10 things you need to know today: December 7, 2020

Biden reportedly picks California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead HHS, Giuliani is hospitalized with COVID-19, and more 

Giuliani in Michigan
(Image credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

1. Biden picks California attorney general as HHS secretary

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his secretary of health and human services. If confirmed, Becerra would be the first Latino to run the department. Becerra, a former congressman, reportedly had been considered a likely candidate to be Biden's attorney general. In California, he has led 20 states and the District of Columbia in the fight to defend the Affordable Care Act against Republican efforts to dismantle it. As HHS secretary, Becerra would face the challenge of leading the department as the coronavirus pandemic rages and takes a disproportionately heavy toll on people of color.

The New York Times

2. Rudy Giuliani reportedly hospitalized with COVID-19

President Trump tweeted Sunday that his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Giuliani, 76, has been leading the legal team trying to reverse President-elect Joe Biden's election victory in key battleground states. Trump did not say what symptoms Giuliani had, but The New York Times reported that he was being treated at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The Arizona legislature announced it will close for a week "out of an abundance of caution" because Giuliani recently hosted a meeting, maskless, with a dozen current and future Republican state lawmakers, some of whom attended an orientation for new lawmakers from both parties later in the week. State Sen. Martín Quezada (D) called the potential exposure chain "the epitome of COVID-19 irresponsibility."

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The Guardian The Arizona Republic

3. Loeffler, Warnock meet in high-stakes Georgia debate

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and the Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) clashed Sunday in what could be their only one-on-one debate before Georgia's two January runoff elections, which will determine control of the Senate. Loeffler called Warnock a "radical" liberal a dozen times, and refused to say whether President Trump had lost the November election. Warnock said Loeffler, possibly the wealthiest member of Congress, had "purchased" her seat, and used it to profit from the coronavirus pandemic. Democrat Jon Ossoff appeared next to an empty podium in his Atlanta Press Club debate. Sen. David Perdue (R) declined to participate. Ossoff said Perdue's absence showed he felt "entitled" to keep his seat. By staying away, Perdue avoided questions about his stock trades early in the pandemic.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

4. California imposes stay-at-home restrictions affecting 33 million

California imposed a stay-at-home order at 11:59 p.m. Sunday as capacity at hospital intensive-care units fell to dangerously low levels due to surging coronavirus cases. The lockdown affected about 33 million Californians, or about 84 percent of the state's population. The restrictions cover parts of Southern California. Five Bay Area counties also will be affected in the coming days even though their hospital availability has not yet fallen low enough to trigger the state-mandated order. In the affected areas, restaurants are required to halt in-person dining and switch to all takeout and delivery. Gatherings of people from different households are banned, except for outdoor church services and political demonstrations. Stores can remain open at 20 percent capacity, but personal services such as nail salons and museums must close.

Los Angeles Times

5. U.K., EU in last-ditch talks on post-Brexit deal

The United Kingdom and the European Union started a final push for a post-Brexit deal on Sunday, but leading officials said significant "sticking points" remain. European Union sources told the BBC on Sunday that the two sides were getting closer to a deal on fishing, but a British government source said there had been "no breakthrough" on that front. European fishing communities that rely heavily on access to U.K. waters would suffer in a no-deal scenario. If the U.K. and the EU don't ratify a deal by the end of the year, both sides will be hit with border checks and taxes for goods they exchange. Ireland's foreign minister said it's "in everybody's interest" to hammer out an agreement.

BBC News

6. Georgia leaders reject Trump call to reverse election outcome

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) on Sunday pushed back against President Trump's call for a special legislative session to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the state, saying it would amount to "nullifying the will of the people." According to news reports that emerged on Saturday, Trump called Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and asked him to call a special legislative session to toss out the state's election and shift Georgia's 16 electoral votes from Biden to Trump. Kemp reportedly declined. Leading Republicans in Georgia have expressed concerns that Trump's attempts to delegitimize the election outcome could depress GOP turnout in the two Georgia Senate runoffs in January that will determine which party controls the Senate.

The Hill NPR

7. Maduro declares victory in opposition-boycotted Venezuelan elections

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro declared victory on Monday after his allies swept congressional elections boycotted by the opposition and considered fraudulent by international critics. "We have recovered the National Assembly with the majority vote of the Venezuelan people," Maduro said in a televised address. "It's a great victory without a doubt for democracy." Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela and its allies won 67 percent of the National Assembly's seats in the Sunday election, the leader of the National Electoral Council said. The opposition called a boycott after the South American nation's Supreme Court ruling appointing a new election commission that included three members sanctioned by the U.S., without the legally required participation of the opposition-controlled Congress.

The Associated Press

8. Romanian prime minister claims election victory

Romania's prime minister, Ludovic Orban, claimed victory in his country's Sunday elections, even though one exit poll suggested that his ruling Liberal (PNL) party had lost narrowly. Another exit poll showed his party ahead of the rival leftist PSD party 32 percent to 28 percent. "The PNL thinks it is the winner of this election," Orban told supporters in a quick speech. "We will seek to represent an array of interests." President Klaus Iohannis is expected to nominate Orban, a reform-minded fiscal conservative, to form a coalition government even if his party finishes narrowly behind the PSD. Orban campaigned on a promise to steer Romania into a closer relationship with the European mainstream. His reform efforts were largely blocked by a parliament controlled by the PSD in his one year in power.


9. Studies show students falling behind in remote classes

Several new studies confirm experts' fears that millions of students have fallen behind since the shift to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. A study being released this week by McKinsey & Co. estimates that the suspension of in-person classes in the spring set white students back by one to three months, while students of color fell three to five months behind. The report said the losses are only expected to escalate through the current school year. Data released by numerous school districts show a sharp increase in the number of students getting failing grades this fall. Also, applications for federal student aid and college Common Application submissions were down by 16 percent this fall.

The Washington Post

10. Birx warns states, cities ignoring effective coronavirus mitigation tools

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, warned on Sunday that some governors and local officials were ignoring coronavirus mitigation efforts that are proven to work, putting residents in danger. "Across the Sunbelt, we have governors and mayors who have cases equivalent to what they had in the summertime, yet aren't putting in the same policies and mitigations that they put in the summer that they know changed the course of this pandemic," Birx said on NBC's Meet the Press. Birx also expressed alarm that she had heard people "parroting back" misinformation about the effectiveness of masks even as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surged to record levels. The U.S. coronavirus death toll stood at more than 282,000 early Monday.

CNBC Politico

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