Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are continuing to surge in the United States as more than 83,000 new infections were recorded on both Friday and Saturday — the highest daily totals since the pandemic started. Hospitalizations rose in 38 states over the past week. Total confirmed cases in the U.S. have now topped 8.6 million, with a death toll over 225,000 — both numbers are the highest in the world.
A new outbreak in the White House has infected at least five of Vice President Mike Pence’s aides. In spite of the news, Pence, who the White House says has tested negative, has continued campaigning and is refusing to quarantine, in defiance of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was questioned by CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday.
Mark Meadows: “We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas.”
Jake Tapper: “Why aren’t we going to get control of the pandemic?”
Mark Meadows: “Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu. It’s” —
Jake Tapper: “Yeah, but why not make efforts to contain it?”
Mark Meadows: “Well, we are making efforts to contain it, if that’s” —
Jake Tapper: “By running all over the country not wearing a mask?”
Mark Meadows also confirmed in his interview reports the White House attempted to keep news of the outbreak from the public. Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris spoke out Sunday about her rival Mike Pence.
Sen. Kamala Harris: “Listen, he should be following the guidelines. We’re doing it. I think that we have modeled the right and good behavior, and they should take our lead.”
Meanwhile, President Trump and Joe Biden continued campaigning over the weekend. On Friday, Trump told voters in Florida he would “quickly end this pandemic,” despite the surging cases across the country. Meanwhile, Biden told supporters in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware, that Trump has “quit on America,” and assured voters he would listen to scientists and push to mandate mask-wearing across the country.
Joe Biden: “Wearing a mask is not a political statement. It’s a scientific imperative.”
In immigration news, federal health officials say the Trump administration has been pressuring the CDC to endorse locking up migrant children at border hotels before deporting them, as a way to help protect them from the pandemic. The Trump administration was forced to halt the practice last month under court order and following public outrage.
The World Health Organization warns countries are on a “dangerous track” as coronavirus cases are surging across many regions, including in Europe, where governments are introducing sweeping new measures in an effort to contain infections.
Spain has declared a state of emergency and ordered a nationwide curfew. Italy imposed an early curfew for restaurants and has closed gyms, pools and movie theaters. France reported over 52,000 new cases on Sunday, a new record. It now has the fifth-highest caseload in the world.
Meanwhile, in Poland, President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for COVID-19. He said he had no symptoms so far and apologized to those who must quarantine after coming into contact with him.
In Latin America, Colombia became the third country in the region to top 1 million cases, joining Brazil and Argentina.
A final vote to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, is expected today — just over a week ahead of Election Day. Senate Republicans voted Sunday to move forward with the confirmation, ending a Democratic filibuster that sought to delay proceedings. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said Saturday she would join Republican colleagues and vote to confirm Barrett, despite voting against moving forward her confirmation Sunday. Mike Pence is expected to preside over the confirmation, as many senators question his attendance in light of his likely exposure to COVID-19 and despite Republicans having enough votes to confirm.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett would be Trump’s third appointee to the Supreme Court and the sixth conservative justice on the bench. During her Senate hearing, she refused to state her position on abortion rights, gay marriage, the Affordable Care Act, voting rights, climate change, family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border and presidential powers in relation to the elections.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is deflecting questions about his health, after he was photographed on Capitol Hill with black and blue bruises above his upper lip and black and blue on one of his hands. Last Thursday, McConnell replied, “Of course not,” when asked by reporters if he has any medical issues.
According to the group U.S. Elections Project, over 59 million votes have already been cast in the election, as early voting records are being shattered across many states. In New York City, where lines wrapped around blocks as early voting kicked off Saturday, a Brooklyn police officer has been suspended without pay after social media videos circulated showing him repeatedly saying “Trump 2020” through his patrol car speaker. Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cast her ballot in the Bronx Sunday morning, where she addressed the hours-long lines.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “There is no place in the United States of America where two-, three-, four-hour waits to vote is acceptable. And just because it’s happening in a blue state doesn’t mean that it’s not voter suppression.”
The Texas Supreme Court temporarily reinstated Governor Greg Abbott’s order limiting ballot drop box sites to just one per county while the court reviews the case. Voters’ rights groups say the governor’s order will not only lower turnout, but also put people at increased risk during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in a victory for voting rights and Democrats, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled Friday mail-in ballots that have mismatched signatures cannot be rejected. In more voting news from Pennsylvania, state Republicans are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their case attempting to block the counting of mailed-in ballots received up to three days after next Tuesday, Election Day. A 4-4 deadlock last week left in place a ruling from a lower court permitting the extension for counting ballots, but Pennsylvania Republicans hope the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett will see the court rule in their favor.
Sudan and Israel have agreed to normalize diplomatic relations and open up trade and economic ties following a deal that was brokered by the United States. Sudanese political parties have rejected the agreement, warning it could trigger a new war in the country as the unelected, transitional government does not have the authority to sign off on the agreement. Critics also say the deal interferes with peace talks in the Middle East.
Nigeria’s police chief has ordered the immediate deployment of all law enforcement resources to quell the ongoing protests against government corruption and police brutality. Demonstrations began over three weeks ago with calls to abolish the now dismantled Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit. Dozens of protesters have since been killed by security forces. At the Vatican, Pope Francis called for an end to the violence in Nigeria during his Sunday prayer.
In the West African nation of Guinea, Amnesty International reports security forces have killed at least 10 protesters during demonstrations that broke out after the reelection of President Alpha Condé to a third term last week. Opposition leaders say the death toll is closer to 30 people. Opponents and critics of Condé are challenging the results of the election and say there is evidence of fraud.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have resumed fighting in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, just minutes after a “humanitarian ceasefire” was supposed to go into effect early Monday morning. It was the third truce to fail since the conflict erupted on September 27. Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin said the fighting has left almost 5,000 dead on both sides — far more than the official death toll of less than 1,000 cited by governing authorities. Tens of thousands have fled their homes, with many left sheltering underground for weeks.
In Belarus, over 100,000 people marched through the streets of Minsk Sunday, braving police violence, as they called on President Alexander Lukashenko to resign. It was the 11th successive Sunday of protests since Lukashenko claimed victory in an election that opponents say was rigged. Protesters have launched a nationwide general strike today backed by opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who went into exile in neighboring Lithuania in August.
In Afghanistan, a suicide bombing in Kabul killed at least 24 people Saturday at an education center; many of the victims were teenage students. Scores were also injured in the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State but has not been verified. Earlier in the day, in a separate attack, nine civilians were killed after a roadside bomb tore through a passenger bus near the Afghan capital. Local police blamed the Taliban for the attack.
Escalating violence in Afghanistan has come amid ongoing peace talks between the government and Taliban officials in Qatar. Amnesty International said at least 50 people had been killed in attacks over the past week: “The world must sit up and take notice. Afghan civilians are being slaughtered on a daily basis.”
In other news from Afghanistan, security officials say they have killed al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Abu Muhsin al-Masri, who was on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list.
In Iraq, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Baghdad Sunday to mark one year since a new wave of anti-government demonstrations began in the country. Iraqi security forces fired water cannons and tear gas at protesters, who continue to demand an end to government corruption and more economic opportunities. This is one of the protesters.
Nejm Abdullah: “We are asking for our rights, rights that have been taken from us for the past 17 years. All the governments have been weak. They have all failed. The government works for foreign agendas more than they do for the citizens of the country. We, the citizens, we have nothing.”
Libya’s U.N.-backed government has signed a permanent ceasefire agreement with a rebel movement led by renegade former Libyan General Khalifa Haftar. If the truce holds, it will pave the way for ending a civil war that’s split Libya between east and west since 2014.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the family of an 18-year-old Palestinian teen, who died after being beaten by Israeli forces, is demanding answers. Amer Abedalrahim Snobar died of his wounds in the hospital, which health authorities say were consistent with trauma inflicted by bludgeoning with rifles.
In Chile, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of Santiago and around the country Sunday evening as results came in showing an overwhelming majority voted to rewrite Chile’s Pinochet dictatorship-era constitution. One year after mass protests rocked the country, many hope the historic referendum will lead to changes in social and economic inequalities, address police brutality, expand access to education, and Indigenous sovereignty.
Pope Francis named Washington, D.C., Archbishop Wilton Gregory as one of 13 new Roman Catholic cardinals. He will become the first African American to hold the rank. Gregory spoke out against police brutality and racism following the police killing of George Floyd in May. In June, the archbishop blasted Trump after police used tear gas and other violent tactics against protesters to clear a path to St. John’s Church so Trump could have a photo op while holding up a Bible.
Federal prosecutors have arrested a self-described leader of the far-right “boogaloo” movement in connection with the burning of a Minneapolis police precinct in May. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota says 26-year-old Ivan Harrison Hunter fired 13 rounds from a semiautomatic assault rifle into the 3rd Precinct during protests against the police killing of George Floyd. The “boogaloo bois” promote violent acts aimed at sparking civil war in the United States. They’ve been linked to more than two dozen arrests and five deaths this year.
Alicia Garza, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, said she was recently approached by the FBI after agents found her name on a list in the home of a white supremacist in Idaho who was recently arrested on weapons charges. Garza tweeted, “This is why this President is so dangerous. He is stoking fires he has no intention of controlling.”
In Colorado, the state’s two largest fires on record, the Cameron Peak and the East Troublesome Fires, continue to rage as scientists warn such events will become more common due to climate change-induced heat waves and droughts. Together, the two fires have burned over 400,000 acres so far, but authorities say weekend snowfall has helped slow their progression. An elderly couple was killed by the East Troublesome blazes last week after refusing evacuation orders.
In California, authorities warn intense winds could exacerbate what is already the worst fire season on record. Pacific Gas and Electric said they were cutting power to over 360,000 customers in Northern California Sunday, and over 30 million people in the region are under a red flag wildfire warning through Tuesday.
A United Nations treaty banning nuclear weapons is set to go into effect in 90 days. On Saturday, Honduras became the 50th nation to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which bans the development, testing and possession of nuclear warheads, as well as any threat to use such weapons. The treaty has not been signed by any of the world’s nine nuclear powers — Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.