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Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. Judge Amy Coney Barrett refused to commit to recusing herself from any legal disputes arising from the Nov. 3 election during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Appearing before a deeply divided Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Barrett insisted that she could be trusted to act as a just arbiter on any matter before the court, and said she would not “allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people.”
On the topic of the Affordable Care Act, Judge Barrett, who has criticized a past Supreme Court decision that declined to strike down a key part of the health care law, said she was “not here on a mission to destroy” the legislation. Frustrated Democrats dismissed her assurances.
2. There are two new setbacks in the fight against the coronavirus.
Eli Lilly paused a clinical trial into an antibody treatment because of a “potential safety concern,” a day after Johnson & Johnson announced the pause of its coronavirus vaccine trial because of a sick clinical trial participant. Such pauses are not unusual, and illness in volunteers is not necessarily a result of the experimental drug or vaccine being assessed.
As the trials edge forward, about 450,000 Americans have been hospitalized with Covid-19. Even for those covered by robust health insurance, hospitalization can generate costs. We spoke to virus patients who are battling surprise medical bills after a congressional effort to ban them failed before the pandemic. One staggering price: a $52,000 helicopter transport.
3. South Carolina is changing. Is it enough to put Jaime Harrison over the top?
Mr. Harrison, the unexpectedly competitive Democratic challenger in the U.S. Senate race against Senator Lindsey Graham, is betting that immigration and growing support from women will push him over the top. The state hasn’t had a Democratic senator in decades. But Mr. Harrison has something previous South Carolina Democrats did not: a record-setting fund-raising haul.
In other 2020 election developments:
5. A presidential executive order banning the “malign ideology” of racial sensitivity training has rippled through government into academia and corporate America.
The ban, signed by President Trump last month, applies to the federal government and its contractors, subcontractors and grantees, prompting colleges like the University of Iowa to withdraw programming fearing a loss of federal research grants. Legal experts say they have never seen such demands.
The musician Megan Thee Stallion recorded this video for Opinion on why she speaks up for Black women. “Despite the way so many have embraced messages about racial justice this year, Black women are still constantly disrespected and disregarded in so many areas of life,” she says.
6. Roughly a quarter of the Pantanal wetland in Brazil, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, has burned this year in wildfires worsened by climate change.
It is home to breathtaking wildlife, including jaguars, tapirs, giant otters and bright blue hyacinth macaws. Its swamps and lagoons purify water and store carbon. Our climate reporters mapped the devastation from this year’s unprecedented fires and talked to people in communities whose water, air and food supplies have been affected.
“I couldn’t help but think, our Pantanal is dead,” said a member of the Guató people, an Indigenous group.
8. Fred Rogers. Julia Child. LeVar Burton. Big Bird.
As PBS celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, we asked our writers to reflect on its lasting imprint on our culture, and had Rachael Ray, Gary Clark Jr., Kal Penn and others reminisce about the television that changed their lives.
It wasn’t just teaching Americans about empathy and honesty, wrapped in Mr. Rogers cardigans. Long before it was fashionable, PBS educated us about the realities of American life, and spoke some truth to power along the way, writes our TV critic.
9. Jesse Katayama finally got Machu Picchu all to himself.
In March, Mr. Katayama, a Japanese tourist, had planned to end a journey around the world 8,000 feet above sea level at the sprawling 15th century Inca citadel high in the Andes Mountains. The pandemic had other plans. After a seven-month wait in a small town at the foot of the mountain, Mr. Katayama’s patience paid off.
“After the lockdown, the first man to visit Machu Picchu is meeeeeee,” he wrote in a post on Instagram.
Iceland, for its part, is investing millions of dollars to position itself for a major tourism rebound after the pandemic. It also aims to learn from the recent past, when tourist numbers soared.
10. And now, a final bow.
After 27 years and more than 2,500 reviews, Ben Brantley, The Times’s co-chief theater critic, is stepping down this week. Ben spoke with Jesse Green, his colleague and fellow theater critic, about his tenure, why he’s making an exit now and his best and worst list from the past decades.
“Hamilton” is his top musical choice; “In My Life,” a fantasia featuring a giant lemon, a glam rock angel and a hero with a brain tumor and Tourette’s syndrome, was the worst.
“I can honestly say I’ve never been bored at the theater during the past several decades,” writes Ben. “That’s because I’ve learned that nothing is boring if you really focus on it.” He offered one last recommendation: Watch a show as if you were a reviewer.
Have a theatrical night.
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