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Thursday, October 22, 2020
WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Three weeks after a debate spectacle defined by heckling and sharply personal attacks, Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will meet again on Thursday (Oct 22; Friday Singapore time) in the last major prime-time opportunity for Trump to try to change the trajectory of the race before Election Day. Republicans would like to see the president offer an affirmative vision for the country and draw policy contrasts with Biden in terms that resonate with the few undecided voters remaining. But Trump, with his history of indiscipline and invective, has struggled to define Biden this year - and he is running short on time. The debate comes 12 days before Election Day, as many Americans have already cast ballots, and as polls show the president trailing nationally and confronting close races even in states he won handily four years ago. Trump's advisers hope that he can get under Biden's skin on Thursday at the debate in Nashville, Tennessee, which will begin at 9pm ET (10am Friday in Singapore). But they have also urged the president not to interrupt Biden repeatedly, after a first contest in which Trump constantly hectored his rival - and
CHICAGO (REUTERS) - Six US states reported a record one-day increase in Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday (Oct 21) including Wisconsin, a hotly contested state in the Nov 3 election, according to a Reuters analysis, as infections kept rising across the Midwest and beyond. Coronavirus deaths hit daily records in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Kansas, Hawaii and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters analysis. Wisconsin also reported a record daily increase in new cases together with Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado and Ohio, the analysis showed. Sixty-six people succumbed to the coronavirus in Illinois, where Governor JB Pritzker imposed fresh restrictions in some counties this week, the state's highest single-day increase since mid-June. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 221,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work. President Donald Trump has eschewed social distancing policies at his rallies and White House events and shrugged off the need for masks. Polls show his handling of the pandemic has hurt his re-election prospects. On Wednesday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said 48 people had died from the virus as he announced that a week-old field hospital in the Milwaukee suburbs has admitted its first patient.
WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - High-level negotiations on a new coronavirus aid Bill faced a setback on Wednesday (Oct 21) when President Donald Trump accused them of being unwilling to craft an acceptable compromise, despite reports of some progress earlier in the day. Mr Trump, who has recently called for more stimulus as he trails in national opinion polls ahead of next month's elections, blasted House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a tweet after she pushed for a roughly US$2 trillion (S$2.71 trillion) proposal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It is unclear whether the negotiations would continue or go dormant until after the Nov 3 presidential and congressional elections. Mr Trump's tweet also comes amid deep opposition among Senate Republicans to a large new coronavirus stimulus Bill that would aid Americans and businesses impacted by the pandemic. Some conservatives worry that another big government expenditure could hurt their November election prospects by adding to rapidly rising budget deficits. Mr Trump on Twitter said he did not believe Democrats "will be willing to do what is right for our great American workers, or our wonderful USA itself, on Stimulus." Mr Trump's accusation came
WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The number of Covid-19 patients in US hospitals hit 40,000 for the first time since August on Wednesday (Oct 21), according to a Reuters tally, as the nation battles a surge in infections led by Midwest states. Hospitals have seen a 36 per cent rise in coronavirus patients over the past four weeks and Midwest hospitals are setting new records every day. So far in October, 16 states have reported their highest daily numbers of hospitalised Covid-19 since the pandemic started, including the Midwest states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Hospitalisations of virus-stricken patients have set records in every region except the North-east. Hospitalisations are a closely watched metric because they are not influenced by how much testing is done. In addition to hospitalistions reaching 40,264 on Wednesday, the seven-day average of new cases of Covid-19 have risen 45 per cent in the past four weeks and is also approaching levels last seen during the summer peak, according to a Reuters analysis. On Friday, the US recorded 69,478 new cases, the highest single-day total since July 24 and the fifth-highest single-day total since the start of
OAKLAND (NYTIMES) - When Sundar Pichai succeeded Larry Page as the head of Google's parent company in December, he was handed a bag of problems: Shareholders had sued the company, Alphabet, over big financial packages handed to executives accused of misconduct. An admired office culture was fraying. Most of all, antitrust regulators were circling. On Tuesday (Oct 20), the Justice Department accused Google of being "a monopoly gatekeeper of the internet," one that uses anticompetitive tactics to protect and strengthen its dominant hold over web search and search advertising. Google, which has generated vast profits through a recession, a pandemic and earlier investigations by government regulators on five continents, now faces the first truly existential crisis in its 22-year history. The company's founders, Page and Sergey Brin, have left the defence to the soft-spoken Pichai, who has worked his way up the ranks over 16 years with a reputation for being a conscientious caretaker rather than an impassioned entrepreneur. Pichai, a former product manager, may seem an unlikely candidate to lead his company's fight with the federal government. But if the tech industry's bumptious history with antitrust enforcement is any lesson, a caretaker who has
RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - A volunteer participating in clinical trials of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University has died in Brazil, officials announced on Wednesday (Oct 21), though media reports said he had received a placebo, not the test vaccine. It is the first death reported in the various coronavirus vaccine trials taking place worldwide. However, organisers of the study said an independent review had concluded there were no safety concerns and that testing of the vaccine, developed with pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, would continue. Media reports said the volunteer was a 28-year-old doctor working on the front lines of the pandemic who died of complications from Covid-19. Brazilian newspaper Globo and international news agency Bloomberg said he was in the control group and had received a placebo rather than the test vaccine, citing sources close to the trials. "Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial, and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue," Oxford said in a statement. AstraZeneca said medical confidentiality meant it could not give
WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States is likely to have enough safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines available to inoculate the most vulnerable Americans by the end of 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday (Oct 21). The US government is "cautiously optimistic" that one or two vaccines, likely from Pfizer or Moderna, will be available by the end of the year and can begin to be distributed to Americans, officials said during a news conference. Azar said he expects all seniors, healthcare workers, and first responders will be able to receive a vaccine as soon as January, with the rest of the American public able to get a vaccine by April. Companies participating in the US government's effort to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, have begun developing manufacturing capabilities even before any vaccinations have been authorised by regulators. In an open letter published last week, Pfizer said it is unlikely to have enough data to submit for a US regulatory authorisation until late November, after the US presidential election. The coronavirus outbreak has been worsening in recent weeks as cold weather pushes Americans indoors, raising the chance
BRUSSELS/LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain will resume talks with the European Union on Thursday (Oct 22), marking a new push by the two sides to protect billions of dollars worth of trade from the beginning of next year. Prime Minister Boris Johnson walked away from the negotiations late last week after British officials criticised conclusions from an EU summit which they said suggested only London should compromise to try to secure a new trade deal. With just 10 weeks until a status quo Brexit transition period is due to end, both sides have traded blame and called on each other to offer more concessions in the talks, which have been all but deadlocked since the summer. But while markets welcomed the resumption, it is unclear whether the two sides can bridge gaps on fair competition guarantees - especially state aid rules - and fisheries, a sector laden with symbolism for Brexit supporters in Britain. A spokeswoman for Johnson's Downing Street office said Britain's chief negotiator David Frost had spoken to EU counterpart Michel Barnier and welcomed his comments from earlier in the day. "On the basis of that conversation we are ready to welcome the EU
OTTAWA (REUTERS) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority Liberal government looked set to survive a confidence vote on Wednesday (Oct 21) after a key opposition party said it would block any chance of an early election. Legislators will vote later in the day on a motion from the Conservatives, Trudeau's main rivals, to set up a committee to probe whether Ottawa handed contracts to friends as it battled the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. Trudeau only won a minority of seats in the House of Commons in an election a year ago and needs the support of other legislators to survive. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats, said his party would ensure Parliament kept working to help Canadians harmed by the pandemic. "We will vote against an election," he told a news conference but did not specify whether his party would oppose the Conservative motion or abstain. Singh's commitment should mean Canadians will be spared a snap election as winter approaches and the country faces a worsening second wave of coronavirus. The creation of committees is usually a low-key affair, but Trudeau said the Conservative push showed the
MADRID (REUTERS) - Spain became the first Western European country to exceed 1 million coronavirus infections on Wednesday (Oct 21), doubling its tally in just six weeks despite a series of increasingly stringent measures to control the second wave. Health ministry data showed total cases had reached 1,005,295, rising by 16,973 from the previous day. The death toll increased by 156 to 34,366. After slowing to a trickle in the wake of Spain's strict March to June lockdown, the infection rate accelerated to frequently exceed 10,000 cases a day from late August, and hit a new peak of more than 16,000 last week. A hurried exit from confinement before tracing systems were in place let transmission get out of hand faster than in other countries, said Dr Rafael Bengoa, co-founder of Bilbao's Institute for Health and Strategy. He also blamed Spain's deeply entrenched political polarisation for the rise. "There's a lot of political noise but a shocking leadership vacuum," he said. As Spain's health ministry released the latest figures, most of its lawmakers were bitterly debating a motion of no confidence in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez launched by the far-right Vox party.
BERLIN (REUTERS) - German Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday (Oct 21) and placed himself in home quarantine, the Health Ministry said. It said Spahn, 40, was suffering from cold-like symptoms and that people he had been in contact with were being informed. Spahn had told Chancellor Angela Merkel of his diagnosis and she had wished him a swift recovery, a spokesman said. Spahn attended a Cabinet meeting earlier on Wednesday, but a government spokesman said other Cabinet ministers would not necessarily have to go into quarantine. Since the start of the pandemic, the Cabinet has moved its meetings to a large conference hall in Berlin's vast, post-modernist Federal Chancellery building so that ministers can be kept far apart. "The federal cabinet meets in compliance with hygiene and distance rules, which aim to ensure that even if a person who later tests corona-positive were to participate, quarantining of other or even all participants would not be necessary," the government spokesman said. While Germany's infection rates are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating and hit a daily record of 7,830 on Saturday,
WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - A man in Maryland has been arrested on charges that he threatened to kidnap and execute Mr Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, law enforcement officials said on Wednesday (Oct 21). A criminal complaint filed by the Secret Service on Wednesday did not describe any steps taken by the man, identified as James Dale Reed, to carry out the alleged threat. It said that on Oct 4, Reed approached a house in his hometown, Frederick, Maryland, north-west of Washington, that had Biden-Harris campaign signs in the yard and left a handwritten note that contained graphic threats against the candidates and their supporters. The resident's video doorbell had captured an image of the man who left the note, the complaint said. "We are the ones with these scary guns, we are the ones your children have nightmares about," the note read. Reed, 42, was arrested last Friday and is being held without bond in Frederick County, Maryland, according to court records. The complaint said that he was known to law enforcement for making a complaint against a person under Secret Service