(Want to get this newsletter in your inbox? Here’s the sign-up.)
Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. A watchdog is looking inside the Justice Department for evidence of improper election interference.
The inspector general’s office said it was investigating whether any current or former officials in the department had tried to undo the results of the presidential election, as scrutiny of former President Donald Trump and his associates builds ahead of his impending impeachment trial.
The inquiry follows a Times article that detailed efforts by Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the D.O.J.’s civil division, to push top leaders to assert that continuing election fraud investigations would cast doubt on the Electoral College results.
The House will this evening formally deliver to the Senate its article of impeachment charging Mr. Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” although the trial itself is delayed until the week of Feb. 8. Senator Patrick Leahy, above, the chamber’s longest-serving Democrat, is expected to preside, assuming a role filled last year by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Separately, Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the former president who pushed to overturn the election results. It accuses him of carrying out “a viral disinformation campaign” against the company and seeks $1.3 billion in damages.
2. The two vaccines approved by the U.S. are shown to effectively protect recipients against most new coronavirus variants.
But in a worrying sign, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots are slightly less effective against a variant found in South Africa. The news underscored a realization by scientific experts that the virus is changing more quickly than once thought.
Moderna said it had already begun developing a new form of its vaccine that could be used as a booster shot against the South African variant. A BioNTech official said a newly adjusted vaccine against the variants could be developed in about six weeks.
At the same time, President Biden said he will ban travel by noncitizens into the U.S. from South Africa and will extend similar bans imposed by his predecessor on travel from Brazil, Europe and the United Kingdom.
In California, officials said they were lifting severe coronavirus restrictions on huge parts of the state. The move is a victory for restaurateurs, who have been pushing the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, to ease what they have said are arbitrary and unnecessary rules.
As governments begin rolling out the biggest vaccine drives in history, a look at mass vaccination campaigns of the past offers insight into mistakes. Above, a vaccination site in Mountain View, Calif., last week.
3. Teachers’ unions are flexing their muscles over in-person classes.
The Chicago Teachers Union voted to authorize a strike if the nation’s third-largest school district sought to force teachers back into school buildings. And a wealthy New York City suburb abruptly scrapped plans to reopen schools today after the teachers union stepped in.
Such fights between districts and unions — as well as the slow vaccine rollout — could make it hard for President Biden to fulfill his promise to put the federal government behind an effort to reopen school doors as quickly as possible.
About half of American students are still learning virtually as the pandemic nears its first anniversary.
4. President Biden overturned the transgender military ban.
With Lloyd Austin, his new defense secretary, by his side in the Oval Office, Mr. Biden signed an executive order restoring protections for transgender troops first put in place by former President Barack Obama.
The president’s order creates opportunities for young people whose dreams of serving in the military had been sidetracked.
Nic Talbott, 27, above, has been trying to join the military for much of his adult life. He has a college degree, top physical scores and a spotless record. “The only thing keeping me from serving my country is one word on my medical record” — transgender, he said.
5. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy will present his resignation on Tuesday, his office said.
The move is likely to trigger the collapse of Italy’s government as it faces a still-spiraling coronavirus epidemic and a halting vaccine rollout.
More than 85,000 Italians have died from the coronavirus. The government, which was making slow but steady progress in vaccinating its public health workers, has hit a speed bump and threatened to sue Pfizer for a shortfall in vaccines.
Mr. Conte, above, and his government failed to get an absolute majority during a Senate confidence vote last week after Matteo Renzi pulled out of the coalition to protest Mr. Conte’s management of the epidemic. The political crisis has struck many Italians as unnecessary, and one of the country’s leading virologists has compared the politicians to musicians playing on the Titanic.
7. Shakespeare, science fiction and cat people versus dog people.
These are some of the analogies teachers are using to help students, from preschoolers on up, understand history in the making: a riot at the U.S. Capitol, the second impeachment of Donald Trump and a peaceful transfer of power.
Tracy Merlin, above, who teaches in Broward County, Fla., used an example her second-grade class would understand: “Let’s say that half of the country thinks dogs are the best, and half of the country thinks cats are the best.”
But teachers who live in divided areas must work hard to avoid seeming biased. In some politically conservative or just politically mixed places, some schools have shied away from political discussions.
Among the 25 we showcase are Tennessee Williams, above, who had won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” In 1949, he reviewed the debut novel by Paul Bowles, “The Sheltering Sky,” which went on to be acclaimed as one of the best of the 20th century. “A talent of true maturity and sophistication” is how he described Mr. Bowles.
Eudora Welty — who was an editor at the Book Review during World War II — recognized E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” as an instant classic in her 1952 review. And in 1987, Margaret Atwood reviewed “Beloved” by Toni Morrison with appropriate awe.
9. Capitalist memorabilia are a hot commodity.
When Jack Carlson wears his mom’s old Lehman Brothers sweatshirt, people try to buy it off his back.
The sale of products associated with the 2008 financial crash, the dot-com bubble and even the Enron scandal has become a thriving niche market. A Lehman Brothers-branded baby bib is going for $59.59 on eBay, and an Enron “Conduct of Business Affairs Booklet” is on sale for $395 on the website Wall Street Treasures.
But buyers are not just memorializing scandals or crises — sometimes, they are being ironic.
10. And finally, some high-profile advertisers are skipping the Super Bowl.
Budweiser, whose commercials featuring Clydesdale horses, croaking frogs and winsome puppies made it a favorite Super Bowl advertiser, is opting out of the broadcast for the first time in 37 years.
The beer brand said that it would donate money this year to the Ad Council, which is organizing a $50 million ad blitz to fight coronavirus vaccine skepticism. Budweiser is running a vaccination ad, titled “Bigger Picture,” online in the lead-up to the Feb. 7 game.
Other Super Bowl stalwarts, including Coca-Cola, Hyundai and Pepsi, will also be missing. Many companies hesitated to pay CBS roughly $5.5 million for a 30-second slot during a game that some worried could be delayed or even canceled because of the pandemic.
Have a creative and persuasive evening.
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 email@example.com.