November 15, 2018

FBI agents are investigating the death of a 52-year-old woman while aboard a Princess Cruises ship on its way to Aruba.

Early Tuesday, the woman, whose name has not been released, fell from an upper deck onto a lifeboat, authorities in Aruba said. A local news outlet said witnesses saw the woman fighting with another passenger before she plunged to her death.

The Caribbean cruise left Port Everglades, Florida, on Nov. 9, and was traveling from Curacao to Aruba when the woman died. Her husband was on the ship with her, HuffPost reports, and has not been named as a suspect. A spokeswoman for the Aruba Public Prosecutor's Office told USA Today it is "obvious that she fell, but why did she fall? Was she pushed? Did she jump? That is what we are investigating, to find out exactly what happened." Catherine Garcia

1:19 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is reportedly taking a cautious approach to states like Texas, but two new polls released Sunday will seemingly bolster the hopes of his supporters who want him to go all in.

A survey conducted by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found Biden to have a five-point lead over President Trump, with UT-Tyler political scientist Kenneth Bryant Jr. describing the jump as a result of Trump losing with independents and "weak partisans."

A CBS News poll conducted by YouGov indicated the loss of support likely has to do with how voters feel about Trump's coronavirus response. The CBS Poll isn't quite so high on Biden's chances in Texas — Trump holds a one-point advantage over his challenger — but it does show the former vice president is in the race there, as well as two other key Sun Belt states, Florida and Arizona.

All three states are struggling with coronavirus surges, and voters aren't happy about it. The results show 69 percent of Arizonans, 65 percent of Floridians, and 62 percent of Texans think efforts to contain the virus are going poorly. About six in 10 voters in all three states believe their economies opened too early. In Florida 68 percent think that was because of pressure from the Trump administration. The number is a little lower in Texas at 61 percent, but 70 percent of Arizonans think their government was under pressure from the White House.

The Dallas Morning News poll was conducted by between June 29 and July 7, sampling 898 registered Texas voters. The margin of error was 2.24 percent. CBS News and YouGov conducted three separate polls in Florida, Texas, and Arizona between July 7-10. The margin of error was 3.5, 3.3, and 3.8, respectively. Tim O'Donnell

12:47 p.m.

Florida keeps breaking records it never wanted to break.

On Sunday, the state reported more than 15,000 new coronavirus cases, shattering its previous record of 11,336 set on Thursday.

If Florida were a country only the United States, Brazil, and India would have recorded more new infections over that same span, Reuters reports. Per Reuters, no European country recorded a daily number that high during the height of the pandemic there, while Florida also broke New York state's previous record of 12,847 new cases on April 10 when it was the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.

One slight silver lining is that the positivity rate dropped slightly in Florida thanks to an increase in testing even though the number of positive results increased.

Florida and has faced scrutiny during the pandemic, with critics believing the state reopened parts of its economy too quickly. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

11:30 a.m.

The United States has been experiencing a major surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, primarily in the South and West, but deaths continued to fall nationwide despite the explosion. Scientists, however, had been warning that wouldn't last, as fatalities are a lagging factor in this pandemic.

Now, deaths are indeed increasing, although the rate is still well below the heights in April when New York City was in the middle of the worst of its battle with the virus, The Associated Press reports. Still, California, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and South Carolina have seen sizable rises in fatalities. (New Jersey has, as well, although AP notes this is at least partly attributable to its less frequent reporting on probable deaths.).

The rolling average for daily reported deaths in the country was up to 664 on July 10, an increase from 578 two weeks ago, a Johns Hopkins University tally shows, and the increase over the past few days is much sharper than the decline had been over the last few weeks. Tim O'Donnell

11:12 a.m.

The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department disagreed over how easy loan terms should be while crafting their $600 billion Main Street Lending Program meant to help support businesses through the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The differing viewpoints slowed the program's start before it opened this past week, current and former government officials told the Journal. While the disagreements were over narrow design issues, the Journal notes it reflects a broader difference in approach by the two agencies.

Ultimately, the Treasury Department has been more cautious about the lending terms, preferring the government take on less risk, while the Fed supports more generous terms for borrowers.

Some Fed officials have reportedly privately expressed frustration over the situation, but on the record both sides played it cool. "Would the program be exactly the way I would have designed it, or exactly the way someone else would have designed it? No, but we all need to work together, and we have worked together quite effectively," said Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin doesn't even consider the holdup the result of disagreements. Instead, he said the two sides simpyl got into "even more levels of complexity that required considerable thought." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

8:03 a.m.

Iranian investigators on Saturday released a report blaming a misaligned missile battery and miscommunication between soldiers and their commanders for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shooting down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger jet in January, killing 176 people. Iranian government and military authorities initially denied responsibility for the incident, but eventually admitted the IRGC's fatal error, sparking anti-government protests.

At the time, Iranian troops were on high alert for a U.S. response to an Iranian ballistic missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers at an Iraqi army base, a retaliatory act following a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The report found that while using a relocated surface-to-air missile battery that was not properly reoriented, the operator received erroneous information on the plane's trajectory, mistaking it for a missile, although "human error" received the ultimate blame — the report said the operator still should have been able to identify the aircraft "which was flying at a normal altitude and trajectory."

After the misidentification, those manning the missile battery were unable to communicate with their command center and fired twice without getting approval. "If each had not arisen, the aircraft would not have been targeted," the report said. Read more at The Associated Press and Middle East Eye. Tim O'Donnell

July 11, 2020

Several presidents, including George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, were criticized for pardoning political allies during their tenures in the Oval Office, The New York Times reports, but President Trump's critics think the commutation of Roger Stone's prison sentence stands out.

In 1992, Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger after Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel investigating the Iran-Contra affair, filed a new indictment against Weinberger that made public notes contradicting Bush's assertion he was not aware at the time of the arms-for-hostages aspect of the weapons deal. Clinton, meanwhile, stoked bipartisan furor when he pardoned financier Marc Rich in the final hours of his presidency in 2001. Rich fled the country to avoid charges of evading $48 million in taxes, but obtained his clemency after his ex-wife, Denise Rich, contributed money to Clinton's presidential library.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who served as a high-ranking Justice Department official during George W. Bush's presidency, said those pardons are parallels to Stone's commutation, but Goldsmith believes Trump's larger pattern of bailing out his friends and allies puts him in his own league. Goldsmith determined that, out of Trump's 36 pardons or commutations, the act advanced Trump's political goals or benefited someone to whom he had a personal connection 31 times. "This has happened before in a way," Goldsmith said. "But there has been nothing like Trump from a systematic perspective."

The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin is also troubled by that pattern, but even among those 36 cases, he thinks Stone's is the most concerning. As Toobin writes, even former President Richard Nixon, the modern era's commander-in-chief most synonymous with political corruption, understood granting clemency to someone who could potentially testify against him was "just too hot." Read more at The New York Times and The New Yorker. Tim O'Donnell

July 11, 2020

In Israel, public health officials mandated entire schools should close whenever a single student or staff member tests positive for the coronavirus, but another strategy adopted by Germany may be the model a lot of countries use going forward as they try to get students back in the classroom, The Washington Post reports.

Instead of shuttering schools because of an infection or trying to enforce social distancing in the classroom, Germany is employing "class bubbles." In other words, when a student tested positive, the entire class had to quarantine for two weeks, while the rest of the school went on with business as usual. England is planning on utilizing the strategy in September — elementary schools will be in bubbles of up to 30 students, and high school students will be grouped into a bubble of up to 240 peers.

Schools in the Canadian province of Quebec will take it a step even further when they start again in the fall; students will be in groups of up to six who don't have to social distance, while keeping one meter away from other bubbles and two meters from students.

Otto Helve, a pediatric infectious-disease expert from Finland, told the Post the strategy could work especially well in a place like the United States that still has a high infection rate and, subsequently, a higher chance of experiencing an outbreak at a school. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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