First Thing: Brian Laundrie killed himself, autopsy report shows – The Guardian

Good morning.

Brian Laundrie, whose disappearance sparked a nationwide manhunt in September after his fiancee, Gabby Petito, went missing and was later found murdered, killed himself, an autopsy report released yesterday revealed.

Laundrie’s remains were found in a Florida wilderness area in October, a month after Petito, 22, was found strangled to death on the edge of Wyoming’s Grand Teton national park, where the couple had been travelling together in a van.

The 23-year-old was named a person of interest in the case after he returned to his parents’ home in Florida alone in early September, then disappeared himself.

Petito’s parents reported her missing on 11 September, three days before Laundrie’s family said he left their house in North Port with a backpack but left behind his wallet and cell phone.

  • Did he leave a suicide note? The FBI has been searching for clues among belongings found near Laundrie’s body, including a water-damaged notebook, but is yet to release a statement on the progress of its investigation.

  • What have his parents said? “Chris and Roberta are still mourning the loss of their son and are hopeful that these findings bring closure to both families,” Steven Bertolino, the attorney for Laundrie’s parents, said.

US hospitals prepare for influx of Covid patients as millions travel for Thanksgiving

Passengers queuing at Logan airport in Boston.
Passengers queuing at Logan airport in Boston. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

As cases begin increasing once more in the US, millions of people are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, and health workers and hospital systems are now preparing for an influx of Covid patients after having little time to recover from the summer surge.

Last year, there was a jump in cases around the holidays. But this year, new tools could blunt the spread – if they are taken up quickly.

US scientific agencies on Friday recommended boosters for all adults six months after receiving an mRNA vaccination, and children over the age of five recently became eligible for vaccines.

  • How many people have Covid? More than 92,000 Americans are now testing positive for Covid-19 each day, and more than 1,000 people are dying from the virus every day, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Which parts of the US are most affected? Cases are rising in a majority of states, with hotspots in the midwest, north-east and parts of the south-west.

What is happening with US inflation, and how worried should you be?

Billboard
Alcohol is one commodity that has has fallen in price recently: a bar in Marietta, Georgia, says its beer is cheaper than gasoline. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Jobs are coming back, wages are rising, stock markets are hitting record highs. In many ways, the US economy is booming. And yet as we officially enter the holiday season, consumer confidence is at its lowest level in a decade. The reason? Inflation.

The US inflation rate in October was the highest it has been since the early 90s, when Nirvana released Smells Like Teen Spirit and the Gulf war was just beginning.

But should we be worried? The Federal Reserve – and the Biden administration – think rising prices are “transitory”, caused by the hangover from the pandemic. Their critics are less sure.

  • What is inflation? Inflation describes a general rise in the level of prices of all consumer goods and services. It is not specific to a particular good or service; rather it is a measure of when, broadly, things are more expensive than they were.

  • What’s happening with inflation? According to CPI numbers released in mid-November, prices in the US rose 6.2% in October compared with the same time last year.

A child injured in the Waukesha parade has died, bringing the death toll to six

A sign is displayed at a memorial to the victims of the Waukesha Christmas parade.
A sign is displayed at a memorial to the victims of the Waukesha Christmas parade. Photograph: Cheney Orr/Reuters

A child has died after suffering head injuries when an SUV was driven through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, bringing the death toll to six, said prosecutors.

The child was one of 16 children admitted to the Children’s hospital of Wisconsin, officials said in a news release. He has been named on a Go Fund Me page as eight-year-old Jackson Sparks. His 12-year-old brother was injured.

A member of his family said: “Tucker, by the grace of God is miraculously recovering from his injuries and will be being discharged home. This afternoon, our dear Jackson has sadly succumbed to his injuries and passed away.”

  • Has the suspect been charged? Prosecutors in Wisconsin charged Darrell Brooks Jr yesterday with intentional homicide in the deaths of five people. More charges are pending.

  • Did he appear in court? He made his initial appearance in court yesterday. He could be heard crying during the proceedings.

In other news …

Insurrectionists outside the US Capitol on 6 January.
Insurrectionists outside the US Capitol on 6 January. Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP
  • The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack on Tuesday issued subpoenas to the leaders of the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers militia, directly focusing for the first time on the instigators of the violence at the 6 January insurrection.

  • A jury has awarded more than $25m in damages against white nationalist leaders for violence that erupted during the deadly 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville. Nine people who were physically or emotionally injured during the two days of demonstrations will receive payment.

  • China’s government has accused Joe Biden of “a mistake” in inviting Taiwan to participate in a democracy summit alongside 109 other democratic governments. Taiwan was included in a list of participants for next month’s Summit for Democracy, published by the state department yesterday.

  • Seven anti-vaccine doctors fell sick with Covid-19 after gathering earlier this month for a “summit” at which alternative treatments were discussed. The doctors tested positive or developed symptoms “within days” of the conference in Florida but organisers deny it was a super-spreader event.

Stat of the day: The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights dethrones the Twist as all-time No 1 Billboard single

The Weeknd performs
The Weeknd performs at the NFL Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida. Photograph: Ashley Landis/AP

The Weeknd’s hit single Blinding Lights has officially been crowned the all-time No 1 song on the Billboard single charts, ousting Chubby Checker’s 1960s hit the Twist. The song, an instant synth-pop classic, had its debut in late November 2019 and topped the weekly Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in April and May 2020, going on to spend a record-shattering 90 consecutive weeks on the chart. That stint has now earned Blinding Lights the title of No 1 song on its Greatest Songs of All Time Hot 100 Chart.

Don’t miss this: No, you don’t have to see your toxic family on Thanksgiving

Table of food at Thanksgiving dinner.
Opting out of visiting for the holidays may seem akin to blasphemy – but it could be for the best. Photograph: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

It’s no secret that Covid – compounded by an era of divisive politics – offered much-needed distance for those in troubled relationships with loved ones. For some, the pandemic presented people with the opportunity to break familial ties. For others, it at least offered an alibi. The expectation that families should spend the holidays together at all costs is built into the fabric of American culture. But feeling powerless toward an obligation to return home, regardless of the effect on our mental health, has far-reaching consequences. It can affect people’s finances, their confidence and their relationships.

… Or this: How wild turkeys’ rough and rowdy ways are creating havoc in US cities

A wild turkey crosses a field in Freeport, Maine.
A wild turkey strides across a field in Freeport, Maine. Photograph: Robert F Bukaty/AP

There’s a violent gang stalking urban America. In New Hampshire, a motorcyclist crashed after being assaulted. In New Jersey, a terrified postman rang 911 after a dozen members attacked at once. And in Michigan, one town armed public workers with pepper spray for protection. The culprits? Wild turkey. Booming populations are a conservation success story, but not all terrorised residents are happy about it. In September, the Daily Messenger in upstate New York had had enough and published a tongue-in-cheek call to arms: “Wild turkey all over America are rioting, rising up in rebellion against the influx of people into their habitat.”

Climate check: UK will press governments to stick to climate pledges, says Cop26 president

Alok Sharma.
Alok Sharma says the ‘UK’s work as the Cop26 presidency is really only just beginning’. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The UK will continue to press governments around the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions urgently in the next year to limit global heating to 1.5C, after the UN climate talks that concluded last week, the president of the summit has pledged. Alok Sharma, the cabinet minister who led the Cop26 talks, said the world had shown in Glasgow that countries could work together to establish a framework for climate action but the next year must focus on keeping the promises made there.

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Last thing: NFT beats cheugy to be Collins Dictionary’s word of the year

Digital paintings by US artist Beeple at an NFT exhibition.
Digital paintings by US artist Beeple at an NFT exhibition. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

In a year that has seen the musician Grimes sell a collection of digital artworks for almost $6m (£4.4m), and the original photo behind the 2005 Disaster Girl meme go for $473,000 (£354,000), Collins Dictionary has made NFT its word of the year. The abbreviation of non-fungible token has seen a “meteoric” rise in usage over the last year, said Collins, up 11,000% in the last year. Any digital creation can become an NFT, with the term referring to a certificate of ownership, registered on a blockchain, or digital ledger of transactions.

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