Climate Summit, Virus Deaths, Abortion: Your Monday Evening Briefing

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

2. The official global virus death toll passed five million.

But experts say that number — almost the entire population of Melbourne, Australia, or most of the nation of Singapore — is an undercount.

The pace of confirmed Covid-19 deaths seems to have slowed slightly since the world reached four million in early July. It took nine months for the coronavirus to kill one million people; three and a half more to reach two million; three more to claim three million; and about two and a half to exceed four million.

The U.S. leads all other countries, with more than 745,000 deaths confirmed, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia.

In other pandemic news:

3. The Supreme Court hinted it may allow a challenge to the Texas abortion law.

After nearly three hours of arguments, a majority of the justices seemed inclined to allow abortion providers to pursue a challenge to the law that has sharply curtailed abortions in the state.

That would represent a shift from a 5-to-4 ruling in September that allowed the law to go into effect.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who were in the majority in that ruling, asked questions today suggesting that they thought the novel structure of the Texas law justified allowing the providers to challenge it.

Such a decision would not conclude the case nor address whether the law is constitutional. Instead, it would return the case to lower courts for further proceedings.

4. A high-stakes Virginia election pits optimism against harsh warnings.

Voters appeared closely divided between returning a Democrat to the governorship and electing a Republican for the first time in more than a decade.

Terry McAuliffe, a longtime member of the Democratic establishment, and Republican Glenn Youngkin were in a dead heat ahead of Election Day tomorrow, according to a Washington Post poll over the weekend.

In other ballot issues, cities and counties across the country will vote on measures aimed at creating affordable housing, like tax increases and curbs on Airbnb.

5. Plans faded for a vote this week on President Biden’s domestic agenda.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a crucial Democratic swing vote, demanded more time to evaluate the economic and fiscal ramifications of the $1.85 trillion plan.

His position undercut the president’s assertion that an outline of the social policy and climate plan that he presented last week had the backing of all 50 Democratic and independent senators.

Manchin also condemned liberals in the House who have refused to vote for a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan without a final deal on the domestic policy plan.

6. Home health care is broken. Can Congress fix it?

The latest Democratic proposal would funnel $150 billion toward subsidized home care for those who want to live independently. But demand far outstrips supply, and experts worry that the funds may not be enough to greatly ease the severe shortage of workers.

“Once you start to do the math, the dollars don’t go as far as you’d like,” a professor of health care policy said. According to one health economist’s estimate, the figure would provide home services for perhaps one million more people and create about 400,000 new jobs.

But the money could help shift Medicaid’s decades-long bias away from nursing home care and allow more people to live at home with help. About 800,000 people are on waiting lists to receive subsidized home care.

7. The C.E.O. of Barclays, James Staley, quit after an inquiry into his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The two men’s relationship dates back to Staley’s tenure as the head of private banking at JPMorgan Chase. Staley used Epstein — a convicted sex offender who killed himself in 2019 after facing new allegations of sex trafficking of underage girls — to connect with potential clients.

Regulators, who spent nearly two years on the inquiry, declined to provide any details. The board of the British bank said that the report didn’t find that the banker knew of Epstein’s crimes, but that its preliminary conclusions, and Staley’s intention to contest them, led to his departure.

Other high-profile executives who lost their jobs over Epstein ties include Leon Black, who resigned as chief of Apollo Global Management, and Leslie Wexner, who stepped down as the C.E.O. of L Brands.

8. Amazon joins the space race — for satellite-based internet.

Competing with SpaceX, OneWeb and others, the e-commerce titan will launch its first two prototype internet satellites next year, with a goal to offer high-speed internet in remote locations from 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit.

It has been slower to start than SpaceX, which has nearly 2,000 satellites aloft for its own venture, Starlink. Thousands of customers are testing the SpaceX service for $99 a month with $499 antenna kits.

9. Norwegian women 1, bikini bottoms 0.

In July, Norway’s women’s beach handball team was fined 1,500 euros (about $1,740) for competing in a championship game in shorts instead of bikini bottoms, which the International Handball Federation dictated must be “a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.”

After months of pressure from female players and coaches who described the uniform requirements as sexist, the federation updated its rules to allow shorts starting Jan. 1.

Still, the new rules say the women “must wear short tight pants with a close fit,” while men in beach handball are allowed to wear shorts as long as four inches above their knees.

10. And finally, the winner of this Bird of the Year contest is … not a bird.

Asked to rank their favorite birds from 200 or so native species, New Zealanders chose a long-tailed bat — one of the country’s two native land mammals.

Though the annual poll has a history of ballot-stuffing, that didn’t happen this time. Organizers said they included the country’s two native bat species, both endangered, among the avian contenders for the first time to help raise awareness.

“Bird of the Year is no stranger to controversy — I’ll say that,” said Laura Keown, a spokeswoman for the contest. “We always ruffle some feathers.”

Have a soaring evening.

Hiroko Masuike compiled photos for this briefing.

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