Georgia, Pfizer, 100 Notable Books: Your Friday Evening Briefing
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Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. Georgia’s top election official certified that President-elect Joe Biden won the state, despite President Trump’s claims that the process was corrupt.
The call in the battleground state comes after a methodical hand recount of its five million votes found Mr. Biden defeated Mr. Trump by about 11,000 votes. In a blunt declaration of the final vote count, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said, “I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie.”
Georgia’s certification is the first of a series of states that could make official Mr. Biden’s victory over the next week. Here’s which states have certified vote totals.
And Mr. Trump is meeting with Michigan Republican lawmakers in what appears to be a part of the president’s campaign to interfere with the state’s certification process that is expected to be finalized on Monday.
Our national security reporter summed it up in an analysis: Mr. Trump’s attempt to overturn the election is the most audacious use of brute political force by a president in American history.
2. Despite President Trump’s refusal to concede, the Biden-Harris team continued to plan for a Biden White House.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York for the first time since the election. Ms. Pelosi said they planned to discuss “the lame duck session, the urgency of crushing the virus and easing the pain for this economic crisis, keeping the government open.”
The transition team also announced additional staff appointments, many of whom are carry-overs from the Obama-Biden administration. But when it comes to cabinet positions, Mr. Biden is likely to find Republican resistance in a polarized Senate chamber.
3. Pfizer has asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its vaccine for emergency use, which could lead to the first Americans getting the vaccine by mid-December.
A large team of regulators at the agency will take about three weeks to review the application with thousands of pages of data, which would typically take months to complete. Agency officials have made clear through new guidelines that their bar for emergency authorization will be high. Moderna is also on the verge of submitting its own vaccine for review.
On Thursday, at his first public White House appearance in months, Dr. Anthony Fauci sought to reassure a nervous public about the safety of the two promising vaccines. “We need to put to rest any concept that this was rushed in an inappropriate way,” he said. “This is really solid.”
4. College coronavirus cases are spiking.
The Times has counted more than 68,000 new cases on college campuses since early November. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 321,000 people on campuses have tested positive. At least 80 have died.
To understand the whiplash of this chaotic semester, take a look at the University of Michigan, above, one of the biggest universities in the country. Like many big state universities, it tried to open with some semblance of normalcy. Outbreaks ensued and now the university has pivoted to near-universal remote instruction.
Separately, Unicef, the United Nations agency for children, found in a new report that keeping children at home is causing significant, long-lasting harm, and that school closures have not been effective in curbing the spread of the virus.
5. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended his decision to ask the Federal Reserve to return unused emergency lending funds, created in special programs in the early weeks of the pandemic. The move limits President-elect Joe Biden’s pandemic response options.
Mr. Mnuchin denied politics was at play in his decision and said it reflected the wishes of Congress. But the effect would be to give Mr. Biden’s Treasury secretary less flexibility to expand the programs that worked wonders to prop up financial markets through the spring and summer.
Mr. Mnuchin’s decision, coupled with the near-confirmation of Judy Shelton, above, as a Fed governor this week, suggests a future of greater risks each time party control changes, our senior economics correspondent writes.
6. Speculation is churning over the post-White House lives of President Trump’s children.
Lara Trump (pictured second from left), who is married to Eric Trump, the president’s younger son, is said to be considering a Senate run in her home state of North Carolina.
Ivanka Trump, people familiar with her plans said, is still deciding on whether to settle her family in New Jersey or Florida and has no immediate intention to pursue elected office herself. (Two fraud inquiries into the president have grown to include tax write-offs on consulting fees, some of which appear to have gone to Ivanka Trump.)
Our Big City columnist considers how Manhattan’s elite would respond to the return of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
7. 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. We asked 635 epidemiologists what they are doing for the holiday, and most are staying home.
Here are more ideas from across The Times for how to keep it small, safe and fun:
Here’s how to digitally reimagine the holiday, from meal prep to after-dinner activities.
Food shopping just got more complicated. We asked the experts for advice.
Melissa Clark shows you how to make Thanksgiving with one pot and one pan, for a small-scale feast that packs in the classics. For more cooking ideas, here are great recipes that only require five ingredients, and 17 recipes for a small dinner.
8. “I’m not going to be ultra-modest about this: You have to know how to turn on that electricity. And I know how to switch it on.”
Anthony Hopkins would know. The Oscar-winning actor with decades of expertise does it again in “The Father,” a career-capping performance as a man struggling with dementia. With a well-written script and Olivia Colman playing his put-upon daughter, the 82-year-old said that “it was an easy part to play.”
The Times Magazine also spoke to David Fincher about “Mank,” his new film about how the screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz came to write “Citizen Kane” while slowly drinking himself to death. It is a film he has waited his entire career to make. It took our writer, Jonah Weiner, six years to report this profile of the director.
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.
10. And finally, make room on your bookshelf.
At the beginning of each year, The Times Book Review editors start the process of selecting, debating and then winnowing down their favorite books. They have a desk full of readers who weigh in. They take a ballot vote that often goes to a runoff, which it did this year. And by the end of November, the list is complete.
These are The Book Review’s 100 most notable books of 2020, many of which reflect the year’s biggest themes. “Racial justice, immigration, ideological divisions, identity and economic disparities permeate both the fiction and nonfiction sides of our list,” Pamela Paul, the Book Review editor, told The Morning.
On Monday, the Book Review will release the year’s 10 best books. Watch the announcement here.
Have an engrossing weekend.