Debate, Stimulus Bill, Homecoming: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The stakes have never been higher for a vice-presidential debate.

Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris are preparing for their first and only debate tonight. The coronavirus pandemic will most likely shape the topics, including President Trump’s recent hospitalization with the disease and Mr. Pence’s role as the head of the now largely defunct White House task force.

For Ms. Harris, the debate will bring its own challenges and traps. Here’s what else to watch for.

The debate, moderated by Susan Page of USA Today, starts at 9 p.m. Eastern. The Times will livestream the event with real-time analysis and fact-checking from our reporters.

The candidates will be seated 12 feet apart at desks, and divided by plexiglass barriers. But adding a box fan, an air filter and duct tape to attach them would be an even safer option, according to some public health experts.

2. President Trump called his coronavirus infection “a blessing from God” in a new video posted on Twitter. More than 211,400 Americans have died from disease.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr. Trump told the nation he would also provide hundreds of thousands of doses of unapproved drugs to Americans free of charge. He returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon despite his infection. Advisers were exploring the idea of resuming travel events for Mr. Trump next week, two people close to the White House said.

4. President Trump lost another appeal to shield his tax returns from the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., above. The dispute is likely to head to the Supreme Court yet again.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel in New York rejected the president’s arguments that the subpoena should be blocked because it was too broad and amounted to political harassment from Mr. Vance, a Democrat.

And in case you missed it, a watchdog report found that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and top Justice Department officials pushed hard for migrant family separations in 2018. “We need to take away children,” Mr. Sessions told prosecutors.

5. Religious leaders in New York lashed out at Gov. Andrew Cuomo over new coronavirus restrictions on schools, businesses and houses of worship. Protests and fires broke out in Brooklyn overnight.

Orthodox Jewish lawmakers representing the areas affected by the shutdown said Mr. Cuomo “has chosen to pursue a scientifically and constitutionally questionable shutdown of our communities.” The outrage was not limited to the Jewish community: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn condemned the new rules as “outrageous.”

Mr. Cuomo defended the new rules, noting that the coronavirus test positivity rate in the state’s hot spots was about 5 percent, compared to 1 percent in the rest of the state.

As fears grow that New York City is at risk of a second wave of infections, New Zealand has successfully stamped out the virus — for a second time. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the country’s reopening a validation of its “go hard, go early” response.

6. In Russia’s self-proclaimed sphere of influence, Russia is actually losing its influence.

Uprisings in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan and a war in the Caucasus region have blindsided the Kremlin, undermining President Vladimir Putin’s image as a master tactician on the world stage — and left Russia scrambling to shore up its interests in the former Soviet republics.

After working for years to destabilize the West, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by instability in regions close to home. “There is nothing good about these conflicts for Moscow,” a senior Russian lawmaker and Putin ally told The Times.

7. Climate change is taking a toll on woodlands in the Northeast. Many arborists say they are spending more time taking down dead or unhealthy trees than ever before.

New England is roughly 75 percent forest. But many species — including ash, oak, maple, hemlock, elm and white pine — are threatened by pests or disease. Others are stressed by bouts of drought or intense rain, by rising temperatures and changing season length.

In other climate news, last month was the warmest September on record worldwide, topping a record set just a year before, European scientists announced.

8. With cooler months ahead, dating in America is heating up.

Dating apps have enjoyed soaring user engagement over the past several months. Many experts, along with daters themselves, say that daters have become more likely to couple up, lower their standards and do what they can to find a partner to face whatever comes next.

For others, the pandemic has made dating anything but appealing. And some singles have employed a different strategy: going back to familiar exes.

Laurie Santos, an expert in positive psychology, has a few simple ideas for sustaining mental well-being as the coronavirus crisis continues.

9. Turn off the news, and turn on this Baroque playlist.

We’ve asked some of our favorite artists to choose the five minutes or so they would play to make their friends fall in love with classical music, the piano, the cello and more. Now we want to make you fall for the spirited, sublime music of the Baroque period, which lasted from about 1600 to 1750. Listen and enjoy.

And the tributes are still pouring in for Eddie Van Halen, the master shredder and co-founder of his namesake band. We spoke with Metallica’s Kirk Hammett about what the guitarist meant to him.

We also remember Johnny Nash, a singer whose “I Can See Clearly Now” helped bring reggae music to the U.S. He died on Tuesday at the age of 80.

10. And finally, welcome to homecoming.

At historically Black colleges, homecoming is more than just a football game and pep rallies: It’s part family reunion and part revival, and all Black joy. The annual fall event is canceled this year because of the pandemic, so one of our staff editors (a Howard University alumna) and a video journalist reached out to our readers for memories of homecomings past.

“Homecoming itself — it’s like being baptized in Blackness,” said David Thomas, who graduated from Morehouse College in 2005. “There is a buzz in the atmosphere,” said Cynthia Green, who graduated from South Carolina State University in 1981 and is a former flag girl.

Have a celebratory night.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

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