Covid Deaths, Congress, Prosecco: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Friday.

1. The U.S. surpassed 700,000 deaths from the coronavirus, months after vaccines became widely available.

An overwhelming majority of Americans who have died in recent months, a period in which the U.S. has offered broad access to shots, were unvaccinated. The latest deaths were concentrated in the South, and there were more young victims than at any other point in the pandemic. Every age group under 55 saw its highest death toll of the pandemic this August.

The new and alarming surge of deaths this summer, when the Delta variant was spreading, means that the coronavirus pandemic has become the deadliest in U.S. history, overtaking the toll from the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919, which killed about 675,000 people.

The deaths that followed the wide availability of vaccines, one expert said, were “absolutely needless.”

2. President Biden met with House Democrats after party factions failed to break a logjam over the infrastructure bill.

The meeting on Capitol Hill came days after feuding among liberal and moderate factions in the party. The discord culminated last night in a decision by Democratic leaders to delay a planned vote on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package because of a progressive blockade.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days or six weeks,” Biden said after the meeting. “We’re going to get it done.”

Liberal lawmakers are blocking the bill because two key centrist senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, oppose the ambitions of the larger social policy bill. Sinema returned to Arizona for a medical appointment and scheduled fund-raiser.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not force a vote on the legislation before a broader agreement could be reached on the rest of Biden’s agenda.

3. Inflation climbed at the quickest pace in 30 years as supply chain issues continue.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures index, the Federal Reserve’s preferred price gauge, rose by 4.3 percent in the year through August. That beat out the July reading of 4.2 percent, another three-decade high. Officials at the Fed are watching those trends as they consider when to remove the economic support that the central bank has been providing during the pandemic.

The U.S. is not alone: Inflation in the eurozone climbed to 3.4 percent in September from a year earlier, the highest in 13 years.

In other business news, Ozy Media is shutting down. The digital media company came under scrutiny for its business practices in recent days after reporting by The Times.

4. California plans to require Covid vaccines for students as early as next fall, the first state to take such a step.

The mandate for public and private schools will be phased in — seventh through 12th grades first, and then kindergarten through sixth — after the F.D.A. grants full approval to the corresponding age group. Several of the state’s largest school districts have already voted to require vaccinations in some form for hundreds of thousands of students.

5. Portugal’s Covid vaccine campaign has been so successful that there is virtually no one left to vaccinate.

About 98 percent of those eligible have been fully vaccinated. That is a sharp turnaround from earlier this year, when the country’s health care system was on the verge of collapse and its vaccine program was in shambles.

To right the ship, the government turned to Vice Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo, a former submarine squadron commander. The key to his success: treat the pandemic like a war, and keep politics out of it.

Australia is starting to reopen. It plans to lift its bans on international travel in November, allowing fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents to cross borders for the first time since March 2020. Foreign tourists will not be able to visit immediately.

6. U.S. police killings have been undercounted by more than half over the past 40 years, a study found, raising pointed questions about racial bias.

Researchers at the University of Washington found that about 55 percent of fatal encounters with the police between 1980 and 2018 were mislabeled and listed as having another cause of death. The research is one of the most comprehensive looks at the scope of police violence in America and the disproportionate impact on Black people.

Separately, more than 70,000 Black girls under the age of 18 were reported missing last year, but critics say the police often discount them as runaways. The lack of attention to their cases has prompted organizations and websites dedicated to finding them.

7. The National Women’s Soccer League canceled five matches amid a misconduct scandal in which several coaches were accused of abusing players.

The league, which has faced charges that it has done little to protect its athletes, announced the cancellations in a brief statement that said that “the gravity of the events of the last week” had made it impossible to ask its teams to play.

Two head coaches accused of abusive behavior were fired this week, a third was dismissed for unspecified misconduct in August and a fourth was allowed to leave his club after players complained about the way he spoke to and about players. The cancellations were driven by pressure from the players’ union and public outrage from stars like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and dozens of others.

8. Wedding rings by Fabergé. A French tiara. An imperial eagle embroidered on to the veil. The Romanovs are back in Russia — and they had a wedding to prove it.

More than a 100 years after the last czar and czarina were assassinated in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, a collection of Europe’s noble families gathered to celebrate Russia’s first royal wedding in over a century. Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich Romanov, 40, a descendant of the Russian imperial throne, married his Italian partner, Rebecca Bettarini, 39.

The Romanovs aren’t the only royals making headlines. Princess Mako of Japan will marry her college boyfriend, a commoner, on Oct. 26 after a long and arduous engagement.

9. Tensions are bubbling up in Prosecco country.

The E.U., in a major setback for the multibillion-euro sparkling wine industry, last month agreed to consider a longstanding application by Croatia to recognize Prosek, a method of making an obscure sweet dessert wine of the same name. Prosecco producers, based in the northeastern Vento region of Italy, are outraged. But they also can’t agree on what, exactly, should be called Prosecco.

In other fizzy pursuits, it’s cider season. At its most basic definition, cider is fermented apple juice. But like wine, it contains multitudes, skewing tart, sour, dry, bitter, sweet, wild, herbal, acidic, sparkling. Some ciders aren’t even made from apples, but pears or other pomaceous fruit. Walk (or sip) through all the options.

10. And finally, a leafy horror story.

Scientists have found that a mustard plant infected with a certain parasite becomes something like a mix between a vampire that never ages and a zombie host whose body serves the needs of its parasite. The plant’s neighbors grow old, reproduce and die, but the pathogen’s eerily youthful host persists.

When insects ingest the parasite, they spread it to new hosts, and the whole “Night of the Living Dead”-meets-Dracula cycle repeats. Scientists have discovered that some of these creepy alterations are driven by the work of a single protein from the parasite.

Have a fearless weekend.

David Poller compiled photos for this briefing.

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

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