation in southwest Victoria last year led to the deaths of 70 koalas.

  • Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister, said the country would support an Iran nuclear pact. It may be because he thinks a deal is unlikely.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times
  • The Fed’s preferred inflation gauge — the Personal Consumption Expenditures price index — climbed at the fastest pace in nearly four decades to 5.7 percent in November from a year earlier.

  • After more than two decades of development, NASA’s next flagship observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, is gearing up for its launch to space on Saturday morning — finally.

  • Amazon agreed to let warehouse employees in the U.S. more easily organize in the workplace as part of a nationwide settlement.

What Else Is Happening

  • Officials in Virginia opened a time capsule that had been hidden beneath a monument to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

  • Tesla will stop letting drivers play video games in moving cars.

  • How do you catch a polar bear? The footprints usually give it away.

A Morning Read

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

From gruel to luxury apartments: The condo conversion of a workhouse near where a young Charles Dickens lived tells the story of London’s economic transformation.

Lives Lived

Joan Didion, a writer and journalist who established a distinctive voice in American fiction before turning to political reporting and screenplay writing, died yesterday at 87.

“She was our landscape,” the book critic Parul Sehgal writes in an appraisal. “She fashioned a style that was dominant, inescapable, catchy.”

Related: The Times Magazine looked back on the legacies and lives of people who died this year.


Credit…Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times

The upside of an epic takedown

Bros’, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the southern Italian city of Lecce, became a global target after a viral review that derided its food, décor and presentation — including a palate-cleansing mousse served in a ceramic cast of the chef’s open mouth. (Waiters instructed the diners to lick it out.)

The condescending three-page response — “What is a chef? What is a client? What is good taste? What looks beautiful? What is a man on a horse?” — from the chef, Floriano Pellegrino, invited only more scorn. Former kitchen staff members have since accused him of a general pattern of bullying behavior, including demanding push-ups as punishment.

Still, the glare of a harsh spotlight hasn’t been all bad, our correspondent Jason Horowitz writes. Casts of Pellegrino’s mouth, at 58 euros apiece, have sold out, and he plans to capitalize on the viral attention with a nonfungible token, or NFT, the blockchain-based collectible that is all the rage in the art world.

“This is a big opportunity,” Pellegrino said, adding that the review “only gave us publicity.” But he couldn’t help harboring raw feelings about the critique. He mused about whether the premillennial age of the diners made them too old-fashioned for his food — including his rancid take on “strong ricotta.”

“They had a good time making fun of us,” Pellegrino said. In a local trattoria, he added, the party “would have gotten a kick” in the behind.


What to Cook

Credit…Craig Lee for The New York Times

Three words: Eggnog. Crème. Brûlée.

What to Watch

“Parallel Mothers,” the newest Spanish-language feature from Pedro Almodóvar, conjures a brutal, beautiful world.


Research shows we radically underestimate the value of fun for our well-being. Here’s why it’s so important, and how to have more of it.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Small drinks (four letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. And a merry Christmas to those who are celebrating tomorrow.

I’ll see you on Monday. — Natasha

P.S. The Times has three Oscar contenders, including a video investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

“The Daily” is a special episode, “The Year in Sound.”

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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