The Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett began Monday with Democrats warning the federal judge would overturn the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. If confirmed, Barrett would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the court. On Monday, she gave a brief opening statement.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett: “Courts have a vital responsibility to the rule of law, which is critical to a free society. But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”
Republicans promise to confirm Barrett ahead of Election Day despite the protests of Democratic lawmakers who say the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be filled by whoever wins in November. This is Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: “Why would we rush forward? Well, the answer isn’t pretty. There’s a promise to big donors that must be kept. When David Koch ran for vice president, he campaigned on getting rid of Medicare and Medicaid. Imagine his fury when Obamacare passed. His groups are spending millions right now on this nomination.”
As the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 tops 215,000, President Trump returned to the campaign trail Monday, just a week after he was released from the hospital, where he was treated for COVID-19. Trump spoke in front of thousands of people — many maskless — who were packed together in defiance of social distancing guidelines. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was seen maskless giving people high fives, just a day after the state recorded over 5,500 new coronavirus cases. During the rally, Trump again falsely claimed he is now immune to COVID-19.
President Donald Trump: “I went through it. Now they say I’m immune. I can feel — I feel so powerful. I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there. I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women and the — everybody. I’ll just give you a big, fat kiss.”
Prior to Trump’s trip to Florida, White House physician Sean Conley announced the president had tested negative for COVID-19 on two consecutive days — didn’t say what days — based on two rapid antigen tests. Many doctors questioned why the White House would have used a rapid test when the Centers for Disease Control recommends only a PCR test be used to make decisions about discontinuing isolation of infected patients. Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and researcher at Brown University, told BuzzFeed News, “They’re selectively reporting testing to somehow make the case he’s not infectious.”
A number of European countries, including Britain, France, Spain and Italy, are enacting or considering strict new restrictions and lockdowns as COVID-19 cases soar across much of the continent. On Monday, Russia reported nearly 14,000 new cases — Russia’s highest daily total since the start of the pandemic.
This comes as the death toll in Brazil has topped 150,000, the world’s second-highest total after the United States. Meanwhile, India has become just the second nation after the U.S. to record over 7 million infections.
In China, a small outbreak has been uncovered in the port city of Qingdao with 12 confirmed local infections. Authorities are responding with plans to test 9 million people in the city.
Johnson & Johnson has paused all COVID-19 vaccine trials after a participant developed what the company described as an “unexplained illness” during a trial. The pharmaceutical giant had recently begun Phase 3 trials for its vaccine. This comes a month after AstraZeneca paused vaccine trials after two participants developed serious neurological illnesses. AstraZeneca has resumed trials overseas but not in the United States.
In other medical news, The Lancet medical journal has revealed a 25-year-old Nevada man became infected with COVID-19 twice earlier this year, with the second infection more severe than the first.
In Georgia, early voting opened Monday with some voters waiting as long as 10 hours in line. Technical problems with voting machines were reported at the state’s largest polling site in Atlanta. Around 10 million voters have already cast ballots across the U.S., shattering previous early voting records. At this time in 2016, only about 1.4 million votes had been cast.
In California, the secretary of state and attorney general sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding Republican officials stop encouraging voters to use unofficial ballot drop boxes that state officials say are illegal.
In Arizona, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe filed a lawsuit Monday to reinstate the only early in-person voting site on the reservation, which was shut down in 2018. The tribe is also seeking a ballot drop-off site for the week preceding Election Day. The lawsuit says the Pima County Recorder’s Office has also closed an additional three early voting locations within the Tohono O’odham Nation since 2018. This is Herminia Frias of the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council.
Herminia Frias: “So, are you, at the end of the day, telling us that here on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation our votes don’t matter? Because you’re telling us that on the reservation, 'Just go out there in Pima County and go vote at a library, that is eight miles away, and deal with it,' and not really understanding tribal sovereignty and not really understanding the law.”
Reuters reports the White House is moving ahead with new weapons sales to Taiwan, including truck-based rocket launchers made by Lockheed Martin and long-range missiles made by Boeing. This comes as U.S. officials are calling on Taiwan to step up its defense spending. The Chinese Embassy responded to the news by saying the U.S. should stop arms sales and end military ties with Taiwan to avoid damaging China-U.S. relations and stability in the region.
In Bangladesh, the government has approved the use of the death penalty for convicted rapists. This comes following widespread protests over several high-profile rape cases, including a gang rape in a remote village which circulated on social media. Human Rights Watch’s South Asia director, Meenakshi Ganguly, noted that “most cases are not reported or prosecuted, and conviction rates are low,” and the government should instead focus on reforming Bangladesh’s justice system.
The Washington Post reports the Trump Organization has charged the Secret Service at least $238,000 for room rentals at Trump properties when accompanying Trump’s children and their families on business trips. The Washington Post has tallied over $1.2 million in Secret Service charges since Trump took office. Most of these are related to Trump’s own travel, including for room rentals at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club this spring while it was shuttered because of the pandemic.
In Arizona, 12 O’odham land and water defenders and allies were arrested Monday after protesters blocked traffic near a Border Patrol checkpoint, denouncing the ongoing construction of Trump’s border wall on sacred Indigenous land. In videos posted to social media, officers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety are seen marching toward peaceful protesters, shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at them and restraining and handcuffing at least one protester on the hot pavement. The protesters have since been released.
The CEO of Energy Transfer, Kelcy Warren, is stepping down, though he will remain involved with the company. Energy Transfer owns the Dakota Access Pipeline, whose future is uncertain after a federal judge in July ordered the line be shut down for an environmental review. But a federal appeals court blocked that order and will hear arguments in the case on November 4, the day after Election Day. Kelcy Warren is one of Trump’s biggest funders.
A German research team has just completed the largest Arctic expedition in history. The team’s ship became deliberately frozen last October, drifting thousands of miles north and west, to study how the Arctic is being impacted by the climate crisis and increasing temperatures. This is one of the expedition’s leaders, Markus Rex, who offered a stark warning about the future of the planet.
Markus Rex: “We found broad expanses of open water in an area where there should normally be thick ice, parts of it multiyear ice. And even at the pole, the ice is completely melted and full of holes. It was very evident. You could see it all around. You didn’t need measuring instruments. The ice is dying.”
The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded to U.S. economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson for their work on auction theory, which has been used “to design new auction formats for goods and services that are difficult to sell in a traditional way, such as radio frequencies … Their discoveries have benefited sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world.”
Princeton University has agreed to backpay nearly $1 million to over 100 female professors, and at least $250,000 in future salary adjustments, in response to a federal probe into gender-based pay discrimination. Princeton admitted no wrongdoing as part of the agreement with the Department of Labor.
In Wisconsin, the Wauwatosa police chief said he had no reason to fire the police officer who shot and killed a Black teenager, Alvin Cole, in February. Seventeen-year-old Alvin Cole was the third person the officer, Joseph Mensah — who is also Black — fatally shot in the past five years. Milwaukee’s district attorney cleared Mensah last week in the killing, sparking protests which were met with police tear gas and scores of arrests. Alvin Cole’s mother, Tracy Cole, and his two sisters were among those arrested. Tracy Cole’s arrest was live-streamed on Facebook; she can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” after police hit her in the head during the violent arrest.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jim Dwyer has died at the age of 63 of complications of lung cancer. Dwyer covered the New York City area for The New York Times, Newsday and the Daily News. He wrote about the human lives affected by the September 11 attacks and covered racial profiling by New Jersey state troopers, leading to the indictment of two officers who shot Black and Latinx students. He also covered the Central Park Five trial in 1990. In his final months, he told the stories of New Yorkers affected by the pandemic and the frontline doctors battling the disease. In his last column for The New York Times in May, Dwyer wrote about those who feed and care for those in need. He wrote, “In times to come, when we are all gone, people not yet born will walk in the sunshine of their own days because of what women and men did at this hour to feed the sick, to heal and to comfort.” Those are the words of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Jim Dwyer, who died last week at the age of 63.