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Wildfires, Sept. 11, ‘Queer Eye’: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The wildfire crisis on the West Coast is growing to a staggering scale as tens of thousands of people are told to evacuate.

The fires have consumed more than three million acres in California, almost a million acres in Oregon and destroyed entire towns in Washington. The mayor of Portland declared a state of emergency because of fires approaching its suburbs. Here’s the latest.

At least 15 people have died in the fires, with more deaths expected as teams search through burned homes. Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon said dozens of people had been reported missing. The director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management said the state was “preparing for a mass fatality incident based on what we know and the numbers of structures that have been lost.”

2. A very different Sept. 11.

It has been 19 years since passenger jets hijacked by terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa. Nearly 3,000 people died, some 2,700 of them in New York.

The two presidential contenders put their acrimonious political sparring on hold for a day to pay their respects. President Trump offered somber remarks in Shanksville; Joe Biden traveled to ground zero before visiting Shanksville.

Mourners near the Sept. 11 memorial in Lower Manhattan wore face masks, and the teary, intimate hugs of years past were replaced by awkwardly choreographed fist bumps. But as they memorialized a past tragedy, New Yorkers are still facing an even deadlier crisis that is not yet over.


3. Emboldened by President Trump’s message of law and order, militia groups have bolstered their strength before Election Day by enlisting military veterans.

A vast majority of the nation’s 20 million veterans do not join militias, but experts in domestic terrorism and law enforcement analysts estimate that veterans and active-duty members of the military may now make up at least 25 percent of militia rosters.

Many high-profile episodes stemming from militia groups — a thwarted plan to incite violence at a recent demonstration in Las Vegas and the violence during a 2017 protest in Charlottesville, Va. — involved veterans.


4. A Florida law that restricts felons’ voting eligibility is constitutional, a federal appeals court said in a significant reversal.

The law requires people with serious criminal convictions to pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote. The decision comes four months after a federal judge ruled that the law, which affects about 10 percent of adults in the state, was akin to an unconstitutional poll tax. Above, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department in August.

Florida’s voters amended the state’s Constitution in 2018 to end the disenfranchisement of those convicted of felonies, except for murder and sexual offenses. With Florida a perennially close state in presidential elections, any move to limit ballot access could benefit Republicans in November. The deadline to register is Oct. 5.


5. The other way the coronavirus will kill: hunger.

In the face of the global pandemic, hundreds of millions of people are suffering an intensifying crisis over how to secure their basic dietary needs. The number of those confronting life-threatening levels of food insecurity is expected to double this year to 265 million.

The largest numbers of vulnerable communities are concentrated in South Asia and Africa. “We hear our children screaming in hunger, but there is nothing that we can do,” one Afghan mother said. Above, a malnourished child at Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul.


6. What began as a trickle of coronavirus infections among college students is now a flood: In the past week, American colleges recorded more than 36,000 additional cases, according to a Times survey.

That brings the total of campus infections to 88,000 since the pandemic began. Public health experts say colleges and universities, like the State University of New York at Oneonta, above, as a category have become hot spots much as hospitals, nursing homes and meat packing plants were earlier in the year.

Even the most comprehensive approaches to containing the virus can break down. One oversight at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Its experts assumed that students would stop partying after they received a positive test result.


7. Bahrain will normalize relations with Israel in another sign of shifting dynamics that are bringing Arab nations closer to Israel.

President Trump announced the news on Twitter, releasing a joint statement with Bahrain and Israel, and calling the move “a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East.” Bahrain has strategic significance for Washington as the host for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Jared Kushner, above with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, helped broker the deal.

The island kingdom in the Persian Gulf is the second Arab nation in a month to openly embrace Israel, after the United Arab Emirates. The move further isolates the Palestinians and positions Mr. Trump as a campaign-season peacemaker.

8. What does the future of theater look like?

Six months into the pandemic, Broadway remains dark and thousands of artists are out of work. But what if the end of the business-as-usual party was actually the start of a new dream of what theater could be in New York — and by extension in the rest of the country?

A few ideas from our critics: Open up the canon of classics, embrace streaming to grow audiences, make it affordable and make it fun. We asked top theater figures to offer their suggestions, too. Above, the Zoom play “And So We Came Forth.”


9. Tan France has a lot to teach us about dressing.

The style guru on Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” which follows a group of experts as they help “heroes” with simple life tips and home improvements, has spun his fame into ample opportunity: A memoir, a competition show, a comedic web series and now a MasterClass where you, too, can learn everything you ever wanted to know about capsule wardrobes.

He says it’s not about the money. “I took this job because I had an agenda. I needed people to see my people — Muslims, gays, Pakistanis, immigrants — as real people, not just characters on a TV show,” he said.

Fashion month starts Sunday, beginning with New York Fashion Week. Here’s a guide for the altered season.


10. And finally, six word memoirs.

Since 2006, Larry Smith has challenged people to describe their lives in six words, his twist on the six-word story attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Over the past several months, he’s asked adults and children around the country to use the form to make sense of this moment in history. Here are a few (you can read more here):

“Not a criminal but running masked.”

“Every day’s a bad hair day.”

“Sun-kissed lips? Not kissed this year.”

“This is what time looks like.”

“Dream of: heat, limbs, crowds, concerts.”

Have a poetic weekend.


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