Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.
Published: 2020-09-16 06:04 pm
Hurricane Sally, Masks, Chris Rock: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

Credit...Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

1. Hurricane Sally unloaded torrents of rain across Alabama and Florida, bringing life-threatening flooding even as it weakened to a tropical storm.

The erratic, slow-moving storm made landfall early Wednesday as a Category 2 hurricane, and its deluge is not forecast to let up any time soon.

Florida’s Panhandle was struck with unexpected intensity. Pensacola, above, has already seen more than two feet of rain, swelling floodwaters to more than five feet high. Meteorologists said coastal communities could get almost three feet of rain.

“I’ll tell you, it’s bad,” said David Morgan, a county sheriff.

 Credit...Christian Monterrosa for The New York Times

This year, the Arctic, Siberia, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil and Argentina also experienced their worst wildfires in decades, if not all of recorded history, because hotter, drier seasons, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, have made the world more prone to burn.

 Credit...Pool photo by Andrew Harnik

3. Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told senators that the coronavirus could be controlled in six to 12 weeks — if all Americans wore masks.

He called face coverings the most “powerful public health tool we have,” saying that they are “more guaranteed to protect” against the virus than a vaccine, for which he offered a cautious timeline of broad distribution by mid-2021. Watch his remarks.

It was Dr. Redfield’s first congressional appearance since reports outlined how political appointees at the Health and Human Services Department tried to tamper with key C.D.C. coronavirus reports. One, Michael Caputo, the department’s top spokesman, announced a leave of absence days after delivering an outlandish rant online.

President Trump rebuked Dr. Redfield in a wide-ranging news conference for praising masks and for saying that a virus vaccine was unlikely to be widely available before mid-2021.

A glimmer of treatment hope: An experimental infusion of a monoclonal antibody — a manufactured copy of an antibody produced by a recovered Covid-19 patient — markedly reduced levels of the virus and reduced hospitalizations, its maker, Eli Lilly, said. The research has not yet been independently vetted.

 Credit...Shawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock

4. The Fed expects to leave interest rates near zero through at least 2023, a sign of extraordinary patience.

The Fed slashed interest rates to near zero almost exactly six months ago, as the pandemic first swept the U.S. Economic activity “remains well below its level before the pandemic, and the path ahead remains highly uncertain,” said the Fed’s chairman, Jerome Powell.

The slow recovery pace was evident in retail numbers from August. Retail sales climbed by 0.6 percent last month, a smaller increase than in previous months.

 Credit...Francis Gardler/Lincoln Journal Star, via Associated Press

5. The Big Ten will play football as soon as Oct. 23, reversing its planned postponement after pressure from coaches, parents and even President Trump.

The league said players, coaches, trainers and others present on playing and practice fields would undergo daily testing for the virus. Any player who tested positive would be barred from games for at least 21 days, and a team would stop practice and competition for at least a week if it recorded a positive rate of more than 5 percent over seven days.

More than 8,500 cases of the virus have been reported at the Big Ten’s 14 universities over the course of the pandemic, according to a Times database of infections at colleges. Health officials near some Big Ten campuses, including Michigan State and Wisconsin, are cracking down on students who are partying.

 Credit...Matt Monath Photography

6. New York City is opening a lab to help process tens of thousands more coronavirus tests a week, with results processed in 24 to 48 hours, just as the city is about to return to public school classes and indoor dining.

 Credit...via Liu Zengyan

7. A graphic video of a man beating his wife has shocked China, shedding light on the prevalence of domestic violence and the difficulties women face in obtaining divorces.

The woman, Liu Zengyan, said the attack led her to jump from a second-floor window to escape, but the video originally failed to sway a court in Henan Province, which said the couple should seek mediation.

Once Ms. Liu uploaded the video to WeChat, and thousands of Chinese rallied to her defense, the court granted her a divorce. The case shows just how stacked China’s legal system is against women.

 Credit...Elizabeth Morris/FX

8. “Everything I’ve done hasn’t been great, but I was always striving for greatness.”

Chris Rock gave our reporter a wide-ranging interview on America’s summer of strife, the coronavirus, President Trump, blackface and his dramatic turn in the new season of “Fargo,” in which he plays a mannered, methodical crime lord.

The role — “the best part I’ve ever, ever, ever had” — puts the indefatigable standup and comic actor on a whole new career trajectory for more serious roles.

 Credit...Landcraft Environments, Ltd.

9. Fall is nearing. Bring some — but not all — of your plant friends inside.

Our garden expert Margaret Roach spoke with Dennis Schrader, who owns Landcraft Environments, Ltd., a nursery in Mattituck, N.Y., with an inventory of some 1,600 kinds of plants. Each species has particular overwintering requirements, which you may or may not be able to provide.

So Mr. Schrader suggested strategies like saving seeds, storing dormant bulbs and creating a good indoor environment. And he offered some tough love on what to say goodbye to. Coleus, above, are best overwintered as cuttings taken before frost.

One bit of flora to avoid: Dendrocnide, Australia’s giant stinging trees. Scientists have discovered that hypodermic-like needles on its deceptively soft leaves deliver a toxin that latches onto pain-detecting cells in humans and some animals, “locking the afflicted area into the molecular equivalent of an infinite scream,” our reporter writes.

Credit...Richard Drew/Associated Press

10. And finally, checking in with a puzzle master.

The first person to solve a Rubik’s Cube spent a month struggling to unscramble it. That would be its creator, a Hungarian architecture professor named Erno Rubik. After many iterations, Mr. Rubik figured out its unique design, which created something paradoxical: a solid, static object that is also fluid.

His understanding of his 1974 invention evolved as he was writing “Cubed,” a forthcoming book our writer calls “partly a memoir, partly an intellectual treatise and in large part a love story.”

“What really interested me was not the nature of the cube,” he realized, “but the nature of people, the relationship between people and the cube.”

Have an intriguing evening.

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

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