Booster Shots, France, Fall Books: Your Weekend Briefing – The New York Times

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Here’s what you need to know about the week’s top stories.

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Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.
1. The confusion over Covid-19 booster shots got a little muddier.
A key advisory panel to the F.D.A. on Friday rejected recommending boosters to all recipients of Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose Covid vaccine, but it urged offering them to those 65 and older or people at “high risk” for severe disease. American health experts largely agreed with the decision, but some questioned why the age cutoff wasn’t lowered to 60.
Depending on how high risk is defined, tens of millions of Americans could end up being eligible for the booster. Committee members specified that health care workers, emergency responders and others at risk of infection should also be eligible. Dr. Peter Marks, who oversees the F.D.A.’s vaccine division, said teachers would be included in that group.
Committee members said the data from Pfizer and elsewhere showed that two shots still protected against severe disease. The F.D.A. has the final word on vaccine approvals, and the agency typically follows the committee’s recommendation. That decision is expected this week.
An advisory committee of the C.D.C. is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss booster shots before it issues recommendations on who exactly should receive them. There is no clear timeline for when booster shots for the other two vaccines approved in the U.S., Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, may be considered.
2. The U.S. will begin swiftly deporting Haitians who have gathered in the thousands at the southern border in the past week after illegally entering the country.
More than 14,000 Haitians have crossed the ankle-deep river between Mexico and Del Rio, Texas, and are camping out under a bridge, awaiting processing.
The Biden administration has three flights planned for Sunday, and more could be scheduled for the coming days. The move is meant to relieve the overflow in Del Rio and deter more Haitians from trying to come to the U.S., a strategy that has drawn criticism from human rights groups and some Democratic lawmakers.
3. President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan could result in a presidency-defining victory if it passes. It also risks sinking under its own weight.
Over the next six weeks, Democrats will try to wrangle a bill through Congress that addresses the economy, education, immigration, climate and more. But its breadth — as if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had stuffed his entire New Deal into one piece of legislation — has opened divisions among Democrats.
In other political news, a small group of far-right demonstrators gathered at the foot of the Capitol to protest the jailing of suspects involved in the Jan. 6 riot. Organizers said the police response had dampened turnout.
4. Relations between France and the U.S. have sunk to their lowest level in decades.
The U.S. and Australia went to extraordinary lengths to keep Paris in the dark as they secretly negotiated a plan to build nuclear submarines, scuttling a defense contract worth at least $60 billion. President Emmanuel Macron of France was so enraged that he recalled the country’s ambassadors to both nations.
Australia approached the new administration soon after President Biden’s inauguration. The conventionally powered French subs, the Australians feared, would be obsolete by the time they were delivered. The Biden administration, bent on containing China, saw the deal as a way to cement ties with a Pacific ally.
But the unlikely winner is Britain, who played an early role in brokering the alliance. For its prime minister, Boris Johnson, who will meet this coming week with Biden at the White House and speak at the U.N., it is his first tangible victory in a campaign to make post-Brexit Britain a player on the global stage.
5. Israeli agents had wanted to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist for years. Then they came up with a way to do it without operatives present: a killer robot.
An Israeli hit team used a souped-up machine gun to kill Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and pulled the trigger from more than 1,000 miles away. The operation’s success was the result of many factors — including serious security failures by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards — but it was also the debut of a computerized sharpshooter kitted out with artificial intelligence.
In Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s public apology for a drone strike that killed an aid worker and nine others brought little solace to the family members left behind.
6. Meet the newest unconventional weapon against future wildfires: goats.
Lani Malmberg travels around the West with a few hundred goats, which eat the tall brush and grasses that power wildfires and restore fire-ravaged lands to greener pastures. After the goats digest the brush, their waste returns organic matter to the soil, increasing its potential to hold water — a 1 percent increase in organic matter can hold an additional 16,500 gallons of water per acre, Malmberg said.
In other extreme weather news, three weeks after Hurricane Ida blasted through Louisiana, at least 38,000 customers are still without power outside New Orleans. The state’s grid failed because it wasn’t built to withstand major storms, experts said.
The U.N. warned that the global average temperature will rise 2.7 degrees Celsius by century’s end, even if all countries meet their promised emissions cuts.
7. The Empire State Building once symbolized an urban way of working. Now the future of the world’s most famous skyscraper is uncertain.
The New York City building relies on a steady stream of tourists, successful retail businesses and companies willing to lease office space. The pandemic upended that for months. As a promised return to normal has once again been put on hold, the plans being made by the building’s occupants reveal a meaningful move away from the traditional 9-to-5. Take a look inside to see how this cultural shift is unfolding.
When the Biden administration announced an upcoming mandate that employees be vaccinated or tested regularly at companies with 100 or more employees, there was no explanation for why 100 was the magic number — or how and when the mandate will be enforced.
8. There have been many changes to “Survivor” over its 21-year run. One constant: its host, Jeff Probst.
“Survivor” has reinvented itself just often enough to keep devoted viewers guessing with wrinkles that make for electrifying television. Keeping the show’s blood pumping is Probst himself, who does double duty as showrunner. “The best kind of ‘Survivor’ fun is the dangerous kind,” he said.
Tonight are the Emmy Awards. Netflix is a favorite to win more awards than any other studio, and “The Crown” could garner its first top series award. Here’s what else to expect.
9. A political thriller by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny. A Korean murder mystery. An investigation of lawbreaking animals.
Fall is book publishing’s biggest season, and this year our Books team published its first-ever fall preview: 20 new works of fiction; 11 nonfiction must-reads; new biographies and memoirs; and more. In The Times Magazine, read about Gayl Jones, who changed Black literature and then disappeared — and is now back with her first novel in 22 years.
If you’re already hungry for the seasonal transition, these are the 26 fall recipes our Food staff can’t wait to make. For a new back-pocket dish, here are 14 classic recipes you should know by heart.
10. And finally, dig into some great reads.
The hidden mysteries of glacier caves. The new science on how we burn calories. Why Norm Macdonald was comedy royalty. All these and more await you in The Weekender.
Our editors also suggest these nine new books, “Ghosts” on HBO Max, a deep dive into Bob Dylan’s archives and a conversation about the “Jeopardy!” drama.
Did you follow the news this week? Test your knowledge. And here’s the front page of our Sunday paper, the Sunday Review from Opinion and today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. If you’re in the mood to play more, find all of our games here.
The fall equinox is this week. Hope you savor the last days of summer.
David Poller compiled photos for this briefing.
Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6:30 a.m. Eastern.
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