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Masks, Israel, Tim Duncan: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. An abrupt change on mask guidance has set off a confusing scramble in states and cities.

In Minnesota, the statewide mask mandate is over. But in Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, face coverings are still required. In Michigan, Kentucky and Oregon, governors said fully vaccinated people would be able to go out maskless. But in New York, New Jersey and California, mask mandates remained in force for everyone, at least for now.

The new C.D.C. guidance, which clears the way for people in the U.S. who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to stop wearing masks in most situations, came as a surprise to many public health and state officials, who said they needed time to evaluate the shift. Many said they were puzzled about how to put the new advice into effect as there was no way to differentiate the people who are fully vaccinated — now 36 percent of Americans — from the 64 percent who are not.

Just because faces — smiles and all — are set to become a more common sight, it doesn’t mean you can always ditch the mask. Here’s what to know.

2. Scientists warned that coronavirus variants might lead to a fourth wave in the U.S. That didn’t happen.

Experts point to a combination of factors — masks, social distancing and other restrictions, and perhaps a seasonal wane of infections — that bought crucial time for tens of millions of Americans to get vaccinated. They also credit a good dose of luck: The variant B.1.1.7, which first emerged in Britain, is powerless against the vaccines, unlike some of its competitors.

“I think we got lucky, to be honest,” one epidemiologist said. “We’re being rescued by the vaccine.”

Virus watchers still see variants as a potential source of trouble in the months to come. The variant first detected in India is forcing the U.K. to speed up delivery of second doses of the vaccine.

3. Israel stepped up attacks on Gaza, and there were bloody clashes in Israeli towns and on the West Bank.

The violence, now in its fifth day, has left scores dead, mostly Palestinians. Most of the death and destruction have occurred in Gaza, the impoverished territory controlled by the militant group Hamas. More than 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza this week, Israeli officials said.

Violence erupted in several places on the West Bank as Israeli soldiers fired on demonstrators, some of whom threw stones and lit fires.

Many nations have called for a peaceful resolution, and U.S. and Egyptian officials have been trying to broker a cease-fire. In a guest essay, Senator Bernie Sanders said “we can no longer be apologists for the right-wing Netanyahu government” and that the U.S. needed an evenhanded approach.

4. Meticulous attention to detail. Routine-oriented. A short fuse.

Our White House team spoke to dozens of associates for a behind-the-scenes look at how President Biden runs his White House. For political advice and policy direction, he turns to a close group called the “Biden historians,” taking days or sometimes weeks to make up his mind. At night, the president’s evenings include regular calls with his grandchildren.

In other news out of Washington, Representative Elise Stefanik, an outspoken defender of Donald Trump, was elected to replace Liz Cheney as the Republicans’ No. 3 House leader.

5. Shootings in New York City spiked during the pandemic. Experts warn that the surge may outlast the virus.

About 505 people were shot in New York City from January through May 9, the highest year-to-date number in a decade. Experts say the economic and physical strain of the pandemic, which disproportionately affected neighbors who were already struggling with high levels of gun violence, most likely drove the rise in shootings.

Crime has become a dividing line in the hotly contested mayor’s race, with the pivotal Democratic primary less than six weeks away. The eight candidates presented divergent views on how to lead the city in their first, sometimes acerbic, debate.

6. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a catchy logo in her 2018 primary victory. Now progressives everywhere are copying it.

Candidates across the country, including a Senate race in Kentucky and the governor’s race in Virginia, and even a communist candidate in France, above right, have appropriated elements of its condensed and bold typeface and its upward-sloping, dialogue-box design. An expert said that familiar design could trigger powerful associations.

We broke down the visual branding.

We also spoke to State Representative Jessica González, a Democrat at the center of the debate over Republican voting restrictions in Texas, about ways Democrats can hit back.

7. Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates have an estimated net worth of more than $124 billion. Divvying up such wealth can’t be easy.

Mr. Gates built one of the great fortunes in human history after he founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen. Lawyers for Ms. French Gates have been working on a plan for separating some of the assets since 2019, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

As the divorce moves forward, we are beginning to get a glimpse of their secretive managed fortune. Their assets are complex and as varied as trophy real estate, public company stocks, farmland and one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. The split could have implications for philanthropy.

8. Nineteen playoff appearances. Fifteen All-Star selections. Five championships. Five total Most Valuable Player Awards. And now, the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Tim Duncan spent 19 sound seasons allowing his play in the N.B.A. to speak for him. Ahead of his induction ceremony tomorrow alongside Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, The Times spoke to friends, teachers, teammates and coaches about his journey.

“He was able to do it with such a stoic mannerism,” said his Spurs teammate Antonio Daniels. “No smile, no trash talk, no nothing.”

The Preakness, the second race of the Triple Crown, is also tomorrow. Medina Spirit, who won the Kentucky Derby, is the favorite to win despite a failed drug test.

9. For centuries, humans have been captivated by the beauty of bettas. But the fish did not become living works of art on their own.

The betta’s elaborate colors and long, flowing fins are the product of a millennium of careful selective breeding, a new study found. Genome sequencing showed that humans began domesticating bettas some 1,000 years ago. By studying the genes of these fish, scientists can learn how domestication alters the genes of wild animals.

In other scientific exploration, Japanese scientists recently studied an unusual method of delivering oxygen in mice and pigs through their rectums. They hope maybe one day to try it on humans.

10. And finally, is this what George Washington would look like today?

Bored and stuck in his childhood bedroom, a 23-year-old musician turned to Photoshop for entertainment. His rendition of the first U.S. president, first posted in May, has been reposted thousands of times on just about every social media platform.

A George Washington impersonator and historian had thoughts about his modern depiction, notably the suit. The president “was a bit of a fashion plate,” the impersonator said, and a biographer suggested that “if he couldn’t wear Prada, he would probably have it custom made.”

What is accurate: the tight-lipped smile. The founding father had terrible teeth.

Have an imaginative weekend.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

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