Do you believe the polls? A bounty of new surveys Wednesday, mostly in the field after Thursday’s final debate, show Joe Biden’s tightening grip on the states he needs to win the presidency. OZY’s own election forecast has ticked up to an 88 percent chance of victory for Biden. From Democratic base enthusiasm to a weakening in Donald Trump country — embodied by a Millennial mayor in Ohio, profiled on OZY today — there are ample signs that this isn’t a replay of 2016. But for determined Trump fans and anxious Democrats, memories of four years ago die hard.
President Trump’s energetic closing campaign schedule is playing out against the backdrop of a steady drumbeat of bad news: The stock market is plunging as the coronavirus is soaring. It’s crowded out stories like the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia and subsequent mass protests followed by vandalism and unrest — which could put the wind behind Trump’s law-and-order pitch. And mainstream news outlets have paid little attention to allegations by a former business partner of Hunter Biden that the son was cutting Joe Biden in on deals with a Chinese government-tied energy firm — maybe because there’s no evidence that such a deal ever happened.
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The strongest storm to lash the United States this late in the year since 1899, Zeta is the 11th named storm this season to hit the country, a record previously held by the nine storms of 1916. The Category 2 hurricane killed one person and left 800,000 utility customers across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama without power. It’s expected to pummel Alabama and Georgia en route to the mid-Atlantic today. Meanwhile, in Asia, Typhoon Molave let loose torrential rains over Vietnam, triggering landslides and dangerous seas that left 25 dead and another 54 missing.
Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was poised to become both the first female head of the World Trade Organization and its first African leader — but she needed the approval of all 164 members, and fell one short. Trump administration officials said they vetoed the pick because Okonjo-Iweala, who’s also a U.S. citizen, isn’t experienced enough with trade. Still, other nations have accused the U.S. of attempting to sow chaos purposefully by intervening late in the process, as part of a pattern of weakening global institutions.
3. Big Tech, Congress Battle Over Content Regulation
In a four-hour hearing via webcast, the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet fielded questions from the Senate Commerce Committee over their regulation of content ahead of the election. Conservatives — who are pushing to rewrite Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online companies from legal action over user-generated content — demanded to know why President Trump’s misleading tweets got Twitter labels while Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei denied the Holocaust with no warning. Still, Wall Street doesn’t expect the grilling will hurt today’s Big Tech earnings reports amid a pandemic that seems to have cemented its market dominance.
The U.S. Supreme Court has opted to allow extended deadlines for mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, despite GOP challenges. Former homeland security official Miles Taylor has revealed he was the author of an anonymous 2018 New York Times op-ed criticizing President Trump. And chef Cecilia Chang, credited with revolutionizing American Chinese food, has died of natural causes at the age of 100.
Coronavirus Update: In a desperate bid to curb the outbreak’s second wave, France has announced a new monthlong confinement of citizens to their homes, while Germany will shut down restaurants, bars, gyms and theaters for a month.
Missing the Theater During Lockdown? As the U.S. presidential election draws closer, OZY is partnering with Tony-nominated actor Danai Gurira, acclaimed director Stephen Daldry, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage and dozens more theater colleagues in presenting Act Out: Vote 2020. This hour-long event on YouTube features monologues, songs and other dramatic performances to encourage audiences to vote. Don't forget to check out Friday's special episode of The Carlos Watson Show featuring Gurira and Heidi Schreck, who wrote and starred in What the Constitution Means to Me, discussing the event.
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Who ordered the piping hot drama? Food delivery service Grubhub has made listing restaurants without permission part of its business model, saying it’s necessary to stay competitive. That can mean the site displays outdated menus, turning off customers, according to a class-action lawsuit by two restaurants in North Carolina and California. Enjoying a pandemic boom, food delivery services have also gotten in trouble for dodgy practices — another restaurant sued Grubhub for charging a commission for forwarding customers via phone even when no order resulted. A new California law mandates restaurants’ consent, which could set a trend for the rest of the country.
2. Trump Lifts Protections on Massive Alaskan Rainforest
Described by scientists as the “lungs of North America,” Tongass National Forest has been protected from logging and development for decades — while boosting the state’s tourism industry. But as of today, the Trump administration has exempted the area from Clinton-era rules, meaning logging companies can now build roads and cut trees in the wilderness, which absorbs more carbon than any other national forest and helps control devastating climate change. Still, it’s not expected to result in much economic benefit, as demand for timber has slowed in recent decades.
3. Judge Rules Reagan’s Would-Be Assassin Can Display Art
John Hinckley, who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 in a misguided attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster, was confined to a psychiatric institution until 2016 and since then has been allowed to live with his mother. Hinckley has long since agreed to sign over proceeds from the sale of his life story to those wounded in the shooting, but a judge has now decided that he can publicly display his own music and artwork under his own name, though he’ll have to share feedback he receives with his doctors so they can help him work through it.
4. American Sprinting Champion Banned From Tokyo Olympics
Oh, you want receipts? After world 100-meter champion Christian Coleman missed three doping tests in a 12-month span, an Athletics Integrity Unit tribunal has banned him from competition for two years, which will mean missing the Tokyo Olympics rescheduled for July. The American athlete argued his way out of a similar ban last year on a technicality, but his case this time depended on his claim that no testers were at his home when he returned from a shopping trip Dec. 9 — while investigators produced shopping receipts that showed he was more likely avoiding the test.