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Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. The holiday shopping season started with a bang. But only online.
Consumers spent $9 billion on the web on Friday, a 21.6 percent increase over Black Friday in 2019. The surge in online sales is expected to be outdone today during Cyber Monday, a promotional event that internet retailers concocted in 2005.
Physical stores, however, appear to have had more of a “bleak Friday.” A large portion of consumer spending had moved online long before the pandemic, but the global health crisis is accelerating that trend.
The holiday shopping season comes at a critical moment for the U.S. economy, which is struggling again as the number of coronavirus cases is soaring amid colder weather.
2. Medical experts say the coming months “are going to be just horrible.”
Some say the coronavirus death toll by March may be close to twice the 250,000 figure that the U.S. surpassed only last week. Our epidemiology reporter, Donald McNeil, warns that even as vaccines advance and the medical response to the virus improves, the politics of public health remain a deeply vexing challenge.
3. Republicans kept up their challenges to the election.
On Dec. 8, the nation’s voting results will be considered final.
Still, in the past week, Republicans have made last-ditch efforts to halt or reverse the certification process in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin (which approved its results today, as did Arizona). Above, Joe Biden campaigning in Wisconsin in September.
There are also two federal lawsuits pending in Michigan and Georgia courts. And Republicans have at least one path to the nation’s highest court: After the Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday rejected their attempts to stop or reverse the certification of Pennsylvania’s results, President Trump’s lawyers vowed to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider the case.
4. U.S. markets ended November with large gains.
Even with a small decline today, the S&P 500 jumped by 10.8 percent in November, its best monthly showing since April and the fourth-best month for the index in 30 years. The Dow Jones industrial average posted its biggest monthly gain since 1987.
Bitcoin, too, achieved a record. The price of the cryptocurrency hit $19,850.11, nearly three years after its last high. Bitcoin has soared since March, after sinking below $4,000 at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
But in one of the biggest retail collapses in Britain since the start of the pandemic, Arcadia Group, the company that includes the Topshop clothing chain, has gone into administration, a form of bankruptcy.
A ruling for the Trump administration would upend the agreement that the Census Bureau must count all residents, whatever their immigration status, which has governed the count for more than two centuries.
The decision could shift political power from Democratic states and districts to areas that are older, whiter and typically more Republican.
6. An army of angry farmers is encircling New Delhi.
The tens of thousands of protesters, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles in tractors and trailers, are upset about recent agricultural policies imposed in India, where more than 60 percent of the population depends on agriculture to make a living.
They are digging in, resupplying themselves with food, fuel, firewood and medical supplies to stay put for weeks. Above, farmers at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghazipur today.
Many of the farmers say the new rules, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pushed through Parliament in September, are the beginning of the end of a decades-old system that had guaranteed minimum prices for certain crops.
7. A runoff for a House seat with stakes that could not be much lower.
Two high-stakes runoff elections in Georgia in January will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Then there is the other Georgia runoff.
Kwanza Hall and Robert Franklin, both Democrats, are competing in a vote tomorrow for a House term that ends at noon on Jan. 3. That means the winner will not even spend a full month in Congress, and will have no chance for an extension.
Still, the candidates say their bids are anything but inconsequential. The victor will serve what would have been the final days of John Lewis’s 17th term representing Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. Mr. Lewis, the pioneering civil rights leader, died in July.
8. The crown prince of Japan just approved his daughter’s marriage to a commoner. But there’s a hitch.
Princess Mako, above right, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino, and Kei Komuro, above left, an aspiring lawyer, have been engaged since 2017 and had been counting on marrying this year.
But in remarks released today, the crown prince said that while he respected their union, there appeared to be opposition from the Japanese public, making it difficult to proceed with an official ceremony. He suggested that Mr. Komuro had not overcome concerns about his mother’s financial affairs.
The couple have not said when they plan to reschedule the wedding.
9. Three of America’s most beloved divas. Plus Paul.
In interviews, T Magazine’s holiday issue celebrates their grit and good grace as well as their musical catalogs. As a bonus, we offer their favorite on-screen performances.
And The Times Magazine visited with Paul McCartney, who spent lockdown making a new record, due out in a few weeks.
“At no point did I think: I’m making an album. I’d better be serious,” he tells us. “This was more like: You’re locked down. You can do whatever the hell you want.”
10. And finally, cocktail mixes with taste.
The pandemic, and the make-do-at-home culture it has fostered, is getting thirsty consumers to reconsider mixers, which often evoke industrially manufactured drinks filled with artificial flavors and preservatives.
Now, options using freshly squeezed juice, handmade syrups and other natural ingredients are being offered by several companies.
“We know people want to drink great cocktails,” the founder of one modern mixer company said. “We also know that not a whole lot of people know how to make them well.”