Daily briefing

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

The Supreme Court lets two battleground states extend absentee-ballot deadlines, stocks plunge as COVID surge continues, and more


Supreme Court allows extended absentee deadlines in 2 battlegrounds

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that two battleground states, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, can extend the deadline for accepting absentee ballots to several days after Election Day. The court turned down a request from Pennsylvania Republicans for a ruling before the Tuesday election on whether the state can continue counting mail-in ballots for another three days. In the North Carolina case, the court upheld a lower court ruling letting the state board of elections extend the deadline by nine days, even though lawmakers had only called for an extra three days. The court didn't provide its reasoning for the unsigned orders. Newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who took the oath of office Tuesday, did not participate in the decisions.


Stocks plummet as new coronavirus cases hit record

U.S. stocks nosedived on Wednesday as record daily increases in coronavirus cases fed concerns that renewed restrictions to curb infections could derail the global economic recovery. Public health officials confirmed more than 73,200 new U.S. cases on Tuesday, and according to an NBC tally, there were 80,662 new cases on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by 3.4 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell by 3.7 percent. The S&P 500 dropped 3.5 percent, leaving it more than 7 percent below its early September record close. "A month ago, the narrative in the market was very much that lockdowns would be limited and targeted, and so would have a smaller impact on the economy," said Hugh Gimber, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. "But now, what we are seeing is broader concerns that lockdowns might be wider and have a much wider impact." France announced a second national lockdown Wednesday as infections continued to surge in Europe. Stock futures rose early Thursday, struggling to rebound from the worst drop in months.


Trump, Biden clash over coronavirus policy in late campaign push

President Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden continued to make their final pitches to voters on Wednesday, with Election Day less than a week away and more than 73 million early and mail-in ballots already cast. Biden continued to argue that Trump has mishandled the coronavirus crisis. "Even if I win, it's going to take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic," Biden said in Delaware. "I do promise this: We will start on day one doing the right things." Trump, ignoring Wednesday's stock plunge as coronavirus cases surged, said Biden would devastate the economy by locking it down. "This election is a choice between a Trump super-recovery and a Biden depression," Trump said in Arizona. The candidates on Thursday campaign in Florida, a crucial swing state.


Jared Kushner boasts Trump took 'country back from doctors'

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner bragged six months ago that the president was cutting out scientists and "getting the country back from doctors" after the spring coronavirus lockdown, according to a taped interview obtained by CNN. Kushner told legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward that the country was moving beyond the "panic" and "pain" phases of the pandemic, and entering "the beginning of the comeback phase." "Trump's now back in charge," he said. "It's not the doctors." At the time, the United States was confirming about 30,000 new coronavirus cases per day, less than half the rate in the current surge. Kushner also criticized the Republican Party, calling it a "collection of a bunch of tribes" but adding that Trump had done a "full hostile takeover" when he won the presidential nomination.


Trump opens Tongass National Forest to logging

President Trump is opening Alaska's Tongass National Rainforest for logging, road-building, and other development, according to a notice posted Wednesday in the federal register. The administration is stripping two-decade-old protections for 9.3 million acres of old-growth red and yellow cedar, Sitka spruce, and Western hemlock. Tongass is one of the world's largest intact temperate rainforests, and serves as a sink for the continental U.S.'s carbon emissions. "It's America's last climate sanctuary," said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist with the Earth Island Institute's Wild Heritage project. Alaska Republicans have recently sought to exempt Tongass from those protections to develop southeastern Alaska. All five Alaska Native tribal nations withdrew from working as cooperating agencies, saying the process "disregarded our input at every turn."


Anonymous Trump administration op-ed writer identified

Miles Taylor, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff under President Trump, on Wednesday revealed that he was "Anonymous," the previously unnamed Trump administration official who wrote a 2018 New York Times op-ed describing an internal "resistance" to Trump. Taylor later anonymously published a book critical of Trump called A Warning. "I saw Donald Trump prove he is a man without character, and his personal defects have resulted in leadership failures so significant that they can be measured in lost American lives," Taylor wrote Wednesday. Taylor defended his decision to conceal his identity for so long, and urged other Trump administration officials to speak out. Taylor previously publicly criticized Trump and endorsed Joe Biden, but denied in an August interview with CNN that he was "Anonymous."


Judge rejects Texas governor's mask exception at polling places

U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam on Wednesday ruled that everyone must wear a mask at Texas polling places to avoid creating "a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters." Pulliam, who was appointed by President Trump, voided Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's exemption for polling places from a statewide face-covering requirement. The Texas chapter of the NAACP and Mi Familia Vota sued seeking more safety requirements during the election. The judge wrote that since the pandemic has disproportionately affected minorities they would face a higher risk of sickness and death if they were forced to choose between "voting and minimizing their risk" of exposure to people not wearing masks. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton promptly told Pulliam that the state would appeal, seeking to block his order.


Woman beheaded, 2 others killed in knife attack in France

An attacker with a knife beheaded one woman and killed two other people Thursday at a church in the French city of Nice, according to local police. Mayor Christian Estrosi described the attack at the city's Notre Dame church as terrorism, and France's anti-terrorist prosecutor's department said it had been called in to investigate. Reuters reported that police armed with automatic weapons had blocked off the area around the church, which is on a major thoroughfare in Nice's main shopping area. The attack came as tensions were already high in France after a French middle school teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded earlier this month in a Paris suburb. The suspect in that case is a young man of Chechen origin who allegedly was angry that Paty had shown students controversial cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad during a civics lesson.


White House says claim Trump ended pandemic was 'poorly worded'

The White House on Wednesday tried to clarify a press release that listed ending the coronavirus pandemic as one of President Trump's accomplishments, even though daily new infections have surged to record highs. White House strategic communications director Alyssa Farah said the Tuesday press release was "poorly worded," and that ending the pandemic is a goal that has not been achieved. "Cases are still rising and we need the American public to remain vigilant," Farah said. "This is the top priority of the president, defeating this virus and rebuilding our economy." But on the campaign trail, Trump is telling supporters that the country has turned the corner in the fight against COVID-19. "Covid, Covid, Covid is the unified chant of the Fake News Lamestream Media," Trump tweeted. "They will talk about nothing else until November 4th," suggesting journalists are reporting on the pandemic to hurt his campaign.


Hurricane Zeta hits Louisiana and heads northeast

Hurricane Zeta made landfall Wednesday south of New Orleans with top sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. The Category 2 storm brought punishing winds and "life-threatening" storm surge. It continued northeast after coming ashore, sending its most damaging winds, rains, and storm surge to low-lying New Orleans. Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border. The National Hurricane Center warned of "a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland," with potential storm surge of up to 11 feet in some areas as far east as Navarre, Florida. Zeta weakened to a tropical storm over Alabama early Thursday after killing at least one person as it crashed through Louisiana.


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