The United States reported nearly 173,000 new COVID-19 cases and over 2,100 deaths Tuesday, the deadliest day in more than six months. Hospitalizations are at an all-time high at nearly 90,000. The U.S. death toll is now approaching 260,000.
In California, COVID-19 hospitalizations have gone up over 80% in the past two weeks, with ICU hospitalizations increasing by over 50%. Much of California imposed a curfew over the weekend in hopes of slowing a surge that health officials fear will only get worse due to Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. Eleven states, many in the Midwest, have recorded more deaths in the past week than in any other week since the pandemic began.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will be distributed across the country by mid-December, with frontline healthcare workers receiving the first doses. The vaccine was found to be 95% effective in trials, though it must still undergo a final authorization before widespread usage.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced the country’s second wave had passed and he would start to ease lockdown measures, though bars and restaurants will remain closed for at least another two months. France has registered the fourth-highest number of infections since the pandemic started, behind Brazil, India and the U.S.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Italy, officials reported over 850 deaths Tuesday, the highest daily toll since the height of the first wave of the pandemic in March. Spain also recorded its highest death toll since the start of its second wave, with over 530 deaths.
In medical news, Russia says its Sputnik vaccine is over 95% effective in trials. Countries including Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Brazil and India have expressed interest in acquiring the vaccine, though some health experts warn more extensive testing is needed.
President-elect Joe Biden has formally introduced part of his national security team. On Tuesday, Biden spoke in Wilmington, Delaware, alongside secretary of state nominee Tony Blinken, national intelligence director nominee Avril Haines, homeland security secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, national security adviser nominee Jake Sullivan and U.N. ambassador nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who vowed to embrace multilateralism.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield: “My fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world, I want to say to you: America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”
Biden’s special envoy for climate, John Kerry, also spoke.
John Kerry: “To end this crisis, the whole world must come together. You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one. And you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough.”
Biden has yet to decide on several key posts in his national security team, including defense secretary and CIA director. We will have more on Biden’s Cabinet picks after headlines.
While the formal transition has begun, President Trump is still refusing to concede the election. On Tuesday, Trump gave a roughly one-minute news briefing at the White House, where he boasted about the Dow Jones Industrial Average topping 30,000, but he took no questions and made no reference to the election. While Trump took credit for the Dow, many economists say stock prices spiked due to reports that Biden would tap former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to be treasury secretary.
In the latest blow to Trump’s effort to overturn the election, the states of Pennsylvania, Nevada and Minnesota certified Biden’s victory on Tuesday. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani are expected to travel to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, today to meet with Republican state lawmakers who are holding an unofficial hearing about allegations of voter fraud. In the Civil War, Gettysburg was the site of a major Confederate defeat that marked a turning point in the fall of the Confederacy.
In Afghanistan, at least 14 people were killed, and scores injured, in twin explosions in the city of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan. Children were among the victims. Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of 2020, according to the United Nations. This latest deadly attack came as a major U.N. donor meeting was held in Geneva, where up to $12 billion in civilian aid over the next four years was pledged, though much of it is conditional on the success of ongoing peace talks. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres decried the ongoing violence in Afghanistan and called for an immediate ceasefire.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “The Afghan people have suffered for far too long. I urge the redoubling of efforts towards an immediate, unconditional ceasefire in order to save lives and prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This will create a conducive environment for the Afghanistan peace negotiations in Doha.”
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, is rejecting international calls to halt a planned attack on the northern Ethiopian city of Mekelle, the capital of the semiautonomous region of Tigray. Ahmed has threatened to launch the attack today if the Tigray People’s Liberation Front did not agree to surrender.
Meanwhile, the government-backed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is accusing a youth group in Tigray of killing at least 600 civilians near the Sudanese border earlier this month. The report has not been independently verified.
In Paris, crowds gathered Tuesday evening to protest the violent clearing of a refugee camp at the Place de la République Monday. Images of police forcing people out of tents, throwing them to the ground, tear-gassing and chasing them in the street, have rocked the country, with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo calling it a “denial of France’s humanitarian duty,” and triggering an official probe by the public prosecutor. Journalists also say they were attacked. The shocking scenes come as France is debating passage of a new law that would increase police powers and criminalize the publication of images of on-duty police. The law recently passed a vote in the National Assembly and will go before the Senate next month.
At least four asylum seekers were killed when their boat capsized Tuesday off the coast of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Twenty-eight survivors were rescued. It’s the latest tragedy to occur on the perilous route from West Africa to the Canary Islands, which have become a flashpoint in the ongoing refugee crisis as the number of people arriving to the Spanish archipelago by sea has increased more than tenfold over last year. Last month, 140 people drowned off the coast of Senegal after their boat caught fire en route to the Canary Islands. Spain said last week it would help set up temporary camps for 7,000 asylum seekers.
Back in the U.S., President Trump is reportedly planning to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and others before he leaves office. Flynn has twice pleaded guilty in court to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in 2016.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein is stepping down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Feinstein faced intense backlash last month over her weak performance during the confirmation proceedings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She has also drawn ire among climate activists after a widely circulated video in which she disparaged young children asking her to support the Green New Deal. The Sunrise Movement said in response to the news that Feinstein should not just step down but resign to make way for a progressive California lawmaker who supports the Green New Deal.
In immigration news, the U.S. government has agreed to temporarily stall the deportation of immigrants who say they may have undergone invasive gynecological procedures — including forced sterilizations — while imprisoned at Irwin Detention Center in Georgia. A letter by over 100 Democratic lawmakers issued earlier this month says at least six survivors have reportedly been deported. Several others faced imminent deportation as dozens of people came forward with horrifying stories of invasive procedures they didn’t agree to or didn’t understand. Click here to watch our interview with Jaromy Floriano Navarro, a survivor who was deported to Mexico.
Immigration advocates are condemning officials in Hudson County, New Jersey, for approving a new 10-year jail contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 75 people spoke out against the contract renewal at a 10-hour public meeting Tuesday. Despite overwhelming opposition, the all-Democratic board still approved the deal.
In Montana, two U.S. citizens who were apprehended by Customs and Border Protection for speaking Spanish while grocery shopping have reached a settlement in their racial profiling lawsuit against the Trump administration. Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez were standing in line at the store when a CBP agent asked them where they were born and demanded to see identification after hearing them speak Spanish. The two women, who were born in Texas and California, showed their valid Montana driver’s licenses, but were taken into custody anyway.
In more immigration news, BuzzFeed reports the Trump administration deported 33 unaccompanied children to Guatemala — just minutes after a judge last week blocked a policy that allowed immigration officials to quickly expel refugee children and asylum seekers without due process by citing the coronavirus pandemic. Since ICE violated the judge’s ruling, the agency could be forced to bring the 33 children back. Some 13,000 unaccompanied refugee children have been deported since March under this policy.
Meanwhile, a new federal court filing shows Customs and Border Protection held over 60 children — including infants under the age of 1 — at facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border for over three days in the past two months, a violation of the Flores agreement.
Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, admitting responsibility for its role in fueling the devastating opioid epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. The charges included offering illegal kickbacks to doctors in exchange for them writing more prescriptions. Purdue reached a plea deal with the Justice Department for over $8 billion last month but will likely pay out just a fraction of that, as the company is in bankruptcy proceedings. Members of the billionaire Sackler family, who own Purdue, have not been criminally charged.
Scotland has become the first country in the world to make menstrual products free and easy to access. Lawmakers approved the landmark bill Tuesday, which aims to end “period poverty” by ensuring tampons and pads be available for free in schools and other public buildings. This is Monica Lennon, the lawmaker who introduced the bill, speaking ahead of the vote.
Monica Lennon: “The thought of anyone having to go to a food bank for foods, toiletries and essential period products remains unacceptable, and we have huge work to do to address wealth inequalities in our society. … The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health and on incomes only makes the case for this bill even stronger. Periods don’t stop for pandemics.”