July 13, 2020

Polish President Andrzej Duda, a social conservative aligned with the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, appears to have narrowly beat center-left Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in Sunday's election, Poland's National Electoral Commission said Monday. The head of the commission said the final results won't be announced until later, but that with more than 99 percent of votes tallied, Duda had a likely insurmountable 500,000-vote lead. The near-complete results, showing Duda beating Trzaskowski 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent, makes it the closest election in Poland since it shed communism in 1989.

The election was originally scheduled to take place in May, when Duda and the PiS were more popular. But despite Duda pushing to hold the vote on schedule, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he had to back down when a junior coalition partner sided with the opposition. Turnout was a near-record 68.12 percent, the electoral commission said.

The government, state media, and Poland's powerful Catholic Church backed Duda, a social conservative, in a divisive election where the incumbent called LGBT rights an "ideology" worse than communism and tapped anti-Semitic slurs to suggest Trzaskowski would sell Poland out to Jewish interests. The PiS is expected to continue its takeover of the judicial system, putting it in increasing conflict with the European Union.

But Duda also won domestic support for generous social welfare payments, including monthly cash bonuses of $125 per child to all families and more general retirement benefits. Trzaskowski had pledged to keep the popular welfare programs while restoring Poland's democratic values. "Duda's victory shows there is a strong electorate for social conservatism and generous state handouts," writes BBC Warsaw correspondent Adam Easton. "But the closeness of the vote also suggests that many in Poland are uneasy about the government's attempts to introduce a more illiberal democracy." Peter Weber

9:27 p.m.

President Trump on Monday evening expressed his displeasure with Nevada state lawmakers voting to automatically send mail-in ballots to all voters, telling reporters he will sue to block the bill.

The legislation was approved on Sunday, and Gov. Stephen Sisolak (D) signed the measure into law on Monday evening. Trump, who in April said mail-in voting "doesn't work out well for Republicans," claimed on Twitter Monday morning that the lawmakers conducted an "illegal late night coup" and the "Post Office could never handle the Traffic of Mail-In Votes without preparation. Using Covid to steal the state. See you in Court!"

During a press conference later in the day, Trump repeated his assertion that the U.S. Post Office does not have the infrastructure necessary to handle an influx of mail-in ballots, and said he plans on having the lawsuit blocking Nevada filed on Tuesday. Trump was asked whether he would issue an executive order on mail-in voting, and responded, "I have the right to do it. We haven't gotten there yet. We'll see what happens."

Several state election officials have said they will expand mail-in voting to keep voters safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Experts say voter fraud is rare, especially when there are proper safety measures in place, and a study released earlier this year found that universal vote-by-mail does not benefit any political party. Catherine Garcia

8:29 p.m.

The Apple fire in Riverside County, California, which has burned more than 26,400 acres and is only five percent contained, was ignited by a malfunctioning diesel vehicle, fire officials announced on Monday.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement that on Friday evening, the vehicle released burning carbon from its exhaust system, which sparked the fire in Cherry Valley, an unincorporated town about 75 miles east of Los Angeles. Anyone with any information on the vehicle is asked to contact authorities.

The blaze has spread across hillsides and up the side of Mount San Gorgonio, destroying one home and two outbuildings. Nearly 8,000 people have been evacuated, and so far, no injuries have been reported. There are more than 2,300 firefighters on the scene.

"Much of the fire activity is being driven by the record-low moisture content of the vegetation in the area combined with high temperatures and low relative humidity," fire officials said on Monday afternoon. "These conditions are contributing to active fire behavior both day and night." Catherine Garcia

7:41 p.m.

On Monday, Israeli jets struck several Syrian military targets, including intelligence-collection systems, observation posts, antiaircraft artillery facilities, and command and control centers, the Israeli army announced in a statement.

The army said this was in response to the Israeli military foiling an attack early Sunday, after troops spotted four suspected militants from Syria attempting to drop explosive devices along a security fence in the Golan Heights region; they were fired on by Israeli troops and aircraft and killed.

"The Israel Defense Forces holds the Syrian government responsible for all activities originating from Syrian soil, and will continue operating with determination against any violation of Israeli sovereignty," the army stated.

Last week, Israel said Hezbollah militants attempted to cross into its territory from Lebanon, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the group's sponsor, Iran, is trying to cause chaos by "entrenching its military in our region." Hezbollah denied being part of the operation. Catherine Garcia

6:41 p.m.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday he is hopeful that the six coronavirus vaccine candidates now in their third phase of clinical trials will be effective, but warned that there is "no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be."

Until there is an approved vaccine, the world must follow "the basics" of disease control, he said, which involves testing, isolating, tracing, and quarantining, as well as social distancing, regular hand washing, and wearing masks. "The message to people and governments is clear: Do it all," Tedros added.

On Jan. 30, the WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, and at the time "there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside of China," Tedros said. Today, worldwide there are 18.1 million COVID-19 cases, with more than 690,000 people dying of the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker. Catherine Garcia

5:43 p.m.

A Department of Homeland Security intelligence report leaked to The Nation has some experts skeptical of the department's motives.

The report targeted several left-wing American activists whom the department would normally be prohibited from gathering intelligence on unless they had reason to believe the individuals were operating on behalf of a foreign power. The people named in the report, many of whom have identified with far-left causes, do have connections abroad — they traveled to Syria in the past and fought against ISIS alongside Kurdish factions like the YPG, PKK, and the Peshmerga.

The U.S., of course, considers ISIS an enemy, as well, so it may seem surprising that the U.S. government would focus on people who volunteered to fight against the terrorist group, but critics argue the Syria connection could be a front to root out potential antifa members. (Some of the individuals denied membership in antifa, which does not necessarily operate in any organized capacity to begin with.)

The report eventually appears to conclude there is no evidence of a "centralized effort to give marching orders to returning antifa-affiliated" U.S. residents, but either way, the briefing didn't sit well with everyone. "They targeted Americans like they're Al-Qaeda," a former intelligence officer in the department with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. "They were essentially violating people's rights like this was the 60s." Read more at The Nation. Tim O'Donnell

4:31 p.m.

The Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins received some encouraging coronavirus-related news Sunday and are likely return to the field soon, but things aren't going as well for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals have had 13 members of their clubhouse — seven players and six staff members — test positive for the coronavirus. The team had its its weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers postponed, and will no longer travel to Detroit for the next slate of games against the Tigers. That makes them, along with the Marlins, who have had 18 players test positive, and the Phillies, who paused play out of caution but do not appear to have an outbreak, the third team to miss at least a week of baseball games during the young season.

Despite the possibility of cancellation, MLB still isn't planning to pause the season overall, and teams like the Cardinals, Phillies, and Marlins, will seemingly do what they can to make up as many games as possible, even if they don't play a full 60-game season.

While the baseball situation is bleak for St. Louis, the players and staff are — more importantly — in good condition, exhibiting either "light" or no symptoms, general manager John Mozeliak said. Tim O'Donnell

3:53 p.m.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's recent court filing suggests President Trump and his company, The Trump Organization, may be under investigation for possible bank and insurance fraud, The New York Times reports.

The filing was made in response to a lawsuit by Trump's attorneys who have argued prosecutors were acting in "bad faith" by issuing a "wildly overbroad" subpoena seeking Trump's personal and corporate tax returns. Vance didn't disclose anything specific about what compelled him to go after the records, but the filing argued the subpoena wasn't too broad, since that notion is based on the "false premise" that the probe is limited to "hush-money" payments made by the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in 2016.

Instead, the filing claimed "there were public allegations of possible criminal activity" at the company "dating back over a decade" and, therefore, a legal basis for the subpoena exists. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads