Extreme Weather, Bitcoin, Spring Gardening: Your Weekend Briefing

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Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.

As disasters become more severe, the cost of rebuilding has skyrocketed. Extreme weather has caused more than $450 billion in damage nationwide since 2005; the number of disasters causing more than $1 billion in damage reached a record 22 last year. The price tags mean the U.S. faces another climate dilemma: how to decide which places to try to save.

After a summer of fires and storms, President Biden and progressive Democrats are using the moment to push for aggressive climate provisions in a sweeping $3.5 trillion budget bill.

2. Students are returning to classrooms, and anxiety is rising over the coronavirus.

There are 48 million U.S. children under 12 who are not yet eligible for Covid-19 shots. Parents are feeling increasingly backed into a corner as they reluctantly send their children back into the classroom — or resort to drastic actions to keep them safe. About a fifth of Kentucky’s school districts have had to close temporarily because of coronavirus infections since classes began last month.

The highly contagious Delta variant has sent pediatric Covid hospitalizations soaring across the country, according to two new C.D.C. studies.

And mask wars persist. At universities, some instructors are finding the return to the classroom a nerve-racking experience.


3. In the chaotic finale of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan, a Biden Doctrine is emerging: a foreign policy that avoids forever wars while addressing rising powers.

China as America’s existential competitor. Russia as a disrupter. Iran and North Korea as nuclear proliferators. Cyberthreats as ever-evolving. Terrorism as spreading far beyond Afghanistan. The Biden Doctrine “calls for a return to protecting human rights and promoting democracy, but only when consistent with U.S. goals,” our Washington reporters write in an analysis.

4. An estimated 7.5 million people will lose federal unemployment benefits this weekend. The checks going to millions more will drop by $300 a week.

The money has helped stave off financial ruin for millions of laid-off workers over the past year and a half. But this cutoff is the latest and arguably the largest of the benefit “cliffs” that jobless workers are facing. The loss of the added benefits could have long-term effects not just for recipients, but also for the economy.

If your finances took a hit from the pandemic, it’s especially important to conduct three types of check-ins, our personal finance columnist writes: Find someone wiser than you, check your credit report and taxes, and stop catastrophizing. Here’s how.

5. The entry of cryptocurrencies into banking is disrupting financial services and leaving regulators scrambling to catch up.

The boom in companies offering crypto loans and high-yield deposit accounts has pushed top officials from the Federal Reserve and other regulators into what they are calling a “crypto sprint” to figure out how to curb the high-stakes industry’s potential dangers. Officials warn that crypto services are vulnerable to hackers and fraud.

The development of thousands of cryptocurrencies in a little over a decade has changed the definition of money. Here’s a simple breakdown for the mystified.

6. Four centuries after they were hunted to extinction in Scotland for their fur, beavers are back — and so is their age-old battle with humans.

Beavers have incurred the wrath of a farming community as they decimate trees, build dams that flood fields or wreck drainage systems and riverbanks. Some farmers have obtained permits to kill the otherwise protected animals, setting off outrage among conservationists and igniting a debate about farming, biodiversity and the future of Scotland’s countryside.

In other conservation news, the caretakers of an orphaned elephant known as Nania are hoping to reunite her with her family in Burkina Faso; DNA testing revealed that her mother is probably roaming nearby.


7. “I had to develop a voice right away to scream: ‘I got it — it’s mine, my wave.’”

A new generation of surfers and activists is building on the efforts and achievements of those who came before — and carving out a space for themselves. It’s the latest in The Times’s “Black History, Continued” series. Hunter Jones, above, is a pro surfer. The surfer we quoted is Sharon Schaffer, the first Black woman to join the same ranks.

Back on land, the U.S. Open is well underway in New York. Naomi Osaka lost in the third round to Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded 18-year-old Canadian, and said she didn’t know when she would play again. Ashleigh Barty, the top-ranked women’s tennis player, was stunned by the American Shelby Rogers in three sets. Novak Djokovic advanced to the round of 16.


8. We’re just days into September, and it’s time to start thinking about your spring garden.

Rather than following the common practice of planting and transplanting in spring, Rebecca McMackin, the director of horticulture at Brooklyn Bridge Park, suggests shifting virtually all of that activity to autumn. She does, creating a refuge and breeding ground for unexpected species. Margaret Roach, our garden expert, spoke to her about going against conventional gardening wisdom.

If you’re looking to create a sanctuary for pollinators, think twice before planting echinacea, or coneflowers. Many cultivars were bred for style over substance, Ms. Roach writes. Here’s her guide to choosing wisely.


9. Time to celebrate the flavors of the season.

Mooncakes are the signature pastry of the Mid-Autumn Festival, in which Asians commemorate the full moon and the fall harvest. While there are many regional variations throughout Asia, people are most familiar with Cantonese mooncakes because Cantonese people established the first Asian bakeries in other lands. But the pastry has evolved with successive generations as it travels across continents.

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on Sept. 21. For the Jewish New Year, which begins on Tuesday, Joan Nathan composed a salad that pays tribute to foods that the biblical Canaanites might have eaten.