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What We Learned From the D.N.C.

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Last night, the Democratic National Convention capped off four days of remote speeches, video montages and roll-call votes with a final address from the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

“America’s history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we’ve made our greatest progress,” Biden said, in a speech that mixed a somber assessment of the state of the country with hopeful appeals to its values. “And in this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again.”

What did the convention tell us about the Democrats’ message for November? Our colleague Lisa Lerer, who writes the On Politics newsletter, suggested four big takeaways.

1. Character and the coronavirus. The convention pitched Biden’s Washington experience and story of personal tragedy as a match for a moment of national crisis.

“Viewers got a very good sense of Biden himself as a family man, someone with a moral compass,” Lisa told us. And both Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, sharply criticized President Trump’s response to the pandemic.

2. High stakes. “This convention was waged in existential terms,” Lisa said. Perhaps the starkest warning came from former President Barack Obama, who cast his successor as a threat to American democracy.

3. A big tent. From disaffected Republicans to progressive Democrats, the convention showcased the breadth of the coalition the party hopes to mobilize. But squabbles over speaking times, generational gaps and divergent ideologies also laid bare the challenges of holding such a wide coalition together.

“On the first night, for example, voters heard from John Kasich, a Republican, and Senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist,” Lisa said. “Those two men likely agree on very little beyond the need to defeat Trump.”

4. Winning is one thing, governing another. Notable speakers like Senator Elizabeth Warren and former President Bill Clinton touted aspects of Biden’s policy agenda, as did Biden himself. But the convention focused more on critiquing Trump’s stance on problems like gun violence, climate change and the virus than on detailing Democrats’ solutions.

Given Biden’s current lead, Lisa noted, that might be enough. “But I do think voters like to know what they’re getting with a candidate,” she said. “What will this person do beyond simply ousting the guy in office right now? I’m not sure this convention answered that question.”

Trump and the G.O.P. will get a shot at a rejoinder when their own largely virtual convention starts Monday.

For more on the D.N.C.’s fourth night:

Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser, was charged with defrauding donors to an online fund-raising effort to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Prosecutors said Bannon had siphoned nearly $1 million from the project to pay off personal expenses.

Bannon was arrested early Thursday by federal postal inspectors and special agents from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, who found him off the coast of Connecticut, on a 150-foot yacht owned by a fugitive Chinese billionaire.

Background: The fund-raising project, called We Build the Wall, brought in more than $25 million. But it failed to accomplish much with the money, and Trump eventually disavowed it. Three others were also arrested.


David C. Williams, a former member of the U.S. Postal Service’s board of governors who resigned in protest in April, told lawmakers that the Trump administration appeared to want to strong-arm the agency into becoming a “political tool.”

“If this is the beginning of what the president promised, it’s the end of the Postal Service,” Williams said of recent policy changes that included raising rates and cutting back crucial services.

Today: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the Senate this morning. He is likely to face tough questions about the cuts and about his potentially conflicting business interests.


In central Washington State, Janna Benzel is responsible for her entire school district — monitoring 1,800 students for coronavirus symptoms when classrooms open this month, on top of her regular duties. “I’ll have to go to these schools and assess every sniffle and sneeze that could potentially be a positive case,” she told The Times. “I just don’t know if I can do it alone.”

Sign up for our Schools Briefing to get the latest on how educators and parents are handling the return to school.


A Russian hospital is refusing to allow the prominent Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny to be transferred abroad for treatment after a suspected poisoning, the opposition leader’s spokeswoman said today, setting up a potential standoff as a plane from Germany arrived to fly him out of the country.

Navalny was rushed to the hospital yesterday after he appeared to suffer agonizing pain on a domestic flight after drinking a cup of tea at an airport in Siberia. A doctor said today that nothing had been found to support the idea that Navalny was poisoned.

This is not Navalny’s first brush with medical emergencies: In 2017, an assailant threw a green chemical liquid in his face, causing severe eye burns. Last year, while in jail for leading an unauthorized protest, he had to be hospitalized for a mysterious “severe allergic reaction.”

Some context: Poison has been the favored weapon of Russia’s security service for over a century.


The pandemic has been a boon to home gardening. The mental and physical benefits of the activity are well known: longer lives, lower levels of depression and exposure to vitamin D. “Gardening reduces stress,” Huma Yasin has written in The Times.

Contact with nature can also provide philosophical comfort, The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead argues: “Many people, when faced with their own mortality or that of their loved ones, become more attuned to the natural world. This is evidence not just of a garden’s power to distract and inspire but of its power to console.”

And for some marginalized communities, gardening grants agency over food insecurity and a lack of healthy options. “Possibilities, solutions, freedom — that’s what I’m growing,” a Los Angeles gardener and activist told The Wall Street Journal. “That’s what the gardens represent.”

Cowboy caviar (also known as Texas caviar) lies somewhere between a dip and a salad. You can customize the recipe with corn, avocados or whatever else you have on hand. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy.


If you’ve ever read the wildly popular “Neapolitan Novels” series in English, you’ve come across the translation work of Ann Goldstein. Though she’s worked with Elena Ferrante since 2004, even she has never met the famously secretive Italian novelist; they communicate through Ferrante’s publisher.

Goldstein, who used to lead The New Yorker’s copy desk, became one of the most acclaimed literary translators in the world through her work on the series. The pair collaborated again on Ferrante’s latest novel, “The Lying Life of Adults,” out next month.

Read about her fascinating life in a new profile.


Our weekly suggestion from Gilbert Cruz, The Times’s Culture editor:

I have never solved a Rubik’s Cube and probably never will. Many of you might be the same. But there’s something fascinating about that colorful square. So small! So difficult!

A new Netflix documentary offers a peek into the world of competitive cubing, where mostly young people gather to solve the puzzles as quickly as possible. (We’re talking seconds here.) “The Speed Cubers” focuses specifically on the sweet friendship between two of the top cubers in the world — the Australian star Feliks Zemdegs and the American Max Park, an autistic teenager whose parents first put a cube in his hand as a means of increasing his fine motor skills.

Soundtracked by the constant clicky-clack sounds of people fiddling with the cubes, this 40-minute film is a reminder that what might seem small and niche to you can be the whole world to others.


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