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Biden administration steps up efforts to reopen schools

MERIDEN, Connecticut – After telling educators they would be vaccinated soon, the Biden administration on Wednesday launched an aggressive campaign to build support for the reopening of schools, demonstrating unity with leaders of teachers’ unions and highlighting measures to retain students. and staff safe from the coronavirus.

A day after President Biden announced a new federal program to give teachers across the country access to at least a first dose of the vaccine by the end of March, the administration sought to position itself as determined to open schools as soon as possible while addressing concerns. teachers that their fears were ignored.

To carry the message, the White House sent First Lady Jill Biden and newly confirmed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on a trip to Connecticut and Pennsylvania to stress that teachers should no longer be afraid to return without classroom protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said teachers did not need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen safely.

Getting gunshots in the arms of educators and school staff would be his “top priority” as education secretary, said Dr Cardona in Connecticut, where he and the first lady were joined. by Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“We need to continue to reopen American schools for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible,” Dr. Cardona said during a stop at a school district in Meriden, his hometown. “The president recognizes this, which is why he took bold steps yesterday to get teachers and school staff immunized quickly.”

But it is not known how quickly educators will be able to get vaccinated. According to a New York Times database, at least 38 states and the District of Columbia already vaccinate school employees to some extent. But vaccine shortages continue to slow progress in immunizing eligible people.

On Tuesday, the White House coronavirus response team held a call with governors and told them not to expect an additional vaccine allocation until later in the spring. An additional boost from the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they were told, wouldn’t arrive until the first week of April.

Participants on the call were confused later that day when Mr Biden announced that teachers would be given priority for the vaccine, even if the amount of vaccine available would not be increased, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

“We were on the phone with the Biden administration for an hour yesterday, and that didn’t happen at all,” Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, a Republican, told reporters Wednesday at a press conference.

The president’s decision to vaccinate teachers was also unexpected news for some health officials. A note that circulated among some at the CDC on Wednesday shared advice on vaccinating teachers, but Mr Biden’s order was called a surprise. “We learned when you talked about the executive order presented by President Biden yesterday,” read the note, which was obtained by The New York Times and sent to officials in several states. “Pharmacies will be asked to update the eligibility of this population; there is no choice.

Caught between the priorities of parents, teacher unions and Americans who desperately need the vaccine, White House officials have welcomed Dr Cardona’s confirmation with a full list of tasks for him. As Connecticut’s education commissioner, he successfully reopened most of the state’s schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House now expects Dr Cardona to push for nationwide reopenings, even as teachers’ unions across the country worry about back-to-class safety and questions arise regarding conflicts with existing health guidelines that immunizations should only be necessary for teachers to resume in-person learning.

White House officials said Mr Biden’s decision to increase educators’ vaccinations was based on the president’s view that teachers are essential workers who are essential in bringing the country back to normal. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said vaccinating teachers was “not a prerequisite,” but Mr Biden believed they should be “a priority.”

Ms Psaki defended the decision to prioritize teachers against some critics who said it undermined efforts to distribute the vaccine more equitably to minority communities.

“The program goes beyond teachers and includes bus drivers, janitors, babysitters – an incredibly diverse workforce,” she said. “Second, getting kids back to school is one of the most equitable steps we can take, because what we’ve seen statistically is that black and Latino students experience disproportionate learning loss.”

On Tuesday, after Biden announced his plan, Washington state added licensed educators and educators to its priority tier “immediately,” accelerating its plan by a few weeks.

The purpose of the first lady’s trip on Wednesday, the White House said, was for Dr Biden, an English professor with a doctorate in educational leadership, and Dr Cardona to review security measures and mitigation that schools have no one learning.

Still, the political dynamics of the trip were on display: the presidents of two of the country’s largest teachers’ unions, whose members helped get Mr Biden elected and who protested in person, fearing the reopening could happen. safely, joined Dr. Biden for the tours.

After Ms. Weingarten met Dr. Biden in Connecticut, Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, or NEA, met her in Pennsylvania. Dr Biden is a longtime member of the association.

The unions have provided comments to the White House and the CDC, including detailing the realities facing their members – including those who have been teaching in buildings since the start of the school year.

The most pressing concern the administration heard from teachers, several officials said, was that teachers would not be prioritized in the immunization process.

“Since the vaccines were launched, the NEA and educators across the country have advocated for educators to prioritize the safety of students, educators and families,” Ms. Pringle said in a statement. “President Biden has heard us – and we applaud his work.”

Ms Weingarten, who heads the country’s second-largest teachers’ union and has supported the CDC’s recent position on teacher vaccination, in particular, is said to have a direct line with the president’s inner circle. She praised Mr Biden’s announcement, saying that with the new federal guidelines and the vaccination campaign, her union was “confident that in the weeks and months to come, we can be back in the classrooms. “.

Yet while some local teachers’ unions say vaccinations are sufficient for safe in-person learning, others are calling for districts to improve ventilation and ensure social distancing of at least six feet – two steps which have been shown to reduce the spread of the disease. virus. CDC guidelines emphasize a distance of only six feet when the prevalence of the virus is high, and only briefly noted the need for ventilation. Some union members also insisted that schools not open until infection rates in their communities are very low.

For Caitlin Hickey, a preschool teacher in New York City, the opportunity to get the vaccine in January through her local union was a relief. Her father died of Covid-19 last April, and her mother, who lives with her, has an underlying health problem and she was afraid to bring the virus home. She teaches at a distance because her students’ families have chosen virtual learning, but she is in a building with other children and adults.

“I was dying to get the shot,” Ms. Hickey said. “It was a weight on my shoulders. This is the only way for us to get back to some kind of normalcy. The pandemic will not go away on its own. “

Epidemiological models have shown that vaccinating teachers can significantly reduce infections in schools. “This should be a top priority,” said Carl Bergstrom, an infectious disease expert at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Still, requiring teachers to be vaccinated could significantly slow the pace of reopening schools, he and other experts have acknowledged.

In guidelines released last month, the CDC called for elementary and secondary schools to be reopened as soon as possible and offered a step-by-step plan to get students back into classrooms. Although the agency recommended prioritizing teachers, it said vaccination should “nevertheless not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction.”

Days later, the CDC released a study which concluded that “educators could play a central role in school transmission” and that “school mitigation measures and educators’ Covid-19 vaccination are an essential part of preventing transmission in schools. ”

Many local teachers’ unions remain adamantly opposed to resuming in-person learning now, saying school districts lack the resources or the will to follow CDC guidelines on coronavirus safety.

Without vaccination, unions say, adults in school would remain vulnerable to serious illness or death from Covid-19 because children, although much less prone to the disease, can nonetheless easily be carriers of the virus. Studies suggest that children under 10 transmit the virus about half as effectively as adults, but older children can look a lot like adults.

Katie rogers reported by Meriden, and Erica L. Green from Washington. Apoorva Mandavilli contribution to New York reporting.

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Abraham Twerski, who merged 12 Steps and Torah, dies at 90

What set Rabbi Twerski apart from many other Orthodox therapists was his willingness to look outside his community. In one of his works, “Shame Carried in Silence: Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community” (1996), he drew attention to an issue that many Hasidic leaders believed should be treated quietly within of the island community, without informing the police or the outside. authorities.

Abraham Joshua Heschel Twerski was born on October 6, 1930 in Milwaukee, where his parents immigrated in 1927 after leaving Russia. His father, Jacob, the sixth generation descendant of the Chief Rabbi of Chernobyl, was the rabbi of Beth Jehudah Synagogue in Milwaukee. His mother, Devorah Leah (Halberstam) Twerski, was the daughter of a chief rabbi from Bobov, one of the largest Hasidic sects.

Abraham was the third of five brothers, each of whom became a rabbi but also received an advanced secular education, earning college and graduate degrees, which very few Hasidim aspire to. He attended Milwaukee Public Schools, and in his second grade performed in a Christmas play. When her mother visited the school, the principal believed she was there to complain; instead, she told the principal that if her son’s Jewish education wasn’t strong enough to withstand a sophomore play, it was his family that let him down.

He received his rabbinical ordination in 1951 by the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago (now in Skokie, Illinois). While working with his father’s synagogue as an assistant rabbi, he enjoyed counseling others but realized that members of the congregation always looked to his father for advice on their most intimate personal issues. He decided, he explained in a 1988 interview with the National Council of Jewish Women, that by studying psychiatry he could improve his own talent.

“So I went to medical school to become a psychiatrist to do what I wanted to do as a rabbi,” he said.

He received his medical degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, a Jesuit institution. When actor Danny Thomas, a practicing Catholic who had been raised in the Midwest, learned over lunch with Marquette officials that a student who was an Orthodox rabbi needed up to $ 4,000 to complete his studies studying medicine, he told officials “he”, and kept his promise.

Rabbi Twerski trained as a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh. He was supposed to take a teaching position at the university, but after Sister Adele of St. Francis Hospital told him about the hospital’s needs for a stronger mental health program, he became its leader. director of psychiatry. He stayed there for 20 years.

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Lloyd Austin steps up the fight against right-wing extremism in the military.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday summoned military leaders and civilian secretaries to the armed forces to begin ramping up Pentagon efforts to combat white supremacy and right-wing extremism in the ranks.

Mr Austin also ordered that all military commands “pull out” at some point over the next 60 days to tighten existing regulations prohibiting extremist activity in the military and to ask the troops for their views on it. magnitude and seriousness of the problem, the Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, told reporters. He said many details of the “retraction” – a pause in operations that the military often uses to address security concerns – need to be worked out.

“It really is a question of leadership, down to the lowest level,” Kirby said, citing what Mr. Austin, a former four-star army general, told Pentagon leaders during the meeting. a video call.

In the days since a pro-Trump mob raped the Capitol on Jan.6, senior leaders of the 2.1 million active-duty and reserve soldiers have grappled with the fact that several current military personnel or elders joined the rioters.

Last month, the Defense Department’s inspector general announced an investigation into the effectiveness of existing Pentagon policies and procedures that prohibit the military from defending or participating in supremacist or extremist groups. These regulations were last updated in 2012, and Pentagon officials admit they grapple with fundamental questions such as defining the level of prohibited extremist activity, as well as loopholes in how the military identifies and quantifies offenders.

Last year, the FBI informed the Defense Department that it had opened criminal investigations involving 143 current and former members of the service. Of those, 68 were linked to cases of domestic extremism, according to a senior Pentagon official. The “vast majority” involved retired military personnel, many of whom had unfavorable discharge records, the official said.

Travel News

Disneyland as a vaccination site? Airports as test centers? The travel industry steps in

Many sectors of the travel industry are looking for a way to help end the pandemic.

More than a dozen U.S. airports are now serving as virus testing sites, including Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway, Los Angeles International, Tampa, Newark, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Inside many terminals, XpresSpa has moved from offering massages and manicures at the airport to rapid coronavirus testing.

Vaccines against covid19>

Answers to your questions about vaccines

While the exact order of vaccinees can vary by state, most will likely prioritize medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities. If you want to understand how this decision is made, this article will help you.

Life will only return to normal when society as a whole is sufficiently protected against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they will only be able to immunize a few percent of their citizens at most in the first two months. The unvaccinated majority will always remain vulnerable to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show strong protection against the disease. But it is also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they are infected, as they have only mild symptoms, if any. Scientists do not yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for now, even vaccinated people will have to wear masks, avoid crowds inside, etc. Once enough people are vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society reach this goal, life may start to move closer to something normal by fall 2021.

Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will be potentially authorized this month clearly protect people against Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. It remains a possibility. We know that people naturally infected with the coronavirus can spread it without feeling a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensely as the vaccines are rolled out. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will have to consider themselves as possible spreaders.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is given by injection into the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection will be no different from any you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines and none of them have reported serious health problems. But some of them experienced short-lived discomfort, including aches and pains and flu-like symptoms that usually last for a day. People may need to plan a day off or school after the second shot. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system encountering the vaccine and building a powerful response that will provide long-lasting immunity.

No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to stimulate the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is ultimately destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slip inside. The cell uses mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any given time, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce to make their own proteins. Once these proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules made by our cells can only survive for a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is designed to resist the enzymes in the cell for a bit longer, so that the cells can make additional viral proteins and elicit a stronger immune response. But mRNA can only last a few days at most before being destroyed.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif., Has been closed to visitors since March; in December, they loaned one of their ultra-cold freezers to a hospital in nearby Salinas; the special freezer can maintain temperatures of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, which are needed to safely store some coronavirus vaccines.

In the first few weeks of the pandemic, the State Fair of West Virginia signed an agreement with the Greenbrier County Health Department, committing to use their facilities for testing, vaccination and even a state-of-the-art hospital, though necessary. Closed in 2020, their grounds have since been the site of three free drive-thru testing clinics, and now function as a vaccination center for local residents.

Many Orange County residents who get their shots at Disneyland will have gone for coronavirus tests at the Anaheim Convention Center, which, like convention centers across the country, saw traffic stop in March. Jay Burress, president and CEO of Visit Anaheim, estimates the freeze cost the city $ 1.9 billion in lost revenue. He responded by donating unused supplies to local nonprofits. In July, the parking lot of the convention center was transformed into a site for mass testing.

“How to reopen safely? This has always been our goal, ”said Mr. Burress. “Promoting our destination, whether as a leisure destination or as a convention destination when hotels are not even open to leisure travel, is to turn the wheels.

Sharon Decker is president of the Tryon Resort in North Carolina, which features 250 rooms and an equestrian center, as well as a 300,000 square foot indoor arena, on 1,600 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She was not surprised in October when officials in Polk County, North Carolina, asked if she would be willing to donate the arena as a vaccination site, even though she knew it would present logistical challenges. The site opened in mid-December.

“We have forged a real partnership with public health officials,” she said. “It took a real public-private partnership to achieve this. But when you have common goals for a healthy economy and healthy businesses, you can figure it out. “

Travel News

US takes tougher tone on Turkey as Trump steps out

WASHINGTON – No longer held back by President Trump’s affection for the authoritarian Turkish leader, US officials and Congress are using the final days of his presidency to prepare for sanctions and set a strident tone on the strategic but unreliable ally .

Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has upset the administration almost since its inception. It was as much the doing of Mr. Trump – and his admiration for its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – as of the actions of the Ankara government, which violated human rights, imprisoned Americans and journalists and ‘is engaged in clashes from Syria to Libya. from the Caucasus to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The reorientation of US policy will also require President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to carefully bring Turkey back into the West’s embrace and avoid pushing it closer to Russia.

“For years, President Trump has personally protected Erdogan and Turkey,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. He said the new Biden administration “will be an important check on Erdogan’s efforts to expand his influence at our expense, in a way that undermines our interests.”

“It’s a bit of a crossroads for Erdogan,” Van Hollen said in a recent interview. “He’s going to have to make a decision – is he going to be NATO’s staunch ally, or is he going to go it alone in the region?”

Congress is preparing this week to approve economic sanctions against Turkey for the purchase of Russian missile defense systems at the start of Mr. Trump’s tenure, potentially exposing NATO’s military technology in Moscow. Mr Trump suspended sanctions last year after delivering defense systems to Turkey.

For the first time, and after Ankara tested the system this fall, White House officials informed Turkish diplomats that the Trump administration would not oppose congressional sanctions, according to two people involved in the talks. .

Instead, they said, the sanctions are in part aimed at warning Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia and other countries that have expressed interest in purchasing Russian military equipment.

At a meeting of foreign ministers of NATO countries last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized Turkey on several fronts, according to a person briefed on his remarks. His statements – against Turkey’s defense purchases, his exploration of natural gas in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean, and his support for foreign forces in external conflicts like Libya – showed that Mr Pompeo had grown weary of ‘try to temper the growing tensions between European allies. and US lawmakers.

“We are concerned about some of the Turkish behavior,” Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US ambassador to NATO, told reporters ahead of the foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. “The idea that you could put a Russian-made missile defense system in the middle of our alliance is forbidden.”

The European Union is evaluating its own sanctions against Turkey in retaliation for separate disputes with Greece, Cyprus and Germany in a decision that could come as early as Thursday, according to a European diplomat in Washington.

Overall, Turkey is feeling increasingly isolated, according to a senior government official.

The installation last month of a US Navy expeditionary ship in Souda Bay off the coast of Greece indicated that Turkey was no longer the main US ally in the eastern Mediterranean, the senior official said. .

The Abraham Accords brokered this fall by the Trump administration – promoting normalized relations between Israel and three Arab states, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates – have drawn countries in the Middle East hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist movement is supported by Mr. Erdogan.

The senior Turkish official also described feeling snubbed by Mr Pompeo’s visits this fall to rivals in Cyprus and Greece, and then by his tour of Istanbul with his wife in November instead of going to Ankara for meet with government officials.

The expected sanctions are sure to hammer Turkey’s already strained economy and could force Erdogan to withdraw from most of his military missions abroad. (An exception would be in neighboring Syria, where Turkey is fighting ISIS militants and US-backed Kurdish fighters; Mr Erdogan considers both groups to be terrorists and it is unlikely that they withdraw.)

Experts warn that could push Turkey into Russia’s arms if Mr Biden is not careful.

“Relations with Turkey will be a major and urgent issue for the Biden administration,” said James F. Jeffrey, former US ambassador to Turkey and Iraq who retired last month as the department’s special envoy. State for Syrian Policy and the Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State.

“Given the size, location, economic and military might of the country and the pro-Western sentiments of the people – if not of its president – does it make sense to sideline Turkey? or push it into the Russian camp? ” Said Mr. Jeffrey.

He noted that Turkey and Russia were opposite sides in the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. He also remains a key NATO ally in Iraq and Afghanistan, and opposes Iran’s regional advances.

The senior Turkish official described Erdogan’s interests as ultimately having more in common with the West than with Russia. But, he said, the way the Biden administration approaches the dispute over missile defense systems will be a first test.

It is far from certain that a compromise can be found. But the Turkish official said Biden’s advisers had indicated in low-level talks that they were ready to consider compromises as proposed, including the convening of a task force of the NATO to examine whether Russia could effectively penetrate Western military systems through missile defense systems.

A spokesperson for Mr. Biden’s transition team declined to comment.

The senior Turkish official also said that Biden’s advisers have made it clear that they will engage with Turkey through traditional and technical diplomatic channels – and not rely on the kind of spontaneous and direct lines of communication. that marked the relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan.

It was good news for the Turks, the senior official said.

Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting.

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Three steps to living in complete safety

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The most effective public health messages don’t just tell people what not to do. They also tell people what they can do with only a small amount of risk.

This sometimes seems counterintuitive, as it gives people permission to take certain risks, rather than requiring maximum security all the time. In the long run, however, a more realistic approach is actually the safest, many experts say.

Human beings are social creatures. Most will not stay home for months. And pretending otherwise tends to backfire. This leads people to ignore public health advice and take needlessly high risks. “We need different, more nuanced, and more practical messages on coronavirus safety,” wrote Sarit Golub, professor of psychology at Hunter College.

(Federal officials took a step in that direction this week by shortening the recommended quarantine period after exposure to the virus.)

Today I want to give you a three step guide on minimizing risk. It is based on a Times survey of 700 epidemiologists as well as my conversations with experts and colleagues, such as Donald G. McNeil Jr.

1. There is one behavior that you should try to eliminate, without exception: Spend time in a confined space (outside your home) where anyone is unmasked.

Don’t eat indoors at a restaurant or at a friend’s house. Don’t have close, unmasked conversations anywhere, even outdoors. If you have to fly, try not to eat or drink on the plane. If you are going to work, don’t eat lunch in the same room as your colleagues. Group lunches have led to outbreaks in hospitals and elsewhere.

2. It’s best to minimize this next set of behaviors if you can’t avoid it: Spend extended time in interior spaces, even with universal masking.

Masks are not perfect. If you can work out at home rather than at a gym – or do your job or attend church services remotely – you are lowering your risk.

3. Now for the best news: Many activities are less risky than some people think.

You don’t need to wear a mask when walking or jogging. Donald, who is notoriously cautious, rides his bike without a mask. “I consider it more important to keep six feet away outside than to wear a mask,” he told me. “If I have a birthday candle in my hand and you’re too far away to blow it out, I can’t inhale what you breathe out.

You may also feel good doing a lot of shopping. About 90 percent of the epidemiologists in our survey recently visited a grocery store, pharmacy, or other store. Just wear a mask, stay away from others, and wash your hands afterward.

The big picture: I find it useful to think about the concept of personal risk budget. I do not spend any part of my risk budget on supermarket purchases because grocery delivery works well for my family. But from time to time I take distant walks without a mask with a friend or two. They help me stay sane as we head into a long and very harsh winter.

For more: The survey of epidemiologists – carried out by Margot Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller and Quoctrung Bui of The Times – has much more, including how they are considering a vaccine.

  • Two hurricanes struck Central America in rapid succession last month, and the destruction is only becoming clear: infrastructure, farmland and tens of thousands of homes are gone.

  • A rapid wildfire in southern California has spread to more than 6,000 acres so far this week and has forced the evacuation of 25,000 residents.

  • Artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru and one of the few black women in her field said Google fired her after pushing the company to increase minority hiring and draw attention to racial prejudice integrated into AI systems.

  • Molly Gibson, a Tennessee baby born in October, set the record for the longest frozen embryo to result in a live birth, over 27 years.

Modern love: Difficult moments may not bring love, but for a young woman, they bring clarity.

From the review: David Brooks, Michelle Goldberg and Nicholas Kristof have columns.

Lives lived: When Betsy Wade started at The Times in 1956, she shattered a century-old tradition of male writing in the news department. She also fought a sex discrimination case against the newspaper and became the first woman to lead the New York Newspaper Guild. She died at the age of 91.

Even when the pandemic ends, the film industry will not quickly – or maybe never – return to the old normal.

Warner Bros., one of the best movie studios, acknowledged this yesterday by announcing that it will launch its entire 2021 film lineup on its streaming service, HBO Max, on the same day they hit US theaters. The list of 17 films includes blockbusters like “Dune”, “The Matrix 4” and a sequel to “Suicide Squad”.

“WarnerMedia calls this a ‘one-year one-year plan,'” Brooks Barnes, reporter for the Times, tweeted. “But there will be no turning back. HBO Max needs the content, and consumers won’t just say “oh, okay” when they can’t get instant access. “

WarnerMedia has its own reasons for emphasizing streaming. He wants to expand HBO Max – which has struggled to attract subscribers since its introduction in May – into a streaming service that can compete with Netflix and Disney Plus. Warner Bros. is also a studio powerful enough that the change “has the capacity to overturn the theatrical model that so many people have relied on for so long,” Nicole Sperling, a Times reporter told us.

Outside of the United States, where HBO Max is not yet available, Warner’s 2021 films will receive traditional theatrical releases. To get a feel for how theaters are doing in some countries where the virus is better controlled: In October, more than 3.4 million people in Japan turned out to see an animated film, “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train ”, during its opening weekend.

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was strongly. Today’s puzzle is above – or you can play it online if you have a Games membership.

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Biden’s team steps up transition plans, builds White House

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s advisers accelerated their transition planning on Friday as election results showed him an advantage in battlefield states that could put him as president, the first senior officials of a potential House Blanche Biden can be nominated the next. the week.

In Wilmington and Washington, Mr Biden’s advisers and allies are stepping up their conversations about who might occupy critical positions, both in the West Wing and in the agencies, heavily guided by Mr Biden’s plan to assemble what would be the most diverse firm in history.

Behind-the-scenes activity highlighted that while Mr Biden publicly offered a disciplined message about counting every vote and refrained from claiming victory, he was already preparing for a quick start in office as the country faced to a worsening pandemic and a damaged economy. .

Mr Biden, who showed up on day one with a message of bringing the country closer, is said to be interested in making a bipartisan move as he plans a potential government after a controversial election whose results President Trump tried to undermine. Mr Biden is looking to fill his potential White House staff first, with cabinet positions not due to be announced until Thanksgiving, according to more than half a dozen people familiar with the planning process who spoke out under on condition of anonymity to discuss. the transition.

Mr Biden’s team quietly began raising money for his transition operation in May and raised at least $ 7 million to pay for his efforts. Biden’s camp has prepared for several scenarios in case Mr. Trump refuses to concede and his administration would not participate in a transition.

So far, officials in Mr. Trump’s administration have worked in good faith, according to officials at Biden, who have said they hope and expect this cooperation to continue.

As coronavirus infections soar to new highs, Biden collaborators predict that the first critical transition decisions will focus on healthcare and tackle the pandemic, the central theme of his campaign in recent years. month. They brought together an internal group of about two dozen health policy and technology experts to look at vaccine development and delivery, improving health data, and securing supply chains, between other questions.

Vivek Murthy, former surgeon general to President Barack Obama, who has privately advised Biden for months on the pandemic, is among those expected to play a key health role in a Biden administration and is expected to play a big role. public role as facing the Democratic administration’s potential response to the virus, providing advice on mask wear and social distancing.

Transition officials are also looking at the types of economic actions that could be taken almost immediately, including rescinding some of Mr. Trump’s executive orders, which is part of a tradition in which new presidents are moving quickly to change. or reverse regulations in federal agencies.

Mr Biden, 77, told associates he viewed his two terms as vice president and his knowledge of how a White House works from the inside out as crucial benefits in building a government . And he’s made it clear in public and private that a diverse team is at the heart of his mission.

“Men, women, gay, straight, center, at all levels, black, white, Asian,” Biden said this spring of his future cabinet. “It’s really important that you look like the country because everyone brings a slightly different perspective.”

Although Mr. Biden and the Democrats have been pushing vigorously to take control of the Senate, the party has failed in hotly contested races this week. Now Senate Republicans will likely hold a veto over its top appointments, a reality looming over conversations, even though Democrats could still control the Senate if they won two ballots in Georgia in January.

Even before it was clear Democrats would not win a clear majority in the Senate, Mr Biden’s advisers began to prepare for deadly cabinet confirmation battles, bringing in top Obama veterans to lead. what is unofficially called a transitional war room.

If Mr Biden wins, he should initially focus on the most senior positions in the White House, including Chief of Staff, the most powerful position. Ron Klain, his former chief of staff as vice president, who served as the White House Ebola response coordinator under Mr. Obama, is seen to have the internal channel for this work, although others are still under study.

At the center of Mr. Biden’s transition planning is Ted Kaufman, his former chief of staff in the Senate, who was appointed to replace Mr. Biden as a senator after becoming vice president, as well as Jeff Zients, former Obama administration official. .

Like Mr Biden, Mr Kaufman is considered an institutionalist and he actually drafted the law devoting additional government resources to transition teams. Yohannes Abraham, who worked at the Obama White House as a senior assistant to Valerie Jarrett and the National Economic Council, oversees day-to-day operations.

Given his decades-long career in Washington, Mr. Biden has had many connections since his time in the Senate and the White House with people from various political fields. This story also means that his transition team faced a crush of outside advice and former Biden associates looking for jobs and influence.

Parts of the cast that have had Mr. Biden’s ear throughout the presidential campaign – Anita Dunn, a senior advisor; Steve Ricchetti, another former vice-presidential chief of staff; and Mr. Klain – are among those guiding the formation of a potential government. Senator Kamala Harris of California, his running mate, generates names and speaks to Mr. Biden regularly. In Mr. Biden’s political orbit on the campaign, Jake Sullivan and Antony J. Blinken are widely regarded as the most influential figures, and both are expected to hold positions of responsibility in a potential administration.

Where they land is seen as one of the first decisions that would help determine further appointments. Mr Sullivan, former Hillary Clinton adviser, is lined up for one of the many posts, while Mr Blinken, who served as the vice president’s national security adviser, is seen as the top candidate for adviser to national security.

Some of the most powerful cabinet positions in a possible Biden administration have already been seen as leaders.

The main candidate for the head of the Department of Defense is Michèle Flournoy, a former Under-Secretary of Defense for Politics who worked with Biden officials during the campaign. She would be the first woman to be appointed to this post.

Lael Brainard, who sits on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and served in the Treasury Department under Mr. Obama, is the most discussed candidate to head the department, especially if the Senate is controlled by Republicans, which would make the task more difficult. confirm a more progressive choice like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Susan Rice, a former Obama administration national security adviser whom Biden approved for vice president, was seen as a top choice for secretary of state, but the threat from Republicans of the Senate preventing her from becoming the country’s leading diplomat in 2012 led to her withdrawal and her appointment now would surely spark a fight.

Mr Blinken, a former Assistant Secretary of State, has been discussed among Biden’s allies as a possible choice, along with Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a top Biden supporter who wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine in October. on his vision of the world.

Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, one of Mr. Biden’s campaign co-chairs and an adviser, is expected to play a role in the White House if the Democratic candidate wins. Another campaign co-chair, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, who also served on Mr Biden’s search committee for the post of vice president, could join a potential administration, though it is not clear who post could attract him to Washington.

Leaders of the Biden transition are aware that many officials in the federal bureaucracy have become demoralized and felt marginalized under the Trump administration. In a small gesture, they’re calling their potential firstcomers to agencies “agency review teams,” as opposed to what Operation Trump called “landing teams” in 2016.

The midterm elections, in 2022, are already above the talks, which have traditionally been a struggle for the party that owns the White House and which could be particularly complicated for Democrats at a time of more progressive primary challenges. more common.

Some members of the Democratic House who endorsed Mr. Biden early, such as Rep. Filemon B. Vela Jr. from Texas and Rep. Brendan Boyle from Pennsylvania, could be in line for administrative positions if they wanted.

“We have an expression where I come from: you will never forget those who brought you to the dance,” Mr. Biden said during a stop with Mr. Boyle in Philadelphia this week.

Operation Biden prepares for Mr. Trump to potentially pose barriers to the transition. The transition team has already assembled a staff of more than 75 officials, with plans for that number to climb to around 300 transition staff by the inauguration day in January. The administrator of the General Service Administration has the legal authority to release about $ 6.6 million in federal funding for Mr. Biden’s transition, and in recent years he has done so shortly after the outbreak. of the race.

GSA spokesperson Pamela Pennington said in a statement that Emily W. Murphy, appointed by Mr Trump as the agency’s administrator, would begin the official transition when it was clear the race was finished.

“The GSA administrator is not choosing the winner of the presidential election,” Ms. Pennington said. “The GSA administrator verifies the apparently successful candidate once a winner is clear based on the process set out in the Constitution.

Reporting was provided by Jonathan Martin, Jim Tankersley, David E. Sanger and Katie Glueck.

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Secretaries of State in spotlight as Trump steps up attacks to sow doubt

In Georgia, a lawsuit brought by the Trump campaign claiming that the missing ballots were mismanaged by Chatham County election officials was dismissed by a superior court judge on Thursday – a blow to the first of what the Georgia Republican Party said Wednesday would be up to a dozen. lawsuits against counties always count the votes.

In Nevada, where Mr. Biden’s narrow lead widened slightly on Thursday, dozens of Mr. Trump’s flag-waving supporters gathered Thursday morning at the Clark County Election Center in North Las Vegas to protest, claiming that the election was stolen. Trucks with Trump flags circled the block, some pulling their engines and honking their horns.

Richard Grenell, a Trump adviser who served in his administration as acting director of national intelligence, held a press conference there to lay charges that “illegal votes” were being counted. Again it did not provide any specific evidence.

Joe Gloria, registrar of voters for Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, held his own press conference at the polling center and said county officials had established “security at all entrances.”

“We are not aware of any inappropriate ballots being processed,” he added.

False rumors that using a Sharpie could invalidate a ballot, which began in Arizona, reached neighboring New Mexico, where Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said people were calling his desk worried because they had used a marker to fill it in. their vote, their vote would be invalidated.

Ms Toulouse Oliver, who is also president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, said election workers this year faced more hostility from poll observers than in previous years.

Given the stressors of the coronavirus pandemic, false rumors and intimidating protesters or observers, she said, she feared some election workers would return for the next election and was concerned about the videos that she has seen people in Detroit and Phoenix and elsewhere crowding around the counting centers.