Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 29, 2020

Harold Maass
A coronavirus victim's casket
CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Worldwide coronavirus death toll surpasses 1 million

The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic reached 1 million on Monday, with more than 33 million confirmed infections. About 205,000 people have died in the United States. The World Health organization said it would make 120 million rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests available to low- and middle-income countries to help them spot new cases. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the tests, manufactured by Abbott and SD Biosensor in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, would cost less than $5 each. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, repeated his call for everyone to wear a mask, saying face coverings are as effective as a vaccine will be in curbing the spread of the virus. "If every one of us did it, this pandemic would be over in eight to 12 weeks," Redfield said. [The Associated Press, Voice of America]

2.

Pelosi says Trump debts raise 'national security question'

Democrats on Monday harshly criticized President Trump over a New York Times report that he paid nearly no federal income tax for more than a decade, accusing him of gaming the system to avoid paying his fair share. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) called Trump a "freeloader." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) noted that Trump appeared in the report to be more than $400 million in debt, and said that raised a "national security question" because a foreign lender could have leverage over him. The White House called the Times report a partisan hit job. Trump at first called the report "totally fake news," then shifted and accused the newspaper of illegally obtaining his financial information. Trump also tweeted that he paid "many millions of dollars in taxes." Republican lawmakers were largely silent on the report. [Reuters, The New York Times]

3.

Senators arrange meetings with Supreme Court nominee

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate began on Monday to set up meetings with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said Barrett's confirmation hearing could start on Oct. 12. That would give Republicans time to meet their goal of confirming Barrett before Election Day. If they succeed, conservatives will expand their majority on the high court to 6-3 from the current 5-4. Democrats are divided over how to fight the nomination, which they argue is improper. Some are declining to meet with Barrett. They say the winner of the November election should pick the next justice, especially since mail-in voting has already started in some places. [The Wall Street Journal]

4.

Tens of thousands evacuate as wildfires spread in California wine country

Wildfires continued to spread rapidly in Northern California's wine country on Monday. Nearly 34,000 people were ordered to evacuate, and another 14,000 were warned they might have to leave. Authorities could not immediately say how many structures had been destroyed, but Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said "there was significant loss." Chief Ben Nicholls with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection described the fire growth as "explosive." The Glass Fire burning in Napa Valley destroyed the Chateau Boswell Winery, one of the few remaining family-owned wineries in the area, on Sunday. Three other wineries — Reverie Winery, Viader Winery, and Davis Estates — were threatened by flames on Monday. The Glass Fire and two other fires in the same area had burned a total of 11,000 acres as of Monday, with no containment. [Los Angeles Times]

5.

VICE News: Body-cam footage raises questions about Breonna Taylor investigation

Body-camera footage obtained by VICE News showed Louisville Metro Police Department officers and SWAT team members appearing to break department policies after the raid that killed Breonna Taylor in her Kentucky apartment. The footage did not show any of the seven officers who were present during the shooting being taken aside separately, as required under official procedure. A former LMPD narcotics officer told VICE News that commanders on the scene are supposed to make sure the officers involved are taken aside. Instead, detective Brett Hankison, who has since been fired and charged with firing indiscriminately and endangering people in the next apartment, is seen in a clip walking among shell casings near the apartment door and asking, "Is that theirs?" [VICE News]

6.

Kentucky attorney general to release Breonna Taylor grand jury transcripts

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron will release a recording of the grand jury proceedings about the death of Breonna Taylor in a police raid on her Louisville apartment, a spokeswoman for Cameron's office said late Monday. The decision came after a judge ordered the release of the material, and a grand juror filed a rare court motion asking Cameron to unseal the grand jury records, suggesting Cameron had not been truthful about the lack of indictment for either officer who fatally shot Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker. Taylor was in her apartment with her current boyfriend when police investigating a drug case involving her former boyfriend forced their way in. Her current boyfriend, fearing intruders, fired a shot, and the officers opened fire, hitting Taylor five times. [The Washington Post]

7.

Democrats release new proposal for coronavirus relief

House Democrats unveiled their new proposal on a fresh round of coronavirus relief as negotiations resumed between lawmakers and the White House. The Democrats' new plan calls for $2.2 trillion in relief spending for families, schools, and businesses, including restaurants and airlines. The release of the bill came minutes before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke by phone about breaking an impasse on negotiations. The Democrats' new plan cut the cost of the initial $3.4 trillion bill they approved in May. It saved money by shortening some provisions, but maintained plans to revive the expired $600 in extra weekly jobless benefits and another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. The legislation also includes $225 billion for schools, and extends a program aiming to end airline-worker layoffs. [The New York Times]

8.

Hospital chain computers hobbled by cyberattack

Universal Health Services' computer system was hit by a ransomware attack over the weekend. Computer systems at the hospital chain's 400-plus locations reportedly could be out for days. Workers are having to take records by hand and hand-label medications. The incident could turn out to be one of the largest medical cyberattacks in U.S. history. Employees at several UHS facilities, including in California and Florida, reported locked computers and phones. Mysterious messages referencing a "shadow universe," a term suggesting the involvement of the Russian cybercrime group Ryuk, then started filling screens. The issue did not jeopardize patient care, and "no patient or employee data appears to have been accessed, copied, or otherwise compromised," the company said in a statement. [NBC News, TechCrunch]

9.

Trump, Biden head into 1st debate with few voters still undecided

President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden head into their first debate on Tuesday with most Americans already certain about how they will vote in the November election. "Presidential debates matter less than people think," said Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. "Voters don't watch to make up their minds. They watch to root for their favorites." Still, the on-stage meetings of Trump and Biden could sway the thinning group of undecided voters in key battleground states, such as Florida and North Carolina. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 29 percent of Americans see debates as very important or extremely important to their votes. The New York Times noted that the disclosure that Trump paid little or no federal income taxes for years could become a debate focus. [NBC News, The New York Times]

10.

Tampa Bay beats Dallas to win Stanley Cup

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 Monday night to win the 2020 Stanley Cup, the second National Hockey League championship in the team's history. Their first Stanley Cup was in 2004. The Lightning shut out the Stars in Monday's Game 6 with a power-play goal by Brayden Point in the first period followed by a second-period goal by forward Blake Coleman. This year's NHL season resumed play over the summer in COVID-19 bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, Canada. The league said it administered 33,174 coronavirus tests to players and club personnel in quarantine and recorded no positive tests in the past nine weeks. [USA Today]