April 13, 2020

A former staff assistant to Joe Biden, Tara Reade, has accused the former vice president of sexually assaulting her when she worked in his Senate office from December 1992 to August 1993. Biden's campaign says the allegation is false and a New York Times investigation found no corroboration outside of two friends Reade told in 1993 and 2008.

The Times spoke with both of Reade's friends, seven other women who accused Biden of inappropriate (but not sexual) touching last year, and several people who worked in Biden's office at the time, including two interns Reade supervised. The newspaper tried and failed to locate a complaint Reade said she had filed with the Senate. "No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade's allegation," reporters Lisa Lerer and Sydney Ember wrote. "The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden."

Reade says when she took Biden a gym bag one afternoon in 1993, he pushed her against the wall, kissed her neck, and reached under her skirt, penetrating her with his finger, stopping only when she reacted negatively. She says she told her brother and mother about the incident at the time; her mother is dead and her brother, who has publicly confirmed part of her account, did not speak with the Times. Biden "firmly believes that women have a right to be heard — and heard respectfully," deputy Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement. "Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen."

Biden's former Senate chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, and longtime executive assistant said they would have remembered if Reade had complained to them about Biden harassing her, as she said she did, and it would have been out of character. Melissa Lefko, a staff assistant for Biden in 1992 and 1993, said she had no memory of Reade but Biden's office was a "very supportive environment for women" and she had experienced no harassment herself. "When you work on the Hill, everyone knows who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and Biden was a good guy," she told the Times. Peter Weber

12:16 p.m.

President Trump claimed Sunday that he has had other world leaders call him to "say how messed up" the U.S. presidential election was.

The comment came during a phone interview with Fox News' Maria Baritromo, during which Trump — without much pushback from Bartiromo — continued to allege President-elect Joe Biden defeated him in the general election with the help of widespread voter fraud, despite there being no evidence of any.

It's unclear who Trump was referring to, if he has indeed received such calls. Most world leaders, including those whom Trump enjoys friendly relationships with like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, have publicly offered their congratulations to Biden.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have kept quiet on Biden's win, but there's no proof they've explicitly expressed sympathy for Trump by deriding the U.S. electoral process either. Regardless, the White House hasn't read out any calls with foreign leaders since October. Tim O'Donnell

11:19 a.m.

In his first one-on-one interview since the general election, President Trump told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo over the phone that he is "ashamed" he once endorsed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).

Trump, who throughout the interview repeated allegations of widespread voter fraud without evidence or much pushback from Bartiromo, complained about Georgia's electoral process in particular. The president became the first Republican presidential candidate to lose the state since 1992. He has already sought a mostly ineffective recount, but he's still fuming over his defeat, and he's taken out his on state officials, especially Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. But he let Kemp have it Sunday.

Trump said Kemp has "done absolutely nothing" to assist his efforts to flip the results and admitted "I'm ashamed that I endorsed him."

As several observers pointed out, Kemp has traditionally been a solid supporter of the president, highlighting how quickly Trump's relationships can turn. Tim O'Donnell

10:39 a.m.

Afghanistan officials reported a pair of separate fatal suicide bombings in the country Sunday.

At least 31 Afghan security force members were killed and 24 others wounded after an attacker reportedly drove a military humvee packed with explosives onto an army base outside the city of Ghazni on Sunday and detonated the bomb. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. Per Reuters, a spokesman for the Taliban did not confirm or deny the group's involvement.

Another suicide bomber targeted the convoy of Attajan Haqbayat, the council chief in the southern Zabul province, on Sunday, killing at least three people and wounding 21 others. Haqbayat survived the attack with minor injuries. No one has claimed responsibility for that incident, either; Reuters notes Haqbayat is an outspoken critic of the Taliban.

The Taliban and the Afghan government are seeking a solution to their decades-long conflict, as the United States prepares to withdraw more troops from the country, but violence has surged throughout the negotiation process. The Taliban and the Islamic State have both carried out in attacks in recent weeks. Read more at The Associated Press and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

10:23 a.m.

David Prowse, a British actor best known for portraying Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died after a short illness, his management company announced Saturday. He was 85.

Prowse was a former bodybuilder and weightlifting champion who had several roles in which he played monsters and villains before George Lucas invited him to audition for both Vader and Chewbacca. Prowse said he chose the former because "everyone remembers the villain," per The Guardian.

While he appeared in all three original trilogy films, it was actually James Earl Jones who provided the character's voice, and Lucas cast Sebastian Shaw for the role when Vader's helmet is finally removed at the end of Return of the Jedi. Prowse reportedly had a falling out with Lucas, who banned him from attending official Star Wars conventions.

Despite playing an iconic pop culture figure, Prowse said he was most proud of his role as the "Green Cross Code Man" in a British road safety campaign. Read more at The Guardian and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

7:53 a.m.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously to reject a Republican lawsuit, led by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), that argued the Keystone State's law permitting universal mail-in voting was unconstitutional.

The high court said the "petitioners advocated the extraordinary proposition that the court disenfranchise all 6.9 million Pennsylvanians who voted in the general election," but "failed to allege that even a single mail-in ballot was fraudulently cast or counted." The justices also criticized the petitioners for filing the lawsuit more than a year after the bill was passed by Pennsylvania's GOP legislature. "The want of due diligence demonstrated in this matter is unmistakable," the justices wrote.

The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice meaning the plaintiffs are barred from bringing another action on the same claim.

The decision was yet another blow for the Trump campaign and its allies seeking to overturn election results — there have now been 26 pro-Trump legal challenges tossed out in key swing states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia. Read more at NBC News and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

November 28, 2020

Sarah Fuller, a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt women's soccer team, suited up for the Commodore football team Saturday and became the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game when she took the third quarter kick off.

Two women have played college football at the FBS level — Katie Hnida of New Mexico and April Goss of Kent State — but neither were on a team in the the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, or Pac-12.

Per ESPN, Vanderbilt's expected starting kicker opted out before the season, and several replacements are in quarantine this week because of COVID-19 testing, so Fuller got the call. She told Vanderbilt's website the historical aspect of the situation is "amazing and incredible," but "I'm also trying to separate that because I know this is a job I need to do." Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

November 28, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Friday that the "federal government is now fully in control" of the Tigray region's capital, Mekelle, after a successful military offensive, Reuters reports. It's a crucial development in the weeks-old intra-country conflict.

Abiy said police are searching for leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, who have been fighting the government's forces throughout November, and aim to "bring them to the court of law." He added that military operations have ended and the government's focus is now "rebuilding the region and providing humanitarian assistance." There has been no comment from the TPLF.

Earlier in the day, a spokeswoman for Abiy said the military would not target civilian areas, while Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the TPLF, told Reuters that Mekelle was under "heavy bombardment."

It has been difficult for news organizations to verify claims from either side over the course of the conflict since phone and internet links to Tigray have been down. Read more at Reuters and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

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