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Your Thursday Briefing – Apsny News

As wealthy countries scrambled to shield their populations from the Omicron virus variant with travel bans and booster shots, the W.H.O. scolded them, calling the steps ineffective and unfair. The appearance of the new variant, about which little is known, has reopened fraught questions of equity in how the world has handled the coronavirus pandemic.

“Blanket travel bans will not prevent the spread of Omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., said. He praised Botswana and South Africa, where the earliest cases of Omicron were detected last month, for promptly reporting the findings to international health authorities.

Separately, the organization’s member states took the first step yesterday toward what many governments hope will be a legally binding treaty intended to ensure a more coherent and equitable response to future pandemics.

Omicron: California confirmed the first known case of the variant in the U.S., health officials said. It has rapidly has become by far the most prevalent version of the coronavirus spreading in South Africa, replacing the fading Delta variant.

The Supreme Court seemed poised yesterday to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even though doing so would be flatly at odds with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and prohibited states from banning the procedure before fetal viability, currently around 23 weeks.

If the court does uphold the law, it would immediately elevate abortion rights into a defining issue in next year’s midterm elections and most likely reinvigorate efforts to overhaul the court itself. Democrats are already warning supporters that the court is poised to reverse access to abortion, nearly 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right.

The ruling could have a monumental impact on access to abortions in the country and would pave the way for at least 20 states to make almost all abortions unlawful. The decision is not expected until late June or early July.

The E.U. yesterday proposed new measures that would allow Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the member states bordering Belarus, to suspend some protections for asylum seekers, including extending how long they can be detained while their applications are being processed. Aid groups said the rule change would leave applicants in a state of limbo and in increasingly unsafe conditions.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said the measures would be temporary and were aimed at giving member states “flexibility” in dealing with asylum claims as they addressed the emergency situation in Belarus. Thousands remain stranded in freezing temperatures there, and at least 12 people have died during the crisis.

The three countries have taken a hard line against the migrants who have been trying to enter the E.U. in recent months, and the bloc has stood with them even as border guards have illegally pushed back migrants or refused to process asylum requests, violating E.U. and international law.

Background: For months, E.U. officials have accused Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s autocratic leader, of orchestrating “hybrid warfare” by helping migrants reach the E.U.’s eastern border. Last month, the Belarusian authorities moved thousands of migrants from a sprawling encampment near the border.

How does the coronavirus survive in the air? A new simulation shows how the virus sustains itself inside tiny airborne particles of water — and gives clues about how the Delta variant became dominant.

“Putting a virus in a drop of water has never been done before,” said Rommie Amaro, the biologist who led the effort. “People have literally never seen what this looks like.”

A new class of Gen Z artists have cemented their A-list status in the pop industry.

For years, 19-year-old Billie Eilish had shouldered “the burden of representing her entire generation” in the music establishment’s eyes, Lindsay Zoladz writes in The Times. That’s changed: Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, Chloe Bailey, Normani and the Kid Laroi are part of the new guard climbing the charts and securing Grammy nominations.

These artists grew up on the internet, admiring musicians who are now their contemporaries. Lil Nas X was an extremely vocal member of Nicki Minaj’s online fan army, while Olivia Rodrigo, a well-documented Swiftie, interpolated a riff from Taylor Swift on her debut album.

In some cases, established stars shepherded the careers of these younger artists. Beyoncé signed the R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle to her label as teenagers, to give one example: Her influence is clear in the now-23-year-old Chloe Bailey’s solo track “Have Mercy.” But other upstarts have a more complicated relationship with their forebears: Both Minaj and Drake declined invitations to collaborate on Lil Nas X’s debut album.

It’s all evidence of “the growing generational divide between pop’s millennial elders and their Gen Z heirs,” Lindsay writes. The younger artists “represent something thrillingly — and, perhaps to some, threateningly — new.”

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Variety wrote about our Op-Docs series.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about Amazon and the labor shortage.

Sanam Yar contributed to today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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