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Memorial Day, Capitol Hill, French Open: Your Weekend Briefing

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

While the pace of vaccinations in the U.S. has slowed, the nation is getting closer to President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by July 4. The biggest gains in recent weeks have been made in vaccinating children who are 12 to 15 years old, according to a Times analysis.

But for many, the pandemic has left deep scars. In New York City, a teenage brother and sister were orphaned by Covid-19. They’re rebuilding their lives, unearthing courage from sorrow.

2. Key questions about the Jan. 6 riot may never be answered now that congressional Republicans have blocked an independent inquiry.

The public may never know precisely what President Donald Trump and members of his administration did or said as a throng of his supporters stormed the Capitol while Congress met to formalize President Biden’s victory; why security officials were so unprepared for the breach; or the extent of the role of Republican lawmakers in planning the “Stop the Steal” rally that turned into a deadly attack.

Instead, Republican senators moved to shift an unwelcome spotlight away from Trump and the complicity of many G.O.P. lawmakers in amplifying his false claims of widespread voter fraud. Republicans have argued that the existing investigations will address what happened. But they have strict limits.

3. Gun purchases surged during the pandemic — a fifth of them by first-time owners — and the pace hasn’t slowed.

While gun sales have been climbing for decades, Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked. A record 1.2 million background checks were conducted in a single week this spring.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign a wide-ranging bill that would allow virtually anyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun — no permit required. It’s part of a string of Republican-led initiatives that the State Legislature has pushed through during its most conservative session in modern history. Next up: a voting bill that critics say will make Texas “the most difficult place to vote in the country.”

4. A Russian-speaking gang has become the face of global cybercrime. We got an inside look.

The ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline by the gang known as DarkSide cast a spotlight on a rapidly expanding criminal industry based primarily in Russia. Now, even small-time criminal syndicates and low-skilled hackers can pose a potential national security threat.

Ransomware is easily obtained off the shelf, and virtually anyone can load it into a compromised computer system using YouTube tutorials or with the help of groups like DarkSide. Customer support is included. A glimpse into DarkSide’s secret communications reveals a criminal operation that is pulling in millions of dollars in ransom payments each month.

5. Have you tried to buy a new house recently? Best of luck.

Tired of being cooped up, eager to take advantage of low interest rates and increasingly willing to move two or more hours from the urban core, buyers have propelled new home construction to its highest level since 2006. Home builders now risk losing business because they can’t supply enough inventory.

In California, some residents have moved out of big cities in search of more space and lower prices, creating hot spots in the suburbs and the once-sleepy exurbs. Above, a new subdivision in Lathrop, Calif.

Our columnist explains how to win a bidding war before it even starts.

6. School officials ranked Dalee Sullivan third in her class. She disagreed and took her high school to court.

Sullivan, a recent graduate in Alpine, Texas, could not find an affordable lawyer, so she represented herself in court, arguing that school officials had made errors in tabulating grade-point averages. “I have all the facts,” she said. “And no one knows it as well as I know it.”

The judge ruled that the dispute needed to go through the school district’s grievance process, and if Sullivan were not pleased with the outcome, the judge told her, she could come back to court.

Graduation season brings myriad advice during commencement remarks. Here are 14 excerpts from speeches around the country, from the founder of Reddit to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

7. The Big Three are all playing for history at the French Open.

Through a quirk in the sport’s seeding system, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, above, and Roger Federer are almost guaranteed to meet on the way to the men’s final at Roland Garros. But at this singular moment in their careers, with Federer and Nadal tied at 20 Grand Slam wins each and Djokovic close behind with 18, only Djokovic is so intently focused on the numbers.

Here are some matches to watch in the first round. Naomi Osaka beat Patricia Maria Tig this morning. Osaka plans to skip news conferences during the tournament to keep focused and protect her mental health.

From Paris to Porto: At the Champions League final in Portugal, Chelsea beat Manchester City to pick up the biggest prize in European soccer.

8. Summer is almost here. We’ve got books, movies and peach pie to help you enjoy it.

Nail-biting thrillers. An Antarctic ghost story. A trip to 19th-century England. Our editors and reviewers have picked 73 books for your summer reading list. And we’ve compiled a list of audio options, too, for your next road trip.

Perhaps you’re missing the big-screen experience? “The excitement of being back, however tinged by free-floating nervousness, can’t be downplayed,” one devoted moviegoer writes. Here are some noteworthy films scheduled for release this summer.

And our Food reporters and editors are unanimous: The best time of year to cook and eat is summer, when cool smashed cucumbers break through the heat and you might eat one too many hot dogs (but it’s summer, so who cares). They shared their dream summer recipes.

9. Your snake plant and Pothos are not the only ones out of control.

After a long winter and spring, your plants could use a little love — or maybe a complete overhaul. Our garden expert talked to Darryl Cheng, better known as @houseplantjournal, about bringing new plants to life from old by finding the right light and propagation.

“There are lots of ways to succeed,” Cheng said. “If you are the kind of person who can figure out how a system works, and then experiment within it, you can succeed.”

If you’re taking your houseplants outside for the summer, a gardening website recently ranked the best (and worst) cities in which to tend to your plants in the nude.

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