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Joe Biden, Moderna, Martha Stewart: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Joe Biden is the target of Russian disinformation efforts, the F.B.I. director told House lawmakers.

Christopher Wray, above, said that Russia had mounted an influence campaign on social media to raise skepticism of the Democratic candidate, but that it had not successfully hacked any election systems.

His testimony came days after current and former government officials said the Trump administration had downplayed threats posed by both Russia and white supremacists because they would reflect poorly on the president.

2. The biotech company Moderna shared the blueprint for its coronavirus vaccine trial, and how safety and efficacy would be determined.

Pfizer followed suit late in the day. They are the first vaccine makers to share their protocols, seeking to address growing suspicion about President Trump’s frequent references to the possibility of a vaccine becoming available before the election on Nov. 3.

Moderna’s 135-page document suggests that the first analysis of the trial data will not be conducted until late December, and that analyses scheduled for March and May will likely be necessary to gauge the vaccine’s performance.

That timeline flies in the face of Mr. Trump’s predictions that a vaccine will be widely available before the end of this year. Scientists, companies and federal officials all say that most people won’t get one until well into next year.


3. The beginning of in-person learning in New York City public schools is already off to a messy start, infuriating and confusing parents, educators and elected officials.

The city had scheduled all classes to start on Monday. Today, officials said that students would instead return on a rolling basis: those in pre-K and students with advanced special needs on Monday; those in elementary school on Sept. 29, and middle and high school students on Oct. 1.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, pictured inspecting schools last month, said the delay would help the city handle a major staffing shortage in schools and would ensure that buildings were ready to open safely.


4. Firefighters are racing to contain blazes on the West Coast before storms roll through and the weather heats up again. Above, a charred trailer park in Talent, Ore.

In California and Oregon, meteorologists said dry conditions could prime the fires to spread again. Dry lightning from Oregon thunderstorms poses a threat, and rain could bring flash flooding. But Californians in the Bay Area were able to enjoy smoke-free skies for the first time in weeks.

On the other side of the country, residents of the Florida Panhandle are beginning to grapple with the damage left behind by Hurricane Sally. Climate change likely made the storm more devastating by slowing it down and feeding it more moisture.

California’s wildfires were one of four $1 billion weather disasters in the U.S. last month, government scientists said. Relief organizations are providing meals and shelter to devastated communities. Here’s how to help.

5. New Jersey is set to become one of the first states to adopt a “millionaires tax” to help address the financial crisis caused by the pandemic.

Gov. Philip Murphy, a Democrat, announced a deal with legislative leaders to increase state taxes on income over $1 million by nearly 2 percentage points. The move, which Republicans warned would lead to an exodus of wealthy residents, comes amid a growing national debate over taxing the rich to help address a widening income gap.

Separately, new claims for state unemployment benefits fell last week to 790,000, but layoffs continue to come at an extraordinarily high level by historical standards.


6. The World Health Organization warned of a resurgence of the coronavirus across Europe, but said that transmission could be contained by local measures rather than national lockdowns.

In more than half the countries of Europe, the number of cases has increased by more than 10 percent in the past two weeks. In seven countries, the number has doubled. Above, coronavirus testing in Prague this week.

India reported 97,894 new coronavirus infections for one day this week, its highest one-day increase. The country ranks second in the number of cases after the U.S., according to a Times database.


7. A giant new vessel is hoping to unveil the secrets of the abyss.

Known as OceanXplorer, the 286-foot former oil tanker can house 85 crew members and explorers, three miniature submarines, two undersea robots and an automated system that watches for whales. The ship’s chief scientist described it as “something out of a Bond movie.”

OceanXplorer is the brainchild of Ray Dalio, above, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, an investment firm. Mr. Dalio, 71, sees his high-tech ship as a superstar not only of oceanic research but also of video production, nature television shows and livestreaming events for an unusually broad audience.

Schoolchildren will even be able to guide the ship’s undersea robot.


8. Our tech reporter, Brian X. Chen, summed up the latest Apple Watch in two words: blood oxygen.

The new feature is particularly timely, because some Covid-19 patients have suffered low blood oxygen levels. But Brian realized that the data from the $399 watch required the kind of context you get from a doctor.

He also tried out Facebook’s new $300 virtual-reality headset, which works well and feels comfortable. But good luck finding games that will keep you entertained.


9. We checked in with Martha Stewart, America’s queen of domesticity, who says she has “absolutely zero complaints about quarantine.”

Her daily routine includes waking up at 4 a.m., reading three newspapers and working on any one of her business projects, including a new HGTV show and QVC line. Ms. Stewart is also putting her name behind a new line of CBD products, including pâte de fruit (shown here on a necklace she strung together). “I pop 20 of them and just feel OK,” she said, “but some of my friends do two and feel high.”

And in this week’s Social Q’s column, Philip Galanes answers readers’ questions on what to do about a neighbor who keeps sharing conspiracy theories, pity payments and more.


10. And finally, local tastes, traditions and quirks.

Back in 2019, before pandemic lockdowns, the author and bar owner Brian Bartles spent a few months visiting 44 of the 50 states to see what people were drinking and why. The result is his new book, “The United States of Cocktails.”

He drank orange crushes (vodka, triple sec and orange juice) and a du Pont cocktail, above, in Delaware and found Michiganders enamored of the hummer (ice cream blended with vodka and Kahlúa). In many a Maine kitchen cabinet sits a bottle of Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy, a liqueur that has a commercial foothold almost nowhere else.

And for the seasonal shift from summer to fall, our wine critic suggests these 12 wines.

Have a distinctive night.

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