The New York Times is reporting top White House officials are blocking new Food and Drug Administration guidelines that would likely delay the approval of any coronavirus vaccine until after November 3. The FDA wants to monitor the health of trial volunteers for two months to make sure there are no long-term side effects, but the White House opposes the plan.
In other medical news, the CDC has acknowledged COVID-19 can be spread by airborne transmission in indoor settings. The CDC had made a similar statement in September but then removed the information from its website.
In international news, the World Health Organization now says as much as 10% of the world’s population may have had COVID-19 — a far higher number than previously thought.
India has become the third country to pass 100,000 reported COVID-19 deaths, after the U.S. and Brazil.
Meanwhile, in Iran, the government reported 235 deaths Monday — the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic. Much of Tehran has been shut down again, and hospitals are at capacity.
A number of European countries have announced new records in daily cases in recent days as Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have all imposed or announced stricter containment measures.
As early, in-person voting kicked off in South Carolina Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with South Carolina Republicans by reinstating a law that requires a witness signature for mail-in ballots. Democrats argued the requirement puts people at risk during the pandemic and decreases voting. The ruling will not apply to ballots that have already been mailed. Early voting is now open in California, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Vermont and Wyoming.
Meanwhile, in Florida, the state’s voter registration website crashed and stayed down for several hours Monday, the deadline to register for the November election. Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law called on Florida officials to extend the deadline, adding, “or we will explore other options to protect the rights of those seeking to register to vote.”
In Iowa, a judge has blocked a Republican directive barring counties from sending out absentee ballot applications with pre-filled voter ID information. The Republican effort to require all ballot requests be blank when sent to voters resulted in tens of thousands of ballot requests being invalidated. Election officials are now determining whether they can still get ballots to those residents whose applications were invalidated.
And in Arizona, a federal judge issued an order extending the voter registration deadline until October 23, due to the pandemic.
In other election news, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence are expected to hold their debate tomorrow separated by plexiglass. Pence’s team mocked the news; spokesperson Katie Miller, who herself tested positive for the coronavirus in May, said, “If Senator Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it.” Pence has so far tested negative for COVID-19.
In related news, Joe Biden appeared at a socially distanced, outdoor NBC News town hall in Miami last night. He said President Trump bears some responsibility for contracting COVID-19.
Joe Biden: “Anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying masks don’t matter, social distancing doesn’t matter, I think, is responsible for what happens to them.”
In Texas, a white police officer has been charged with murder for the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Jonathan Price, a Black man who was killed at a gas station on Saturday. Officer Shaun Lucas tased and shot Price, even though he was walking away from him and was “nonthreatening,” according to the Texas Rangers, who arrested Lucas. Just prior to his killing, Price had reportedly intervened after a man assaulted a woman, but that situation had already been resolved before officer Lucas arrived at the scene. Jonathan Price was a motivational speaker and trainer, and former college football player at Hardin-Simmons University.
In California, prosecutors said Monday they are reopening an investigation into the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old unarmed Black man, by a white transit officer in Oakland. The officer who shot Grant, Johannes Mehserle, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but another officer present at the scene, Anthony Pirone, was terminated and never charged, even though a report revealed he repeatedly lied to investigators and attacked Grant, starting “a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting.” Oscar Grant’s family called for the case to be reopened. His mother, Rev. Wanda Johnson, spoke Monday in front of the train station where her son was killed.
Rev. Wanda Johnson: “If it’s going to be that our judicial system continues to lie and continues to not honor their word, then we will continue to be out here and remind the world of how our judicial system is continuing to fail people of color.”
Survivors of chemical weapons attacks in Syria have filed a criminal complaint in Germany accusing the Syrian government of killing more than 1,400 people in two separate attacks, one in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta in 2013 and another in the village of Khan Sheikhoun in 2017.
Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the United States, Britain and France blocked the former head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, from testifying Monday. José Bustani was slated to read a statement about a possible internal OPCW cover-up of a chemical attack in Douma, Syria, in 2018. The OPCW and the Trump administration have blamed the Syrian government for the attack, but leaked documents show two OPCW investigators have questioned the official findings. The U.S. bombed Syria days after the alleged attack. After Bustani was barred from testifying at the Security Council, he recorded a video reading his prepared remarks.
José Bustani: “If the OPCW is confident in the robustness of its scientific work on Douma and in the integrity of the investigation, then it should have little to fear in hearing out its inspectors. If, however, the claims of evidence suppression, selective use of data and exclusion of key investigators, among other allegations, are not unfounded, then it’s even more imperative that the issue be dealt with openly and urgently.”
In Kyrgyzstan, protests have erupted following a parliamentary election Sunday critics say was rigged through vote buying. Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of pro-Russian President Sooronbay Jeenbekov and a new election. On Tuesday, protesters seized a government building and freed a jailed former president, Almazbek Atambayev, who was sentenced on corruption charges and is an adversary of the sitting president.
In eastern Russia, marine biologists are warning of an ecological catastrophe after scores of dead seals and other marine animals washed ashore over the weekend in the Kamchatka Peninsula. Several surfers reported the water had a foul odor and unnatural color and left them with chemical burns to their eyes. The cause of the apparent chemical spill has not been confirmed, but some say rocket fuel stored in the area’s military testing grounds may have leaked.
Leaked internal documents from ExxonMobil reveal the oil giant plans to increase annual carbon dioxide emissions by 17% by 2025. Bloomberg reports Exxon’s plans could add the annual carbon emissions of a country like Greece to the atmosphere, or the equivalent of 26 coal-fired power plants. ExxonMobil’s own scientists have known about the threat of climate change for decades but suppressed the information and have not committed to curbing emissions, even as other major oil companies have announced cuts after massive public pressure campaigns.
The Environmental Protection Agency has granted Oklahoma environmental regulatory control of nearly all tribal lands in Oklahoma, rolling back sovereign rights for dozens of tribes. The move effectively cancels out many rights that would have been gained after a landmark Supreme Court ruling earlier this year asserted about half of Oklahoma remains Native American land, recognizing a 19th century U.S. treaty with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. In a statement to news outlet The Young Turks, Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma said, “After over 500 years of oppression, lies, genocide, ecocide, and broken treaties, we should have expected the EPA ruling in favor of racist Governor Stitt of Oklahoma, yet it still stings.”
In media news, L.A. Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine has resigned after only two years in the role. This comes after several investigations into Pearlstine, including one published by Vice News that alleged he ignored serious concerns from staff about a toxic workplace, lack of diversity in the newsroom, sexism allegations and other ethical issues. The L.A. Times publicly addressed the paper’s track record of perpetuating racism both in the newsroom and in their coverage, amid the national antiracist uprising and as staffers fight for more diversity in the newsroom and in management.
The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for their discoveries related to black holes, which helped reveal “the darkest secrets of the universe.” Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez received the award. American astronomer Ghez is only the fourth woman to ever win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
On Monday, two Americans and one British scientist — Harvey Alter, Charles Rice and Michael Houghton — jointly won the 2020 Nobel Prize for Medicine for their work in identifying the hepatitis C virus, which causes cirrhosis and liver cancer. The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday.