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US Presidential Election & covid - 19 news summary for 19 November

Washington (United States), 18/11/2020.- People in vehicles are tested with a swab at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site operated by the District of Columbia, in Washington, DC, USA, 18 November 2020. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of sl

US election and covid-19 latest news live

News summary:

Electoral college votes (270 needed to win) 

Joe Biden: 306
Donald Trump: 232

US covid-19 cases: 11.5 million

US covid-19 deaths: 250,537 (Source: JHU)

- Georgia hand recount confirms Biden victory 

- California introduces a nightly curfew to curb pandemic

- The number of patients hospitalised with covid-19 in the United States has jumped by nearly 50% in the last 14 days

- Joe Biden says Trump's challenges against the results of the November election “incredibly damaging”

- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer believes that stimulus package negotiations could be back on: "They have agreed to sit down"

- The CDC pleads with Americans to avoid Thanksgiving travel among skyrocketing covid cases

- Leaked White House report warns of "inadequate" coronavirus mitigation efforts by Trump administration

- Over $135 million of TV ads have already been bought for two Georgia Senate run-off races

- New York City closed schools yesterday, affecting 1.1 million students in 1,800 schools

Browse the latest stories on the US election:

Trump to host Michigan lawmakers as he presses dubious effort to overturn election

President Donald Trump will meet with the Republican leaders of the Michigan state legislature on Friday at the White House, as his campaign pursues an increasingly desperate bid to overturn the 3 November election amid a series of courtroom losses.

Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with the Democratic leaders in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, after spending most of the week huddled with advisers as he plans his administration.

The Trump campaign's latest strategy, as described by three people familiar with the plan, is to convince Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states that Biden won, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, to undermine the election results and deliver those states to the Republican president's corner.

Trump's attempts to reverse the outcome via lawsuits and recounts have met with little success. A hand recount of Georgia's roughly 5 million votes wrapped up on Thursday, affirming Biden's victory there, while judges in three states rejected bids by the campaign to challenge vote counts.

Biden, the Democratic former vice president, has secured 306 votes to Trump's 232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner. Each state's electoral votes, which are largely based on population, are typically awarded to the winner of the state's popular vote, which are cast in December in what is usually a formality.

A senior Trump campaign official said the idea is to sow doubt about the results in certain states while pressing Republican lawmakers to intervene by appointing their own Trump-supporting electors.

Legal experts have sounded the alarm at the notion of a sitting president seeking to undermine the will of the voters, though they have expressed skepticism that a state legislature could lawfully substitute its own electors. 

Trump's vaccine team will not brief Biden administration

Officials from President Donald Trump's vaccine distribution effort have not briefed anyone on President-elect Joe Biden's transition team, and have no plans to do so, Democratic US senators said after a White House call on Thursday.

"Just off a conference call with Trump Administration vaccine distribution team," Senator Chris Murphy said on Twitter. "They confirmed that they have not briefed anyone on President-elect Biden's team and have no plans to do so. This is potentially catastrophic."

The call, for all senators, was conducted on Thursday morning by General Gustave Perna and Dr. Moncef Slaoui, leaders of "Operation Warp Speed," the administration's vaccine-development effort, congressional aides said.

The team's unwillingness to share its plans with the incoming administration "risks President-elect Biden's team not being ready on day one to implement the plan or make adjustments to it," Murphy said in an emailed statement. 

"Stunning, heatbreaking, infuriating, unpatriotic"

Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell has vowed the Republicans will "take this country back" in an address as the Trump campaign team continues to question the results of the election. 

Rudy Giuliani election fraud claims AP Fact Check

Justice Alito and Pennsylvania

Rudy Giuliani election fraud claims AP Fact Check

CLAIM: At one point Giuliani suggested that US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito intervened in Pennsylvania and told the state that, "any ballot that comes in after 8 o'clock on November 3, 2020 had to be put aside and not opened."

Facts First: It's false for Giuliani to claim Alito ordered counties not to open ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Instead, Alito directed the county boards of election to follow the guidance issued by Pennsylvania's Secretary of State, which called for segregating ballots arriving November 4-6, and to keep them separate even if they were counted.

On November 6, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania asked the US Supreme Court to order Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to "log, to segregate, and otherwise not to take any action related to any ballots that arrive" after Election Day.

Alito said he would refer the application to the court. The justices have yet to rule on the Republicans' petition that "no action" be taken on the ballots.

Alito, who has jurisdiction over the Pennsylvania region, issued an order November 6 that directed that "all county boards of election" are ordered to "comply with" the guidelines put forward by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, essentially maintaining the status quo.

-- Ariane deVogue and Tara Subramaniam

Rudy Giuliani election fraud claims AP Fact Check

Poll Watchers

Rudy Giuliani election fraud claims AP Fact Check

CLAIM: Giuliani claimed that more than 600,000 ballots in Pennsylvania "weren't inspected which renders them ballots that are null and void."

Facts First: This is false. Nothing is illegitimate about those ballots.

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice decided that the Philadelphia County board of elections complied with the law in how it allowed observers access to the canvassing process.

The law allows the observers to be present, the judge wrote, but they do not have the right to inspect or look over the shoulders of the workers counting the ballots. The judge ruled canvas watchers in Philadelphia cannot challenge ballots and don't need to inspect each individual signature.

-- Tara Subramaniam

Rudy Giuliani election fraud claims AP Fact Check

'Overvotes' in Michigan

Rudy Giuliani election fraud claimsAP Fact Check

CLAIM: "One of the reasons why the Republicans did not certify in Wayne County, Michigan, was because the over-vote was so high," Giuliani claimed. He added, "what I'm describing to you is a massive fraud."

Facts First: This is false.

What Giuliani called an over-vote is often referred to as an imbalance where the number of ballots tabulated does not equal the number of people signed in to vote at a specific polling location.

Past elections in Michigan with larger imbalances have been certified without issue, including in 2016 when Trump won the state, according the Michigan Secretary of State.

"They certified the vote in 2016 with 80% of Detroit precincts out of balance. And yet today, 42% were out of balance and yet it didn't get certified, so clearly there is no valid point here," Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said.

Benson told CNN it's "quite common" for precincts to be out of balance but "it doesn't indicate there's any malfeasance," adding "it's more of a bookkeeping, clerical issue."

There are many reasons a precinct could be out of balance and have a discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and the number of people registered into the poll book, according to Chris Thomas who served as a senior adviser to the Detroit City Clerk. Thomas, who has built a decades-long career serving both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, told CNN that in general, through his many years of experience, an imbalance should be viewed as clerical mistakes and not fraud.

-- Tara Subramaniam and Annie Grayer

Rudy Giuliani election fraud claims AP Fact Check

Certification in Wayne County

Rudy Giuliani election fraud claims AP Fact Check:

CLAIM: Giuliani said the Trump campaign withdrew one case in Michigan because its goal was to get the Wayne County board to decertify and they did.

Facts First: This is false. The county's results were certified on Tuesday night.

Two Republican members of the Board initially deadlocked the vote but then reversed their decision and voted to certify Tuesday night. They have since sent in affidavits to rescind their vote but have not filed any lawsuits to try to force the county to call a new meeting. Since the deadline has passed, the certification still stands.

Democratic Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch said Thursday that board members' votes cannot be changed after the fact.

-- Tara Subramaniam and Annie Grayer

"There's no room for you in the hospital anymore"

A lesson on calculated risk from Rachel Maddow, MSNBC anchor whose partner contracted covid-19.

"This thing is scary as hell" 

Michigan Republicans meet with Trump ahead of final vote decision

Michigan's top legislative leaders, both Republicans, plan to meet with President Donald Trump on Friday amid concerns expressed by some that GOP lawmakers could attempt to overturn the state's election results.

The midwestern state's Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield were both invited by Trump and plan to fly to Washington, D.C. for the meeting, Newsweek, AP and Detroit News reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources familiar with the lawmakers' plans.

While President-elect Joe Biden came out ahead of Trump by more than 150,000 votes in Michigan, and all of the state's County Boards of Canvassers have certified the election results, the State Board of Canvassers will convene Monday for the final certification.

The board is composed of two Republican and two Democratic members, and it's unclear if the Republican members will object to certifying the final tally. If the board does not reach a decision, the state's legislature—with both chambers controlled by Republican majoritieswould be tasked with selecting presidential electors.

"Michigan law does not include a provision for the Legislature to directly select electors or to award electors to anyone other than the person who received the most votes," a spokesperson for Shirkey said last week.

Chatfield has also previously denied any plans to try to usurp the election results.

But the Michigan Democratic Party quickly criticised the two Republican lawmakers for agreeing to meet with the president.

"It is telling that Michigan GOP legislative leaders Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield are jetting off to Washington D.C. this week to meet with President Trump. They are more focused on continuing the GOPsmoke and mirrors show designed to hide Trump's humiliating defeat than taking care of the actual problems impacting Michiganders," Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said in a statement emailed to Newsweek.

"It is both shameful and dangerous that they would travel during a global health pandemic that has killed over 8,000 Michiganders while refusing to work with our Governor in offering relief to our front-line workers, our small business owners, and everyone impacted by this deadly virus," Barnes said.

Yesterday a vote in Michigan's Wayne County was very nearly not certified, until a deadlock was reversed later.

Georgia sweetheart Stacey Abrams tunes into IG live with Gucci and Jeezy Verzus Battle

Rappers Gucci Mane and Jeezy were joined on online music battle series Verzuz y an unlikely guest today, Georgia Democratic campaigner Stacey Abrams.

Abrams urged voters to register ahead of two Georgia runoff votes in January which will decide the power balance in the Senate.

Also this afternoon, the official hand recount in Georgia again confirmed the original count deeming Joe Biden the winner. 

Biden on Trump: one of the “most irresponsible presidents in American history”

Biden on Trump: one of the “most irresponsible presidents in American history”

President-elect Joe Biden has denounced Donald Trump as one of the “most irresponsible presidents in American history,” calling the incumbent president’s challenges against the results of the November election “incredibly damaging”. The Guardian reports Thursday.

Speaking after a call with state governors on Thursday, Biden said he was not concerned that Trump’s refusal to concede the election would prevent a transfer of power, but said it “sends a horrible message about who we are as a country.

“What the president’s doing now … it’s going to be another incident where he will go down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington. “It’s just not within the norm at all, and there’s a question as to whether it’s even legal.”

Americans are “witnessing incredible irresponsibility, incredibly damaging messages being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions,” Biden said. “I don’t know his motive, but I just think it’s totally irresponsible.”

Republican-leaning Chamber of Commerce urging Trump to allow transition

The head of the Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging President Trump to move on with the transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

The chamber, which typically has favoured Republican candidates who support lower taxes and fewer regulations, joins a chorus of business groups imploring Trump to stop delaying the transition to the next president while he challenges the vote counts in multiple states.

“President-elect Biden and the team around him have a wealth of executive branch experience that should allow them to hit the ground running,” chamber CEO Tom Donohue said in a statement provided to Axios. “While the Trump administration can continue litigating to confirm election outcomes, for the sake of American safety and well-being, it should not delay the transition a moment longer.

Rudy Giuliani's head started leaking

In today's Trump legal team briefing Rudy Giuliani's head seemed to be in meltdown, reflecting the state of the White House at the moment.

The briefing was bursting with untruths, shockingly. And the logical explanation for Giuliani's skull malfunction appears to be sweat meeting hair dye in an unfortunate fashion.

Dr Anthony Fauci on how to survive this winter

Elisabeth Rosenthal at the New York Times has exclusive comment from Dr Fauci, and you're going to want to hear his advice.

When asked how he'll get through these next few months, Fauci told NYT that you won't see him in a restaurant or even worse, a bar, with cases soaring as they currently are, but he gets his hair cut (masked, and less often) car travel if completely necessary is OK.

On bars specifically, he says they're the single public place he's seen cause super spreads.

"Bars are really problematic. I have to tell you, if you look at some of the outbreaks that we’ve seen, it’s when people go into bars, crowded bars. You know, I used to go to a bar. I used to like to sit at a bar and grab a hamburger and a beer. But when you’re at a bar, people are leaning over your shoulder to get a drink, people next to each other like this. It’s kind of fun because it’s social, but it’s not fun when this virus is in the air. So I would think that if there’s anything you want to clamp down on for the time being, it’s bars."

And crucially, when does the doctor think we may return to normal?

When do you think we’ll all be able to throw our masks away?

"I think that we’re going to have some degree of public health measures together with the vaccine for a considerable period of time. But we’ll start approaching normal — if the overwhelming majority of people take the vaccine — as we get into the third or fourth quarter [of 2021]."

Is Thanksgiving 2020 a national holiday?


Is Thanksgiving 2020 a national holiday?

Is Thanksgiving a national holiday?

And has it always been? Plus how could you safely you celebrate this year.

Biden awarded Georgia again following hand recount

Biden awarded Georgia again following hand recount

Joe Biden has won Georgia, scoring a rare win in a Southern state that hadn’t backed a Democrat for president in nearly 30 years.

The Associated Press declared Joe Biden the winner of Georgia and its 16 Electoral College votes on Thursday, after state election officials there said a hand tally of ballots cast in the presidential race confirmed the former vice president leads President Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes out of nearly 5 million counted.

The AP had already declared Biden president-elect after he clinched the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Georgia raised the Democrat’s electoral vote total to 306.

The AP did not call Biden the winner after election officials in Georgia initially completed and released results of the presidential election, because his margin over Trump in the state was 0.3 percentage points. It is AP’s practice not to call a race that is — or is likely to become — subject to a recount. While there is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points.

The hand tally completed this week is not legally a recount under Georgia law. Rather, it was the race selected by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for review under a new state law that says one race in the general election must be audited by hand to check that machines counted ballots accurately. Raffensperger said the tight margin of the presidential race meant a full hand count of ballots was necessary to complete the audit.

Trump knows he lost; it's a grudge guiding dangerous denial

President Donald Trump told an ally that he knows he lost the 2020 presidential election, but that he is delaying the transition process and is aggressively trying to sow doubt about the election results in order to get back at Democrats for questioning the legitimacy of his own election in 2016, especially with the Russia investigation, a source familiar with the President's thinking told CNN on Thursday.

The President's refusal to concede, as CNN has previously reported, stems in part from his perceived grievance that Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama undermined his own presidency by saying Russia interfered in the 2016 election and could have impacted the outcome, people around him have said.

Second stimulus check: US coronavirus relief bill update


Second stimulus check: US coronavirus relief bill update

What have Biden Pelosi and McConnell said lately on stimulus?

And what are the chances of passing a covid-19 stimulus bill either before President Donald Trump leaves office or after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in?

Read the full story:

Obama: Trump has always shown "a flimsy relationship to the truth"

Former President Barack Obama has given an interview with MSNBC in which he gives his thoughts on the incumbent's attempts to disrupt the democratic process. Three of the Trump campaign's election lawsuits have been thrown out of courts in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania today, while Rudy Giuliani appeared at a press conference in Washington DC to outline a series of unsubstantiated, unevidenced claims. 

Having cooperated with the transition process four years ago Obama speaks about President Trump's refusal to do the same, and expresses his disappointment that many Republicans are going along with it. 

Another defeat for Team Trump in court

Just hours after news broke that State judges in Arizona and Pennsylvania had dismissed election-related lawsuits filed on behalf of Donald Trump, a Georgia federal judge has rejected another legal challenge. Most embarrassingly for the President it was one of his own nominees, Judge Steven Grimberg, who dismissed the case. 

Judge Grimberg refused to prevent the state of Georgia from certifying its election results, as Trump's legal team had requested he do, describing it as a "quite striking" legal attempt. 

'Limited stay-at-home order' to be introduced in California

Governor Gavin Newsom have announced what they describe as a "limited stay-at-home order", which will come into effect from Saturday night. Newsom's office said of the decision: “The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm."

Exact details about the enforcement are still unknown but the restrictions will constitute a ban on all non-essential work, movement and gatherings between 10:00pm and 5:00am. The new rules will not be applied state-wide but only in the counties hardest hit by the pandemic, including Los Angeles County.

Pence walks out of covid-19 briefing without taking any questions

Vice President Mike Pence has appeared in front of the press for first coronavirus task force briefing since July, staggering considering that the situation now looks far more precarious that it did in the summer. In a 90-minute briefing he outlined what he felt were successes of the Trump administration's handling and reiterated their opposition to any further lockdown measures. 

After concluding the briefing, Pence walked out without taking any questions. With the US' coronavirus death toll now above 250,000 many will fell that the public's questions deserve to be answered.

Navajo Nation declares period of lockdown amid soaring case numbers

The Native American settlement has announced that it will be enforcing lockdown measures to help curb the spread of coronavirus amongst the territory. The Navajo Nation, which spans northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico, is currently experiencing "uncontrolled spread" in 34 communities, according to officials. 

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez released a statement explaining the decision, saying: "We are dealing with an invisible monster and the only way we are going to beat this virus is by doing it together and listening to our public health experts."

Biden has already decided who will be his Treasury Secretary

President-elect Biden has already made a number of key appointments since his victory was confirmed less than two weeks ago. He has named his covid-19 task force and a number of his White House staff, but the decision over the role of Treasury Secretary could be the most crucial so far.

With America firmly in the grasp of an economic crisis all spending decisions will be of the upmost importance as Biden tries to get the country back on its feet. A large-scale stimulus package is favoured by the Democrat-led House of Representatives but he will have to show that he can balance the books to get it passed. 

As of yet, BIden has not confirmed the name of his latest appointee but has promised that it will please all wings of the Democratic Party. His decision is expected to be announced either before or right after Thanksgiving.

Former head of CISA in disbelief over Team Trump press conference

As the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Chris Krebs has been in Trump's firing line since Election Day. His agency's Rumor Control blog has been disproving a number of false claims about the election result, many of which Trump and his lawyers are still pedling.

Trump fired Krebs for highlighting the innaccuracies in the President's baseless allegations, after which Krebs told NBC News "I'm proud of the work we did at CISA... I'm proud of the teammates I had at CISA. We did it right."

Now removed from his official capacity Krebs is even freer to speak out and blasted this afternoon's bizarre press conference from Rudy Giuliani, calling it "the most dangerous" in American history. Giuliani continued to spout the campaign's claims of voter fraud which have been roundly dismissed in a series of court cases. 

Tighter Thanksgiving guidelines may be needed, warn medical groups

Three leading medical bodies have called on the public to rethink their Thanksgiving plans as the number of coronavirus cases across the country continues to spiral. An open letter from the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association reads: "In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly."

"We are all weary and empathize with the desire to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, but given the serious risks, we underscore how important it is to wear masks, maintain physical distancing and wash your hands."

Earlier today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidance that people avoid traveling and seeing family from outside their immediate household. More than one million new cases of covid-19 have been recorded in the last week, the highest rate since the pandemic began. 

Stimulus package negotiations could be back on

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has told a press conference in New York that he believes that his opposite number, Mitch McConnell, will return to the negotiating table as the two sides look to thrash out an urgently-needed financial support bill. He said: “They’ve agreed to sit down and the staffs are going to sit down today or tomorrow to try to begin to see if we can get a real good Covid relief bill."

The only major financial relief package so far agreed was the CARES Act back in March, but much of the funding provided by that has already dried up. Additionally, the unemployment benefits included in the $2.2 trillion package will come to an end on 26 December. If there is no new deal agreed millions of Americans will begin the new year with no financial support to cover income lost due to covid-19. 

Over $135 million already spent on Senate run-off TV adverts

With the balance of power in the Senate still hanging by a thread the outcome of the two Senate run-off races in Georgia will have a huge affect on the early years of Joe Biden's presidency. Victory in both would give the Democrats control of both Houses of Congress, as well as the White House, making it far easier for them to pass their agenda. 

The Republicans will be desperate to retain control of the Upper House and, after been outspent while campaigning for the presidental election, are pulling out all the stops for the two 5 January Senate races. Republican incumbents Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue managed to pull in $32 million of funds in less than a week but are still being outspent by Democrat challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff as it stands. 

Trump legal team alleges communist plot in press conference

In a bizarre twist Rudy Giuliani's press conference to outline the Trump campaign's legal defence has turned to a conspiracy theory discussion. Giuliani was replaced on the stage by Sidney Powell, also a member of the President's legal team, who attempted to link the result of the election to George Soros, the Clinton Foundation, communist leader Hugo Chavez and Antifa.

No evidence was offered to support this allegation, apart from the claim that some of the parties are apparently based from the same office block. 

Huge rise in US covid-19 cases leads to greater lockdown measures

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States has jumped nearly 50% in the last 14 days, straining the nation's healthcare system and forcing cities and states to impose new restrictions to curb the alarming viral spread.

Nearly 79,000 people were being in treated for the disease in hospitals across the country on Thursday, a Reuters tally showed, the most at any time during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Americans were grappling with a spate of new school and business closings aimed at slowing community spread and lowering infection rates.


Giuliani gives press conference in Washington

President Trump's atorney Rudy Giuliani has been in front of the press in an attempt to outline the Trump campaign's legal case to overturn the result of the election. Since a number of the lawsuits were dismised in court last week Trump has put Giuliani as the lead attorney on all the legal challenges and placed him in charge of the communications. 

That was very much the case today as Giuliani appeared without the rest of Trump's usual legal team, suggesting that he will be in sole control. He made a series of extraordinary claims with no real supporting evidence. He made reference to an election fraud complaint filed in Michigan by Jessy Jacobs, but that allegation has already been thrown out of court. 

Biden faces criticism over EPA appointment

President-elect Joe Biden has spent much of the last two weeks getting his team in place, with a covid-19 task force and many of his White House senior staff already confirmed. He has also announced his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team, with the inclusion of former DuMont communication strategist Michael McCabe on the list.

McCabe has worked with Biden before and is a former deputy Environmental Protection Agency administrator, however his work for the chemical company DuPont has been called into question. He was involved in their campaign to fight against restrictions on the use of a chemical known as C8, which has been linked to lowered fertility, cancer and liver damage.

Writing in the Guardian, Erin Brockovich asks "Dear Joe Biden: are you kidding me?"

CDC Thanksgiving guidelines

The CDC is set to imminently release its latest pandemic-related guidelines as Thanksgiving fast approaches, with the health authority advising against Thanksgiving travel and looking set to changing the definition of "household" to people living in home for the previous 14 days (which could exclude college students)

Latest on rapid tests in NYC

Eighty percent of people being tested  in New York City are getting results in 48 hours, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In this NYT article, Emma G. Fitzsimmons provides info on getting a rapid test in NYC: "City officials have urged New Yorkers to visit one of 22 priority testing sites run by the city’s Health and Hospitals system. You can walk in without an appointment."

Fauci speaking live

Anthony Fauci in currently in a live conversation on Covid-19 hosted by The Hastings Center...

Trump campaign drops Michigan lawsuit - statement

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign said on Thursday it was withdrawing its lawsuit disputing vote results in Michigan, in another faltering legal attempt to challenge the 3 November victory of US President-elect Joe Biden.

"This morning we are withdrawing our lawsuit in Michigan as a direct result of achieving the relief we sought: to stop the election in Wayne County from being prematurely certified before residents can be assured that every legal vote has been counted and every illegal vote has not been counted," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement. (Reuters)

Wall St

Wall St set to retreat on surging covid-19 cases, rise in jobless claims

​​​​​​Wall Street's main indexes were set to slip on Thursday as soaring covid-19 cases and an unexpected rise in weekly jobless claims raised fears of stalling growth in the world's largest economy.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 742,000 for the week ended Nov. 14, compared with 711,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 707,000 applications in the latest week.

The S&P 500 index was set for its third straight session of losses, retreating further from its record closing high hit on Monday following positive data on a coronavirus vaccine.

"The market is over extended on the high side, so it's not going to take much to knock it down," said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in New Jersey.

Investors have also become wary of the near-term damage caused by tightening coronavirus-related restrictions and in the absence of fresh stimulus measures.


Sweden finds coronavirus in mink industry workers

Sweden's health agency said on Thursday a number of people who work in the mink industry had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Authorities are analysing virus from the infected people and from infected minks to see if there is a link between the strains, the health agency said in a statement.

It did not specify how many people had tested positive. Neighbouring Denmark earlier on Thursday said a new, mutated strain of the coronavirus stemming from mink farms in the country was "most likely" extinct.

All farmed minks in Denmark have been culled because of coronavirus outbreaks among the animals and the discovery of the mutated strain, which authorities said showed reduced sensitivity to antibodies, causing fears it could compromise vaccines.

Sweden's mink herd is vastly smaller than Denmark's, which was one of the world's biggest. In common with countries such as the United States, Sweden has recorded the coronavirus at several farms although authorities have said the minks had not been found to carry the mutated strain evident in Denmark.

Oxford covid-19 trial will look at interim Phase III data after 53 infections - investigator

Oxford University will start an initial analysis of data from its late-stage trial of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with AstraZeneca after 53 infections among its volunteers, the study's chief investigator said on Thursday.

The Oxford Vaccine Group's director Andrew Pollard said there were "lots of cases" of infections in its Phase III trial in Britain, Brazil and South Africa.

The first two sets of interim data from vaccine trials from Pfizer and BioNTech last week and Moderna on Monday were released after more than 90 infections among volunteers.

Some health systems are being overwhelmed: Kluge

Hans Kluge, head of the World Health Organization Europe office said on Thursday  that some health systems are being overwhelmed on the continent where more than 29,000 deaths were recorded in the past week alone.

"Europe is once again the epicentre of the pandemic, together with the United States. There is light at the end of the tunnel but it will be six tough months," Kluge told a news conference.



US covid related deaths top 250,000

The US death toll from covid-19 surpassed a grim new milestone of 250,000 lives lost on Wednesday, as New York City's public school system, the nation's largest, called a halt to in-classroom instruction, citing a jump in infection rates.

The decision to shutter schools and revert exclusively to at-home learning, starting on Thursday, came as state and local officials nationwide imposed restrictions on social and economic life to tamp down a surge in cases and hospitalizations heading into winter.

Denmark says mutated coronavirus from mink farms most likely extinct

A new, mutated strain of the novel coronavirus stemming from mink farms in Denmark is 'most likely' extinct, the health ministry said on Thursday, amid fears the new strain could compromise covid-19 vaccines.

"No further cases of mink variant with cluster 5 have been detected since Sept. 15, which is why the State Serum Institute assesses that this variant has most likely become extinct," the ministry said in a statement.

Two weeks ago, Denmark ordered all farmed mink in the country culled to curb widespread outbreaks of covid-19 on farms, a situation exacerbated by the discovery of a mutated variant, which authorities said showed reduced sensitivity to antibodies.


EU warns Hungary against use of Russia's covid-19 vaccine

Hungary's plans to import and possibly use Russia's touted Sputnik V covid-19 vaccine raise safety concerns and could damage trust in potential shots, the European Commission said, opening a new front in the EU's fraught relations with Budapest.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's hard line against migration and what critics say is his increasingly authoritarian grip on power - an accusation he has repeatedly denied - as well as his pursuit of close relations with Russia have caused repeated clashes with the European Union.

A new showdown is expected on Thursday when EU leaders hold a video conference that may address the bloc's massive covid rescue plan and seven-year budget, which Hungary and Poland's nationalist governments are blocking because they make access to money conditional on respecting the rule of law.

Hungarian plans to conduct trials of and possibly produce the Russian vaccine, an unprecedented step for an EU member state, add to existing frictions with Brussels.

How the Electoral College really works

It's almost time for the group in charge of the final step of the presidential election to play their part, but how much do you really know about the process?

Normally, the Electoral College does its business performing the will of state voters in relative obscurity. But there is more scrutiny on the process this year because President Donald Trump and his allies have refused to concede the 2020 election. Critically, Trump allies urge going a step further, floating the idea that Republican-controlled state legislatures should ignore the vote for President-elect Joe Biden in their states and send Trump's slate of electors to the Electoral College instead.

Before you get into your next debate over how it all works, read through Zach Montellaro's explanation.

“And the idea the President is still playing golf and not doing anything about it, is beyond my comprehension.

"You’d at least think he’d want to go off on a positive note, but what is he doing?”

Joe Biden, US President-elect
Second stimulus check: will the propossed by Biden arrive before the holidays?


Second stimulus check: will the propossed by Biden arrive before the holidays?

Biden pushes for speedy stimulus

On Monday President-elect Joe Biden called on Congress to work together and provide “immediate relief” for the millions of Americans in need of help.

Greg Heilman has a look into the posturing.


The man behind the President-elect

With American politics so divisive right now, there's a good chance that you are either very much for or completely against Joe Biden taking over the presidency in January. That said, I'm also aware of another group that may not be huge fans of the President-elect, but can stomach him more than the current incumbent.

Whatever your views on the latest goings-on in the White House, I would encourage you to give the following a listen, an interview from 1987 that provides an insight into the man behind the politician. As an introduction:

In 1987, David Frost interviewed a young Joe Biden during his first bid for the presidency. The interview has never been broadcast. In this timeless interview, Biden talks candidly about his upbringing, dealing with loss and love, and the fundamental qualities a successful president requires.

Access the conversation here

Biden team anxious over escalating war in Ethiopia

He's not in charge yet, but he and his team are getting into as much detail as they are allowed to in preparation.

US President-elect Joe Biden's foreign policy adviser on Thursday urged an end to fighting and protection for civilians in north Ethiopia, where federal troops are battling rebels in a war rocking the Horn of Africa and sending refugees fleeing.

'Deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, reports of targeted ethnic violence, and the risk to regional peace and security,' tweeted Antony Blinken. The conflict in Tigray region has killed hundreds and possibly thousands, sent 30,000 refugees into Sudan and called into question whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmen, Africa's youngest leader and last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, can hold together the nation together.

Ethiopia is a federation of states run by separate ethnic groups, and the war pits the central government against one of the most heavily militarised regions. The northern Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) effectively ruled Ethiopia for decades as the strongest force in a multi-ethnic coalition, until Abiy took power two years ago. Refugees from the fighting say militias from neighbouring Amhara state, which has a border dispute with Tigray, are also backing government troops. The country is a major US ally whose soldiers serve in peacekeeping missions in South Sudan and Somalia. Its military and intelligence services are among the most capable in Africa and regularly work alongside U.S. personnel.

'The TPLF and Ethiopian authorities should take urgent steps to end the conflict, enable humanitarian access, and protect civilians,' added Blinken, a veteran diplomat and longtime Biden confidant.


Europe aims for closer pandemic cooperation with US

Europe hopes for a closer cooperation with the US in tackling the coronavirus pandemic and the global distribution of a vaccine once US President-elect Joe Biden takes office, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday.

Europe and the United States should also coordinate more closely in the fight against climate change, Maas said ahead of the first meeting with his European Union counterparts since the US election.

'There is almost no issue where we are not very much dependent on each other,' he added. 'We are convinced that Europe and the US need a new transatlantic deal.'

Trump supporters continue on message

"Stop the count in the states where Trump is ahead...keep counting where he's behind"

It's a Jenius plan from the loyal followers.

Leaked White House report on US covid efforts

The Guardian has reported on an internal White House taskforce report that warned of “aggressive, unrelenting, broad community spread across the country, without evidence of improvement but, rather, further deterioration”.

The report, which leaked widely to the media, added: “Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased.”

Daily death numbers are rising: 1,707 were reported by Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday. With some forecast models predicting a death toll beyond 400,000 by March, a year after the pandemic began, states across the US are implementing targeted social restrictions in attempts to beat back rising case numbers and reduce pressure on hospital resources.

Read the full story.


Covid-19 deaths hit record high in Russia 

Russia on Thursday surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases after reporting an additional 23,610 infections and 463 deaths related to covid-19, both record daily rises.

Russia is fifth in the number of infections reported, with 2,015,608, behind the United States, India, Brazil and France. Russia's official death toll now stands at 34,850.

Helping the world

The FT considers the best way for wealthier nations to help the poorest, and aid the global attempt to rid ourselves of the current pandemic.

Trump's unwritten rule has handicapped conservatives

'The conservative movement has become handicapped,' suggests Gabby Orr for Politico.

'Organizations can’t sound the alarm about President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda. Conservative reporters won’t take pitches about Biden’s rumored Cabinet contenders, insistent on covering evidence-deficient claims of voter fraud instead.

'One conservative group involved in policy advocacy backed off from hiring two soon-to-depart Trump administration officials after growing concerned about the consequences.'

And it’s all because of an unspoken rule set by President Donald Trump. Read more below.

Minnesota announced tough new covid restrictions

All restaurants and bars in the US state of Minnesota must halt in-person dining, fitness and entertainment centers are to close and youth sports will be cancelled for four weeks to curb the spread of surging coronavirus cases, governor Tim Walz said on Wednesday night.

Texas, Florida, South Dakota don't plan on lockdown

The governors of Texas, Florida and South Dakota said they have no plans to shutdown their states as a new wave of coronavirus cases sweep the country.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in an interview that there won't be "any more lockdowns" in the state and he wants to focus on "working to heal those who have Covid" so they can leave the hospitals and get back to their normal routines, the Texas Tribune reported.

As of Wednesday, Texas had over 1.1 million cases and 20,274 deaths related to coronavirus, according to data compiled by NBC News, and the state had seen a 47 percent increase in cases over the past 14 days.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he didn't want to order a shutdown because he didn't want to "hurt families who can't afford to shelter in place for six weeks," according to a statement his office sent to local station WPEC.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has been very critical of lockdowns and reiterated her stance in a tweet last week.

"We already know that lockdowns DON'T stop the spread of the virus. However, they destroy small businesses and jobs, and they make it difficult for families to put food on the table," she wrote.

Dr Fauci assures Americans that vaccine is on its way

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert who has guided the U.S. through the pandemic, projected Americans could expect their first doses of an approved coronavirus vaccine as early as April.

Front-line health care workers are expected to get their first doses by the end of December or early January. After prioritising people at risk of infection or severe disease, the healthy general population can expect first doses of a vaccine starting in April and through July if all continues on track, Fauci told the USA TODAY Editorial Board on Wednesday.

US election and coronavirus: latest news

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the US elections, with all the ongoing reaction, breaking news and regular updates of the fall-out from the historic election on 3 November.

We'll also be keeping you updated on all the latest developments to do with the pandemic which is the number one priority for President-elect Joe Biden who is already getting to work on how he plans to govern a very divided United States with Donald Trump still yet to recognise or acknowledge defeat.

In his victory speech, Biden, along with his vice president-elect Kamala Harris, called for unity and cooperation and said he knew how Trump supporters felt. But with so much disinformation filling social media accounts across the country - some driven from the White House - it's clear that desire is going to take some time to fulfil.