10 things you need to know today: October 15, 2020

Barrett remains mum on hot-button issues in final questioning, France declares curfew as COVID cases rise in Europe, and more

Amy Coney Barrett in her hearings
(Image credit: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)

1. Barrett grilled again in final day of confirmation questioning

Judge Amy Coney Barrett again declined to state her legal positions on abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, and other hot-button issues on Wednesday, the final day of questioning in her confirmation hearing. She also would not tell members of the Senate Judiciary Committee whether she believed it was wrong to separate migrant children from their parents to discourage illegal immigration. "That's a matter of hot political debate in which I can't express a view or be drawn into as a judge," Barrett said in response to a question by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Despite her reticence, Barrett's views on some key questions was not in doubt. "This is the first time in American history that we've nominated a woman who's unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology," committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Barrett.

The Washington Post

2. France declares curfew as European coronavirus infections rise

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced a curfew in Paris and eight other cities to limit public gatherings and movement as part of a new state of emergency as coronavirus cases rise across Europe. The curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. will start Saturday and run for at least four weeks. "We need this — and if we don't want to take harsher measures in 15 days, or three weeks, or one month, we have to do it and comply with it," Macron said. The new restrictions came as European governments step up efforts to curb the spreading of the virus as caseloads increase and winter approaches, increasing fears of a new surge in the pandemic. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced an agreement with state governors on restrictions on public gatherings and domestic travel as the country recorded a record 6,638 new cases on Wednesday. Russia also reported a record daily increase in confirmed infections.

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The New York Times

3. Americans vote early in unprecedented numbers

Americans continued to line up in unprecedented numbers to cast early votes on Wednesday with Election Day nearly three weeks away. About 15 million Americans have already voted. If the trend continues, this could be the first election in U.S. history with a majority of ballots cast before Election Day. In Georgia, voters waited up to 11 hours to cast ballots when early voting started this week. In North Carolina, nearly 100,000 of the 500,000 people who have returned mail ballots so far didn't even vote in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats have shown the most enthusiasm, and Black and women voters — groups that overwhelmingly support Democrat Joe Biden over President Trump in polls — have been turning out in disproportionately high numbers.

The Washington Post

4. CDC director warns small household gatherings are COVID-19 threat

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield is warning that the spread of COVID-19 through small household gatherings has become an "increasing threat." Redfield made this warning during a call with governors as new coronavirus cases rise in 36 states. "In the public square, we're seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions," Redfield said. "But what we're seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings." With Thanksgiving approaching, the CDC describes a small dinner with members of one household as lower risk, and a small outdoor dinner with local family and friends as moderate risk. It recommends avoiding "large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household."


5. Melania Trump says son Barron tested positive for coronavirus

President Trump's youngest son, Barron, tested positive for the coronavirus but did not show symptoms, first lady Melania Trump wrote in a personal essay posted to the White House website on Wednesday. In an initial test, Barron, 14, tested negative, she wrote, but, "I couldn't help but think 'what about tomorrow or the next day?'" The first lady added that Barron had since tested negative. President Trump, who has returned to the campaign trail since his doctor declared that he was no longer contagious, told reporters at the White House: "Barron's fine." Mrs. Trump said she hoped to resume her duties soon. "I want people to know that I understand just how fortunate my family is to have received the kind of care that we did," she said.

Bloomberg CNN

6. Amy Cooper made 2nd 911 call falsely claiming Black birdwatcher assaulted her

Amy Cooper, the white woman who falsely reported to 911 that Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper had threatened her, made a previously unreported second call to New York City police in which she claimed he had assaulted her, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said Wednesday. Amy Cooper has now been charged with making a false report, a third-degree misdemeanor, Vance said. He described what she did as "racist criminal conduct." Christian Cooper captured part of the May 25 exchange on video. After he posted it online and it went viral, Amy Cooper was fired from her job at an investment bank and apologized. Her outburst came after Christian Cooper asked her to leash her cocker spaniel in a part of Central Park where dogs are not allowed to roam.

NBC News

7. EU imposes sanctions on Putin insiders over Navalny poisoning

The European Union plans to hit members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle with sanctions over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny with a Soviet-era nerve agent, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. EU officials said the sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freeze, would go into effect early Thursday against six senior Russian officials and one unidentified entity. Another Russian, businessman Yevgeniy Prigozhin, faces similar punishment for allegedly violating an EU ban on supplying weapons and other assistance to mercenary forces in Libya. Prigozhin and Russia's Internet Research Agency were indicted by a U.S. grand jury in 2018 for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The EU reportedly decided to sanction him now because of his alleged attempts to intimidate Navalny.

The Wall Street Journal

8. Report: 5.2 million Americans can't vote due to felony convictions

About 5.2 million Americans won't be able to vote in the November election due to felony convictions, according to a report released by the Sentencing Project on Wednesday. Only a quarter of them are still behind bars. More than 40 percent have completed their sentences but are still barred from voting. Black Americans are disenfranchised at nearly four times the rate of other people with felony records. The rates are highest in the South, and are generally estimated to hurt Democrats more than Republicans. Florida has the most felony disenfranchisement, about 1.1 million people. The state's voters in 2018 approved a measure restoring voting rights after people complete their sentences, but the state's Republican-led legislature blocked released felons from casting ballots until they have paid all court-ordered fines and fees.

The New York Times

9. Wells Fargo fires 100 workers over improper access to coronavirus funds

Wells Fargo has fired more than 100 employees for improperly receiving coronavirus relief funds, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing a person with knowledge of the situation. The bank determined that the workers fraudulently got the money from the U.S. Small Business Administration "by making false representations in applying for coronavirus relief funds for themselves" from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, according to an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg. The alleged fraud was not related to the employees' work for the bank. JPMorgan Chase & Co. earlier found that more than 500 of its employees had accessed funds through the same program, in some cases improperly. U.S. banks were encouraged to uncover suspicious deposits from the program to customers and staff.


10. Twitter, Facebook restrict access to New York Post story on Bidens

Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday restricted sharing of a New York Post article alleging that Hunter Biden had abandoned a Mac laptop at a Delaware repair shop, and it had damning emails on its hard drive. One of the emails referenced an alleged meeting between an adviser to a Ukrainian energy company, whose board Hunter Biden served on, and then-Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden's father and the current Democratic presidential nominee. Joe Biden's campaign said it had reviewed Biden's official schedules from that time and no such meeting "ever took place." The computer shop owner reportedly provided the hard drive to the FBI and gave a copy to a lawyer for Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani provided it to the Post. Facebook said it would fact-check the story and Twitter blocked it because it violated the company's policy on hacked material. Trump called the material "explosive" and called the Bidens "crooks."

The New York Times NBC News

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.