Congress, Teen Vaping, October Books: Your Thursday Evening Briefing – The New York Times

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

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Thursday.
1. Congress passed a bill that averted a government shutdown, but the fate of President Biden’s infrastructure plan was in limbo.
The spending bill would extend federal funding through Dec. 3, and provide emergency aid for the resettlement of Afghan refugees and for disaster recovery efforts across the country. It now goes to Biden’s desk for signing. Lawmakers reached a deal after Democrats agreed to strip out a provision that would have raised the debt ceiling.
Now, all eyes are on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing forward on a vote planned for tonight as she tries to get both moderates and progressives on board. Senator Joe Manchin, a key holdout, said he supported a $1.5 trillion social safety net bill, less than half of Biden’s proposal. Liberal Democrats have threatened to oppose the infrastructure package without substantial progress toward passing the second, far larger bill.
If you’re struggling to keep up with all the moving parts, here are the four key issues facing Congress right now.
2. Employer mandates are boosting coronavirus vaccination rates.
California’s requirement for all health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by today appears to have compelled tens of thousands of employees to receive shots in recent weeks. Most health care employers reported vaccination rates this week of 90 percent or higher as more workers opted to become vaccinated rather than apply for an exemption. Los Angeles also appears close to requiring proof of vaccination to enter many indoor public spaces.
Two months after Tyson Foods mandated inoculation, 91 percent of its 120,000 U.S. employees are vaccinated, compared with less than half in early August.
3. About 77 percent of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. But in a striking turnaround, countries in Asia are starting to speed ahead of the U.S. in their vaccination rates.
South Korea, Japan and Malaysia have administered more vaccine doses per 100 people than the U.S. — a pace that seemed unthinkable in the spring. Several have surpassed the U.S. in fully vaccinating their populations or are on track to do so, limiting the possible damage from the Delta variant. The turnaround is a testament to Asia’s success in securing supplies and working out the kinks in its programs.
Separately, only nine African countries have met a target of vaccinating 10 percent of their populations by the end of September, the W.H.O. said.
4. Three Democratic congresswomen testified before a House panel about their personal experiences with terminating a pregnancy.
With the right to abortion under threat after a major Supreme Court setback, the lawmakers — Cori Bush of Missouri, Pramila Jayapal of Washington State and Barbara Lee of California — told their stories in emotional yet matter-of-fact terms. Bush said she was no longer ashamed to share her story. “In the summer of 1994,” she declared, “I was raped, I became pregnant and I chose to have an abortion.”
Democrats are seeking to advance legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade, but the bill has little chance of advancing in the Senate.
5. A House committee scrutinizing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack issued 11 more subpoenas, targeting allies of Donald Trump who helped organize the rally that fueled mob violence.
Among those subpoenaed were one of the planners of the rally; a Trump fund-raiser listed as a “V.I.P. adviser” for the event; a former top aide to Melania Trump who was listed as a “project manager” for the rally; and Trump’s former national campaign spokeswoman, who was in direct communication with Trump about the rally.
Separately, a recent indictment suggested that cybersecurity experts who found strange internet links between a Russian bank and the Trump Organization did not really believe their own work. Now they’re pushing back.
6. Teenagers’ use of electronic cigarettes fell sharply in 2021, the second consecutive year of big declines, new data shows.
This year, 11.3 percent of high school students reported that they currently vape — down from 19.6 percent in 2020 and lower than the 27.5 percent reported in 2019, according to a report issued by the C.D.C. Because the drop came during a pandemic, some public health experts questioned whether the data signaled a long-term change.
Even with the drop, the survey found that more than two million high school and middle school students were currently using e-cigarettes. The director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the F.D.A. said that the new data remained concerning, particularly statistics that showed the popularity of flavored e-cigarettes. Nearly 85 percent of youth e-cigarette users said they use flavored products.
7. A program at Yale that trains future leaders to steer through the turbulent waters of history is facing a crisis of its own.
Beverly Gage, a historian of 20th-century politics who has led the program since 2017, said she resigned because the university failed to stand up for academic freedom amid inappropriate efforts by its donors to influence its curriculum and faculty hiring. The university planned to create a new advisory board dominated by conservative figures of the donors’ choosing, including, against Gage’s strong objections, Henry Kissinger.
Gage ran the prestigious Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy. It allows about two dozen students to study history and statecraft while rubbing shoulders with notable guest instructors.
8. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to swim with sharks?
We spoke to the underwater filmmaker Ron Elliot about what he’s learned from his encounters with sharks near the Farallon Islands in Northern California. A former commercial sea urchin diver, Elliot found calm and beauty when he transitioned from fisherman to filmmaker around 2005. Even nearly losing his arm in a shark encounter hasn’t stopped him.
“I challenged myself to be in the now and observe the enormity of sharks and what they do,” he said.
For a safer experience on land, a weeklong horticulture class at Great Dixter, a six-acre garden in England, is like getting a Ph.D. in gardening. The estate in Northiam, East Sussex, has been celebrated for decades as a fount of experimentation and creativity.
9. “You are teaching kids to get up when they fall.”
Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam is seven years into his self-appointed mission to bring high-end skate parks to every city and town in Montana that will have one. Ament, who grew up in a remote Montana town, has paid for, or helped pay for, 27 skate parks, most of them in Montana. He has also helped build three on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, with three more planned for other reservations in neighboring states.
Skateboarding, and going to skate parks, “gives kids a reason to see the rest of the state, the rest of the country and possibly the rest of the world,” Ament said.
10. And finally, new month, new books.
No matter what you like to read — thrillers, spy novels, cultural histories, short stories — there’s a book for you in October. Novels from Jonathan Franzen, Amor Towles and Tiphanie Yanique; histories of Black cinema and music in America; and plenty more hit the bookshelves. Here are 14 titles our editors are looking forward to.
But fair warning, The Times Book Review hasn’t always gotten it right. Some of today’s best-loved books — “Catch-22,” “Tender Is the Night” and even “Anne of Green Gables” — were treated to a rocky reception in our pages. Virginia Woolf was “painfully lacking, both in coherency and narrative interest.” F. Scott Fitzgerald was “a disappointment.” L.M. Montgomery was “altogether too queer.” Read the reviews that panned their work.
Have a page-turning night.
Shelby Knowles compiled photos for this briefing.
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