Presidential Debate, Cruise Ships, N.B.A.: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

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Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

1. A debate like no other.

The biggest threat to the election is the president himself, our national security correspondent writes in an analysis of last night’s showdown between President Trump and Joe Biden.

Mr. Trump’s claim that balloting, already underway, was a “fraud and a shame” and proof of “a rigged election” amounted to a declaration that he would try to throw any outcome into courts, Congress or the streets if he were not re-elected.

That assertion is part of an extensive Republican plan to disrupt the election by claiming that voter fraud is a pervasive problem, a five-month Times Magazine investigation found.

Despite the rhetoric of administration officials and right-wing media, voter fraud is a largely nonexistent problem, and most claims of fraud have fallen apart under closer scrutiny. Here are the main takeaways from the report.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

2. The Commission on Presidential Debates said it would change its format after Mr. Trump’s constant interruptions during his first face-off with Joe Biden.

Credit…Francois Mori/Associated Press

3. The debate left allies and rivals alike questioning the state of American democracy and the country’s place on the global stage. Our diplomatic correspondent looked at reactions around the world.

People voiced frustration, disbelief and sometimes even glee over Mr. Trump’s blustering and bellowing over the moderator, Chris Wallace, and Mr. Biden, who at one point called Mr. Trump a “clown” and asked him to “shut up.” Mr. Wallace told The Times he “never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did.”

The election is also making investors nervous. Stocks had their first monthly drop since March, finishing September down by 4 percent, as investors prepared for instability after the election.

Credit…Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

4. The White House blocked an order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep cruise ships docked until mid-February, which would have displeased the politically powerful tourism industry in the crucial swing state of Florida.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the C.D. C., recommended extending the ban, worried that cruise ships could become viral hot spots once again. The current “no sail” policy is set to expire on Wednesday.

In the race for a coronavirus vaccine, Pfizer’s chief has repeatedly hinted at a virus vaccine by October. It’s a gamble with slim chances of success and great consequences for failure, but big incentives — both financially and to stay in the president’s good graces.

Credit…Rajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press

5. An ambitious new study out of India offers important insights for resource-poor countries, which have suffered an overwhelming majority of coronavirus cases, but have received relatively little scientific scrutiny.

The study of nearly 85,000 coronavirus cases in India and nearly 600,000 of their contacts found that children of all ages can become infected with the virus and spread it to others, and that older men are more likely to be the source of large clusters of cases.

Among the other findings: The median hospital stay before death from Covid-19 was five days in India, compared with two weeks in the U.S., possibly because of limited access to quality care in India.

The World Health Organization repeatedly said that closing borders wouldn’t stop the spread of Covid-19. A Times inquiry found this policy was never based on science, with a close look at how the era of accessible global tourism collided with a pandemic in an Austrian resort.


Credit…Jovelle Tamayo for The New York Times

6. “For 20 years, I’ve gone all around the world and never left my chair.”

Tina Jackson, above, retired early from Alaska Airlines to preserve a job for a younger colleague. She is one of tens of thousands of airline employees who voluntarily accepted buyouts or pay cuts in anticipation of a slow recovery.

Congress threw the industry a lifeline in March by offering airlines $25 billion as long as they refrained from major job cuts until Oct. 1. Airlines have warned that unless lawmakers extend that program, they will furlough tens of thousands of workers.

Separately, Disney announced cuts to 28,000 theme park jobs in the U.S. yesterday, after months of keeping workers on furlough.


Credit…Christopher Smith for The New York Times

7. As Americans rethink Confederate monuments across the country, a movement is underway to restore and protect historic Black cemeteries.

In the late 19th century, Black communities built cemeteries to honor a first wave of soldiers, politicians and business leaders after the end of slavery — many of which were built just across town from monuments to their Confederate oppressors. Now burial grounds like the East End Cemetery in Richmond, Va., above, have fallen into disrepair, the victims of mismanagement, political strife and abandonment.

We also took a close look at a small group of globally renowned high-culture institutions like the Palais Galliera in Paris and the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Black designers have been largely overlooked. Of the 54 designers in the Met’s highlighted collection, for example, one-third are women and none are Black.


Credit…Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

8. Nearly a full year after the 2019-20 N.B.A. season began, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat will begin to grapple for the championship title tonight.

The Heat, above, would be the lowest-seeded team to win the championship. All they have to do is beat LeBron James, who makes his ninth finals appearance in 10 years. Here are three things to watch.

The finals cap an extraordinary year for the league, between the coronavirus, protests and grief. We talked to five people about what they learned about the game, and themselves. “We have a lot more power than we think,” Jerami Grant of the Denver Nuggets said.

Credit…Margaret Roach

9. An aggressive approach to a fall cleanup can damage the environment. So what’s a responsible gardener to do?

Over-raking leaves can kill beneficial insects that love all of the leaf litter, which keeps them warm during the winter, and interrupts the food web. Margaret Roach, our garden expert, spoke to an ornithologist and plant pathologist at Cornell for advice. The conclusion: Less raking is often more effective.

The Times Magazine also has this tip sheet on how to save seeds.

And an “awe walk” may do you good: Older men and women who took a fresh look at the objects and vistas around them while they strolled felt more upbeat and hopeful.


Credit…Museum für Naturkunde

10. And finally, a bird of a very old feather.

Since a fossilized feather was pulled out of the ground in Germany in 1861, the identity of the creature that shed it has long been debated. A new study claims to have settled the mystery: The feather belongs to archaeopteryx, a herald of the evolutionary transition between dinosaurs and birds.

The researchers also found that the feather fit perfectly into the wing of a archaeopteryx fossil found at nearby site, reuniting the feather with the dinosaur that may have dropped it. One paleontologist was so jubilant and certain about his finding that he got it tattooed on his body.

Have a revelatory night.


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

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