Inflation, Johnson & Johnson, William Shatner: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

New York Times - Wed Oct 13 21:52

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 Wednesday.

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The Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Credit...Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

1. Rapid inflation persists, causing political problems for the Biden administration and an economic dilemma for the Federal Reserve.

Consumer prices jumped more than expected last month, with food, rent and furniture costs surging. The Consumer Price Index climbed 5.4 percent in September compared with the previous year.

Officials had been hoping that rapid price increases would fade despite a limited supply of housing and a shortage of goods tied to supply chain troubles. The data raises the stakes for both the Fed and the White House, which are now facing a much longer period of rapid inflation than they had expected.

To alleviate some of the growing backlogs of critical goods in the U.S., President Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles will begin operating 24/7.

Another adjustment to the higher cost of living: Social Security benefits will rise 5.9 percent in 2022, the most in four decades.

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Credit...James Estrin/The New York Times

2. People who received a Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine may be better off with a booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, a new study found.

The researchers found that those who received a Johnson & Johnson shot followed by a Moderna booster saw their antibody levels rise 76-fold within 15 days, while those who received another dose of Johnson & Johnson saw only a fourfold rise in the same period. A Pfizer booster shot raised antibody levels 35-fold in Johnson & Johnson recipients.

Still, the authors cautioned about the study’s small size. A separate F.D.A. analysis questioned the strength of evidence submitted by Johnson & Johnson. An advisory panel will decide on Friday whether to recommend authorizing Johnson & Johnson’s booster shot, as well as Moderna’s.


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Credit...Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

3. The safety net spending bill proposed by Democrats in Congress would provide four big benefits for families. But in negotiations over the size of the bill, they may need to choose.

Senator Joe Manchin, one of the two centrists whom Democrats must persuade to vote with them, has suggested that they pick just one: paid leave, child care, pre-K or child allowances. So we asked 18 academics which one they would choose. The winner: Public preschool for children ages 3 and 4, with half the experts choosing it.

Separately, Democratic leaders are considering adding a long-shot proposal in the social policy bill that would grant temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants.


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Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

4. The Biden Administration announced a plan to develop large-scale wind farms along nearly the entire coastline of the U.S.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that her agency would formally begin the process of identifying federal waters to lease to wind developers by 2025, in the first long-term strategy from the government to produce electricity from offshore turbines.

In other climate news, private equity companies have invested at least $1.1 trillion in the energy sector since 2010, according to new research. The companies are picking up assets on the cheap, and keeping some of the most polluting wells, coal-burning plants and other inefficient properties in operation.

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Credit...EPA, via Shutterstock

5. A Czech coalition defeated the country’s populist prime minister in elections, a sign of coalescing opposition to strongman leaders in Eastern and Central Europe.

The seemingly unbeatable Andrej Babis, the country’s billionaire prime minister, lost support because opposition parties put ideological differences aside and joined together to drive out the leader they fear has eroded the country’s democracy.

The success of a coalition of a wide range of parties could have major repercussions in the region and beyond.

In other Europe news: Several people were killed and others wounded in an attack by a man using a bow and arrows in a town in Norway, the police said. A suspect is in custody.

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Credit...Nicole Craine for The New York Times

6. You may want to think twice before asking to pass the salt.

The F.D.A., citing an epidemic of diet-related illnesses, asked food manufacturers, restaurants and food service companies to voluntarily scale back their use of salt by 12 percent over the next two and a half years. That goal translates into 3,000 milligrams of salt — a little more than a teaspoon — compared with the 3,400 milligrams that the average American typically consumes in a day.

Lowering sodium intake by 40 percent over a decade could save 500,000 lives, the F.D.A. said. But the F.D.A.’s acting commissioner declined to say whether the agency would consider mandatory limits should the food industry fall short of the goals.


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Credit...Mario Tama/Getty Images

7. Captain James T. Kirk returned to space today.

William Shatner, made famous by the “Star Trek” role, and three others went to the edge of space in a tourist spacecraft built by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ company. At 90, Shatner became the oldest person ever to reach such heights. The mission lasted about 10 minutes. Watch the launch here.

“I’m so filled with emotion with what just happened,” Shatner said once back on the ground, breaking into tears. “I hope I never recover from this.”

Blue Origin has declined to say publicly what the price is for a ticket to fly on New Shepard. The company is nearing $100 million in sales so far, Bezos has said, but it’s unclear how many ticket holders that includes. The launch comes amid accusations of a toxic workplace at Blue Origin.


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Credit...Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

8. The M.L.B. playoffs are moving into league championship territory.

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers forced a Game 5 yesterday against their bitter rivals, the San Francisco Giants. They’ll play a winner-take-all game on Thursday. “This is what baseball wants,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said after a grueling 3 hour 38 minute game. One of them will meet the Atlanta Braves for the National League Championship Series.

To the chagrin of many around baseball, the Houston Astros — a franchise still trailed by a cloud of suspicion for cheating during the 2017 World Series winning season — advanced to the American League Championship Series for a fifth year in a row. They’ll play the Boston Red Sox, who rode a wave of offense into the A.L.C.S., in Game 1 on Friday.

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Credit...Magdalena Wosinska for The New York Times

9. Selma Blair is putting herself out there in the truest way she knows how: as the subject of a new documentary, “Introducing, Selma Blair.”

The film is an unflinching account of Blair’s life with multiple sclerosis and the stem-cell transplant she underwent to treat it in 2019. Blair hopes the documentary can help others as it has helped her — by determining how much of her identity has been shaped by her disease.

Separately, the novel “Dune” has a graveyard of cinematic hopes to such an extent that the phrase “the Curse of Dune” haunts the internet. Has Denis Villeneuve finally made a movie version that fans will love? For Villeneuve, it was “about the book, the book, the book.”


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Credit...Adam Makarenko/W. M. Keck Observatory

10. And finally, Earth is doomed, but Jupiter could be OK.

Five billion years from now, our sun is going to incinerate Earth and then dramatically collapse into a dead ember known as a white dwarf. Scientists have not been sure whether planets farther away, such as Jupiter or Saturn, would survive the ordeal. Now, astronomers have observed a tantalizing preview of our solar system’s afterlife: a Jupiter-size planet orbiting a white dwarf some 6,500 light years away.

The study adds to the growing evidence that planets can survive the death of their star. It can also yield insights about the search for extraterrestrial life and the potential habitability of white dwarf systems. As for us humans, if we are still around in five billion years, we’d have a better chance of survival on a moon of Jupiter than on Earth, the study’s lead author said.

Have an out-of-this-world night.


Bryan Denton compiled photos for this briefing.

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