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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Wednesday.
1. The Biden administration announced an ambitious goal of producing almost half the nation’s electricity from the sun by 2050.
Such an expansion, laid out in a new report from the Energy Department, is in line with what most climate scientists say is needed to stave off the worst effects of global warming. It would require a vast transformation in the nation’s technology and energy industries, and in the way Americans live.
The Energy Department said its calculations showed that the price of solar panels had fallen so much that they could produce 40 percent of the country’s electricity by 2035 — enough to power all American homes — and 45 percent by 2050. Solar power contributed less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity in 2020.
In other climate news, Tropical Storm Mindy has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to cross the Florida Panhandle tonight, bringing the threat of flooding. And most lights in New Orleans are back on, a big step in the city’s recovery from Hurricane Ida.
2. Despite drastic job losses and long lines at food banks, a vast expansion of federal aid kept food insecurity from growing last year, the government reported.
Bipartisan legislation signed by President Donald Trump offered billions in emergency funding, forestalling the expected rise in hunger that has accompanied past recessions. But some groups still suffered, including Black Americans and households in the South and those with children. The food-insecurity gap between Black and white households widened by 14.6 percentage points.
In other coronavirus news:
3. A day after the Taliban named an acting cabinet to lead Afghanistan, the dizzying challenges that accompanied the group’s victory were coming into sharp relief.
Demonstrators have been subject to abuse in overcrowded jails. Several Afghan journalists said they were arrested while covering a protest today and beaten in custody. A Taliban official said that protests now had to be approved in advance and warned journalists not to cover them because they are “illegal.” A day later, demonstrators were once again in the streets.
And the humanitarian crisis was only getting worse, with food and cash shortages stymying people’s abilities to obtain basic supplies. Aid workers who stayed in Afghanistan, many of whom are women, are treading a tricky path.
4. Over the last half-century, college graduates have become a solidly Democratic bloc. Those without degrees, by contrast, have flocked to Republicans.
In a Times analysis, Nate Cohn looks at how American politics has realigned along cultural and educational lines, and away from the class and income divisions that defined the two parties for much of the 20th century. Overall, 41 percent of people who cast ballots last year were four-year college graduates, according to census estimates, up from 5 percent in 1952.
If America had six political parties, which one would you belong to? Take our quiz from Opinion to find out.
5. A statue of Robert E. Lee was hoisted off its pedestal in Richmond, Va. It was one of the nation’s largest Confederate monuments.
The memorial of the South’s Civil War general was erected in 1890, the first of six monuments that became symbols of white power along the main boulevard in Richmond, the Virginia state capital and the former capital of the Confederacy. Today it became the last of these monuments to be removed. The removal, prompted in part by the murder of George Floyd, comes after more than a year of legal wrangling.
“This city belongs to all of us, not just some of us,” said one activist. “Now we can try to figure out what’s next. We are creating a new legacy.”
8. “I had one goal in my career, and that was to win more than anyone else. We did.”
Derek Jeter thanked the throngs of fans at Cooperstown, N.Y., and those watching at home as he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now the chief executive of the Miami Marlins, Jeter played 20 years for the New York Yankees, anchoring the team at shortstop for a generation and winning five World Series championships.
He joined the former outfielder Larry Walker and the former catcher Ted Simmons in Cooperstown for the 2020 class induction. The union chief Marvin Miller, who died in 2012, was also inducted.
In tennis at the U.S. Open, Emma Raducanu and Belinda Bencic advanced to the women’s semifinals. Novak Djokovic plays Matteo Berrettini at 8:15 p.m. Eastern for a spot in the men’s semifinals.
9. Throughout his career, Colson Whitehead has shown an ability to shift into new genres. He’s doing it once again.
After a speculative mystery, a postmodernist satire, a post-apocalyptic zombie tale and back-to-back Pulitzers with “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” Whitehead’s latest detour is a crime novel, “Harlem Shuffle,” about a furniture salesman who dreams of ascending to Harlem’s upper middle class.
Born and raised in New York, Whitehead writes and talks about the city with a native’s mix of affection and exasperation. “I’m describing a Harlem that’s in decline in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said during a walking tour of Harlem. “And now it’s gentrified and revitalized. And that’s the city. It’s always being laid low. By 9/11, by Covid, and we bounce back.”
Whitehead wrote this essay a month after the Sept. 11 attacks. Many return to read it year after year.
10. And finally, from “Blue’s Clues” to student loans.
One day in 2002, Steve Burns packed his backpack, said farewell to a speckled blue dog and a room of cartoon furniture, and disappeared into a one-dimensional school bus bound for college. And with that, an era of the children’s TV series “Blue’s Clues” was suddenly over.
On Tuesday, Burns returned in a Twitter video. Donning the same striped lime-green rugby shirt he used to wear, he addressed his now adult viewers in character, raising feelings of childhood comfort against a backdrop of global crises. He acknowledged his “abrupt” departure, and urged viewers to reflect on their own paths: “Look at all you have done and all you have accomplished in all that time. And it’s just — it’s just so amazing.”