Smart headlines for busy people – Delivered briefly, daily.
Friday, September 25, 2020
*available from 8 am et
1. Constitutional Crisis Feared Over Trump Election Threats
President Donald Trump repeated yesterday that he may not honor November’s election result, sparking concern that voters may lose confidence in the electoral system. Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell promised an “orderly transition,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed Trump when he said “The [Supreme] Court will decide, and if Republicans lose, we’ll accept the result.” The GOP is pushing for a quick confirmation to the court’s empty seat over fears that justices will be called upon to adjudicate the vote. Meanwhile, House Democrats plan to advance a bill next week to limit Supreme Court terms — and thus the influence of Trump’s administration in the long term.
A new U.S. study of the virus that causes COVID-19 indicates it’s becoming more easily transmissible as it mutates, though not more dangerous. That could mean that once a vaccine is available, it’ll need constant refinement— as the flu vaccine does every year. Meanwhile, the EU has struck a deal to offer partial liability protection to AstraZeneca for its vaccine, and Novavax entered final-stage trials of its own shot in the U.K. Public trust in the idea of a vaccine has plunged in the U.S. — just over half of Americans say they might get one — so New York state says it will review any FDA-approved vaccines to make sure they’re safe.
3. Afghan Migrants Say Greece Pushed Them out to Sea
A group of refugees who reached Greece via the Aegean Sea earlier this month now say authorities promised to take them to a refugee camp — but then put them in life rafts and left them at sea. Turkey, which has slammed the EU over what it says are human rights violations, says it’s rescued more than 300 migrants this month who were similarly abandoned. Meanwhile, the EU has proposed new regulations to share the burden of refugees across the bloc, which would oblige each state to take in a set number of people (and with it funds to provide for them). That’s seeing strong pushback from Poland and Hungary, and the plan is expected to undergo changes before any agreement can be made.
While jobless rates have improved from their peak in April, the economic recovery appears to be slowing down, with 870,000 jobless claims made last week, up slightly from the previous week. Job loss is still common: Some businesses that kept employees on early in the pandemic have now given up or seen government aid go dry. Last month, more than 10 states saw a jobless rate of 10 percent or higher — but some are also seeing increased fraud, like California, which has paused accepting new jobless claims for two weeks to handle a spike in fake claims and a backlog of real ones.
Listen Up: What on earth is going on in America right now? It’s a question the rest of the world is asking — and one that those of us who are here wish we could better answer. Enter the BBC’s Katty Kay and OZY’s Carlos Watson, two people uniquely positioned to give listeners across the world unique and fresh insight into these 50 states. They dissect American identity, racial bias, politics, recession and public health in a groundbreaking new podcast from OZY and the BBC: When Katty Met Carlos. Listen now onApple Podcasts,Spotify, theiHeart Radio app, orwherever else you get your podcasts.
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In a special four-part podcast series, Exchanges: The Battle for Our Screens, Goldman Sachs experts analyze how the pandemic has shifted our lives digitally and what we can expect from the future of entertainment, work and social media.
He won the rat race. Many animals have been awarded the Dickin Medal, established 77 years ago to reward non-human creatures for bravery in battle. But giant African pouched rat Magawa is the first rodent to win, for his discovery of 39 land mines across the former battlefields of Cambodia. Rats are skilled land-mine detectors, as they’re small, fast and can be trained to scratch the top of any mines they sniff out, allowing human handlers to dispose of the ordnance safely. Magawa alone has cleared nearly 35 acres. Bred and trained in Tanzania, Magawa has an affinity for bananas and peanuts.
2. Vietnamese Factory Busted for Packaging Used Condoms
Recycling, yes, but not like this. Police in Binh Duong province say they’ve confiscated about 345,000 used condoms from the factory, which was allegedly receiving the used prophylactics from an unknown source, then boiling them, drying them and reshaping them on a wooden model before repackaging them as new. A woman detained by police in connection with the operation said she was paid about $0.17 per kilogram of washed and shaped prophylactics. Police have warned that reusing condoms, even washed ones, can be a health hazard.
Let’s cut to the chaste. Rates of sexual activity among teens have been on a steady decline for decades: In 1991, 54 percent of adolescents were sexually active, compared to 38 percent now, OZY reports. Some experts attribute that to the so-called hookup generation getting tired of meaningless experimentation, while others say it’s probably that teens are more aware of the need for strict safety. Either way, it’s expected to be a long-term generational shift similar to that in Japan, where sex and dating have long been taking a dive.
The samba schools that organize Brazil’s iconic cultural party event say it won’t happen in February as scheduled — and probably won’t happen until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19. The country is struggling with the world’s second-worst outbreak of the disease, with an estimated 735 deaths every day for the last two weeks, and Carnival’s packed streets and nonstop partying put attendees at high risk of transmission. While the samba parades are the main event, Rio’s Carnival also includes numerous smaller street parties, and it’s not clear whether those will go ahead independently.
OK, so she actually caught it in February. But Maya Gabeira’s record has only recently been confirmed: For the first time, a woman surfed the biggest wave of the year, a 73.5-foot monster at Portugal’s Praia do Norte beach. Gabeira, who almost lost her life to a wave at the same beach in 2013, previously set a record for the tallest wave ever surfed by a woman in 2018 — but that time she had to petition Guinness to recognize her record, while this year there was no such struggle in what some see as a sign of progress in surfing.