Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 25, 2020

Harold Maass
Biden unveils his team
Mark Makela/Getty Images


Biden unveils security team, saying, 'America is back'

President-elect Joe Biden announced his top picks for his national security team on Tuesday. Biden said the veteran security experts he chose had the experience to restore America's global leadership in fighting terrorism, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. He said the team would ensure that the United States is "ready to lead the world, not retreat from it," adding: "America is back." Biden noted that his choice for director of national intelligence, former Deputy Director of the CIA Avril Haines, would be the first woman in the post. He also pointed out that his selection for head of the Homeland Security Department, Alejandro Mayorkas, would be the first Latino and the first immigrant in that job. Biden also formally tapped Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, and former Secretary of State John Kerry as his climate envoy. [The New York Times]


Dow breaks 30,000 barrier with help from vaccine, transition news

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the 30,000 barrier for the first time on Tuesday with boosts from positive coronavirus vaccine news and the Trump administration's decision to start cooperating in the transition to President-elect Joe Biden's administration after resisting for weeks. The Dow closed up by nearly 1.5 percent at 30,015, just under four years after reaching the 20,000 mark for the first time. President Trump, speaking a day after telling his administration to stop blocking the presidential transition, held a brief news conference. He spoke for less than a minute, calling the 30,000 mark a "sacred number" and taking credit, congratulating "all the people within the administration that worked so hard." He closed the event without answering questions. [Reuters, The Washington Post]


Pennsylvania, Nevada certify Biden election wins

Pennsylvania and Nevada election officials on Tuesday officially certified President-elect Joe Biden's wins in their states over President Trump. The formalizing of the victories put two more nails in the coffin of Trump's effort to reverse Biden's projected win in the Electoral College. A day earlier, Trump stopped blocking his administration's cooperation with Biden's transition team, but he vowed to continue fighting the election outcome. Biden is projected to win 306 electoral votes, so Trump faces the near-impossible task of reversing the results in several states to come out on top when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14. Bob Bauer, the Biden campaign's senior legal adviser, said in a statement that it was apparent to everyone but Trump and his lawyers that "this election is over and that Joe Biden won resoundingly." [CNBC]


America sees nearly 2,100 coronavirus deaths in worst day since May

The United States recorded 2,092 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, the deadliest day of the crisis for the country since May 6, when 2,611 people died. Nine states — Maine, Alaska, Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana, Wisconsin, Washington, Ohio, and Oregon — reported record single-day deaths, according to a tally by The Washington Post. The bleak news was offset by more promising developments on the vaccine front, as the federal government said it planned to distribute 6.4 million doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine within 24 hours of regulatory approval for emergency use, which is expected before Christmas. The first shots will go to front-line health-care workers, said Gen. Gustave Perna, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration program pushing the development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments. [The Washington Post]


Essential workers to get vaccines after health-care workers

Essential workers — including police, firefighters, teachers, and people who work in meat-packing plants, waste management operations, and transportation — are expected to get coronavirus vaccines before any group except health-care workers. That means those workers would move ahead of people 65 and older and those with high-risk medical conditions. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the group of experts tasked with making recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccine use, has not yet had a formal vote on the matter, but members expressed support for the proposal. The intention is reportedly to ensure people of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and make up a high percentage of essential workers, are at the front of the priority line. [Stat News]


White House clears Biden to receive daily intelligence briefings

The White House agreed Tuesday to let President-elect Joe Biden start receiving the intelligence summaries in the presidential daily brief given to President Trump, the White House and director of national intelligence said Tuesday. The decision came a day after Trump's announcement that he had instructed his administration to start cooperating with the Biden transition team as it prepares for Biden's January inauguration. Biden said he would start receiving the briefing as early as Wednesday. On Monday, Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, notified Biden her office would begin the official presidential transition process. Murphy had delayed the transition for several weeks, a move criticized as harming national security and the coronavirus response. Biden can now receive federal transition funds and resources. [NPR, CNN]


CDC considering reducing quarantine period from 14 days to 7

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering reducing the recommended quarantine time for people exposed to the coronavirus, Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Tuesday. The CDC currently calls for two weeks of isolation since the last known contact with an infected person. Giroir said public health experts are rethinking the recommendation due to "a preponderance of evidence that a shorter quarantine complemented by a test might be able to shorten that quarantine period." The plan is to reduce the quarantine time from 14 days to seven, although experts are reviewing the evidence because "we want to make absolutely sure," Giroir said. [NPR]


Purdue Pharma pleads guilty in opioid deal

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday to three criminal charges connected to its role in the opioid epidemic. The OxyContin maker formally admitted that it contributed to the crisis, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people over two decades, by failing to do enough to keep prescription drugs from being diverted to the black market, and providing misleading information to the Drug Enforcement Administration to boost its manufacturing quotas. Purdue said the plea deal, which included $8.3 billion in penalties and forfeitures, "is an essential step to preserve billions of dollars of value for creditors," while allowing the company to continue providing "lifesaving medicines to address the opioid crisis." [The Associated Press]


Utah officials find strange metal pillar in Red Rock Country

Utah officials found a mysterious metal pillar in remote Red Rock Country in the southeastern part of the state while flying by helicopter on a routine search for sheep. Officials said they had no idea how the 10- to 12-foot-tall block of metal got there. "That's been about the strangest thing that I've come across out there in all my years of flying," helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings told KSL TV. The Utah Department of Public Safety noted that it is illegal to install any kind of structure or artwork on federally managed lands, "no matter what planet you're from." The department posted a photo on Instagram, saying the object was found "in the middle of nowhere, buried deep in the rock. Inquiring minds want to know, what the heck is it? Anyone?" [NPR]


Beyoncé tops 2021 Grammy nominations

Beyoncé led the 2021 Grammy nominations announced Tuesday, adding nine to give her a career total of 79. The latest nominations included one for the film Black is King, and another for the music video for the song "Brown Skin Girl," and three for her guest appearance on Megan Thee Stallion's No. 1 hit "Savage." Beyoncé, who has won 24 Grammys, now trails her husband, Jay-Z, and Quincy Jones by one nomination. Jay-Z added three nominations to his total this year for co-writing two of Beyoncé's songs, "Black Parade" and "Savage," which are up for song of the year, best R&B song, and best rap song. Jay-Z has won 22 Grammys. Beyoncé's domination was particularly notable this year because she didn't release a new album. Taylor Swift, Roddy Ricch, and Dua Lipa picked up six nominations each. [The Associated Press]