Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 28, 2020

Iran blames Israel for killing top nuclear scientist, U.S. surpasses 13 million coronavirus cases, and more


Iran blames Israel for killing top nuclear scientist

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist who U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials suspect was leading Iran's nuclear weapons program, was shot and killed Friday while traveling in a vehicle east of Tehran, Iranian state media said. He was apparently taken to the hospital for treatment, but doctors were unable to save him. Fakhrizadeh has long been a top target of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel, warning Tehran would respond "in due time." Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there will be "definitive punishment of the perpetrators," though he did not specify who that was. Protesters burned Israeli and American flags at a demonstration in Tehran on Saturday. Israel put its embassies around the world on high alert. Israeli officials have not commented on the incident, but U.S. officials said Israel was behind the attack; it's unclear how much the U.S. knew about in advance.


U.S. surpasses 13 million coronavirus cases

The United States surpassed 13 million confirmed coronavirus cases Friday, marking the fourth time the country has hit a million milestone this month, per NBC News. Overall the U.S. has recorded more than 3.8 million new cases in November, by far the highest of any month since the pandemic began. The total, which is on pace to hit 4 million before the calendar turns to December next week, is nearly double October's previous monthly high. The virus continues to surge without an epicenter, although NBC News notes Texas and Illinois, two of the country's most populous states, have been major drivers. Los Angeles County, meanwhile, announced a new, three-week stay-at-home order that will take effect Monday. The order bans gatherings outside of one's household, but it does not include a full shutdown of non-essential businesses, which can still operate at lower capacity.


Appeals court shoots down Trump election challenge

The Trump campaign suffered another legal defeat Friday when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied an attempt to challenge a lower court loss. The original lawsuit, based on unfounded claims of voter fraud, sought to stop or reverse the certification of Pennsylvania's vote; Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed off on the results earlier this week, sending the Keystone State's 20 electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden. Judge Stephanos Bibas, who was appointed by President Trump (the other two judges on the three-judge panel were also appointed by Republican presidents), wrote on behalf of the appellate court, stating that "charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here." After the ruling, Jenna Ellis, one of Trump's lawyers, said she and Rudy Giuliani would appeal to the Supreme Court.


United reportedly begins operating COVID-19 vaccine shipment flights

United Airlines on Friday began operating charter flights carrying the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech to expedite its distribution should it receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal reviewed a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration detailing United's plans to fly chartered flights between Brussels International Airport — Pfizer has a final-assembly center in Puurs, Belgium — and Chicago O'Hare International Airport, and the FAA said in a statement Friday it was supporting the "first mass air shipment of a vaccine." The agency will also allow United to carry 15,000 pounds of dry ice per flight, five times more than what is normally permitted, to ensure the low storage temperature required for Pfizer's vaccine are maintained throughout the flight.


Ethiopian forces reportedly begin offensive to capture Tigray capital

Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, told Reuters on Saturday that the Ethiopian military has begun its offensive to capture the Tigray region's capital city, Mekelle, which he said was under "heavy bombardment." Multiple diplomats confirmed the news with Reuters. Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said the federal forces would not target civilian areas and that "the safety of Ethiopians in Mekelle and Tigray region continues as priority for the federal government." It has been difficult for news organizations to verify claims from either side throughout the conflict this month since phone and internet links to Tigray have been down. Abiy's government gave the TPLF an ultimatum, which expired Wednesday, to lay down their arms, or troops would move to capture Tigray.


Trump's Wisconsin recount results in Biden net gain

President-elect Joe Biden picked up 257 votes in Wisconsin's Milwaukee County on Friday after the Trump campaign demanded a recount there. President Trump also picked up 125 votes, giving Biden a net gain of 132. Biden won Wisconsin by around 20,000 votes, which was close enough for the Trump campaign to call for recounts. The campaign also sought a recount in Dane County, another Democratic-leaning area of Wisconsin. That tally is expected to finish up Sunday. There's no word on how it's shaping up yet, but it's unlikely it will alter the results in a significant way. The Trump campaign's efforts, which are grounded in unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, cost $3 million. Trump's lawyers are still expected to mount legal challenges of the overall vote in Wisconsin, but the state is on track to certify its results Tuesday.


S&P 500, Nasdaq close at record highs

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite closed at record highs when Wall Street shuttered early Friday at the end of the holiday week, adding 0.2 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively. Both indexes had previously set high marks earlier in the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also shot up, but fell short of reaching the milestone it set earlier this week when it surpassed 30,000 for the first time ever. All three major benchmarks capped huge weeks, trading up 2 percent since the opening bell Monday. Indeed, global stocks were on pace to make November their most successful month on record Friday, The Financial Times notes. The gains — and falling volatility — are likely tied somewhat to optimism about President-elect Joe Biden's victory, but the major driver is encouraging news on the coronavirus vaccine development front.


Face-to-face Brexit negotiations resume

Chief European Union negotiator Michael Barnier and his staff resumed face-to-face negotiations with the British government Saturday in a final attempt to strike a Brexit deal before the United Kingdom's transition period with the EU ends on Dec. 31. Barnier said he would work through the weekend, and then "maybe one or two more days." The main sticking points are state aid, how to resolve any future disputes, and fishing — the two sides can't agree on the level of access that will be granted to European fishing fleets in U.K. waters. If the talks are unsuccessful, the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit will grow, potentially disrupting borders, financial markets, and supply chains.


French police officers in custody after video of beating surfaces

Four French police officers were suspended and are in custody after a video surfaced of them beating a Black man in Paris. A surveillance camera captured the officers push Michel Zecler through the doorway of his music studio before hitting him with their fists and a billy club, presumably because he wasn't wearing a mask. Other people in the building came to help Zecler, although the officers then threw a tear-gas canister through the window to force him to leave and arrested him and others. The officers, who initially were unaware of the footage, reportedly gave false statements saying Zecler had attacked them and tried to grab their guns. French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday called the incident "shameful" and said "France should never allow violence or brutality ... France should never let hate or racism prosper."


Vanderbilt's Fuller could become 1st woman to play in Power 5 football game

Sarah Fuller, a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt's women's soccer team, is suiting up for the Commodore football team Saturday. If she sees game action as a kicker during Vanderbilt's SEC showdown with Missouri, she will become the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game. Two women have played college football at the FBS level — Katie Hnida of New Mexico and April Goss of Kent State — but neither were on a team in the the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, or Pac-12. Vanderbilt's expected starting kicker opted out before the season, and several replacements are in quarantine this week because of COVID-19 testing, so Fuller got the call. She told Vanderbilt's website the historical aspect of the situation is "amazing and incredible," but "I'm also trying to separate that because I know this is a job I need to do."


Russian diplomat resigns over war in Ukraine
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21-year-old Russian soldier sentenced to life in prison for killing Ukrainian man
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Number of displaced persons worldwide tops 100 million, UN reports
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