May 1, 2019

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to almost a year in prison.

Assange on Wednesday received a 50-week prison sentence in the U.K. for skipping bail, NBC News reports. This sentence is separate from the conspiracy charge Assange faces in the United States. Instead, it relates to Assange fleeing to Ecuador's London embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden while he was facing sexual assault and rape charges.

This violated the conditions of his bail, which Assange's lawyers said he did because he was a "desperate man" who feared being extradited to the United States, Politico reports. Judge Deborah Taylor sentenced Assange to what comes close to the maximum of a year in prison.

The Ecuadorian government withdrew Assange's asylum in April, and he was arrested for failing to surrender to court. Meanwhile, Assange faces a charge in the United States of conspiring to hack a Pentagon computer network, and the U.S. is seeking his extradition. He has denied the charge and said he will fight the extradition. A hearing over this charge is scheduled for Thursday, CNN reports. Brendan Morrow

10:40 a.m.

United Airlines has announced plans to start offering COVID-19 tests to certain passengers, becoming the first U.S. airline to do so, CNN reports.

The airline on Thursday said that beginning on Oct. 15, passengers traveling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii will be able to take either a rapid COVID-19 test at the airport or a test that they can administer at home prior to the trip.

At the airport, United will offering Abbott's COVID-19 test that provides results in 15 minutes. For the mail-in test from Color, passengers will be able to return it through mail or a drop box and get the results back in between 24 and 48 hours. According to CBS News, the rapid testing at the airport "takes about 20 minutes from arrival to result and initially will cost $250," while the at-home testing "will be $80 plus shipping and go to a San Francisco lab for processing."

This program, United said, will help ensure that these passengers who test negative for COVID-19 will not be subject to Hawaii's 14-day quarantine requirements. As CNN notes, Hawaii says that those who "are tested no earlier than 72 hours before their flight arrives with an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test" can avoid the 14-day quarantine.

United Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist says the company will "look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year." Brendan Morrow

10:35 a.m.

President Trump will accept the results of the 2020 election, but only under select conditions.

In a press conference Wednesday, Trump raised concerns from both sides of the aisle as he refused to commit to a peaceful of power should he lose the election this fall. Trump suggested, without evidence, that ballot fraud would lead him to lose the election, and that it would likely be decided in the Supreme Court.

So in a Thursday appearance on Brian Kilmeade's Fox News Radio, the host asked Trump if he would accept a Joe Biden victory if it came from the Supreme Court. "That I would agree with," Trump responded. "But I think we have a long way before we get there. These ballots are a horror show."

But it's not as if Trump has no influence on the court he's relying on to make a 2020 decision. The Supreme Court already has a conservative majority, with two of Trump's own nominees already on the bench. And after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death last week, Trump ominously said Wednesday it was important to get a new nominee on the bench before Election Day. "I think this [the election] will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it's very important that we have nine justices," Trump said, alleging Democrats are running a "scam" that will end up "before the United States Supreme Court." Kathryn Krawczyk

9:30 a.m.

The number of new jobless claims for last week has come in worse than anticipated.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 870,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week, which was about 4,000 claims higher than the revised total from the week prior. The number was above the level that economists were expecting, as experts had forecast a decline to 850,000 claims, CNBC reports.

This was another week that the new jobless claims remained below one million, but months into the coronavirus crisis, they're still at a level that far surpasses the worst week of the Great Recession. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the record for most claims filed in a single week was 695,000 in 1982.

"That number is still above the previous height for jobless claims since before the COVID crisis started," Schmidt Futures labor economist Martha Gimbel told NBC News. "It is astonishing that we are getting used to a number every week higher than we have ever seen before." Brendan Morrow

8:29 a.m.

Helsinki Airport has started making use of dogs to detect COVID-19.

The airport in Finland is deploying trained sniffer dogs as part of a new trial after researchers said that in preliminary tests, dogs could "identify the virus with nearly 100 percent accuracy," including "days before before a patient developed symptoms," The Guardian reports. They can reportedly detect it in 10 seconds or less.

"It's very promising," University of Helsinki researcher Anna Hielm-Björkman, who is overseeing the trial, told The Guardian. "If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places."

The trial reportedly involves having passengers use a wipe to dab their necks, which one of the dogs then sniffs, and if it detects the coronavirus, the passenger can then take a polymerase chain reaction test. Participation in the trial is voluntary, The New York Times reports.

Hielm-Bjorkman told the Times that it's not entirely clear what the dogs are actually detecting, explaining that "we know how dogs detect it — by smell — but we have no clue what they detect yet." But she added, "If we find this out, we can train thousands of dogs across the world." Airport Director Ulla Lettijeff in a statement said "we are pleased" with the start of the trial, adding, "This might be an additional step forward on the way to beating COVID-19." Brendan Morrow

7:54 a.m.

Cat Stevens released his groundbreaking album Tea For the Tillerman 50 years ago, and to mark that anniversary he has recreated the album with some new lyrics and new instrumentation. Stevens, now using the name Yusuf Cat Stevens, played his new version of "Wild World" for Stephen Colbert on Wednesday's Late Show, and if the new version sounds similar to the old, wait until the end of the first chorus, at about the 1:30 mark.

The new album, Tea For the Tillerman 2, also has a new cover, Stevens explained to NPR's All Songs Considered, and a version of "Fathers and Sons" in which he sings with himself 50 years ago. "Essentially, the song lives in these two kinds of universes," he said. "There's the son and there's the father. And right now, you're going to hear me singing the whole song except for the son's part because the son is going to be me, which we've lifted off a recording from the Troubadour and back in 1970. So, you got me like 50 years ago singing with me today. Wow."

You can watch that version, with stop-motion animation by Chris Hopewell, below, and NPR has the new version of "Where Do The Children Play." Peter Weber

7:05 a.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is leading President Trump by more than 7 percentage points in national polling averages, but as Trump showed in 2016, winning the Electoral College is what gets you elected. Well, "Trump is on the defensive in three red states he carried in 2016," The New York Times reported Thursday morning, unveiling new Times/Sienna College polls of likely voters in Iowa, Georgia, and Texas.

Thanks to "a wall of opposition from women," the Times reports, Trump trails Biden by 3 points in Iowa, is tied with him in Georgia, and is ahead by 3 points in Texas, and the Democrats are competitive in those states' Senate races as well.

Biden is beating Trump among women by 14 points in Iowa, 10 points in Georgia, and 8 points in Texas. Trump leads among men in all three states, but Biden has "sharply narrowed" Trump's advantage among men "while improving on Hillary Clinton's 2016 lead with women in Texas and Iowa," the Times reports. And "the overwhelming majority of voters — about nine in every 10 in all three states — say they have definitely made up their minds about whom to vote for, leaving relatively little room for late developments to shift the overarching shape of the race."

The Times/Sienna poll was conducted via phone among likely voters Sept. 16-22 and its margin of sampling error is ± 4 percentage points for Texas and ± 5 points in Georgia and Iowa. The results are mostly better for Biden than in polling averages, where Trump leads by 0.9 points (FiveThirtyEight) or 1.2 points (RealClearPolitics) in Georgia, 0.4 points (FiveThirtyEight) or 1.4 points (RCP) in Iowa, and 1 point (FiveThirtyEigth) or 2.3 points (RCP) in Texas. Peter Weber

6:08 a.m.

The British government is on the verge of approving and funding the first clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in which healthy volunteers are deliberately infected with live coronavirus, the Financial Times reports. Such "challenge trials" are not new — they have been conducted since the 1790s — but they are more dangerous than double-blind placebo studies and therefore more rare. Still, 2,000 people have signed up to participate in the proposed trials in east London, FT reports, and Britain could green-light the research as soon as next week.

The volunteer subjects will be young, healthy, and deemed at low risk of being harmed by exposure to the new coronavirus. They will first be given a dose of the experimental vaccine and then later get a "challenge" dose of the coronavirus, to see if the vaccine works, FT reports. Imperial College London will reportedly be the academic lead on the trials. It's not clear which vaccines will bet tested at the proposed new London quarantine facility, but AstraZeneca and Sanofi both told Reuters they are not involved. Peter Weber

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