Saturday, 5 Dec 2020

Election Eve, Polls, W.H.O.: Your Monday Evening Briefing

Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.

By Victoria Shannon and Judith Levitt

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Anticipating an Election Day like no other: court challenges, boarded-up stores and nationwide anxiety.

Amid growing fears of election unrest, stores, banks and office buildings in Washington, New York and other cities boarded up their windows. National Guard troops were placed on standby in some states. Above, a worker carries plywood outside a restaurant in Washington.

The final days of the campaign have already been marked by street demonstrations and threats of skirmishes. Some college students were warned to stock up on essentials as if a storm were approaching. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif., will be closed for two days.

The fighting is also going on in the courtroom. A federal judge in Houston rejected Republicans’ efforts to invalidate more than 127,000 early votes. The case was one of the most aggressive moves by Republicans in an election that has seen more than 400 voting-related lawsuits.

And officials in a Pennsylvania county were unsettled by a request from the Trump campaign last week for specific information about the storage and transportation of ballots.

2. The final whistle-stops: the battlegrounds of Michigan and Pennsylvania.

President Trump planned to visit the battleground state of Michigan twice today on the last day of the campaign, while Joe Biden scheduled three rallies in Pennsylvania.

In his final outings, the president wavered between confidence in victory and exasperation that most polls show that he is trailing Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee. Mr. Biden’s unusually persistent lead in surveys, our polling reporter writes, suggests that the president will need a very large error in polling data to have a hope of winning the White House.

Here is our Poll Tracker, here’s a podcast from “The Daily” on how to understand the results as they roll in, and here is our guide to when states count their ballots. Above, poll workers in Michigan verify signatures. Tomorrow, “The Daily” will also break down what’s happening in key battleground states in a live broadcast from 4 to 8 p.m. Eastern.

3. Statehouse seats are also up for grabs, and with them, great power.

More than 5,000 state legislative seats — 80 percent of the total — in 44 states are at stake tomorrow. In most states, control of the legislature comes with the once-in-a-decade authority to redraw state and federal electoral maps.

“The state races have never been more important than they are this year,” said David Abrams, deputy executive director of the Republican State Leadership Committee. Above, Iowa House members earlier this year.

The number of statewide ballot measures is down this year, to 124 from 154 in the 2016 election. Abortion, affirmative action, legal marijuana and taxes are among the issues to be decided.

4. The W.H.O. let China take charge in the hunt for the origin of the coronavirus.

Early this year, when pinpointing the source of the virus could have unlocked clues about how to stop and treat it, the World Health Organization quietly negotiated concessions to China in its investigation.

The group’s leadership agreed to terms that sidelined its own experts. Above, a coronavirus victim early this year in Wuhan, where the virus started.

Nine months and more than 1.1 million deaths later, there is still no transparent, independent investigation into the source of the virus. “Unfortunately, this has become a political investigation,” said Wang Linfa, an Australian virologist in Singapore. “Whatever they do is symbolic.”

5. Some people are convinced that it’s too late to stop the virus.

Coronavirus case counts in the U.S. are at record highs, yet many Americans are embracing a let-it-ride approach, and governors, particularly Republican ones, are following the president’s lead in resisting restrictions.

“I think we just open up and we just let it take its course,” said Nancy Hillberg, a churchgoer in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The governor of Massachusetts announced a curfew and new restrictions on gatherings and nonessential businesses in an attempt to curb a spike in cases there.

And in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to put the nation back into a lockdown seems to have pleased almost no one. Members of his Conservative Party said he went too far, and opposition leaders said he acted too late. Above, Mr. Johnson defends his measures at the House of Commons.

6. Multiple gunmen opened fire in central Vienna, killing at least one person and wounding many others.

The area where the shooting took place is packed with bars and home to the city’s main synagogue, which was closed at the time, but it was not clear if they had any connection to the violence. Austria’s interior minister called the episode a terrorist attack.

At least 15 people were wounded in the attack, and government officials said that one attacker had been killed. The shooting occurred hours before the midnight start of a nationwide lockdown. Above, women run away from the area of the shooting.

7. Thailand has a history of coups. Is this time different?

Over nine decades, the Thai military has tried to oust elected governments about 30 times. At least a dozen of these coups have been successful.

Security forces have not cracked down violently on the most recent rallies, but it’s unclear how long the restraint will last. Student-led protesters have taken to the streets, calling for a new constitution and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a military coup in 2014.

“I see a coup as not a bad thing,” said one prominent royalist who has publicly called for a military intervention. Above, Royal Thai Army cadets in September.

8. Twenty years ago today, three astronauts stepped aboard the International Space Station.

Once derided as a poster child for government waste, the I.S.S. is now seen as a linchpin for future economic activity in space.

From Chris Hadfield’s performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” to the invention of the first zero-gravity coffee cup, the orbiting outpost has hosted its share of defining moments as well as hundreds of residents from many countries.

Our Science writers take you through the space station’s first 20 years and offer you a visual tour of humanity’s high-tech home in the sky.

9. Street and sidewalk dining is here to stay.

Our restaurant critic, Pete Wells, argues that outdoor dining in New York won’t just survive the pandemic — it will make the city a different place.

Despite neighbors’ complaints about intrusive music and lost parking spots, the program, which allows more than 10,000 restaurants to set tables outside, is making the city’s street culture interesting again, he writes. Above, Manhattan dining this fall.

For the stay-at-home eaters, our Cooking specialists reprise a recipe for election cake that came to The Times in 1988. Such cakes date to the 1700s.

10. And finally, does the world really need a $590 scratch-and-sniff T-shirt?

In 1966, a 3M chemist invented what we now know as scratch-and-sniff. This year, the luxury fashion house Lanvin released a T-shirt embedding the technology in three varieties — cherry (for men), blackberry (for women) and strawberry (for both).

Though there is something poetic in the concept of the Lanvin shirts, our Style reporter ends up somewhat skeptical of its place in the world. Especially in the world of 2020.

Have a safe and odor-free Election Day.

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

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

What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at [email protected].

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