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Georgia, Coronavirus, Steve Martin: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Two Senate runoffs in Georgia have influenced Republicans’ refusal to recognize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Though most leading Republicans haven’t repeated President Trump’s false claims that he won, they have declined to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s win for fear of enraging the president and his base ahead of the Jan. 5 contests, which will determine which party controls the Senate.

“We need his voters,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican.

Two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, face Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Mr. Biden’s transition team is preparing plans for an ambitious agenda should Democrats win both seats, and a more pared-back one in case they fall short.

Georgia will conduct a hand recount of the presidential vote, a move requested by the Trump campaign. Officials said it was unlikely to erase Mr. Biden’s slim lead of 14,000 votes in the state.

2. The Times called officials in every state. None reported any major voting issues, a forceful rejection of President Trump’s narrative.

The president and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. Election officials in dozens of states representing both political parties said that wasn’t the case. “There’s a great human capacity for inventing things that aren’t true about elections,” said Frank LaRose, above, a Republican and Ohio’s secretary of state.

The U.S. has never before had to force an incumbent out of office. While that moment has not yet arrived, Mr. Trump has borrowed from the playbook of autocrats and dictators the U.S. has long fought to quash — denying defeat, claiming fraud and using government machinery to reverse election results.


3. Coronavirus infections and deaths are rising fast. The Trump administration remains largely disengaged.

The White House task force has been all but publicly silent. Shortages of personal protective equipment are back, and governors are again competing with one another and big hospital chains for scarce gear.

“With 1,000 deaths per day, it’s like two jumbo jets dropping from the sky,” an infectious disease expert said. “If every day, two jumbo jets would drop from the sky and kill everybody, don’t you think that everybody would be in a panic?”

4. Coronavirus restrictions are tightening in New York.

As of Friday, the state will ban private indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and require bars and restaurants to close nightly at 10 p.m. The New York City area had seemed to keep the virus relatively contained, but infection rates have begun to increase sharply in the tristate area.

Staten Island, which once bristled at coronavirus restrictions, now has the highest positive test rate in the city.

Two months ago, India looked like a coronavirus disaster zone, with nearly 100,000 new infections a day and deaths shooting up. Today, reported infections, deaths and the share of people testing positive have all fallen significantly. But some researchers say that cases are falling off because of increased use of less reliable tests and fewer tests being administered.

5. Beijing effectively silenced Hong Kong’s legislature, one of the last remaining forums for dissent in the city, by granting broad new powers that allow the removal of lawmakers who do not show clear loyalty to China.

The Hong Kong government immediately ejected four pro-democracy lawmakers, prompting the 15 remaining members of their bloc to vow to resign in solidarity, above, with a pledge to work outside the system. The departures will reshape the city’s political landscape, which has been upended since China imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong this summer.

Elsewhere in Asia, the party led by Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is poised to stay in power. Her reputation overseas has been stained by her defense of a military accused of genocide, but in voting on Sunday, her party easily secured a parliamentary majority. Many voters from ethnic minorities were prevented from casting ballots.


Lt. Col. Nichelle Somers, pictured above with her three children at their home in California, recalled how hard it was for the whole family when she was serving in Djibouti for seven months. Her struggle, she said, was what all military parents experience: “being separated from the kids, and not being able to help when things were not going well.”

Stanley McChrystal, the retired U.S. army general, is one of a number of former military officers who reflected on the most valuable thing their parents taught them.

President Trump participated in a brief, silent Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, and President-elect Joe Biden visited the Philadelphia Korean War Memorial, a morning of somber reflection for both men.


7. The election is over, but not the stress. Pass the edibles.

In the weeks leading up to the election, sales surged for gummy bears, cookies and chocolates infused with cannabis to soothe 2020 jitters. No longer a fringe item limited to pot brownie experiments in college dorms, edibles are being sold as part of the wellness industry and marketed as pantry staples.

National surveys and elections show that Americans are increasingly interested in legalizing marijuana use. An Election Day sweep on a number of ballot measures means legal marijuana sales will soon reach one-third of Americans.

8. Steve Martin is known for his comedic work and even his Grammy Award-winning bluegrass music. He’s also an aspiring cartoonist — with no drawing skills.

So he teamed up with Harry Bliss, an illustrator for The New Yorker, and the result is their new book, “A Wealth of Pigeons,” out next week. The comics vary in style and tone, from talking animals and bored aliens to more philosophical themes.

For Mr. Martin, writing punch lines for cartoons was trickier, in a way, than delivering a joke in front of an audience. “You don’t get to try them out,” he said. “Here, there’s virtually no feedback.”


9. And you thought human courtship was hard.

When male wrinkle-faced bats feel amorous, they’ll sing and strut — and raise and lower skin flaps that can shield their faces like masks. The behavior observed by researchers could be one of the rarest of courtship rituals described among more than 1,400 species of bats. One bat biologist calls the males of the species “masked seducers.”

In other animal news, a Hungarian researcher is leading an experiment testing the ability of dogs to remember words. Border collies from Spain, Brazil, Hungary, Florida and the Netherlands will compete in the Genius Dog Contest, which will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook today through Monday.

Lastly, a bird expert in New York City noticed a swan’s odd behavior and made it her mission to undertake a very urban rescue — by foot, car and subway.


10. And finally, falling for sopranos.

We’ve asked some of our favorite artists to choose five minutes or so they would play to make their friends love classical music, the piano, Baroque music and more. Now we’ve collected recordings to inspire love for the soaring soprano voice. You’ll want to turn your volume up for this one.

The novelist Ann Patchett suggests turning first to Renée Fleming, “who makes the most impossible repertoire seem effortless.” Ms. Fleming herself recommends going directly to the recordings of Leontyne Price, who makes “rapturous music unforgettable.” And for Kira Thurman, a historian, the sheer power of Jessye Norman’s voice “is enough to make your eyes water.”

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