10 things you need to know today: October 27, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court, Trump and Biden focus on the pandemic in Pennsylvania stops, and more

Trump and Barrett
(Image credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

1. Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

A deeply divided Senate voted 52-48 Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Republicans pushed the nomination through over objections from Democrats, who argued that the winner of the presidential election should fill the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat. The elevation of Barrett, the fifth woman justice ever to serve on the court, increases conservatives' majority to 6-3, setting up an expected shift to the right on key issues like health care, abortion, gun rights, and voting rights. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Republicans acted in "bad faith" by confirming Barrett with an election underway after blocking former President Barack Obama's nominee eight months before Election Day in 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans broke no rules, and were able to do what they did "because we had the majority."

The Washington Post

2. Trump, Biden highlight different approaches to pandemic

President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday made late pitches for votes in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state. With Election Day just eight days away and new coronavirus infections reaching record daily highs, Trump told largely maskless attendees at an Allentown rally that the vote is "a choice between a Trump boom and a Biden lockdown." Biden, seeking to demonstrate how seriously he would fight the pandemic, told a small cluster of a few dozen supporters outside a campaign field office that Trump "is the worst possible person to lead us through this pandemic." Analysts said Trump's push in Pennsylvania suggested that he is on the defensive as he trails in the polls, because Pennsylvania is considered a must-win on his path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

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The Associated Press

3. New coronavirus cases continue to set records

The average daily number of newly confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases rose to a record 68,767 in the past week. The previous seven-day average record was set in July. After a summertime surge, the seven-day average of new cases fell as low as 34,354 last month, and remained just above 40,000 for weeks after that before jumping last week. On Friday, new cases surpassed 83,000, the most in a single day since the pandemic started, and almost as many cases were confirmed on Saturday. Many public health experts have been warning that cases would surge as cooler temperatures arrived in the fall and people began spending more time indoors, but the October surge is hitting earlier than many people expected.

The Wall Street Journal

4. VMI superintendent resigns after reports of racism on campus

Retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III resigned as superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute after Black cadets told The Washington Post about a racist atmosphere at the 181-year-old school. Peay, 80, said in his resignation letter to John Boland, president of VMI's Board of Visitors, that Gov. Ralph Northam's chief of staff had told him that the governor and numerous state lawmakers had "lost confidence" in his leadership. The Post reported that one Black student had filed a complaint after a white adjunct professor talked in class about her father's membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Other Black cadets have faced lynching threats and comments praising the Confederacy. Northam, a 1981 VMI graduate, ordered an independent investigation after the Post published its story earlier this month.

The Washington Post

5. Wildfire forces 60,000 to evacuate Southern California suburb

A fast-spreading wildfire forced 60,000 people to evacuate a Southern California suburb on Monday. The Silverado Fire burned at least 4,000 acres in Irvine, 50 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Steady winds of up to 30 miles per hour, with gusts reaching 65 mph, fueled the blaze. The University of California, Irvine, shut down activities on campus in the latest disruption of a record wildfire season in the state. "It was completely terrible," UCI graduate student Vanessa Montellano, 23, told NBC News. "I was like wow, the skies were orange, the sun was bright red, the tree was swaying. It was almost not real." "Man, it seemed like Armageddon, to be honest," said Thomas Anthony, a 32-year-old Irvine resident.

NBC News

6. Ant Group IPO priced to be biggest ever

Chinese financial tech powerhouse Ant Group priced shares in its initial public offering at $10.30 each, setting it up to raise about $34 billion in what would be the largest IPO on record. Shares of Ant Group, the parent of the Alipay mobile payment service, are expected to start trading in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the coming weeks. The price set for the company's shares give it a market value of about $310 billion. Ant's IPO would surpass the $25 billion raised in 2014 by its sister company, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, as well as the $29.4 billion that Saudi Arabia's state-run oil company, Saudi Aramco, raised last year. Hundreds of millions of people in China use Alipay as their credit or debit card, mutual fund, and insurance source.

The New York Times

7. Supreme Court rejects Wisconsin's mail-in ballot extension

The Supreme Court on Monday night rejected a bid to extend Wisconsin's deadline for absentee ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic. A lower court had sided with Democrats and civil rights groups requesting the extension, but a federal appeals court had put the decision on hold. The justices split 5-3, with the conservative justices siding with Republicans fighting to prevent state election officials from extending the deadline and counting mail-in ballots received up to six days after the Nov. 3 election, provided they were postmarked before Election Day. Democrats argued that because of the coronavirus pandemic, more people are using mail-in ballots, and with the U.S. Postal Service struggling to make deliveries on time the extension is necessary to make sure everyone's vote is counted. Wisconsin is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, and hospitalizations have reached a record high.

The Washington Post The Associated Press

8. Stocks dive as new coronavirus cases hit record high

U.S. stocks plunged on Monday as record new coronavirus cases in the United States and new business closures and curfews in Europe raised fears that a fall wave of infections could trigger more global economic damage. The ongoing stalemate in Washington over a fresh round of coronavirus stimulus spending fueled investor concerns. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 2.3 percent, while the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 1.9 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. "You can only pretend that COVID was not a problem for so long," said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Conn. "I think the market has finally kind of gotten it through its head at the same time that there's very little shot at stimulus."

The New York Times

9. Hurricane Zeta hits Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Zeta, the earliest ever 27th named storm of the Atlantic season, strengthened to a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour Monday afternoon southeast of Mexico's Cozumel island, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Zeta weakened to strong tropical-storm strength, with top winds of 70 mph, as it passed over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula early Tuesday, but forecasters said it was expected to strengthen again as it pushed northeast into the Gulf of Mexico. Zeta is expected to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday, although it could weaken before landfall. The storm could bring four to eight inches of rain to Mexico, parts of Cuba, and the Cayman Islands. It could hit the U.S. anywhere from Louisiana to Florida's Panhandle.

The Associated Press National Hurricane Center

10. NASA confirms water on the moon's sunlit surface

Scientists have confirmed there is water on the sunlit surface of the moon, NASA announced Monday. The agency revealed its Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy detected water molecules in the moon's southern hemisphere. NASA's announcement explained that scientists had previously observed "some form of hydrogen" on the moon's surface, but they couldn't "definitively distinguish" between water and hydroxyl. "We had indications that H2O — the familiar water we know — might be present on the sunlit side of the moon," said NASA's Paul Hertz. "Now we know it is there." NASA says this suggests "water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places," and also "raises new questions about how water is created and how it persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface."


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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.