October 9, 2019

A new study put 20 of the world's biggest fossil fuels in the spotlight, The Guardian reports. Unsurprisingly, it's not for a very flattering reason.

The analysis by Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute reveals that the 20 companies have contributed to 35 percent of all energy-related carbon emissions since 1965. Among the firms are Chevron, ExxonMobil, and BP, which contributed the second, fourth, and sixth most tonnage of carbon dioxide, respectively. Meanwhile, 12 of the 20 companies are state-owned entities, including Saudi Aramco, Russia's Gazprom, and the National Iranian Oil Company. Aramco leads the pack by a good amount — alone it accounts for more than 4 percent of emissions.

The Guardian reached out to the companies, and several of them replied. Most of them reportedly said they accepted the science of climate change and that they were attempting support the 2016 Paris Agreement, while still dodging around their past roles in creating the current climate crisis.

"These companies and their products are substantially responsible for the climate emergency, have collectively delayed national and global action, and can no longer hide behind the smokescreen that consumers are the responsible parties," Heede wrote. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

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

4:46 a.m.

"A chicken in every pot and a vaccine by Election Day!" That's how Politico paraphrases President Trump's election pitch, plus a chicken. Trump keeps promising a pre-election COVID-19 vaccine, "even though his own top health officials, including the former drug company executive leading his Operation Warp Speed vaccine initiative, have said again and again they are highly dubious of his rosy timeline," Politico notes. The public has noticed, and their faith in the safety of a vaccine has dropped accordingly.

The top vaccine developers have responded the apparent politicization of the COVID-19 inoculation by releasing their typically private blueprints to their vaccine safety and approval process, and the Food and Drug Administration is reportedly preparing to issue stricter guidelines for emergency approval of a vaccine. Trump was asked about the FDA's plans on Wednesday, and he did not seem pleased. "That has to be approved by the White House," he said. "We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move. ... I think that was a political move more than anything else."

Still, "if Trump thinks an October vaccine is the key to his election, he may be the one who gets a surprise," Politico reports, citing a new poll conducted with the Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health. It turns out, "getting a vaccine before Election Day would have virtually no effect on how likely voters cast their ballots," Politico says. "That's what 84 percent of voters favoring Trump say, along with 89 percent of those supporting Joe Biden." Roughly equal numbers say a pre-election vaccine would make them more likely (7 percent) and less likely (6 percent) to vote for Trump.

The Politico/Harvard poll surveyed 1,459 likely voters via phone from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6, and its margin of error is ± 3 percentage points. Peter Weber

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