October 28, 2020

Coronavirus, Hagia Sofia, Frozen Drinks: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

Credit…Nitashia Johnson for The New York Times

1. U.S. deaths from the coronavirus are rising in several states, possibly ending months of declining national death totals.

The seven-day death average in the U.S. reached 608 on Thursday, up from 471 earlier in July, but still a fraction of the more than 2,200 deaths the country averaged each day in mid-April. Health experts cautioned that it was too early to predict a continuing trend, but the pace of deaths in the Sunbelt suggested an end to the nearly three-month period of declines.

The U.S. reported nearly 60,000 new cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record for the sixth time in 10 days, according to a Times database. Above, testing in Dallas.

Credit…Naima Green for The New York Times

2. One big obstacle for economic recovery: a looming child care crisis.

The decision to only reopen New York City public schools part time in September prompted business and union leaders to call for a Marshall Plan-like effort to find child care for the system’s 1.1 million students when they are not in classrooms. Without it, they say, many parents would have no choice but to stay home from work.

Miriam Milord, above right, and Dara Roach run BCakeNy in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. A teenage girl has been taking care of Ms. Milord’s children and those of some of their employees.

And in higher education, a judge said she saw a “likelihood of success” for the Harvard-M.I.T. challenge to new Trump administration rules on international students, but she put off any decision until after another hearing on Tuesday. Afterward, President Trump said he was ordering a review of universities’ tax-exempt status.

Credit…Planet Labs Inc., via Associated Press

3. The long-simmering conflict between the U.S. and Iran appears to be escalating into a potentially dangerous phase.

New satellite images over the Natanz nuclear site in Iran, where a major explosion occurred on July 2, show far more extensive damage than was clear last week. Two intelligence officials said the damage caused by the strike, which was apparently engineered by Israel, could set back the Iranian nuclear program by up to two years.

Some officials say that a joint American-Israeli strategy is turning to a series of short-of-war clandestine strikes, in a wager that Iran will limit its retaliation in the short term.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

4. The Trump campaign, which has struggled to attract large crowds to its events during the pandemic, said it would reschedule a rally in Portsmouth, N.H., citing safety concerns about an incoming tropical storm.

People familiar with the sign-ups said the interest in the rally was significantly lower than for rallies that took place before the coronavirus paused campaigning. Even before the storm warning, the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, said he would not be attending because of fears about the coronavirus. Above, Mr. Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on race and cultural heritage continues to be a sticking point, especially among suburban voters. After more than two dozen interviews in critical swing states around the country, our reporter found the key voting bloc feels increasingly alienated by the president’s efforts to fuel white resentment.

Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

5. Facebook is considering banning political ads before the November election, according to insiders.

Credit…Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

6. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree ordering the architectural jewel Hagia Sophia to be converted into a working mosque. The change came after a Turkish court revoked the site’s 80-year-old status as a museum.

The move is likely to spark an international furor. Built in the sixth century as a cathedral, Hagia Sophia stands as the greatest example of Byzantine Christian architecture in the world, and has long served as a symbol of the secularism that was part of the foundation of the modern Turkish state. Critics of Mr. Erdogan say the move is intended to help his waning popularity.

The first prayers inside Hagia Sophia will take place on July 24.

Credit…Cayce Clifford

7. Why is a crypto currency mogul installing surveillance cameras around San Francisco?

Chris Larsen, a 59-year-old tech industry veteran, sees the cameras as an alternative system of urban security, and he has enlisted neighborhood groups and the city’s reformist district attorney to help.

Amid the Black Lives Matter protests, Mr. Larsen argues that trust will come in the form of full city camera coverage, so the police can play a smaller, more subtle role. Individual vigilantism will not work, he argued, but strong neighborhoods with continuous video feeds on every corner will.

Credit…Samuel Trotter for The New York Times

8. The blockbuster-less summer may have some hope yet: “The Old Guard” on Netflix is one of the few action movies with any sort of guaranteed release this summer.

Starring Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne, “The Old Guard” offers weary antiheroes who aren’t sure what they’re doing is enough to truly save the world. It’s also a watershed moment for its director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, who becomes the first Black woman to make a comic-book movie.

“We don’t get the assumption we can do it, so we have to prove we can,” she told our pop culture reporter.

Since we can’t go to the movies, we asked six critics to bring the hits to us. Here are their favorite summer blockbusters from over the years.


9. Astronomers discovered a new wall in outer space.

The South Pole Wall, as it’s known, consists of thousands of galaxies across at least 700 million light-years of space. But don’t bother trying to see it — it’s hidden behind our own galaxy, the Milky Way, in what astronomers eloquently call the zone of avoidance.

The discovery is the latest part of an ongoing mission to determine where we are in the universe — and where we are going, our cosmos expert writes.

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

10. And finally, the best drinks in life are frozen.

Frozen drinks don’t have to be oversweet sugary messes — they can be great, balanced cocktails. Stick umbrellas in them if you like, but the secret to creating great slushy drinks starts at the beginning: The colder everything starts out, the better, and you may not even need a blender.

“That way, the ingredients are all the same temperature, and the final blended drink doesn’t get too diluted,” said Tiffanie Barriere, a bartender and educator based in Atlanta known as the Drinking Coach. How about a frozen Tom Collins, above, or a sweet vermouth slush?

Cheers to the weekend.

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