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2020 Election, Europe, Borscht: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Election Day … continued.

The presidential election appears to rest on the results in several crucial battlegrounds that are favoring Joe Biden. Mr. Biden picked up Wisconsin and Michigan and is holding a slim lead in Arizona, all states President Trump carried in 2016. Mr. Biden also holds a small lead in Nevada.

“I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” Mr. Biden said in Wilmington, Del., adding that it was “clear” that he would reach 270 electoral votes.

For his part, Mr. Trump prematurely declared victory early in the day and said he would petition the Supreme Court to demand a halt to the vote counting. He leads in Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, which remains the biggest question mark; only about 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s votes were counted by midday Wednesday, with more mail-in ballots expected to arrive this week. Here’s where the race stands.

2. The president is turning to the courts.

The Trump campaign said it had filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the vote count in Michigan because of what it called insufficient transparency in the process, and that it would intervene in existing litigation that has already gone to the Supreme Court challenging Pennsylvania’s move to extend the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots.

The court has not said whether it would hear the case or when it might decide whether to grant review. And it is not at all clear that any additional election disputes will reach the justices.

Mr. Trump has also requested a recount in Wisconsin, which The Times called for Mr. Biden, who has a 20,000-vote lead.


3. Susan Collins declared victory in Maine, shrinking the hopes of Democrats to take control of the Senate even as their hold on the House looks likely to stand.

The Senate determines the ability of a president to fill his cabinet, appoint judges and pursue his agenda, and the two parties waged a pitched battle for dominance. Republicans also scored crucial wins in Iowa, Alabama and Montana, were running stronger than expected in North Carolina, and held onto seats in South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky. Democrats flipped seats in Colorado and Arizona.

Democrats had also hoped for a “blue wave” to sweep statehouses that Republicans had controlled for years. That did not happen: the lowest number of chambers changed hands in more than half a century.

4. The uncontrolled coronavirus pandemic was both a top issue and a threat at the polls.

Infections are on the rise across the country and are concentrated in some of the states that may determine the outcome of the election, including Wisconsin, seen in Franklin above. More than 92,000 cases were announced across the country on Tuesday, one of the highest totals of the pandemic, along with more than 1,120 new deaths. Hospitalizations also topped 50,000 for the first time since Aug. 7.

Voters were deeply divided on what mattered more: containing the coronavirus or rebuilding the economy, according to early exit polls and voter surveys released Tuesday. Their opinions fell along starkly partisan lines. Voters who viewed the pandemic as the most pressing issue favored Mr. Biden, while those who named the economy broke overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump.


5. There were 38 statewide citizen initiatives being decided on Tuesday. Top of the bill: decriminalization of drugs.

Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs. And in New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona, voters decisively passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana. Oregon voters also legalized psilocybin, known as magic mushrooms, for people age 21 and older.

Here are some others:

  • California voters approved a ballot measure that allows gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft to continue treating drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

  • Florida became the eighth state to enact a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

  • Mississippi voters approved a new state flag with a magnolia flower to replace the state’s previous flag, which contained a Confederate battle cross.


6. Across Europe, officials have been taking action to prevent hospitals and health systems from becoming completely overwhelmed by the surge in coronavirus cases. Above, Krakow, Poland.`

British lawmakers approved a new lockdown to start on Thursday in England, during which people will be asked to stay home, with exceptions for school, certain jobs, food shopping or exercising. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced scalding criticism from the opposition who say he waited too long to act — and from others saying he went too far.

Italy will seal off six regions and limit movement within them, its most drastic measures since the spring, in an effort to stop a virus resurgence. A 10 p.m. curfew is also in place beginning tomorrow, but the government has said it will try to forgo a national lockdown in favor of a targeted approach.

7. In other international news:

Poland’s right-wing government delayed putting in effect a court ruling that would impose a near-total ban on abortions. The postponement came after two weeks of the largest protests in the country since the 1989 collapse of communism. The government could still impose the ruling at any time, though legal experts said that to do so would violate the Constitution.

And in Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed began a sweeping military operation against one of his own regions, Tigray, where the Nobel Peace Prize winner has accused the provincial government of attacking an army base. The move sent waves of alarm across the region and stoked fears that Ethiopia was suddenly sliding toward a destructive civil war.


8. Theaters may be closed, but studios and streaming services are flocking to the stage to meet the insatiable demand for content.

For instance, Meryl Streep and James Corden, above, star in Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of the Tony-nominated musical “The Prom.”

After decades of sporadic adaptations, Hollywood is suddenly throwing financing (and entire brass sections) at theatermakers, thanks to Broadway’s popularity before the pandemic, the pop-influenced sound of musicals and the rise of streaming services.

Our theater critics picked five stage-to-screen adaptations that got it right (and five that didn’t).


9. News from the animal kingdom, past and present.

Scientists have spent years trying to mimic how spiders spin silk that is stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar, looking to revolutionize the construction of ultra-strong, sustainable materials. A new study suggests they’re beginning to figure out the chemical triggers that turn the liquid (called dope) stored in silk glands into a solid.

And the fossil of a small (but mighty) dinosaur found in Brazil helps illuminate a fascinating evolutionary story: the slow transformation of small, quick, two-legged hunters into immense, unhurried quadrupeds that ate only plants. The findings offer a rare glimpse into early dinosaurs’ neural anatomy.


10. And finally, geopolitical soup wars.

Borscht is enjoyed in both Ukraine and Russia. But for years, Ukrainians have wondered why the beet soup is commonly assumed to be a national dish of their archenemy, Russia. Now a Ukrainian chef is trying to set the record straight.

The chef plans to file an application to the U.N.’s cultural body, UNESCO, to list borscht as an intangible part of Ukraine’s cultural heritage, not Russia’s. To qualify, there must be evidence that the soup is widely consumed and tightly entwined with weddings and funerals. Town names also count (both countries have a dozen towns named for borscht).

Is a reconciliation possible? Last month Russia seemed to back down. “Borscht is a national food of many countries, including Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Moldova and Lithuania,” the Russian Embassy in Washington posted on Twitter. “Choose your favorite.”

Have a restorative night.


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

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What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at briefing@nytimes.com.

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