10 things you need to know today: October 21, 2020

Pelosi says stimulus deal still possible as deadline passes, CDC estimates nearly 300,000 excess deaths during pandemic, and more 

Pelosi at a news conference
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

1. Pelosi backs away from deadline after progress toward coronavirus relief deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) walked back her Tuesday deadline for a coronavirus relief deal with the White House, saying that talks were going well so there was still hope a bill could be passed before Election Day. "It isn't that this day is the day we would have a deal," she said in a Bloomberg TV interview. "It's a day when we would have our terms on the table to be able to go to the next step." The news came as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly told Republican senators privately that he had urged the White House not to agree to a stimulus deal that most members of the party would reject. McConnell's remarks, confirmed by several Republicans, came after President Trump increased his proposed relief package to $1.9 trillion, still short of the $2.2 trillion approved by the House.

Business Insider The New York Times

2. CDC estimates 299,028 excess U.S. deaths during pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that 299,028 more people than normal had died in the United States this year. As of Oct. 15, about 216,000 of the deaths had been attributed directly to COVID-19, but that "might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality," CDC researchers said. Experts say the other excess deaths could include people who were afraid or unable to seek care and died of heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, and other causes. Latinos suffered disproportionately, with 53.6 percent more deaths than in a typical year, compared to an 11.9 percent increase among white people. "The number of people dying from this pandemic is higher than we think," said Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has studied excess mortality. "This study shows it. Others have as well."

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The Washington Post CNN

3. DOJ files antitrust lawsuit against Google

The Justice Department on Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google. The long-anticipated suit accused the tech giant of abusing its market dominance to stifle competition for its flagship search engine and its related advertising business. "Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth," Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen said. "It has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition." The Justice Department also is investigating Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and other companies, so the case against Google could mark the beginning of a broader crackdown on tech giants. Google said it would defend itself vigorously, calling the lawsuit "deeply flawed" and unfair. "People use Google because they choose to," the company said, "not because they're forced to or because they can't find alternatives."

The Associated Press The Wall Street Journal

4. Melania Trump cancels rally appearance due to 'lingering cough'

Melania Trump called off her plan to return to the campaign trail on Tuesday after her COVID-19 treatment because of a "lingering cough." The first lady, like President Trump and their son Barron, went into isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus. She said last week that she was better and would join her husband for a Pennsylvania rally, but her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said the cough had caused a change in travel plans "out of an abundance of caution." Trump's White House and campaign have faced strong criticism for failing to enforce safety precautions against spreading the coronavirus, particularly after Trump's Rose Garden announcement of his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Sept. 26 was labeled as a "superspreader" event.

The Guardian

5. Anti-brutality protesters shot in Nigeria

Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos, remained under a round-the-clock curfew on Wednesday as unrest intensified after police opened fire on people who were protesting against police brutality. The demonstrators had defied the new curfew, and armed soldiers reportedly barricaded the protest site before the shooting. Amnesty International said late Tuesday it had received "credible but disturbing evidence" that security forces had fatally shot some of the protesters, although other sources said the condition of the wounded had not been confirmed. The protests began nearly two weeks ago, after video circulated that allegedly showed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officers shooting a man in Delta state. Thousands of people have been demonstrating nationwide every night since, despite curfews.

Reuters CBS News

6. Voters line up in Wisconsin, while Florida breaks early-ballot record

The unprecedented wave of early voting continued on Tuesday, as crowds in Milwaukee waited for more than two hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting in Wisconsin. A day earlier, a record 366,436 Floridians voted in their state's first day of in-person early voting, according to data collected by the United States Elections Project. Michael P. McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, collected early data showing that registered Democrats in Florida by far outnumbered their Republican counterparts. "This is a dynamic we're seeing elsewhere, too," McDonald said. Early voting has drawn crowds across the country, and record numbers of mail-in ballots also are being cast.

The New York Times

7. Ex-RNC chair Michael Steele endorses Biden

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on Tuesday became the latest prominent member of President Trump's party to formally endorse his rival, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, in the November election. Steele said in a new Lincoln Project ad that Biden would "pursue options that work towards healing the divide" that Trump has made worse. Steele was the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland, where he served as lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2007, and as chairman of the RNC. His feelings about the election became clear in August when he joined the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans running ads opposing Trump's re-election bid. Steele said he is still a Republican, but "this ballot is how we restore the soul of our nation: electing a good man, Joe Biden, and a trailblazer, Kamala Harris, and ensure an orderly transfer of power."


8. Lawyers can't find parents separated from 545 migrant kids

Lawyers enlisted to identify migrant families separated at the U.S. southern border during the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy said in a court filing on Tuesday they have been unable to find the parents of 545 children, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union. Trump's policy of separating migrant children from their parents went into effect in 2018, but under a pilot program that launched in 2017, more than 1,000 families were separated. About two-thirds of those parents were deported to Central America before a judge ordered that they be found.


9. NASA spacecraft briefly touches down on asteroid

NASA's Osiris-Rex spacecraft briefly landed Tuesday on the potentially hazardous asteroid Bennu, more than 200 million miles from Earth. The spacecraft used its robotic sampling arm, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, to collect a sample from the asteroid's surface for scientists to study back on Earth. During the 15-second touchdown, the mechanism blasted a canister of gas to disrupt Bennu's surface enough for a 60-gram dust and dirt sample to enter the arm's collection device. Osiris-Rex operates autonomously due to the 18-minute communications delay with mission control. The team could not immediately say whether the mission was successful, but the spacecraft will maneuver to a safe position to take a picture of the collector head and weigh its contents for confirmation.


10. Dodgers beat Rays in Game 1 of World Series

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-3 on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. Over six innings, Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw struck out eight and allowed just two hits and one walk. The Dodgers also benefited from a powerful offense that included home runs by Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts. The game was played in neutral territory at the Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, with just 11,388 people in the stands. The crowd size was limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, and was the smallest World Series audience in 111 years, The Associated Press reported. Game 2 is set for Wednesday night.

The Associated Press

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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.