Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 22, 2020

Trump says he'll announce his Supreme Court nominee by Saturday, McConnell rejects Democrats' proposal on averting a shutdown, and more


Trump to announce Supreme Court nominee by Saturday

President Trump said Monday that he expected to announce his nominee to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court on Friday or Saturday. Trump said his short list was down to four or five finalists. Ginsburg's casket will be on public view on the court's steps on Wednesday and Thursday. She will lie in state in the Capitol's Statuary Hall on Friday, the first woman to receive the honor. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are pushing for the nominee's confirmation before Election Day, and appeared to have lined up enough votes. Democrats insist that the winner of the election between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden should pick the next justice. They say it is shamefully hypocritical for Republicans to rush to confirm Ginsburg's replacement with the election weeks away after refusing to consider former President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 nine months before Election Day.


Democrats unveil bill to avoid shutdown, McConnell rejects it

House Democrats on Monday released a bill seeking to fund the government until Dec. 11. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats wanted to get the legislation approved before the Sept. 30 deadline to "avert a catastrophic shutdown in the middle of the ongoing pandemic." But the bill did not include additional farm aid Republicans want. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Democrats' proposal was not acceptable to the GOP. He tweeted that it "shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America." The potential impasse came as tensions mounted on Capitol Hill over filling the seat of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


DOJ labels Portland, New York, and Seattle 'anarchist jurisdictions'

The Justice Department on Monday labeled the cities of Portland, Oregon, New York, and Seattle as "anarchist jurisdictions" that could lose federal funding for failing to protect the public from "violence and destruction of property." President Trump issued a memorandum earlier this month calling for a review of ways to block funding for local governments that the administration thinks should do more to prevent violent protests over racial injustice. "We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement, calling for city leaders to "reverse course and become serious about" protecting citizens. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan — all Democrats — said Trump was "playing cheap political games with congressionally directed funds."


CDC says coronavirus can spread through the air, then reverses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled a new guidance acknowledging that COVID-19 can spread through the air, then swiftly removed the change, saying it was a draft that was "posted in error." The CDC's website on Friday described COVID-19 as "airborne," saying the coronavirus commonly spreads "through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols" and that "there is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air" and "travel distances beyond 6 feet." Experts who previously pointed to evidence that the coronavirus is airborne welcomed the new guidance. But a CDC official said Monday that the agency had removed the draft of the proposed new guidance because it "does not reflect our current state of knowledge."


Trump contradicts public health experts' timing of vaccine

President Trump on Monday contradicted his own top public health aides and predicted that a coronavirus vaccine would be available within weeks. "I'm getting it very soon, within a matter of weeks," Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends. "I would say that you'll have it long before the end of the year, maybe. Maybe by the end of October." Moncef Slaoui, head of the Trump administration's vaccine push, said this month that it was "very unlikely" any of the vaccine candidates would be approved by early November. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Congress last week that a vaccine might be ready by November or December, but probably wouldn't be available to the general public until the middle of 2021. Trump rebuked Redfield hours later, saying he "made a mistake." In an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday, 69 percent of respondents said they didn't have confidence in Trump's promises on vaccines.


U.S. household wealth reaches record high despite job losses

The wealth of American households increased to a record high in the last quarter as the stock market rebounded from its March dive early in the coronavirus crisis, the Federal Reserve reported Monday. The net worth of U.S. households rose by nearly 7 percent to $119 trillion from April through June. The gains came even though tens of millions of people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The recovery of the wealth while half of the lost jobs have yet to return signals rising inequality. "High-income workers not only have jobs that for the most part have come back; they also have savings that have continued to grow," said Brown University economist John Friedman, co-director of Opportunity Insights.


U.S. reports most new coronavirus cases since Aug. 14

The United States logged about 52,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It was the highest single-day increase since Aug. 14. The U.S. death toll reached 199,886, just shy of the 200,000 milestone once seen as the maximum number of deaths the U.S. would suffer in the pandemic. There have been nearly 6.9 million infections nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins data. In Europe, several countries imposed new restrictions to fight a jump in infections. Chris Witty, Britain's chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, warned Monday that the country is "heading in the wrong direction." Globally, more than 31.3 million people have been infected, with nearly 965,000 deaths.


NYC police officer charged with spying on Tibetans for China

Federal prosecutors on Monday arrested a New York City police officer, 33-year-old Baimadajie Angwang, and charged him with providing China's consulate with intelligence on Tibetans living in the United States. Angwang also faces allegations that he invited a Chinese official to police department events and offered potential access to top officials. Angwang is ethnically Tibetan. He was born in China but is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He has served as a patrol officer and most recently as a public affairs officer. He also is a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve with a "secret"-level security clearance. One of the two Chinese consular officials he allegedly communicated with regularly worked in a department responsible for "neutralizing" potential opposition to Chinese policies.


Arctic sea ice shrinks to 2nd lowest level as region warms

Arctic sea ice shrank to the second-lowest level on record last week, scientists announced Monday. "It's been a crazy year up north, with sea ice at a near-record low, 100-degree (Fahrenheit) heat waves in Siberia, and massive forest fires," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which announced the news with NASA. "We are headed toward a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean, and this year is another nail in the coffin." Sea ice typically reaches its minimum in September then refreezes and hits its maximum extent in March. This year, it bottomed out on Sept. 15 at 1.44 million square miles, about 958,000 square miles below average, NASA said. Sea ice affects Arctic communities and wildlife, including polar bears. It also helps regulate Earth's temperatures.


Beta makes landfall in Texas, threatening flooding

Tropical Storm Beta made landfall late Monday on the Texas Gulf Coast near the Matagorda Peninsula, threatening to drench some areas with up to 15 inches of rain. "This rainfall can lead to significant flooding, which may last for several days," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Rob Miller said. Forecasters said Beta, the 23rd storm of the unusually busy 2020 hurricane season, also could hit some areas from San Luis Pass to Sabine Pass in Texas with up to 5 feet of storm surge. "There is the danger of life-threatening storm surge near times of high tide through Tuesday along portions of the Texas and Louisiana coasts," the National Hurricane Center said. The storm hit with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour.


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