Sioux Falls Atheists
Sioux Falls Atheists and Atheism, Agnostics and Humanism

144 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for October 2020
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source


10-26-20 Covid: Trump's chief of staff admits US cannot control pandemic
A senior aide to President Donald Trump has conceded that the US is "not going to control the pandemic". Instead White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Covid-19 could only be defeated by "mitigation areas" like vaccines and therapeutics. His remarks come as coronavirus cases surge in the US, nine days before the presidential election. Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden said the White House was waving "the white flag of defeat". He added that Mr Meadows' comments showed that the Trump administration had "given up on their basic duty to protect the American people". In an interview with CNN, Mr Meadows said control of the virus was not a realistic goal because "it is a contagious virus just like the flu". About 225,000 Americans have died since the pandemic began, the highest figure of any country. The US recorded 83,718 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University, just short of the record 83,757 reported on Friday. Previously, the highest number of reported infections in a single day was 77,362 on 16 July. Mr Trump - who campaigned in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin on Saturday - is scheduled to appear at two rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, before making his way to Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska on Tuesday. Vice-President Mike Pence has continued campaigning despite being in close contact with Marc Short, his chief of staff, who has tested positive for Covid-19. Mr Pence and his wife both tested negative on Sunday, his office said. Media reports say Pence adviser Marty Obst and at least two other members of staff have also recently tested positive. The cases have raised fresh questions about the White House's Covid-19 protocol, three weeks after President Trump was admitted to hospital with the virus before making a recovery. Joe Biden, meanwhile, is expected to stay in his home state of Delaware on Monday. He is due to campaign in Georgia on Tuesday.

10-26-20 The Trump administration has surrendered to the pandemic
They're not even trying anymore. As America heads into the final week of the 2020 presidential election, it is baffling and frustrating that the Trump administration continues to do so little to meaningfully confront the coronavirus pandemic. It's baffling because the White House's bungling of the crisis might be President Trump's biggest obstacle to re-election. Appearing to take the virus seriously this late in the game might not win the president enough votes by next week, but it might help staunch the bleeding in the polls. And it's frustrating because — Trump's political future aside — the health and well-being of millions of Americans remains in the balance, threatened both by the virus and its social and economic effects. Yet on Sunday, Trump's chief of staff signaled to the world that this president has all but given up. "We are not going to control the pandemic," Mark Meadows said on CNN. "We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigation areas." And why isn't the U.S. going to try to control the pandemic? "Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu," Meadows said. The production of vaccines and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 is important, of course, but Meadows' comments sounded like a surrender. At the beginning of the crisis, back in the spring, Trump likened himself to a "wartime president." But Franklin Roosevelt didn't shrug at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Trump's pandemic failures are well-documented by now. Even at this late date, though, the administration's mistakes remain shockingly persistent and prominent. The last few days have been a microcosm of the president's shortcomings. The most obvious problem has been the White House's inability to take the coronavirus seriously. Over the weekend we learned that five members of Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, have contracted the virus. As with Trump's own illness a few weeks ago, these incidents threaten the good functioning of American government. Pence — despite being in close contact with Short — plans to maintain his busy schedule rather than isolate. Meanwhile Trump himself continues to hold large rallies in the final days of the campaign, even though coronavirus cases appear to surge in the cities he visits. And as The New York Times reports, "masks are not routinely worn" in the White House. Rather than try to limit the spread of the virus, the president and his advisers have focused on obscuring its devastating effects using a mix of lies, omissions, and misdirections. Meadows, for example, tried to keep secret the outbreak among Pence's associates. Trump repeats the false claim that the rise in cases — the United States is experiencing record daily numbers — is the result of increased testing, or profit-hungry doctors. He ignores the fact that hospitals in some states are increasingly overwhelmed by patients needing intensive treatment. And the president continues to assert "we have turned the corner" in the pandemic, even though that is clearly not the case. Meanwhile, Trump refuses to do the one thing that could make a tremendous difference but takes very little effort. He could unabashedly endorse — and model — mask wearing. A new study suggests that 130,000 lives could be saved this winter if 95 percent of Americans wore masks. Instead, the president continues to equivocate on the matter. (Webmaster's comment: Making America Great Again by Giving Up!)

10-26-20 Covid-19: US pulls plan to give early vaccine to Santa Claus
The US has cancelled plans to offer Santa Claus performers early access to a coronavirus vaccine in exchange for their help in promoting it publicly. Those who perform as Mrs Claus and elves would also have been eligible for the jabs. The festive collaboration was part of a $250m (£192m) government campaign to garner celebrity endorsements of vaccinations once they are approved. But health authorities confirmed the advertising campaign had been scrapped. Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, called the news "extremely disappointing." "This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won't happen," he told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has since confirmed the existence of the Santa plan to the New York Times. The idea was initially conceived by Michael Caputo, a former assistant secretary at the department. Mr Caputo announced last month that he would be going on leave, shortly after posting a video to Facebook where he accused government scientists of engaging in "sedition" against President Donald Trump. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr Caputo told Mr Erwin in August that a vaccine would be approved by mid-November and distributed to frontline workers by Thanksgiving, which falls on the last Thursday of November. "If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don't know what is," Mr Caputo can be heard saying in a phone call recording released by the Wall Street Journal. Mr Erwin responds: "Ho! Ho! Ho!" He also said on the call: "Since you would be doing Santa a serious favour, Santa would definitely reciprocate." An HHS spokesperson told the New York Times that Health Secretary Alex Azar "had no knowledge" of the now-cancelled plan.

10-26-20 Covid: Italy brings in sweeping new coronavirus measures
New measures to combat a surge in coronavirus cases have come into force in Italy with gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and theatres closed. Restaurants, bars and cafes must stop table service at 18:00 and offer only take-away until midnight. Contact sports are prohibited. However, shops and most businesses will remain open. The government has warned that the rise in cases was causing a huge strain on the country's health services. However, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that a full lockdown would be catastrophic for the economy. Italy was among the first European countries to be badly hit by the virus but a national lockdown in March flattened the curve. Since then, the number of daily cases has climbed steadily and Sunday saw a new record of more than 21,200 infections. The new restrictions, which are in force until 24 November, will also see 75% of classes at Italy's high schools and universities conducted online instead of in a classroom. Regional governments had asked for all classes to be conducted via distance learning, Italian media reported, but the move was opposed by Education Minister Lucia Azzolina. The government is also urging people not to travel outside their home towns or cities unless absolutely necessary and to avoid using public transport if possible. "We think that we will suffer a bit this month but by gritting our teeth with these restrictions, we'll be able to breathe again in December," Mr Conte told a news conference on Sunday. The latest restrictions have triggered demonstrations in cities including Naples, Turin and Rome.

10-26-20 Wilton Gregory: Pope Francis names first African-American cardinal
Pope Francis has said he will appoint 13 new Roman Catholic cardinals, among them the first African-American clergyman. The Pope announced the 13 cardinals from eight nations in a surprise address from his window overlooking St Peter's Square in Rome on Sunday. Wilton Daniel Gregory, the progressive 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington DC, will be one of them. The cardinals will be installed in a ceremony at the Vatican on 28 November. Cardinals are the most senior clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church below the pontiff. Their role includes electing the pope - the head of the Church - who is chosen from among them at a secret gathering known as a conclave. As four of the new intake are over the age of 80, they are not allowed to vote under Church rules. The nine nominees who will be eligible to vote come from Italy, Malta, Rwanda, the United States, the Philippines, Chile, Brunei and Mexico. Vatican experts say the appointment of new cardinals will cement Pope Francis's influence on the clergymen who will one day elect his successor. Assuming the new cardinals are appointed, Pope Francis will have selected almost 60% of prelates during his tenure, according to the National Catholic Reporter. An ordained priest since the age of 25, he became Washington's archbishop in May 2019. He replaced Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned amid criticism of his handling of abuse cases. In the US, Archbishop Gregory has been a prominent voice in the effort to root out abuse within the Church. As president of the US bishops' conference, he persuaded Church leaders to adopt tougher penalties for abusers in 2002. Archbishop Gregory has been critical of President Donald Trump over his use of rhetoric and visits to religious sites. The archbishop rebuked President Trump's visit to a shrine to St John Paul II in Washington, calling it "baffling and reprehensible". The visit came in June, a day after the president had ordered the dispersal of peaceful protesters near the White House.

10-25-20 US election 2020: Pence stays campaigning despite aide's Covid diagnosis
US Vice-President Mike Pence plans to maintain a busy election campaign schedule despite being exposed to a senior aide who has tested positive for Covid-19, his spokesman says. Donald Trump's running mate will not self-isolate, although he is a close contact of the VP chief of staff, Marc Short. Mr Pence and his wife both tested negative on Saturday, his office said. Covid-19 has become a key battleground ahead of the 3 November election. About 57 million ballots have already been cast in early voting, a record figure largely spurred by the pandemic. Mr Trump's Democratic challenger, former Vice-President Joe Biden, holds an average eight-point lead in national polls. But the race is much closer in several important swing states. Mr Pence - who leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force - and his wife, Karen, remained "in good health", his spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement. "While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice-president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines for essential personnel," he added. Those measures include regular monitoring for symptoms and mask-wearing. Mr Pence was seen wearing a mask as he returned to Washington DC following a day of campaigning in Florida on Saturday, and after the news of Mr Short's diagnosis was made public, AP news agency reports. Earlier this month, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris temporarily halted her campaign travel after two members of her staff tested positive. The campaign said it was a precautionary decision as the pair were not considered to be close contacts of the senator. Meanwhile, media reports say another Pence adviser, Marty Obst, also tested positive recently. The cases have raised questions about White House Covid-19 protocol, three weeks after President Trump was admitted to hospital with the virus before making a recovery.

10-25-20 Dr Fauci: Covid vaccine result could come by end of 2020
Dr Anthony Fauci says a Covid-19 vaccine could be available in the United States before the end of the year if proved to be "safe and effective". The US government scientist told the BBC's Andrew Marr that the limited first doses would go to people according to a set prioritisation – and that it would take "several months into 2021" before it was more widely available. He added that the vaccine wouldn't replace the need for public health measures to be in place to help protect people from the virus for a considerable time. (Webmaster's comment: This man equivocates more than any man I've ever known!)

10-25-20 Coronavirus: Spain imposes national night-time curfew to curb infections
Spain has declared a national state of emergency and imposed a night-time curfew in an effort to help control a new spike in Covid-19 infections. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the curfew, between the hours of 23:00 and 06:00, would come into force on Sunday. Under the emergency measures, local authorities can also ban travel between regions, he said. Mr Sánchez said he would ask parliament to approve an extension of the new rules from 15 days to six months. Spain was hit hard during the first wave of the pandemic earlier this year and imposed a much more restrictive lockdown - one of the toughest in the world. Like many other European regions, however, it has been hit by a second wave of infections. "The situation we are going through is extreme," Mr Sánchez said in a televised address on Sunday, adding: "It is the most serious in the last half century." Movement between districts will be determined by regional leaders and is likely to be dependent on work and medical needs. There is also a limit on public and private gatherings of different households to a maximum of six people. The new emergency measures, which more than half of Spain's 17 regions had been calling for, apply to all regions except the Canary Islands. The same level of emergency was introduced during the first wave of the pandemic in April. Spain has passed one million cases since the start of the pandemic and nearly 35,000 people have died. Meanwhile, Italy is shutting cinemas, swimming pools and gyms from Monday in a further attempt to curb the rapid rise in coronavirus infections there. Bars and restaurants will have to close by 18:00 but shops and the majority of businesses will remain operating. Italy's measures were agreed between Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and regional leaders. Mr Conte has said he does not want to repeat the national lockdown imposed during the first wave in March and April because of the economic damage caused. Under the new measures, the bulk of secondary school teaching will be conducted online instead of in the classroom. The Italian move comes amid demonstrations in Naples, and then Rome, against stricter coronavirus measures. Saturday saw a new daily record of cases in Italy of more than 19,600. The number of deaths was 151.

10-24-20 Coronavirus: US cases reach record high amid new wave of infections
US coronavirus cases have hit a record daily high as states grapple with a renewed wave of infections. Citing data from local state health authorities, the Covid Tracking Project reported 83,010 new cases on Friday. US Surgeon General Jerome Adams has warned that hospital admission numbers are growing, but mortality rates are falling due to better patient care. It comes as pharma giants AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson resume US vaccine trials after approval from regulators. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned that countries in the Northern Hemisphere are at a "critical juncture". "The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track," said director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking to reporters. According to the Covid Tracking Project, nearly 8.5 million cases of coronavirus have been reported in America since the pandemic began. The daily increase on Friday surpassed by more than 6,000 cases the tracking project's previous record of 76,842 on 17 July. Over the last week, the US has tallied 441,541 new infections - its largest seven-day increase since the end of July. The number of people who've died after contracting coronavirus has also steadily increased during the last six days, but is still significantly below the peak of over 2,000 daily deaths reported in April. Hospital admission numbers are rising, too. As of Friday, 41,485 people were being treated in hospital, according to Covid Tracking Project data. This was the highest figure since the end of August, but it was also lower than figures reported in April and July. Data for Friday has not yet been released by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But on Thursday the CDC reported 74,380 new cases, its third-highest number on record. America's Midwest continues to be the hardest-hit region of the country, with cases soaring in states like North Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin. In Ohio, a key battleground state for the upcoming presidential election, authorities recorded their worst daily case increase for a third day running. Others in the region, including Illinois and Indiana, also saw daily rises near or at record highs on Friday.

10-24-20 Virus to stay 'at least until next summer' - France's Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron says his country will be fighting the virus until at least the middle of next year as cases there surged past a million. On Friday France recorded more than 40,000 new cases and 298 deaths. Other nations including Russia, Poland, Italy and Switzerland also saw new highs. The World Health Organization said the spike in European cases was a critical moment in the fight against the virus. It called for quick action to prevent health services being overwhelmed. Daily infections in Europe have more than doubled in the past 10 days. The continent has now seen a total of 7.8m cases and about 247,000 deaths. "The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. Globally there have been more than 42m cases and 1.1m deaths. Scientists have warned that although progress is being made at unprecedented speed to create a vaccine, it would not return life to normal in spring. A vaccine could take up to a year to roll out, they have suggested. Speaking on a visit to a hospital in the Paris region, Mr Macron said scientists were telling him that they believed the virus would be present "at best until next summer", he said. But he said it was still too early to say whether France would go into a new full or partial lockdown. An overnight curfew in the country is being extended to about two-thirds of the country - 46 million people - from Friday night for six weeks. The curfew could be relaxed when new infections dropped back down to between 3,000 and 5,000 a day, Mr Macron said - a level of infection that was last seen at the end of August. Meanwhile the head of a Paris hospital group warned that the second wave of infections could be worse than the first. "There has been a perception in recent months that a second wave does not exist, or that it is a small wave. The situation is the opposite," Martin Hirsch, the head of the AP-HP hospital group, told local media.

10-24-20 George Floyd protests: 'Boogaloo' member held in precinct attack
A self-proclaimed member of a violent far-right anti-government group has been charged with rioting during the George Floyd protests in Minnesota. Federal prosecutors said Ivan Hunter, a 26-year-old from Texas, opened fire on a Minneapolis police precinct to escalate the unrest back in May. He was arrested in an FBI investigation into the Boogaloo Bois extremists. Other far-right groups have also been suspected of trying to foment violence at recent racial justice protests. The protests began after the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody. At times, the demonstrations turned violent. The US Attorney's Office in Minnesota has charged Mr Hunter with one count of travelling across state lines with the intent to participate in a riot. Prosecutors allege Mr Hunter had travelled from Boerne, Texas, in an effort to incite unrest with other members of the Boogaloo Bois group. Mr Hunter is accused of firing 13 rounds from an AK-47 style semiautomatic rifle into the police department on 28 May. He was filmed high-fiving others and shouting "Justice for Floyd", according to the criminal complaint announced on Friday. Officials also said another person involved in the incident told authorities Mr Hunter was the one who fired the shots. The police building was eventually set on fire by protesters. Prosecutors say when he returned to Texas, Mr Hunter referenced participating in violence in Minneapolis on social media, allegedly messaging someone saying that he "set fire to that precinct with the black community". He was stopped by police in Austin, Texas, on 3 June, as the vehicle he was in had traffic violations. He was one of three individuals in the vehicle, and he had loaded magazines for an assault rifle on his person, officers said. There were three semi-automatic rifles in the vehicle and two loaded pistols.

10-24-20 George Floyd death: A city pledged to abolish its police. Then what?
At the end of January Ade Alabi made a big investment. He bought a four-storey building with two ballrooms, three restaurants, a night club and a radio station, just down the road from Minneapolis's Third Precinct police headquarters. By the end of May it was gone, a heap of rubble and ashes, consumed by the inferno that destroyed the police station and many of the businesses around it. The image of the burning precinct, abandoned by police in the face of angry and violent protesters, signalled for him that something different was happening in Minneapolis. This was the station where the four policemen charged in the killing of George Floyd worked. The explosive reaction to his slow and gruesome death, his neck pinned to the ground by an officer's knee, created momentum to change the way not only the city, but the country, is policed. Nearly five months on, however, ambitious policy efforts to address police violence in Minneapolis have slammed into bureaucratic roadblocks and public opposition. In the charged atmosphere after the Floyd killing, city counsellor Alondra Cano says she "knew in my gut that we had to do something different… to send a message nationally that would rupture through the traditional approach", to police misconduct. Reform hadn't worked, she said. It was time now to transform. So in early June a majority of city council members took a step that shook Minneapolis and drew national and international attention. They pledged to dismantle a policing system long accused of racism, and build something new - "to end policing as we know it". They then proposed an amendment to the city's charter to put on the November ballot. It called for replacing the police department with a new entity of community safety and violence prevention. The proposal was short on detail but council members said there would be a public engagement process to fill in the blanks.

10-24-20 U.S. Catholics Have Backed Same-Sex Marriage Since 2011
Pope Francis recently said he supports legalizing civil unions for gay couples. Most U.S. Catholics believe same-sex unions should be legal -- only they go further than the pope and support marriage for same-sex couples. A majority of Catholics have consistently approved of gay marriage in Gallup polling since 2011, with an average 59% approving from 2011-2015, rising to an average 69% since 2016. U.S. Catholics' support for gay marriage has consistently exceeded the national average by five or more percentage points since the 2000s.

  • 69% of U.S. Catholics have supported gay marriage since 2016
  • U.S. Catholics' gay marriage support consistently above national average

10-23-20 Presidential debate: Trump and Biden row over Covid, climate and racism
US President Donald Trump and his White House challenger Joe Biden clashed over Covid and race while trading corruption charges, in their final live TV debate. On the pandemic, Mr Biden would not rule out more lockdowns, while Mr Trump insisted it was time to reopen the US. Mr Trump cited unsubstantiated claims Mr Biden personally profited from his son's business dealings. The Democrat brought up Mr Trump's opaque taxes. Mr Biden has a solid lead with 11 days to go until the presidential election. But winning the most votes does not always win the election, and the margin is narrower in a handful of states that could decide the race either way. More than 47 million people have already cast their ballots in a voting surge driven by the pandemic. This is already more than voted before polling day in the 2016 election. There are about 230 million eligible voters in total. In snap polls - from CNN, Data Progress and US Politics - most respondents said Mr Biden had won the debate by a margin of more than 50% to about 40%. Thursday night's primetime duel in Nashville, Tennessee, was a less acrimonious and more substantive affair than the pair's previous showdown on 29 September, which devolved into insults and name-calling. Following that political brawl, debate organisers this time muted microphones during the candidates' opening statements on each topic to minimise disruption. But the 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC's Kristen Welker, was the scene of plenty of personal attacks between the opponents, whose mutual dislike was palpable. In individual closing argument to voters, they offered starkly different visions for the nation on everything from shutting down the country to tackle coronavirus, to shutting down the fossil fuel industry to confront climate change.

10-23-20 Trump loses on the merits
His antics didn't overshadow his message, and his message is a bad one. The conventional wisdom heading into the final presidential debate was that all President Trump needed to do was remain calm and act like a passing human being to regain his footing in his now long-shot bid to retain control of the White House. He managed not to lose his cool every five seconds, but, unfortunately for him, he still lost the debate to former Vice President Joe Biden decisively. That's because the modern Republican Party's policy positions are politically disastrous and virtually indefensible, even when they're outlined semi-coherently. Trump entered Thursday's debate trailing Biden by nearly 10 points in the Five Thirty Eight polling average, and hasn't been within 8 points since before he was hospitalized with COVID-19 on October 3rd. If today's numbers hold for another week and a half, the president will go down to the worst defeat in American politics in 36 years and likely take the GOP's Senate majority with him. His performance in the first debate with Biden on September 29th was such a horror show of emotional incontinence, relentless sociopathy, and repellant hubris that it terrified the audience and triggered an unprecedented weeks-long decline in his polling numbers. The president could have stanched the bleeding a week ago by participating in the October 15th virtual forum arranged by the Commission on Presidential Debates to protect against the White House team's homicidal disregard for social distancing and masking practices in the fight against COVID-19. Instead, the president threw a messy tantrum, claiming a virtual debate was unworkable even though hundreds of millions of Americans have been doing their jobs over Zoom and Slack and Google Hangouts for half a year. Is there an adult alive today in this country who hasn't been forced to produce miracles on a video conference? Why does the president think he's too good for technology that has literally kept the whole economy from imploding? We'll never get a firm answer to that one. All we know is that for weeks before this showdown, Trump's advisers pleaded with him to act less like a logorrheic basket case in an ill-fitting skin suit and more like a human being with some kind of minimal understanding of decency. The big question asked in media circles was whether he could pull of this kind of sudden transformation. The prevailing consensus was: probably not. In a way, he defied those low expectations. He kept his yap latched during most of Biden's time and, most unexpectedly, didn't directly assail moderator Kristen Welker as an Enemy of the People or the proceedings as a Deep State Hoax. Unlike in the first debate, his antics didn't constantly overshadow his message. In the end, though, it turned out that Trump's message isn't actually much more appealing than his worst behavioral shenanigans. Given the opportunity to ramble at length without the obligation to incessantly interrupt Biden, Trump managed to repeatedly hang himself with his own words. His first mistake was to lean into his disastrous rhetoric about "Democrat" states, cities, and politicians. "His Democrat governors, Cuomo in New York, you look at what's going on in California, you look at Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Democrats, Democrats all," he ranted, just minutes into the debate. "They're shut down so tight and they're dying." He called New York City "a ghost town." This repulsive, brain-dead hyper-partisanship granted Biden an incredibly easy layup: "And I don't look at this in terms of the way he does, blue states and red states. They're all the United States."

10-23-20 Coronavirus: France puts 46 million under night curfew
The French government is imposing a curfew on two-thirds of the country - 46 million people - from Friday night for six weeks, after a record 41,622 new coronavirus infections in one day. The total infected in the epidemic has now passed one million. In Europe, only Spain and Russia have reached that. A week ago night curfews were introduced in Paris and eight other French cities. Now 38 more areas will have curfews from 21:00 to 06:00. Most of Europe has rising infections. Slovakia is to impose a partial lockdown for a week from Saturday, allowing only travel to work, shopping for essentials and school for younger children. New lockdowns have come into force in the Czech Republic and Republic of Ireland. There are also high infection rates in Belgium, Spain and Italy, putting many hospitals under severe pressure. Italy's Lazio and Campania regions begin night curfews on Friday, a day after one took effect in Lombardy in the north. The wider French curfew comes into effect at midnight (22:00 GMT) on Friday, then at 21:00 from Saturday onwards. It has drawn complaints from restaurant and bar owners, whose businesses are already suffering after the two-month lockdown in the spring. In several regions of France, more than half the intensive care beds are now occupied by Covid-19 patients. Over the past 24 hours France recorded 162 more deaths. A new French app called "#TousAntiCovid" has been launched, to replace the previous one "#StopCovid" that was downloaded by only 2.7 million people - far below the take-up of similar anti-Covid apps in the UK and Germany. #TousAntiCovid is a smartphone tracing tool with more local information than the previous app. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said "circulation of the virus has today reached a very high level" - 251 infections per 100,000 people in the past week. He said that was a 40% increase in one week and the reproduction (R) rate was around 1.35, "which basically means a doubling of the number of cases every two weeks". The R rate measures how many others each infected person is passing the virus on to.

10-22-20 Covid-19 news: England tracing system hits new low for contacts traced
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. NHS Test and Trace reaches lowest ever percentage of the contacts of virus cases. People from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups in England are at an increased risk of getting infected with the coronavirus and dying from covid-19, and part of this excess risk remains unexplained, according to a report released today by the UK government’s Race Disparity Unit. The report says “current evidence clearly shows that a range of socioeconomic and geographical factors such as occupational exposure, population density, household composition and pre-existing health conditions contribute to the higher infection and mortality rates for ethnic minority groups” but don’t account for all of the increased risk. In response, Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association council chair, called for “tangible action right now” to protect Black, Asian and minority ethnic people. “As we sit amid a second wave of infections, we know that about a third of those admitted to intensive care are not white – showing no change since the first peak,” said Nagpaul in a statement. “Meanwhile, Black and Asian people have been found twice as likely to be infected compared to white people.” The report suggested measures to help investigate the disparity in England, which the UK government has accepted, including making the recording of ethnicity on death certificates mandatory. In a trial of a potential coronavirus vaccine, a participant who reportedly did not receive the vaccine but instead got a placebo has died. The individual was taking part in a trial in Brazil of a vaccine candidate being developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford. In a statement, AstraZeneca said “all required review processes have been followed”, adding that “assessments have not led to any concerns about continuation of the ongoing study”. The phase 3 trial was paused in September after a participant in the UK became ill. Trials have since resumed in the UK, Brazil, South Africa and India, although they remain suspended in the US.

10-22-20 US Election 2020: Trump and Obama mock each other in rival rallies
US President Donald Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, have directed blistering attacks at each other during rival rallies. Campaigning for Democratic White House nominee Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, Mr Obama likened Mr Trump to a "crazy uncle" and said he emboldened racists. In North Carolina, the Republican president mocked Mr Obama for being wrong about the 2016 election outcome. With 13 days to go until this election, Mr Biden holds a solid lead nationally. But the margin is slimmer in the handful of US states that could go either way and ultimately decide the outcome on 3 November. Americans are voting early at a record pace this year, with 42 million having already cast ballots both by post and in person. Mr Trump trained most of his fire during his rally in Gastonia on Wednesday evening on his current Democratic challenger for the White House. He said the choice for voters was between a "Trump super-recovery" or a "Biden steep depression". Mr Biden has been off the campaign trail all week preparing for the final presidential debate on Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, while Mr Trump holds rallies across the battleground states. The president could not resist taking a pop at Mr Obama, who hit the campaign trail in person about an hour earlier for the first time since the August political conventions. "There was nobody that campaigned harder for crooked Hillary Clinton than Obama, right?" Mr Trump told supporters, who booed at the mention of his old adversaries' names. "He was all over the place." The president added: "I think the only one more unhappy than crooked Hillary that night was Barack Hussein Obama." Mr Trump also mocked Mr Obama's reported initial lack of enthusiasm for the White House bid of Mr Biden, who was his vice-president from 2009-2017. In 2016, Mr Obama reportedly pressured Mr Biden to sit out the race and allow Hillary Clinton to run, believing she had the better chance of defeating Mr Trump. Last year Mr Obama said there was a need for "new blood" in the Democratic leadership, which was widely interpreted as a slight against Mr Biden.

10-22-20 Biden: Supreme Court should not be 'political football'
Joe Biden has told CBS 60 Minutes that he will appoint commission to review the US court system. The former vice-president and current Democratic presidential candidate said that he would put together a bipartisan group of scholars to come up with recommendations. Mr Biden has come under pressure to explain whether he will engage in "court-packing" - adding more justices to the Supreme Court - after President Donald Trump nominated three conservatives during his term, tilting the balance in their favour.

10-21-20 Covid-19 news: Sheffield and Doncaster set for tier 3 restrictions
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. South Yorkshire becomes latest region of England to face strictest virus rules. Scotland is expected to move to a tiered system of coronavirus restrictions on 2 November. Restrictions on hospitality venues in Scotland were today extended for another week after bars and restaurants in Scotland’s central belt area were closed on 9 October. Venues in other parts of the country are not allowed to serve alcohol indoors. The UK as a whole recorded 26,688 new coronavirus cases today, a new daily record. New Zealand recorded 25 new coronavirus cases today, its biggest daily count since April. Two of the recent infections were locally acquired and the remainder were discovered at the New Zealand border, including 18 among Russian and Ukranian fishing crews who had arrived on a flight from Moscow. New Zealand has been widely praised for its aggressive response to the coronavirus, which is aimed at eliminating the virus from the country entirely. Lockdowns have been reintroduced in regions of Spain and Italy, and Ireland will today become the first European country to return to a full, national coronavirus lockdown. Ireland is currently recording 270.8 virus cases per 100,000 people, compared to 348.7 per 100,000 people in the UK, according to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

10-22-20 The double-edged sword of Pope Francis' same-sex union comments
Civil unions are not equality. In a new documentary that premiered in Rome this week, Pope Francis expressed his support for the creation of civil unions for same-sex couples. Such relationships, Francis said, should be "legally covered." "Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family," the pontiff declared. Immediately, Francis' words were hailed by many as a remarkable breakthrough for the world's largest religious organization. Understandably so. In the darkness that is 2020, the news that one of the world's most important religious figures has endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples will strike many as a rare bright moment in these very bleak times. While Francis' words seem to diverge from official church teaching that regards homosexual physical relations as "disordered" and forbids same-sex relationships, legal or otherwise, they are in keeping with his prior efforts and statements on behalf of LGBTQ persons. As the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis, then known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, worked behind the scenes to indicate his support for civil unions when Argentinian lawmakers were debating legalizing same-sex marriage in 2010. As Pope, Francis has been more outspoken, famously saying shortly after his installation, "who am I to judge" when it came to gay Catholics' relationship with God. Elsewhere, he has called LGBTQ young persons "children of God" and has signaled his support for priests who work on outreach to LGBTQ Catholics, something that has earned him harsh criticism from conservative Catholics. Yet the Pope's call for same-sex civil unions should not be seen as an unabashed sign of progress. Instead, the overall effect of Francis' words may be more harmful than helpful, doing more to embolden those who seek to rescind established LGBTQ rights than they do to empower those fighting for basic civil protections for LGBTQ folks, including marriage. No doubt, Pope Francis' statement might be very useful for changing attitudes, if not laws, in much of the world where same-sex marriage has not been legalized. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, only 28 of the world's nearly 200 countries permit same-sex marriage. In many of the countries where not only same-sex marriage remains illegal but much of homosexual life is criminalized, including most of Africa, the Catholic Church holds tremendous influence. Francis' position likely won't lead to the creation of civil unions in most of these countries — and his stance is sure to be resisted by church leaders throughout the world, including the United States — but they could help soften support for the broad array of draconian laws and customs that seriously harm LGBTQ persons in their daily lives. In other parts of the world, especially Muslim countries, the endorsement of civil unions by the head of the Catholic Church could only further entrench opposition to LGBTQ rights there. Rather than a respected religious leader promoting tolerance, Pope Francis might be cast by religious conservatives as yet another example of the degeneracy of "the West," an embodiment of the heresy that righteous nations must resist.

10-22-20 James Randi: Magician and sceptic dies aged 92
One of the best known magicians in the entertainment industry, James Randi, famous for exposing claimants of the paranormal, has died in the US aged 92. Known by just his surname, Canadian-born Randi earned a reputation as one of the world's foremost sceptics of matters from ghosts to UFOs. His performances inspired legions of admirers, including the likes of TV and stage illusionists Penn & Teller. Randall James Zwinge was born in Toronto, Canada in 1928. His career as a magician saw him escape from a straightjacket while hanging upside down over Niagara Falls. He also joined rock star Alice Cooper on tour in the early 1970s, carrying out fake executions of the singer on stage. But Randi always reminded his audiences that his acts were based on tricks and not magic, and soon turned his attention to debunking claims by others who claimed paranormal powers. In 1972, he helped the US network NBC's Tonight Show prepare for an appearance by Uri Geller, the illusionist best known for bending spoons. With neither Geller nor his team able to access the props in advance, the magician failed to carry out any tricks - although the attention from Randi and other sceptics did nothing to harm his career. Randi also exposed faith healers, including televangelist Peter Popoff, who claimed to be receiving messages from God about his audience but was actually wearing an earpiece. The magician's own foundation went on to offer an award of $1m (£750,000) to anyone who could prove paranormal powers under controlled conditions. However, by the time of Randi's retirement from the foundation in 2015, the amount had still not been claimed.Randi is survived by his husband Deyvi Peña, whom he married in 2013.

10-21-20 US election 2020: Why it can be hard to vote in the US
A fierce battle over who should vote and how has sparked hundreds of lawsuits and prompted accusations of voter suppression. So what are the barriers to voting and why do they exist? Images of the long queues of early voters were both celebrated as a sign of enthusiasm and criticised as evidence of a creaking electoral system. Queues, restrictive voting laws and limited access to polling stations all keep people from participating in the democratic process, says Andrea Hailey, the CEO of Vote.org, a non-partisan non-profit that aims to use technology to help people register to vote. Some of those obstacles have been amplified by the pandemic, which has led to a nationwide shortage of poll workers and fewer in-person polling stations. "People are having to jump through an extra series of hoops just to participate," Ms Hailey warned. In response to the obvious risks in getting large numbers of people to polling stations this year, many states eased up on voting restrictions. This meant more Americans can vote early, in person or by mail, than ever before. But not everyone is on board. There are currently over 300 lawsuits in 44 states concerning how absentee votes are counted, who is allowed to vote early and how mail-in ballots are collected. Republican-run states say restrictions are necessary to clamp down on voter fraud, while Democrats say these are attempts to keep people from exercising their civic rights. So what are the challenges facing people trying to vote? In Georgia, thousands of voters waited hours just to cast their ballot during early voting. Many attribute the long wait to voter enthusiasm, but other factors - like a limited number of polls, understaffing or computer glitches - have also been blamed. It's not known how many people are put off from voting because of the queues. But it's clear who it inconveniences more. A survey conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that black voters waited, on average, 16 minutes in line during the 2016 election, while white voters only waited 10 minutes. Other studies backed that up. And long queues disproportionately affect wage workers, who don't get paid time off to vote.

10-21-20 Trump maintains bank account in China, says NY Times
US President Donald Trump has a Chinese bank account and spent years pursuing business projects in the country, the New York Times has reported. The account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management and paid local taxes between 2013 and 2015. It was set up "to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia", according to a Trump spokesman. Mr Trump has been critical of US firms doing business in China and sparked a trade war between the two countries. The NY Times revealed the account after obtaining Mr Trump's tax records, which included both personal and company financial details. The newspaper's previous reports show he paid $750 (£580) in US federal taxes in 2016 and 2017, when he became president. The Chinese bank account has paid out $188,561 in local taxes. Mr Trump has been critical of presidential candidate rival Joe Biden and his policies towards China in the lead-up to the US election, taking place on 3 November. The Trump administration has singled out Mr Biden's son Hunter and made unsubstantiated claims about his dealings with China. Joe Biden's income tax returns and public financial disclosures show no business dealings connected to China. Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organisation, described the NY Times story as "pure speculation" and said that it made "incorrect assumptions". He told the paper that Trump International Hotels Management had "opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes". "No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialised and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive," Mr Garten said. "Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose," he told the NY Times. The US president has multiple business interests both in the US and overseas. These include golf courses in Scotland and Ireland and a chain of five-star luxury hotels. The NY Times reported that Mr Trump maintains foreign bank accounts in China, Britain and Ireland.

10-21-20 Obama to stump for Biden as Trump quits interview
There are now just 13 days to the US election on 3 November. President Trump trails Joe Biden in most national polls Former US President Barack Obama is making his first personal appearance on the campaign trail, stumping for Biden. On Tuesday evening, President Trump cut short a CBS "60 Minutes" interview and tweeted against the journalist Lesley Stahl. The New York Times reports that Trump has a Chinese bank account and spent years pursuing business projects in the country. The US president has been critical of US firms doing business in China and sparked a trade war between the two countries. Joe Biden is off the campaign trail today preparing for Thursday’s last presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee. President Trump will attend a rally in Gastonia, North Carolina.

10-21-20 Breonna Taylor: Grand jury 'not given chance to bring homicide charges'
A Kentucky grand juror has said the jury was not given the opportunity to consider homicide charges in the killing of Breonna Taylor by police. Ms Taylor, a 26-year-old black hospital worker, was shot six times when police forced their way into her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, on 13 March. Last month the jury recommended no homicide charges against the officers. The anonymous juror was permitted to release the statement by a judge who ruled it was in the public interest. In the statement, they said the state's attorney general only presented to the grand jury - a panel drawn from members of the public to determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue a prosecution - wanton endangerment charges to be considered against one officer. On 23 September, the jury charged one officer, Brett Hankison - not with Ms Taylor's death but with wanton endangerment for firing into a neighbour's apartment. Two other officers who were involved have not been charged. The ruling reignited Black Lives Matter protests in Louisville against police misconduct and racial inequality. After the juror's statement was released, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron tweeted that he stood by his department's work, and would not be appealing against the judge's ruling. "Indictments obtained in the absence of sufficient proof under the law do not stand up and are not fundamentally fair to anyone," he said. In response Ben Crump, the lawyer representing Ms Taylor's family, accused Mr Cameron of misrepresenting facts to the jury. He called for an independent prosecutor to hold new hearings, and to "do the work AG Cameron failed to do and seek justice for Breonna Taylor". Ms Taylor's family sued the Kentucky city for the death in May and reached a $12m (£9.4m) settlement. The killing of Ms Taylor has resonated around the world this year, with protesters calling on the public to "say her name".

10-20-20 Covid-19 news: UK government imposes tier three rules in Manchester
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK government imposes tier three virus rules in Greater Manchester despite local disagreement To break the chains of coronavirus transmission in Europe, countries need to systematically quarantine people who have been in contact with those testing positive for coronavirus, said Mike Ryan, World Health Organization (WHO) director of health emergencies, at a virtual press briefing yesterday. “About half of our member states within the European region have experienced a 50 per cent increase in cases in the last week,” said Ryan. “If I was asked for one thing […] that might change the game here, that is: making sure that each and every contact of a confirmed case is in quarantine for the appropriate period of time, so as to break chains of transmission.” The WHO recommends that all contacts of people with confirmed or probable covid-19 be quarantined in a designated facility or at home for 14 days from their last exposure. “I do not believe that has occurred systematically anywhere, and particularly in countries that are experiencing large increases now,” said Ryan. The UK recorded 21,331 coronavirus cases today, up from 18,804 yesterday, according to official figures. There were also 241 deaths from covid-19 – the highest daily figure recorded since 258 deaths were recorded on 5 June. Deputy chief medical officer for England, Jonathan van Tam, said during a press briefing today that he expects the upwards trend in deaths to continue. Researchers in the UK announced plans to infect volunteers with the coronavirus as part of a “challenge trial” starting in January, although the study has not yet received final ethical approval. The initial aim of the trial will be to establish the minimum infectious dose before testing potential vaccines.

10-20-20 Coronavirus: New Covid-19 cases rising rapidly across US
New coronavirus infections are growing rapidly across the US, experts say, with new hospital admissions also increasing around the country. Nearly 70,000 new cases were recorded on Friday - the highest number of new infections seen in one day since July. Cases have been trending upward for 48 states over the past week. Only two states, Missouri and Vermont, are recording numbers that are improving. Dealing with the pandemic has continued to be a central issue in the US election. Despite the uptick in infections - and recovering from Covid himself earlier this month - President Donald Trump is still traveling the country for large in-person campaign rallies. At an outdoor event in Nevada on Sunday, Mr Trump said his Democratic opponent Joe Biden "will surrender your future to the virus". "This guy wants to lockdown. He'll listen to the scientists," he said. "If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression." Many of Mr Trump's supporters do not wear masks or practice social distancing at the rallies, and there have been warnings against large gatherings from local health officials. A Biden spokesman called Mr Trump's remarks "the polar opposite of reality" and blamed the country's recession on the president. On Monday, Mr Trump denounced top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci as "a disaster" and claimed that more people would have died if he had listened to the respected researcher. Dr Fauci told CBS News earlier that he was not surprised the president had caught coronavirus, given his reluctance to practice safe techniques. "Fauci's a disaster," the president said in a campaign phone call that was overheard by reporters. "He's been here for 500 years," he said, adding: "People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots." Mr Trump, who has reportedly had a tense relationship with Dr Fauci since March, called him "a nice guy", but said he would have fired him if not for the negative press that would result.

10-20-20 US election 2020: Trump and Biden feud over debate topics
US President Donald Trump and his White House challenger Joe Biden are feuding over plans for their final TV debate. The Republican president's campaign accused organisers of Thursday's showdown of helping the Democrat by leaving out foreign policy as a topic. The Biden camp shot back that Mr Trump was trying to avoid questions about his response to the coronavirus pandemic. With two weeks to go until the election, Mr Biden has a commanding lead nationally in opinion polls. However, he has a smaller lead in the handful of key US states that will ultimately decide the outcome. On Monday, the president's camp sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates calling for topics to be adjusted for the final primetime duel this Thursday. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in the letter that the campaigns had already agreed foreign policy would be the focus of the third debate. The topics were announced by moderator and NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker last week: American families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership. During a campaign rally on Monday afternoon in Prescott, Arizona, Mr Trump described Ms Welker as a "radical Democrat" and said she would be "no good". Mr Stepien accused Mr Biden of being "desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record" and the commission of trying to "insulate Biden from his own history". "The Commission's pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco and it is little wonder why the public has lost faith in its objectivity," he wrote. He also accused Mr Biden of trying to avoid questions over reports about purported emails from his son, Hunter, and alleged conflicts of interest. The Democrat's camp hit back that it was actually Mr Trump who was trying to duck questions. "The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics," said national press secretary TJ Ducklo.

10-20-20 Exxon clarifies Trump phone call: 'It never happened'
Oil giant Exxon has clarified a fundraising comment by Donald Trump that he could raise more money than rival Joe Biden. The US president invoked the company's name at a rally in Arizona, saying all he had to do to raise funds was call Wall Street and oil executives. He suggested calling Exxon's boss to offer permits in exchange for funds - adding he would never make such a call. Exxon said on Twitter: "Just so we're all clear, it never happened." At the rally President Trump gave a scenario of what he could do: "Don't forget, I'm not bad at that stuff anyway, and I'm president. "So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon. I don't know." President Trump went on to describe a hypothetical conversation: "How are you doing? How's energy coming? When are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits?" "When I call the head of Exxon I say, 'You know, I'd love [for you] to send me $25m [£19m] for the campaign.' 'Absolutely sir,'" he added. "I will hit a home run every single call," Mr Trump said. "I would raise a billion dollars in one day if I wanted to. I don't want to do that." Exxon said on Twitter that Exxon chief executive Darren Woods had not had such a call with the president. "We are aware of the President's statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO [chief executive]… and just so we're all clear, it never happened," Exxon said. President Trump has been trailing Mr Biden in opinion polls and more recently in fundraising. Mr Trump's re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee started the last full month before the election on 3 November with $251.4m in cash, after raising $247.8m in September. The intake was about $135m less than the amount raised for Mr Biden in September. However, President Trump has raised more than Mr Biden overall. According to NPR, Donald Trump has raised $1.33bn, while Joe Biden has raised $990m.

10-20-20 India's coronavirus pandemic is leading to many more deaths from TB
The covid-19 pandemic has collided with the ongoing tuberculosis epidemic, leaving many without adequate medical care and stuck at home, where they could pass an infection on to others. Global cases of TB are set to increase by around 200,000 to 400,000 in 2020 alone, and most of the brunt will be borne by India, along with Indonesia, the Philippines and South Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2019, 445,000 people died from TB in India, according to a recent WHO report. This figure could increase in the coming years. A study led by Finn McQuaid at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that there could be an additional 149,448 TB deaths above that baseline level in India between 2020 and 2024. “We are definitely still expecting large numbers of additional cases and deaths from TB in India in particular,” says McQuaid. “It’s a major concern.” Another study, by Anurag Bhargava at Yenepoya Medical College and Hemant Deepak Shewade from global health organisation The Union, both based in India, estimated there would be nearly 186,000 additional TB cases and almost 88,000 extra TB deaths in India this year alone, owing to worsening poverty, undernutrition and under-detection of TB related to the covid-19 pandemic. Undernutrition is a factor in 32 to 44 per cent of TB cases, and a one unit decrease in average body mass index across the population – 2 to 3 kilograms of weight loss on average – could lead to about a 14 per cent increase in TB incidence, the pair found. “India has inadequate levels of baseline nutrition and the pandemic has worsened the situation,” says Bhargava. India launched a national TB control programme in 2017 with the aim of eradicating the disease in the country by 2025. Key to this project is accurate accounting, but under-detection of TB is a problem. Even before the covid-19 pandemic hit, there were more than 1 million TB cases missing from India’s official statistics, according to a 2016 analysis of drug sales data.

10-19-20 Avoiding America's worst possible future
It isn't authoritarianism we should fear. It's violence. Is the United States on the brink of authoritarianism? A shockingly large number of commentators seem to think so. This would appear to suggest that we should take the threat very seriously indeed — except for one crucially important consideration: Those raising alarms can be found on both sides of the political spectrum, with each camp pointing to its ideological opposite as the source of the impending breakdown of democracy and advent of tyranny in America.That highlights another, deeper problem that threatens a very different, though no less catastrophic, outcome. The center-left has been making versions of the authoritarian argument from the very start of the Trump administration. In addition to the president's tendency to talk like a demagogic dictator at campaign rallies and on Twitter, his hesitancy to distance himself from right-wing hate groups, and his pursuit of xenophobic immigration policies, progressives highlight GOP efforts at voter suppression, the counter-majoritarianism of the Electoral College and Senate, and Trump's own refusal to say he'll step down from office if he loses his bid for re-election. All of it adds up to a narrative of incipient Republican Party dictatorship. The right, meanwhile, has its own story of creeping totalitarianism. Some conspiracy-minded conservatives have viewed liberals as would-be tyrants going all the way back to the New Deal, if not before. But such concerns surged into the mainstream with new fervor in the run-up to the 2016 election with the claim that Trump and his supporters were like courageous martyrs storming the cockpit of Flight 93 on September 11, willing to risk everything to avert the existential threat that a Hillary Clinton presidency posed to conservative priorities. More recently, journalist Rod Dreher has published a bestselling book warning conservative Christians about the looming threat of "soft totalitarianism," as progressives prepare to use combined state and cultural power to enforce conformity in the United States to a "woke" moral-spiritual outlook that's virulently hostile to anything resembling traditional Christianity. Those are the camps, each fearing and loathing the other, each seeing itself as freedom's sole savior and its opponents as freedom's mortal enemy. Obviously, both cannot be right, and in fact neither wholly is. But their civic significance lies not in the truth of the warnings each of them broadcasts about the other but in their shared conviction that those on the other side of our partisan divide pose a grave danger — so grave that permitting them to win political power may soon prove to be unacceptable and illegitimate. That sounds like competing defenses of one-party rule — and it would be that if we had any reason to believe either side would back down and allow its opponents to seize such dictatorial powers. Another scenario is far more likely: Each side's fear of the other's authoritarianism could push it to embrace outright political violence.

10-19-20 Covid-19 news: Wales to enter a 17-day national lockdown from Friday
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Welsh government announces temporary national lockdown to start on Friday. In Wales from Friday all mixing between households will be banned, and people will be required to stay at home and work from home wherever possible, said Drakeford. Non-essential shops, tourism and hospitality businesses will be required to close, as will community centres and places of worship. Primary school pupils and those in years 7 and 8 will return as usual after the half term break, but all other secondary school pupils will have to study at home. Universities and colleges will also remain open and continue to provide a mix of online and in-person teaching. The lockdown will last until Monday 9 November. Coronavirus cases are rising in the majority of US states, with Florida and Connecticut experiencing the largest seven-day increases of 50 per cent or more. Only two states, Vermont and Missouri, have seen declines in the average number of reported coronavirus cases over the past week. “We’re seeing this happen because we’re getting colder weather and we’re losing that natural social distancing that happens from being out of doors,” US health secretary Alex Azar told NBC in an interview. US president Donald Trump hosted two election campaign rallies in Michigan and Winsconsin over the weekend, with many attendees not wearing masks or maintaining physical distance from one another. On Friday, the US recorded more than 68,000 new virus cases, the highest daily total since July. The 14-day quarantine period for people arriving in the UK from abroad could be reduced, with people allowed to end their quarantine after a week if they test negative for the virus. At a conference today, UK transport minister Grant Shapps said the government was discussing a new “test and release regime”, which he said would “mean a single test for international arrivals, a week after arrival.” New coronavirus restrictions came into force in Italy today, after the country recorded a record high number of daily new cases of 11,705 yesterday. Local officials can now close public areas at 9 pm each evening, and people are no longer allowed to meet in groups of more than six.

10-19-20 Should we plan for regular 'circuit-breaker' coronavirus lockdowns?
With cases of covid-19 rising in most parts of the UK, there is fierce debate over the best way to respond. While some people argue for a “let the virus rip” strategy, others want increasing social restrictions, up to and including full lockdown, as happened in the pandemic’s first wave. But is there another way? One idea gaining ground is that countries should hold regular pre-emptive lockdowns, each lasting about two weeks. They could be timed to coincide with school holidays, minimising disruption to education. In the UK, this would mean having these shut downs around every two months. The concept may sound similar to the short, sharp, “circuit-breaker” lockdown, an idea that has been advocated by some scientists advising the UK government, including chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance. Northern Ireland began such a lockdown on 16 October and Wales has announced it will do the same from 23 October. But there is a crucial difference between these strategies: the idea is that pre-emptive lockdowns would happen periodically, even when a country’s coronavirus case numbers are relatively low. The advance knowledge of when they are due to happen is supposed to reduce the impact on businesses, while the fact that they are short and have a definite end point could make them more bearable for the public. It is hard to work out exactly what effect this would have on virus prevalence, but it should regularly reset case numbers to a lower level. At best, it could mean avoiding the longer kind of lockdowns seen in the pandemic’s first wave. This year, there has been growing appreciation of the toll on mental health caused by stopping people mixing with their friends and family. Pre-emptive circuit-breakers may lessen this burden slightly. “The specified length of time reduces uncertainty, and it is uncertainty that often promotes anxiety and poor mental well-being,” says Charlotte Hilton, a chartered psychologist based in the East Midlands, UK.

10-19-20 Coronavirus: The place in North America with no cases
Covid-19 cases are rising in many parts of Canada, but one region - Nunavut, a northern territory - is a rare place in North America that can say it's free of coronavirus in its communities. Last March, as borders around the world were slamming shut as coronavirus infections rose, officials in Nunavut decided they too would take no risks. They brought in some of the strictest travel regulations in Canada, barring entry to almost all non-residents. Residents returning home from the south would first have to spend two weeks, at the Nunavut government's expense, in "isolation hubs" - hotels in the cities of Winnipeg, Yellowknife, Ottawa or Edmonton. Security guards are stationed throughout the hotels, and nurses check in on the health of those isolating. To date, just over 7,000 Nunavummiut have spent time in these hubs as a stopover on their return home. It's not been without challenges. People have been caught breaking isolation and have had stays extended, which has in part contributed to occasional waiting times to enter the some of the hubs. There have been complaints about the food available to those confined there. But, as coronavirus infections spread throughout Canada, and with the number of cases on the rise again, the official case count in Nunavut remains zero. The "fairly drastic" decision to bring in these measures was made both due to the population's potential vulnerability to Covid-19 and the unique challenges of the Arctic region, says Nunavut's chief public health officer, Dr Michael Patterson. About 36,000 people live in Nunavut, bound by the Arctic Ocean to the north and the Northwest Territories to the west, in 25 communities scattered across its two million square kilometres (809,000 square miles). That's about three times the size of Texas. The distances are "mind-boggling at times", admits Dr Patterson. Natural isolation is likely to be part of the reason for the lack of cases - those communities can only be reached year-round by plane.

10-19-20 China's economy continues to bounce back from virus slump
China's economy continues its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic according to its latest official figures. The world's second-biggest economy saw growth of 4.9% between July and September, compared to the same quarter last year. However, the figure is lower than the 5.2% expected by economists. China is now leading the charge for a global recovery based on its latest gross domestic product (GDP) data. The near-5% growth is a far cry from the slump the Chinese economy suffered at the start of 2020 when the pandemic first emerged. For the first three months of this year China’s economy shrank by 6.8% when it saw nationwide shutdowns of factories and manufacturing plants. It was the first time China’s economy contracted since it started recording quarterly figures back in 1992. The key economic growth figures released on Monday suggest that China’s recovery is gathering pace, although experts often question the accuracy of its economic data. The quarterly figures are compared to the same quarter of 2019. "I don't think the headline number is bad," said Iris Pang, chief China economist for ING in Hong Kong. "Job creation in China is quite stable which creates more consumption." China’s trade figures for September also pointed to a strong recovery, with exports growing by 9.9% and imports growing by 13.2% compared to September last year. Over the previous two decades, China had seen an average economic growth rate of about 9% although the pace has gradually been slowing. While the Covid-19 pandemic has hampered this year's growth targets, China also remains in a trade war with the US which has hurt the economy.

10-19-20 Coronavirus: Germany improves ventilation to chase away Covid
The German government is investing €500m (£452m; $488m) in improving ventilation systems in public buildings to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The grants will go to improve the air circulation in public offices, museums, theatres, universities and schools. Private firms are not yet eligible. Viruses spread on tiny droplets called aerosols, exhaled by infected people - especially when they sneeze or cough. Studies suggest they can remain in a room's air for at least eight minutes. Colder weather puts more people at risk because they spend more time indoors. The main aim is to upgrade existing air conditioning systems, rather than install new ones, which costs more. Each upgrade is eligible for a maximum of €100,000. Funding is also available for CO2 sensors which indicate when the air in a room is unhealthily stale. The grants will be allocated from Tuesday. The government also wants schools lacking central air conditioning systems to at least get mobile air purifiers. But much will also depend on how easily rooms can be ventilated simply by opening the windows. The Bavarian broadcaster BR24 reports that the mobile ventilators, which filter out tiny particles and cost from €2,000 each, can effectively purify a room within minutes. But German experts say apparatus that relies on UV-light, ionisation or ozone can be ineffective against coronavirus, and in some cases worsen the air quality. According to Germany's latest official figures, 4,325 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, but Monday's figure is usually lower as fewer cases are reported at the weekend. The reported German death toll is 9,789. The infection rate has risen across Germany in recent weeks, but the surge is more marked in some neighbouring countries, notably the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and France. There are widespread fears that the new coronavirus wave will only intensify as the weather gets colder in Europe and more people share confined spaces. Windows will stay shut longer to keep out cold draughts. Virus particles also survive longer when they are not exposed to direct heat and sunlight. The cool air in abattoirs is reckoned to have contributed to several Covid-19 outbreaks in Germany in recent months.

10-19-20 Coronavirus: Has the pandemic really peaked in India?
Has the coronavirus pandemic already peaked in India? And can the spread of the virus be controlled by early next year? A group of India's top scientists believe so. Their latest mathematical model suggests India passed its peak of reported infections in September and the pandemic can be controlled by February next year. All such models assume the obvious: people will wear masks, avoid large gatherings, maintain social distancing and wash hands. India has recorded some 7.5 million Covid-19 cases and more than 114,00 deaths so far. It has a sixth of the world's population and a sixth of reported cases. However, India accounts for only 10% of the world's deaths from the virus. Its case fatality rate or CFR, which measures deaths among Covid-19 patients, is less than 2% - among the lowest in the world. India hit a record peak in the middle of September when it reported more than a million active cases. Since then the caseload has been steadily declining. Last week, India reported an average of 62,000 cases and 784 deaths every day. Daily deaths have also been falling in most states. Testing has remained consistent - an average of more than a million samples were tested every day last week. The seven scientists involved in the latest mathematical study commissioned by the government include Dr Gagandeep Kang, a microbiologist and the first Indian woman to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Among other things, the model looks at the rate at which people are getting infected, the rate at which they have recovered or died, and the fraction of infected people with significant symptoms. It also maps the trajectory of the disease by accounting for patients who have shown no signs of infection. The scientists suggest that without the lockdown in late March, the number of active cases in India would have peaked at more than 14 million and that more than 2.6 million people would have died from Covid-19, some 23 times the current death toll. Interestingly, based on studies in the two states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the scientists concluded that the impact of the unchecked return of out-of-work migrants from the cities to the villages after the lockdown had "minimal" impact on case numbers.

10-18-20 Coronavirus: Empty streets in France as curfew enforced
The streets of Paris and eight other French cities were deserted on Saturday night as a new curfew was enforced. The controversial overnight curfew is aimed at curbing the soaring Covid infection rate in France, which is one of Europe's coronavirus hotspots. There have been complaints from restaurant owners, whose businesses are already suffering after the two-month lockdown in the spring. New measures are also to be announced in Italy due to a rise in cases. Italy, which was the first European country to be hit significantly by Covid in the first wave, registered a record number of new daily cases on Saturday. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will announce fresh restrictions on Sunday. Local media said the new rules could target non-essential activities including gyms, pools and amateur sporting events. In France, about 20 million French people are covered by the month-long curfew in cities including Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse, as well as the capital. The curfew runs from 21:00 to 06:00 every night. President Emmanuel Macron said the curfews were necessary to avoid the risk of hospitals being overrun. But many are concerned about the effect it could have on businesses. "There will surely be employees who will lose their jobs," Stefano Anselmo, manager of Italian restaurant Bianco in Paris told the Reuters news agency. "It's a disaster." France reported a record number of new cases of the virus on Saturday - a rise of 32,427, the health ministry said. A day earlier the country recorded 25,086 new infections.

10-18-20 Coronavirus: Dutch PM concedes 'wrong assessment' over royal holiday
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has conceded he "made the wrong assessment" by not intervening against plans by the royal family to holiday in Greece. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima headed off on Friday but flew back a day later, following a public backlash. They left as the Dutch government introduced a new partial lockdown - which included discouraging unnecessary travel - but did not break any rules. Mr Rutte has acknowledged that he had been aware of the royal plans. In a letter to parliament, the prime minister said he had "realised too late" that the holiday "could no longer be reconciled with the increasing infections and the stricter measures. "This should have prompted me to reconsider the intended holiday. I bear full ministerial responsibility," he added. The royals flew out on a government plane but were immediately criticised for going on holiday when people were being advised to stay at home as much as possible to curb the spread of Covid-19. They flew back on a scheduled KLM flight on Saturday evening. In a statement, the royals said: "We do not want to leave any doubts about it: in order to get the Covid-19 virus under control, it is necessary that the guidelines are followed. The debate over our holiday does not contribute to that." Initially there appeared to be some confusion about who in government knew about the trip and whether advice had been given. The Dutch monarchy has no formal role in the day-to-day running of the Netherlands. But the Ministry of General Affairs, headed by the prime minister, is responsible for what the monarchy says and does. As a result, several MPs are calling on Mr Rutte to explain why he did not advise the royals to cancel their holiday. "If Rutte had said that this was a bad idea, you can assume that the king would have changed his plans," said Peter Rehwinkel of the PvdA party.

10-18-20 France teacher attack: Rallies held to support beheaded Samuel Paty
Rallies are being held across France in support of Samuel Paty, the teacher beheaded after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a lesson. Loud applause rose from the crowd in the Place de la République in Paris, with people carrying the slogan "Je suis enseignant" (I am a teacher). A man named as Abdoulakh A was shot dead by police on Friday after killing Mr Paty close to his school near Paris. An 11th person has been arrested as part of the investigation. No details have been given about the arrest. Four close relatives of the suspect were detained shortly after the killing. Six more people were held on Saturday, including the father of a pupil at the school and a preacher described by French media as a radical Islamist. President Emmanuel Macron said the attack bore all the hallmarks of an "Islamist terrorist attack" and the teacher had been murdered because he "taught freedom of expression". The Place de la République in Paris is now full of people rallying in support of Mr Paty. Prime Minister Jean Castex and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo joined them. It was in the square that 1.5 million people protested following the deadly attack in 2015 on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, after it had published the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. One protester on Sunday carried a sign reading "zero tolerance to all enemies of the Republic", another "I am a professor. I'm thinking of you, Samuel." Another told Le Figaro she was a French Muslim who was at the rally to express her disgust at the killing. A minute's silence was followed by the playing of the Marseillaise. All the protesters were wearing masks to protect from coronavirus. Mr Castex tweeted the rendition of the anthem, along with the words "you do not scare us... we are France!"

10-15-20 US election 2020: Why it matters so much to Germans
Panting into the cold night air, the Berlin Thunderbirds are training hard, steam rising from their helmets and padded shoulders. American sport, culture and, many would say, values pump through the veins of Germany. Which is why so many people here - including the players tackling each other with enthusiasm - are also keeping a close eye on the upcoming US presidential election. "You're kind of like a bystander," says Christoph, a quarterback. "You have no influence but in the end it does influence you." To stroll under reddening trees through the small market which stands on Berlin's Kennedy Platz is to get a glimpse of how closely Germany and America have been bound, how deeply rooted the transatlantic relationship. Beyond the stalls packed with pumpkins and flowers, looms the impressive stone edifice of Rathaus Schoeneberg where, nearly 60 years ago, John F Kennedy told a wildly cheering crowd packed deep into the neighbouring streets, "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner"). Ute, who was a child at the time, pauses as she buys fruit to explain why today there's so little enthusiasm among Germans for the current American commander-in-chief. "For my generation - born after the second world war - Americans were a great example of freedom and democracy. That's ended with Trump." President Trump - who once claimed he'd charmed Angela Merkel - remains deeply unpopular in Germany. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Germany rates the US president particularly unfavourably. For her part, the German chancellor has never warmed to President Trump's style or his politics. She was openly dismayed by his dismissive attitude towards Nato, his withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate change, and his rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement. The body language between Merkel and Trump tells a thousand words.

10-15-20 Soyuz rocket reaches ISS in record time
Russia's Soyuz rocket has travelled from Earth to the International Space Station in record time. The spacecraft, carrying two Russian cosmonauts and a Nasa astronaut, made the trip in just three hours and three minutes – half the usual journey time.

10-17-20 US election 2020: Early voting records smashed amid enthusiasm wave
State election officials across the US are reporting record numbers of voters casting their ballots ahead of election day on 3 November. More than 22m Americans had voted early by Friday, either in person or by mail, according to the US Election Project. At the same point in the 2016 race, about 6m votes had been cast. Experts say the surge in early voting correlates to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused many people to seek alternatives to election day voting. On Tuesday, Texas, a state that has relatively tight restrictions on who can qualify for postal voting, set a record for most ballots cast on the first day of early voting. On Monday, the Columbus Day federal holiday, officials in Georgia reported126,876 votes cast - also a state record. In Ohio, a crucial swing state, more than 2.3m postal ballots have been requested, double the figure in 2016. Reports indicate that registered Democrats have so far outvoted registered Republicans - casting more than double the number of ballots. And of these early voting Democrats, women and black Americans are voting in particularly high numbers. Some are motivated by dislike for Donald Trump, while others have been energised by racial justice protests throughout the summer following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. But this early advantage does not mean that Democrats can already claim victory. Republicans, who claim postal voting is vulnerable to fraud, say Democrats may win the early vote, but that Republicans will show up in large numbers on election day. According to a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, the rate of voting fraud overall in the US is between 0.00004% and 0.0009%. The enormous numbers of voters have led to long lines, with some people waiting for up to 11 hours for an opportunity to vote. Younger people, who historically have been difficult to get to the polls, appear to be turning out in larger numbers this year. The youth vote may be the highest its been since 2008 for the election of Barack Obama - the country's first black president. A recent survey by Axios found that four in 10 university students said they planned to protest if Mr Trump wins. Six in 10 said they would shame friends who could vote but choose not to. By contrast, only 3% of surveyed students said they would protest if Joe Biden was elected. (Webmaster's comment: Trump will claim election fraud and call for white supremists to show up with their guns at the white house to defend his presidency!)

10-17-20 Covid: Chris Christie 'was wrong' to not wear masks
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has urged Americans to take coronavirus "seriously" after spending days in intensive care with Covid-19. Mr Christie, a Trump administration ally, revealed on Thursday he had recovered from the disease. He was one of several virus cases confirmed at the same time as President Donald Trump in early October. The infections have been linked to a "superspreader event" at the White House. More than a dozen cases have been traced to the Rose Garden event on 26 September, including two senators, the White House press secretary and President Trump's former counsellor Kellyanne Conway. All appear to have recovered. Mr Christie said he attended the event, a ceremony where Mr Trump formally announced his nomination of the conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett for a Supreme Court vacancy, believing he had "entered a safe zone". "I was wrong," Mr Christie, who is in a high-risk category for Covid-19 because of his weight and asthma, said in a statement. "I was wrong to not wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the President and the rest of the team." Mr Christie said he hoped his experience would encourage Americans to follow virus guidelines "in public no matter where you are and wear a mask to protect yourself and others". By contrast, Mr Trump left hospital after three nights of treatment for Covid-19, urging Americans not to let the virus "dominate" them. Mr Christie, 58, was admitted to the Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey on 3 October as a precaution. He said he ended up spending seven days in the intensive care unit of the hospital. He said he recovered thanks to the "skilful care" of doctors and "extraordinary treatments", including an antibody cocktail given to President Trump. Mr Christie said his stint in "isolation" gave him time to do some thinking about the coronavirus pandemic.

Confirmed cases around president Trump!

10-17-20 We can't go inside yet
What the U.S. needs to learn from Europe's coronavirus resurgence. It sounds like the tagline for the world's lamest horror movie: Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your spin class... But last week, a single fitness studio in Hamilton, Ontario, was linked to more than 72 positive cases of COVID-19, with an additional 2,500 people potentially exposed. What's shocking is that the gym seemingly did almost everything right: six-foot distancing, 50 percent capacity, screening customers, a robust sanitizing regime. "This is not about how well the gym was run; this is about how COVID spreads," Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, explained to The Spec. "If you let people hangout together, without masks, sharing air, in the same space for a prolonged period of time ... this was going to happen anyways." Just look at Europe, where the World Health Organization is reporting "exponential increases" in cases, and warns that the daily death toll could balloon to five times what it was during the peak in April. It appears that the spike there, too, is linked to increased indoor activity — like the Hamilton spin studio outbreak, but on a macro scale. For the moment, the United States has a brief respite from being the rest of the world's cautionary tale about what not to do during a pandemic, but the message we're receiving from overseas is abundantly clear: it isn't safe yet to go back indoors. After the initial explosion of cases in Europe in February and March, as the disease was still emerging globally, the continent appeared to get the crisis mostly under control by the late spring and early summer. Germany's Bundesliga soccer league even resumed in mid-May with only minor hiccups, making it the first professional sport to return after the pandemic shutdowns. As U.S. cases began to rise again over the summer, foreign correspondents' accounts of life across the Atlantic sounded like dispatches from the moon: "People are out everywhere," NPR's Paris correspondent, Eleanor Beardsley, said in July. "There's a very relaxed feeling that it's — if it's not completely behind us, it's almost behind us." Famous last words? This week, France recorded 120,000 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, "one of the highest rates in the world" according to The New York Times; officials warned that in Paris, hospital beds could reach 70 to 90 percent capacity by the end of October. "We are on the brink of disaster," immunologist Pawel Grzesiowski, of Poland, told The Guardian, despite the fact that the country had managed to stay relatively healthy up to this point. Italy, meanwhile, reported this week its largest one-day total of cases, "with more than 7,300 — easily surpassing the terrible heights the country reached in March," NPR reports. And the reason for the spike across the continent seems to be linked to the casual easing back indoors. Europe's strict restrictions in the spring took less than a month to visibly downturn the continent's daily confirmed COVID-19 cases, but ever since regional lockdowns began to lift around May 5, there has been a slow — but increasingly steep — rise again. "In several European countries," The New York Times explains, "lockdowns were lifted abruptly, sowing complacency among people who felt they could return to their normal lives." Indeed, as the government in the Netherlands succinctly put it, "In recent weeks coronavirus has had too many opportunities to spread again." Especially as the weather starts to get colder, an already-blasé population might not feel the need to be as diligent as they once were, bringing behaviors that might have been relatively safe outside, indoors.

10-17-20 Hundreds queue in Yiwu, China for experimental Covid-19 vaccine
A city in eastern China has started offering a coronavirus vaccine to the general public - although it has not yet completed clinical trials. Hundreds of people have been queuing outside a hospital in Yiwu, where nurses are administering the injections for a fee of around $60 (£45).

10-17-20 France teacher had received 'days of threats' before his brutal killing
The teacher who was beheaded in a street in France had received threats after showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils, French media report. He has been named as 47-year-old Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher. Nine people have been arrested, including the parents of a child at Mr Paty's school, judicial sources are quoted as saying. Police say the attacker was an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin. The killing took place while a trial is under way in Paris over a 2015 Islamist assault on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was targeted for publishing the cartoons. President Emmanuel Macron said the attack bore all the hallmarks of an "Islamist terrorist attack" and the teacher had been murdered because he "taught freedom of expression". Speaking at the scene hours after the incident, he stressed national unity. "They will not prevail, they will not divide us," he said. The attack occurred at about 17:00 (15:00 GMT) near the College du Bois d'Aulne, where he taught, in the town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, some 30km (20 miles) north-west of central Paris. A man wielding a large knife attacked the teacher in the street, cutting off his head. Witnesses are said to have heard the attacker shout "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Greatest". A picture of the beheaded teacher was posted to social media in the immediate aftermath, but it is not clear if this was by the assailant or an accomplice. The attacker then ran from the scene but was chased by local police who had been alerted by the public. The officers confronted the man in the nearby town of Éragny. When they shouted at him to give himself up, he is said to have threatened them. The officers shot him and he died a short time later. Police have said the attacker was an 18-year-old, born in Moscow but from Russia's predominantly-Muslim southern region of Chechnya. He was living in Évreux in Normandy. His grandparents and brothers are among those arrested. (Webmaster's comment: Religious extremism is a danger to us all!)

10-16-20 Covid-19 news: Remdesivir has little effect on survival, finds WHO
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The Ebola drug remdesivir offers little benefit for covid-19 cases, a WHO study has found. Remdesivir, an antiviral drug initially developed to treat Ebola by pharmaceutical company Gilead, has “little or no effect” on survival for people in hospital with covid-19, a World Health Organization (WHO) trial has found. As part of its SOLIDARITY trial, WHO researchers tested the effects of four potential treatments, including antiviral drugs remdesivir and interferon-ß1a, the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine and a combination of two HIV drugs called lopinavir and ritonavir. The results suggest remdesivir has “no meaningful effect on mortality”, said Martin Landray at the University of Oxford in a statement. Landray described the findings as “important but sobering”, adding that the trial “has done the world a huge favour by producing clear, independent and robust results.” The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, included 11,266 participants across more than 30 countries and found that none of the treatments had a substantial effect on covid-19 mortality or on the length of time patients spent in hospital. New restrictions are being introduced in parts of the UK, as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Lancashire, England has been moved to the tier three alert level and will be put under new restrictions from midnight tonight. People in the region will not be allowed to mix with people from other households indoors or outdoors, and pubs and bars not serving meals will be required to shut. Ministers in Wales are expected to make a decision over the next few days on whether to put the nation under a “circuit breaker” lockdown for two or three weeks to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. The first passengers travelling from New Zealand to Australia arrived today under new “travel bubble” arrangements between the two countries. The passengers will not be required to quarantine in Australia, although they will need to do so when they arrive back in New Zealand, and they will need to pay for their own hotel stay to quarantine on their return.

10-16-20 An originalist's originalism
Even James Madison didn't think the Constitution was a dead document with a fixed meaning. When the Founders wrote that a "well-regulated militia" must have the right to bear arms, did they mean every citizen has a right to own an AR-15 capable of killing 50 schoolchildren in a minute? Does prohibiting discrimination based on "sex" now include gay and transgender people? How should we apply today such vague, 18th-century language as "due process," "cruel and unusual," and even "liberty"? Most reasonable people would agree that applying the Constitution to current legal controversies is inherently a subjective process. But not judicial "originalists" like the late Justice Antonin Scalia and his protégé, Amy Coney Barrett. Originalists and textualists insist that justices must discern the meaning of the Constitution and laws when they were written and neutrally apply them, with no consideration of the consequences on people. The Constitution's meaning, Barrett said this week, "doesn't change over time, and it's not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it." This has a fine, reassuring ring of humility. Barrett clearly has a formidable mind. But originalism arose in reaction to the "living Constitution" views of liberal justices; its claim of neutrality is neither credible nor intellectually honest. Is it possible, or even desirable, for a judge to look at emotionally fraught issues such as abortion, gun rights, voting rights, health care, affirmative action, and privacy without the filter of values, beliefs, and perspectives shaped by a lifetime of real-world experience? Early in our history, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison fought bitterly over the meaning of the Constitution they helped draft and ratify. Madison, among other Framers, specifically said future generations would need to adapt the Constitution's general principles to their own times. "In framing a system which we wish to last for the ages," Madison said, "we should not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce." You might call that an originalist's opinion.

10-16-20 Kamala Harris asks Amy Coney Barrett: 'Do you believe climate change is happening?'
US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has been asked by Democratic vice-president candidate Senator Kamala Harris whether she believes climate change is happening. Judge Barrett declined to express a view on what she called a "very contentious matter of public debate". The questioning came on day three of Judge Barrett's Senate confirmation hearing. (Webmaster's comment: She refuses to answer every question.)

10-16-20 Coronavirus: US poverty rises as aid winds down
Poverty rates in the US are rising, as government aid winds down despite ongoing economic distress caused by the pandemic. Nearly 8 million Americans - many of them children and minorities - have fallen into poverty since May, university researchers have said. Last week, nearly 900,000 people filed new claims for jobless benefits - the highest number since August. Analysts have called for aid to prevent the economic recovery from stalling. But politicians in Washington have been at odds over a deal for months, with talks in recent weeks overshadowed by the upcoming presidential election and disputes over the Supreme Court. "The sobering reality is that it appears further help may not be coming from elected officials in Washington," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. This spring, as the pandemic cast more than 20 million Americans out of work, the US government approved more than $3tn (£2.3tn) in relief money. The aid included cheques of up to $1,200 for most individuals and money to temporarily boost unemployment benefits by an extra $600 per week. The massive spending wave initially blunted the economic upheaval caused by the virus, prompting poverty rates to decline. But those figures began to tick up again this summer, as the one-time financial boost from the cheques wore off and the expansion to unemployment benefits expired at the end of July. As of September, the poverty rate stood at 16.7%, up from 15.3% in February and 14.3% in May, with higher rates among children and minorities, according to calculations by researchers at Columbia University. A separate analysis by researchers at the University of Chicago and Notre Dame estimated the poverty rate at 10.1% in September, up from the 11% seen in February and 9.3% in May. The increase is in line with rising poverty rates around the world due to the pandemic. The World Bank this month warned that extreme poverty was set to rise for the first time in more than two decades.

10-16-20 Coronavirus: Israel to ease second lockdown after cases decline
Israel's government has agreed to ease a month-long second nationwide lockdown, after a significant decline in the number of new coronavirus cases. From Sunday, people will be permitted to go more than 1km (0.6 miles) from their homes for non-essential purposes; nurseries will reopen; and restaurants will be able to serve takeaway food. Beaches, nature reserves and national parks will also reopen for visitors. The prime minister declared the lockdown had been a "major success". Israel has reported 300,000 Covid-19 infections and 2,128 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The government was praised in the spring for taking early action that contained the spread of the virus and resulted in a very low death rate compared with other countries. But it came in for widespread criticism for losing control after the first lockdown was eased in May. The second lockdown began on 18 September, after Israel recorded infection and mortality rates that were among the highest in the world relative to population size. The daily number of new confirmed cases has gradually fallen from a high of almost 9,000 at the end of last month to 1,608 on Thursday - below the threshold of 2,000 set by the health ministry as a condition for the first stage of the lockdown exit plan. The test positivity rate of 4.5% is also the lowest recorded since mid-July, while the reproduction number, or R value, currently stands at 0.62 - below the threshold of 0.8. Despite the statistics, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned on Thursday night that there was "still a long road ahead" to get the virus under control. He noted that the number of new infections might begin to rise as restrictions were eased, and that the government might be forced to reinstate them if there was a spike. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier told his cabinet that the exit from the lockdown needed to be "gradual, responsible, careful and controlled" to avoid having to impose an additional lockdown in two or three weeks.

10-15-20 Covid-19 news: Record low percentage of contacts traced in England
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. NHS Test and Trace reaches lowest ever proportion of the contacts of virus cases. For the second week in a row, England’s contact tracing system reached a record low percentage of people who had come into contact with someone diagnosed with covid-19. Only 62.6 per cent of the contacts of those who tested positive were reached by NHS Test and Trace in the week leading up to 7 October, down from 69.5 per cent the previous week – the lowest figure since the system launched in May. This is also below the target of 80 per cent or more recommended by the government’s scientific advisers to limit infections from spreading. “This needs to be fixed,” said Kevin McConway at The Open University in the UK, in a statement. “Arguably it’s never really been high enough, but it has fallen considerably since September. If contact tracing can’t get in touch with contacts quickly, then any contact who [has] been infected may be walking around for days unaware […] and possibly passing the infection on further.” Coronavirus cases continue to rise steeply in England, according to NHS Test and Trace. Between 1 and 7 October, 89,874 people tested positive for the virus, an increase of 64 per cent from the previous week. Londoners face new tier two coronavirus restrictions from Friday, as the city is moved to the high alert level. In a statement, London mayor Sadiq Khan said the virus is “spreading rapidly in every corner of our city”, adding that a “significant number” of boroughs are reporting an average of 100 cases per 100,000 people. Ealing currently has the highest rate of any London borough, with 144.5 cases per 100,000 people. The World Health Organization said surging coronavirus cases in Europe are of “great concern.” WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told a press conference: “The evolving epidemiological situation in Europe raises great concern. Daily numbers of cases are up, hospital admissions are up.” He said covid-19 is now the fifth leading cause of deaths in Europe.

10-15-20 Exclusive: Concerns raised about vital UK covid-19 infection survey
The UK’s largest scheme for tracking the spread of the coronavirus is at risk of providing a misleading picture of the epidemic, as a growing share of people invited to take part fail to respond or complete a test. The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) launched its survey in April to estimate how many people are infected with the virus each week. At first, it randomly sampled thousands of homes in England, later adding those in Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK government’s top scientific advisers consider it the gold standard for measuring the state of the epidemic because other methods such as testing can miss many cases. Households who respond to the invitation to take part are visited by a survey worker, who provides the tests for people to complete themselves. When the survey began, 51 per cent of English households invited to take part completed at least one test. However, that figure has now dropped to just 5 per cent. The survey’s most recent update, on 9 October, suggested that 1 in 240 people in England are currently infected and found a big increase in the incidence rate over the past six weeks, leading to calls for stronger interventions by the government. The drop in the response rate has sparked concerns that the survey could become biased. If the tests are only being completed by a certain group of people, it may become less reflective of the wider population and the true state of infections. The ONS says it weights the results to avoid this, but this may not work, says Sheila Bird at the University of Cambridge. “Reweighting may not deal sufficiently with systematic bias.” One example of that bias would be if the small percentage of people completing tests are also those who are more observant of guidance, and therefore less likely to be exposed to covid-19 – raising the prospect of an underestimate of infections.

10-15-20 Amy Coney Barrett: Trump US Supreme Court pick grilled on presidential powers
President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has declined to say whether a president can pardon himself. But in a Senate hearing to decide whether she will be confirmed to the court, Judge Barrett agreed that no-one was above the law. Mr Trump has said he has the "absolute power" to pardon himself, part of his authority to grant clemency. Republicans are pressing to confirm her before the 3 November election. Democrats have failed to draw Judge Barrett on issues like climate change, abortion, healthcare and LGBTQ rights. On Wednesday she again declined to answer what she described as "hypothetical" questions. Like many previous judicial nominees in such confirmation hearings, she has insisted she will decide cases as they arrive and not apply a personal agenda. Judge Barrett is the proposed replacement for liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month aged 87. The appointment is lifelong. Her confirmation would give the nine-member court a 6-3 conservative majority, swinging its ideological balance for potentially decades to come. On day four of Judge Barrett's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy asked her whether a president could pardon himself for a crime. The nominee - Mr Trump's third for a Supreme Court vacancy - said the "question has never been litigated". She added: "So because it would be opining on an open question when I haven't gone through the judicial process to decide it, it's not one on which I can offer a view." Judge Barrett added that the top US judicial body "can't control" whether a president obeys its decisions. (Webmaster's comment: She'll support whatever Trump wants her to support. She is to Trump as Goebbles was to Hitler!)

10-15-20 Kamala Harris asks Amy Coney Barrett: 'Do you believe climate change is happening?'
US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has been asked by Democratic vice-president candidate Senator Kamala Harris whether she believes climate change is happening. Judge Barrett declined to express a view on what she called a "very contentious matter of public debate". The questioning came on day three of Judge Barrett's Senate confirmation hearing. (Webmaster's comment: This woman has yet to give a single straight answer on anything!)

10-14-20 Covid-19 news: New restrictions introduced in the UK and across Europe
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Tighter restrictions introduced in the UK and across Europe to tackle rising infections. A new three-tier system of restrictions came into force in England today, and Northern Ireland announced that schools there will be closed for two weeks from 19 October, as the UK attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Other European countries are also introducing tighter restrictions in response to sharp rises in cases. The Netherlands yesterday announced a partial nationwide lockdown, which will come into force at 10 pm today. The country recorded almost 7400 cases in 24 hours yesterday in a record daily rise, and currently has a case rate of 412.2 per 100,000 people, according to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The equivalent figure for the UK is currently 283.2 cases per 100,000 people. Under the new rules in the Netherlands, bars, restaurants and cafes will be required to close for four weeks and the sale of alcohol will be banned after 8pm each evening. The Czech Republic, which currently has the highest infection rate in Europe at 581.3 cases per 100,000 people, started a three-week partial lockdown yesterday. Schools, university accommodation, bars and clubs were all told to close. New restrictions are also expected to be announced in Spain and France, where infection rates are currently 293.8 and 307.1 cases per 100,000 people, respectively. dvice for people in England who are extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus – those who have conditions affecting their immune systems, some people with cancer and organ transplant recipients – will now be tailored according to the alert level in the area where they live. These 2.2 million people will be advised to take precautions and practice social distancing as cases rise, but most will not be advised to stay at home as they were during the first wave of the virus in spring, the government announced yesterday. The exception to this will include some people in tier three areas, where infection rates are highest. Patient groups, including Blood Cancer UK and Kidney Care UK, criticised the new advice for being insufficient to support those most at risk. The World Bank has approved $12 billion (£9 billion) of funding for buying and distributing coronavirus tests, treatments and any future vaccines in developing countries.

10-14-20 The GOP's bad faith SCOTUS diversions
Democratic senators want to talk about constitutionality. Republican senators would prefer to focus on anything else. The first two days of the hearings being held by the Senate Judiciary Committee for the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett have reflected a simple pattern. Democratic senators want to talk about her views on constitutional questions; Senate Republicans would prefer to focus the discussion on anything else. As a diversion, Republican senators have repeatedly made preemptive defenses of Barrett's religious beliefs against imaginary Democratic attacks on them. But don't be fooled: These bad faith accusations of religious prejudice made by Republicans are meant to throw up a fog obscuring the fact that they want Barrett confirmed to help impose a radical and extremely unpopular policy agenda on a country that has repeatedly rejected it at the ballot box. The Republican strategy has not been subtle. Senator after senator has asserted that Barrett is about to come under attack because of her devout Catholicism. But all of these arguments are figments of their imagination. Senate Democrats, hoping that by this time next month Joe Biden will have won his bid to become America's second practicing Roman Catholic president, have ignored her religious beliefs. This is smart politics (not that it was exactly hard to see the trap Republicans were setting — in the Trump era, the GOP can't really do cleverness or nuance.) But it's also the right thing to do on the merits. Barrett's religious beliefs are irrelevant. Organizations like the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation ensure that aspiring Supreme Court justices have orthodox conservative views on the questions most important to contemporary Republicans, and Barrett's views are simply those of a conventional Trump appellate court nominee. What mixture of religious and secular beliefs motivates them is entirely irrelevant. The political problem for Republicans is that the orthodox views of Republican judges in 2020 are enormously popular. This requires a cynical political theater in which Republicans pretend to be outraged by people who assume that a Republican judicial nominee shares the view virtually all Republican elites have on constitutional questions like the soundness of Roe v. Wade or the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. This feigned ignorance is intelligence-insulting. If Republican senators really believed that the rulings of future Supreme Court justices were an unknowable mystery, Merrick Garland would be sitting on the court right now. The questioning of Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (R) on the second day of hearings took this attempt to change the subject from Barrett's views on constitutional matters to the point of self-parody. Hawley asked Barrett whether her religious views legally barred her from office or whether there were any legal issues with her meetings with pro-life students. It would lend these arguments too much dignity to call them "straw men." Nobody of any power or influence in the Democratic Party believes that Barrett's religious views should bar her from office —which is why Barack Obama nominated and Senate Democrats voted to confirm the Catholic Justice Sonia Sotomayor — or that a faculty member meeting with student groups is wrong (let alone illegal). What matters is what the anti-Roe advertisement she signed and her meeting with students who oppose abortion rights says about her position on whether Roe should be overruled, questions that would be equally relevant if she was a Protestant or Muslim or atheist. The typical way in which contemporary Supreme Court hearings run out the clock without the nominees having to say anything of substance is to talk about the question of precedents in the abstract. Barrett's hearings are no exception. During questioning by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), she said that Roe v. Wade was not a mostly settled "super-precedent" like Brown v. Board of Education. This is not an inaccurate description as far as it goes. And Barrett's general view on precedent — that in some but not all cases, upholding precedents is more important than correcting past mistakes by the court on constitutional questions — are held by many judges, including the late Antonin Scalia, her former boss.

10-14-20 Amy Coney Barrett: Trump US Supreme Court pick faces fresh questioning
Donald Trump's nominee for the US Supreme Court is facing more tough questions in a Senate hearing, a day after sidestepping some key issues. Amy Coney Barrett has insisted she will decide cases as they arrive and not apply a personal agenda. Democrats have failed to draw her on issues like abortion, healthcare and LGBTQ rights and on Wednesday she again declined any "hypothetical" questions. Republicans are pressing to confirm her before the 3 November election. Judge Barrett is the proposed replacement for liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month aged 87. The appointment is lifelong. Her confirmation would give the nine-member court a 6-3 conservative majority, swinging the ideological balance of the court for potentially decades to come. Wednesday is the third day of the hearing, being conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the second in which Judge Barrett has faced questions from senators.Lindsey Graham, Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was happy to highlight Judge Barrett's views, saying: "This is the first time in American history that we've nominated a woman who is unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology." Judge Barrett responded to one question by saying the 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling that recognised a woman's constitutional right to abortion did not constitute a "super-precedent" that cannot be revisited. As well as fearing action on abortion rights, Democrats are concerned Judge Barrett could vote to strike down reforms providing health insurance to millions of Americans when the court hears a case against the public health insurance scheme next month. Another key concern is whether she would be involved in any challenge by Mr Trump to the presidential election result. On Tuesday Judge Barrett declined to state if she would abstain from taking part in cases involving her nominee, the president. (Webmaster's comment: If approved for the supreme court this person will twist the law to support her religious beliefs!)

10-14-20 US census: Trump administration can end count early, says Supreme Court
The Trump administration can immediately end counting for the 2020 census, the US Supreme Court has ruled. The administration has insisted it needs extra time to process the data and deliver it to the president by the end-of-year legal deadline. However, civil rights groups are concerned that people will be unaccounted for, particularly minorities. The once-in-a-decade survey had been set to continue until 31 October. According to the Constitution, every person in the US should be included in the household survey. Its data is used to determine Congressional seats, voting districts and the allocation of federal funding. Critics are concerned that the Trump administration is rushing the process to ensure it will have control of the numbers, whoever wins the presidential election on 3 November. The Justice Department made an emergency request to bring the process to an early close last week. It followed a decision by a lower court - now overturned - to keep the voting going until the end of the month, as a result of a legal challenge by civil rights groups and local governments, who are concerned about hard-to-reach communities being left out. Since May, the Census Bureau has reported delays in the counting, owing to the pandemic. The Justice Department says only Congress can extend the deadline, so complaints should be directed there. "Contrary to what Plaintiffs may think, the Bureau is not free to disregard a statutory deadline in pursuit of some ethereal notion of a better census," wrote Justice Department lawyers in a court filing. The Supreme Court did not provide an explanation for its ruling on ending the count. Only one justice - Justice Sonia Sotomayor - dissented. "Meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying, especially when the Government has failed to show why it could not bear the lesser cost of expending more resources to meet the deadline or continuing its prior efforts to seek an extension from Congress," she wrote. (Webmaster's comment: The Trump-Republican dictatorship forges on!)

10-14-20 Twitter suspends accounts claiming to be black Trump supporters
Twitter has suspended a number of fake accounts purporting to be owned by black supporters of US President Donald Trump. The social media giant said the accounts broke its rules on spam and platform manipulation. Many of the accounts used identical language, including the phrase: "YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!!!" Twitter has not specified the number of accounts suspended so far or the source of them. It said it was continuing to investigate the activity and may suspend additional accounts if they were found to be violating its policies. The investigation was first reported by the Washington Post newspaper. Darren Linvill, a social media disinformation researcher at Clemson University, found more than two dozen such accounts, which had generated some 265,000 retweets or Twitter mentions. Some of the accounts used photos of black men that had appeared in news articles. Several had tens of thousands of followers. Mr Linvill told Reuters news agency that most of the accounts were created in 2017, but had become more active in the past two months. He said all of the accounts he had been monitoring had now been suspended but that they had "already had their impact". Twitter forbids using the platform "to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behaviour that manipulates or disrupts people's experience" on the site. Its action comes weeks ahead of the 3 November US presidential election. Polls suggest about 10% of black voters are supporting Mr Trump, according to polling website FiveThirtyEight.

10-14-20 Donald Trump has turned the White House into a bribe factory
For years now it has been clear that Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in American history. No previous president has continued to operate a vast personal business empire while in office — creating more than 3,000 identifiable conflicts of interest. As I predicted three days before he was inaugurated, he has constantly jammed taxpayer money into his own pockets, corruptly bullied foreign powers into doing him political favors, and turned the Department of Justice into an arm of his campaign. Now that The New York Times has gotten access to many years of Trump's tax returns, we have new confirmed details about one particular aspect of his corruption — getting paid for political favors. In essence, he has turned the American executive branch into a giant bribery scheme. Wealthy people with business before the state stuff money into Trump's pockets through his many properties, and in return he gives them the contracts or policy concessions they want. Here's how the bribery machine works: an interested party spends tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars at one of Trump's hotels, or golf resorts, or at Mar-a-Lago. That gets them in front of Trump — as he has spent nearly 400 days as president at those locations — and in his good graces, because he is exceptionally greedy. Then he is easily convinced to help them on some matter of policy. AAR Corp., a government contractor fighting off a rival in court, held two retreats at the Trump National Doral resort, paying the president $120,746. It kept its contract and got new ones. The GEO Group, a private prison contractor, hired Trump's personal lobbyist, paid at least $32,100 to Mar-a-Lago, and saw its government contracting rise from $500 million per year to $900 million. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University spent $75,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and got a bill passed removing restrictions on land it owns. And those are just three of over 100 companies that spent bigly at Trump's various properties. Various right-wing religious groups paid six-figure sums to Trump through his properties, and received "an array of favorable policies from the administration, including appointments of anti-abortion judges and measures exempting religious groups from anti-discrimination laws." He also offered five members of his clubs ambassadorships. Ironically, Trump is such an inept businessman that it appears he is not even making enough money off all these bribes to make his businesses profitable. The Times' overall coverage of his tax returns show that he experienced a steep decline in income after 2014 or so, in part because his newly toxic political reputation killed off most of his brand deals. Massive loans that he personally secured are due for repayment in the next few years, and Trump may well be bankrupted if he loses his race for re-election. Anyone who wasn't a complete dolt could rake in way more than that by leveraging the power of the American presidency. If nothing else, he could just write himself a $100 billion check — Senate Republicans have already made clear they will not remove him from office no matter what he does. But whether Trump is competent at turning the government into a shakedown machine has nothing to do with whether doing so is right or wrong, or violates the law. For instance, 18 U.S. Code §?201 stipulates that any public official who "corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally … in return for … being influenced in the performance of any official act" can be punished by up to 15 years in prison.

10-14-20 Trump taxes: A 'fundamentally unfair' system?
For years, US President Donald Trump has shrugged off criticism of his low tax bills, famously boasting that not paying taxes made him "smart". "Like every other private person, unless they're stupid, they go through the laws, and that's what it is," he said during last month's presidential debate, when confronted over the New York Times report that he had paid just $750 in income taxes to the federal government in 2016 and 2017, and for 10 years, paid nothing at all. So how unusual is his tale? In the US, Mr Trump's route to such low sums, using business losses and expenses such as haircuts to offset other gains, has raised legal questions, triggering investigations by tax officials and authorities in New York. And in other countries, Mr Trump might find it harder to deploy such strategies so freely, says Andy Summers, professor of law at the London School of Economics. The UK, for example, has rules that limit how much losses in one business can be used to offset gains elsewhere. All that suggests Mr Trump is a special case, notwithstanding research finding higher rates of tax avoidance among the super-rich. But in other ways, tax experts say, Mr Trump has a point. Many of the world's wealthy pay less than what official tax rates might imply - with no need to resort to tricky tactics at all. "It's not, 'Oh there's one person who's doing it,'" says Arun Advani, a professor of economics at Warwick University, who has examined taxes in the UK. "It's actually a relatively common experience." In the US, the 400 richest American billionaires paid an average overall tax rate of 23% in 2018 - lower than the 24% rate paid by the bottom half of households, economists at the University of California - Berkeley estimated in a 2019 paper. The difference between the headline rates and what governments actually collected was driven by laws that hit wages and salaries with higher tax rates than other types of income, such as property and stock market investments, which belong disproportionately to the rich.

10-14-20 US election 2020: How to spot disinformation
t's less than a month to go before the US election and the candidates are battling over the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic and much more. But online there's a world full of conspiracy theories, influence campaigns and false claims. How can you spot political disinformation and foreign interference on your social media feed? The BBC's specialist disinformation reporter Marianna Spring explains.

10-14-20 England & Wales had most excess deaths in Europe’s covid-19 first wave
England, Wales and Spain suffered the biggest increases in deaths by all causes during the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic, while countries including New Zealand, Norway and Poland appear to have escaped relatively unscathed. The three worst-hit countries each saw around 100 “excess deaths” per 100,000 people between February and May, which researchers say was probably due to governments being slow to implement lockdowns and scale up testing and tracing. To arrive at the results, Majid Ezzati at Imperial College London and his colleagues took weekly death data from 2010 to early 2020 for 22 countries and used 16 models to factor in influences such as temperature, estimating how many deaths there would have been in a pandemic-free world for February to May. The researchers then compared those figures with official data for deaths by all causes, to arrive at excess deaths. Across the countries – 20 in Europe, plus Australia and New Zealand – there were 206,000 excess deaths. But how countries fared differed wildly. Hungary, Denmark and Australia were among the group where there was no detectable rise in deaths. In the middle were countries such as Sweden, which fared poorly compared with its Nordic neighbours. Those with most excess deaths were Belgium, Italy, Scotland, Spain, England and Wales, with the last three in a class of their own. “What puts England, Wales and Spain doing worst than other countries is this combination of long and intense – long period of impact and quite large rises,” says Ezzati. The UK government dropped international covid-19 death figures from its daily briefings in May, which it justified by saying comparisons were “difficult” due to differences in how countries report data. Yet by the yardstick of excess deaths, considered the fairest way to compare countries, much of the UK emerges badly. Excess deaths were up 37 per cent in England and Wales, when adjusted for population, behind only Spain at 38 per cent. “All-cause mortality moves past the differences in how countries report data,” says Hannah Ritchie at Our World in Data.Demographic differences such as the UK’s high rate of obesity, a risk factor for severe covid-19, cannot explain the country’s poor performance alone, Ezzati and his colleagues say, noting that Australia and New Zealand both have worse obesity rates. The team found two consistent features for the countries with the worst mortality rates: late lockdowns and slow ramping up of testing and tracing.

10-14-20 Coronavirus: New restrictions in Catalonia as Europe battles second wave
Spain's north-eastern region of Catalonia has said bars and restaurants are to close for 15 days from Thursday as the country tries to slow the spread of coronavirus. Across Europe, governments are introducing new restrictions to battle a second wave of infections. The Czech Republic has shut schools and bars, Dutch cafes and restaurants are closing, and France may impose curfews. In the Netherlands a partial lockdown comes into force at 22:00 (20:00 GMT). Also on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron is set to detail new measures for Paris and other cities. Across Europe, infection rates are rising, with Russia reporting a record 14,321 daily cases on Wednesday and a further 239 deaths. But even in countries that have had greater success than most in keeping transmission down, infections are rising. Germany has seen more than 5,000 new infections for the first time since April and 47 areas with an average rate of over 50 people per 100,000 residents. Germany's RKI public health agency officials speak of seeing an "accelerated rise in transmission in the population". Spain currently has one of Europe's highest infection rates, with nearly 900,000 infections and more than 33,000 deaths. The wealthy region of Catalonia had appeared to have a second rise in infections in the summer under control when it ordered people to stay home in Barcelona and other cities. But on Wednesday Catalonia's interim leader Pere Aragones said "action is needed to avoid a full lockdown in the coming weeks". Restaurants in the region of about 7.5 million people will only be allowed to serve takeaway and Mr Aragones urged people to stay at home. Gyms and cultural events will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, while shops and large shopping centres must be limited to 30% capacity. Mr Aragones said the measures will need to be approved by a court. Residents of the country's capital, Madrid, are already unable to leave the city, and bars and restaurants have a 23:00 curfew.

10-13-20 Covid-19 news: UK government ignored scientists’ advice on lockdown
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK scientific advisors recommended a short lockdown in England three weeks ago. The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned ministers three weeks ago that a failure to implement tighter coronavirus restrictions in England would have “catastrophic consequences.” Documents from SAGE dated 21 September, which were released yesterday, included a recommendation that the government impose a two-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown to curb the spread of infections. The advisory group cautioned that “not acting now to reduce cases will result in a very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences in terms of direct COVID related deaths and the ability of the health service to meet needs.” Other recommendations from the group, which were not implemented by the government at the time, included banning all contact between people from different households, closing all bars, restaurants, cafes, indoor gyms and personal services such as hairdressers, and moving all university and college teaching online unless absolutely essential. A man in the US has become the fifth person recorded to have caught the coronavirus twice, following similar cases in Hong Kong, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ecuador. The 25-year old first tested positive for the virus on 18 April after experiencing several weeks of symptoms but then recovered and tested negative for the virus on both 9 and 26 May, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. However, a few days after testing negative for the second time, he developed more severe symptoms, eventually requiring hospitalisation, and he tested positive for the virus again on 5 June. The man has since recovered. Although cases of coronavirus reinfection with severe illness do not appear to be common, “these findings reinforce the point that we still do not know enough about the immune response to this infection,” said Paul Hunter at the University of East Anglia, UK, in a statement. Understanding immune responses to the virus and how long any immunity might last is important for vaccine development. Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has voluntarily paused clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate because of an unexplained illness in a study participant. This is standard procedure in vaccine development, and allows time for researchers to determine the cause of the illness and ensure the safety of participants in the trial. In September, trials of a coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford were also paused, after a participant fell ill in the UK. Trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate have since resumed in the UK, Brazil, South Africa and India, but the US trial is still on hold, pending a regulatory review. Both the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidates are based on adenoviral vectors – modified viruses that can instruct cells to produce coronavirus proteins. Senior US government health advisor Anthony Fauci has criticised US president Donald Trump’s decision to resume campaign rallies without adequate social distancing. The president returned to the campaign trail yesterday to attend a rally in Florida less than two weeks after he tested positive for the coronavirus. “That is asking for trouble,” Fauci told CNN in an interview. He cited rising virus positivity rates in a number of US states, adding: “now is even more so a worse time to do that, because when you look at what’s going on in the United States, it’s really very troublesome.”

10-13-20 The Republican Party is objectively pro-coronavirus
They've gone from hampering containment efforts to spreading the virus intentionally. Monday saw the beginning of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Staggeringly, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) actually appeared in person, a mere 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. He apparently has not tested negative or even been examined by a physician to confirm he has no symptoms — and removed his mask before giving his opening remarks. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), meanwhile, who was exposed to Lee in an Oct. 1 hearing and had one negative test, has since refused to take another one even as a precaution. In one particularly ghoulish moment, both Lee and Graham stood chatting over Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is 87 years old (and has also refused to get tested). The hearing was just one of several instances over the past couple weeks in which Republicans have worked assiduously to spread coronavirus across the land. The party has mutated from merely hampering efforts to control the pandemic to actively accelerating it, even among their own top leaders. It all started, of course, with the super-spreader event at the White House celebrating Barrett's nomination on Sept. 26. President Trump and something like 30 other people were likely infected as a result — how many exactly we can't say, because the White House has refused to allow contact tracing. Very possibly hundreds of infections will end up being caused by this failure to find and arrest the chain of transmission. While ill, Trump forced his Secret Service agents to drive him outside the hospital to wave at supporters before returning to the White House long before he was fully recovered, causing flailing panic among his staff. He has since held a brief outdoor event on Sunday, with many maskless attendees crammed together, and resumed regular campaign events with a big rally in Florida Monday night. At the recent debates, Trump lied about having been tested beforehand, and Vice President Pence resisted basic protective measures. After coming down with the virus, Trump refused to participate in a remote second debate, insisting that he potentially expose Joe Biden and hundreds of staffers to infection or he would not debate. The irresponsibility of all this is practically beyond description. Everything we know about the coronavirus suggests people should use extreme caution around people known to be infected or exposed, particularly in indoor spaces. According to the CDC, anyone who tests positive is supposed to isolate themselves for a minimum of 10 days, and longer if they still show symptoms. Ideally, they should also show two negative tests at least 24 hours apart — a simple matter for a senator or president. By the same token, anyone who is exposed should quarantine for 14 days, because the virus can take that long to manifest itself (also why a single negative test is no guarantee). The reason is this virus is very contagious, and COVID is not to be trifled with. We are still learning things about the disease — for instance, it appears some people with even mild cases can experience a terrifying "brain fog" syndrome that can linger for who knows how long. (It is worth noting that Ted Cruz, who was also exposed like Graham, actually was quarantining himself and thus video-called into the hearing.) Lee and Trump violated the first CDC rule, and Graham is violating the second one. One hopes that nobody else will be infected as a result of the Barrett hearings, but it is quite possible that this will be the second super-spreader event directly associated with the Supreme Court nomination. Grassley (or Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is also 87) may end up being killed by COVID just like Herman Cain was probably killed by an infection from a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa.

10-13-20 Amy Coney Barrett: Trump Supreme Court nominee faces questions
US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is being grilled on day two of her Senate confirmation hearing. Democrats opposed to her nomination have cast her as a threat to healthcare reforms passed under former President Barack Obama. The conservative judge said on Tuesday she had "no agenda" and vowed to stick to "the rule of law". Republicans are seeking to approve her nomination ahead of the presidential election in three weeks. Her confirmation would give the nine-member court a 6-3 conservative majority, altering the ideological balance of the court for potentially decades to come. Democrats fear Judge Barrett's successful nomination would favour Republicans in politically sensitive cases that reach the Supreme Court. She is the proposed replacement for liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month aged 87. But Republicans have praised Judge Barrett. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsay Graham on Tuesday said she was "one of the greatest picks President Trump could make" for the court. Republicans hold a slim majority in the US Senate, the body that confirms Supreme Court judges, making Judge Barrett's nomination very likely to pass. Democrats have criticised the rushed process as "reckless" and a "sham", amid a coronavirus pandemic that has killed 215,000 people in the US. They have also accused Republicans of hypocrisy. In March 2016, when Mr Obama, a Democrat, put forward a nominee to fill a spot on the court, the Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings, arguing the decision should not be made in an election year. Tuesday is the first of two days of direct questioning for Judge Barrett from senators on the deeply divided Senate Judiciary Committee. It follows day one on Monday, when she explained her legal philosophy and qualifications for the lifetime position on America's top court. Democratic senators are scrutinising her conservative views and decisions she has delivered as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Much of her record could be seen to be in opposition to the philosophy of the late Justice Ginsburg. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, started by asking about abortion. Questioning whether the nominee agreed with the view that Roe v Wade - the case that led to legalisation of abortion in the US - was "wrongly decided", Judge Barrett vowed not to "pre-commit" to any view. "I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law," she said, stating that she had "no agenda to try to overrule" other decisions. The judge is a devout Catholic but stated on Tuesday that she had "never tried to impose" her personal choices on others, in her personal life or her professional life. She similarly refused to express her views when questioned about cases concerning LGBTQ rights, arguing that "as a sitting judge, I can't give answers to those very specific questions". (Webmaster's comment: she wants to stop ALL abortions, get rid of ALL LGBTQs, stop ALL non-white immigration!)

10-13-20 Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine trial paused due to ill volunteer
Johnson & Johnson has paused its Covid vaccine trial to investigate why one participant in the study fell ill. The company said an independent review would check if the person's unexplained symptoms were related to the jab. It has suspended recruitment to the phase three trial as a precaution. It said in large trials, with tens of thousands of volunteers, it was to be expected that some may become unwell during the study period. The company said that for privacy reasons, it could not give more details about the participant. "We're also learning more about this participant's illness, and it's important to have all the facts before we share additional information," it said in a statement. It is not the first Covid vaccine trial to be suspended - a participant in the UK's Oxford University study had an unexplained illness too, but it has since been deemed safe to resume, except for in the US where regulators are still in discussions with manufacturer Astra Zeneca. There are nearly 180 vaccine candidates being tested around the world, but none has yet completed clinical trials. The Johnson & Johnson jab, like the Oxford University Astra Zeneca one, is in the advanced stage of testing. Both use a modified common cold virus to prime the immune system against Covid. The Johnson & Johnson trial had started recruiting participants in late September, with a goal of enrolling up to 60,000 volunteers across more than 200 sites in the US as well as in South America and South Africa.

10-13-20 Coronavirus: 'Momentous' errors worsened Austria ski resort outbreak
One of Europe's first coronavirus outbreaks could have been contained by the Austrian authorities, an official investigation has found. Outbreaks at two popular ski resorts in March led to thousands of new cases and were worsened by "momentous miscalculations", the report said. One resort, Ischgl, was linked to cases in 45 countries after skiers brought the virus home with them. Authorities have said they acted based on what was known at the time. "There were errors of judgement that had consequences," Ronald Rohrer, the head of the commission that led the investigation, told a press conference on Monday. "They reacted too late," he added. Investigators said authorities were too slow to close the resorts in Ischgl and nearby St Anton when the outbreaks became clear. A group of skiers from Iceland reported Covid-19 symptoms on 3 March, and by 5 March the authorities were aware that a coronavirus outbreak was likely, according to Mr Rohrer. The first case at Ischgl ski village was reported on 7 March when a bartender tested positive. Austria's public health agency has since said it believes there were cases at the resort as early as 5 February. "From 8 March, a correct assessment should have led to the closing of bars, the stopping of ski lifts and orderly management of departures" of tourists, the report said. But, instead, tourists were not informed and the resorts in the western Tyrol region remained open for several days. A full lockdown of both resorts was announced on 13 March, and thousands of tourists were forced to evacuate within hours. "That created a panicked reaction from guests and workers," Mr Rohrer said. "Some of the guests jumped into their cars with their ski boots still on." The report said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's government had failed to communicate properly with both the local authorities and foreign tourists. But Mr Rohrer stressed that, in some respects, the authorities had reacted "appropriately" to the rise in cases. He added that the intention of the report was to allow Austria and other countries to "learn from the mistakes of the past".

10-13-20 Covid on campus: Students fed up with being blamed for virus spike
Covid cases have surged at US colleges and universities, with students often blamed for contributing to the spread. What do young people think of the pandemic response and those officials pointing the finger at their behaviour? At the end of September, the death of Chad Dorrill, an otherwise healthy 19-year-old student in North Carolina, from Covid-complications was a shocking reminder that America's young people aren't invincible. There have been at least 178,000 cases and 70 coronavirus-related deaths on US campuses since the beginning of the pandemic, a New York Times survey found. Between early August and September, cases among Americans aged 18-22 more than doubled, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. We asked our voter panel to weigh in.n

10-13-20 The battle over what US children learn about American history
As President Trump pushes for "patriotic education" in American schools, some teachers say students aren't being taught the whole story when it comes to US history and its roots with slavery.

10-12-20 Amy Coney Barrett: The Supreme Court nominee on abortion, healthcare and her faith
The US Supreme Court is often the last say on major cases that impact public life. So what kind of justice might President Trump's nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett be? From abortion to gun rights, here's a look at what she's said about major issues in the past. Speaking in 2016 at Jacksonville University's Public Policy Institute, she told students judges should not be appointed based on policy preferences. "We should be putting people on the court who want to apply the Constitution." In her opening statement on 12 October, she tied herself once more to the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who she worked for as a clerk. For many, Judge Barrett's views on abortion (and the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that protected the procedure nationally) are at the centre of their support or condemnation of her nomination. She has not ruled specifically on abortion before, but she has reviewed two abortion restrictions cases while on the appeals court. Judge Barrett voted in favour of a law that would have mandated doctors to inform the parents of a minor seeking an abortion, with no exceptions. She also called for a state law that sought to ban abortions related to sex, race, disability or life-threatening health conditions to be reheard. Judge Barrett's abortion views aside, perhaps the more important is the question of how she views precedent - and what that might mean for Roe v Wade and other established rulings. "Does the Court act lawlessly - or at least questionably - when it overrules precedent?" she wrote in a 2013 Texas Law Review article. "I tend to agree with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it." A devout Catholic, Judge Barrett has been asked about her faith as it relates to her work during past confirmation hearings. She has been asked in particular about a 1998 article she co-wrote with a professor about Catholic judges. She wrote that Catholic judges are "obliged by oath, professional commitment and the demands of citizenship to enforce the death penalty", while also being obliged "to adhere to their church's teaching on moral matters".

10-12-20 Covid-19 news: New three-tier coronavirus system announced for England
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions tighten in parts of England as new three-tier system introduced. UK prime minister Boris Johnson today announced a new three-tier system for setting coronavirus rules in England, due to come into force on Wednesday subject to a debate and vote in parliament tomorrow. Under the new system, different sets of restrictions of increasing severity will apply to different regions. They will be classified as being on medium, high or very high alert based on their case rates per 100,000 people as well as the rate at which infections are rising. The Liverpool city region, which recorded 600 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending 6 October will face the tightest restrictions, classified as tier three. This will mean that those living in Liverpool and surrounding areas will not be allowed to meet people from different households indoors, while gyms and pubs will be required to shut until the measures are reviewed in a month, Johnson told parliament. The coronavirus may remain infectious for up to 28 days on surfaces such as mobile phone screens, according to a study by researchers at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness published in Virology Journal. The researchers studied coronavirus particles on several common surface types across a range of temperatures, in complete darkness. They found that the virus had a half-life of between 1.7 and 2.7 days at 20°C and that viable virus particles could be isolated for up to 28 days on smooth surfaces such as mobile phone screen glass as well as banknotes made of paper and plastic. However, this is probably an overestimate because outside of these laboratory conditions, factors such as exposure to ultraviolet light could increase the chance of virus particles being destroyed. More people in England are in hospital with covid-19 than before the UK first went into lockdown in March, NHS medical director Stephen Powis told a Downing Street press conference today. “If we do not take measures to control the spread of the virus, the death toll will be too great to bear,” said Powis. All hospital staff in high risk areas will now be tested for the virus regularly irrespective of symptoms, he added, and Nightingale Hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate have already been asked to prepare for increased numbers of patients in the coming months.

10-12-20 Amy Coney Barrett: Senate opens hearing into Trump Supreme Court pick
Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, is appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee for four days of contentious confirmation hearings. The 48-year-old conservative jurist has vowed to judge legal cases impartially. But her nomination so close to the 3 November presidential election has sparked a political row between the Republicans and rival Democrats. Judge Barrett's approval would cement a conservative majority on the top court. Conservative-leaning justices would then hold a 6-3 majority, shifting its ideological balance for potentially decades to come. President Trump picked Judge Barrett to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month aged 87. The Republicans - who currently hold a slim majority in the US Senate, the body that confirms Supreme Court judges - are now trying to complete the process before Mr Trump takes on Democratic rival Joe Biden in the election. The court's nine justices serve lifetime appointments, and their rulings can shape public policy on everything from gun and voting rights to abortion and campaign finance. Democrats fear Judge Barrett's successful nomination would favour Republicans in politically sensitive cases that reach the Supreme Court. In his opening statement, committee Chairman Lindsey Graham described Ms Barrett as being "in a category of excellence, something the country should be proud of", but predicted "a long contentious week" of hearings. The committee's top Democrat Dianne Feinstein opened her remarks defending healthcare reforms passed under President Barack Obama, saying that Ms Barrett's appointment could threaten health access for millions. "Simply put, I do not think we should be moving forward on this nomination," she said, calling for the hearings to be delayed until after the election. (Webmaster's comment: She opposes all abortions regardless of reason, all LGBTQ rights - even being one, and all non-white immigration!)

10-12-20 Amy Coney Barrett: Democrats attack 'shameful' Supreme Court hearing
President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, is appearing before senators in what has been billed as a "contentious week" of confirmation hearings. The 48-year-old conservative jurist has vowed to judge legal cases impartially. But her nomination so close to the 3 November presidential election has sparked a political row between the Republicans and rival Democrats. The panel's top Republican began by vowing to confirm the "great woman". But one Democratic senator on the committee described the process as "shameful". Judge Barrett's approval would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the nine-member top court, shifting its ideological balance for potentially decades to come. President Trump picked Judge Barrett to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month aged 87. The Republicans - who currently hold a slim majority in the US Senate, the body that confirms Supreme Court judges - are trying to complete the process before Mr Trump takes on Democratic rival Joe Biden in the election. The court's nine justices serve lifetime appointments, and their rulings can shape public policy on everything from gun and voting rights to abortion and campaign finance. Committee chairman Lindsey Graham described Ms Barrett as being "in a category of excellence, something the country should be proud of". Top Democrat Dianne Feinstein defended healthcare reforms passed under President Barack Obama, saying that Ms Barrett's appointment could threaten health access for millions. "Simply put, I do not think we should be moving forward on this nomination," she said, calling for the hearings to be delayed until after the election. Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy said Republicans announced plans to fill Ginsberg's seat "just one hour after the announcement of her death". "From that moment this process has been nothing but shameful. Worse, it will almost certainly lead to disastrous consequences for Americans." Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley predicted Democrats would "rustle up baseless claims and scare tactics" to smear the nominee and "outright disparage her religious beliefs".

10-12-20 Amy Coney Barrett: What's at stake in Supreme Court fight
The battle to get Donald Trump's nominee to the US Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed by the Senate is beginning. The shifting ideological balance of the court will have an impact in all areas of American life and across the US - perhaps in no place more than Texas. Susan Lippman, a Democratic activist in Austin, Texas, was sitting in her car when she heard the news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. "I'm not too emotional," she says. "But I let fly. I was raging and screaming. Pounding the steering wheel." Lippman instantly knew the impact that the loss of Ginsburg, a liberal legal icon, would have on the ideological composition of the court. If Donald Trump could successfully replace her with his choice for a justice, it would secure the conservative tilt of the top US judicial body for a generation. So, a week after Ginsburg's death, Lippman and her friend, Debbie White, were heading to protest outside the office of Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican senator who has pledged to confirm Ms Coney Barrett. White says a 6-3 conservative majority in the court could directly attack Democratic Party priorities like government-managed healthcare and access to abortion services. "I'm afraid that it's going to do away with some very important things like the Affordable Care Act, which would be just awful because that would bother so many lives," White says. "All the women's rights and women's health issues are a goner on a conservative Supreme Court." While the political battle over Trump's appointment of Barrett is taking place between the White House and Democratic senators in the US Capitol, some of the biggest legal fights that have made it to the Supreme Court in recent years have come out of Texas. For instance, the current challenge to the Affordable Care Act - Barack Obama's signature law when in office, aiming to expand access to healthcare - was brought by the state of Texas. It will come before the Supreme Court just days after the election, possibly with Barrett on the bench. A major 2016 court decision on regulating abortion clinics also originated in the state, as did recent disputes over federal voting rights laws, the consideration of race in university admissions, the constitutionality of Obama-era immigration reforms.

10-12-20 US Election 2020: Anthony Fauci says Trump campaign ad quote misleading
Top US government scientist Anthony Fauci has said a clip of him used in a Trump campaign advert is misleading. His words that he "can't imagine that anybody could be doing more" to fight Covid-19 appear in the ad to refer to President Donald Trump specifically. But Dr Fauci, who clashed with Mr Trump before on Covid, was actually talking about himself and other staff. The infectious diseases expert said he had never publicly endorsed any political candidate. The dispute comes as President Trump returns to the campaign trail on Monday, just two days after his doctors gave him the all-clear to resume public events following his own treatment for coronavirus. He faces Democrat Joe Biden in the election on 3 November. The 30-second campaign advert declares that "President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America", before playing the clip of Dr Fauci. The Fauci footage comes from an interview the epidemiologist did with Fox News in March. Dr Fauci's full words in that interview are: "I have been devoting almost full time on this. I'm down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. It's every single day. So, I can't imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more." Dr Fauci said in a statement on Sunday: "The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP [Republican Party] campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials." He says: "In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate." The Trump campaign defended the advert. Spokesman Tim Murtaugh said: "These are Dr Fauci's own words. The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr Fauci was praising the work of the Trump administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr Fauci's mouth." (Webmaster's comment: How can you tell if Trump is lying? His lips are moving!)

10-12-20 Covid-19: China's Qingdao to test nine million in five days
The Chinese city of Qingdao is testing its entire population of nine million people for Covid-19 over a period of five days. The mass testing comes after the discovery of a dozen cases linked to a hospital treating coronavirus patients arriving from abroad. In May, China tested the entire city of Wuhan - home to 11 million people and the epicentre of the global pandemic. The country has largely brought the virus under control. That is in stark contrast to other parts of the world, where there are still high case numbers and lockdown restrictions of varying severity. In a statement posted to Chinese social media site Weibo, Qingdao's Municipal Health Commission said six new cases and six asymptomatic cases had been discovered. All the cases were linked to the same hospital, said the state-run Global Times. The Chinese authorities now have a strategy of mass testing even when a new coronavirus cluster appears to be relatively minor, correspondents say. The National Health Commission said on Monday that "the whole city will be tested within five days". Some 114,862 people - including medical staff and newly hospitalised patients in the city's hospitals - had already tested negative, Qingdao's health commission said. Videos circulating online showed residents lining up late on Sunday to get tested, said the Global Times, adding that some of these test points were open from 07:00 to 23:00. The new cases come a week after China's Golden Week holiday - which saw millions travel across the country. A Global Times report quoting the Qingdao Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism said the coastal city had received 4.47 million passenger trips over this period. The nearby city of Jinan, in the same province as Qingdao, called for anyone who had visited the city since 23 September to get tested, according to a report by The Paper. Earlier last month, Qingdao announced that two port workers who handled imported seafood had tested positive. They were not known to have infected anyone else. Daily coronavirus infections have fallen drastically in China, and for the most part the country appears to have recovered from the worst. China currently has 91,305 virus cases and the death toll stands at 4,746, according to WHO data. (Webmaster's comment: United States has 8,000,000 cases and 220,000 deaths!)

10-11-20 US election 2020: Court allows Texas postal vote restrictions
A US appeals court has issued a temporary stay that will allow Texas to limit drop-off points to just one per county in next month's election. Drop-off points were set up to allow voters to submit ballots in advance rather than rely on the postal service. The decision came after another court blocked an order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, drastically limiting these points. But Democrats say this amounts to voter suppression. A record number of people are expected to vote by mail in this year's election due to the pandemic. The US Postal Service already has already warned ballot papers may not arrive in time to be counted on election day, 3 November. The order was first issued by Governor Abbott earlier this month. He said it would help curb "illegal voting" - mirroring President Donald Trump's claims, made without evidence, that postal voting is a major source of electoral fraud. A federal court then blocked Mr Abbott's order in a ruling on Friday. Judge Robert Pitman told the court that it would impact vulnerable people, such as older and disabled voters. It would force these voters to either travel long distances or to vote in person, Judge Pitman said - both of which would put them at greater risk of catching Covid-19. However, with the latest ruling from the Court of Appeal, the state can now continue limiting the number of drop-off points. Texas has a limit on who can request absentee ballots. Only voters who are over 65, have a disability, are in jail or who will be out of town on election day are allowed to vote by post. Governor Abbott's ruling means that some people in Harris County, home to more than four million, will only have one point in the entire county to hand in their ballot paper. (Webmaster's comment: The Republicans will do anything they can to block the vote of the people!)

10-11-20 Is the economy rebounding — or flailing?
Layoffs signal a rebound in trouble Twin dangers to the economy point to more pain ahead, said Jeanna Smialek at The New York Times. A new wave of layoffs from massive employers like Disney, United and American Airlines, Allstate, and Shell and Marathon Oil suggest that the rebound "may begin to feel more like the grinding healing process" in the decade following the Great Recession. That's because "companies that are limping along this far into the crisis" — particularly high-interaction businesses such as restaurants and theaters — are "increasingly unlikely to ever recall their employees," turning temporary layoffs into permanent reductions. Nearly 2.5 million people have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, the threshold the Labor Department uses to define "long-term unemployment." We've learned from the past three recessions that lasting joblessness can "haunt workers," forcing them to drop out of the job market or take lower pay. That can weigh down "the U.S.'s economic potential." The last jobs report before the November election didn't have the "eye-popping numbers" President Trump had hoped for, said Ben White at Politico. The U.S. added 661,000 jobs last month, a very good number under ordinary circumstances, but nothing like the 4.8 million jobs added in June as the economy reopened. There were also other signs that "the rebound is fizzling." Some 216,000 state and local government jobs disappeared as budgets were squeezed. Consumer spending is slowing and personal income falling — and there is no clear prospect of additional federal stimulus spending to compensate. Private companies actually added a fairly healthy 877,000 jobs, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The overall total was reduced by the government shedding 216,000 jobs, mostly because of closed schools. The biggest brake on the economy continues to be government restrictions. Despite this, "the economy and labor market still have plenty of growth momentum." Believe it or not, many businesses are reporting job openings they can't fill, citing expanded unemployment benefits that "make it harder to attract workers." This is not the V-shaped bounce back that optimists predicted, said Michael Strain in Bloomberg, but it is proceeding roughly as many other recoveries have. There's concern the economy is benefiting mostly the well-off. But "the first stages of economic expansions don't necessarily tell the full story. Lower-income households fare better as recoveries strengthen." "There are still 10.7 million fewer people employed now than there were in February," said Henry Olsen at The Washington Post. That's a bigger share of missing jobs than at any point during any prior postwar downturn. But no matter who wins in November, the economy can't fully return without a safe and effective vaccine. "Without that, many people, especially the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, will hold back from eating out, watching a movie in theaters, or taking vacations." Schools and day-care centers will remain closed, and consumer spending will keep decreasing. "Solve the uncertainty" created by the risk of infection and employment throughout the economy will rise. (Webmaster's comment: Many, many goods are still missing from supermarket shelves. Until they come back the economy has tanked!)

10-11-20 Covid: Australia in talks over quarantine-free travel
Australia's government says it is in talks with several nations about quarantine-free travel, but warns that Europe and the US will not be on the list. The first agreement would be with New Zealand, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. Other nations that could follow suit are Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Pacific Island nations. Australia closed its borders in March, early into the pandemic. To date, it has recorded 27,263 cases and 898 deaths. It has fared better than other nations but recently saw a second wave in the state of Victoria, forcing Melbourne and its surrounding areas into another lockdown. Infections have fallen dramatically since. From Friday, New Zealanders will be able to travel to some Australian states - New South Wales, Canberra and the Northern Territory - without having to quarantine. But they will have to quarantine in a hotel upon their return home. On Sunday, one person in a quarantine hotel in Auckland tested positive for the virus. Four cases were reported on Saturday, all imported. Australians are not yet allowed to travel to New Zealand. Mr Morrison said he had spoken about travel bubbles with his counterparts in Japan, South Korea and some Pacific nations, while Foreign Minister Marise Payne held talks in Singapore. "But we have to go cautiously on this - very very cautiously. Covid-19 hasn't gone anywhere. It's still there. And no less aggressive today than it was six months ago," Mr Morrison said. It came as Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham warned that travel to high-risk areas such as the US and Europe was unlikely to happen until late 2021. "The prospects of opening up widespread travel with higher risk countries will remain very reliant on effective vaccination or other major breakthroughs in the management of Covid," he said. (Webmaster's comment: All nations should ban the US. It is the infection center of the world!)

10-11-20 Covid: Brazil's coronavirus death toll passes 150,000
The number of people to have died from Covid-19 in Brazil has passed 150,000, the country's health ministry says. Brazil has the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, after the US, and the third-highest number of cases after the US and India. The country also passed five million total infections earlier this week. President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of downplaying the risks of the virus throughout the pandemic, ignoring expert advice on restrictive measures. Brazil has by far the highest number of deaths in South America, and the state of São Paulo has been the worst hit. According to figures from the health ministry, 150,198 people in Brazil have died of Covid since the first fatality was recorded in March, and 5,082,637 people have tested positive for the virus. In Colombia, the next worst-hit country in the region, 27,495 people have died and there have been 894,300 confirmed cases. However the daily number of new cases in Brazil has been slowly falling since it plateaued in the summer, when there were about 1,000 new deaths per day for two months. Mr Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic - his decision to oppose lockdown measures and prioritise the economy - has been extremely divisive. He has also been criticised for minimising the threat of Covid-19, including by calling it a "little flu". However, the president has repeatedly rejected this criticism, even when he himself became ill with the virus in July. In August, Brazil's Vice-President Hamilton Mourão also defended the government's approach, and instead blamed a lack of discipline among Brazilians for the failure to limit the spread of the virus through social distancing measures.

10-11-20 Covid: India's coronavirus outbreak in 200 seconds
As India has more than 7 million confirmed cases, the BBC looks at how the country has responded to the pandemic.

10-11-20 The pernicious contagion of misinformation
False statements — about COVID-19 and so much else — spread like a virus online. Scientists should study them like one. You've heard the claims. Hydroxychloroquine is a miracle cure for the COVID-19 virus. Wearing a mask is bad for you. Vaccines cause autism. Left-wing arsonists are responsible for the fires in California. The internet is full of misinformation — that is, inaccurate statements — including the sinister, intentionally misleading subset known as disinformation. Both are spreading, a contagion that imperils society just as surely as the coronavirus itself. Those who spread it run the gamut of society; a new study by Cornell University researchers concludes that President Trump has been the leading source of COVID-19 misinformation reported by news media, who often repeat the information "without question or correction." Scientists can approach the social disease of misinformation the same way they address real, biological diseases, say experimental psychologist Briony Swire-Thompson and political scientist David Lazer of Northeastern University. Writing in the 2020 Annual Review of Public Health, they explore questions of exposure, susceptibility, and transmission of health-related misinformation. The epidemiological approach is really just looking at how and why information spreads between people in a network. That's very different from the individual approach that I'm used to in the experimental world, where you manipulate various conditions and see what the outcome is. Ideally, you need both. Much of this research is yet to be done. At the moment, a lot of the academic research on misinformation and disinformation is done using Twitter. It's easier, because there's more data-sharing between Twitter and the academic community than for other platforms like Facebook or Instagram. It's also easier because of issues around privacy. When you tweet, you put it out there in public. But social media like Facebook and WhatsApp are private, so access is more complicated, as it should be with privacy concerns. It means that less research has been done on a lot of these platforms. One study by other researchers found that older adults — people over the age of 65 — are seven times more likely to share fake news as people 18 to 29. So older adults could potentially be spreading misinformation more often. We found the same trend in our own studies of fake news during the 2016 U.S. election. We did see, too, that people who are very politically engaged are more likely to view and share political fake news. But it's a big problem that a lot of these studies have been done exclusively with political misinformation. We don't know if that generalizes to other subjects like health. Health misinformation is very understudied. The really surprising finding with our study, though, was the concentration. We had a sample of 16,000 people, and found that there were 16 individuals sharing 80 percent of the fake news, which is extraordinary. They're superspreaders, just like with COVID-19. They were tweeting 71 times per day as compared to the median person, who tweeted 0.1 times per day. We assume they had automation tools that helped them retweet or reshare content. (Webmaster's comment: Many American males are so stupid and ignorant they'll believe and pass on anything!)

10-10-20 White House hosted Covid 'superspreader' event, says Dr Fauci
Top US virus expert Dr Anthony Fauci has criticised the White House for hosting a gathering last month that has been linked to an outbreak of Covid-19. Dr Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said the unveiling of President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court was a "superspreader event". At least 11 people who attended the event on 26 September tested positive. Mr Trump is himself recovering from Covid-19. His doctors have just cleared him to hold public events, less than a month before he faces Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the presidential election. Mr Trump has expressed scepticism about measures such as masks and lockdowns to combat the spread of Covid-19, which has killed more than 213,000 people in the US. He has talked up the prospects of a vaccine becoming available, although researchers say this is unlikely to happen before next year at the earliest. Polling suggests Mr Biden has a single-digit lead over Mr Trump and an ABC News/Ipsos poll found that just 35% of Americans approved of how Mr Trump has handled the crisis. CBS News asked on Friday what Dr Fauci thought of the White House's reluctance to insist on mask-wearing and social distancing as virus precautions, and instead rely on regular testing. "The data speak for themselves - we had a superspreader event in the White House, and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks." An event at the White House on Saturday 26 September, for the president's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice, is thought to be the root of the localised outbreak. As well as President Trump and his wife Melania, those who attended and later tested positive included two senators, the White House press secretary and former Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway. Dr Fauci also noted experts have been recommending mask-wearing for the last six months, and condemned talk of a coronavirus "cure" - a word Mr Trump has used in reference to the experimental Covid-19 treatments he received during his recent stay at a military hospital. Large gatherings are still banned in the US capital due to Covid-19, but federal property like the White House is exempt.

10-10-20 US election 2020: Texas judge blocks postal voting restrictions
A Texas judge has blocked an order allowing only one absentee vote drop-off point per county, claiming it would affect older and disabled voters. Drop-off points were set up to allow voters to submit ballots in advance rather than rely on the postal service. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said the number of drop-off points needed to be minimised to guarantee voter security. Democrats said the move was blatant voter suppression. A record number of people are expected to vote by mail in this year's election due to the pandemic. The US Postal Service already has already warned ballot papers may not arrive in time to be counted on election day, 3 November. Texas has a limit on who can request absentee ballots. Only voters who are over 65, have a disability, are in jail or who will be out of town on election day are allowed to vote by post. Judge Robert Pitman ruled that the order would have left many voters having to travel long distances to find a drop-off point, or leave them vulnerable to coronavirus if they were forced to vote in person at a polling station. Governor Abbott's ruling would have meant some people in Harris County, home to more than four million people, would only have one point in the entire county to hand in their ballot paper. The race to claim Texas' 38 Electoral College votes this election is expected to be tight. President Donald Trump has previously criticised postal voting, claiming there is widespread fraud involved. The Federal Election Commission has rejected these claims. (Webmaster's comment: The Republicans will do anything they can to limit democracy to Republicans only!)

10-10-20 Michigan Gov Gretchen Whitmer was 'moved around' as FBI tracked militia 'plot'
Michigan's governor was kept updated about a plot to abduct her and was moved around as the FBI tracked her would-be kidnappers, the US state's attorney general has revealed. On Thursday the FBI said it had thwarted the plot by alleged militiamen who planned to hold a "treason trial" for Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A total of 13 men have been charged. Strict measures against coronavirus in Michigan have made Governor Whitmer a target for Covid-19 sceptics. On Friday Attorney General Dana Nessel told CBS news: "At times, she and her family had been moved around as a result of activities that law enforcement was aware of." Ms Nessel said the Democratic governor had been kept updated about the investigation in recent months. The suspects came close enough to executing their plan that police had to move in "before anybody lost their lives", she added. According to a sworn FBI affidavit released on Thursday, an undercover source attended a June meeting in Ohio, where a group of Michigan-based militia members discussed overthrowing state governments "that they believed were violating the US Constitution". In one video, a suspect denounced the state's role in deciding when to reopen gyms during the coronavirus lockdown. The men met in a basement that was accessed by a trapdoor hidden under a rug, investigators said. Six men - five from Michigan and one from Delaware - are accused in federal court of plotting the kidnap. These six were named as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Casert and Ty Garbin. Mr Garbin's residence, in a trailer park, was raided by authorities on Wednesday. The other seven face charges of terrorism and gang-related offences in state court in connection with the alleged abduction plot. They are Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison. The group wished to gather about "200 men" to storm the capitol building and take hostages, including the governor. They hoped to enact their plan before the November presidential election. If that failed, they planned to attack the governor at her home, officials said.

10-10-20 Michigan 'plot': Who are the US militia groups?
The FBI says it has foiled a plot to abduct Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer by six men involved with an armed militia group. The governor had become a target of anti-government outrage after enacting strict social distancing measures since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The men discussed murdering "tyrants" and trying the governor for "treason", according to court documents. They met repeatedly over the summer for arms training and combat drills, the FBI said, and co-ordinated surveillance around the governor's vacation home. And they are among a growing number of paramilitary groups mobilising across the US. So who are militia men, what do they believe and what does the law say? The Militia Act of 1903 created the National Guard as a reserve for the Army, managed by each state with federal funding, and defined the "unorganised militia" as men between 17 and 45 years of age who were not part of the military or guard. Today, the National Guard is community-based and are deployed by the governor of its respective state, often for weather-related emergencies or instances of civil unrest, such as the protests against policing practices earlier this year. Militia groups, in contrast, do not report to a governmental authority, and many organise around an explicitly anti-government sentiment. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an advocacy organisation, defines current US militia groups as the armed subset of the anti-government movement. These groups engage in military exercises and gun training, and generally believe in conspiracies regarding the federal government. They focus on protecting second amendment rights - or the right to bear arms granted by the US constitution. Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, describes the militia movement as "American, born and bred". (Webmaster's comment: They are brute males who just want to kill anyone who disagrees wtih them! They should all be convicted of treason and hung!)

10-10-20 Coronavirus: Spain imposes state of emergency on Madrid
The Spanish government has ordered a 15-day state of emergency to bring down Covid-19 infection rates in the capital, after a court overturned a partial lockdown imposed a week ago. Madrid and nearby cities will see restrictions enforced by 7,000 police. The capital has been at the centre of a political row, with the centre-right city authorities challenging the Socialist-led government's demands. Cases are down and a state of emergency is unjustified, say city officials. Madrid health minister Enrique Ruiz Escudero insisted that measures already in place were working and that the national government order was "a measure no Madrileño will understand". Late last Friday, all non-essential movement in and out of Madrid and the other nine cities was banned, despite the opposition of local authorities, led by regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso. When the Madrid authorities' court challenge was successful on Thursday night, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez invoked constitutional powers he used to impose the original lockdown in March. He moved quickly ahead of a holiday weekend, with Spaniards celebrating their national day on Monday. Ms Ayuso appealed for a delay, but the prime minister was adamant "public health must be protected now". Spain's health minister Salvador Illa bitterly criticised Ms Ayuso's approach. "The president of the Community of Madrid has decided to do nothing. Patience has its limits," he told reporters. The order, in Spanish a "state of alarm", is not remotely as severe as the lockdown imposed in March. It brings back into force the measures brought in a week ago that were lifted by the court late on Thursday. The measures, set to come into force at around 16:00 (14:00 GMT), affect 4.78 million people in Madrid and cities such as Fuenlabrada, Getafe and Leganés. Ahead of a long holiday weekend, with many people planning to leave the capital, it was unclear how that might be reinforced. However, the interior minister said some 7,000 security forces would be deployed around the city to ensure measures were respected.

10-9-20 Covid-19 news: One in 170 people in England have coronavirus
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Community infections continue to rise in England, swab testing survey finds. Coronavirus infections in communities in England are continuing to rise, according to the latest results from Imperial College London’s REACT-1 study. Using random swab testing, researchers monitored coronavirus levels and found that about one in 170 people had the virus between 18 September and 5 October, an increase from one in 769 between 22 August and 7 September. The most recent results are based on an analysis of swabs from 175,000 people. There was a record 24-hour increase in global new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with 338,779 cases confirmed around the world according to the World Health Organization. The spike was largely driven by a surge of infections in European countries, including the UK, which on Thursday reported a record daily increase of more than 17,000 new cases. On Friday, the UK reported 13,864 daily new cases. Some hospitals in the north of England will run out of beds within a week, health officials said on Thursday. Cases are also continuing to rise in Spain, France, Italy and Germany. Spain’s government on Friday declared a state of emergency for 15 days to deal with surging coronavirus cases in Madrid. Almost 25 per cent of intensive care unit beds in France are occupied by covid-19 patients, with the figure rising to 40 per cent in Paris and surrounding areas. France recorded more than 18,000 new cases on Thursday. Daily new cases in Italy jumped from more than 4000 on Thursday to more than 5000 on Friday, with hotspots in the south of the country. On Friday, Germany reported more than 4000 daily new cases for the second consecutive day, with Berlin emerging as one of the hotspots in the country’s second wave. US president Donald Trump is planning a political rally in Florida this Saturday and may hold a separate rally in Pennsylvania on Sunday night. The White House has not released any information about whether or not he still has coronavirus, or whether he has been tested at all since he tested positive for the virus on 2 October. In June, a rally held by the president in Tulsa, Oklahoma was linked to a spike in coronavirus cases by a local health official. The Washington, DC Department of Health appealed to all White House staff and anyone who attended an event in the Rose Garden on 26 September to get tested for the coronavirus and seek medical advice, in an open letter released yesterday. The letter says the appeal was prompted by the “limited contact tracing performed to date” in the White House, adding “there may be other staff and residents at risk for exposure to COVID positive individuals.”

10-10-20 White House hosted Covid 'superspreader' event, says Dr Fauci
Top US virus expert Dr Anthony Fauci has criticised the White House for hosting a gathering last month that has been linked to an outbreak of Covid-19. Dr Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said the unveiling of President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court was a "superspreader event". At least 11 people who attended the event on 26 September tested positive. Mr Trump is himself recovering from Covid-19. His doctors have just cleared him to hold public events, less than a month before he faces Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the presidential election. Mr Trump has expressed scepticism about measures such as masks and lockdowns to combat the spread of Covid-19, which has killed more than 213,000 people in the US. He has talked up the prospects of a vaccine becoming available, although researchers say this is unlikely to happen before next year at the earliest. Polling suggests Mr Biden has a single-digit lead over Mr Trump and an ABC News/Ipsos poll found that just 35% of Americans approved of how Mr Trump has handled the crisis. CBS News asked on Friday what Dr Fauci thought of the White House's reluctance to insist on mask-wearing and social distancing as virus precautions, and instead rely on regular testing. "The data speak for themselves - we had a superspreader event in the White House, and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks." An event at the White House on Saturday 26 September, for the president's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice, is thought to be the root of the localised outbreak. As well as President Trump and his wife Melania, those who attended and later tested positive included two senators, the White House press secretary and former Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway. Dr Fauci also noted experts have been recommending mask-wearing for the last six months, and condemned talk of a coronavirus "cure" - a word Mr Trump has used in reference to the experimental Covid-19 treatments he received during his recent stay at a military hospital. Large gatherings are still banned in the US capital due to Covid-19, but federal property like the White House is exempt.

10-10-20 US election 2020: Texas judge blocks postal voting restrictions
A Texas judge has blocked an order allowing only one absentee vote drop-off point per county, claiming it would affect older and disabled voters. Drop-off points were set up to allow voters to submit ballots in advance rather than rely on the postal service. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said the number of drop-off points needed to be minimised to guarantee voter security. Democrats said the move was blatant voter suppression. A record number of people are expected to vote by mail in this year's election due to the pandemic. The US Postal Service already has already warned ballot papers may not arrive in time to be counted on election day, 3 November. Texas has a limit on who can request absentee ballots. Only voters who are over 65, have a disability, are in jail or who will be out of town on election day are allowed to vote by post. Judge Robert Pitman ruled that the order would have left many voters having to travel long distances to find a drop-off point, or leave them vulnerable to coronavirus if they were forced to vote in person at a polling station. Governor Abbott's ruling would have meant some people in Harris County, home to more than four million people, would only have one point in the entire county to hand in their ballot paper. The race to claim Texas' 38 Electoral College votes this election is expected to be tight. President Donald Trump has previously criticised postal voting, claiming there is widespread fraud involved. The Federal Election Commission has rejected these claims. (Webmaster's comment: The Republicans will do anything they can to limit democracy to Republicans only!)

10-10-20 Michigan Gov Gretchen Whitmer was 'moved around' as FBI tracked militia 'plot'
Michigan's governor was kept updated about a plot to abduct her and was moved around as the FBI tracked her would-be kidnappers, the US state's attorney general has revealed. On Thursday the FBI said it had thwarted the plot by alleged militiamen who planned to hold a "treason trial" for Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A total of 13 men have been charged. Strict measures against coronavirus in Michigan have made Governor Whitmer a target for Covid-19 sceptics. On Friday Attorney General Dana Nessel told CBS news: "At times, she and her family had been moved around as a result of activities that law enforcement was aware of." Ms Nessel said the Democratic governor had been kept updated about the investigation in recent months. The suspects came close enough to executing their plan that police had to move in "before anybody lost their lives", she added. According to a sworn FBI affidavit released on Thursday, an undercover source attended a June meeting in Ohio, where a group of Michigan-based militia members discussed overthrowing state governments "that they believed were violating the US Constitution". In one video, a suspect denounced the state's role in deciding when to reopen gyms during the coronavirus lockdown. The men met in a basement that was accessed by a trapdoor hidden under a rug, investigators said. Six men - five from Michigan and one from Delaware - are accused in federal court of plotting the kidnap. These six were named as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Casert and Ty Garbin. Mr Garbin's residence, in a trailer park, was raided by authorities on Wednesday. The other seven face charges of terrorism and gang-related offences in state court in connection with the alleged abduction plot. They are Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison. The group wished to gather about "200 men" to storm the capitol building and take hostages, including the governor. They hoped to enact their plan before the November presidential election. If that failed, they planned to attack the governor at her home, officials said.

10-10-20 Michigan 'plot': Who are the US militia groups?
The FBI says it has foiled a plot to abduct Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer by six men involved with an armed militia group. The governor had become a target of anti-government outrage after enacting strict social distancing measures since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The men discussed murdering "tyrants" and trying the governor for "treason", according to court documents. They met repeatedly over the summer for arms training and combat drills, the FBI said, and co-ordinated surveillance around the governor's vacation home. And they are among a growing number of paramilitary groups mobilising across the US. So who are militia men, what do they believe and what does the law say? The Militia Act of 1903 created the National Guard as a reserve for the Army, managed by each state with federal funding, and defined the "unorganised militia" as men between 17 and 45 years of age who were not part of the military or guard. Today, the National Guard is community-based and are deployed by the governor of its respective state, often for weather-related emergencies or instances of civil unrest, such as the protests against policing practices earlier this year. Militia groups, in contrast, do not report to a governmental authority, and many organise around an explicitly anti-government sentiment. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an advocacy organisation, defines current US militia groups as the armed subset of the anti-government movement. These groups engage in military exercises and gun training, and generally believe in conspiracies regarding the federal government. They focus on protecting second amendment rights - or the right to bear arms granted by the US constitution. Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, describes the militia movement as "American, born and bred". (Webmaster's comment: They are brute males who just want to kill anyone who disagrees wtih them! They should all be convicted of treason and hung!)

10-10-20 Coronavirus: Spain imposes state of emergency on Madrid
The Spanish government has ordered a 15-day state of emergency to bring down Covid-19 infection rates in the capital, after a court overturned a partial lockdown imposed a week ago. Madrid and nearby cities will see restrictions enforced by 7,000 police. The capital has been at the centre of a political row, with the centre-right city authorities challenging the Socialist-led government's demands. Cases are down and a state of emergency is unjustified, say city officials. Madrid health minister Enrique Ruiz Escudero insisted that measures already in place were working and that the national government order was "a measure no Madrileño will understand". Late last Friday, all non-essential movement in and out of Madrid and the other nine cities was banned, despite the opposition of local authorities, led by regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso. When the Madrid authorities' court challenge was successful on Thursday night, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez invoked constitutional powers he used to impose the original lockdown in March. He moved quickly ahead of a holiday weekend, with Spaniards celebrating their national day on Monday. Ms Ayuso appealed for a delay, but the prime minister was adamant "public health must be protected now". Spain's health minister Salvador Illa bitterly criticised Ms Ayuso's approach. "The president of the Community of Madrid has decided to do nothing. Patience has its limits," he told reporters. The order, in Spanish a "state of alarm", is not remotely as severe as the lockdown imposed in March. It brings back into force the measures brought in a week ago that were lifted by the court late on Thursday. The measures, set to come into force at around 16:00 (14:00 GMT), affect 4.78 million people in Madrid and cities such as Fuenlabrada, Getafe and Leganés. Ahead of a long holiday weekend, with many people planning to leave the capital, it was unclear how that might be reinforced. However, the interior minister said some 7,000 security forces would be deployed around the city to ensure measures were respected.

10-9-20 Covid-19 news: One in 170 people in England have coronavirus
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Community infections continue to rise in England, swab testing survey finds. Coronavirus infections in communities in England are continuing to rise, according to the latest results from Imperial College London’s REACT-1 study. Using random swab testing, researchers monitored coronavirus levels and found that about one in 170 people had the virus between 18 September and 5 October, an increase from one in 769 between 22 August and 7 September. The most recent results are based on an analysis of swabs from 175,000 people. There was a record 24-hour increase in global new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with 338,779 cases confirmed around the world according to the World Health Organization. The spike was largely driven by a surge of infections in European countries, including the UK, which on Thursday reported a record daily increase of more than 17,000 new cases. On Friday, the UK reported 13,864 daily new cases. Some hospitals in the north of England will run out of beds within a week, health officials said on Thursday. Cases are also continuing to rise in Spain, France, Italy and Germany. Spain’s government on Friday declared a state of emergency for 15 days to deal with surging coronavirus cases in Madrid. Almost 25 per cent of intensive care unit beds in France are occupied by covid-19 patients, with the figure rising to 40 per cent in Paris and surrounding areas. France recorded more than 18,000 new cases on Thursday. Daily new cases in Italy jumped from more than 4000 on Thursday to more than 5000 on Friday, with hotspots in the south of the country. On Friday, Germany reported more than 4000 daily new cases for the second consecutive day, with Berlin emerging as one of the hotspots in the country’s second wave. US president Donald Trump is planning a political rally in Florida this Saturday and may hold a separate rally in Pennsylvania on Sunday night. The White House has not released any information about whether or not he still has coronavirus, or whether he has been tested at all since he tested positive for the virus on 2 October. In June, a rally held by the president in Tulsa, Oklahoma was linked to a spike in coronavirus cases by a local health official. The Washington, DC Department of Health appealed to all White House staff and anyone who attended an event in the Rose Garden on 26 September to get tested for the coronavirus and seek medical advice, in an open letter released yesterday. The letter says the appeal was prompted by the “limited contact tracing performed to date” in the White House, adding “there may be other staff and residents at risk for exposure to COVID positive individuals.”

10-9-20 FBI busts militia 'plot' to abduct Michigan Gov Gretchen Whitmer
The FBI says it has thwarted a plot to abduct and overthrow Michigan's Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Mrs Whitmer has become a target for coronavirus sceptics after enacting strict measures that were overturned by a judge last week. Officials say the kidnapping plot involved six men who planned to hold a "treason trial" for her. "Hatred, bigotry and violence have no place" in Michigan, Mrs Whitmer said, describing the accused as "depraved". According to a sworn FBI affidavit, an undercover law enforcement source attended a June meeting in Dublin, Ohio, where a group of Michigan-based militia members discussed overthrowing state governments "that they believed were violating the US Constitution". "Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," the charging document states. In one video, a suspect denounced the state's role in deciding when to reopen gyms during the coronavirus lockdown. The men met in a basement that was accessed by a trapdoor hidden under a rug, investigators say. Their phones were gathered and placed in another room to avoid secret recordings, but the undercover FBI source was wearing a separate recording device. Thirteen people were arrested by investigators. Six men - five from Michigan and one from Delaware - are accused in federal court of plotting the kidnap. They allegedly planned to hold a "treason trial" against Mrs Whitmer. These six were named as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Casert and Ty Garbin. Mr Garbin's residence, in a trailer park, was raided by authorities on Wednesday. The other seven face charges of terrorism and gang-related offences in state court in connection with the alleged abduction plot. The group wished to gather about "200 men" to storm the capitol building and take hostages, including the governor. They hoped to enact their plan before the November presidential election. If that failed, they planned to attack the governor at her home, officials say. The accused "co-ordinated surveillance of the governor's vacation home", said the US Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, adding that they also planned Molotov cocktail attacks on police officers, purchased a taser, and pooled their funds to purchase explosives and tactical equipment.

10-9-20 Gretchen Whitmer: 'Hate groups heard Trump's words as rallying cry'
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has called out President Trump while reacting to the alleged militia plot to kidnap her. Mrs Whitmer focused on Mr Trump's "Stand back and stand by" remark when he was asked to condemn white supremacist groups during last week's presidential debate. The governor said: "Hate groups heard the president's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry." Mr Trump did later condemn all white supremacist groups following the controversy.

10-9-20 US election 2020: Trump ready to return to public events, says doctor
US President Donald Trump has completed his course of treatment for Covid-19 and can return to public engagements this weekend, his physician has said. Dr Sean Conley said the president had responded "extremely well" to medication and had "remained stable". Mr Trump later said he would probably take another Covid test on Friday and hoped to hold a rally over the weekend. The president earlier pulled out of next Thursday's TV debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden. He said he was "not going to waste my time on a virtual debate" after organisers said it would have to take place remotely because Mr Trump had tested positive for coronavirus. The move sparked a row about how and when further debates would take place. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in Washington, said she planned to introduce legislation on Friday to establish a commission to assess Mr Trump's fitness for office. A statement announcing the move said the commission would be set up under the 25th Amendment, which outlines how a sitting president can be stripped of power if they are deemed unable to conduct the duties of the office. Ms Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that serious questions concerning Mr Trump's health were still unanswered, and described the president as being in an "altered state". Any serious consideration of the measure is unlikely, but it will serve as a political tool to raise questions about Mr Trump's health. Mr Trump called Ms Pelosi "crazy" and said she was "the one who should be under observation". The amendment was introduced after the 1963 assassination of President John F Kennedy to clarify issues around the transfer of presidential powers. The Democrats are focusing on a clause - Section Four - allowing a president to be removed from office against their will because of physical or mental incapacity.

10-9-20 Coronavirus: Why are infections rising again in US?
The news of President Donald Trump's positive coronavirus test, and his subsequent hospitalisation, has reminded the country that no-one is protected from this virus. So where is the US right now in dealing with the pandemic? With about 7.5 million coronavirus cases, the US has the highest number of confirmed infections in the world - about one fifth of the global total despite having only 4% of the population. After the initial spike in late March, social distancing restrictions gradually brought infections to heel. By May, case numbers had stabilised. But as states peeled back lockdown measures, cases began to rise, reaching a countrywide high in July. But as summer hotspots - like Arizona, Florida and California - brought their outbreaks under control, surges have developed elsewhere, with fast-moving outbreaks in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In recent weeks, infections have risen steadily, with national cases increasing for three weeks in a row. Though numbers have so far not reached the record-breaking levels of July and August, the country is reporting more than 40,000 new cases each day. Hospitalisations, too, are on the rise. According to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project, the average number of people hospitalised for coronavirus in a week rose recently for the first time since July. Why are cases rising? It's difficult to explain precisely why. One contributing factor has been the return to school for US students. A recent study from the US Centers for Disease Control on the almost 100,000 coronavirus cases reported between 2 August and 5 September - around when college students began their return to school - found that weekly cases among those aged 18-22 increased by 55% nationally. The greatest increases came from the Northeast (which includes New York, Connecticut and New Jersey) and the Midwest, which is a region located west of the Northeast, including Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. There have now been more than 130,000 cases identified at more than 1,300 American colleges, according to reporting from the New York Times.

10-8-20 Covid-19 news: UK recorded 17,540 coronavirus cases in 24 hours
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Daily coronavirus cases rise to 17,540, up 3300 from the previous day. The UK has recorded 17,540 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, an increase of 3300 from yesterday. Deaths also rose slightly, with 77 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test, up from the 70 reported on Wednesday. The number of coronavirus patients in hospitals in England has also risen slightly to 3044, up from 2944 yesterday. In England and Wales, covid-19 was the underlying cause of death in more than three times as many people as influenza and pneumonia combined during 2020, according to analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). “The substantially greater number of deaths attributed to covid-19 does tell us that at the moment, covid-19 is a greater risk to people than influenza,” Rowland Kao at the University of Edinburgh said in a statement. Kao said this is unsurprising as we have a vaccine against flu but not against covid-19, and because the coronavirus is new to us, whereas some people may have acquired immunity to seasonal flu. The ONS analysis included data between January and August this year. Coronavirus restrictions in parts of England could be tightened further early next week, with possible closures of pubs and restaurants in the worst-affected areas, according to the BBC. These areas may also see bans on overnight stays away from home. An official government announcement is expected on Monday. US president Donald Trump today said he would not participate in a virtual presidential debate with Democratic candidate Joe Biden. The debate format was changed because of safety concerns after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. “I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said during an interview with the Fox Business Network. “That’s not what debating is all about.”

10-8-20 Slippery Mike Pence shows he's no different than Trump
On Wednesday night, perhaps the most theoretically consequential vice-presidential debate in history took place. Kamala Harris represented a probable successor to Joe Biden, who at 78 would be the oldest first-term president in history. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence may well have to take over in a matter of days for President Trump, who is sick with COVID-19, 74 years old, obese, and has heart disease. Indeed, Pence himself quite possibly also has the virus. He was present at the likely super-spreader event, and though he has tested negative, it can take several days for the disease to progress enough to be detected. (Pence also looked ill, with bloodshot eyes that may be a symptom of infection.) Yet the debate told the American people very little about how either of them would govern as president. Harris evaded her fair share of questions, but Pence was worse by far. He dodged practically every single question, and lied constantly about nearly every subject of discussion. If he does indeed become president, we know what to expect: more of the same. Pence is not as boorish and uncouth as Trump, but he is every bit the dissembler. His signature debate technique is to refuse to answer any question, either by bringing up different topics entirely or by throwing up a lot of chaff. Then when his opponent makes any point, true or otherwise, he smarmily shakes his head while saying "that's not true." It's what he did with Tim Kaine four years ago and it's what he did this time. Three topics in particular stood out. When the moderator asked about whether Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett would overturn Roe vs. Wade, Pence pivoted to Iran, and then to a maudlin pity party about an imaginary parade of liberal attacks against Barrett's religion. It was clear he did not want to speak his true belief, that abortion should be illegal — probably because that position is horribly unpopular. When the moderator brought up the subject of whether climate change was causing weather disasters, Pence immediately pivoted to claiming that the Trump administration had kept U.S. air and water clean. "I'm proud of our record on environment and conservation," he said. (It appears some conservative messaging consultant has advised Republicans that air and water polls well, as this has become their go-to deflection line lately). On the one hand, traditional pollution of air and water — like smog or sewage leaks — has nothing to do with climate change, which is indeed implicated in much extreme weather (the kind that is predicted to get worse the higher temperatures get). On the other, Pence was lying through his teeth about air and water quality. His administration is in bed with every polluting industry, and has rolled back rules on big corporations poisoning both air and water. Sure enough, measured quality of both has nosedived under Trump rule. Finally, when the moderator asked Pence if he and Trump would respect the results of the election if they lose, Pence dodged again. "I believe in my heart that President Trump will be re-elected for four more years," he said. Then he moved on to crackpot accusations that Democrats had somehow attempted to "overturn the results of the last election." The plain fact is that Trump, Pence, and the rest of the wretched Republican Party are currently attempting to cheat their way to victory through legal chicanery, preventing people from voting, wrecking the Post Office, hysterical lies about voter fraud, threats of violence, and so on. Pence is clearly on board with the party line that democracy only counts if Republicans win.

10-8-20 VP debate 2020: Pence and Harris clash on coronavirus pandemic
The contenders for US vice-president have clashed over the coronavirus pandemic in their only debate ahead of next month's election. Democrat Kamala Harris called Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic "the greatest failure of any presidential administration" in history. Vice-President Mike Pence, a Republican, said the Democratic Party's pandemic plan amounted to "plagiarism". Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads Mr Trump with 26 days to go to the vote. Opinion polls indicate the Republican president is trailing by single digits in a handful of battleground states that will decide who wins. Vice-presidents have tie-breaking power in the Senate and are required to step in if a president is unable to perform their duties. Their day-to-day responsibilities vary with each administration, but they typically serve as top advisers and some take on specific policy portfolios. Wednesday night's meeting was a civil debate between two smooth communicators compared to last week's belligerent showdown between Mr Trump and Mr Biden, which degenerated into insults and name-calling. Mr Pence did not interrupt as much as the president last week, but when he did, Ms Harris interjected: "Mr Vice-President, I'm speaking, I'm speaking." The viral moment on Wednesday was a fly landing on Mr Pence's head and remaining there for some two minutes. But there were heated exchanges. The 90-minute televised debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City was marked by disagreements over the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic. Ms Harris accused Mr Pence and the president of deliberately misleading Americans about the lethality of coronavirus. "They knew, and they covered it up," she said, adding that they had "forfeited their right to re-election". Mr Pence accused the Biden-Harris campaign of copying the White House's pandemic strategy, alluding to a blunder that ended Mr Biden's 1987 run for the presidency when he plagiarised a speech by then-British Labour leader Neil Kinnock. Ms Harris was asked by the moderator whether she would take an approved Covid-19 vaccine distributed ahead of the election. The 55-year-old California senator said she would not take a jab touted by Mr Trump without the say-so of medical professionals.

10-8-20 Kamala Harris v Mike Pence: Five takeaways from Vice-President debate
Vice-presidential debates seldom shake up presidential races, and the face-off between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence on Wednesday night seems destined to be no different. Both candidates had strong moments, and a few stumbles, over the course of the 90-minute affair. But as far as lasting memories go, they were few and far between. If this was a match that showcased the futures of the Democratic and Republican parties, the real fireworks will have to wait for the coming years. An unmemorable result, in and of itself, is good news for the Democrats and Joe Biden, who polls suggest are leading in the race. One more campaign set-piece in the books, and one step closer to election day. These are my takeaways from the debate. The lasting memories from last week's presidential debate are probably ones of tone and demeanour - Donald Trump's constant interruptions and Biden's occasional "will you shut up" flashes of temper. Both vice-presidential candidates clearly had this in mind as they sat down behind their plexiglass-protected tables. Pence's typically calm and methodical style served as a steady counterpoint to Trump's earlier aggression. On the occasions when he did interrupt, however, Harris was ready. "Mr Vice-President, I'm speaking," she said. "If you don't mind letting me finish, then we can have a conversation." Given the dynamic of the debate - a white man interrupting the first black woman vice-presidential candidate - those were fraught moments for Pence, where the normally placid Midwesterner risked seeming rude. What's more, Pence had no qualms steamrolling moderator Susan Page - and given that women voters have turned sharply against the Trump-Pence ticket, the extra speaking time he gained may have come at a political price. The format, and the candidates' reluctance to aggressively press each other, ensured that the evening would shed little new light on either side's positions or reveal how either candidate performed under pressure.

10-8-20 Presidential debate: Trump refuses to take part in virtual TV event
US President Donald Trump has refused to take part in a virtual TV debate with his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Earlier the commission deciding the 15 October Miami debate's format said it would have to take place remotely. It made the decision after Mr Trump was treated for Covid-19. He has no current symptoms but the White House is tackling a cluster of positive tests. He said the move to virtual was to "protect" his rival. Mr Biden said Mr Trump "changed his mind every second". The first presidential debate had descended into insults and interruptions. The vice-presidential debate, held on Wednesday night between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, was a far more measured affair. The election will be held on 3 November. Latest opinion polls give Mr Biden a high single digit lead nationally, but the outcome is often decided in battleground states where the race is often much closer. His comments during a phone-in interview with Fox Business Channel on Thursday touched on a number of key matters, including his health and the possibility of movement towards a stimulus package for the economy. But it was his comments on the debate format that drew most attention. Mr Trump said: "I'm not gonna waste my time on a personal debate. Sit behind a computer, ridiculous. They cut you off... I'm not doing a virtual debate." He also described the moderator of the Miami debate - political editor of the cable and satellite television network C-SPAN, Steve Scully - as a "never Trumper". A statement from Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who had also previously tested positive for Covid, said the decision of the commission to "rush to Joe Biden's defence" was "pathetic" and Mr Trump would have posted "multiple negative tests" before the debate. He said Mr Trump would hold a rally instead. On his health, Mr Trump said: "I'm back because I'm a perfect physical specimen." He said he had stopped taking most "therapeutics" but was still taking steroids and would be tested for Covid again "soon".

10-8-20 Covid: Trump describes his illness 'a blessing from God'
US President Donald Trump says he feels great after his Covid-19 illness, describing it as "a blessing from God". Mr Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, officials said, less than a week after testing positive. The president has had no Covid-19 symptoms for more than 24 hours and has been fever-free for more than four days, his doctor, Sean Conley, said. In a video message on Wednesday, Mr Trump said all Americans should have access to the treatments he was given. Mr Trump also promised to provide the drugs produced by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals free of charge. He said the experimental antibody cocktail he was given last week was a cure rather than a therapeutic measure, adding that hundreds of thousands of doses were nearly ready. But Regeneron's drugs have not been approved by federal regulators. "This was a blessing in disguise - I caught it, I heard about this drug, I said let me take it and it was incredible," he said, adding that he would seek emergency use authorisations for the drugs. President Trump renewed his attacks on China, telling Americans: "You're not going to pay for it. It wasn't your fault that this happened. It was China's fault. And China is going to pay a big price. This was China's fault." Earlier, Dr Conley said the president had not needed any supplemental oxygen since going to hospital on Friday. He was discharged on Monday. Mr Trump's supporters say that he has shown leadership since his release from hospital. But his opponents say his behaviour has become increasingly erratic. The White House has also set out new safety measures after President Trump's return from hospital and the news that another aide had Covid-19. The presidential election is on 3 November. One key issue in the run-up to polling day is a coronavirus stimulus package for the economy. Mr Trump appeared to abandon negotiations with the Democrats on Tuesday, only to say later he would agree to some measures individually.

10-7-20 US election 2020: The defining moment of the Trump presidency
What four years ago would potentially have been regarded as the defining moment of the Trump presidency? For his red-capped supporters, perhaps it might have been the completion of a wall along the southern border, celebrated with a topping-out ceremony at which the Mexican president handed over a cheque to cover the costs of its construction. Maybe it would have been the sight of China capitulating in a trade war or North Korea surrendering its nukes. Or, more fantastically, the spectacle of Hillary Clinton being placed in handcuffs as she was led off to a federal penitentiary, the "lock her up!" chant made real. None of those things, of course, has come to pass. Instead, future historians of Donald Trump's first - and possibly final - term in the White House will regard the coronavirus crisis as its defining event and the president's contraction of Covid 19 as its culminating moment. Now we have pictures that will forever mark this strange, near-dystopian, chapter in the American story - the images of President Trump returning to the White House, striding up the staircase to the balcony of the executive mansion, dramatically removing his face mask and then saluting the Navy helicopter that had Medevaced him to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last Friday and returned him on Monday night. This intricately choreographed homecoming was instantly packaged up, with cinematic music and slow-motion videography, then tweeted to the president's 87 million followers. And the final product proved to be politically interchangeable. Though it was intended as a Trump campaign ad, it works also as a Biden attack ad. The mask-less salute from the balcony was followed by a presidential pep talk, again distributed via Twitter. "Don't be afraid of it," he said of the virus that has killed more than 210,000 of his compatriots. "Don't let it dominate your lives," he counselled, repeating the language of one of the more extraordinary tweets of his presidency from earlier in the day. Traditionally, at times of national crisis, unifying words are broadcast from the White House. These had the opposite effect. To admirers of the president it was akin to a Brandenburg Gate moment, when Ronald Reagan faced down communism and delivered the most electrifying speech of the Cold War era. To detractors, it was more like a Mission Accomplished misstep, when George W Bush prematurely declared the end of major US combat operations in Iraq.

10-7-20 Four Covid rules broken by Trump and the White House
How did so many of US President Donald Trump's top team become infected with coronavirus? We analyse CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and whether the White House has been following them.

10-7-20 Covid-19 news: Germany, France and Belgium tighten rules to curb virus
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. New rules introduced in Belgium, France and Germany amid rising cases. Belgium, France and Germany are among European countries that have introduced new restrictions to try and stem surging coronavirus cases. In Belgium, all bars, cafes and event halls will be required to close completely for at least a month, starting at 7 am on Thursday. One in seven people in Brussels are testing positive for the virus, according to officials. In Paris and its surrounding inner suburbs, more than 40 per cent of hospital beds are currently occupied by covid-19 patients, according to the regional health agency. It warned that the proportion could rise to 50 per cent within two weeks without intervention. Bars, gyms and swimming pools in Paris were closed completely on Tuesday for at least two weeks. On Saturday, new rules and curfews will come into force in Germany’s capital Berlin, where authorities have recorded 44.2 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. Bars, restaurants and off-licenses in the city will be required to shut between 11 pm and 6 am. Restrictions have been introduced limiting the number of people allowed at private and public gatherings. US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said the next presidential debate on 15 October should not take place if US president Donald Trump still has covid-19. Biden told journalists that the debate, scheduled to take place in Miami, should only be staged in accordance with strict health guidelines, adding “if [Trump] still has covid, we shouldn’t have a debate.”

10-7-20 Covid: White House aide tests positive as military leaders quarantine
Covid-19 is spreading further among those around US President Donald Trump, with White House adviser Stephen Miller and a top military official infected. Mr Miller, who has been self-isolating for the past five days, confirmed on Tuesday that he had tested positive. Several military leaders are also quarantining after Coast Guard official Admiral Charles Ray tested positive. Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Joe Biden has said Mr Trump should not debate him if he is still infected. Speaking about their scheduled second encounter in Miami, Florida, on 15 October, he said he would be guided by medical experts. "I think if he still has Covid, we shouldn't have a debate," he said. Mr Trump returned to work in the White House from hospital on Monday despite being diagnosed with the disease only last week. While at Walter Reed Medical Center, he was treated with dexamethasone - a steroid medication usually given to severe and critical Covid-19 patients - and supplemental oxygen. The Trump adviser said he was in self-isolation after "testing negative every day" until Tuesday. He had been closely involved with the president before the latter fell ill, attending a meeting on 27 September to prepare for the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, and later taking flights with him on Air Force One, the New York Times reports. His wife, Katie Miller, who is Vice-President Mike Pence's spokeswoman, contracted the virus back in May and later recovered. In July, Mr Miller's 97-year-old grandmother, Ruth Glosser, reportedly died due to complications with Covid-19. The White House denied that coronavirus had caused Mrs Glosser's death, saying in a statement she had "died peacefully in her sleep from old age". But Mr Miller's uncle produced a death certificate listing "respiratory arrest" and Covid-19 as "a condition leading" to the cause of Mrs Glosser's death. Mr Miller - who writes the president's speeches - is known for his hardline views on immigration.

10-7-20 US tightens temporary worker visa rules
The US government has announced it will tighten the requirements for the popular H-1B visa. These visas are widely used by tech firms and visa recipients are mostly Indian and Chinese. The temporary visas are intended to allow US companies to use foreign workers to fill skills gaps. But the Trump administration says the visa has been abused, often at the expense of American workers. Up to 85,000 people are granted an H-1B visa each year, and about 500,000 people are currently living in the US under the visa programme. According to US Department of Labor statistics, more than two-thirds of H-1B visa holders come from India, and more than 10% come from China. The new rules, which were jointly announced by the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will narrow the definition of “specialty occupations” eligible for the visa. It will also increase the minimum wages companies must pay for workers enrolled in the H-1B programme. The acting director of Homeland Security Kenneth Cuccinelli said US companies had abused loopholes in the system to drive wages lower. “Companies have been incentivised to avoid hiring Americans or even lay off their own qualified, better-paid American workers and replace them with cheaper foreign labour,” he said. The new rules will also require firms to make "real" offers to US residents before seeking to bring in foreigners. The plan will be implemented after a 60-day comment period. The DHS has also vowed to “increase compliance through worksite inspections.” The move will likely face criticism from business groups, who have long argued that the visas are needed to help address a shortage of skilled US workers. President Donald Trump first announced a review of the visa programme in April, which led to backlash from technology giants. In June, the administration banned H-1B workers and some other visa holders from entering the US until the end of this year, citing the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter were among many companies who argued that temporary visa bans would damage US firms. The US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups sued the government over the ban. Last week, a District Court in California granted them a preliminary injunction blocking the government from ending the H-1B programme. (Webmaster's comment: Most American workers are too unskilled to do the high-tech jobs.!)

10-7-20 Trump ends Covid budget stimulus relief talks
US President Donald Trump has said he is ending negotiations over a Covid-19 relief bill, and will only resume talks after the election. He predicted he would win next month's election and pass a bill afterwards. US stocks fell after the announcement. Budget talks between Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin began in July. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Mr Trump had "turned his back" on the American people. "Make no mistake: if you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child's school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that - none of it - matters to him," Mr Biden said in a statement on Tuesday. The Republican president - who is himself currently being treated for Covid-19 - countered: "Crazy Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left Democrats were just playing 'games' with the desperately needed Workers Stimulus Payments. "They just wanted to take care of Democrat failed, high crime, Cities and States. They were never in it to help the workers, and they never will be!" He said he had instructed Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to focus efforts on confirming his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Mr McConnell later told reporters he supported the president's move because he believed a deal with the Democrats was looking too difficult. "We need to concentrate on the achievable," he said. Lawmakers from both parties had hoped for another round of Covid-19 relief spending to pass ahead of the 3 November election, but Mr Trump's tweet appears to have abruptly suspended that prospect. It comes as coronavirus cases rise in several parts of the country, the outbreak widens among White House staff and Republican senators, and hits Pentagon top brass.

10-6-20 US election 2020: The defining moment of the Trump presidency
What four years ago would potentially have been regarded as the defining moment of the Trump presidency? For his red-capped supporters, perhaps it might have been the completion of a wall along the southern border, celebrated with a topping-out ceremony at which the Mexican president handed over a cheque to cover the costs of its construction. Maybe it would have been the sight of China capitulating in a trade war or North Korea surrendering its nukes. Or, more fantastically, the spectacle of Hillary Clinton being placed in handcuffs as she was led off to a federal penitentiary, the "lock her up!" chant made real. None of those things, of course, has come to pass. Instead, future historians of Donald Trump's first - and possibly final - term in the White House will regard the coronavirus crisis as its defining event and the president's contraction of Covid 19 as its culminating moment. Now we have pictures that will forever mark this strange, near-dystopian, chapter in the American story - the images of President Trump returning to the White House, striding up the staircase to the balcony of the executive mansion, dramatically removing his face mask and then saluting the Navy helicopter that had Medevaced him to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last Friday and returned him on Monday night. This intricately choreographed homecoming was instantly packaged up, with cinematic music and slow-motion videography, then tweeted to the president's 87 million followers. And the final product proved to be politically interchangeable. Though it was intended as a Trump campaign ad, it works also as a Biden attack ad. The mask-less salute from the balcony was followed by a presidential pep talk, again distributed via Twitter. "Don't be afraid of it," he said of the virus that has killed more than 210,000 of his compatriots. "Don't let it dominate your lives," he counselled, repeating the language of one of the more extraordinary tweets of his presidency from earlier in the day. Traditionally, at times of national crisis, unifying words are broadcast from the White House. These had the opposite effect. To admirers of the president it was akin to a Brandenburg Gate moment, when Ronald Reagan faced down communism and delivered the most electrifying speech of the Cold War era. To detractors, it was more like a Mission Accomplished misstep, when George W Bush prematurely declared the end of major US combat operations in Iraq.

10-6-20 Covid-19 news: UK records 14,542 coronavirus cases in a single day
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK sees 14,452 cases in a single day, as covid-19 deaths rise for third week in a row. Today, the UK recorded 14,542 daily new coronavirus cases, almost 2000 more than on Monday. This is a record number of new daily cases, with the exception of last Sunday when the number was artificially raised to 22,961 to compensate for thousands of cases that were missed between 25 September and 2 October due to a technical mistake. The number of deaths mentioning covid-19 on the death certificate has risen in the UK for the third consecutive week, according to the Office for National Statistics. There were 234 deaths involving the coronavirus registered in the week ending 25 September, up from 158 from the week before. Levels of pandemic “fatigue” due to the on-going uncertainty and disruption surrounding coronavirus restrictions are rising in Europe, World Health Organization (WHO) Europe director Hans Kluge said in a statement today. The findings come from aggregated survey data from countries across the region. “Although fatigue is measured in different ways, and levels vary per country, it is now estimated to have reached over 60 per cent in some cases,” Kluge said. He encouraged governments to monitor community feelings and comfort regarding coronavirus restrictions and guidance, and to create public health guidance in collaboration with local communities. US president Donald Trump removed his mask and posed for photos on the White House balcony on Monday, after being discharged from hospital where he was being treated for covid-19. Before leaving the hospital, the president tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” Trump’s doctor told journalists that the president will continue to take antiviral drug remdesivir and the steroid drug dexamethasone – treatments usually reserved for severely ill covid-19 patients. “It’s a little unprecedented that anyone so early [in their disease] would be receiving [remdesivir],” Walid Gellad at the University of Pittsburgh told Time. China is in talks to have its locally produced coronavirus vaccine candidates assessed by the WHO, in a step toward making them available for international use, according to Socorro Escalate, a WHO coordinator in the Western Pacific region. Escalate told an online news conference that China had held preliminary talks with the WHO to have its vaccines included in a list for emergency use. Hundreds of thousands of people in China have already been given locally developed vaccine candidates before final regulatory approval for their general use, raising ethical concerns. Facebook removed a post from Donald Trump today, which falsely claimed that the coronavirus was less deadly than flu, because it violated the social media platform’s rules about covid-19 misinformation. Twitter added a warning label to a similar tweet posted by Trump, and restricted interactions with the post.

10-6-20 Facebook bans QAnon conspiracy theory accounts across all platforms
Facebook has banned all accounts linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement from its platforms. "Starting today, we will remove Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts," the company said on Tuesday. The move is a significant escalation to Facebook's earlier decision to remove or restrict groups and accounts sharing and promoting QAnon material. QAnon is a conspiracy theory that says President Trump is waging a war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles. In a statement released on Tuesday, Facebook said its staff had begun removing content and deleting groups and pages, but that "this work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks". "Our Dangerous Organizations Operations team will continue to enforce this policy and proactively detect content for removal instead of relying on user reports," the statement added. Facebook said it was updating measures implemented in August, which aimed to "disrupt the ability of QAnon" to organise through - and operate on - its networks. That policy - introduced to limit the risks to public safety posed by QAnon, "offline anarchist groups" and US-based militia organisations - resulted in restrictions on more than 1,950 Facebook groups and over 10,000 Instagram accounts. In October 2017, an anonymous user put a series of posts on the message board 4chan. The user signed off as "Q" and claimed to have a level of US security approval known as "Q clearance". These messages became known as "Q drops" or "breadcrumbs", often written in cryptic language peppered with slogans, pledges and pro-Trump themes. The amount of traffic to mainstream social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube has exploded since 2017, and indications are that numbers have increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Judging by social media, there are hundreds of thousands of people who believe in at least some of the bizarre theories offered up by QAnon. QAnon followed on from the "pizzagate" saga in 2016 - a fake theory about Democratic Party politicians running a paedophile ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant. (Webmaster's comment: Absolutely Nuts!)

10-6-20 President Superspreader
Was President Trump himself the coronavirus superspreader at the infamous Rose Garden event that likely infected more than a dozen people and counting with COVID-19? RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is known to have tested positive prior to the event, and traveled with Trump before the event. He is famously fussy and neurotic about medical procedures, and the White House has so far refused to disclose when his last negative test was — suggesting it may have been a long time ago, and that they have been testing everyone but him. Whatever the case, this White House infection cluster is a perfect microcosm of Trump's world-historical faceplant on the coronavirus response. The president did not even try to protect the country, talked himself and his party into believing that the virus was not a threat, and ultimately failed to protect himself, his wife, and half his top staff. The first thing the Republican coronapalooza illustrates is the conservative movement's utter lack of attention to science. The Washington Post learned from Fr. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame and another infectee present at the Barrett event, that "after guests tested negative that day they were instructed they no longer needed to cover their faces." This was almost certainly a rapid saliva test, which can have a false negative rate of 15 percent or higher, depending on the course of the disease — that is, if someone is actually positive, their test may return a negative result more than one time out of ten (especially soon after they have been infected). Now, there is an important role for tests like this one, routine temperature checks, and so on. The basic idea is that if you test as many people as possible as often as possible, you will statistically find lots of true positives even if any individual test is not very reliable. If the positives are then isolated (and re-tested with more accurate methods), you can get the overall transmission rate down. It's just one of many pandemic control tools, akin to reconnaissance scouting. But because they don't have any interest in understanding public health concepts so basic they can be explained in a paragraph, or much more thoroughly in a 3-minute YouTube video, these cretins just thought a test was a way they could have a big old party. "If it says negative, it must mean negative, right?" was as far as they got. They did this because the American conservative movement cannot think about any consequential scientific issue rationally. Everything is warped beyond recognition through the lens of right-wing ressentiment and culture war grievance. Climate change, heavy metal pollution, the worst pandemic in a century, you name it, if the libs are worried about it, it must be exaggerated or a hoax by definition. Trump and his party could not contain the pandemic because they could not believe in it. The second illustration is of the bottomless dishonesty of the conservative movement in general and Trump in particular. His diagnosis was only acknowledged publicly after leaks to the press, and since he entered the hospital, his doctors have repeatedly contradicted themselves about when Trump tested positive, what his treatment has been, and who may have been exposed. They are clearly trying to either make him look good by denying or downplaying any bad news, or simply appeasing Trump's demands for happy talk BS directly. In the process, they have completely discredited themselves. If everything coming out of your mouth is clumsily slanted or simply made up to appease the expectations of what a stupid person thinks will play well on television, anyone listening carefully will stop trusting you. (Webmaster's comment: You cannot believe anything our wannabe dictator tells you!)

10-6-20 Trump Covid: President downplays virus on leaving hospital
US President Donald Trump has made a theatrical return to the White House to continue his treatment for coronavirus after a three-night hospital stay. Mr Trump, who is still contagious, removed his mask on the balcony of the White House, while posing for pictures. His physician said he would continue treatment from there, and he "may not entirely be out of the woods yet". Several of Mr Trump's staff and aides have also tested positive for the virus in recent days. Questions remain over the seriousness of Mr Trump's illness after a weekend of conflicting statements. On Tuesday, his first morning back in the White House, the president took to Twitter to compare Covid-19 to the flu. "Flu season is coming up!" he wrote. "Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid." The US remains the country worst-hit by Covid-19, with 210,000 deaths and 7.4 million cases. Between 1 October 2019 and 4 April 2020, the flu caused between 24,000 and 62,000 deaths in the US, according to government figures. Mr Trump's diagnosis has upended his campaign for a second term in office, less than a month before the Republican president faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the presidential election. Wearing a navy business suit, tie and mask, Mr Trump walked out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the Washington DC suburbs on Monday evening pumping his fist. After a short helicopter ride, Mr Trump was pictured alone on the Truman Balcony of the White House. He removed his protective face mask, before giving a thumbs-up and a military-style salute. A couple of hours later, he tweeted a campaign-style clip of his return set to stirring music. Mr Trump also recorded a video message, urging Americans to get back to work. (Webmaster's comment: Trump does not care if he infects anyone and they die!)

10-5-20 Covid-19 news: Almost 16,000 UK cases missed due to Excel error
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Nearly 16,000 coronavirus cases were missed in the UK due to a technical glitch. Almost 16,000 coronavirus cases in England were missed from official daily UK case figures between 25 September and 2 October due to a technical mistake, according to Public Health England. A total of 15,841 cases were left out of the daily UK figures over the eight-day period, or about 1980 missed cases per day. The missing cases were added over the weekend, artificially raising daily UK case numbers to 12,872 for Saturday and 22,961 for Sunday. Public Health England was reportedly using Microsoft Excel software as a makeshift database to record lab cases. The file reached the maximum number of columns, which cut off thousands of cases. The White House’s medical team has said US president Donald Trump’s condition has been improving since Saturday, and that he could be released from hospital as early as Monday. The president has received a dose of an experimental antibody cocktail being developed by drug company Regeneron, as well as dexamethasone, a drug found to reduce the risk of death in severely ill covid-19 patients. The decision to give the president dexamethasone confused some doctors. Rochelle Walensky at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN: “Generally you start the dexamethasone when you’re starting to worry that they’re heading down the wrong path. So, what happened today? Either he progressed or people are like, well, let’s just throw the kitchen sink at him.” On Sunday, Trump briefly left the hospital and was driven around in an SUV, from which he waved at supporters gathered outside. The move has been heavily criticised, including by a doctor at the hospital where the president is being treated, for putting the Secret Service agents inside the vehicle at risk of infection. The president’s short car journey also contradicts US public health advice to self-isolate when seeking treatment for covid-19. Less than half of people in the UK can expect to receive a coronavirus vaccine, once one is available, the head of the government’s vaccine task force told the Financial Times. Kate Bingham said that vaccination of everyone in the country was “not going to happen”, adding: “we just need to vaccinate everyone at risk.” If a successful vaccine is found, Bingham said the government’s goal will be to vaccinate about 30 million people. “There’s going to be no vaccination of people under 18. It’s an adult-only vaccine, for people over 50, focusing on health workers and care home workers and the vulnerable.”

10-5-20 Trump's anti-leadership in the pandemic
The administration isn't disseminating truth or lies about COVID-19 so much as spreading a miasma of disinformation. How do I know that Donald Trump is going to lose by a big margin in the Philadelphia suburbs where I live? Because everyone in our area wears a mask in public. Refusing to wear a mask has become a vivid expression of resistance to government authority in many countries around the world. But in the U.S., the decision about whether or not to wear one has been transformed into a statement of partisan solidarity on both sides of our yawning political divide. I have no objection to Democrats "virtue signaling" over masks because demonstrating a commitment to public health during the worst pandemic in a century contributes in an important way to the common good. Republican recalcitrance, which led directly to the president and several other prominent members of his party becoming infected, is another matter entirely. What explains it, especially when the GOP controls so much of the government, including the executive branch agencies and departments tasked with fighting the pandemic? That question hovers over a recent disturbing article in The New York Times about the way people working in the White House have been received by the president and his senior aides over the past few months when they have showed up to work wearing masks. They've been treated like unpopular kids being picked on by a pack of bullies in a high school cafeteria. There are many possible explanations for the ridicule and derision, none of which make much sense. The first and most significant is denial of reality and the delusion that pretending the virus isn't a threat will make it true. It's distressing to think that the people in charge of keeping us safe from a deadly contagion view the world that way, but it does appear to be the case. Then there's the peculiarly pig-headed conviction among those in the White House that the administration shouldn't defer to anyone, not even epidemiologists, doctors, and other medical experts, especially if doing so threatens to make the president, his staff, and his party look weak in the eyes of a certain class of Republican voters. (This they apparently fear more than anything else, very much including COVID-19). But this being the Trump White House, we haven't even had the benefit of a coordinated attack on mask-wearing from the administration. That would be terribly irresponsible, but at least it would be consistent. Instead, we've gotten that most Trumpian of alternatives: an incoherent, inconstant jumble of assertions and acts that mirrors the president's mishmash of claims about the virus itself: It's no big deal. It's terrible. It's a plague. It'll just disappear. It's still a threat. It is what it is. It's behind us. All while the deaths keep piling up, now to nearly 215,000. With masks, Trump has been just as variable, often defending them while refusing to wear one himself and then wearing one days before or after mocking others for doing the same. Only in the last six weeks or so, since the maskless Republican National Convention and resumption of the campaign's maskless rallies, has the message become consistent in public and behind the scenes: Don't wear them. And if you do, you can expect to be ridiculed. This isn't good leadership or bad leadership. It's anti-leadership.

10-5-20 Dr Sean Conley: Who is Donald Trump's physician?
On Saturday morning, Donald Trump's personal physician exited the Walter Reed Medical Center with a phalanx of doctors to update the world on the president's condition. "At this time, the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made," Dr Sean Conley said. "We remain cautiously optimistic... He's doing great." Just minutes later, the president's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, gave a widely different account: the president's vital signs over the past 24 hours had been "very concerning", he told reporters, adding that the next 48 hours would be critical. The Navy officer was also forced to clarify the timeline of his only patient's coronavirus case, shortly after giving his statement to the press. While initially saying it had been "72 hours" since Mr Trump's diagnosis - which would have meant the president had tested positive on Wednesday, 36 hours before he announced his infection - Dr Conley said he had meant to say "day three" instead. On Sunday, Dr Conley revealed that the president had been put on supplementary oxygen too, after previously denying it to reporters. The seemingly contradictory messages have raised concerns about the White House's transparency over the president's health at a crucial time for the country. The 40-year-old has served as Physician to the President since March 2018. Like most medical staff at the White House, Dr Conley is a military officer, meaning President Trump is ultimately his commander-in-chief. The tradition of hiring doctors from the military has been in place since the American Civil War. This is partly because few civilian doctors can leave their practices for several years at short notice. Dr Connie Mariano, a former presidential physician, told the New York Times that military doctors were also well-suited for the job because they were first responders, and "White House medicine [is] like practicing battlefield medicine". (Webmaster's comment: The doctor has obviously been ordered to make Trump look better than he really is!)

10-5-20 Trump's doctor: What's behind the confusion and contradiction
Donald Trump's physician , Dr Sean Conley, made headlines on Saturday, when he seemed to repeatedly evade reporters' questions on whether the president needed supplementary oxygen during his treatment for coronavirus. Adding to the confusion, the White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, gave reporters a very different view of the president's health which contradicted what his medical team had said minutes earlier.

10-5-20 Coronavirus: Paris to shut bars and raise alert to maximum
Paris will shut all bars completely from Tuesday after the French government raised the city's coronavirus alert to maximum following a period of high infection rates. Bars, gyms and swimming pools will all be closed for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, the city's police chief said. But restaurants will remain open if strict hygiene rules are in place. On Sunday France reported 12,565 cases of Covid-19. "These are braking measures because the epidemic is moving too fast," police chief Didier Lallement said during a press conference on Monday. "We have to slow it down so that our health system is not overwhelmed," he added. France's maximum alert level comes into force when the infection rate in a locality exceeds 250 infections per 100,000 people and at least 30% of intensive care beds are reserved for Covid-19 patients. There are 203 active coronavirus "clusters" in the wider Paris region, health officials say. "These measures, indispensable in the fight to curb the virus' spread, will apply to Paris and the three departments immediately surrounding it, for a duration of two weeks," the prime minister's office explained earlier. Restaurants in the city will have to put in place new sanitary arrangements in order to stay open and university lecture halls must be no more than half-full. But restaurants and bistros that serve food as well as alcohol can stay open, as long as they register contact details from customers and shut their doors at 22:00. Working from home must be prioritised "now more than ever", the statement said. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin acknowledged closing bars would be difficult for Parisians. "We are French, we love to drink, to eat, to live, to smile and to kiss each other," he told French TV channel LCI and Europe 1 on Sunday. On 26 September Marseille, France's second city, closed all bars, restaurants and gyms for two weeks. Public venues including theatres, museums and cinemas have also had to close unless they could introduce strict anti-viral measures.

10-4-20 What would Trump do with a second term?
What the president says he will do if he's re-elected. Donald Trump has broken the mold as president, and that extends to his second-term agenda. In August, the Republican Party dispensed with long-standing tradition and did not formulate a policy platform, instead issuing a statement declaring that the party will "enthusiastically support the president's America First agenda." The Trump campaign later issued a list of "core priorities" for a second term, offered in bullet points that included "Build the World's Greatest Infrastructure System" and "Stop Endless Wars," but did not offer any detail about how it would achieve them. Still, Trump's stated priorities and his first-term record offer a sense of what policies he might pursue in a second term.

  1. COVID-19: Trump has suggested repeatedly that we are "rounding the corner of the pandemic" and that the coronavirus may just "go away" on its own. He has declined to have the federal government take an active role in building a testing system or putting in place other public health measures, telling states that the response is their responsibility.
  2. Taxes: Trump campaigned in 2016 on a platform of lowering taxes, and he delivered with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered the corporate tax rate and cut income tax rates across the board, with most of the benefits going to corporations and upper-income earners.
  3. Health care: Trump's health-care plan could best be described as a plan to make a plan. He vowed in his first term to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act — an effort that failed in Congress — and has continually promised that he will unveil a health-care plan that will cost less than ObamaCare while offering better coverage. But he has never released such a plan.
  4. Climate change and the environment: Trump moved early in his first term to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, and maintains that the science on climate change is unsettled. His administration has aggressively pursued rollbacks of environmental protections — rollbacks that have ­benefited the fossil-fuel industry by weakening fuel-efficiency standards for cars, loosening limits on power-plant emissions, and opening up public lands for gas and oil extraction.
  5. Education: Trump has said that education will "be a big factor for me" in a second term, and he's a strong proponent of school choice. His administration has pushed policies favoring charter schools and vouchers, which allow families to use tax dollars for private-school tuition, and he has promised to "rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice."
  6. The economy: Trump embarked on a trade war with China in his first term, imposing tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in imports. Aiding the American economy by reducing our dependence on China is a key focus of his second-term agenda.
  7. Trump's foreign policy: Trump has pursued an "America First" doctrine that has led to a cooling of relations with long-standing allies, curtailment of international cooperation, and calls to reduce overseas troop deployments. He has questioned the worth of international alliances such as NATO — which he says relies too heavily on U.S. defense ­spending — and the World Trade Organization, and has announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization

10-4-20 Trump says he is doing well, but next couple of days the 'real test'
US President Donald Trump says he is doing well, but that the next few days will be the "real test". He posted a video on Twitter ahead of a second night in hospital, where he is being treated for Covid-19. The president's physician said late on Saturday that Mr Trump had made "substantial progress" but was "not out of the woods yet". Saturday had been marked by a flurry of apparently contradictory remarks about the president's condition. Shortly after the medical team gave a generally upbeat update, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the president's condition had been "very concerning". Sources close to the president said he was not happy about Mr Meadows' comment. A number of people around the president have tested positive, including First Lady Melania Trump. Many of them attended a crowded White House event last weekend on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court judge. It is being scrutinised as a possible "super-spreader event". According to US media, the latest positive test has been for Nicholas Luna, a close personal assistant to the president. (Webmaster's comment: His policies have been infecting everyone around him!) The president's positive Covid-19 diagnosis, which he made public in a tweet early on Friday, has upended his election campaign. He faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden on 3 November. In the four-minute message posted late on Saturday, Mr Trump, dressed in a suit jacket and shirt with no tie, thanked the doctors and nurses at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center close to Washington DC, where he is being treated. "I came here, wasn't feeling so well, I'm much better now," he said, later adding: "Over the next period of a few days I guess that's the real test. We'll be seeing what happens over those next couple of days." He said he wanted to get back on the campaign trail.

10-4-20 Trump's White House event in focus over Covid spread
US President Donald Trump's tweet on Friday confirming that he and his wife had tested positive for coronavirus shocked the world. DWith Mr Trump now in hospital, there are growing questions about how the pair were exposed to the virus. A crowded Rose Garden event is coming under intense focus - last week's ceremony where Mr Trump formally announced his nomination of the conservative Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. The World Health Organization says it commonly takes around five to six days for symptoms to start after contracting the virus. Footage from the scene showed few attendees wearing masks. The seating was not set two metres (six feet) apart, while some bumped fists, shook hands or even hugged one another in greeting. Eight people who attended are now confirmed to have the virus - although it is unclear exactly where and when they caught it. Aside from the president and the First Lady. Mr and Mrs Trump tested positive after the president's communications director, Hope Hicks, contracted the virus. She did not attend the Rose Garden event. Guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control recommend six feet of distance between people outside your home, and covering your nose and mouth when others are around you. Dozens of lawmakers, family members and staff from the White House were at the event. Those who have tested positive were seated in the first few rows of the crowd. Gatherings of more than 50 people at an event are banned under Washington DC coronavirus regulations, although federal property like the White House is exempt. The Washington Post reports that authorities have left contact tracing efforts to the Trump administration. An official from Mayor Muriel Bowser's office told the paper that if all eight people were infected at the event, it would be one of the highest community spread incidents Washington DC has experienced.

10-4-20 Trump's Covid contact: Who he met and who's tested positive
President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis has come after a busy week running his administration and campaigning ahead of the 3 November election, a time in which he has interacted with many high-level officials. The president announced positive test results for himself and his wife, Melania, in a tweet on Friday, at around 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT). This followed a positive diagnosis for his close aide, Hope Hicks, who reportedly started feeling symptoms on Wednesday and tested positive the next day. Since the president's diagnosis, several people close to his administration have tested positive, including his campaign manager. It takes five days on average from the moment a person is infected for symptoms to start showing, but it can be much longer, so the World Health Organization advises a 14-day isolation period. The peak infectious period for the virus is the day before symptoms appear and the two days after, although a large proportion of people never show any symptoms at all. The White House says it has begun contact-tracing. Here is a look at some of the people we know Mr Trump has crossed paths with in the last week, starting with an event that is being investigated as a possible "super-spreader". President Trump announced his Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in front of a crowd of about 200 people on the White House lawn. Judge Coney Barrett said on Friday that she had tested negative. Sources told US media she had the virus earlier this year. Along with Mr Trump and his wife, at least six other people who attended the Rose Garden event say they have tested positive - although it is not known where they caught the virus. They are former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who are both on the judiciary committee, the president of the University of Notre Dame, John Jenkins, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who on Saturday said he had checked into hospital. The White House Correspondents' Association said an unnamed reporter at the event had also tested positive with symptoms.

10-4-20 Coronavirus: Rapid antigen test rolled out in Madrid
As Spain experiences the worst second wave in Europe, a new rapid antigen test to diagnose Covid-19 is being used. Its manufacturer says it's 93% accurate in detecting Covid-19 infection.

10-3-20 Black children in the US more likely to die from surgery complications
Black children in the US are twice as likely to die from certain emergency surgeries as white children. Brittany Willer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and her colleagues looked at US data on paediatric surgeries between 2012 and 2017 consisting of over 270,000 children who underwent surgery, of whom 10,425 had to have a second emergency operation, or unplanned reoperation. The team chose this data set to look for racial disparities among children who have surgical complications. They split the children into four risk groups – low, intermediate low, intermediate high, and high – depending on their surgical histories and what disease they had. The team found that high risk black children were twice as likely to die from unplanned reoperations as white children, while black children in the intermediate risk groups were 1.9 times as likely to die. There was no difference in low risk groups. “It is well-known that African-Americans have poorer surgical outcomes than whites,” says Willer. “It is likely due to a complex interaction of factors such as social determinants of health, access to high quality speciality care and implicit biases.” She believes her findings suggest that healthcare workers should be more attentive when treating minority children. “Healthcare teams need to have an awareness of this increased risk that an African-American child has and maintain vigilance in every aspect of their care,” said Willer, who presented the work at a virtual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists on 3 October. “These findings are no surprise as black-white racial disparities have been historically persistent for every age group,” says Gwenetta Curry at the University of Edinburgh, UK. “Previous research has shown that black children are less likely to receive pain medication for the same injury as their white counterparts.”

10-3-20 Covid-19 news: US president Trump has covid-19, Biden tests negative
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus! US president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, and the president is experiencing mild symptoms, according to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. It isn’t clear when they became infected and whether they may have infected others, but Trump’s senior advisor, Hope Hicks, tested positive for the virus on Thursday. “This raises questions about whether Hicks was the source or whether all may have been infected simultaneously by another source,” Trish Greenhalgh at the University of Oxford said in a statement. “The chain of infection is important,” said Greenhalgh, because it will influence the likelihood that Trump could have infected other people, for instance during Tuesday’s presidential debate. Trump has a number of risk factors for developing severe covid-19, including being male, older and overweight, said Naveed Sattar at the University of Glasgow in a statement. “But if he has no chronic conditions and is reasonably active […] then these may offset or attenuate his risks.” If Trump becomes too ill to lead the country, power could temporarily be transferred to the vice-president, Mike Pence, who on Friday tested negative for the virus. The UK’s R number – the number of people each coronavirus case infects – has increased for the fourth consecutive week, up to an estimate of between 1.3 and 1.6, an increase from between 1.2 and 1.5 the previous week, according to official figures. This is most likely to represent the situation two or three weeks ago due to a time lag in the data used to model the R. Infections across the country are estimated to be growing at a rate of between 5 and 9 per cent every day. Spain’s capital Madrid and nine neighbouring towns will enter a partial lockdown from 10 pm on Friday. The Madrid region currently has the highest case rate in Europe, with 859 cases per 100,000 people. Poland recorded its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 2292 new cases confirmed on Friday, according to the country’s health ministry.

10-3-20 Trump on Covid-19 in his own words
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania have tested positive for Covid-19, just over a month before the presidential election. Here is a reminder of what he has said in the past about Covid-19 and the pandemic.

10-3-20 Trump spends first night in hospital after Covid-19 diagnosis
US President Donald Trump has spent his first night in a military hospital where he is receiving treatment after testing positive for coronavirus. "Going well, I think!" Mr Trump tweeted late on Friday. US media say his symptoms include a low-grade fever. He has so far been treated with an experimental drug cocktail injection and the antiviral medication remdesivir. In exactly one month, Mr Trump faces Joe Biden in the presidential election. The president's diagnosis has upended his campaign and also cast doubt on his attempt to get a new Supreme Court judge confirmed before polling day. The latest update from Mr Trump's physician, Sean Conley, in a memorandum late on Friday, read: "I am happy to report the president is doing very well." He said the president was not in need of supplemental oxygen. The president, being 74, a man and someone categorised as obese, is in a higher-risk category for Covid-19. The White House said he was flown to hospital "out of an abundance of caution" and would be there for the "next few days". First Lady Melania Trump, who has also tested positive for Covid-19, had a "mild cough and headache", Dr Conley said. The list of other people to have tested positive around Mr Trump include close aide Hope Hicks - believed to be the first to show symptoms - campaign manager Bill Stepien and former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway. Republican Senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis have also tested positive. Mr Trump remains in charge. Vice-President Mike Pence, to whom under the constitution the president would transfer power temporarily should he become too ill to carry out his duties, tested negative. Wearing a mask and suit, Mr Trump walked out across the White House lawn on Friday at 18:15 (22:15 GMT) to his helicopter, Marine One, for the short flight to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center close to Washington DC. He waved and gave a thumbs-up to reporters but said nothing before boarding the aircraft. In an 18-second video posted to Twitter, Mr Trump said: "I think I'm doing very well. But we're going to make sure that things work out. The first lady is doing very well. So thank you very much."

10-3-20 Trump in hospital as more allies test positive
Who had contacts with Trump?; What if he became too ill. President Trump is in hospital after being diagnosed with He has taken an experimental drug and antiviral medication and his doctor said he was "doing very well." First Lady Melania Trump also has the virus and is recuperating at the White House. Ex-adviser Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager Bill Stepien and two Republican senators - Mike Lee and Thom Tillis - all test positive. But Joe Biden, who took part in the first US presidential debate with Trump on Tuesday, has tested negative. Trump, 74, has been criticised for playing down severity of virus and often spurning masks and social distancing. There have been more than 7m infections with Covid in the US, and more than 200,000 deaths.

10-3-20 Trump's Covid contact: Who he met and who's tested positive
President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis has come after a busy week running his administration and campaigning ahead of the 3 November election, a time in which he has interacted with many high-level officials. The president announced positive test results for himself and his wife, Melania, in a tweet on Friday, at around 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT). This followed a positive diagnosis for his close aide, Hope Hicks, who reportedly started feeling symptoms on Wednesday and tested positive the next day. Since the president's diagnosis, several people close to his administration have tested positive, including his campaign manager. It takes five days on average from the moment a person is infected for symptoms to start showing, but it can be much longer, so the World Health Organization advises a 14-day isolation period. The peak infectious period for the virus is the day before symptoms appear and the two days after, although a large proportion of people never show any symptoms at all. The White House says it has begun contact-tracing. Here is a look at some of the people we know Mr Trump has crossed paths with in the last week. President Trump announced his Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in front of a crowd of about 200 people on the White House lawn. On Saturday evening, President Trump held a rally at Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Since the afternoon's ceremony, Judge Coney Barrett has held meetings with various senators - including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - ahead of her much-anticipated confirmation hearing, which is due to take place on 12 October. Judge Coney Barrett said on Friday that she had tested negative. Sources told US media she had the virus earlier this year. Along with Mr Trump and his wife, at least five other people who attended the Rose Garden event for her announcement say they have tested positive - although it is not known where they caught the virus. They are former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who are both on the judiciary committee, and the president of the University of Notre Dame, John Jenkins. The White House Correspondents' Association said an unnamed reporter at the event had also tested positive with symptoms.

10-3-20 Coronavirus: Spain imposes partial lockdown on defiant Madrid
More than three million people in Madrid have had new restrictions imposed on their lives as Spain tries to control the most serious second wave of Covid-19 infections in Europe. From this weekend, people can travel outside their home districts for essential journeys only. Bars and restaurants cannot serve after 22:00. And a maximum of six people are permitted to meet in any setting. The measures have been demanded by Spain's federal government. They also take effect in nine towns around the capital. The restrictions have been resisted by Madrid's city authorities, which tried to use the courts to block their imposition. Madrid's justice minister said it would cost the capital's economy €8bn (£7bn) and regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso tweeted: "Thanks for the chaos, [Prime Minister] Pedro Sánchez." Signs of the second wave of Covid-19 infections now breaking over Spain can be seen at the emergency admission unit of the 12 de Octubre hospital, one of the biggest in Madrid. Every hour ambulances arrive with new patients. Some of the sick are helped into wheelchairs; others, already needing oxygen, have to be stretchered in by medical staff wearing full protective gear. A red warning signal indicating the seriousness of Spain's predicament is that, at many hospitals across Madrid, existing intensive care units (ICU) are again full with Covid-19 patients. Hospitals are having to use overflow capacity prepared at the height of the pandemic, including beds usually reserved for burns patients and for post-operative recovery. At La Paz Hospital, another of Madrid's biggest, all 30 ICU critical care beds are occupied. "There are more patients than we can attend in critical care units," says Juan José Río, Medical Director at La Paz. Psychologically it's the worst thing because all the staff here are afraid that the tsunami will come again."

10-2-20 Breonna Taylor grand jury recordings released
Recordings from the grand jury investigation into the Breonna Taylor police shooting case have been released in a rare disclosure. Some 15 hours of audio were made public on Friday, following a lawsuit. The recent decision not to charge any officers for Ms Taylor's 13 March killing renewed outcry over racial inequities. Unrest gripped Ms Taylor's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky for days afterward. With roughly 15 hours of audio released on Friday, not all the details have yet been reviewed. But early reviews of the tapes reveal testimony from at least two Louisville police officers who said that they knocked several times and announced themselves as police before entering Ms Taylor's apartment. "We knocked on the door, said 'police', waited I don't know 10 or 15 seconds. Knocked again, said 'police', waited even longer," said Louisville police lieutenant Shawn Hoover in an interview recorded on the day Ms Taylor was shot, later played for the grand jury. "So it was the third time that we were approaching, it had been like 45 seconds if not a minute," Mr Hoover said. "And then I said, 'Let's go, let's breach it.'" The officers were so loud, one testified, that a neighbour came outside saying something like "Leave that girl alone," Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly said. Whether or not the officers announced themselves before entering has been questioned by Ms Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and a number of her neighbours. Mr Walker, who fired at police, said he did so in self-defence, believing the officers to be intruders. In a police interview played for the grand jury, Mr Walker said that they had not heard police identify themselves before they entered her apartment. If they had, "it changes the whole situation because there was nothing for us to be scared of," he said, according to the Associated Press. Officer Myles Cosgrove - who the FBI said fired the shot that killed Ms Taylor - described a chaotic scene to investigators, in which he was "overwhelmed with bright flashes and darkness", and seemed confused by the precise order of events. "I just sense that I've fired," he said in a recording, according to the New York Times. "It's like a surreal thing. If you told me I didn't do something at that time, I'd believe you. If you told me I did so something, I'd probably believe you, too." When police entered the apartment, they encountered a figure who looked as if he or she was holding some type of long gun, said officer Brett Hankinson in a recorded police interview. Mr Hankinson has since been charged with wanton endangerment for firing shots into an adjoining apartment.

10-2-20 Covid: Donald Trump and Melania test positive
US President Donald Trump has said he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for coronavirus and are now self-isolating. Mr Trump, aged 74 and therefore in a high-risk group, wrote on Twitter: "We will get through this together." The president has "mild symptoms" of coronavirus, White House officials say. Mr Trump's announcement comes just over a month before the presidential elections on 3 November, where he faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The development comes after Hope Hicks, one of Mr Trump's closest aides, tested positive. In a tweet, Mr Biden and his wife Jill wished the first couple a swift recovery: "We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family," he said. It is not clear whether Mr Biden is also being tested, and whether he will continue his campaign on Friday with a scheduled visit to Michigan. He stood approximately 10ft (3m) away from Mr Trump during the debate. Debate moderator Chris Wallace said on Friday he was getting tested. A person is required to self-isolate after either showing coronavirus symptoms or a positive test. Meanwhile, quarantine restricts the movements of those who have been in contact with an infected person, but are not themselves positive or symptomatic. Mr Trump has mostly spurned mask-wearing and has often been pictured not socially distanced with aides or others during official engagements. The coronavirus has infected more than 7.2 million Americans, killing more than 200,000 of them. Mr Trump's physician, Dr Sean Conley, released a statement late on Thursday, saying the president and the first lady were "both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence". "Rest assured I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments," the statement said. The physician provided no further details. However, White House officials and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later said Mr Trump was experiencing mild Covid-19 symptoms.

10-2-20 Covid: Who Trump has been in contact with before his diagnosis
President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis comes after a busy week running his administration and campaigning ahead of the 3 November election, during which time he has interacted with many high-level officials. The president announced positive test results for himself and his wife, Melania, in a tweet on Friday, at around 01:00 local time (5:00 GMT). This followed a positive diagnosis for his close aide, Hope Hicks, who reportedly started feeling symptoms on Wednesday and tested positive the next day. It takes five days on average from the moment a person is infected for symptoms to start showing, but it can be much longer, so the World Health Organization advises a 14-day isolation period. The peak infectious period for the virus is the day before symptoms appear and the two days after, although a large proportion of people never show any symptoms at all. The White House says it has begun contact-tracing. Here is a look at some of the people we know Mr Trump has crossed paths with in the last week. President Trump announced his Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in front of a crowd of about 200 people on the White House lawn. Since the ceremony, Judge Barrett has held meetings with various senators - including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - ahead of her much-anticipated confirmation hearing, which is due to take place on 12 October. Mrs Barrett said on Friday that she had tested negative. On Saturday evening, President Trump held a rally at Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown, Pennsylvania. The president played golf at his club in Potomac Falls, Virginia, on Sunday morning and led a White House reception for the families of military veterans in the evening. On Monday, President Trump held a news briefing - giving an update on his administration's coronavirus testing strategy - in the White House Rose Garden. It was attended by Vice-President Mike Pence, Health Secretary Alex Azar, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the chief executive of Abbott Laboratories, Robert Ford, among others. Also on Monday, Trump viewed a model of a new pickup truck - being built at a factory in Ohio - on the White House lawn. Representatives from the company, Lordstown Motors, attended, as well as two members of Congress. The White House regularly tests officials who come in contact with the president. However, US media has noted that mask-wearing and social distancing around him is less common, suggesting that people may be too reliant on the testing system, which is not foolproof.

10-2-20 3 big questions about Trump's coronavirus diagnosis
The president has COVID-19. In a series of announcements and tweets on Thursday night, President Trump confirmed first that his advisor Hope Hicks had tested positive for the coronavirus and that he would be quarantining — and then, a few hours later, that he and the first lady had also tested positive. "We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately," he wrote on Twitter. "We will get through this TOGETHER!" The announcement, while shocking, was hardly a surprise. The president has by and large refused to wear a mask in public — a measure most experts say is among the most effective countermeasures to prevent the spread of the virus — and he has increasingly insisted on holding large-scale rallies and campaign events with thousands of attendees, many of whom also didn't wear masks or socially distance. At Tuesday night's presidential debate, much of his entourage reportedly didn't wear masks, either. One reporter who visited the White House in August called it a "petri dish" for the illness. But there are a million questions to be asked and answered about how this news affects the governance of the United States, the direction of the presidential campaign, and even the future of America's so-far dismal response to the pandemic: Is it time to dust off the 25th Amendment again? During the early stages of Trump's presidency, more than a few observers expressed hope that he might be removed from office using the 25th Amendment, which governs scenarios of how and why the powers of the presidency can be passed to the vice president. But that idea relied on the possibility of a majority of Trump's own Cabinet declaring him unfit for duty — a possibility that faded over the years as the president increasingly installed loyalists atop executive branch agencies. The amendment wasn't really designed to be used to remove a bad president. But it is designed to ensure the smooth governance of this country if the president is incapacitated: It was passed in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination, when officials became terrified that a badly injured president might leave the White House in limbo for an extended period of time. While Trump will no doubt get the very best medical care this country can furnish, the truth remains that he is a septuagenarian and that COVID-19 has taken a high toll on the elderly. It is very easy to imagine scenarios well short of death in which it might be appropriate — even necessary — to invoke the amendment and transfer the powers of the presidency, perhaps temporarily to Vice President Mike Pence. We're not there yet, obviously. But Pence and other senior White House officials should be prepared. Will the the remaining presidential debates be canceled? Only two nights before announcing he had COVID-19, Trump spent 90 minutes in a room with former Vice President Joe Biden, his opponent in November's election, and spent much of the time shouting. Even though the two men remained distanced throughout the evening, there is a real possibility that Biden was exposed to the virus. America is in unprecedented territory, then, where the health of the two contenders for its highest office may be in danger at the same time. There is a potential for chaos. The ugliness of Tuesday's debate prompted a push to cancel the remaining debates entirely — an idea that both candidates resisted, at least publicly. If Trump develops no symptoms, it's possible he could emerge from a 14-day quarantine just in time for the scheduled October 15 meeting. But if the campaigns and debate officials looked at this mess and decided the potential danger to the candidates and their teams is just not worth it, that would be entirely justifiable.

10-2-20 President Trump has Covid-19: How global media responded
As news emerged that US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania had tested positive for coronavirus, the story shot to the top of every news agenda worldwide. It's just 32 days until Americans cast their votes in the race for the White House - and this is a seismic development. World leaders were quick to send the Trumps their well-wishes, with India's Twitter-loving Prime Minister Narendra Modi among the first. "Wishing my friend @POTUS @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS a quick recovery and good health," he wrote. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: "Like millions of Israelis, Sara and I are thinking of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump and wish our friends a full and speedy recovery." Russia's Vladimir Putin sent a message by telegraph, according to the Interfax News Agency, writing: "I am certain that your inherent vitality, good spirits and optimism will help you cope with this dangerous virus." In much international media, however, the news was accompanied by criticism of what was said to be the US president's "botched" response to the coronavirus pandemic, and his "open scepticism" over the use of face masks and social distancing. German media seemed somewhat unsurprised. "Trump usually does not wear a mask in public", wrote the centre-right Die Welt, while the centrist Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pointed out that the pandemic did not deter him from making numerous major election campaign appearances. Media in France echoed the sentiment that Mr Trump undermined his own health by underestimating the virus. "After months of catastrophic handling of the pandemic in the USA, after months of lies and contradictory messages to his supporters… Donald Trump has tested positive for Covid-19," wrote Libération. Iran's international-facing English-language Press TV observed that Trump "has been somewhat cavalier" about the Covid-19 threat, adding that "it was only a matter of time" before the US president caught the virus. An anchor on Iranian state television broke the news "with an unflattering image of the US president surrounded by what appeared to be giant coronaviruses", the Associated Press reports.

10-2-20 Covid: What is the risk to Donald Trump's health?
Donald Trump has clear risk factors - including his age, weight and being male - that all raise the chances of a severe coronavirus infection. He is 74 and has a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30, which is the clinical definition of obesity. So now he has tested positive for the virus, what does it mean? As this point, Mr Trump only has "mild symptoms". But age is a clear and strong link to developing a severe infection, leading to hospital treatment and in some cases death. "But most people who get an infection also get better," Dr Bharat Pankhania, from the University of Exeter medical school told the BBC. An early analysis of more than 100 studies, taking in data from around the world, showed the risk for children and young adults was tiny. However, at age 75 it is estimated that one-in-25 people who catch coronavirus die. This rises to one-in-seven people aged over 85 and one-in-four over the age of 90. A similar pattern has been seen by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It says eight-out-of-10 Covid deaths in the country have been in the over-65s. And people in Mr Trump's age group are five times more likely to need hospital care and 90 times more likely to die than somebody in their 20s. It is not clear if the reason is something fundamental about being older, such as the immune system becoming less efficient with time, or if our age is just shorthand for being in generally worse health. "Age is also tied to heart disease, lung disease, type 2 diabetes, so it's hard to disentangle whether it is their age or comorbidities (other health problems)," Prof Ravindra Gupta, from the University of Cambridge, said. Obesity has also been linked to more severe disease. A review of the evidence by Public Health England concluded excess weight increased the chances of needing intensive care treatment and the possibility of death. Fat in the body can influence the white blood cells of the immune system to increase levels of inflammation in the body. Excessive inflammation is why the infection can become deadly. But again, obesity is linked to a host of underlying health problems including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

10-2-20 Trump Covid: US shares drop after president tests positive
US stock markets have opened lower after Donald Trump said he had tested positive for coronavirus. All three of America's main indexes - the Dow Jones, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq - fell by between 1% and 2.2% when trading began on Friday, broadly in line with market expectations. Minutes later, markets rose slightly. The US President tweeted he and his wife Melania had contracted Covid-19. It comes as the US heads into the final weeks before the Presidential election. Mr Trump tweeted: "Tonight FLOTUS [First Lady of the US] I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!" Hours earlier, Mr Trump had declared that the end of the coronavirus pandemic "is in sight". The Dow Jones was trading 0.8% lower in early trade, the tech-focused Nasdaq fell 1.2% and the S&P 500 index dropped 0.9%. In London, the FTSE 100 index recovered some ground, being down 0.2% at 5,866.01 in early afternoon trade. In France, the Cac-40 is trading down 0.9% while Germany's Dax index is 1.1`% lower. "This election already had a cloud of uncertainty hanging over it as Trump has refused to say whether he will accept the final vote and has also said that the final result may not be known for months," said Fiona Cincotta, market analyst at City Index UK. "The markets are already fretting about an uncertain election and this just adds another layer of uncertainty, favouring the risk off trade." Futures trading before the US market opened had indicated that the main US indexes would drop. "It is prime time now for (the) US election," said Jingyi Pan, a senior market strategist at IG Group. "Should the President be absent during this period, that could mean even more complications with the election." Mr Trump and his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, are scheduled to hold two more debates ahead of polling day on 3 November. Earlier this week, the two faced each other for the first time in a combative encounter. The rules for the remaining debates has now been changed to ensure the two remaining meetings will be more orderly.

10-2-20 Trump condemns all white supremacists after Proud Boys row
US President Donald Trump has condemned all white supremacist groups following controversy over remarks he made during the first presidential debate. In an interview with Fox News on Thursday he explicitly condemned the Proud Boys group which in the debate he had urged to "stand back and stand by". Members of the far-right group had regarded his comment as an endorsement. Mr Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden had accused the president of refusing to disavow white supremacists. Senior Republicans also expressed unease over the remarks, and attempts by Mr Trump to walk back the comments at a news conference on Wednesday failed to end the controversy. In an interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday evening President Trump said: "I've said it many times, let me be clear again, I condemn the KKK [Ku Klux Klan]. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys. "I don't know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that." During Tuesday's debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked whether the president would condemn white supremacists and tell them to stand down during protests. When Mr Trump asked who it was he was being told to condemn, Mr Biden twice said "Proud Boys", referring to the far-right, anti-immigrant, all-group with a history of violence against left-wing opponents. The president said: "Proud Boys - stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what... somebody's got to do something about antifa [anti-fascist activists] and the left because this is not a right-wing problem." After his refusal to explicitly condemn far-right groups drew criticism, Mr Trump sought to qualify his remarks during an exchange with reporters on the White House had lawn on Wednesday. He said he did not know who the Proud boys were. He did not clarify his use of "stand by" in the debate but said he wanted to "let law enforcement do their work". During his time in office, President Trump has been accused of emboldening far-right groups with his rhetoric while being more willing to openly condemn those on the far-left.

10-2-20 You paid Trump's taxes
As further proof that our tax system is broken, consider this recent revelation by reporters at ProPublica: If you're a member of the working poor — people who earn less than $20,000 — you are nearly as likely to be audited as people whose earnings put them in the top 1 percent. It might seem foolish of the IRS to chase after low-paid taxpayers for a few hundred bucks rather than, say, a reality TV show host claiming a suspect business loss of $72.9 million. But years of withering budget cuts by congressional Republicans have left the IRS so stripped of experienced staff that it can only audit 1.56 percent of the richest Americans' returns. Auditing the poor is simpler — they can't afford tax lawyers — and is thus "the most efficient use of IRS's limited examination resources," the agency says. As we've been reminded this past week, the U.S. does not have one income tax system, but two. One is for salaried schmucks whose income is reported directly to the government and who enjoy precious few deductions or options for cheating. The other is for the self-employed, owners of limited-liability companies, hedge-fund managers, and the very wealthy. For them, the tax code is like a Christmas tree laden with shiny baubles and surrounded by ribboned presents — deductions, tax-avoidance schemes, and loopholes of all kinds. In the deep forest of a 400-page tax return, it is easy to hide questionable claims, like classifying your daughter — an executive in the family firm — as a "consultant" so you can write off her $747,622 salary as a business deduction. Fraud, the IRS estimates, will cost the government $7.5 trillion in taxes not paid over the next decade. Every dollar that cheats do not pay, of course, is either paid by the "losers and suckers" or added to the trillions in debt we are handing off to our children. Americans deserve a much fairer and simpler tax code, but we will not get one until we demand it.

10-1-20 Covid-19 news: Rise in infections in England may be slowing
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Coronavirus cases are still on the rise in England but this trend may be slowing. Infections in England continue to rise but the rate of increase may be slowing down, according to preliminary results from Imperial College London’s REACT-1 study. Using random swab testing, the researchers tracked levels of the coronavirus within communities in England and found that about one in 181 people had the virus between 18 and 26 September, an increase from one in 769 between 22 August and 7 September. However, the estimated R number for England – the number of cases each case infects – had fallen from 1.7 to around 1.1, suggesting the rate at which cases are rising is slowing. There is uncertainty around this figure, which could lie anywhere between about 0.7 and 1.5. The most recent results are based on an analysis of swabs from 80,000 people. A vaccine against the coronavirus on its own won’t be enough to curb the spread of the virus, and social-distancing measures are likely to be needed for some time, according to a report by a multidisciplinary group of researchers convened by the Royal Society in the UK. “Even if [a future vaccine] is effective it is very unlikely that we will be able to get back completely to normal,” report co-author Charles Bangham at Imperial College London told the Guardian. The report says that challenges to the success of a future vaccine include potential limitations in how well the vaccine works, hurdles in manufacturing and storage, and issues with public trust. India has announced further easing of its coronavirus restrictions today, despite continued rises in daily new cases. The government said it will allow states to reopen cinemas, multiplexes and exhibition centres with 50 per cent capacity from 15 October.

10-1-20 Covid: Vaccine will 'not return life to normal in spring'
Even an effective coronavirus vaccine will not return life to normal in spring, a group of leading scientists has warned. A vaccine is often seen as the holy grail that will end the pandemic. But a report, from researchers brought together by the Royal Society, said we needed to be "realistic" about what a vaccine could achieve and when. They said restrictions may need to be "gradually relaxed" as it could take up to a year to roll the vaccine out. More than 200 vaccines to protect against the virus are being developed by scientists around the world in a process that is taking place at unprecedented speed. "A vaccine offers great hope for potentially ending the pandemic, but we do know that the history of vaccine development is littered with lots of failures," said Dr Fiona Culley, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. There is optimism, including from the UK government's scientific advisers, that some people may get a vaccine this year and mass vaccination may start early next year. However, the Royal Society report warns it will be a long process. "Even when the vaccine is available it doesn't mean within a month everybody is going to be vaccinated, we're talking about six months, nine months... a year," said Prof Nilay Shah, head of chemical engineering at Imperial College London. "There's not a question of life suddenly returning to normal in March." The report said there were still "enormous" challenges ahead. Some of the experimental approaches being taken - such as RNA vaccines - have never been mass produced before. There are questions around raw materials - both for the vaccine and glass vials - and refrigerator capacity, with some vaccines needing storage at minus 80C. Prof Shah estimates vaccinating people would have to take place at a pace, 10 times faster than the annual flu campaign and would be a full-time job for up to 30,000 trained staff. "I do worry, is enough thinking going into the whole system?" he says. Early trial data has suggested that vaccines are triggering an immune response, but studies have not yet shown if this is enough to either offer complete protection or lessen the symptoms of Covid.

10-1-20 Presidential debate: Rules to change after Trump-Biden spat
The commission that oversees US presidential debates says it will change the format to ensure the remaining two encounters between Donald Trump and Joe Biden are more orderly. One new measure could be to cut the microphones if the candidates try to interrupt each other, US media report. The announcement follows Tuesday's ill-tempered debate that descended into squabbling, bickering and insults. President Trump's team has already criticised the commission's plans. The tone and tactics of the first presidential debate were criticised across the US and around the world. The fallout, however, has also been dominated by Mr Trump's refusal in the debate to explicitly condemn a far-right group called the Proud Boys. In Tuesday's debate, the candidates were given two minutes to answer moderator questions, before being allowed to address each other's response. However, President Trump constantly interrupted Democratic candidate Joe Biden leading to a series of chaotic exchanges in which both men talked over each other. The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) - a nonpartisan body that has organised presidential debates since 1988 - said it would soon announce new measures to help moderators "maintain order" in the remaining two debates. It said the first debate had "made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues". CBS News, citing an informed source, said the commission would spend the next 48 hours drawing up new guidelines and rules for the second debate on 15 October in Miami, Florida. Controlling the candidates' microphones is at the top of the list, CBS said, in order to prevent them interrupting the moderator or each other. Both campaign teams will be informed of the rules but they will not be subject to negotiation, the source added.

10-1-20 San Diego Loyal forfeit match after alleged homophobic comment
Landon Donovan said his San Diego Loyal "would not stand" for bigotry having left the pitch in protest after an alleged homophobic comment was aimed at openly gay midfielder Collin Martin. An opposition player from Phoenix Rising was accused of making the comment just before half-time in their second-tier USL Championship game. Loyal players returned after the break but walked off when the referee blew his whistle, forfeiting a match they were leading 3-1 and ending their chances of reaching the play-offs. They forfeited a match against LA Galaxy II last week after an alleged racial slur was aimed at midfielder Elijah Martin. The player accused of making the comment has since been let go by Galaxy. Loyal players took a knee before walking off during Wednesday's second division game against Phoenix Rising. Loyal manager and executive vice-president Donovan, who played in the Premier League for Everton, said: "We went through a really hard incident last week in the LA match and we made a vow to ourselves, to our community, to our players, to the club, to USL, that we would not stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, things that don't belong in our game." Martin had been sent off after the incident but the red card was rescinded. Instead, one was given to 38-year-old former forward Donovan - the United States' second-most capped player - after he came on to the pitch in the aftermath. Phoenix Rising said the player who was alleged to have made the homophobic comment "vehemently denied" the allegations. "I lost it because I know what this team has gone through," said Donovan. "I know how hard it was for them to even take the field tonight given everything that happened, and then for it to happen again a week later was just devastating for me." Donovan said, despite players wanting to continue, the team decided that if the opponent who was alleged to have made the homophobic comment was not removed by either the referee, or by his club, they would not play.


144 Atheism News & Humanism News Articles
for October 2020

Atheism News & Humanism Articles for September 2020