Joe Biden, Steve Bannon, Native Plants: Your Thursday Evening Briefing


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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

Last night, Barack Obama delivered an excoriation of his successor and a plea to voters who he said will decide the fate of American democracy. It was an unusually emotional performance for the former president, our chief White House correspondent writes.

2. Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former aide, was charged with fraud in a scheme tied to building a wall on the Mexican border.

According to a federal indictment unsealed in Manhattan, Mr. Bannon, pictured last year, and three other men conspired to cheat hundreds of thousands of donors in an online effort called We Build the Wall that raised $25 million on GoFundMe.

The group was set up to bolster one of the president’s signature initiatives, but prosecutors said that money was siphoned from the project and that Mr. Bannon used nearly $1 million to pay off his personal expenses. Mr. Bannon was arrested by federal postal inspectors and special agents on a $35 million yacht off the coast of Westbrook, Conn.

Separately, for a second time, a federal judge ruled that Mr. Trump must provide his tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney.


3. The U.S. economy remains challenging for many American workers.

The number filing state jobless claims rose last week to 1.1 million, up from 971,000 the previous week, a sign of the labor market’s fragility months into the pandemic.

“It definitely suggests that momentum in the recovery is slowing,” an economist said.

What does the future hold for the office and the workers who once inhabited it — the gossip, the handshakes or the work attire collecting dust in our closets? We explored all of those questions in a collection of reporting on our new work lives.

4. Wildfires in Northern and Central California have burned through more than 350,000 acres.

At least two people died and thousands have fled their homes amid a grueling heat wave, a pandemic and air thick with smoke. Almost two dozen major fires were reported on Wednesday, and more than 300 smaller ones. California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwood State Park, known for its majestic trees, has been badly damaged by fire.

And because of the coronavirus, civilian firefighters are missing a critical, and usually dependable, ally: inmate firefighting crews. Here’s the latest and a map of the fires.

Also out of California: Uber and Lyft won’t shut down, as they had threatened to do, after a court granted a reprieve to hear a case over reclassifying drivers in the state.


School nurses like Janna Benzel in Royal City, Wash., above, “are the only health care experts in their school community able to understand infection control and do disease surveillance,” the president-elect of the National Association of School Nurses said.

Separately, the Trump administration is giving permission to pharmacists nationwide to administer all scheduled shots to children as young as 3, including the flu vaccine, a step that makes immunization more convenient for parents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said that a high-dose flu shot aimed at better protecting people 65 and older will guard against four strains of the flu this year, rather than three.


6. The recession may actually help the post office with mail-in ballots.

The Postal Service has been handling far less mail than usual because of the pandemic, leaving more capacity. But experts are urging voters to request and submit their ballots early, since recent restrictions on overtime appear to have slowed postal processing in some parts of the country.

New York became the latest state to allow absentee voting for anyone concerned about contracting Covid-19.

In addition to concerns over mail-in voting, the cost-cutting at the Postal Service is affecting millions of people who get their prescriptions by mail. Use of mail-order prescriptions rose by 20 percent when the pandemic hit.

Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, is scheduled to testify about the recent changes before the Senate tomorrow. A former postal governor accused Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin of politicizing the Postal Service.


7. The Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is in intensive care after suffering symptoms of what his spokeswoman called poisoning. Doctors said his condition, though grave, has stabilized.

Groaning in agony before losing consciousness, Mr. Navalny was rushed to a Siberian hospital after the plane he was flying on made an emergency landing because of his sudden illness. A Navalny spokeswoman said they believed something was mixed with his tea. He had a cup at the airport before his flight.

Mr. Navalny, a fierce opponent of President Vladimir Putin, is the latest in a long line of Kremlin opponents to be suddenly afflicted by bizarre and sometimes fatal medical emergencies. He has been harassed and jailed numerous times, and last year was doused with a bright green liquid that caused him to lose 80 percent of his sight in one eye.


8. The new American status symbol: a second passport.

Many U.S. citizens whose families immigrated from Europe are eligible, and the pandemic has caused an uptick in applications. Some Americans feel that a second citizenship or permanent residency offers a kind of insurance policy for freedom of movement in the future.

And flying is on the upswing. On a single day last week, nearly 863,000 fliers passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints around the country, the highest figure since March 17. Here are five things we know about flying now.


9. “Harlem is the American saga packed into one neighborhood.”

A cultural capital shaped by waves of migration and the ongoing struggles for racial justice (and a recent tsunami of gentrification), Harlem is the city’s most defining neighborhood, our critic Michael Kimmelman writes.

He chatted with the architect David Adjaye about Harlem’s landmarks for the latest in a series of virtual walks around the city.

And in a different kind of walkabout, a glass artist has hundreds of handblown fishing floats scattered across Block Island, R.I., each year, attracting an underground society of fanatics who will stop at nothing to find them.


10. And finally, late-summer lures.

The end of summer comes with a frantic push from insects, birds and other animals to tank up for migration or cooler months ahead. Goldenrods, above, and asters are a perfect addition to offer sustenance to these creatures — plus they are a feast for the eyes.

The flowers, closely related groups of native perennials, come into season now through fall, writes Margaret Roach, our garden expert. But the choices can be dizzying. Ulrich Lorimer, the director of horticulture at Native Plant Trust in Framingham, Mass., offered some insights on which varieties would best suit your garden.

Have an alluring evening.


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

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