- 3,124 deaths sets new record two weeks after Thanksgiving holiday
- President Trump makes no public comment on grim toll
- Crunch time for intensive care beds as US faces dark pandemic winter
- Biden reportedly set to nominate Katherine Tai as top US trade envoy
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Monica Hesse has this for the Washington Post this morning on one of those probably predictable developments during the Covid pandemic – that widespread adoption of masks has enabled guys to find new ways to be creepy. She writes:
The upside to wearing a mask at work was that at least it would curtail the harassment. As a server, Sandy Tran was used to unwanted comments on her appearance, but the coronavirus precautions enforced by her Dallas restaurant now required full-time face coverage — a literal barrier between Tran and creepy customers.
Then she heard the first iteration of what would become a refrain:
Iron gates and metal doors appeared to shutter the fronts of every other shop, their once-bustling entrances overflowing with brightly colored knickknacks now quiet and tightly contained. Some art stores still had ornate sculptures visible, collecting dust in the dark behind the gates. Others were completely empty, cavernous and blank.
The calm along the main stretch of San Francisco’s Chinatown on a recent afternoon revealed the havoc wreaked by the pandemic on small businesses across America. But the largest and oldest Chinatown in the country has felt the impact even deeper than most, due to the neighborhood’s heavy reliance on tourism and foot traffic for profit.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn has been busy this morning speaking to ABC, CBS and NBC. He says today’s meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel is “an important day for all of America.”
The FDA head hopes it will lead to the beginning of the end of the pandemic and a return “to a more normal and healthy life.”
The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Alabama over conditions in the state prisons, saying the state is failing to protect male inmates from inmate-on-inmate violence and excessive force at the hands of prison staff.
The lawsuit alleges that conditions in the prison system which the Justice Department called one of the most understaffed and violent in the country are so poor that they violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment and that state officials are “deliberately indifferent” to the problems. The lawsuit comes after the Justice Department twice released investigative reports that accused the state of violating prisoner’s rights.
One story that Republicans had been building up ahead of the election was a swirl of news around the president-elect’s son Hunter Biden. That included allegations of what was contained in emails on a laptop produced by Rudy Giuliani and covered by the New York Post in what soon became a tussle between social media companies and Trump acolytes over alleged censorship of the story.
It had pretty much gone quiet on that front until yesterday Hunter Biden said that the US attorney’s office in Delaware had opened an investigation into his “tax affairs”.
The federal investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter has been more extensive than a statement from Hunter Biden indicates, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the investigation.
In addition to Delaware, the securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances, according to the person with direct knowledge of the investigation. The person said that, as of early last year, investigators in Delaware and Washington were also probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Maeve Reston offers this analysis at CNN this morning, teeing up today’s meeting where the FDA could advance access to a Covid vaccine for the American people:
These times cry out for leadership from the White House. Instead, president Donald Trump is pursuing a new round in his quixotic bid to overturn the November election by attempting to intervene in a lawsuit filed with the supreme court. The contentious transition he has forced with president-elect Joe Biden’s team has magnified the giant hurdles that loom for government officials as they try to ensure the smooth delivery of millions of vaccine doses to states and cities with different ideas about the best way to administer them.
Cash-strapped states are still worried about whether they will have the resources to get the vaccine to the most remote locations, distribute it equitably and fight vaccine skepticism. Yet even at this crucial moment – when lives will literally depend on an orderly handoff from one administration to the next – Trump answered a question this week about why he wasn’t including Biden aides in a vaccine distribution summit by insisting the election still wasn’t settled.
Matthew Cantor writes for us this morning about those hoping the personal touch of a letter can help get the vote out for the Georgia Senate runoffs:
The strategy has three parts: boosting voter registration, encouraging people to request ballots, and nudging unlikely voters toward the polls.
Vote Forward’s letter-writing scheme asks volunteers to add a handwritten message beginning with the words “I vote because” on letters that are otherwise prewritten with voting information; volunteers then send the letters to potential voters identified by the organization. So what is the best way to convince Georgians to make their voices heard?
The mother of a Black man shot by an Ohio sheriff’s deputy demanded answers Wednesday to her son’s death, saying he’d done nothing wrong and was returning from the dentist with sandwiches for his family when he was killed.
Tamala Payne said she wants the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office deputy involved be jailed and said she’ll never be able to hold her son again, except “at his damn funeral.”
The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a budget early Thursday that will shift about $8 million from the police department toward violence prevention and other programs. However, it will keep the mayor’s targeted staffing levels for sworn officers intact, averting a possible veto.
Mayor Jacob Frey, who had threatened to veto the entire budget if the council went ahead with its plan to cap police staffing, said the vote was a defining moment for the city, which has seen mass protests against police brutality and racial injustice since the 25 May death of George Floyd.
That Senate runoff race is so vital because if Ossoff and Warnock can unseat incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, that would put the Senate into a 50-50 balance, with vice president Kamala Harris having the casting vote. That would make getting Biden’s policy program into action a whole lot easier.
In the meantime, the Biden-Harris transition team have to work with the sitting Senate during the rest of this lame duck session, and Republicans aren’t necessarily making that easy. Alayna Treene writes for Axios:
Historically, a majority of a president’s nominees receive hearings before the inauguration. That lets them be confirmed and get to work immediately when the newly minted president formally submits their appointment paperwork on Inauguration Day.
Speedy confirmations are especially important in the national security arena, where a president relies on his team at the Defense, State and Justice departments, as well as the FBI and CIA, to protect the country.
Joe Biden’s team have just announced that the president-elect will head to Georgia next week to campaign for Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in their crucial Senate runoff races which take place 5 January.
Biden will visit Atlanta on 15 December, in his first campaign trip since being elected president in November. His visit will coincide with the start of early voting in the state.
While on the subject of the US and China, the usual daily tit-for-tat has been going on between the two countries.
Reuter reports that the US has slapped sanctions on Wan Kuok Koi, a leader of China’s 14K Triad organized crime group, and three entities “owned or controlled” by him.
The Chinese embassy in the US has said its Twitter account was hacked after it retweeted a baseless claim by Donald Trump accusing the Democrats of cheating in the election.
Late on Wednesday night in the US, Trump posted: “If somebody cheated in the election, which the Democrats did, why wouldn’t the election be immediately overturned? How can a country be run like this?”
Interesting retweet pic.twitter.com/5pdxSdPQyu
Perhaps one of the worst spectacles amid Donald Trump’s attempt to subvert American democracy and overturn the November election result has been the reaction of Republicans in Congress – almost universally mute on the topic. Manu Raju writes for CNN this morning that weeks after the race was called for the Democratic nominee, some Republican senators may finally be ready to accept the result:
A growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to publicly acknowledge what’s been widely known for weeks but what they’ve refused to say: Joe Biden won the presidency and will be sworn in on January 20.
What they’re less certain about: What President Donald Trump will do after the Electoral College votes on Monday and how they plan to respond if he won’t concede after Biden is the official winner.
Ed Pilkington and Sam Levine have been reporting for us on the the US officials facing violent threats as Trump continues to persist with his baseless claims of voter fraud.
On 1 December Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia, stood on the steps of the state capitol in Atlanta and let rip on Donald Trump.
The Johns Hopkins university has come to prominence this year for their much-lauded coronavirus-tracking dashboard, which has been used by many news organisations, including the Guardian, as the main source of Covid statistics worldwide.
It has made headlines for a different reason though overnight, as it announced on Wednesday that its founder owned slaves during the 19th century, a revelation for the Baltimore-based school that had taken pride in the man purportedly being a staunch abolitionist.
While Trump and his outriders attempt to overthrow the US election, president-elect Joe Biden is quietly getting on with putting together his administration. Yesterday he and vice president-elect Kamala Harris formally introduced Lloyd Austin as the nominee to become US defense secretary.
Former Trump associate Sidney Powell has also been doing her rounds of the courts again, appearing to try and set some world record for losing the most court cases about a single election. Kelsey Blamis at Business Insider reports that her ‘kraken’ lawsuits have now failed in Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin.
Federal judges in Arizona and Wisconsin on Wednesday dismissed two sweeping lawsuits filed by the pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, which aimed to overturn the election results in both states.
Powell’s lawsuits, which she has referred to as releasing the “kraken,” make the unsubstantiated claim that voting machines switched votes from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
As the country reels from the record Covid death toll, in an unprecedented assault on the US democratic system, the Trump legal team is still attempting to overturn the result of November’s election. The focus today will be on the courts in Wisconsin, which have already dismissed previous attempts by Republicans to deny president-elect Joe Biden his win in the battleground state.
“The relief being sought by the petitioners is the most dramatic invocation of judicial power I have ever seen,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in an earlier judgement denying a Wisconsin Voters Alliance case. “This is a dangerous path we are being asked to tread. The loss of public trust in our constitutional order resulting from the exercise of this kind of judicial power would be incalculable.”
One section of the population that US medical authorities are anxious to reassure over the use of a Covid vaccine is the Black community. Black people in the US have suffered disproportionately both medically and economically from the pandemic, and a history of racism in medical research in the US has fostered mistrust.
Dr. Anthony Fauci went out of his way this week to urge Black Americans hesitant to take the vaccine to trust the process. Speaking at an event hosted by the National Urban League he said:
The very vaccine that’s one of the two that has absolutely exquisite levels – 94 to 95% efficacy against clinical disease and almost 100% efficacy against serious disease that are shown to be clearly safe – that vaccine was actually developed in my institute’s vaccine research center by a team of scientists led by Dr. Barney Graham and his close colleague, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, or Kizzy Corbett.
So, the first thing you might want to say to my African American brothers and sisters is that the vaccine that you’re going to be taking was developed by an African American woman. And that is just a fact.
Control of the spread of coronavirus in the US has been complicated by a lack of a national federal strategy from the Trump administration, and many Americans refusing to follow guidance for wearing face coverings and keeping their distance for people beyond their own households. A new complication may be scepticism of taking a vaccine.
However, the arrival of a vaccine looks like the best hope of a breakthrough in the US battle with the virus. Officials have said vaccinations could begin as soon as this weekend, and states have escalated plans for what is likely to be distribution effort of unprecedented dimensions.
The US recorded its highest level of deaths in a single day from the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, just two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday period when health experts warned Americans not to travel or gather.
According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, 3,124 deaths were recorded, with an additional 221,276 cases identified. It is the first time the US has recorded more than 3,000 deaths in a single day.
Welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of US politics on a bleak day, as the nation recorded its worst ever death toll from coronavirus.
Donald Trump | The Guardian
1. Trump from Michael_Novakhov (197 sites)