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Biden Transition, Coronavirus, Barack Obama: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

Biden Transition, Coronavirus, Barack Obama: Your Thursday
Evening Briefing 1

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

1. Some Republicans are joining Democrats in showing concern over President Trump’s refusal to allow President-elect Joe Biden to proceed with the transition.

Several Senate Republicans, including Susan Collins, above, insisted that Mr. Biden should at least be given access to the President’s Daily Brief, which provides the nation’s most closely guarded intelligence secrets and an assessment of national security threats. Their call amounted to an acknowledgment that Mr. Biden will be certified as the victor in the election.

Democratic leaders warned that Mr. Trump’s stonewalling is already damaging the country’s ability to deal with foreign leaders and planning for handling the most high-risk period in the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr. Biden’s team of more than 500 former officials and outside experts has embraced workarounds — talking over encrypted apps and meeting in outdoor coffee shops with government officials they once worked alongside.

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Here’s what will happen between Election Day and Inauguration Day, including how the Trump campaign could try to intervene, and why it would be unlikely to succeed.

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Credit…Alex Edelman/Getty Images

2. Where in America is the coronavirus the worst? The outbreaks are so numerous, there is no one answer.

South Dakota, for instance, has the highest hospitalization rate, while Texas has the most cases. The county that includes Los Angeles has reported more virus cases since the pandemic’s start than anywhere else. The bottom line: It’s all really bad. Above, Glen Burnie, Md.

More than 142,000 new cases were detected in the U.S. on Wednesday for the first time, blowing past the week’s earlier chilling records.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, urged Americans to “double down” on basic precautions to avert lockdowns: universal mask wearing, keeping physical distance, interacting with others outdoors as much as possible and frequent hand washing.


3. For Pfizer, now comes the hard part.

The drug company set off celebrations with its announcement that its vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective in trials. The next steps are complex: It must work with a network of companies, government agencies and health workers to make sure orders are filled, health care workers are trained to administer the vaccine (and make recipients return four weeks later for a second dose), and convince millions of Americans to get the shots in the first place.

And vials of the vaccine must be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pfizer’s partner on the vaccine is BioNTech of Germany. We spoke to the husband-and-wife team behind that company, which started working on the vaccine in January.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

4. Unemployment remains high.

The Labor Department reported723,000 new state unemployment claims — a new low from the stratospheric multimillion levels reached in the spring, but still outrunning records set in previous recessions.

Two unemployment programs are set to expire at the end of the year, potentially leaving as many as 13 million Americans vulnerable to eviction and hunger. “Without it, I’m dead in the water,” said Randy Williams, 56, who lost his job in Tennessee in the first weeks of the pandemic.

On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, above, renewed calls for a sweeping relief package, despite Republican insistence on targeted relief.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

5. New York City is on the brink of shutting down its public school classrooms in the face of a second coronavirus wave, though some ask if businesses like restaurants and gyms should shutdown first.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the entire public school system — with 1.1 million students — would go to all-remote instruction if 3 percent of coronavirus tests in the city were positive over a seven-day rolling average. The city’s average positivity rate reached 2.5 percent on Wednesday. But the schools aren’t the problem: Their positivity rate is just 0.17 percent.

Detroit’s public school system announced that it would shift to online learning until January.

The social isolation of the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many Americans. But the impact has been especially severe on teenagers, who rely on their friends to navigate the maze and pressures of high school life.

Credit…Lucas Jackson/Reuters

6. The model and actress Emily Ratajkowski accused the photographer Jonathan Leder of assault and of using photos against her wishes. More women are coming forward.

Ms. Ratajkowski detailed her accusations in an essay in The Cut in September. Since then, more stories have emerged. Several women shared their stories about Mr. Leder with The Times, ranging from discomfort with his continued use of certain images to allegations of abuse. Danielle Hettara, Mr. Leder’s ex-wife, told The Times about a time he choked her while she was holding their infant daughter.

Mr. Leder has called Ms. Ratajkowski’s accusations “false and salacious.”

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

7. A new generation for video gamers.

After seven years, the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation game consoles are getting big upgrades. The companies released their next-generation consoles just in time for the holiday shopping season. Here’s our review of the XBox Series X and S and our review of the PlayStation 5. Above, a Best Buy in Oakland, Calif.

The video game industry has notched record spending and profit in 2020 — gamers worldwide are expected to spend a record $175 billion on software alone in 2020 — but to sustain its growth, it must prepare to compete with the return of concerts, movie theaters and live sports.

The PlayStation 5, Sony’s fifth major game console in 25 years, is the centerpiece of what is now the Japanese giant’s biggest, most profitable division.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

8. The Masters is trading in its springtime iconography for a tinge of fall.

The delayed first major in men’s golf began today, without the patrons and roars and with limited daylight. The world’s No. 5 golfer, Rory McIlroy, and the second-ranked Jon Rahm could stand in the way of the long-driving Bryson DeChambeau’s quest for the Augusta National Golf Club’s green jacket. Here are the favorites.

Those green jackets — awarded to Augusta’s members and Masters winners — are not supposed to leave club grounds. A rare few have, becoming an expensive holy grail for memorabilia collectors. A company that was until recently known as Green Jacket Auctions sold more than a dozen over the years at an average price of nearly $78,000.

In other sports news, the Super Bowl will go on with The Weeknd, the Canadian pop star, as its halftime performer.

Credit…Joan Wong; Photographs by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images; David L. Ryan, via The Boston Globe, via Getty Images

9. A rave review for Barack Obama’s latest.

The former president’s new memoir, “A Promised Land,” comes out Nov. 17 and our review is in: The author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says it brims with warmth, humor and introspection. The former president, she writes, “is as fine a writer as they come.”

This is the first of two volumes, and it starts as Mr. Obama charts his initial political campaigns and ends with a meeting in Kentucky in 2011 where he is introduced to the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden. The book focuses more on politics than home life, but when he does write about his family, “it is with a beauty close to nostalgia,” Ms. Adichie says.

Credit…Alex Bailey/Netflix

10. And finally, fans of “The Crown” prepare for Diana.

The face that launched a thousand tabloid stories is taking center stage in the fourth season of the Netflix series, which begins airing Nov. 15. The new season takes us back to the beginning of Diana and Prince Charles’s disastrous love story, when the world was thrilled to believe in what seemed like a fairy tale.

The season also introduces us to Gillian Anderson as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the latest in a long line of Thatcher impersonators.

Accuracy was a major focus, the show’s creator said. The research team relied heavily on advisers with direct knowledge of the events. “The more I’ve learned about the intricacies of this marriage and this relationship, the harder it’s been to pick sides,” said Emma Corrin, who plays Diana.

Have an open-minded night.

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

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at [email protected].

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