Your Weekend Briefing

Gas Prices, Covid, Thanksgiving Recipes
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By Whet Moser

Writer/Editor, Briefings

Welcome to the Weekend Briefing. We're covering gas prices, protests over Covid restrictions in Europe and make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes.

Gas prices in San Francisco last week.Jason Henry for The New York Times

1. Gas prices and Covid are complicating Thanksgiving travel.

Millions of American drivers have acutely felt the recent surge in gas prices, which last month hit their highest level since 2014. The national average for a gallon of gas is $3.41, which is $1.29 more than it was a year ago.

Just 32 percent of Americans plan to drive for Thanksgiving, down from 35 percent last year, at the height of the pandemic, and 65 percent in 2019, according to a survey from the fuel savings platform GasBuddy.

Holiday travel brings far-flung people together, and respiratory viruses circulate easily. Experts are advising that mask mandates stay in place even as their end is in sight. "Maybe in February, we can say goodbye to masks," one researcher told The Times. The U.S. has made several moves over the past week to shift the course of the pandemic.

Protesting against Covid restrictions in Vienna on Saturday.Lisa Leutner/Associated Press

2. In Europe, again the pandemic's epicenter, new restrictions set off protests.

In Austria, which is averaging 10,000 cases a day, a lockdown begins tomorrow and a nationwide vaccination mandate is set to come into force in February. Austrians took to the streets yesterday in response. In Vienna, skirmishes with law enforcement officers broke out as thousands protested.

In Germany, where case numbers have soared in recent weeks, largely among children, teenagers and unvaccinated adults, some states with the highest levels of infection will also see lockdowns. Even Portugal, which has one of Europe's highest vaccination rates, is preparing to add restrictions.

Kyle Rittenhouse testified during his trial.Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

3. The Rittenhouse trial is over. The divisions remain.

Kyle Rittenhouse's friend, Dominick Black, faces two counts of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to a person under 18 causing death, and could face up to six years in prison if convicted. But Rittenhouse's acquittal helps his case, experts say — and highlights the failure of efforts to implement even modest new gun restrictions.

Attention now turns to the three men on trial for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia; closing arguments are scheduled for tomorrow. Though they chased him, they are claiming self-defense because, they say, Arbery tried to get control of a shotgun one of them was carrying. As with the Rittenhouse case, the trial raises questions of how self-defense laws will hold up as guns proliferate.

The House narrowly passed a $2 trillion spending bill on Friday.Tom Brenner for The New York Times

4. The House's approval of a sweeping social policy bill after weeks of fits and starts notched another win for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Her work isn't done, however. The Senate now gets a chance to reshape the measure, and Joe Manchin, the West Virginia senator, is still demanding major changes, such as the jettisoning of a new four-week paid family and medical leave program that Pelosi has made a top priority.

But Manchin has privately expressed an openness to embracing a costlier plan than the one he initially insisted upon, and the speaker now says she is confident that it will re-emerge from the Senate mostly intact.

How much does it cost? It's complicated.

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Elizabeth Holmes, left, arriving for her trial along with her mother.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

5. Elizabeth Holmes returns to the stand in the Theranos trial.

The 37-year-old founder of the failed blood testing start-up spent only an hour on the stand before the court closed on Friday. Her lawyers have argued that she was merely a young, naïve, ambitious founder who relied too much on others who gave her bad advice.

Holmes has been charged with 11 counts of defrauding investors about Theranos's business and what its technology could do.

Her lawyers indicated that her testimony is likely to take up Monday and Tuesday this week. That means that the prosecution's cross-examination, which is expected to be lengthy, won't begin until after Thanksgiving.

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Peng Shuai has won two Grand Slam women's doubles titles.Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

6. Where is Peng Shuai?

In a social media post earlier this month, the Chinese tennis star accused a former vice premier of sexually assaulting her. After the allegation, the Chinese government removed almost all references to Peng on social media within the country, and Peng disappeared from public life.

Yesterday, the editor of a state-run newspaper shared two questionable videos on Twitter of a person at a restaurant who appeared to be Peng. But the seemingly unnatural conversation in one video and the unclear location and dates of both raised questions about Peng's safety and whether she was appearing in the videos of her own free will.

The case has prompted the women's tennis tour to rethink its heavy focus on China, where it has threatened to pull events if it cannot verify that she is safe and that her allegations are investigated.

Hauling cobalt from a hand-dug hole in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April.Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times

7. A power struggle over cobalt is rattling the green energy revolution.

Cobalt is vital for electric vehicles and the push against climate change. Two-thirds of it comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the quest for the metal has demonstrated how the clean energy revolution is caught in a cycle of exploitation, an investigation by The Times found.

In particular, China and the U.S. are rivals in Congo in a new "Great Game" of sorts — and China is winning. Hunter Biden, the president's son, was a founding board member of a firm that helped China secure one of the world's largest cobalt deposits.

A roundabout in Carmel, Ind.AJ Mast for The New York Times

8. Drivers in Indiana are going in circles. It's safer, and better for the climate.

Carmel, Ind., has the most roundabouts in the country. The main reason is safety; compared with regular intersections, roundabouts significantly reduce injuries and deaths.

And because the city doesn't have red lights where cars sit and idle, burning gasoline, the cars of Carmel emit many fewer tons of planet-heating carbon emissions a year.

The reason that Carmel has so many roundabouts is Jim Brainard, the city's seven-term Republican mayor. When he studied at the University of Oxford in the 1980s, he became taken with European traffic flow. Brainard built Carmel's first roundabout in 1997. Now it has 140, with a dozen still to come.

Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

9. These 20 make-ahead recipes will save you on Thanksgiving.

A West African-inspired spicy peanut and pumpkin soup; rolls topped with everything-bagel seasoning; mushroom bread pudding; and, of course, casseroles. Putting these together before the holiday will save time and counter space. And you can top off any of them with this shallot and bread crumb crunch.

Hanukkah follows right on Thanksgiving's heels this year, and lemon curd, chocolate cake and Greek honey cookies are a sweet way to celebrate. Also for Hanukkah (and for the cold season in general), here's a comforting one-pot matzo ball chicken soup.

At Wirecutter, the staff has recommendations for the best Thanksgiving kitchen tools and tableware.

The California School for the Deaf football team has been undefeated this season.Adam Perez for The New York Times

10. And finally, catch up on some good stories.

A deaf football team taking California by storm. The absolute best pumpkin, apple and pecan pies for Thanksgiving. The women bringing sex education to the Arab world. Find these, and eight more stories, in The Weekender.

For more to enjoy, our editors recommend these nine new books; 15 new songs; three TV series; five international movies; and five Times stories, narrated just for you.

Did you follow the news this week? Test your knowledge. And here's the front page of our Sunday paper, the Sunday Review from Opinion and today's Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. If you're in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

Hope your week brings moments of gratitude.

Shaminder Dulai compiled photos for this briefing.

Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6:30 a.m. Eastern.

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