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Vaccine,Virus Deaths, California’s Trees: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. A key panel recommended that the F.D.A. authorize the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19.

The agency is likely to do so, possibly as early as Saturday, allowing some health care workers and nursing home residents to begin receiving it early next week. The initial shipment of 6.4 million doses will leave Pfizer warehouses within 24 hours of approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The Pfizer vaccine has already been given to people in Bahrain and Britain. Canada approved it on Wednesday. Above, a nurse preparing a vaccine dose in Glasgow.

2. The U.S. hit another record for lives lost in a single day of the pandemic.

The daily death toll for Wednesday reached 3,055. More Americans died yesterday than were killed on Sept. 11, or in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The country is recording more new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations than during the entire pandemic. “The worst is yet to come in the next week or two,” said Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease expert. Above, a patient in Texas.

4. Airbnb became the year’s biggest I.P.O., fueling talk of a new stock market bubble.

Shares skyrocketed on their first day of trading, opening at 113 percent above the company’s initial public offering.

The blockbuster offering came a day after DoorDash, a food delivery start-up, also defied gravity on its first day of trading by surging 86 percent. Airbnb’s offering raised $3.5 billion, compared with DoorDash’s $3.4 billion, making Airbnb the biggest I.P.O. this year.

2020 has been the busiest year for U.S. public offerings since 1999. And this week’s market debuts have raised talk of a new stock market bubble, with investors driving valuations of unprofitable start-ups to levels that seem divorced from reality.

5. The climate crisis is killing California’s majestic trees.

Countless ancient redwoods, hundreds of giant sequoias and more than one million Joshua trees burned in this summer’s wildfires. The devastation was both historic and prophetic, foreshadowing a future of more heat, more fires and more destruction.

Each of these species already faced dangers, but this year’s wildfires, fueled by a century’s worth of forest mismanagement and the quickening pace of global warming, threatened them like never before. “It’ll never come back like it was,” one botanist said. “Not with climate change.”

After last year’s catastrophic wildfires in Australia, the first major blaze in this wildfire season is underway and Australians are wondering how bad this fire season will get.


6. Mastercard and Visa are barring use of their cards on the adult website Pornhub, after our columnist Nicholas Kristof reported that the platform included videos of child abuse and rape.

The credit card companies had started investigations this week into their financial ties with MindGeek, the parent company of Pornhub.

Nearly seven million videos are posted on Pornhub each year. Although the vast majority of them probably depict consensual acts, Nicholas wrote, many do not. Videos of teenage girls who had been victims of assault and trafficking have been found on the website.


7. Two American B-52 bombers flew a show-of-force mission today in the Persian Gulf aimed at deterring Iran and its proxies from carrying out attacks against U.S. troops.

It was the second time in three weeks that Air Force bombers had conducted long-range flights near Iranian air space on short notice. The flight follows the assassination last month of Iran’s top nuclear scientist and comes ahead of the anniversary of the American drone strike in January that killed a senior Iranian commander in Iraq. Iran has vowed to avenge both deaths.

Separately, Morocco has agreed to begin normalizing relations with Israel, becoming the fourth Arab state this fall to do so, the White House announced.

And in Lebanon, a judge charged the acting prime minister and three former ministers with negligence in the huge Beirut explosion that killed 200 people in August.

8. Europe is preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit.

Contingency measures published by the European Commission today would essentially keep regulations in place for air and road travel and fishing rights for six months. The goal is to prevent chaos on Jan. 1, with planes unauthorized to fly or land and road transport paralyzed. Above, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain meeting on Wednesday with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

At a meeting in Brussels, European Union leaders reached an agreement today on $2.2 trillion in budget and stimulus funds after weeks of fraught negotiations with Poland and Hungary, which had been holding up the hefty financial package.


9. Women are taking up chess, inspired by “The Queen’s Gambit.”

Chess.com has added more than 2 million players since the Netflix series about a troubled chess prodigy navigating a male-dominated tournament world debuted in late October. Registrations of female players are up by 15 percent.

The series makes chess “look very glamorous and very luxurious, that women can be rock stars,” said Bianca Mitchell, a 15-year-old who started playing the game in the first grade. She now wants to be a chess grandmaster.

Fans of a real-life pop star have another reason to be excited: Taylor Swift is dropping a new album. “Evermore,” her ninth studio album and her second surprise release during the pandemic, arrives at midnight.


10. And finally, a recipe for better sleep.

Having trouble sleeping during the pandemic? A change of diet might help. A growing body of research suggests that the foods you eat can affect how well you sleep.

Some studies have ties to the food industry and you may want to take those with a grain of salt. The world’s largest marketer of kiwis funded research that showed eating two kiwis an hour before bedtime improved sleep.

In general, clinical trials have found that carbs have a significant impact on sleep. People tend to fall asleep much faster when they consume a diet high in complex carbohydrates compared with when they consume a high-fat or high-protein diet.

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