September 29, 2016

There is little doubt in the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind the Democratic National Committee hacks, although Russia has denied such allegations. Republican nominee Donald Trump has also dismissed any certainty that Russia was trying to toggle with the U.S. election: "I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC," he said at the presidential debate Monday. "[Clinton is] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don't — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?"

It is a curious deflection, especially since Trump might know even more about the hack than he is letting on:

[The] U.S. intelligence community has "high confidence" that Russian intelligence services were in fact responsible, multiple intelligence and national security officials tell Time. Trump was informed of that assessment during a recent classified intelligence briefing, a U.S. official familiar with the matter tells Time. "I do not comment on information I receive in intelligence briefings, however, nobody knows with definitive certainty that this was in fact Russia," Trump told Time in a statement. "It may be, but it may also be China, another country or individual." [Time]

President Barack Obama, for his part, has not been shy about sharing that he believes Russia is behind the cyberattack. "Experts have attributed this to the Russians," he said without any uncertainty or disclaimers in July.

Read more about the hack, and the shady group, Fancy Bear, that seems to be tied up in it, at Time. Jeva Lange

4:02 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden mixed messages of caution and hope in a pre-Thanksgiving, presidential-style address Wednesday.

He urged Americans to hold out for a while longer as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen in the United States, telling them not to "surrender to the fatigue" and "remember we are at war with the virus, not one another." But he also pointed to a light at the end of the tunnel, noting that substantial progress has made been made in vaccine development. "There's real hope, tangible hope," he said. "So hang on ... I know we can and we will beat this virus. America's not gonna lose this war. We'll get our lives back." Tim O'Donnell

3:32 p.m.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge, more Americans are reporting going hungry, a Washington Post analysis found.

In data collected by the Census Bureau between Oct. 28 and Nov. 9, around 12 percent of all American adults reported not having enough food to eat, a figure higher than at any other point since the pandemic began earlier this year. Indeed, experts believe it's likely hunger has reached levels not seen in the U.S. since 1998, per the Post.

The situation has hit several groups particularly hard — 16 percent of households with children have reported going hungry, including 25 percent of households with children where the adult is out of work. Black Americans, meanwhile, the Post notes, are experiencing hunger at nearly twice the rate of all American adults, and 2.5 times the rate of white Americans.

In terms of geography, the Houston area, which was posting some of its lowest hunger rates amid a strong economy before the pandemic took hold, has seen one of the worst hunger surges in the country, the Post reports. More than 20 percent of the 7 million adults in the metro area have reported going hungry, including 30 percent of adults with children in their households. The situation there has led to thousands of people lining up in their car for food drives in the city. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

1:32 p.m.

Illinois is experiencing a "dire" coronavirus situation that seems to mostly be flying under the national radar, says Youyang Gu, a data scientist who created a COVID-19 pandemic modeler.

As Gu points out, Illinois last week recorded more cases in a single day than Florida ever has, though Florida has been considered a hot spot throughout much of the pandemic. Illinois is the country's sixth-most populous state and testing has ramped up, but Florida still has much a higher population. Meanwhile, Illinois is the only state to average 12,000 cases per day over the course of a week — not even California or Texas have reached those numbers.

Gu notes it's tough to figure out exactly what's contributing to the surge in Illinois, since the state has been proactive with it's mitigation messages and efforts, which shows the challenges of managing and predicting the course of the pandemic. Tim O'Donnell

1:25 p.m.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has again tested positive for COVID-19.

The University of Alabama in a statement said Saban tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, and he has "very mild symptoms," ESPN reports.

"He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home," the statement said.

Saban had previously tested positive for the coronavirus in October, at the time saying he had no symptoms. But days later, he was cleared to coach because he subsequently tested negative for COVID-19 three times, meaning the original test was "considered a false positive." The University of Alabama said Wednesday, however, that "this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive," as Saban has symptoms in this case.

As a result of this positive test, Saban won't coach Saturday's game against Auburn, and "the head-coaching duties will fall to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian," ESPN reports.

Saban on a conference call with reporters after his diagnosis was disclosed said, "We hate it that this situation occurred, but as I said many times before, you've got to be able to deal with disruptions this year, and our players have been pretty mature about doing that," The New York Times reports. He added, "We just want to carry on the best we can." Brendan Morrow

12:46 p.m.

Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer legend, has died after suffering a heart attack, his agent confirmed Wednesday. He was 60.

Maradona is considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, known for leading Argentina's national team to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico. En route to the final, he scored a goal that has become known as the "Hand of God," in which he punched the ball into the net with his fist against England in the quarterfinals. While it likely would've been called off in today's game thanks to replay, the referees did not have a clear view and let the goal count, giving Argentina a 1-0 lead. Maradona later had another memorable goal that gave his side a 2-1 victory.

Outside of the national team, he enjoyed a fruitful professional career in Argentina, Italy, and Spain.

During Maradona's post-playing career, he struggled with health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. He also had an unsuccessful stint managing Argentina's national team, but remained beloved in his home country. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

11:31 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden will not receive pressure from his European counterparts to rush back into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Officials from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom told the Journal that their countries are still supportive of the deal, but they don't think it will be possible or even desirable to achieve a full return to the agreement before Iran's presidential elections in June. Like several analysts, they think it's better to wait and see how things unfold before giving up any leverage.

Diplomats in Europe reportedly believe Iran will elect a more hard-line president than the comparatively moderate incumbent, Hassan Rouhani. If Biden successfully hurries the U.S. back into the deal while Rouhani remains in office, it could lead to his successor quickly reversing it on Tehran's end, making it much more difficult to reach a broader agreement that would prompt Iran to reverse its expanded nuclear activities.

What Europe does seem to want is for the Biden administration to ease the tensions and sanctions that have defined President Trump's relationship with Iran and offer Tehran "some tangible economic benefits" before the vote, theoretically creating incentive for the next government to negotiate. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

10:54 a.m.

Make way for Penguin Random House & Simon & Schuster.

ViacomCBS is selling Simon & Schuster, the third largest book publisher in the United States, to Penguin Random House, the largest U.S. publisher, in a deal topping $2 billion, The New York Times reports.

Numerous other outlets also reported the news, including The Wall Street Journal, and ViacomCBS subsequently confirmed it, saying this was the "outcome of a highly competitive auction that attracted interest from buyers around the world," per Deadline.

Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle also said the company "empowers its 320 publishers around the world with maximum creative and entrepreneurial freedom and will, of course, extend this to our new colleagues at Simon & Schuster."

ViacomCBS announced in March that Simon & Schuster would be put up for sale, and the Times reports that more than a half dozen potential buyers were interested, including News Corp, owner of HarperCollins. But this deal "could trigger antitrust concerns," the Times notes, as according to the Journal, it "would create a publishing behemoth accounting for about a third of all books sold in the U.S." The deal, Deadline reports, is "expected to close in 2021, subject to regulatory approval." Brendan Morrow

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