Coronavirus Deaths, Big Tech, Clay Food: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing – The New York Times

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. has soared beyond expectations.

More than 150,00 people have died from the virus, according to a Times database. In April, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he hoped that no more than 60,000 people would die. In May, President Trump said that anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 people might die. Above, United Memorial Medical Center in Houston this month.

There has been an average of about 1,000 deaths per day in the past week alone, and daily death counts are rising in 23 states and Puerto Rico. The U.S. death toll is the highest of any country in the world, by far.

There’s not just one coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. There are many, each requiring its own mix of solutions. We asked experts what is next as the outbreak splinters into deadly pieces.

And on the topic of federal aid, the White House chief of staff said that “we’re nowhere close to a deal” with Democrats and predicted that the extra $600 unemployment benefit will most likely expire on Friday.

2. Big tech was in the hot seat.

The chief executives of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon appeared together for the first time at an antitrust hearing into the U.S. tech industry on whether their dominance had harmed the economy, stifled rivals and left consumers with few choices. All denied those claims.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon, above, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google spoke by videoconference as members of Congress met in person on Capitol Hill.

It was the culmination of a yearlong investigation into the companies by the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee and a rare example of bipartisan agreement, albeit from different angles.

We tallied how often the C.E.O.s repeated certain arguments and catchphrases, like “We are not that big” and “We are good for America.”

3. Federal agents agreed to withdraw from Portland, Ore., on Thursday. But they cautioned that they would not leave until federal properties were secure.

Under an agreement between Gov. Kate Brown and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the governor’s office said the Oregon State Police will provide security for the city’s federal courthouse.

The agreement, although still tenuous, was a stark turnaround. Ms. Brown said that Vice President Mike Pence was among the people involved in the discussions.

Two months after the police killing of George Floyd, the four-block area of South Minneapolis where he died remains a police-free zone. But after an uptick in gun violence and drug overdoses, city officials are grappling with how to reassert control of the space without setting off a new wave of anger.

4. President Trump spoke by telephone last week with President Vladimir Putin. The question of Russian operatives paying Taliban militants bounties to kill American soldiers did not come up.

Instead, in an interview with Axios scheduled to air on HBO next week, Mr. Trump dismissed the assessment from U.S. intelligence as “fake news.” Mr. Trump told Axios that the issue “never reached my desk” because intelligence officials “didn’t think it was real.”

In the fight for the White House, Mr. Trump vowed to protect suburbanites from low-income housing being built where they live by stirring racist fears. Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent, said the president was trying to scare voters with his rhetoric “because an awful lot of suburbanites are now deciding they’re going to vote for me.”

5. Teachers’ unions are shaping the future of public education for 56 million students in the pandemic.

Teachers in many districts are fighting for longer school closures, stronger safety requirements and limits on what they are required to do in virtual classrooms. But unions, which have threatened to strike if key demands are not met, face enormous pressure because parents need their children in schools in order to get back to work. Above, a protest in Land O’ Lakes, Fla., last week.

Pediatric researchers estimate that the closure of schools last spring most likely saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented many more infections. Outside experts noted that the findings stem from a time when few precautions were in place.

And the coronavirus is already on college campuses. A Times survey found at least 6,300 cases were tied to about 270 colleges. That’s before the beginning of the academic year at most schools.

6. It’s a familiar story in Asia: Vietnam seemed like a miracle, where months went by without a single coronavirus death or even local transmission.

The economy reopened, travel restarted and residents began leaving their masks at home.

But as of this weekend, the country announced that the virus was lurking after all — and spreading. Experts do not know the source, and the mystery is worrying doctors and residents alike. Masks are back in circulation in Hanoi, above.

7. Baseball’s botched return could be a warning for football.

Players are reporting to training camp with one eye warily on M.L.B., where a coronavirus outbreak among the Miami Marlins has upended the season. Like M.L.B., the N.F.L. is allowing players and staff members to return to their homes after play, vastly increasing their risk of exposure. Above, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, center, held a private workout with his new teammates in June.

The N.F.L. is banking on extensive testing and an honor code to keep the season going. Face coverings are recommended but not required. Without mandated masks and more testing, one expert said, the virus will “spread like wildfire through the teams.”

8. Kerry James Marshall is taking on John James Audubon.

His two new paintings explore the experiences of Black Americans and the “societal pecking order” by reimagining Audubon’s landmark series, “Birds of America,” the painstakingly rendered 435 watercolors made in the first half of the 19th century. Marshall’s images hinge on Audubon’s own racial heritage: Many people believe he was part Black but was able to pass as white.

And in The Times Magazine, Helen Macdonald writes about swifts that do not stop for two or three years once they start flying. All this time spent in the sky could tell us something about the future — and ourselves.

9. “If you can’t enjoy weeding, you won’t be a happy gardener.”

That’s the wisdom of Timothy Tilghman, the head gardener at Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, N.Y., above, a 43-acre former estate on the Hudson River. It was an eerily quiet spring and early summer without visitors because of the pandemic, but there is still work to be done.

Our garden expert, Margaret Roach, spoke with Mr. Tilghman about his high-summer to-do list. It includes: water and weed consistently (and observe and note what needs fixing); deadhead and groom; keep your edges tidy; mulch; and prep future beds.

10. And finally, finding zen in tiny clay food.

Rebecca Ackermann is a designer, writer and mother who tried tie dye, YouTube yoga and face paint to keep her and her family entertained while in quarantine. She also hates to cook. So when she and her daughter began making fruit and cookies out of polymer clay, Ms. Ackerman was hooked.

The soft clay slowed her anxious breathing as she “fell into a trance mixing the perfect shade of icing,” she writes in Opinion. The subtle pleasure of using clay and little tools allows her to “try again to make one small piece of the world just right.”

Have a calmly creative night.

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

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