California, U.S. Poverty, Met Gala: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Tuesday.

1. Early returns suggest that California’s huge Democratic base is rallying for Gov. Gavin Newsom in today’s recall election.

Democrats feel increasingly confident, predicting that Newsom will avert what would be a disaster for the party in the nation’s most-populous state, and his current lead is large enough to withstand major polling errors. But the fact that the Democratic governor is being forced to fight for his post highlights the vulnerabilities of leaders who seemed well positioned before the coronavirus pandemic.

If Newsom is recalled, his likely replacement would be Larry Elder, a conservative talk-radio host who has made a career bashing liberal causes. There are more than 40 candidates on the ballot.

For weeks, Californians have been casting early ballots in the election. If Newsom’s large lead holds, the election could be called within a few hours of when the polls close at 8 p.m. Pacific time. Follow live updates here.

2. The number of people living in poverty in the U.S. declined during the pandemic, at least by one measure.

About 9.1 percent of Americans were poor last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, down from 11.8 percent in 2019. That figure — the lowest since the record-keeping began in 1967 — is based on a measure that accounts for the impact of government aid programs, which last year lifted millions of people out of poverty.

The new data will most likely feed the debate about efforts by President Biden and congressional leaders to enact a more lasting expansion of the safety net.

Separately, consumer prices increased less than expected in August, a sign of a slowdown in price gains that the White House and the Fed have been hoping for.

3. Following a spike in virus cases, one in four U.S. hospitals is reporting that over 95 percent of its I.C.U. beds are occupied. In June, when Covid-19 cases were at their lowest levels, less than one in 10 hospitals had dangerously high occupancy rates.

4. Haiti’s chief prosecutor said there was evidence linking the acting prime minister to the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Last week, the prosecutor issued a police summons for the prime minister, Ariel Henry, requesting that he answer questions about contact he had with a chief suspect in the assassination just hours after Moïse was killed in his residence near Port-au-Prince.

The prosecutor’s move comes amid an escalating power struggle in Haiti. Henry has struggled to assert authority over the country since he was sworn into office in July.

5. A top general twice reassured China that Donald Trump would not launch a strike to stay in power, a new book says.

“Everything’s fine,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Gen. Li Zuocheng of China on Jan. 8, two days after the Capitol Hill riot. “But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” In a sign of his concerns, Milley also gathered commanders to remind them of the safeguards in the nuclear launch procedures.

In other foreign policy news, intelligence officials said that Al Qaeda could rebuild in Afghanistan within one to two years. The new timeline is not a drastic shift from earlier projections, but reflects the reality that the Taliban have a limited ability to control the borders.

6. Faced with criticism over a growing crisis at Rikers Island in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a relief plan for the sprawling jail complex. It was immediately criticized from all sides.

Staff shortages have led to a series of violent episodes and an unsanitary, chaotic living environment inside the jail. Some units that were once secured by up to four correction officers now have none. Ten people have died this year. More than a dozen elected officials visited the jail on Monday, and several of them described the conditions as a humanitarian crisis.

Critics said that the mayor’s plan, which includes moving correction officers from the courts to Rikers and threatening to suspend officers who are not showing up for work, fell far short. De Blasio, who has not visited the jail in four years, said he would visit “at some point” in the future.

7. Norm Macdonald, the acerbic comedian and “Saturday Night Live” star, has died. He was 61.

The cause was cancer, which he had been dealing with for some time but kept largely private. Macdonald had a deadpan style honed on the standup circuit, first in his native Canada — “a hick, born to the barren, rocky soil of the Ottawa Valley,” he wrote in a 2006 book — then in the U.S.

By 1990, he was doing his routine on “Late Night With David Letterman” and soon after he got his big break on “Saturday Night Live,” where he co-hosted “Weekend Update” and impersonated Burt Reynolds and Bob Dole in sketches.

“In my mind, I’m just a stand-up,” Macdonald said in this 2018 Times Magazine profile.

8. The Booker Prize announced its six finalists for one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards.

This year’s shortlist includes “No One Is Talking About This,” Patricia Lockwood’s debut novel written partly in internet speak; “Great Circle,” an epic by Maggie Shipstead about a woman who devotes her life to flying and the Hollywood actress set to play her onscreen; and “Bewilderment,” Richard Powers’s novel about a widowed astrobiologist struggling to care for his son. A winner will be named in November.

Powers’s Pulitzer-winning novel, “The Overstory,” had left him so drained that he didn’t know whether he would write again. “Bewilderment” came to him when he imagined a child talking to him in a forest.

9. The U.S. is a relatively young country, and this year’s America-themed Met Gala met the moment, writes our fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman.

The Costume Institute’s biggest night of the year drew a younger, sportier and more local guest list than usual. Some stars chose to sit this one out while others, like Nicki Minaj, could not attend because they had not been vaccinated (a requirement for all guests).

The dress code was “American Independence” and the gala provided a variety of interpretations, “some obvious, some more pointed, all plumbing the mythology of the country — historical, pop cultural, and just plain fantastical,” Friedman writes. See what the stars wore on the red carpet and at the after-parties.

10. And finally, this one’s for the wine lovers.

When our wine critic, Eric Asimov, began his Wine School column seven years ago, his first impulse was to go the traditional route and focus on tasting. Then he realized that the far better approach was to drink rather than taste (preferably with family or friends) as a means for ordinary customers to develop comfort and ease with wine.

Among 10 of the most important lessons so far: Don’t be afraid to explore; find the best value for the price; pair wine with food; and return to the classics. This month, Asimov and readers are drinking Chablis from the 2019 vintage and learning about how and why winemakers blend.

Cheers to a great evening.

Bryan Denton compiled photos for this briefing.

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

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