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Pfizer Vaccine, Electoral College, Holiday Baking: Your Weekend Briefing

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

1. The most ambitious vaccine campaign in U.S. history is about to begin.

This weekend, 2.9 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech are set to travel by plane and guarded truck from Michigan and Wisconsin to designated locations, mostly hospitals, in all 50 states. Pfizer said the first shipment would leave its Kalamazoo, Mich., plant, above, early Sunday morning. The first injections are expected to be given by Monday to high-risk health care workers.

FedEx and UPS will transport the vaccine throughout most of the country, and each delivery will be followed by shipments of extra dry ice a day later (the vaccine needs to be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. The emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine comes amid jaw-dropping coronavirus numbers: The U.S. is approaching 300,000 virus-related deaths.

3. Thousands of President Trump’s supporters marched in Washington and several state capitals on Saturday to protest what they contended, against all evidence, was a stolen election.

Four people were stabbed in the national capital, above, and one person was shot in Olympia, Wash.

The protests came a day after the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit that asked the court to throw out some 20 million votes in four key states that cemented Mr. Trump’s loss.

More than 120 Republican leaders backed the lawsuit, and in doing so, threatened to topple a pillar of democracy. Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said the maneuvering would leave “an indelible stain” that will be hard for the lawmakers and attorneys general to wipe away from their political careers.


4. President-elect Joe Biden is under intense pressure to create a diverse administration. He’s already finding that one group’s gain is another’s loss.

Even as his efforts to ensure ethnic and gender diversity already go far beyond those of President Trump, some members of the party and some advocacy groups say that Mr. Biden’s early choices of white male confidants to serve in top roles left the impression that he planned to rely on the same cadre of aides he has had for years.

The president-elect has put a premium on personal relationships, including Tom Vilsack, Mr. Biden’s choice for secretary of agriculture; John Kerry, above left, whom Mr. Biden named to a top climate post; and potentially Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who is being considered for attorney general. It’s still unclear how serious Mr. Cuomo’s chances are.

5. Some hoped a spike in coronavirus infections on college campuses this fall would be limited to students, for whom the risks are minimal. The death rate in college towns like East Lansing, Mich., above, paints a different picture.

Since the end of August, deaths from the coronavirus have doubled in counties with large college student populations, compared with a 58 percent increase in the rest of the nation, a Times analysis found. Few of the victims were college students, but rather older people and others living and working in the community.

Since the pandemic began, a Times survey has identified more than 397,000 infections at more than 1,800 colleges and universities. At least 6,629 of those reported cases are people in college sports. But the true number is most likely higher.


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6. Venezuela’s economic meltdown had pummeled the fishing village of Guaca. Then something glistened in the water.

Hundreds of pieces of gold and silver jewelry and ornaments mysteriously surfaced on Guaca’s beach, easing the pain of an economic crisis and creating a local gold rush for villagers. Many of them immediately sold the objects they had discovered and bought food.

“It got so bad, I felt as if a rope was tightening around my neck,” said Yolman Lares, who first discovered the gold. The treasure has allowed his family to go back to eating twice a day.

Despite weeks of speculation over the discovery — including tales of Caribbean pirates, a sunken colonial frigate and modern smugglers — its origins are still unknown. A chemical test commissioned by The Times on a link of gold chain indicated that the piece had most likely been manufactured in Europe in recent decades.


8. Our Food team has your holiday showstoppers covered.

Flamboyant, fruity and exceedingly merry, trifles are a show-off dessert with a self-effacing name. They’re also highly adaptable. As long as you have layers of cake, custard, some kind of fruit or jam (or both) and cream on top, you can vary it as much as you like. An added bonus: store-bought ladyfingers or sponge cake are highly acceptable.

Yotam Ottolenghi used to be all about the trifle. But now he makes this riff on the classic bûche de Noël — a brown sugar roulade (made with baked meringue) with burnt honey apples. “It feels right,” he writes, “traditional but not traditional.”

9. The night sky is putting on a show tonight.

If the weather is good, try going outside around midnight to get a view of one of the year’s last major meteor showers. The Geminid meteor shower will peak on Sunday night into Monday morning. The Geminids may be visible as early as 10 p.m. in some locations, although the best viewing may begin at around 11 p.m. and last until 4 a.m.

Here’s what you need to know.

Back on earth, horticulturalists are creating studbooks like those used by zoos and horse breeders to save endangered plant species. Naturally, they’re starting with a very phallic plant, better known as the corpse flower.


10. And finally, Sunday is made for long reads.

The best actors of 2020, like Michaela Coel, above; former President Barack Obama on his memoir; and the rise and fall of a celebrity pastor top the latest edition of The Weekender. Our editors also suggest these 11 new books, “Couples Therapy” on Showtime and new music from Gwen Stefani and others.

The Times holiday gift guide also has some great ideas.

Have you been keeping up with the headlines? Test your knowledge with our news quiz. And here’s the front page of our Sunday paper, the Sunday Review from Opinion and our crossword puzzles.

Have a dazzling week.


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