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Schools, California, North Korea: Your Monday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Monday.

1. For the first time in 18 months, New York City schools fully reopened to roughly one million children, most of whom were returning for the first time since the United States’ largest school system closed in March 2020.

The spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has complicated the city’s push to fully reopen schools, and has left many families and educators anxious about what the next few months will hold. And there was some opening day chaos: The online health screenings that families fill out each morning crashed, leading to long lines outside some schools.

2. Democrats are getting closer to a transformative economic bill — and to figuring how to pay for it.

House Democrats released legislation that would raise as much as $2.9 trillion to finance President Biden’s social safety net package through a series of tax changes, including increasing the amount that the wealthiest Americans and corporations pay in taxes.

The legislation would raise the top tax rate on wealthy individuals to 39.6 percent from the current 37 percent. Those with an adjusted gross income of more than $5 million would also face a new surtax of 3 percent. Corporate taxes would rise to 28 percent from 21 percent for companies with income of more than $5 million.

The legislation amounts to an opening offer as Democrats in both the House and Senate try to cobble together pieces of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic package, which would fund climate provisions, paid family leave and public education.

The House revenue plan is less aggressive than those of the White House and the Senate. Moderate and conservative Democrats have also balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag of Biden’s social-program expansion. Given that the Democrats plan to pass the bill along party lines and can’t afford to lose many votes, those differences will need to be worked out in the coming days.

3. A million Afghan children could die in a “most perilous hour,” the U.N. warns.

Secretary General António Guterres, speaking at a U.N. conference addressing the crisis, said millions of people could run out of food before the arrival of winter.

Amid a severe drought, the World Food Program estimates that 40 percent of crops are lost. The price of wheat has gone up by 25 percent. Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless after being forced to flee fighting.

And the country’s health care system is teetering on the edge of collapse. World Bank funding is frozen, threatening an effective end to medical services in 31 of the nation’s 34 provinces.

Separately, Afghan pilots who sought safety in Uzbekistan have been transferred to a U.S. base, despite efforts by the Taliban to force their return.

4. California’s recall election is tomorrow.

Polls show that Gov. Gavin Newsom is likely to keep his job. He has a double-digit lead, up from a 50-50 split in July.

5. North Korea said it had launched newly developed long-range cruise missiles.

In the tests that took place on Saturday and Sunday, the missiles flew more than two hours, circled, and hit targets 932 miles away, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

The latest tests showed that North Korea continued to improve its arsenal of missiles while nuclear disarmament talks with the U.S. remained stalled. Under U.N. sanctions, North Korea can develop cruise missiles, but not ballistic missiles.

Separately, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency reached a temporary agreement on nuclear monitoring, a deal that has been considered a minimal requirement to resume talks to restore compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

6. This summer was unusually hot — especially at night.

Minimum temperatures were the hottest since 1895 for every state on the West Coast and parts of the Northeast, part of a trend that aligns with the predictions of climate models: Across the U.S., nights are warming faster than days. This effect is intensified in cities, which are typically warmer than their surroundings.

Temperatures are hottest in neighborhoods where people of color and poorer people live. Poorer communities are also less likely to use air-conditioners during heat waves, which increases the risk of heat-related death.

In Washington, President Biden outlined a plan to produce sustainable jet fuel. In Normal, Ill., business is booming, thanks to a massive electric-vehicle start-up.

7. Broadway is back again. Or so it hopes.

Some of the industry’s biggest and best-known shows are resuming performances tomorrow. By the end of the year, if all goes as planned, 39 shows will have begun runs on Broadway.

Early signs are encouraging: Four productions restarted this summer, serving as laboratories for the industry’s safety protocols. None has yet missed a performance.

Actors have been getting back in physical and vocal shape. Theaters held up well: There were even fewer rodents than feared in the shuttered buildings, probably because there were few food sources.

But will audiences show up? Anecdotal reports suggest that a handful of musicals, including “Hamilton,” “Hadestown” and “Six,” are selling strongly, while plays are struggling.

8. Also stepping out: The fashion world.

Today the red carpet rolls out for the Met Gala, hosted by a Gen Z dream team that includes the inaugural poet Amanda Gorman and the dreamy “Dune” star Timothée Chalamet.

The party signals the opening of the Costume Institute’s annual blockbuster show. This year’s exhibition is “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” Part One of a two-part mega-show/argument for the power of American fashion. The Gala itself is such an argument, and you can follow our live coverage here.

New York Fashion Week wrapped last night in a discorama shower of glitz. Vanessa Friedman, fashion critic for The Times, looks at what it says about American fashion, and its contrast with the MTV Video Music Awards red carpet last night.

9. The rock that ended the dinosaurs might unlock secrets about the origin of life itself.

Sixty-six million years ago, the catastrophic object known as the Chicxulub impactor modified the evolution of planet Earth, clearing the slate for mammalian evolution (and you). As more advanced tools and techniques become available, scientists have been able to extract new insights about this epic wipeout.

For their latest insights, scientists used a NASA supercomputer to monitor the motions of roughly 130,000 asteroids. The results support the strong geological evidence that Chicxulub was a carbonaceous asteroid, not a comet, with a possible origin in the outer asteroid belt.

And a study published this summer described modern-day microbial descendants of organisms that thrived in Chicxulub’s crater — still living in the shadow of one of Earth’s greatest catastrophes.

10. Finally, a woolly mammoth start-up.

George Church, a biologist at Harvard Medical School, has raised $15 million in funding for a company called Colossal. It aims to bring woolly mammoths back to Siberia, thousands of years after they went extinct.

The scientists at Colossal will try to modify the genome of an elephant embryo to resemble an ancient mammoth, adding traits like dense hair and thick fat for withstanding cold. They plan to remove DNA from an elephant egg, which has never been done before, and then implant the modified embryo into an artificial mammoth uterus.

Beyond scientific curiosity, Dr. Church argued that revived woolly mammoths could help the environment, maintaining the tundra biome so that it might lock away heat-trapping carbon dioxide. The company could also spin off new forms of genetic engineering, and potentially save species by endowing them with genes for resistance to a pathogen.

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