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Climate Change, Capitol Hill, Cloris Leachman: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing


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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. President Biden signed a series of executive orders that will fight climate change at every level of the federal government.

“We’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis,” Mr. Biden said. “We can’t wait any longer.”

Looking to counteract Republican claims that his climate policies would hurt an economy already weakened by the coronavirus pandemic, the president cast many of his orders as an economic boon that would create millions of jobs.

The orders include a pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and offshore waters, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. Mr. Biden also pledged to announce specific targets detailing how the U.S. would lower its carbon dioxide emissions under the Paris accord.

The orders also specified that climate change, for the first time, will be a core part of all foreign policy and national security decisions. That will most likely bring big changes for America’s role in the world. Here’s what to watch for in the coming months.

2. The U.S. faces heightened threats from violent domestic extremists emboldened by the Capitol riot, according to a rare national terrorism warning.

3. The Biden administration warned that the U.S. would remain vulnerable to the coronavirus without quick passage of a relief bill by Congress.

Jeffrey Zients, Mr. Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said that the federal government still faced shortages of personal protective gear and other essential supplies that it will not be able to buy if Congress does not pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan, as well as funds to investigate contagious variants now spreading around the world.

“We are 43rd in the world in genomic sequencing — totally unacceptable,” Mr. Zients said.

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Average daily reports of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. have decreased 33 percent over the last two weeks, but reported deaths in the same period have remained near record highs. Here’s why.

In a majority of U.S. counties, residents are at an extremely high risk for contracting Covid-19 right now. See the risk in your area.


4. The vaccine wars have come to Europe.

Stung by its slow progress on vaccinations, the E.U. threatened to tighten rules on shipments to Britain of doses made in Belgium. British lawmakers denounced the move as a blackmail campaign. The squabbling could ultimately lead to longer waits for vaccines for poorer nations.

The bloc’s vaccination woes snowballed into a full-blown crisis Wednesday, as Spain became the first country to partly suspend immunization for lack of doses.

5. A troubled video game retailer’s stock is skyrocketing thanks to amateur traders who organized an online campaign to boost the shares. They’re taking on Wall Street, and winning.

The main focus by traders on Reddit’s WallStreetBets subreddit is the video game retail company GameStop. Its stock is up 1,700 percent this month, including Wednesday’s climb of 135 percent. Similar campaigns drove up AMC Entertainment by 300 percent on Wednesday, and sent BlackBerry more than 275 percent higher this month.

The individual investors banded together to put the squeeze on at least two hedge funds that had bet that GameStop’s shares would fall. The amateur stock buyers have been pushing the other way, buying shares and options. That caused GameStop’s market value to increase from $2 billion to $24 billion in a matter of days.

One GameStop investor described her participation as taking revenge on the financial sector, telling our reporter: “Eat the rich.”

6. The population of oceanic sharks and rays has declined more than 70 percent since 1970, mainly because of overfishing, according to the first global assessment of its kind.

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More than three-quarters of the species are now threatened with extinction, jeopardizing marine ecosystems and the food security of people in many nations.

“There is a very small window to save these iconic creatures,” said the study’s lead author.

The Swinhoe’s softshell turtle, on the other hand, may have new hope for escaping extinction. Scientists recently found a female turtle that could be paired with the species’ last captive male.


7. Cloris Leachman, an Oscar winner who was best known for her roles in television comedies such as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” has died at 94.

Ms. Leachman, above right in 1971, entered the spotlight as a Miss America contestant in 1946 and remained in the public eye more than 74 years later. “The Last Picture Show,” for which she won an Academy Award in 1972, brought her fame, but she may be best remembered for drawing laughs in comedies like “Young Frankenstein,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” and “Spanglish.”

“I’m at a point where I’m free to go out and have a little fun with my career,” she said after winning. “Some Oscar winners have dropped out of sight as if they were standing on a trapdoor. Others picked it up and ran with it. I’m going to run with it.”


8. No one knows quite what to expect for this year’s Oscars (yes, they’re still happening in April). Our film critic hopes it’s not business as usual.

9. Entrepreneurial cooks have turned Instagram into the world’s greatest takeout menu.

Forced out of work because of the pandemic, cooks and bakers are improvising homegrown pop-ups, advertising their menus on Instagram, and changing the way diners order food. It’s more unpredictable and precarious for the purveyors, but it’s worth it for meals like tofu banchan, above, writes Tejal Rao, our California restaurant critic.

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Other restaurateurs are taking a different approach by partnering with the battered hotel industry to run ghost kitchens, which produce food only for delivery or takeout. The cooking facilities are predicted to be part of a $1 trillion industry in the next 10 years.

10. And finally, punk hair meets the internet age.

Geometric shapes, florals and even paintings like “Starry Night” are being sculpted and died onto the blank canvas of buzz cuts in the intricate art known as hair tattooing. But these “tattoos” are impermanent — in just a week, the hair will grow and blur the design, and in four weeks the colorful dyes will have faded away.

Hair tattooing has grown in popularity over the pandemic, thanks in part to less time in the office and what many stylists described as a time of creativity. The tattoos will cost you anywhere from $400 to $1,000 for a four-hour session.

“Walking around with a nearly bald head is a statement,” one colorist said, “but adding in art, technique and meaning elevates it to another level, entirely.”

Have a colorful night.


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

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at [email protected].



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