May 12, 2014

Wait two weeks then blame the "girl" might have been a great PR strategy at some point in U.S. history, but it's probably not a good fit for the internet age. On Sunday night, CNN teased an interview with L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling in which he apologizes for his on-tape racist comments, but adds that he was "baited" into making them by girlfriend V. Stiviano.

"When I listen to that tape, I don't even know how I can say words like that," Sterling told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I don't know why the girl had me say those things." He did explain that it took him this long to talk publicly about his comments because he was "emotionally distraught" and didn't know how to "correct" the problem he'd caused. And he made the obligatory "I'm not a racist" speech (verbatim). Here's the meat of his apology:

I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I'm here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I've hurt.... Am I entitled to one mistake, am I after 35 years [with the NBA]?... It's a terrible mistake, and I'll never do it again. [CNN]

Sterling also said he's talked twice with Magic Johnson, the topic of one of his recorded rants; he tells Cooper that Magic is "great," but then adds: "Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don't think so.... I don't think he's a good example for the children of Los Angeles."

Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling, also met the press on Sunday, telling ABC News' Barbara Walters that she wants to keep a large stake in the Clippers, regardless of whether her husband has to sell. She also implied she's still married to him for the money. Here's what Shelly Sterling told Walters, with a laugh:

For the last 20 years, I've been seeing attorneys for a divorce.... In fact, I have here — I just filed — I was going to file the petition. I signed the petition for a divorce. And it came to almost being filed. And then, my financial advisor and my attorney said to me, "Not now."... Eventually, I'm going to. [ABC News]

So. Peter Weber

4:58 p.m.

United Airlines is trying out a plan to offer free COVID-19 tests to passengers heading abroad.

From Nov. 16 to Dec. 11, United will start offering rapid coronavirus tests to people boarding flights from the airline's Newark, New Jersey, hub to London's Heathrow airport. The Abbott ID Now rapid tests will be available for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday flights, and passengers will have to show up three hours early and schedule an appointment to be tested in United's lounge.

Passengers who refuse a test will be moved to other flights to "guarantee that essentially everyone on board just tested negative for COVID-19," a United spokesperson told CNN. Still, travelers arriving in the U.K. will have to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive, as COVID-19 cases are sharply rising both there and in the U.S. once again.

The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the airline industry, and without a government intervention, airlines are trying whatever they can get passengers back on board. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:25 p.m.

The U.K.'s Labour Party suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn after a watchdog found "serious failings" with how Corbyn dealt with anti-Semitism within the party.

Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission found political interference in complaints of anti-Semitism, failure to train people to handle complaints, and harassment, CNN reports. Current Labour Leader Keir Starmer accepted the report's consequences, saying "we have failed Jewish people," but "never again will we fail to tackle anti-Semitism and never again will we lose your trust."

In response to the allegations under his leadership, Corbyn condemned anti-Semitism, but contended the problem was "dramatically overstated for political reasons." Corbyn's "failure to retract" those comments led to his suspension, a Labour spokesperson said. Corbyn then promised to "strongly contest" the party's "political intervention to suspend me."

Corbyn was the Labour Party's leader until earlier this year, when he stepped down after British voters re-elected a Conservative government. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:32 p.m.

President Trump has received a dose of good polling news days ahead of the election — but it may not be enough to turn the tide.

In polls wrapping just a week before Election Day, Democratic nominee Joe Biden has posted no new gains in the swing states of Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, a Quinnipiac University survey out Thursday reveals. Meanwhile Trump's support has grown in Florida, Iowa, and Pennsylvania — and enough so in Florida and Iowa to be well in contention of winning.

In Florida, Biden has 46 percent to Trump's 42 percent, the poll of likely voters showed. That's a 6-point loss for Biden and a 2-point gain for Trump from Quinnipiac's poll earlier this month, in which Biden posted a massive 11-point lead. Biden also lost 4 points in Iowa as Trump gained 2, enough to give the incumbent a narrow 47-46 lead. Biden meanwhile maintains a solid 51-44 point lead in Pennsylvania and a 48-43 lead in Ohio, where Trump slid 4 points since earlier this month.

Analysts say a loss in Florida for Trump will likely cost him the whole election, but Biden has enough support in the Midwest to override a Florida slump. A CNN poll out late Wednesday — its last before election day — gives Biden a 12-point lead over Trump nationally, also a gain of 4 points for Trump from CNN's previous poll.

Quinnipiac surveyed between 1,186 to 1,324 likely voters from Oct. 23–27 in each of the states, with margins of error between 2.7 and 2.9 percentage points. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:11 p.m.

At least one swing state may be spared the political controversy of a late absentee ballot count seemingly changing its 2020 election results.

Every U.S. state is receiving a boatload more mail-in ballots than it usually does during a typical election year, and four of them — Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — won't even be able to open those ballots until Election Day. This almost guarantees a delayed result from those four states, but Wisconsin is confident it'll have everything set by the morning after the election, local election officials tell NBC News affiliate WTMJ Milwaukee.

Wisconsin's electoral votes will be critical in determining the winner of the 2020 election, as the previously Democratic state went for President Trump in 2016. County clerks all say they'll count ballots nonstop until they're finished, and expect results at 9:30 p.m. at the earliest. Waukesha County, the third most populous in the state, says its count will wrap around 3 a.m. And Milwaukee County, home to nearly a million people, expects to be done by 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) is preparing for a long haul, including pushback from Republicans. The state accepts all absentee ballots that were mailed before Election Day even if they arrive later, meaning a count to finalize the swing state's results could take days. Shapiro fears Republicans may use these late ballots "as a hook to challenge all mail-in ballots," and a court may then halt the count of all absentee ballots while the challenge is considered, he told The Washington Post. So to prepare, Pennsylvania officials will separate late-arriving ballots in hopes of avoiding a total counting shutdown.

Find when every state expects to count its absentee ballots at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:26 p.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top coronavirus expert, said Wednesday he believes the Trump administration needs to instate a nationwide mask mandate. "If we don't get one, then I would hope that the governors and the mayors do it locally, if it's not done nationally," Fauci told CNBC's Shepard Smith on his Wednesday evening show.

But Smith was confused by Fauci's "hope," asking if he was "still in the president's ear." "I haven't spoken to the president in quite a while about the situation with regard to the outbreak," Fauci said, again saying the U.S. needs, "mandate or not," to wear masks.

Fauci's recommendation comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations hit record highs in 13 states. The U.S. also recorded 80,662 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, close to a new high as well. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:27 a.m.

America just posted its biggest annualized and single-quarter GDP growth of all time. It isn't that impressive.

The U.S. GDP jumped at a 33.1 percent annualized rate in the third quarter, a growth of 7.4 percent from Q2, Commerce Department records released Thursday reveal. But as Gregory Daco, the chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, put it in a tweet, that growth is both "record-breaking and meaningless at the same time."

It's true that the 7.4 percent GDP rise from Q2 to Q3 is a record. But it also comes after a record contraction from Q1 to Q2, and a total loss of 10.3 percent throughout 2020, so it doesn't even come close to making up what was lost amid the pandemic. In fact, the 3.5 percent total GDP shrinkage during 2020 "means we are still down almost as much as we were during the height of the Great Recession," tweets Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton.

Economist Justin Wolfers meanwhile debunked the 33.1 percent growth rate the entire Trump family was touting Thursday morning. Looking at annualized growth reveals how much bigger the economy would be if it "grew at this rate for the next three quarters," Wolfers tweeted. "But there's no chance that will happen, so the annualized rate answers a question no one is asking." And if that wasn't convincing enough, Wolfers had another way of looking at it. Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn Krawczyk

10:03 a.m.

Unemployment claims are continuing to sink, but they're still far above even pre-pandemic records.

Around 751,000 Americans filed unemployment claims for the first time last week, Labor Department numbers released Thursday revealed. That's down 40,000 from the week before, marking a continuing slide in the final jobs report before the election.

Jobless claims hit an overwhelming record high in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have largely decreased since then. But their decline has slowed over the past few months as the pandemic continues — and starts to worsen again. Congress has also failed to agree on a COVID-19 relief package that could extend loans to businesses that would let them rehire workers, as well as boost the amount of benefits unemployed people receive.

Also growing in the past week are the number of people applying for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the first time. More than 360,000 people filed for PUA benefits, which Congress created to help gig workers, the self-employed, and others not eligible for typical unemployment. Meanwhile continued jobless claims decreased 709,000 to 7.8 million in the week. Kathryn Krawczyk

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