N.Y.C. Mayor’s Race, Voting Rights, Carl Nassib: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing

Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.

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

Voters cast their ballots at P.S. 158 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Andrew Seng for The New York Times

1. Who will lead New York City out of the pandemic and into a recovery?

Voters went to the polls today to decide just that as they picked the Democratic and Republican candidates for mayor. The Democratic contest is, essentially, the mayoral election: In a deep-blue city like New York, the Democrat is almost certain to win in November.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, is considered the Democratic front-runner. Because of the ranked ballots, we may not know the winner for weeks. Follow our live updates here.

The job of running the country’s biggest city is always consequential. But the election this year carries even more weight: It’s one of the nation’s first major contests to be held as the pandemic recedes, and it could be a bellwether for Democratic sentiment on issues like police reform, housing and education.

Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

2. Senate Republicans blocked the most ambitious voting rights legislation in a generation, drafted as a bid to counter restrictive voting laws.

Senator Joe Manchin, who holds a key Democratic vote, said he would support advancing the For the People Act. All 50 Senate Republicans oppose the measure and are likely to vote against taking it up. Under the Senate’s filibuster rule, it takes 60 votes to advance a measure over senators’ objections.

The text of the bill started out as a largely political document in 2019. But after Donald Trump tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the bill was suddenly being portrayed by Democrats as an imperative to preserve voting rights. Our congressional reporter explains how it became a failed strategy by Democrats.

Brian Otieno for The New York Times

3. The pandemic is worsening in Africa as more-contagious coronavirus variants spread, vaccinations lag, and hospitals in some places are pushed beyond their limits.

The situation is particularly bad in Kenya, where the Delta variant was found for the first time, in Kisumu County. There is now a 23 percent positivity rate in Kisumu, with the virus sickening mostly young people. Health officials say they fear a catastrophic wave like the one that ripped through India this spring.

As India’s vaccination campaign picks up, experts are worried about Chinese vaccines that have been sent around the world. Outbreaks in several of the 90 countries that received the shots suggest that the Chinese vaccines may not be very effective at preventing the spread of the virus, particularly the variants.


4. Confidential court records obtained by The Times reveal details about Britney Spears’s conservatorship, and her opposition to it, since at least 2014.

From the records, we learned that Spears has not been allowed to make friends without the approval of her father, and that anyone she dated has been subjected to drug and alcohol testing. Spears’s father has maintained that the conservatorship was a smooth-running machine that rescued the star. But the documents tell a different story: It “comes with a lot of fear,” Spears said.

Conservatorships are supposed to be a last resort for people who cannot take care of themselves. Spears, who has been bound to the agreement since 2008, is 39, and has been able to regularly perform over the past decade. She will address a court directly tomorrow for the first time in years.

David Mcnew/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

5. California is planning rent forgiveness on a scale never seen before in the U.S.

The State Legislature is in the final negotiations of a $5.2 billion program that would pay 100 percent of unpaid rent incurred by lower-income Californians during the pandemic and would be financed entirely by federal bailout money. Another $2 billion for unpaid water and electricity bills is also under consideration.

Los Angeles’s housing problem has been decades in the making, thanks in part to zoning practices including redlining, writes Michael Kimmelman, our architecture critic. As Angelenos grapple with ways to address affordable housing and homelessness, he examines a new architecture competition with low-rise solutions.

Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily, via Associated Press

6. The extremely dry Southwest is even drier than expected, a new study found.

Humidity has declined during summer in the region over the past seven decades, research showed, and the declines have accelerated since 2000, a period of persistent drought. Extreme heat coupled with lower humidity increases wildfire risk, a climate scientist said.

The findings run counter to a basic idea about climate change — that as the world warms, humidity will increase because warmer air holds more moisture. That makes sense in most of the world, where evaporation from the ocean is responsible for most of the humidity. But in the Southwest, researchers found, soil moisture was the dominant source. Soil moisture gets lower in the summer, and as temperatures rise, it gets even lower.

James Hill for The New York Times

7. The identity of the Zodiac killer has been a mystery for half a century. Did a French-Moroccan engineer, bored during the coronavirus lockdown, crack the case?

The California serial killer’s hallmark was a series of four ciphers, using letters of the alphabet and symbols, that have baffled experts and amateur sleuths. Fayçal Ziraoui caused an online uproar after saying he had cracked two unsolved ciphers using an encryption key that came to light only in December, and identified the killer.

Online sleuths immediately denounced his theory. The F.B.I. and the San Francisco Police Department, to which Ziraoui sent his findings, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

John Bazemore/Associated Press

8. Carl Nassib “agonized” over the decision to come out as gay. He is the first active N.F.L. player to do so.

“I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now,” Nassib, a defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders, said on Instagram. “But I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest.”

Nassib, who said he kept his sexuality to himself for 15 years, comes from a football family, and was a walk-on turned all-American at Penn State. The N.F.L. commissioner, his college coach and his team all expressed support for him. But the fact that he is the only active player to be publicly out in a major American men’s pro sports league suggests that male athletes still face a barrier.

Peter Prato for The New York Times

9. Sweet-and-sour chicken is getting a makeover.

Some Chinese American restaurateurs have struggled to shake off assumptions that American Chinese food is cheap and inauthentic. But a new generation of Chinese American chefs is celebrating the inventiveness, resourcefulness and deliciousness of American Chinese food with menus dedicated to the classics, and in the process, transforming what Chinese takeout can be.

American craft distilleries are also looking to chart a new path. Despite the pandemic’s financial toll, the industry grew in 2020 as businesses moved tastings and other activities outdoors, adding entertainment and lodging to broaden the experience.

Mehta et al.

10. And finally, Dean Martin and some hungry fish.

Rita Mehta, an evolutionary biologist, first described in 2007 how the moray eel uses a second set of jaws to grasp its prey and drag it deeper down its throat. Mehta had seen morays climb out of the water to hunt, but she wanted to know what the eels did with their prey after they bit down. Roll the tape.

Mehta trained a small cohort of eels to feed on land and filmed them in the act. The video shows how they use this sneaky set of jaws just as effectively on land as in water: Forceps nudge a piece of squid that sits on a ramp as an offering; a snowflake moray eel bursts out of the water and bites the squid, pauses a moment, and then sucks the squid even deeper.

The story went viral today for its crooning headline: When an Eel Climbs a Ramp to Eat Squid From a Clamp, That’s a Moray.

Have a lyrical night.

Lance Booth compiled photos for this briefing.

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