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New Year’s, Trump, China’s Vaccine: Your Thursday Evening Briefing


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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. At long last, the end of 2020.

As of this writing, 2021 has already arrived in much of the world, from a New Zealand free of the coronavirus to an England in lockdown.

In most cities, there are no roaring crowds, no gatherings for fireworks shows and, let’s hope, no strangers kissing at midnight. But people around the world are still toasting the start of the New Year. Here’s our live coverage.

In Australia, a fireworks show went on as usual. Big Ben, long silent while under renovation, chimed at midnight, as Britain left the European Union. The ball will still drop in Times Square.

2. The final day of the year had its share of news.

President Trump cut short his stay at his Mar-a-Lago club and returned with Melania Trump to the White House, as Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, tried to drum up support for a move to object to Congress’s certification of the Electoral College results next Wednesday.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska became the first Republican to publicly condemn the effort.

Applications for unemployment claims dipped slightly during Christmas week, but remained well above historical levels, at around 800,000.

And on Friday, 20 states and 32 cities and counties will raise their minimum wage, which will reach or exceed $15 an hour in 27 of them. More places will join them later in 2021, bringing what was once a fringe idea into widespread reality.

As the virus surged in the summer and fall, President Trump’s management of the crisis effectively focused on the single question of what it would mean for him. The result, our reporters write, was a lose-lose for Mr. Trump, costing him both the presidency and his chance to meet the defining challenge of his tenure.

5. Brexit is finally done.

As of midnight in Brussels (5 p.m. Eastern, 11 p.m. in London), Britain left the European Union’s single market and customs union.

Both sides lost in Britain’s departure, though unevenly, our correspondent Roger Cohen argues.

And Scotland and Northern Ireland may opt to leave the United Kingdom and, by different means, rejoin the E.U.

The E.U. itself, by contrast, has in some ways been galvanized by the trauma of Brexit. The nations of Europe have seen up close that a divorce is always a defeat — and a negotiation whose end point is new barriers is, too.

6. American companies may face higher taxes on products they import from China.

When President Trump placed tariffs on more than $360 billion of Chinese goods beginning in 2018, thousands of U.S. companies successfully requested waivers excluding them from having to pay the levies.

Those exclusions expire at midnight, and as of 6 p.m. Eastern, there hadn’t been any word on whether they would be extended. If not, many companies will have to pay the U.S. tax on Chinese imports, including textiles, industrial components and other assorted products. Above, the port in Oakland, Calif.

Meanwhile, China’s astonishingly rapid reduction of rural poverty depends on heavy government spending that may not be sustainable.

7. A spooky signal showed up last year after a radio telescope was aimed at the next star over from our sun.

Nobody believes it was ET phoning, but radio astronomers admit they don’t have an explanation yet for the beam of radio waves, which apparently came from the direction of the star Proxima Centauri.

The team investigating the signal is part of the Breakthrough Listen project, which set off a boom in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence when it was announced in 2015 by Stephen Hawking and the Russian billionaire investor financing it.

The investigators had intended to keep the strange data to themselves until they figured it out, but The Guardian recently spilled the beans.

“So there’s nothing to see here, folks,” writes our cosmos reporter, Dennis Overbye. “Until there is.”

8. What can puppy shortages and Taylor Swift tell us about the economy?

Our economics reporter analyzed the social trends of 2020 — and got a glimpse of the future.

Newly freed from the office, middle-class millennials are seeking single-family homes in affordable “Zoom towns.” Both bicycles and puppies were in high demand, signaling America’s shift away from service spending toward goods.

And Ms. Swift’s surprise release of two albums offered at least a symbol of a macroeconomic productivity surge that techno optimists say is right around the corner.

9. One habit that will carry into the new year: working from bed.

For years, sleep experts have held one piece of common wisdom above all else: that devices have no place in the bedroom. But during the pandemic, millions of Americans are drafting legal documents, holding client calls and coding from under the covers.

In truth, those are just modern versions of the practices of some of history’s most accomplished figures. Edith Wharton, William Wordsworth and Marcel Proust drafted prose and verse from their beds.

“I am a completely horizontal author,” Truman Capote told The Paris Review in 1957. “I can’t think unless I’m lying down.”

10. And finally, the moments of light you captured in this dark year.

We asked readers to send us photos and videos of positive moments in this pandemic year. We received more than 750 submissions from all over the world: joyous weddings and emotional births, the wonder of nature and the quiet grace of solitude.

You shared tearful reunions with grandparents, like the one above, and the tenderness that comes with experiencing great loss. The submissions show an appreciation for the experiences and connections that make life meaningful — a gratitude to take into the year ahead.

So thank you, and may the New Year bring you much more of the same.

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 briefing@nytimes.com.



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