Your Weekend Briefing

Vaccines, Child Care, Canadian Thanksgiving

Welcome to the Weekend Briefing. We're covering inequity in Covid vaccines, President Biden's child care proposal and winter gardening tips.

A shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine being administered in Nairobi, Kenya, last month.Simon Maina/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

1. Moderna's vaccine appears to be the world's best defense against Covid. Poor countries are struggling to get it.

Moderna is selling nearly all of its Covid vaccine — the only product it sells — to wealthy nations, earning billions in profit. About one million doses have gone to countries that the World Bank classifies as low-income, compared with 8.4 million Pfizer doses and about 25 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson doses.

Most middle-income countries that have struck deals with Moderna have not received any doses. Thailand and Colombia are paying a premium. The Biden administration has pressured the company to make its vaccine, which was developed with the support of the U.S. government, more widely available.

The development of Covid vaccines means more effective flu vaccines may emerge, thanks to the same technology. In the meantime, public experts say it's extra important to get a flu shot this year to prevent a "twindemic."

Melissa Robertson and her wife pay twice as much for child care as they pay for their mortgage.Travis Dove for The New York Times

2. As Congress debates President Biden's $3.5 trillion social policy bill, we took a close look at one key element: child care.

The bill would cap families' child care expenses at 7 percent of their income, offer large subsidies to child care centers and require the centers to raise wages in hopes of improving teacher quality. The subsidies "would be the biggest investment in the history of child care," one expert said.

Democrats describe the problem as a fundamental market failure — it simply costs more to provide care than many families can afford. Republicans say the plan is unaffordable and smacks of socialism. As Democrats consider trimming the bill down to $2 trillion, a proposal to limit programs to the poor has rekindled a debate on government itself.

A nurse at Houston Women's Reproductive Services performs an ultrasound to determine whether the patient is eligible to have an abortion in Texas.Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

3. Most abortions in Texas are banned once again after a federal appeals court panel reinstated the restrictive law.

The decision came two days after a lower court had blocked the law in a case brought by the Biden administration. Many providers expected the conservative Fifth Circuit to side with Texas. The panel called on the administration to respond by Tuesday. While at least six clinics in Texas had begun performing the procedure beyond the limits of the new law in the past week, most of the state's roughly two dozen providers had opted not to.

The law, which bans abortions at about six weeks of pregnancy, when many women don't know they're pregnant, leaves enforcement to private citizens.

The new law has already led many women to travel out of state for the procedure.

Taiwan military helicopters flying over Taipei, the capital, during a rehearsal for National Day celebrations.Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

4. Taiwan has moved to the heart of U.S.-China tensions, with the potential to ignite a military conflict and reshape the regional order.

China's growing military might has made a conquest of Taiwan conceivable. The island's preparedness has withered; on Monday, China sent 56 warplanes to test its beleaguered air defenses. The U.S. has watched its military dominance in Asia erode.

Few believe a war is inevitable. The economic and diplomatic aftershocks would be staggering for China. But China now acts with increasing confidence, in part because many officials, including Xi, believe that American power has faltered.

U.S. failures with the Covid-19 pandemic and its political upheavals have reinforced such views. In war games since at least 2018, American "blue" teams have repeatedly lost against a "red" team representing a hypothetical Chinese force.

The Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee last week.T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

5. Is Big Tech the next Big Tobacco?

A Facebook whistle-blower's testimony last week generated unusual bipartisan agreement that it was time for regulations to rein in the technology industry. But if what faces Big Tech is anything like what happened to Big Tobacco in the 1990s, what lies ahead is likely to be a yearslong fight.

Lawmakers are weighing proposals, such as creating a new federal agency dedicated to industry oversight or reworking laws so that companies could be held responsible for amplifying harmful speech. But the industry has built the biggest army of lobbyists in Washington.

Our tech reporter also looked at how two recent high-profile implosions — those of Ozy Media and Theranos — serve as a reminder of how risky the start-up gamble is, and how frequently companies stretch the truth.

Your interests. Our experts.

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The current season of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" is offering a glimpse into the real-world legal drama surrounding Erika Girardi.Photo illustration by Justin J Wee for The New York Times; Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

6. Erika Girardi became famous for her lavish lifestyle. Then her husband's law firm was accused of misappropriating millions of dollars. What has transpired since is made-for-TV drama.

Girardi, a cast member on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," is married to Tom Girardi, who helped win the trial that made Erin Brockovich famous. He is accused of fleecing vulnerable clients — including victims and relatives of those killed in the 2018 Lion Air jet crash in Indonesia — to support their extravagant tastes. She, too, has been named in a half-dozen civil lawsuits and appears to be relishing the attention.

Sam Anthony, left, with his birth father, Craig Nelson, at Mr. Anthony's home in Falls Church, Va., in August.Debra Steidel Wall

7. How do you make up for 52 years of lost time in 11 days?

After struggling with cancer for years, Sam Anthony was running out of time. Before he died this summer, he found the courage to mail a letter that he had long been afraid to send, to a man he had never met: his biological father. A colleague at the National Archives helped track him down.

Sam's father, Craig Allen, had given up hope of finding his son. After receiving the letter, the father and son spent Sam's last days together. "It was a combination of the saddest moments of my life, but also the proudest," Craig said.

The comedian Phoebe Robinson near her Tiny Reparations office.Sabrina Santiago for The New York Times

8. Phoebe Robinson is a comic, but a better description might be boss.

In the past few years, Robinson has evolved from a hustling stand-up into a mini-mogul with a staff, a production company, a publishing imprint, TV deals and even a primer on leadership she wrote after noting the absence of Black women's perspectives in business books. She writes, "Where's 'Lean In' for us?"

In other entertainment-empire news, what happens when Balenciaga collaborates with "The Simpsons" to present its latest collection? Springfield meets Paris in a delightful 10-minute episode.

Growing figs in cold weather may not be easy — but it isn't impossible, either.Lee Reich

9. If you're frustrated by trying to grow figs in a cold climate, you're not alone.

Our garden expert, Margaret Roach, spoke to another expert about how to get your tree to fruit. The no-frills way to grow figs is in a pot, and it requires proper pruning and adequate protection. A sunny spot during the outdoor growing season and good drainage are also needed.

Ahead of Canadian Thanksgiving tomorrow, our correspondent wrote a tribute to a different tree fruit: the McIntosh apple. The crisp, tart apple was discovered by John McIntosh in 1811 just south of Ottawa. If you're feasting tomorrow, here are 11 delicious last-minute recipes.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini at their wedding this month at St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia.Olga Maltseva/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

10. And finally, catch up on some great reads.

Russia's first royal wedding in 100 years. The enduring appeal of flying a kite. Tracing the ancient DNA of dogs. All these and more await you in The Weekender.

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 our games here.

Have a fruitful week.

David Poller compiled photos for this briefing.

Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6:30 a.m. Eastern.

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