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Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats – NPR

https://www.npr.org/2020/10/18/924182086/early-voting-analysis-historic-turnout-drives-long-lines-administrative-errors

Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR
Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR

People wait in line to vote early at the State Farm Arena on Monday, in Atlanta.

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Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR

People wait in line to vote early at the State Farm Arena on Monday, in Atlanta.

Brynn Anderson/AP

Early voting turnout continues to shatter records, as sky-high voter enthusiasm meets the realities of the United States’ creaky machinery of democracy amid a pandemic. That means long lines in some places, administrative errors with some mail ballots, but a system that is working overall according to experts.

“Despite some of those concerns, things are going at this point, reasonably well,” said former Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, speaking specifically about the expansion of voting by mail.

More than 26 million people have voted as of Saturday, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a turnout tracking database run by University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald. That’s more than six times the number of votes cast by the same point in 2016.

While there are still more than two weeks to go before Election Day, here are some takeaways from the votes that have already been cast.

Democrats are coming in force

Polling data has indicated for months that Democrats intended vote earlier at much higher rates than Republicans, who were reacting to President Trump’s near-constant false claims that voting by mail would lead to widespread fraud.

We’re now getting evidence from actual voting behavior confirming those polls.

Democrats have cast about 53% of the early votes, according to predictive analysis by the data firm TargetSmart which uses voter data beyond party registration to project turnout trends, compared to 36% by Republicans.

The early voters also tend to trend older. Voters 50 years old or older make up more than 70% of the votes cast according to the TargetSmart analysis. Hundreds of thousands more young people have voted at this point in October, compared to the 2016 election, but they still make up a lower share of the overall total than they did then.

Notably, African-American voters make up a larger share of early voters than in 2016. More than six times as many African-American voters have voted early than had at the same point in the last presidential election, according to Targetsmart’s analysis.

Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR

Poll workers assist a voter at the Spectrum Center, during the first day of early voting in Charlotte, North Carolina, on October 15, 2020.

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Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR

Poll workers assist a voter at the Spectrum Center, during the first day of early voting in Charlotte, North Carolina, on October 15, 2020.

Grant Baldwin/AFP via Getty Images

Confidence is down

President Trump’s rhetoric has also affected how confident people feel about the electoral process as Election Day approaches.

Overall, the share of registered voters who say elections in the U.S. will be administered well this year has dropped significantly over the past two years, from 81%in October of 2018 to 62%this year, according to a newly-released Pew Research poll.

That decline is driven by Trump supporters, half of whom now say they don’t think elections will be administered well. More than half also say they think absentee ballots won’t be counted correctly.

Those trends worry voting experts, who say confidence in the nuts and bolts of an election’s mechanics are key to that results are accepted as legitimate.

“If significant portions of the public do not have faith that the outcomes of our elections are legitimate, then you quite literally have a divided country,” said Eddie Perez, an elections expert at the OSET Institute. “I don’t mean that rhetorically. You literally have a divided country where the question of having a peaceful transfer of power really is a concern.”

Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR

People wait in line to cast their vote during early voting at City Hall in Philadelphia on Oct. 7, 2020.

Gabriella Audi/AFP via Getty Images


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Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR

People wait in line to cast their vote during early voting at City Hall in Philadelphia on Oct. 7, 2020.

Gabriella Audi/AFP via Getty Images

Long lines, tech problems in some precincts

As early voting began in states like Georgia and Texas last week, long lines quickly formed at some polling places with some voters waiting in line for many hours before casting a ballot.

Computer issues played a big role in those delays, according to officials.

In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the registration database used to check people in for early voting was bogged down by such the high amount of traffic.

“If you look at the amount of information that’s just flowing, it’s like everyone jumping on I-285 in the morning, and sometimes you have to stagger out the rush hour,” he said, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Stephen Fowler. “Our vendors have been working on that along with our staff to make sure we’re looking at some other optimizations and we should have that probably done by the end of this week.”

In Fort Bend County, Texas, a check-in machine glitch shut down at least four precincts there.

“I, quite frankly, think it’s a form of voter suppression,” said a voter named Renee told Houston Public Media’s Elizabeth Trovall, after waiting in line to vote for nearly four hours. “There’s no way there should be a glitch on the first day of early voting. No way… I’ve just never seen anything like this ever.”

Election officials and experts have warned all summer that some in-person voting locations would probably be plagued by longer lines this fall, as jurisdictions have had to consolidate polling places and recruit more poll workers.

Another factor: social distancing efforts can may make even relatively short lines seem much longer.

But lines have been the exception across the country overall, not the rule. And there’s also optimism that precincts that have struggled with lines will start to see them ease as early voting continues.

Gwinnett County, Ga., for instance, was reporting lengthy waits earlier this week at a number of precincts, but by Friday afternoon, the county’s online wait tracker showed no wait longer than 90 minutes.

“Many people are passionate about participating in this election,” said Perez. “And so it’s appropriate that there’s a lot of bottled up demand for people to get there right away and get their vote in. The volumes you’re seeing on the very first day of early voting will probably taper off some later in the period.”

Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR

An election worker sorts a box of mail ballots in Doral, Fla. on Oct. 15, 2020.

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Early Voting Analysis: Huge Turnout By Democrats - NPR

An election worker sorts a box of mail ballots in Doral, Fla. on Oct. 15, 2020.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More mail, more problems

States have rapidly scaled up their vote-by-mail efforts to serve the 40% of voters who now say they plan to vote that way.

But with an increase in usage, also comes a corresponding increase in administrative errors. Reports are cropping up seemingly daily of another batch of ballots that went out to voters with some sort of mistake.

Last week, Allegheny County, Penn. announced that the company in charge of printing and mailing ballots mistakenly sent nearly 29,000 voters the wrong ballots. Last month, similar clerical issues affected the mail ballots of thousands of voters in Ohio and New York.

“With a little under three weeks to go, it’s imperative that we ensure that our elections system is one that voters can trust,” said Allegheny County Elections manager Dave Voye on Wednesday, as WESA’s Lucy Perkins reported. “This was a failure on behalf of our contractor and impacts too many of our voters.”

The county added a search function on its website so voters can check whether they were one of those affected, and it will also send all the voters new ballots.

Stroman, the former deputy postmaster general, who is now a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund, said it’s important to remember that in all these instances, officials caught their errors with enough time to fix them. Officials also have safeguards in place to make sure no one votes twice.

“I think to this point, what we’re seeing are pretty much the normal mistakes, exacerbated by a global pandemic,” Stroman said.

President Trump has sought to use these sorts of problems as evidence that the entire system of voting by mail is flawed or fraudulent in some way.

But these sorts of issues happen every election, says Kathleen Hale, an election administration expert at Auburn University, and they aren’t the sign of anything nefarious or broken.

“A significant portion of the process is conducted by human beings,” Hale said. “And they’re not perfect.”

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Gusty winds up to 70 mph, frigid temps coming to northern Wasatch Front – KUTV 2News

https://kutv.com/news/local/gusty-winds-up-to-70-mph-frigid-temps-coming-to-northern-wasatch-front

Gusty winds up to 70 mph, frigid temps coming to northern Wasatch Front - KUTV 2News

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NASA exciting new moon discovery: Start time, how to listen in – CNET

https://www.cnet.com/news/nasa-exciting-new-moon-discovery-start-time-how-to-listen-in/

NASA exciting new moon discovery: Start time, how to listen in - CNET

A brilliant full moon rises at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2017.


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Buckle up for “an exciting new discovery about the moon.” NASA teased an upcoming teleconference to share results from its Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia), an airplane equipped with a telescope. “This new discovery contributes to NASA’s efforts to learn about the moon in support of deep space exploration,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday.  

NASA isn’t dropping many details about the announcement, but you can tune in for a live audio broadcast of the media teleconference on Monday, Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. PT via the NASA Live website.

Sofia is a high-flying, customized 747 airplane. “Flying above 99% of the atmosphere’s obscuring water vapor, SOFIA observes in infrared wavelengths and can pick up phenomenon impossible to see with visible light,” NASA said.

NASA has been busy investigating water ice around the lunar south pole, which could be a valuable resource to have on site as astronauts live and work around the moon. The space agency is also interested in lava tubes, spacious caves that could provide shelter for visiting humans.

We’ll have to wait for the announcement to get all the juicy details, but there are some topics it probably isn’t about. Despite some entertaining speculation on social media, don’t expect any bombshells about alien life or cheese. 

NASA exciting new moon discovery: Start time, how to listen in - CNET


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Dunkin Brands is discussing potential sale to Inspire Brands – CNBC

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/26/dunkin-brands-is-discussing-potential-sale-to-inspire-brands-.html

Dunkin Brands is discussing potential sale to Inspire Brands - CNBC

Outside Dunkin’ Donuts in Hell’s Kitchen as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on Sept. 18, 2020 in New York City.

Noam Galai | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins chains owner Dunkin’ Brands Group has held preliminary discussions to be acquired by Inspire Brands, a private equity-backed restaurant company, Dunkin’ said in a statement on Sunday.

“There is no certainty that any agreement will be reached,” said Karen Raskopf, Chief Communications Officer of Dunkin’ Brands. Dunkin’ declined to reveal further details.

The deal being discussed would take Dunkin’ Brands private at a price of $106.50 a share, said the New York Times which first reported the development. Inspire Brands, the owner of Arby’s and Jimmy John’s, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

The announcement could be made public as soon as Monday, the New York Times said.

Inspire’s portfolio includes more than 11,000 Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, SONIC Drive-In, Rusty Taco, and Jimmy John’s locations worldwide, according to the company’s website. Inspire Brands was formed in 2018 by private equity firm Roark Capital as a holding company after Arby’s completed the acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings.

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Fights Erupt During ‘Jews for Trump’ Rally in Manhattan – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/25/nyregion/trump-protesters-clash-nyc.html

Fights Erupt During ‘Jews for Trump’ Rally in Manhattan - The New York Times

Political tensions over the upcoming presidential election escalated on New York City’s streets on Sunday, as supporters of President Trump clashed with counterprotesters during a day of demonstrations.

Seven people were arrested during skirmishes between opposing sides in Manhattan, where Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and the city’s former mayor, encountered protesters targeting a caravan of cars organized by a group that identifies itself as Jews for Trump.

In one video, Mr. Giuliani could be seen in the passenger side of a vehicle with the window rolled down as anti-Trump protesters screamed at him.

In an interview, Mr. Giuliani said that he had encountered the caravan and the protesters while driving down Fifth Avenue after taping his radio show.

“I would love to have had a campaign commercial of it and put it on in the middle of America and say, ‘Who would you prefer for the next four years?” he said. “This group of foul-mouthed people who don’t seem to have a vocabulary beyond three words, or these very nice Jewish people who are driving in the car and not saying anything back and not doing anything other than exercising their right to say they’re for Donald Trump.”

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According to the police, the pro-Trump caravan passed through Times Square, where it converged with a group of anti-Trump protesters who had marched from Brooklyn. The cars in the convoy were then blocked by counterprotesters, and some drivers got out of their cars to confront the anti-Trump demonstrators.

The two sides hurled political slurs — calling each other “fascists” and “anarchists”— traded blows, and fought over the Trump supporters’ flags before the police broke them apart, according to videos posted online.

In some videos, a group of people can be seen yelling expletives and throwing eggs and other projectiles at passing cars flying pro-Trump flags in Midtown, while in another, a group of people holding pro-Trump banners march on one side of the street as people across the street yell, “New York hates you.”

The clashes came as the Police Department was preparing for more possible unrest as Election Day approached, including days or weeks of protests in the aftermath of the vote. Hundreds of police officers have been assigned to polling stations for both early voting and Election Day, with thousands more on standby for protests.

Top police officials have stressed the need for officers to remain neutral, despite their unions’ open embrace of Mr. Trump. But officials said an officer crossed the line late Saturday, when he used a police loudspeaker to voice support for the president while arguing with a man on the street in Flatbush, Brooklyn, who called him a “fascist.”

“Trump 2020,” the officer responded. “Put it on YouTube. Put it on Facebook. Trump 2020.”

The officer, whose name the police withheld, was suspended without pay on Sunday after videos of the incident went viral on social media. Department policy prohibits officers from engaging in political activity on duty or in uniform, including endorsing a candidate or party.

“One hundred percent unacceptable. Period,” Commissioner Dermot F. Shea commented on one of the videos of the suspended officer on Twitter. “Law Enforcement must remain apolitical, it is essential in our role to serve ALL New Yorkers regardless of any political beliefs. It is essential for New Yorkers to trust their Police.”

The Police Benevolent Association, the officer’s labor union, declined to comment.

It is unclear whether two other officers who were with the suspended officer will face discipline.

His suspension is the beginning of a disciplinary process that can take months or even years to play out. But Mayor Bill de Blasio promised quick action.

“ANY NYPD Officer pushing ANY political agenda while on duty will face consequences,” he wrote on Twitter. “We will act fast here, and this will not be tolerated.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, expressed concern over the incident, noting that police officers transport ballots from poll sites to the Board of Elections.

“There must be swift consequences and protections against election interference,” he said.

Despite the directives from the top, the city’s biggest police unions have heartily embraced Mr. Trump, whose law and order message resonates with those who feel Democrats have made the city too soft on crime. Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, endorsed the president in a speech before the Republican National Convention. Ed Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, has appeared at the White House and regularly praises Mr. Trump in his official messages to officers.

The demonstrators detained in Times Square on Sunday afternoon, five men and two women, were expected to be charged with disorderly conduct, the police said. Investigators were also looking for at least two people seen throwing projectiles at a pro-Trump caravan as it traveled on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

The caravan, organized by Orthodox Jewish leaders, consisted of dozens of cars and trucks whose participants rode from Brooklyn to Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Sunday. Drivers honked their horns and passengers waved American flags.

Mihir Zaveri contributed reporting.

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Tumultuous weather forecast nationwide this week with wildfires, snow and tropical storms – Fox News

https://www.foxnews.com/us/weather-nationwide-wildfires-snow-tropical-storms-zeta

Tumultuous weather forecast nationwide this week with wildfires, snow and tropical storms - Fox News

Tumultuous weather is expected across the country this week, with historic wildfires burning in the West, a tropical storm heading toward the Gulf Coast by mid-week and an early-season winter storm expected to bring snow and ice from the Rockies into the Plains.

California, which has endured its worst wildfire season in history, is bracing for the most dangerous winds of the year, a forecast that prompted the largest utility to announce plans to cut power Sunday to nearly 1 million people to guard against its equipment sparking new blazes.

COLORADO WILDFIRE FORCES NEW EVACUATIONS AS FIREFIGHTERS PRAYING ‘WE GET A LOT OF SNOW’

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said the outages would start Northern California and ultimately could affect 386,000 customers in 38 counties, with many of the shutoffs concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area. High winds were expected to reach 40 to 60 mph by Sunday with higher gusts in the mountains.

In Colorado, snowfall helped slow the rapid spread of two of the largest wildfires in state history — the Cameron Peak Fire and East Troublesome Fire. The winter weather comes after extreme winds and low humidity Saturday had intensified the East Troublesome Fire, as firefighters were in defensive mode near the border of Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, park officials said Sunday.

In this Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 file photo, A Pacific Gas and Electric worker looks up at the advancing Creek Fire along Highway 168 near Alder Springs, Calif. Pacific Gas & Electric will cut power to over 1 million people on Sunday to prevent the chance of sparking wildfires as extreme fire weather returns to the region, the utility announced Friday. Oct. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

In this Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 file photo, A Pacific Gas and Electric worker looks up at the advancing Creek Fire along Highway 168 near Alder Springs, Calif. Pacific Gas & Electric will cut power to over 1 million people on Sunday to prevent the chance of sparking wildfires as extreme fire weather returns to the region, the utility announced Friday. Oct. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings, watches and advisories from the central and south Rocky Mountains into the Plains and even down toward West Texas and Oklahoma. 

Dubbed Winter Storm Billy, snow and ice is expected to sweep as far south and east as northern New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, northwest Oklahoma, Kansas and northern Missouri into Monday, The Weather Channel reported.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Zeta is gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico and may reach Category 1 status by Monday before coming ashore somewhere between Florida’s western panhandle and Louisiana by mid-week, according to the National Weather Service.

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It’s the 27th storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season – that’s the same amount as in 2005, which set a new record for the most in one season, the Palm Beach Post reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

 

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Questions and Answers About the Bidens and a Deal in China – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/25/us/politics/bidens-china.html

Questions and Answers About the Bidens and a Deal in China - The New York Times

In the closing days of the campaign, President Trump and his allies are engaged in a last-ditch effort to raise questions about the ethics of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. by trying to link Mr. Biden to the international business dealings of Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, and one of his brothers, James.

Their efforts have drawn on a number of sources, including emails, photographs of encrypted text messages and other documents provided by Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate of Hunter and James Biden. Many of those records focus on a proposed joint venture in 2017, after Mr. Biden left office, with a Chinese partner. The deal ultimately fell apart.

Here are some questions and answers about the situation.

There is no evidence in the records that Mr. Biden was involved in or profited from the joint venture.

Encrypted messages, emails and other documents examined by The New York Times do not show Hunter Biden or James Biden discussing any role for the former vice president in the project.

Mr. Biden’s tax returns, which he has released, show no income from any such venture. There is nothing illegal about doing business in China or with Chinese partners; Mr. Trump long pursued deals in China, had a partnership with a government-controlled enterprise and maintained a corporate bank account there.

The Biden campaign has rejected all assertions that the former vice president had any role in the negotiations over the deal or any stake in it.

Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman, said the former vice president never had any stake in the project. “Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever,” he said.

At the second presidential debate on Thursday, Mr. Biden said, “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life.”

The messages produced by Mr. Bobulinski appear to reflect a meeting between him, the former vice president and James Biden in May 2017 in Beverly Hills, Calif. The messages do not make clear what was discussed.

Mr. Bates did not answer questions about Mr. Bobulinski’s claim that he met with the former vice president. But Mr. Bates said the Chinese deal never was discussed by Mr. Biden with members of his family. “He never had any conversations about these issues at all,” Mr. Bates said.

One email sent on May 13, 2017, by another member of the venture discusses how the various partners in the deal could theoretically split up the equity and makes reference to whether “the big guy” might get 10 percent. The document does not specify who this person is, saying only “10 held by H for the big guy ?”

Mr. Bobulinski has said the reference was clearly to the former vice president.

Mr. Bates said Mr. Biden “has never held stock in any such business arrangements nor has any family member or any other person ever held stock for him.”

Records produced by Mr. Bobulinski show that in 2017, Hunter Biden and James Biden were involved in negotiations about a joint venture with a Chinese energy and finance company called CEFC China Energy.

The Bobulinski records include emails, contracts, business plan documents and photographs of encrypted messages among the American partners. The Times could not independently authenticate all of the records, but the records referred to in this article are consistent with interviews and previous reporting by The Times. The Biden campaign did not dispute that Hunter and James Biden participated in negotiating the deal with the Chinese company.

The records make clear that Hunter Biden saw the family name as a valuable asset, angrily citing his “family’s brand” as a reason he is valuable to the proposed venture.

The documents also show that the countries that Hunter Biden, James Biden and their associates planned to target for deals overlapped with nations where Joe Biden had previously been involved as vice president. One 42-page plan includes a section specifically highlighting former Vice President Biden’s role in facilitating increased commerce with Colombia, which is one of the targets of the joint venture, along with Luxembourg, Oman and Romania.

Hunter Biden’s role in the deal, according to one of the documents, “was key in relationship set up, messaging the good will around the chairman,” referring to Ye Jianming, the chairman of CEFC.

The Times reported in 2018 that Mr. Ye met privately with Hunter Biden at a hotel in Miami in May 2017, where the Chinese executive proposed a partnership to invest in American infrastructure and energy deals. Planning for the Miami meeting appears to be reflected in some of the messages released by Mr. Bobulinski.

The documents indicate that CEFC China initially said it would send $10 million in early 2017 to the joint venture.

CEFC focused on trading oil futures and securing the rights to overseas oil fields in strife-torn places like Chad, South Sudan and Iraq. It was looking to expand its global ventures, both as an energy company and a financial backer of projects, and it turned to Hunter and James Biden and their associates, including Mr. Bobulinski, to help find new deals.

One early version of the business plan indicated that Hunter and James Biden and their American associates “have forged alliances with the highest levels of government, banking and enterprise.”

By August 2017, there were signs of trouble with the deal. Mr. Bobulinski wrote to CEFC noting that the promised $10 million payment had not been deposited in the American partners’ bank account.

There is conflicting information about whether any of this money was ever delivered by the Chinese partner. An election-year investigation into corruption allegations against the Bidens by two Senate committees, which found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, suggested that some money from CEFC might have come through, prompting Mr. Bobulinski to ask James Biden whether that was the case in a recent message.

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Trump Administration Reportedly Offered Santa Claus Performers Coronavirus Vaccine Quid Pro Quo – Gizmodo

https://gizmodo.com/trump-administration-reportedly-offered-santa-claus-per-1845478215

Trump Administration Reportedly Offered Santa Claus Performers Coronavirus Vaccine Quid Pro Quo - Gizmodo

Santa Claus greets Jaythan Corbacho with an elbow bump during the Selfridges 2020 Christmas Shop “Once upon a Christmas” photocall at Selfridges, Oxford Street on October 12, 2020, in London, England.

Santa Claus greets Jaythan Corbacho with an elbow bump during the Selfridges 2020 Christmas Shop “Once upon a Christmas” photocall at Selfridges, Oxford Street on October 12, 2020, in London, England.
Photo: Eamonn M. McCormack (Getty Images)

Although by now it’s clear that the Trump administration holds nothing sacred, there are still some things it can do to shock our tired brains. Apparently, it has tried to get Santa Claus—Santa!—to participate in its crazy pandemic response plans.

A new report in the Wall Street Journal, which honestly could be a Netflix drama, goes into detail on a purported $250 million public service coronavirus advertising campaign with a Santa component. The Santa deal was whipped up by Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. According to the Journal, the campaign featured a quid pro quo arrangement for Santa Claus performers: Help us promote the benefits of covid-19 vaccination and you’ll get early access to the vaccine.

For those who forgot, Caputo is the same Trump appointee with zero medical experience who accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of having bogus “deep state motives” and demanded changes to official scientific reports. He is currently on medical leave.

A spokesperson for HHS told the Journal that the Santa “collaboration will not be happening.” The official added that department secretary Alex Azar did not know about Caputo’s Santa outreach discussions. While Santa is out, the rest of the campaign is now under review.

HHS officials told the Journal that Azar had “ordered a strategic review of this public health education campaign that will be led by top public health and communications experts to determine whether the campaign serves important public health purposes.”

The government contract for the campaign, which was titled the “Covid 19 Public Health and Reopening America Public Service Announcements and Advertising Campaign,” had already been awarded to a market research and communications firm in Arlington, Virginia. It would have consisted of TV, radio, online and podcast announcements that were scheduled to start immediately, the outlet reported.

All of this, apparently, was meant to “defeat despair, inspire hope and achieve national recovery,” according to a work statement reviewed by the Journal.

In September, Caputo told the Journal that the campaign would focus on a variety of topics, including supposedly urging minorities to participate in covid-19 clinical trials. People of color, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and pregnant women have historically been excluded from clinical research even in non-pandemic times. A month earlier, he stated that the public health effort would be an edgy media campaign featuring prominent Americans, including Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

Caputo spoke with Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, that same August about his Santa idea, per the Journal. Erwin recorded the conversation and provided it to the outlet. In the call, parts of which are available on the Journal’s website, Caputo said that “frontline essential workers, health workers,” will be among those vaccinated early.

“From my perspective, if you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is,” he said in one of the audio recordings.

The Journal reported that Caputo told Erwin that he couldn’t wait to tell the president, who was going to “love this.”

Erwin, for his part, was on board with Caputo’s proposal and affirmed that almost 100 Santas had volunteered for the campaign. Caputo said the effort would involve “beautiful educational films” to raise awareness before a coronavirus vaccination drive and would require Santas to appear at special events. He said that vaccines likely be approved before Thanksgiving, the Journal reported.

“Since you would be doing Santa a serious favor, Santa would definitely reciprocate,” Erwin said. Per the Journal, the agreement also would have included Mrs. Claus performers and elves.

This is similar to the timeline touted by President Donald Trump, who has pushed the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine and get ready to distribute it before the Nov. 3 election or right afterwards. Nonetheless, public health experts say it’s extremely unlikely to get one approved by then.

A White House spokesperson told the outlet that Trump was not informed of the plan to use Santa performers in the public health campaign.

The fact that the Trump administration would try to get Santas to peddle its propaganda is incredulous, and, as noted by the Journal, highly suspicious given the timing: right before the presidential election. Its effectiveness is also questionable considering the vaccine skepticism in the country. As much as I love Santa, I’m not going to get a vaccine just because Santa recommends that I do so. I will get a vaccine once trusted public health officials give it the OK.

Most importantly, though, the idea that the Trump administration could use early access to vaccines as bargaining chips is freaking scary, not to mention insulting for all the healthcare and frontline workers that are risking their lives right now to respond to the pandemic. That’s who first access should be reserved for, in addition to other particularly vulnerable groups. Like I said, I’m a Santa fan, but I do not consider Santas to be essential workers. Sorry.

Erwin, the head of the Santas, told the Journal that without a vaccine, he plans to cancel all but one socially distant Christmas booking this year. You gotta protect the Santas.

[The Wall Street Journal]

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Europe Imposes New Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Soar – NPR

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/10/25/927637746/europe-imposes-new-restrictions-as-covid-19-cases-soar

Europe Imposes New Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Soar - NPR
Europe Imposes New Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Soar - NPR

A waiter cleans a table after closing in Saint Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris on Oct. 16, to comply with new COVID-19 restrictions forcing restaurants, cinemas and theaters in the French capital to close. France imposed a nighttime curfew in Paris and other major cities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Michel Euler/AP


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Europe Imposes New Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Soar - NPR

A waiter cleans a table after closing in Saint Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris on Oct. 16, to comply with new COVID-19 restrictions forcing restaurants, cinemas and theaters in the French capital to close. France imposed a nighttime curfew in Paris and other major cities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Michel Euler/AP

New regulations and social-distancing rules are being introduced across multiple European countries in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus as a second wave of the pandemic accelerates across the continent. Europe reported more than 1.3 million new cases this past week, its highest single week count yet, according to the World Health Organization.

Spain and France each surpassed 1 million cumulative confirmed cases last week, becoming the sixth and seventh countries to do so globally. Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom are also experiencing record numbers — threatening to overwhelm countries’ abilities to test, trace and contain the virus. Polish President Andrzej Duda tested positive for the virus over the weekend, as cases have doubled there in recent weeks.

Europe’s infection rate has been rising for over 90 days, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As authorities and experts worry that the situation in Europe may soon spin out of control, governments are imposing curfews and social restrictions in an attempt to avoid full-scale lockdowns that could hurt the economy and dim the upcoming holiday season.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared a national state of emergency on Sunday, which included a nighttime curfew and possible travel restrictions between regions. Italy also announced new measures to curb the virus, the harshest since its lockdown in the spring, when the country was the global epicenter of the pandemic.

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a move to a “high” alert level for London and other cities as of Oct. 17, banning residents from mixing with people from other households indoors and restricting outdoor gatherings to six people or fewer.

Last week, Ireland became the first country in Europe to reimpose a lockdown in the face of soaring cases.

Wales began a 17-day lockdown this weekend, shuttering all nonessential businesses and requiring people to remain home, with few exceptions. “If we do this now and if we then have a consistent set of national rules, to keep the transmission and the intensity of the virus at a lower level, then we can have a much more normal Christmas season for businesses,” Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, told BBC Radio Wales.

France has become the worst-hit country in Europe’s second wave, with over 40,000 new cases every day the past few days. Nightly curfews have been in place in several cities since mid-October, and this weekend, multiple new curfews were enacted, bringing the total number of people affected to around 46 million, or about two-thirds of France’s population.

“The second wave is here,” said Prime Minister Jean Castex at a press conference when the new restrictions were announced. “The situation is grave.”

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TECH

Dunkin Brands in talks to go private – CNN

https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/25/business/dunkin-brands-acquisition-talks-inspire-brands/index.html

Dunkin Brands in talks to go private - CNN
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Picard”,”duration”:”01:00″,”sourceName”:”CNN Business”,”sourceLink”:””,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/09/22/uber-eats-hamill-stewart-star-wars-trek-piccard-skywalker-orig.cnn-business/index.xml”,”videoId”:”business/2020/09/22/uber-eats-hamill-stewart-star-wars-trek-piccard-skywalker-orig.cnn-business”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200922120959-patrick-stewart-mark-hamill-uber-eats-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/business/2020/09/22/uber-eats-hamill-stewart-star-wars-trek-piccard-skywalker-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-fast-food/”,”description”:”Mark Hamill faces off against Patrick Stewart in a new commercial for Uber Eats. Since the pandemic, the food delivery service has grown larger than Uber’s ride-hailing business.”,”descriptionText”:”Mark Hamill faces off against Patrick Stewart in a new commercial for Uber Eats. Since the pandemic, the food delivery service has grown larger than Uber’s ride-hailing business.”},{“title”:”Imperfect Foods’ business is booming during the pandemic”,”duration”:”02:42″,”sourceName”:”CNN Business”,”sourceLink”:””,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/09/15/fresh-money-imperfect-foods-orig-jg.cnn-business/index.xml”,”videoId”:”business/2020/09/15/fresh-money-imperfect-foods-orig-jg.cnn-business”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200915133651-fm-imperfect-foods-07-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/business/2020/09/15/fresh-money-imperfect-foods-orig-jg.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-fast-food/”,”description”:”Here’s how Imperfect Foods, a grocery delivery service specializing in oddly shaped food at a discount, is successfully navigating the pandemic.”,”descriptionText”:”Here’s how Imperfect Foods, a grocery delivery service specializing in oddly shaped food at a discount, is successfully navigating the pandemic.”},{“title”:”See Burger King’s new three-lane (yes, 3!) drive-thru design”,”duration”:”01:11″,”sourceName”:”CNN Business”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com/business”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/09/02/burger-king-restaurant-redesign-orig.cnn-business/index.xml”,”videoId”:”business/2020/09/02/burger-king-restaurant-redesign-orig.cnn-business”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200902125558-02-burger-king-new-restaurant-design—rendering-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/business/2020/09/02/burger-king-restaurant-redesign-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-fast-food/”,”description”:”Burger King has been working on new restaurant designs for years, but the coronavirus pandemic has sped up its plans to roll out contactless features. See its three-lane drive-thru and “burger lockers” of the future.”,”descriptionText”:”Burger King has been working on new restaurant designs for years, but the coronavirus pandemic has sped up its plans to roll out contactless features. See its three-lane drive-thru and “burger lockers” of the future.”},{“title”:”Watch the new ‘Got Milk?’ ads”,”duration”:”01:05″,”sourceName”:”CNN Business”,”sourceLink”:””,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/07/31/got-milk-new-ads-zw-orig.cnn-business/index.xml”,”videoId”:”business/2020/07/31/got-milk-new-ads-zw-orig.cnn-business”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200731180748-got-milk-pour-new-ad-1-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/business/2020/07/31/got-milk-new-ads-zw-orig.cnn-business/video/playlists/business-fast-food/”,”description”:”The dairy industry just relaunched — and revamped — the “Got Milk?” ad campaign. But this time, the celebrities with milk mustaches have been replaced by this. “,”descriptionText”:”The dairy industry just relaunched — and revamped — the “Got Milk?” ad campaign. But this time, the celebrities with milk mustaches have been replaced by this. “},{“title”:”This small business stood for a century, but Covid-19 closed it in months”,”duration”:”02:45″,”sourceName”:”CNNBusiness”,”sourceLink”:””,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/07/30/small-businesses-restaurants-economy-unemployment-covid-19.cnnbusiness/index.xml”,”videoId”:”business/2020/07/30/small-businesses-restaurants-economy-unemployment-covid-19.cnnbusiness”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200730122220-gem-spa-closed-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/business/2020/07/30/small-businesses-restaurants-economy-unemployment-covid-19.cnnbusiness/video/playlists/business-fast-food/”,”description”:”Gem Spa – a corner store in New York’s East Village – is one of thousands of small businesses in the US shuttered by the pandemic. CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich reports.”,”descriptionText”:”Gem Spa – a corner store in New York’s East Village – is one of thousands of small businesses in the US shuttered by the pandemic. CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich reports.”},{“title”:”McDonald’s sales plummet in dismal quarter”,”duration”:”01:43″,”sourceName”:”CNNBusiness”,”sourceLink”:””,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/business/2020/07/28/mcdonalds-second-quarter-earnings.cnnbusiness/index.xml”,”videoId”:”business/2020/07/28/mcdonalds-second-quarter-earnings.cnnbusiness”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/200728081850-02-mcdonalds-us-restaurant-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/business/2020/07/28/mcdonalds-second-quarter-earnings.cnnbusiness/video/playlists/business-fast-food/”,”description”:”McDonald’s revenue sank 30% in the second quarter compared to a year ago. CNN’s Clare Sebastian reports.”,”descriptionText”:”McDonald’s revenue sank 30% in the second quarter compared to a year ago. 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HLN’s u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/profiles/robin-meade” target=”_blank”>Robin Meadeu003c/a> and u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/profiles/melissa-knowles” target=”_blank”>Melissa Knowlesu003c/a> discuss.”,”descriptionText”:”Kellogg’s Cheez-It and House Wine have teamed up to create a u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/23/business/cheez-it-wine/index.html” target=”_blank”>wine-and-Cheez-It boxu003c/a>. 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Heres the Average Social Security Benefit in 2021 – The Motley Fool

https://www.fool.com/retirement/2020/10/25/heres-the-average-social-security-benefit-in-2021/

Heres the Average Social Security Benefit in 2021 - The Motley Fool

For tens of millions of Americans, there isn’t a program that bears more importance to their financial well-being than Social Security.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), 62% of current retirees lean on the program to account for at least half their monthly income. Additionally, more than 15 million retired workers are pulled out of poverty every month as a result of their guaranteed payout, based on an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Two Social Security cards lying atop a fanned stack of cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

Social Security beneficiaries are getting a “raise”

Given the program’s importance, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the most anticipated announcement each year is the Social Security Administration’s October release of the upcoming year’s cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Think of the COLA as the “raise” that beneficiaries receive to true-up their payouts to account for inflation.

Since 1975, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) has been Social Security’s inflationary tether. The CPI-W has eight major spending categories and dozens upon dozens of subcategories, each with their own respective weightings. The price changes for goods and services covered by the CPI-W can be boiled down to a single figure, which is used to determine if inflation (rising prices) or deflation (falling prices) is occurring.

For Social Security, only the CPI-W readings from the third quarter (July through September) factor into the COLA calculation. While the other nine months of data can be useful in identifying trends, they don’t have any bearing on whether or not beneficiaries will pocket a bigger monthly payout in the upcoming year. If the average CPI-W reading from the third quarter of the current year is higher than the average CPI-W reading from Q3 of the previous year, beneficiaries will receive a payout increase that’s commensurate with the year-on-year percentage change, rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent.

As reported on Oct. 13, Social Security beneficiaries can expect to receive a 1.3% COLA when the calendar changes over to 2021.

A senior man counting a stack of cash in his hands.

Image source: Getty Images.

This will be the average monthly Social Security payout in 2021

The question is, what does a 1.3% COLA really mean for beneficiaries? Let’s take a closer look. 

As of September, 64.75 million people were netting a monthly Social Security payout, of which nearly 46.1 million were retired workers. The average retired worker benefit last month was $1,519.07. Based on recently released estimates from the SSA, monthly retired worker payouts are expected to hit $1,523 by December 2020. And factoring in a 1.3% COLA jump, that will increase by $20 to $1,543 in January 2021. In other words, the average retired worker is going to net an extra $240 for the entirety of 2021.

For disabled workers, the increase is going to be a little less robust, in nominal terms. All beneficiaries are set to receive a 1.3% COLA, but the program’s 8.25 million disabled workers were only bringing home $1,259.12 a month as of September. By December, the SSA estimates this monthly payout will grow slightly to $1,261. Thus, a 1.3% COLA should result in an estimated monthly increase of $16 by January 2021, pushing the average disabled worker benefit to $1,277.

The SSA provides a number of other estimated average-payout scenarios following the 1.3% COLA that may be relevant to you:

  • An aged couple, where both people are receiving benefits, should see an increase of $33 a month to $2,596 in 2021.
  • Aged widows or widowers can expect a $21 increase to their monthly payout to $1,453.
  • A disabled worker with a spouse and one or more children can anticipate their payout to rise $29 a month to $2,224 in January.
  • A widowed mother with two children is estimated to see her payout increase $39 a month to $3,001.
A visibly concerned senior woman resting her chin on her folded arms.

Image source: Getty Images.

It’s a good news/bad news scenario for beneficiaries

Considering that the coronavirus pandemic sent the prices of various goods and services screaming lower between March and May, it’s actually fantastic news that the nearly 65 million Social Security beneficiaries are receiving a COLA at all. A rebound in food inflation and healthy upticks in year-over-year prices for shelter and medical care services have ensured that benefits will move higher in 2021. That’s good news.

But a 1.3% COLA ties for the second-smallest positive increase since the CPI-W was tethered to the program in 1975. That’s problematic because inflation for shelter and healthcare costs — two of the most important expenditures for seniors — has been handily outpacing 1.3% on an annualized trailing-12-month basis. In other words, a 1.3% COLA simply isn’t going to cut it for retired workers, and their Social Security income is very likely to lose purchasing power once again.

Earlier this year, the nonpartisan senior advocacy group The Senior Citizens League released an analysis showing that the purchasing power of Social Security income had declined by a whopping 30% since 2000. That means what $100 in Social Security income used to be able to buy in 2000 can now only purchase $70 worth of identical goods and services. Inherent flaws with the CPI-W ensure that seniors are losing purchasing power on their Social Security income more years than not.

Benefits are going up across the board in 2021, but there’s simply not a lot to be excited about for Social Security recipients.

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