Georgia, Pfizer, 100 Notable Books: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

Credit…Megan Varner/Getty Images

1. Georgia’s top election official certified that President-elect Joe Biden won the state, despite President Trump’s claims that the process was corrupt.

The call in the battleground state comes after a methodical hand recount of its five million votes found Mr. Biden defeated Mr. Trump by about 11,000 votes. In a blunt declaration of the final vote count, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said, “I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie.”

Georgia’s certification is the first of a series of states that could make official Mr. Biden’s victory over the next week. Here’s which states have certified vote totals.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

2. Despite President Trump’s refusal to concede, the Biden-Harris team continued to plan for a Biden White House.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York for the first time since the election. Ms. Pelosi said they planned to discuss “the lame duck session, the urgency of crushing the virus and easing the pain for this economic crisis, keeping the government open.”

The transition team also announced additional staff appointments, many of whom are carry-overs from the Obama-Biden administration. But when it comes to cabinet positions, Mr. Biden is likely to find Republican resistance in a polarized Senate chamber.

Credit…Pfizer, via Reuters

3. Pfizer has asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its vaccine for emergency use, which could lead to the first Americans getting the vaccine by mid-December.

A large team of regulators at the agency will take about three weeks to review the application with thousands of pages of data, which would typically take months to complete. Agency officials have made clear through new guidelines that their bar for emergency authorization will be high. Moderna is also on the verge of submitting its own vaccine for review.

Credit…Erin Kirkland for The New York Times

4. College coronavirus cases are spiking.

The Times has counted more than 68,000 new cases on college campuses since early November. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 321,000 people on campuses have tested positive. At least 80 have died.

To understand the whiplash of this chaotic semester, take a look at the University of Michigan, above, one of the biggest universities in the country. Like many big state universities, it tried to open with some semblance of normalcy. Outbreaks ensued and now the university has pivoted to near-universal remote instruction.

Separately, Unicef, the United Nations agency for children, found in a new report that keeping children at home is causing significant, long-lasting harm, and that school closures have not been effective in curbing the spread of the virus.

Credit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

5. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended his decision to ask the Federal Reserve to return unused emergency lending funds, created in special programs in the early weeks of the pandemic. The move limits President-elect Joe Biden’s pandemic response options.

Mr. Mnuchin denied politics was at play in his decision and said it reflected the wishes of Congress. But the effect would be to give Mr. Biden’s Treasury secretary less flexibility to expand the programs that worked wonders to prop up financial markets through the spring and summer.

Mr. Mnuchin’s decision, coupled with the near-confirmation of Judy Shelton, above, as a Fed governor this week, suggests a future of greater risks each time party control changes, our senior economics correspondent writes.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Credit…Yossy Arefi for The New York Times (Photography and Styling)

7. Thanksgiving: Ready, set, don’t go (but do cook).

With coronavirus cases raging across the U.S., the safest choice this Thanksgiving is to spend it with the people you live with. We asked 635 epidemiologists what they are doing for the holiday, and most are staying home.

Here are more ideas from across The Times for how to keep it small, safe and fun:

Credit…Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

8. “I’m not going to be ultra-modest about this: You have to know how to turn on that electricity. And I know how to switch it on.”

Anthony Hopkins would know. The Oscar-winning actor with decades of expertise does it again in “The Father,” a career-capping performance as a man struggling with dementia. With a well-written script and Olivia Colman playing his put-upon daughter, the 82-year-old said that “it was an easy part to play.”

The Times Magazine also spoke to David Fincher about “Mank,” his new film about how the screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz came to write “Citizen Kane” while slowly drinking himself to death. It is a film he has waited his entire career to make. It took our writer, Jonah Weiner, six years to report this profile of the director.

Credit…Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times

9. Music to get us through.

At the fearful height of the pandemic in April, Simon Gronowski, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, began playing jazz tunes on his piano from his apartment window in Brussels, bringing relief to his besieged neighbors throughout the lockdown that lasted into late May.

“Music is a means of communication, of connection,” said Mr. Gronowski, who taught himself how to play the piano as a teenager after escaping the Nazis. Piano was a way for him to connect with his sister who had died in Auschwitz.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, jazz tunes have become a near-constant presence acrossNew York City. The makeshift outdoor shows have been therapeutic for musicians and fans alike.

Credit…Roberts Rurans

10. And finally, make room on your bookshelf.

At the beginning of each year, The Times Book Review editors start the process of selecting, debating and then winnowing down their favorite books. They have a desk full of readers who weigh in. They take a ballot vote that often goes to a runoff, which it did this year. And by the end of November, the list is complete.

These are The Book Review’s 100 most notable books of 2020, many of which reflect the year’s biggest themes. “Racial justice, immigration, ideological divisions, identity and economic disparities permeate both the fiction and nonfiction sides of our list,” Pamela Paul, the Book Review editor, told The Morning.

On Monday, the Book Review will release the year’s 10 best books. Watch the announcement here.

Have an engrossing weekend.

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