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Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. Distribution of the first U.S. vaccine could be days away.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue an emergency authorization for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Friday evening — a historic turning point in a pandemic that has taken more than 294,000 lives in the U.S.
The decision, which had been expected Saturday, was accelerated after President Trump attacked the agency’s commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, for not approving a vaccine more quickly, and the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, threatened to fire him, according to senior administration officials.
The timing of the announcement appears unlikely to speed up shipment of the initial 2.9 million doses of the vaccine, which are slated for health care workers and nursing home residents. Above, an intensive care unit in San Diego.
2. First comes approval. Then comes distribution — and persuading people to get the shots.
The vaccine’s arrival lands in a country that is both devastated by the virus and deeply divided over almost everything concerning it. Wariness persists, especially among those who view the Trump administration with suspicion. Others, eager to get the vaccine, fret about being low on the priority list.
“We’re basically second-class citizens,” said LaMont C. Brown II, above, a bus driver in Detroit.
As coronavirus deaths in the country climb toward 300,000, community leaders and the authorities are working to dispel doubt about the vaccines’ safety. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said he would get the vaccine publicly to help build confidence.
3. President Trump’s hopes of reversing the election in court are effectively over.
The Supreme Court rejected an audacious lawsuit by Texas that had asked the court to throw out the presidential election results in four battleground states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — captured by President-elect Joe Biden.
The court, in a brief unsigned order, said Texas lacked standing to pursue the case, saying it “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”
There will continue to be scattered litigation around the nation, but as a practical matter, our Supreme Court reporter writes, the court’s action put an end to any prospect that Mr. Trump will win in court what he lost at the polls.
The Electoral College votes for president will be cast on Monday.
4. The Senate approved a one-week stopgap bill to fund the government, giving negotiators extra time for a catchall spending package and a stimulus bill.
But the path forward for broader spending agreements remained murky. Republican insistence on sweeping coronavirus liability protections and Democratic demands for state and local funding remain sticking points.
President Trump must sign the bill or the government would shut down at midnight.
5. New York City, once the epicenter of the epidemic, is trying to fend off a second wave.
Indoor dining will be banned in the city starting Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, a significant reversal of the city’s reopening. The decision is a crushing blow to the city’s restaurant industry, which has struggled all year in the face of pandemic restrictions and a recession.
In announcing the move, the governor cited the city’s rising caseload, as well as its rising number of virus-related hospitalizations. As of Friday, 1,668 people were hospitalized with the virus in New York City, Mr. Cuomo said. Statewide, 5,321 people were hospitalized. “That is a bad situation,” he said.
6. The crackdown on free speech continues with great force in Hong Kong.
Jimmy Lai, the outspoken founder of an ardently antigovernment newspaper, was charged with colluding with foreign forces under Hong Kong’s new national security law. If convicted, Mr. Lai could face up to life in prison. Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong said the move was a clear warning that Beijing intended to use the security law, enacted in June, to silence dissent.
Mr. Lai’s case was followed hours later by a disclosure that the authorities in China had detained Haze Fan, a Chinese citizen working for Bloomberg News, on potential national security violations. Her detention sent ripples of disquiet among foreign news outlets on the mainland.
7. The musician FKA twigs sued Shia LaBeouf, her former boyfriend, accusing the actor of “relentless abuse” including sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit details an incident in 2019, among others, in which FKA twigs says the actor drove recklessly, pulled over at a gas station, threw her against the car while screaming in her face and then forced her back in the car. She also says he knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted disease.
“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency,” FKA twigs, 32, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, said in an interview.
In a statement, Mr. LaBeouf, who has a long history of turbulent behavior, acknowledged an abusive pattern in his behavior. “I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt,” he said.
“I like being me because I like me,” she said. “Why shouldn’t I use it? It makes me happy. They can’t take my happiness away from me.”
9. To save endangered plant species, horticulturalists are creating studbooks like those used by zoos and horse breeders. Naturally, they’re starting with a plant with a Latin name that means “large misshapen penis.”
Amorphophallus titanum, best known as the corpse flower for its unpleasant odor, has the largest flower of any plant in the world and is a horticultural celebrity of sorts. But the species is at risk of losing the genetic variety needed to raise the hearty flowers in conservatories.
Botanic gardens around the world are gathering genetic information from the corpse flower and five other species to create a family tree for each specimen to identify ideal breeding matches and underrepresented genetic traits. Botanists hope the project brings much-needed attention to the importance of genetic diversity in plants.