Covid-19 cases increase in Europe

Senate ends final day of questions for SCOTUS nominee, COVID-19 cases surge in Europe, and Facebook limits spread of damaging Biden story

Final day of questioning for SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett, European countries implement new restrictions amid surge in COVID-19 cases, social media companies limit spread of unverified New York Post story on Biden, the Supreme Court allows 2020 Census count to end early, and much more…

It’s Wednesday, October 14th, here’s what you need to know…


1. Final day of questioning for SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett

The Senate began day three of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. The day continued with questioning of Judge Barrett by senators on similar topics as were asked on Tuesday. The Affordable Care Act once again became a central focus for Democrats ahead of the Court’s hearing on the matter in November, one week after the general election. Sen. Feinstein, Leahy, and Klobuchar were just a few asking questions about Obamacare, including the severability doctrine, which will be at the center of the Supreme Court’s arguments next month on the law. At one point in Wednesday’s hearing, Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham attempted to reassure wary Democrats that Barrett would likely preserve the health care law in an exchange with the nominee. “From a conservative point of view, generally speaking, we want legislative bodies to make laws, not judges,” Graham said. “Would it be further true that if you can preserve a statue you try to, to the extent possible?” “That is true,” Barrett responded.


Other questions concerning President Trump’s powers and authority also became a theme on day three, with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) seeking Judge Barrett’s view on whether Trump can pardon himself. She did not directly answer the question, saying, “No one is above the law” and adding that the question, “has never been litigated.” In another interesting exchange with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) in which Sen. Coons asked whether Judge Barrett agreed with the late Justice Scalia’s disagreement with the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, a case which held married couples have a constitutional right to obtain and use contraceptives in the privacy of their own home. She replied saying that the precedent was “very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely to go anywhere.” “unthinkable that any legislature would pass such a law”


The Senate Judiciary Committee will likely set a committee vote on the nominee next week. With Republicans having the committee votes, Judge Barrett’s nomination is expected to be sent to the full floor for a vote thereafter. 


A recent Morning Consult-Politico poll conducted between October 9-11 shows 48 percent of registered voters support Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, while 31 percent say senators should vote not to confirm the jurist. The percentage of voters who support her nomination is up 2 percentage points from the previous week.

2. European countries implement new restrictions amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Countries across Europe are grappling with a second wave of coronavirus cases and are responding to the surge in positive cases by imposing new restrictions, some of which take effect Wednesday. The U.K., France, Germany, Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, the latter of which has the highest infection rate in Europe, are just some of the countries that have issued the closure or enforced limitations on bars, restaurants, and schools, as well as implementing new restraints on gatherings, shopping areas, theaters, gyms, and sports activities. The recent actions come months after Europe had largely flattened the curve of new COVID-19 cases and now some hospitals are nearing capacity. In France, President Emmanuel Macron announced nightly curfews in Paris and other densely populated cities from 9 PM to 6 AM. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wanted to “avoid a second national shutdown” and put into place a curfew for restaurants and bars in so-called “coronavirus hotspots.” As for the U.K., the government launched a three-tier alert system for cities and some areas like Liverpool and London have banned groups of six or more from gathering, both inside and outside. Officials and health authorities were forced to act as the continent began seeing the most new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began and has averaged an alarming 100,000 cases daily. Last week, Europe saw 700,000 new coronavirus cases as the infection rate has been on the rise for 77 consecutive days, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 


3. Facebook, Twitter restrict spread of damaging New York Post story on Biden

Facebook and Twitter are taking action against stories recently published in the New York Post that detail unconfirmed claims about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The Post released a series of stories on Wednesday, claiming to reveal “smoking-gun” emails showing Hunter Biden introduced a top Ukrainian executive at Burisma, an energy firm in Ukraine where the younger Biden worked, to his dad, the sitting U.S. vice president. According to the unverified emails, the meeting took place less than a year before then-Vice President Biden placed pressured on Ukrainian government officials to fire a prosecutor who was tasked with investigating the company for money laundering and corruption. The damning claims made by The Post against the presidential hopeful and his son cannot be substantiated and are therefore the reason Facebook and Twitter have decided to limit the story from being shared to curtail the spread of misinformation throughout their platforms. President Trump’s campaign and his supporters have seized the social media giant’s recent actions to accuse the companies of censorship and demonstrable bias for Biden, claims that have long been made by right-leaning politicians and groups.


President Trump made his disapproval on the decision by Facebook and Twitter known, tweeting, “So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of ‘Smoking Gun’ emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the @NYPost. It is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician. REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” Section 230 that Trump mentions in his tweet refers to a portion of the Communications Decency Act that shields tech companies from liability over the content posted by users on their platforms.

4. The Republican governor of Massachusetts ‘cannot support’ Donald Trump’s re-election

In the final weeks of the election, Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said he isn’t supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election bid in a statement from his communications director, Lizzy Guyton. “The governor cannot support Donald Trump for president and is focused on seeing Massachusetts through the pandemic,” Guyton wrote. “He’ll leave the election analysis to the pundits.” The announcement comes as Governor Baker has frequently issued critiques and criticism of his party’s chief, including last month when he called Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power “appalling and outrageous.” Trump fired back in a tweet, calling Baker a “Republican in name only” and accusing him of trying to defend so-called “fraud” with mail-in ballots, which is an unsubstantiated claim the president has regularly made. Baker, the third most popular governor in the country with a 69 percent approval rating, according to the Morning Consult poll, has never issued support for President Trump’s candidacy, even saying he didn’t vote for the Republican presidential nominee in 2016. The Massachusetts governor is a rare detractor of Trump within the Republican Party, speaking out when controversy from the president emerges. Governor Baker condemned President Trump’s actions and rhetoric amid protests following the death of George Floyd, called on the Senate and Trump to wait until after the election to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, and denounced the president’s effort to downplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it “incredibly irresponsible.” 

5. Supreme Court allows the 2020 Census count to end early

In a decision on Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration in allowing field operations for the 2020 census population count to end earlier than expected. The decision temporarily stops a lower court’s ruling that prolonged the count deadline. The issue came before the Court when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reconsidered plans that were announced in April to stretch out the decennial count until October 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, the Census Bureau reported in August that data collection would end on September 30, nearly a month earlier than the original deadline. Civil rights groups sued the Trump administration in an effort to re-establish the later October 31 deadline after they grew concerned over an undercount in large urban areas of the country, primarily with regard to racial minorities. The consitutionally mandated census count is significant as it informs how the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures draw electoral districts and determines how the federal government allocates hundreds of billions in funding to communities.


6. Bags of undelivered mail found outside USPS employee’s home

The Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General are investigating a postal employee after trash bags of undelivered mail were found outside their home in Baldwin, Pennsylvania. The bags were discovered on Sunday sitting on the street curb outside the worker’s home and awaiting garbage pickup, a report of the incident forced postal inspectors to investigate. According to a release from the Postal Service, the USPS employee in question is assigned to the Mount Oliver post office, outside of Pittsburgh. “USPS OIG Special Agents recovered several different classes of mail, including business mail, flats, and small amount of first class mail,” Special Agent Scott Balfour told CNN. Although they were not named, the employee was identified as a male and was placed on suspension without pay. Postal authorities say the case will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution following the conclusion of their investigation.


7. AMC movie theaters warns that it’s running out of money

The largest movie theater chain in the world is confronting a grim fate after issuing a warning saying that the company is running out of cash. AMC signaled that it could run out of money by the end of the year or early 2021 if moviegoers do not return to theaters. AMC and the movie operators have been devasted as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the businesses to temporarily close for months and upended the film industry. The Kansas-based company says they have reopened 494 of 598 locations, but attendance is down 85 percent from the same period last year. Even as restrictions loosened in many states across the country and operators were allowed to reopen with capacity restrictions, people weren’t flocking to the big screen as film studios skipped releases in movie theaters altogether and delivered their films direct-to-consumer via streaming services like Netflix and Disney+. Instead of packing into the car and heading to movie chains, families and individuals were able to see the latest film features from the comforts of their own home, where they already were due to stay-at-home orders. Further complicating the movie business were announcements by Warner Bros. studios and MGM to delay the release of hotly-anticipated films such as “Wonder Woman 1984″ and James Bond “No Time to Die,” respectively, until next spring. 


8. Walmart and others rollouts Black Friday deals across 3 days

Walmart is the largest U.S. retailer to announce that they will feature in-store Black Friday deals across three days as stores grapple with how to manage large crowds that have become synonymous with the shopping holiday. The big-box store said it will break up its Black Friday deals into three separate sales events and will take necessary pandemic-related safety precautions like restricting the number of customers allowed entry into the store and sanitizing shopping carts. And of course, masks will be required by patrons.


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