Coronavirus Hospitalizations, Iran, Black Friday: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. U.S. hospitals are near a breaking point.

Severe staffing and bed shortages are crippling efforts to treat a record-breaking swell of coronavirus patients. Staff members at smaller hospitals have had to beg larger medical centers to take patients, but many of the bigger hospitals have their own overflow issues and have sharply limited the transfers they will accept.

And rising infection rates among nurses and other frontline workers have doubled the patient load on those left standing. Above, a Covid patient was intubated in Houston yesterday.

A record number of Americans — 90,000 — are now hospitalized with Covid-19, and new cases had been climbing to nearly 200,000 daily. The U.S. shot past 13 million cases on Friday against the backdrop of national travel patterns over the holiday weekend that raised the prospect of an even greater rise in infections.

2. Behind President Trump’s sudden World Health Organization departure in May: He gave the organization seven demands, then blew up negotiations hours later, above.

Diplomats and veteran health officials said the list contained reasonable requests, some of which the W.H.O. has since made. But they said it also contained politically sensitive, if not inappropriate demands, including requiring the W.H.O. to use its influence against China.

In other virus developments, Britain asked its drug regulator to approve the troubled AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. The regulator is also considering the American-made Pfizer shot — and both could get approval in Britain faster than in the U.S.

3. Iran’s top nuclear scientist was shot and killed in an ambush as he was traveling in a vehicle in northern Iran, state media reported. Iranian officials called it an act of terror and vowed to take revenge.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 59, was a shadowy figure. According to U.S. intelligence assessments and Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Israel, he was the force behind Iran’s nuclear weapons program and continued to work after the main part of the effort was quietly disbanded in the early 2000s.

Three intelligence officials said that Israel was behind the attack on Mr. Fakhrizadeh, who had long been the No. 1 target of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. The White House and the C.I.A. declined to comment. Here’s the latest.

The killing could complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

4. Black Friday, known for its doorbuster deals and early-morning lines at the door, looked very different this year.

To avoid becoming coronavirus superspreaders, many big-name stores like Target and Home Depot spread the annual sale out across November, and made arrangements for curbside pickup, like the one at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Yonkers, N.Y., above.

The pandemic-induced increase in online shopping has a clear winner: Amazon. This year alone, the company has hired hundreds of thousands of people, bringing its global work force to more than 1.2 million people.

So how did the annual shopping event get its name? Historians say it originated in Philadelphia in the 1960s, when throngs of shoppers and tourists would descend on the city on the day between Thanksgiving and the Army-Navy football game. The police coined the nickname because of all the crowd-related miseries.

5. In a blistering decision, a federal appeals court denied the Trump campaign’s challenge to its loss in a lower court on certifying Pennsylvania’s vote.

“Charges of unfairness are serious,” said Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee. “But calling an election unfair does not make it so.” Pennsylvania certified its election results earlier this week. One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers said the appeal would go to the Supreme Court.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump committed to leaving the White House in January if the electors in the Electoral College vote, as expected, for Joe Biden on Dec. 14. The president’s inability to concede the election is the latest reality-denying moment in a career preoccupied with one epithet: loser.

One thing is for sure: Mr. Trump has left an indelible mark on the Supreme Court. A ruling late Wednesday that rejected New York’s coronavirus restrictions on religious services exposed new dividing lines at the court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast the decisive vote, and our Supreme Court correspondent writes that it was “almost certainly a taste of things to come.”

6. The global health crisis has most vividly played out in hospitals and shuttered storefronts. A less visible aspect of the catastrophe has unfolded on the world’s roads.

The Times followed a pregnant Venezuelan mother and her 6-year-old son as they traveled more than 1,500 miles into Colombia and back, nearly all of it on foot. They are two of the millions of migrants around the world who have lost work in their adopted countries. Many have run out of money, been rejected at border crossings or arrived in war-torn countries.

And the wide-ranging new controls on immigration put into place under the Trump administration have made it harder for migrants to cross the U.S.’s southern border, but they have been particularly difficult for pregnant women, who often arrive exhausted after arduous journeys.

7. Johann Zillinger fell into trafficking rare birds by chance. Now, he tells how it’s done.

An adventurous Austrian, Mr. Zillinger encountered a fellow parrot aficionado from Switzerland on the beach in Brazil when he was in his late teens. They struck a deal: He’d smuggle birds back to Europe, his trips would be paid for and he’d get to keep some of the birds to breed.

In the decades since, Mr. Zillinger — once described by Interpol agents as one of the world’s biggest wildlife traffickers —  has served three prison sentences and has become a whistle-blower.

8. What does history look like — and whose narrative prevails?

Our art critic Jason Farago examines the creative historical liberties the painter Benjamin West took in “The Death of General Wolfe” (1770), above. The work depicts a British general at the Battle of the Plains, outside Quebec City, in the Seven Years’ War, also known as the French and Indian War.

The battle was turning point in a war that would end with the British takeover of French colonies from Quebec to Florida, and West mixed real history, mythmaking, British boosterism and New World melodrama in the painting — the first by an American artist to gain international attention. The vision stands at the origin of a rewriting of New World history that endured in both the U.S. and Canada for centuries, Jason writes.

9. Mike Tyson is back in the ring.

The boxer, who became the youngest heavyweight champion in 1986, is now 54. On Saturday, he will fight Roy Jones Jr., 51, another once-skilled boxer long past his prime. An official called the pay-per-view match, scheduled at Staples Center in Los Angeles, “an exhibition bout between two former champions.”

Tyson said “ego” inspired the face-off, and not “temporary insanity” as the former champion George Foreman claimed. The event is the first of an envisioned series produced under a new venture called Mike Tyson’s Legends Only League, which hopes to feature notable retired athletes from a litany of sports competing again.

10. And finally, something for everyone on your list.

Let our experts help find presents for all the beloved but quirky, picky, fancy, practical or eccentric people in your life. We’ve curated the best gifts for cooking enthusiasts, teens, the hard to please and more.

Tara Parker-Pope, our Well founding editor, asked writers and editors what gift has made their life better. Many of their choices were influenced by the pandemic, like binoculars to give a new perspective to daily walks in the park. We also assembled a list of self-care gifts from Black-owned businesses.

A list, a budget and some patience can help you avoid overspending.

Have a generous weekend.

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

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