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Thanksgiving, Coronavirus, Presidential Transition: Your Weekend Briefing

Thanksgiving, Coronavirus, Presidential Transition: Your
Weekend Briefing 1

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Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.

Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

1. The U.S. is heading into a make-or-break holiday week.

The country passed 12 million cases, adding one million new cases in the past week alone. New daily cases are approaching 200,000: On Friday, the country recorded more than 198,500, a record.

At least 255,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, and hospitalizations rose beyond 82,000. Above, a memorial in Miami for virus victims.

Public health officials are urging Americans to avoid travel for Thanksgiving and to celebrate only with members of their immediate households.

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If you are gathering with others for the holiday, a negative test doesn’t mean you should skip other measures, like quarantining, wearing masks and social distancing.

For many Americans, including the woman known as “Thanksgiving Grandma,” this will be the first Thanksgiving without a loved one at the table. Wanda Dench became internet famous when a misdirected text landed a stranger at her holiday table. Ms. Dench’s husband died from the coronavirus in April.

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Credit…Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

2. A pharmaceutical giant and an upstart biotech firm are the front-runners in the race to create a vaccine. They were up against more than the virus.

At play were not just commercial rivalries and scientific challenges between Pfizer and Moderna, but an ambitious plan to put the federal government in the middle of the effort, and President Trump’s bet that a vaccine would secure his re-election.

This is how they did it in record time.

Pfizer’s vaccine is now being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use and Moderna’s may not be far behind. The first Americans could get a vaccine by the middle of December.

Separately, the F.D.A. granted emergency authorization for the Regeneron antibody treatment given to Mr. Trump after he was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Credit…Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

3. The next three weeks are a moment of truth for the Republican Party.

As election officials in contested states certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, verifying that the vote count is accurate and complete, G.O.P. officials from state capitols to Congress will be forced to choose between the will of voters and the will of one man: President Trump.

In pushing his false claims to the limit and forcing Republicans into acquiescence or silence, Mr. Trump has revealed the fragility of the electoral system — and shaken it. Above, supporters of the president in Atlanta on Saturday.

Mr. Trump’s attempt to subvert the election results appears to be growing more futile by the day: Georgia became the first contested state on Friday to certify its vote for Mr. Biden. Michigan lawmakers said they would honor the outcome of the state’s election process after a White House meeting on Friday. The state’s deadline for certification is Monday.

And as Mr. Trump brazenly seeks to delay the certification of the election, he is also mounting a similarly audacious bid to keep control of the Republican National Committee even after he leaves office.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

4. The Trump administration is using its last weeks to lock in many of the president’s policies and interfere with President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda.

Top officials are racing against the clock to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, secure oil drilling leases in Alaska, punish China, carry out executions and thwart any plans that Mr. Biden may have to reestablish the Iran nuclear deal. In some cases, Mr. Trump’s government plans to act just days — or even hours — before Mr. Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

But even as Mr. Trump refuses to accept the reality of his loss, the rest of the world — and Mr. Biden — is moving on. Everyone from world leaders to business executives have called the president-elect to congratulate him.

Credit…Fayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

5. Fighting the pandemic and its global economic impact dominated the Group of 20 summit, which began on Saturday and continues today.

Heads of state of the world’s richest countries and the European Union spoke about the battle against the coronavirus and potential debt relief for poor countries hit hard by the pandemic.

President Trump briefly participated in the summit from the White House, but skipped the event on pandemic preparedness and instead headed to his Virginia country club for a round of golf.

The virus reduced the annual summit to a giant webinar, transforming an event that was supposed to allow Saudi Arabia to play host to the world’s great powers and depriving Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, of reviving his international reputation.

6. Do these people look real?

They may look familiar, but they don’t exist. We built an A.I. system to create fake faces like the ones used to fool people on Facebook, Amazon and even Tinder.

The technology that makes them is improving at a startling pace thanks to a new type of artificial intelligence called a generative adversarial network. In essence, you feed a computer program a bunch of photos of real people. It studies them and tries to comes up with its own photos, while another part of the system tries to detect which of them are fake.

But just like humans, the programs can be deeply flawed. See for yourself.

Credit…Daryl Marshke/University of Michigan

7. An apology 52 years in the making.

Lynn Conway was one of IBM’s most promising young computer engineers, but after confiding to supervisors in 1968 that she was transgender, they fired her. Last month, Ms. Conway, pictured in 2018, was called into a virtual meeting with IBM employees.

Diane Gherson, IBM’s senior vice president of human resources, told Ms. Conway that although the company now offered help and support to “transitioning employees,” no amount of progress could make up for the treatment she had received decades ago.

Ms. Conway, 82, was then given a lifetime achievement award for her “pioneering work” in computers. “It was so unexpected,” Ms. Conway said. “It was stunning.”

Credit…Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

8. Thanksgiving: Ready, set, don’t go (but do cook).

With coronavirus cases raging across the U.S., the safest choice this Thanksgiving is to spend it with the people you live with. Here are ideas from across The Times for how to keep it small, safe and fun:

In this year like no other, we want to know what makes you grateful. Tell us in six words.

Credit…Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times

9. Music to get us through.

At the fearful height of the pandemic in April, Simon Gronowski, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, began playing jazz tunes on his piano from his apartment window in Brussels, bringing relief to his besieged neighbors throughout the lockdown that lasted into late May.

“Music is a means of communication, of connection,” said Mr. Gronowski, who taught himself how to play the piano as a teenager after escaping the Nazis. Piano was a way for him to connect with his sister who had died in Auschwitz.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, live jazz has become a near-constant presence acrossNew York City. The makeshift outdoor shows have been therapeutic for musicians and fans alike.

Credit…Tailyr Irvine for The New York Times

10. And finally, take in these stories at your leisure.

Rethinking the Thanksgiving myth. The fashion of Princess Diana. The cutthroat market for N95 masks. These stories and more await in The Weekender.

For more ideas on what to read, watch and listen to, our editors suggest these 12 new books, a new flower competition show, and new music from Miley Cyrus. And to mark an extraordinary year, we asked contemporary American poets and photographers to define 2020 in vision and verse.

Have you been keeping up with the headlines? Test your knowledge with our news quiz. And here’s the front page of our Sunday paper, the Sunday Review from Opinion and our crossword puzzles.

Have a safe and healthy week.

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

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