Presidential Debate, Russia, Fall Cocktails: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Twelve days to go, one final presidential debate.

President Trump and Joe Biden are meeting tonight in Nashville for their last chance to make their case for the presidency on a national stage. The debate will run for 90 minutes. The Times is livestreaming the event with real-time analysis and fact-checking from teams of reporters.

Kristen Welker of NBC News is moderating. The topics, chosen ahead of time, include the coronavirus, American families, race in the U.S., climate change, national security and leadership. Here’s where the candidates stand.

2. Russia recently hacked into U.S. computer networks and has plans to interfere in the presidential race in its final days or immediately after the election on Nov. 3, American intelligence agencies believe.

The assessment came a day after senior Trump administration officials said that Iran has been actively interfering in the presidential election. Many intelligence officials told The Times the latest hack shows Moscow is a bigger election threat. Above, election workers in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Officials did not make clear what Russia planned to do, but they said its operations would be intended to help President Trump, potentially by exacerbating disputes around the results. There is no evidence that the Russians have changed any vote tallies or voter registration information, officials said.

3. President Trump’s campaign faces a severe financial disadvantage entering the final stretch. Joe Biden entered October with nearly triple the campaign money of Mr. Trump — $177 million to $63.1 million.

The shortfall has forced his campaign to take several cost-saving measures: slashing millions of dollars in ad spending, taking a detour to California for more cash and aggressively jump-starting his online fund-raising.

Another cause for concern: Mr. Trump’s ever-shrinking political base of white voters without college degrees. The changes in demographics, above, are driven largely by aging.

Analysts believe Mr. Trump still retains a narrow path to victory. But it would require him to make fundamental changes in his campaign style and a stumble from Mr. Biden.

4. Republicans advanced Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate. Democrats boycotted the Judiciary Committee session in protest.

The move led Republicans to break their own rules to muscle through the nomination. The lopsided 12-to-0 outcome set up a vote by the Senate to confirm Judge Barrett on Monday, a month to the day after President Trump nominated her to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Democrats have sharply opposed Judge Barrett on policy grounds. But their goal on Thursday was to tarnish the legitimacy of her confirmation, arguing that Republicans had no right to fill the seat.

Separately, under pressure to take a stand on court packing, Joe Biden said he would create a commission to study broad changes to the court system.

5. The worst coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. are now in rural areas.

About one in four deaths from the virus is recorded in a rural county. Almost all of the counties with the largest outbreaks have populations under 50,000, and most have populations under 10,000, often lacking a hospital or other critical health care resources. Nearly all are in the Midwest or the Mountain West.

These maps show the case rates in rural areas at different points of the national outbreak. In hard-hit states that have resisted mask mandates, some mayors are issuing their own.

A new study took a harrowing look at the toll of the pandemic. A Harvard researcher added up the number of years that those who died might have lived had the coronavirus not intervened: 2.5 million.

6. And in Europe, a second wave of coronavirus infections has arrived, according to data released on Thursday. Adherence to new, stricter social restrictions over the next few weeks will be crucial.

While the number of patients in hospitals across the continent is still less than half of the peak in the spring, it is rising each week. People across much of Europe are now more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19 than those who become ill in the U.S. Experts have traced Europe’s current wave of infection to the relative normalcy it experienced this summer.

Cases are rising faster in the Czech Republic than anywhere else in Europe. Above, a field hospital in Prague. About a fifth of Spain’s ICU beds are already occupied by Covid-19 patients. And Belgium has postponed all nonessential hospital work to deal with the influx of new Covid-19 patients.

7. Ghislaine Maxwell’s four-year-old deposition was released.

The 465-page document gives a voice to a quiet but central figure in the scandal involving Jeffrey Epstein’s long history of sexual abuse. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged her with conspiring with Mr. Epstein, her former romantic partner, in his abuse of minors.

The deposition offers insight into the role Ms. Maxwell played in his orbit, and sheds light on how Mr. Epstein financially supported her. But she rejected almost every allegation of wrongdoing, denying that she helped Mr. Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately sexually mistreat dozens of teenage girls and young women.

Read the full text here.

8. Ratings for broadcast sports are down dramatically, but the industry can probably rest easy.

The N.B.A. playoffs, the N.H.L. playoffs, Major League Baseball’s regular season and playoffs, golf, tennis, horse racing and other sports have all had TV ratings declines of at least 25 percent compared with 2019.

Ratings have a role in shaping the future of sports: how they are structured, how much money is spent on players and which networks carry games. To understand what’s going on, we talked to Mike Mulvihill, the head of strategy and analytics at Fox Sports, who argued that amid all the weirdness of 2020, the decline is “nothing for our business to be worried about.”

In baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Dodgers are tied one game apiece in the World Series. A relatively unheralded group of relievers has been crucial to Tampa Bay’s success this year.

9. Humans have fewer, better friends as they age — and so do chimpanzees.

Drawing on decades of observations at the Kibale Chimpanzee Project in Uganda, two anthropologists reported in the journal Science that male chimps, who are typically quite gregarious and form a lot of friendships, display the same inclinations as humans.

The finding doesn’t prove or disprove anything about whether knowledge of death is what drives the human behavior. But it does show that our closest primate relative displays the same bonding habits.

In other animal kingdom news, researchers took a closer look at how the Yi qi, a Jurassic-era dinosaur with mostly useless batlike wings, could have flown — though to call it flying might be generous.

10. And finally, new twists on some classics.

Toddies and mulled wine have a long history, with mulled wine dating to Roman antiquity and the toddy to the mid-18th century. Both have stuck through to modern times, though they deserve some revamping, Rebekah Peppler writes. The drinks’ adaptable base formulas allow for experimentation.

Toddies, normally whiskey-based, are great for showcasing aged spirits like bourbon, rum, scotch, Cognac and port; swap out water for tea for an added layer of complexity. Mulled wine, another traditionally warming beverage, can also benefit from a contemporary overhaul: Consider serving it cold.

Have a cozy night.