Stimulus, Syringe Shortage, Harry and Meghan: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Lawmakers are inching toward a bill that would pump nearly $2 trillion in relief funds into the economy.

Democrats are still working to arrive at legislation that every senator in the party’s 50-member bloc will find acceptable. In one tweak, lawmakers dropped a push to raise the federal supplement to $400 a week from $300 a week. However, they plan to extend the benefit an additional month, until early October.

But Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, above, the body’s crucial swing vote, is not yet satisfied. With no margin for error, every Democrat needs to support the bill for it to become law.

The Senate spent much of Friday working its way through a marathon session of rapid-fire votes. The vote-a-rama, as it is known, could stretch long past midnight, paving the way for a Senate vote to pass the stimulus plan as early as Saturday.

And time is of the essence. Unemployment benefits are set to begin lapsing next weekend.

2. Hiring is starting to pick up.

As states lifted restrictions and stepped up vaccination efforts, the U.S. added 379,000 jobs in February, an unexpectedly large improvement that was driven by hiring by bars and restaurants. It was an increase over the gains made in January and also the strongest showing since October.

3. America’s vaccine rollout is already lagging in communities of color, data shows.

The vaccination rate for Black Americans is half that of white people, and the gap for Hispanic people is even larger, according to a Times analysis of state-reported race and ethnicity information. Here are details on the disparity.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine could help shrink that gap. Public health officials are enthusiastic about how much faster they can get the single-shot doses distributed, particularly in vulnerable communities that might not otherwise have access to vaccines.

Separately, a new study found that dining at restaurants and the lack of mask mandates were each linked to the spread of the virus in the U.S.

4. What good are billions of vaccine doses if you don’t have syringes?

As countries jostle to secure enough vaccines to put an end to the pandemic, a new choke point is looming. The world needs up to 10 billion syringes for coronavirus doses, and manufacturers, like one pictured above in India, are pulling out all of the stops to meet the demand.

The need for a speedy inoculation is as important as ever as coronavirus variants gain ground. Scientists in Oregon have identified a homegrown version of a fast-spreading variant that first surfaced in Britain — but now combined with a mutation that may make the variant less susceptible to vaccines.

5. Aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York rewrote a report by state health officials to hide how many nursing home residents had died in the pandemic.

The extraordinary intervention, which came just as Mr. Cuomo was starting to write a book on his pandemic achievements, was the earliest act yet known in what critics have called a monthslong effort by the governor and his aides to obscure the full scope of nursing home deaths.

After the state attorney general revealed earlier this year that thousands of deaths of nursing home residents had been undercounted, Mr. Cuomo finally released the complete data. New York has the highest number of known Covid-19-related deaths of residents of nursing homes, with more than 15,000 so far, according to a Times database.


6. Pope Francis is in Baghdad for a history-making tour of Iraq.

Francis is the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit the country. It’s also the pontiff’s first trip during the pandemic. Brushing aside suggestions that his trip might fuel a surge in coronavirus cases, Francis sought to rally the country’s fading Christian community, calling for the protection of minorities.

By choosing Iraq as his first destination since the pandemic began, Francis waded directly into the issues of war and peace, and poverty and religious strife, in an ancient biblical land. “This trip is emblematic,” he said, calling it “a duty to a land martyred for many years.”

See the pope’s visit in pictures.


7. The trial of Derek Chauvin, who has been charged in the death of George Floyd, may be delayed, after an appeals court ruled that a judge must reconsider whether to add a third-degree murder charge.

The unanimous decision, coming just days before jury selection was set to begin, means that the trial court will most likely again hear arguments from Mr. Chauvin and prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office.

He is already facing a more serious charge of second-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, for pressing his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck as he gasped for air. A third-degree murder charge would give prosecutors an additional avenue to win a conviction.

Here is a recap of what has happened in the case in the past year.


8. A royal face-off is set for Sunday night.

CBS is airing a two-hour interview between Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. In tantalizing excerpts dribbled out by CBS and in scalding allegations about Meghan leaked to a British newspaper, the British royal family and the self-exiled couple are maneuvering furiously to shape the narrative.

“I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that ‘the firm’ is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Meghan tells Oprah, using a nickname sometimes used to describe the royal family.


9. Daniel Kaluuya has emerged as one of the most consequential leading men of his generation.

The “Get Out” actor plays Fred Hampton, the rising star of the Black Panther Party who was murdered by police in 1969, in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” a role for which he won a Golden Globe and is now a front-runner in the Oscars race. Getting to this point required him to dig deeper than ever, navigating precarious historical, physical and emotional fault lines in the process.

“People can say whatever they’re going to say about the performance, and I’ll still feel free,” Kaluuya said. “I gave it everything I had. I gave. I gave. I gave.”

10. And finally, finding light in the deep sea.

Scientists have identified the largest glow-in-the-dark species with a spine — on land or sea — that has ever been found. Kitefin sharks, which grow to almost six feet in length, emit blue-green light.

Working off the coast of New Zealand, researchers figured out the strange biochemical process that makes them glow: Tests showed that the shark light is regulated by a hormonal on-off switch triggered by melatonin.

“It makes us fall asleep,” said the lead researcher, “but it’s lighting up the shark.”

Hope something lights up your weekend.


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