By Ezra Marcus
At many colleges and universities, from underfunded institutions to top-tier private colleges, many students have found themselves unable to meet basic needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Financial insecurity, previously accelerated by rising tuition costs and living expenses, has become even more acute because of the closure of campuses, loss of jobs and slashing of budgets.
In response, across the country, students have created mutual aid networks: raising and redistributing tens of thousands of dollars to help their peers cover housing, medical costs, food and other essentials. …
By Manny Fernandez, Campbell Robertson, Mitch Smith and Will Wright
What started as a Midwestern surge has grown into coast-to-coast disaster.
Over the past two months, rural counties and midsize cities in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest have been the main drivers of the dizzying growth in U.S. coronavirus cases.
But the virus appears to have entered a new phase in recent days: The reason the country is continuing to break case records has less to do with North Dakota and Wisconsin than it does with swift resurgences of the virus in cities like Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix and with first-time spikes in smaller cities away from the nation’s middle, like Cumberland, Maryland. …
By Shaila Dewan
In Collin County, Texas, a suburban area northeast of Dallas where Democrats hoped for a blue wave on Election Day, state Rep. Jeff Leach attacked his Democratic challenger as an “extreme anti-police zealot.”
But Leach also ran an ad featuring a man who spent 13 years in prison on a wrongful conviction, and who praised the candidate’s record on criminal justice reform. “I’m a Democrat; Jeff Leach is a Republican,” said the man, Christopher Scott. “He’s a person we cannot lose in our state.”
The ad was telling: In an election season in which no one seemed to agree on anything, and Republicans up and down the ballot sought to link Democrats to lawlessness, criminal justice reform was the rare issue upon which the two parties seemed to find some common ground. …
By Alexander Burns
As President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election have steadily disintegrated, the country appears to have escaped a doomsday scenario in the campaign’s epilogue: Since Nov. 3, there have been no tanks in the streets or widespread civil unrest, no brazen intervention by the judiciary or a partisan state legislature. Joe Biden’s obvious victory has withstood Trump’s peddling of conspiracy theories and his campaign of groundless lawsuits.
In the end — and the postelection standoff instigated by Trump and his party is truly nearing its end — the president’s attack on the election wheezed to an anticlimax. It was marked not by dangerous new political convulsions but by a letter from an obscure Trump-appointed bureaucrat, Emily Murphy of the General Services Administration, authorizing the process of formally handing over the government to Biden. …
By Michael Corkery and Sapna Maheshwari
The holidays will look different at Macy’s this year. The Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City will proceed without spectators, and Santa Claus will not be reviewing Christmas wish lists from his usual perch on 34th Street.
But while many of those traditions are likely to return once the threat of the coronavirus passes, other changes at Macy’s this holiday shopping season — which traditionally begins with Thanksgiving — signal how the company’s business, and that of the entire retail industry, may be altered forever by the pandemic.
Early last month, two Macy’s stores, in Delaware and Colorado, went “dark,” meaning employees are primarily using the spaces as fulfillment centers where they process online orders and returns rather than a place for customers to browse and shop. …
By Cade Metz
This summer, an artificial intelligence lab in San Francisco called OpenAI unveiled a technology several months in the making. This new system, GPT-3, had spent those months learning the ins and outs of natural language by analyzing thousands of digital books, the length and breadth of Wikipedia, and nearly 1 trillion words posted to blogs, social media and the rest of the internet.
Mckay Wrigley, a 23-year-old computer programmer from Salt Lake City, was one of the few invited to tinker with the system, which uses everything it has learned from that vast sea of digital text to generate new language on its own. …
By Kevin Roose, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel
SAN FRANCISCO — In the tense days after the presidential election, a team of Facebook employees presented the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, with an alarming finding: Election-related misinformation was going viral on the site.
President Donald Trump was already casting the election as rigged, and stories from right-wing media outlets with false and misleading claims about discarded ballots, miscounted votes and skewed tallies were among the most popular news stories on the platform.
In response, the employees proposed an emergency change to the site’s news feed algorithm, which helps determine what more than 2 billion people see every day. It involved emphasizing the importance of what Facebook calls “news ecosystem quality” scores, or NEQ, a secret internal ranking it assigns to news publishers based on signals about the quality of their journalism. …
By Apoorva Mandavilli
As states struggle to contain the resurgent coronavirus, many officials are laying the blame on an unexpected source: people gathering with family and friends.
Household get-togethers undoubtedly do contribute to community transmission of the virus. Canada’s recent Thanksgiving certainly added to its rising cases; such an increase may happen here, too, as the United States embarks on a holiday season like no other. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday warned so strongly against gathering with others outside the household during Thanksgiving.
But are dinners and backyard barbecues really the engine driving the current surge of infections? The available data do not support that contention, scientists say. Still, the idea has been repeated so often it has become conventional wisdom, leading to significant restrictions in many states. …
By Claire Cain Miller, Katherine J. Wu and Margot Sanger-Katz
In the lead-up to Thanksgiving, Americans are no strangers to planning. But this year, as they prepare to let turkeys brine and pie crusts thaw, people across the country are waiting for something extra: a coronavirus test they hope can clear them to mingle with loved ones.
Many people consider a negative coronavirus test to be a ticket to freely socialize without precautions. But scientists and doctors say this is dangerously misguided. It is one precautionary measure but does not negate the need for others, like quarantining, masking and distancing.
The main reason is that a test gives information about the level of the virus at one point in time. A person could be infected but not have enough virus yet for it to register on a test. Or, a person may become infected in the hours or days after taking a test. …
By Megan Twohey and Nicholas Kulish
The head of one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers had a problem. Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, needed $850 million for everything from glass vials to stainless steel vats so he could begin producing doses of promising coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poor.
Poonawalla calculated that he could risk $300 million of his company’s money but would still be more than $500 million short. So he looked to a retired software executive in Seattle.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder turned philanthropist, had known Poonawalla for years. Gates had spent billions to help bring vaccines to the developing world, working closely with pharmaceutical executives to transform the market. …