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Coronavirus, Texas, March: Your Weekend Briefing

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Here are the best articles of the week and a look into the future.

1,500,000 dead.

About a year after the first known coronavirus-related death was reported in the United States, an unfathomable toll is near: the loss of half a million people. As of Sunday, the pandemic’s death toll was 497,403, higher than in any other country. More Americans have died from Covid-19 than on the battlefields of WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War combined.

The void still persists for many. “You walk in and it smells like her,” said Keith Bartram, who lost his mother, LiHong Burdick, to the virus. Above, the December funeral of a member of the Standing Rock tribe of South Dakota who died from Covid-19.

2. The Democrats, who control the House, are preparing to approve President Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package by the end of the week, with the Senate intending to follow suit soon with its own party vote.

3. Power has been restored to most Texans, but millions of people across the state are facing another serious crisis: a shortage of clean water.

The powerful Arctic explosion this week has cracked pipes, frozen wells and taken water treatment plants offline. Officials said restoring water service to hospitals was the top priority. At least 58 people have died in a storm-ravaged region stretching as far as Ohio, and the final tally could be much higher.

4. The Senate will hold confirmation hearings this week for Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden’s choice for Attorney General.

If confirmed, Judge Garland will resume what prosecutors call the largest and most complex investigation in the history of the Department of Justice, into the attack on Capitol Hill that led to the president’s second impeachment. Donald J. Trump. The pursuit of domestic terrorism was a training job for Judge Garland, who oversaw the investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and similar cases.

As federal prosecutors unveil charges in the attack on Capitol Hill, they have repeatedly pointed out how two militant groups – the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys – played disproportionate roles in the attack. Here’s a look at the small groups that stood out on January 6.

5. Erik Prince, A Trump ally and former head of the Blackwater security firm violated an arms embargo by sending weapons to a militia commander in Libya, according to a UN report.

The confidential report, obtained by The Times and handed over to the Security Council by investigators on Thursday, revealed how Mr. Prince deployed mercenaries armed with attack jets, gunboats and cyberwarfare capabilities.

In other news from the Middle East: The Biden administration’s measured response to a rocket attack in northern Iraq this week, which officials say was ordered by an Iranian-backed militia, contrasts sharply with an approach by Iran. Trump era who, more often than not, caught Iraq in the crossfire.

Officials said Mr. Biden’s broader goal was to reduce hostilities between the United States and Iran and its proxies in the region, including Iraq, as he sought a path to diplomacy with Tehran on its nuclear program.

6. “I felt like I was drowning.”

That’s what Johanna Guzmán, above, said when she found out she was pregnant with her sixth child. She is one of the millions of Venezuelan women who are no longer able to find or afford contraception. The situation has pushed many people into unplanned pregnancies, or illegal and sometimes fatal abortions, at a time when they can barely feed the children they already have.

This is a far cry from what the Venezuelan government once promised its wives and daughters – a constitutional right to “freely decide” how many children a couple wishes to have.

But President Nicolás Maduro’s hold on the country has hardened to become an authoritarian regime. Amid the collapse of Venezuela’s economy and public health system, birth control is almost absent from government clinics, and it is only available in private pharmacies at prohibitive prices.

7. This is one of the first color images returned to Earth from Mars by NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover made a successful landing on Thursday in the middle of Jezero Crater, believed to be the dry basin of a lake that existed 3.8 billion years ago. One of the robot’s first tasks will be to study the rocks there: if the rocks are sedimentary, the area could have been habitable for a long time; if they are volcanic, this will allow geologists to calculate their age.

While everyone’s eyes are on Mars, our cosmos reporter can’t stop thinking about Titan, Saturn’s strange moon. For the first time, researchers recently measured the depth of Kraken Mare, an ocean of methane on Titan.

8. Novak Djokovic beats Daniil Medvedev to win the Australian Open, claiming his ninth tournament title and his 18th Grand Slam title.

Djokovic’s victory consolidates his place as player of the century (so far) at the Australian Open. He is undefeated in the final in Melbourne, with a 9-0 record. It was there that he won his first Grand Slam title, in 2008, when he was only 20 years old.

On Saturday Naomi Osaka defeated Jennifer Brady, becoming the first woman to win each of her first four Grand Slam finals in over 30 years. Brady, appearing in his first final, lost the battle.

And is this farewell to Serena Williams, who lost to Osaka in the semi-finals? She will come back, predicted our columnist.

9. This is how you get the best scrambled eggs.

Our food columnist J. Kenji López-Alt wanted to perfect eggs on weekdays without making a fuss. For this, he uses a brilliant technique that includes preheating the pan with water and adding cubes of cold butter and a small amount of starch to the mixture. The result is velvety and tender. Here’s how to do it.

In the evening, consider making vermouth the star of your next cocktail. The unique and often robust blend of plants of the three traditional styles – sweet, dry, and white – gives them their stature as a standalone appetizer.

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