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Coronavirus, Supreme Court, Ikea: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. New coronavirus cases are trending upward in 39 states, pushing the U.S. curve to its highest level since August.

Those states include much of the Northeast, which is starting to backslide after months of progress, the Midwest and the Mountain West, where outbreaks have strained hospitals. North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting more new cases per capita than any other states to date. Above, Oceanside, Calif.

The first lady, Melania Trump, revealed some of her own suffering with the virus, and disclosed that her son, Barron Trump, had also been infected.

2. The future of the Affordable Care Act took center stage in the final day of questioning in Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

3. An estimated 5.2 million Americans cannot vote in the 2020 election because they have been convicted of felonies, according to a report by the Sentencing Project.

The U.S. is an outlier in permitting the denial of voting rights to people who are former felons, a practice that most likely depresses turnout for Democrats. Above, Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, in Orlando last month.

Other election developments:

4. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he did not expect an economic relief package to be enacted before the Nov. 3 election. Stocks fell.

Mr. Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi held discussions over coronavirus relief today and agreed to speak again on Thursday, even though Democrats and Republicans remain wildly divided over the scope and size of another stimulus bill.

Millions of Americans are still out of work, hundreds of thousands of small businesses are closing for good, and the country’s largest banks are prepared for a wave of loan defaults they expect in the second half of next year. But thanks to revenues from investors’ volatile trading, the banks themselves are doing just fine.

5. The white woman who called 911 on a Black man bird-watching in Central Park in May made a second call falsely claiming he tried to assault her, prosecutors said.

The previously unreported call was disclosed as Amy Cooper appeared remotely in Manhattan Criminal Court to answer a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail. Prosecutors are negotiating a possible plea deal that would allow her to avoid jail.

The bird-watcher, Christian Cooper, filmed Ms. Cooper (no relation) calling 911 from an isolated area of Central Park after he asked her to leash her dog, as the rules required. The encounter’s resonance only deepened when protests erupted nationwide over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which happened the same day.

6. “This is a war to survive, to continue working, to feed my family.”

That’s one of the Mexican farmers who forcibly seized a dam in the drought-stricken state of Chihuahua more than a month ago to stop water payments to the U.S., which they said would leave them next to nothing for their crops.

The farmers are still there. Our reporter looked at the standoff pitting them against their country’s president and the global superpower next door, which illustrates the growing conflict over increasingly scarce resources because of climate change.

Separately, returning strategic parts of the world’s farmlands to nature could help mitigate both climate change and biodiversity loss, a new study found.

7. South Korea’s most hotly anticipated initial public offering in years is centered on the K-pop superstar group BTS.

Shares in Big Hit Entertainment, the company valued at $4 billion that manages the boy band, begin trading in South Korea on Thursday. What investors are really paying for may not be BTS or its management company, but its ecosystem of followers, who translate content, run highly coordinated social media campaigns and provide other services — for free.

The extraordinarily devoted fan base, which calls itself The Army, cuts across lines of gender, age, religion and nationality.

8. Matthew McConaughey turned out all right, all right, all right.

His memoir, “Greenlights,” offers a shotgun seat to the life lessons he has accumulated from his upbringing in a tumultuous Texas family to his ascent as the star of “Dazed and Confused,” “Magic Mike” and “Dallas Buyers Club.”

The actor told our interviewer that the book is meant to be a corrective to those who think, “Gosh dang, McConaughey just eases right into everything.”

More from the film world: As we near the end of a disastrous movie year, there are few big-budget contenders for the Oscars, and the ceremony (postponed until April 25) may be reduced. But the list of nominees could be more diverse than ever. Here are four trends to watch for.

9. What do you do with old Ikea furniture, so painstakingly assembled but so ready to be replaced?

Next month, the Swedish retailer will begin a global buyback program to encourage customers to take a stand against excessive consumption. The program, part of the company’s larger efforts to combat climate change, will be available in 27 countries, but not the U.S. (A spokeswoman said that U.S. stores would “focus on other sustainability initiatives.”)

We also looked at the future of hotel design. Contactless room controls, pop-up dining and robotic servers, convertible in-room dining spaces and mobile hotel rooms may all be in the cards.

10. And finally, what does Los Angeles smell like?

Inspired by the science writer Harold McGee’s new book about the world’s odors and aromas, “Nose Dive,” our California restaurant critic used her olfactory sense on her environment.

Tejal Rao’s “smell museum” includes the onions her neighbor was frying one morning; the vanilla sweetness of a commercial bakery interrupted by the waft of skunk; the smell of her own mask; the sticky, piney scent of sage bushes and rosemary.

Speaking of pungent, Tejal also wrote about the evolution of the onion sandwich. Long before James Beard was famous for championing American foods, he was a caterer in New York. He lifted this recipe from colleagues, but there’s something delicate, fresh and unfussy about the sandwich even now, she writes.

Have a piquant evening.

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