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10 things you need to know today: August 14, 2020

Israel and United Arab Emirates agree to normalize relations, Biden and Harris call for all Americans to wear masks, and more


Israel, United Arab Emirates agree to 'full normalization of relations'

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday that they have agreed to establish "full normalization of relations." The deal, which was brokered by the United States, requires Israel to halt annexation of occupied West Bank land. President Trump said after a three-way call with Israeli and Emirati leaders that delegations from the two countries would sign agreements on greater cooperation on investment, tourism, security, technology, energy, and more. The deal made the United Arab Emirates the third Arab country to open diplomatic ties with Israel. Trump hailed the "historic moment." A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for reversing the deal, describing it as "treason."


Biden, Harris call for all Americans to wear masks

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his newly-named running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), called for everyone across the nation to wear face coverings whenever they are outside for the next three months, citing projections that the precaution could prevent 40,000 coronavirus deaths. They also called on all U.S. governors to issue orders making masks mandatory. "Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months at a minimum," Biden said after he and Harris received a briefing from former leading public health officials. "Wearing a mask is going to get our kids back to school sooner and safer." President Trump accused Biden of politicizing the coronavirus crisis. He said the federal government shouldn't impose on "law-abiding Americans to have this goal," adding, "Americans must have their freedoms."


Trump says he's blocking USPS funding to prevent mail-in voting

President Trump said Thursday that he opposed critical funding Democrats want for the United States Postal Service because he doesn't want it spent on mail-in voting. "They want three and a half billion dollars for something that'll turn out to be fraudulent, that's election money basically … But if they don't get those two items that means you can't have universal mail-in voting," Trump said. Critics said there was no evidence to support Trump's claim that mail-in voting leads to fraud, and that by linking Postal Service funding to mail-in voting Trump was trying to manipulate the election. Trump also opposed election aid for states. "Pure Trump," said presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. "He doesn't want an election."


New jobless claims fell below 1 million for 1st week since March

New applications for unemployment benefits fell to 963,000 last week, marking the first time that jobless claims have dipped below 1 million since the coronavirus crisis hit the United States in March, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The figure was still far above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000. Initial unemployment claims first hit a peak of nearly 7 million in March. They've dropped significantly since then, but lingered above 1 million for weeks as the summer spike of COVID-19 cases in the South and West triggered new lockdowns. About 15.5 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, more than double the pre-pandemic record of 6.6 million. At the end of July, unemployed Americans stopped receiving the extra $600-per-week included in the coronavirus relief package.


Health experts warn of a 'gruesome' fall of coronavirus

Health experts are warning that the worst of the coronavirus crisis is not over. "The fall could be incredibly gruesome," said Yale School of Medicine epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves. COVID-19 is still spreading rapidly, and coupled with colder weather that will push people indoors and coincide with flu season, it could make for a round of deadlier months. Gonsalves said the summer months were a key time to tamp down on outbreaks, but that the Trump administration largely squandered the opportunity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, meanwhile, says "this could be the worst fall from a public health perspective we've ever had." He urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance. On Wednesday, the U.S. reported 1,493 coronavirus deaths, the highest single-day total since mid-May.


Supreme Court: Rhode Island can make mail-in voting easier during pandemic

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Rhode Island can let voters cast mail-in ballots without in-person witness verification during the coronavirus crisis, rejecting a challenge by Republicans. The decision marked the court's first ruling on a voter relief policy related to the pandemic. Unlike "similar cases where a state defends its own law, here the state election officials support the challenged decree, and no state official has expressed opposition," the order said. "Under these circumstances, the applicants lack a cognizable interest in the state's ability to enforce its duly enacted laws." Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented, expressing support for granting the stay that the state and national Republicans parties requested.


Senate adjourns until September with no coronavirus relief bill

The Senate on Thursday adjourned until September without agreeing on a new coronavirus relief package, suggesting a deal is weeks away at least. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had kept senators around through what would have been the first week of the August recess as the Trump administration and congressional Democrats tried to negotiate an agreement. But with talks stalled, many senators saw little reason to remain in session. The Senate is now scheduled to reconvene on Sept. 8, although McConnell said senators could be called back early if Democrats and the White House break their impasse. Meanwhile, 28 million Americans remain unemployed without the now-expired relief provided in the first stimulus package. President Trump has issued four executive orders aiming to provide some relief.


DOJ accuses Yale of bias against Asian American, white applicants

The Justice Department on Thursday accused Yale University of discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, and threatened to file a lawsuit unless the Ivy League school changes its admissions policy. "Yale's race discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants," Eric Dreiband, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in a letter to Yale. The Justice Department launched an investigation two years ago after receiving complaints from Asian American students, and found that Asian American and white applicants were one-tenth to one-fourth as likely to be admitted as Black applicants with comparable academic records. Yale called the allegation meritless. The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected challenges to affirmative action in college admissions.


Trump fuels false birtherism claims about Kamala Harris

President Trump on Thursday praised the author of a Newsweek op-ed that falsely suggested that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) might not be eligible to be vice president, depending on the immigration status of her parents when she was born. Harris was born in Oakland, California, and is therefore indisputably eligible as a U.S. citizen at birth. But Trump, who previously repeated baseless claims that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., told reporters there were "very serious" questions about Harris' eligibility, although he said he had "no idea if that's right." The Biden campaign condemned Trump as the "leader of the grotesque, racist birther movement" against Obama, making it "unsurprising, but no less abhorrent," that he is telling "demonstrably false lies."


AMC to start reopening its movie theaters next week

AMC Theatres announced on Thursday that it will start reopening its U.S. cinemas on Aug. 20. The company closed its theaters nationwide in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. On reopening day, AMC will sell tickets for just 15 cents, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of its founding by offering 1920 prices. The promotion also is designed to encourage moviegoers to return to theaters that have been shuttered for months. AMC will only be reopening its theaters in areas of the country where it's permitted to do so, excluding numerous major cities. AMC had pushed back its reopening date several times as spiking coronavirus cases forced businesses and other institutions to adjust to evolving data. AMC now plans to open more than 100 locations on Aug. 20 and another 300 in the following weeks.


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