Welcome To Election Week
November 4, 2020
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“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it — always.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Welcome To Election Week
(Scott Olson via Getty Images)
For anyone who went to sleep on Election Night expecting to wake up to a cut and dry result: think again. Despite countless warnings that this could take a while — Tuesday night’s political spectacle surprised even the most pragmatic pollsters with its unending uncertainty. At the time of this writing, there is no clear winner in the race for the President of the United States. Here’s how we got here.
Going into the evening, a string of southeastern battleground states represented Democrat’s best hope of a victorious early bedtime. But as results from Florida, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina trickled in, it became evident that reports of Donald Trump’s political demise were greatly exaggerated. Despite a commanding lead in the polls, southern support for Joe Biden just wasn’t as strong as many predicted, with Trump repeating 2016 victories in Florida and Texas. Preliminary figures indicate significant deficits for Biden in North Carolina and Georgia, but the Peach State could make things interesting in the coming days as votes from the Atlanta metropolitan area continue to be counted.
Officially, Biden has yet to flip any states that Trump won in 2016 — despite Fox News issuing a late-night call that Biden had in fact won Arizona. But Donald Trump did surprise many with his resilience in defending key battleground states, leaving the nation in a dizzying state of electoral limbo. Now all eyes turn to the proverbial “Blue Wall” — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — who are scrambling to finish the decisive count will decide the election. It’s the region that cost Hillary Clinton the race in 2016, and the one that the Biden campaign was designed to recapture. As we’ve been saying for weeks here at the Daily Pnut, the true prize remains in Pennsylvania and their 20 electoral votes. In the uncertain days ahead, the Keystone State’s unequivocal importance should remain a constant.
As the entire nation waits for the votes to be counted, both candidates offered brief statements as Election Night faded into Election Morning. “We believe we are on track to win this election,” Biden said in a short speech, where he claimed he was “optimistic” about his chances of pulling off a nail-biting win. Trump — predictably — struck a different tone, asserting on Twitter that “they are trying to STEAL the election.”
Buckle up, it’s going to be a historic week.
WHO’s Really In Charge?
- The World Health Organization (WHO), as its name suggests, is a public health body that is expected to, and has the authority to, deal with health issues arising anywhere in the world. In fact, it’s the only public health organization with a global remit. So when a WHO team arrived in Beijing in mid-February to investigate the source of a new coronavirus outbreak, its members expected to be able to access whatever they needed to (hopefully) answer the critical question: how did the virus jump from animals to humans?
- “If we don’t know the source then we’re equally vulnerable in the future to a similar outbreak,” said the WHO’s emergency director. “Understanding that source is a very important step.” Unfortunately, what the team didn’t understand then was that they wouldn’t be allowed to investigate the source at all — because the WHO’s leadership had quietly negotiated terms with China’s leadership that sidelined its own experts. The investigative team would not be able to question China’s initial response, or even visit the live-animal market in Wuhan where the outbreak appears to have originated.
- Nine months and more than 1.1 million deaths later, there is still no transparent, independent investigation into the source of the virus. Even the WHO’s staunchest defenders — while noting that the organization by its very constitution is beholden to the countries that finance it — are frustrated by its secrecy, its public praise for China, and its quiet concessions, which have indirectly helped Beijing whitewash its early failures in handling the outbreak. (NYT)
Credit Scandal Takes A Swipe At The Spanish Crown
- In March 2014, Spain’s King Juan Carlos abdicated the throne in favor of his son, now King Felipe VI. In March 2020, reports emerged suggesting Juan Carlos had received a $100 million payment from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah in 2008, three years before a multi-billion-dollar contract was awarded to a Spanish consortium to build a high-speed rail line in Saudi Arabia. As more revelations emerged about the former king’s financial dealings, Felipe stripped his father of his annual stipend.
- Then, after reports that he was in line to receive millions of euros from a secret offshore fund with ties to Saudi Arabia, Felipe renounced his personal inheritance from his father. Now, Supreme Court prosecutors are investigating new corruption charges against. Juan Carlos, his wife Sofía, and other members of the royal family over the use of credit cards between 2016 and 2018 linked to accounts not held in their names.
- In July, it was reported that Juan Carlos had withdrawn €100,000 a month from a Swiss account between 2008 and 2012, and used the money to pay for some of the royal family’s expenses; Swiss prosecutors are looking into a number of accounts the former monarch and his alleged associates held in the country. In August, Juan Carlos said he was going into exile to protect his son from further embarrassment. The disgraced former king has said that he never told his son he was set to benefit from two offshore funds. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- The global effect of the ballot box: How the U.S. election looks to pro-democracy activists around the world (WaPo, $)
- US Cyber Command expands operations against Russia, China and Iran (CNN)
- Canada makes plan to evacuate its citizens from Hong Kong (Guardian)
- Aliba-blocked: Alibaba’s Ant Group has IPO blocked (NPR)
- Vienna shooting: What we know about ‘Islamist terror’ attack (BBC)
- Austrian police arrest 14 in manhunt after gunman’s deadly rampage (Reuters)
- Far-Right, Mafias In Italy Fuel Some Violent Anti-Lockdown Protests (NPR). The mob supports the mobs.
- Mexico’s War Against Crime Will Be Led by a Woman for the First Time Ever (Vice)
- Hurricane Eta lashes Nicaragua, raising fears of disastrous floods (Guardian)
- The Economy Can’t Recover With Sick Workers (Atlantic, $)
- Voter Survey: U.S. Is On Wrong Track, COVID-19 Not Under Control (NPR)
- The US is entering the “most deadly phase” of the coronavirus pandemic, top Trump adviser warns (Vox)
- Immune cells are responding to Covid six months after infection, study finds (CNBC)
- Will a small, long-shot U.S. company end up producing the best coronavirus vaccine? (Science Mag)
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Insurrection On Election Day?
- Under federal law it’s the National Guard, not active duty military, that can enforce order on domestic soil; the Guard has been called out already dozens of times this year. Now communities across America are bracing for protests regardless of the outcome of today’s election. If protests turn violent, governors will almost certainly call out their states’ National Guard, and they’re bracing for it.
- Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered 1,000 members of the Guard to be on standby. Oregon’s governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Portland. Citing a concern for potential violence, she’s directed the National Guard to have members trained in crowd control to be on standby, if needed to assist state and county police.
- As of last week,10 states had activated the Guard to help with non-law-enforcement election tasks where poll workers have been depleted by the pandemic; 14 more states are expected to activate troops this week. What is perhaps more frightening than the possibility of election violence is what legal experts say about the president’s broad discretion to sidestep legal restrictions, by utilizing the Insurrection Act.
- By declaring insurrection, President Trump could not only take control of state National Guard troops, but also deploy the Army or Marines. He could send in troops even if local authorities don’t think they’re needed, and according to legal experts, there’s little Congress or the courts can do to stop him. As one expert said: “A president could issue a ridiculous insurrection proclamation or violate the Posse Comitatus Act, and the people would have very little recourse.” (NYT)
Pulling The Cord On The Paris Climate Accord
- On Wednesday, we may not have all the election results, but we will know for sure that the US is the only country in the world to have left the Paris Climate Accord. Pulling out of the agreement was one of candidate Donald Trump’s signature campaign promises in 2016. As president, he announced on June 1, 2017 that the US would begin the exit process; we’re officially out on Wednesday regardless of who wins the presidency.
- If Trump is reelected, the US will watch from the sidelines as other countries coordinate action on climate change. If Joe Biden wins, he’s vowed to rejoin the pact “on day one,” meaning the US will again be subject to the terms of the accord, and will also play a part in shaping its future. If America rejoins the agreement it will have to make up for lost time and rebuild trust with other countries.
- Rejoining will be easy — what happens next is not. While Trump has no plan to deal with climate change, Biden has an ambitious set of proposals to get the US to a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050. Some of these plans can be enacted from the White House, but the more aggressive tactics — like a federal investment of $1.7 trillion to drive action on climate change — require Congressional approval.
- The good news is that now there’s a much stronger grassroots movement for action on climate change than there was in 2009. There’s also a coalition of city, state, and business leaders in America who have remained committed to limiting climate change. Most importantly, the technologies needed to shift to clean energy have made huge strides, with renewable energy now the largest source of new power generation in the US, and many other markets. (Vox)
Additional USA News
- Report: Trump Is Terrified About Going to Prison After Losing the Election, as He Should Be (Vanity Fair). The karmic echoes of 2016’s “lock her up” chants.
- Mueller investigated — but didn’t charge — Stone, WikiLeaks and Assange for Russian hack of Democrats in 2016, less-redacted report shows (CNN)
- Robocalls Told at Least 800,000 Swing State Residents to “Stay Home” on Election Day. The FBI Is Investigating. (ProPublica)
- Analysis: This Republican lawyer just totally exposed the Trump campaign’s voter suppression efforts (CNN)
- What the frack! Neither Biden or Trump were ready for the election’s surprise issue (Inverse)
- Hillary Clinton Was Right to Warn Us (NYT, $)
- The Republican Identity Crisis After Trump (New Yorker)
- Economic election implications: Markets plunge in uncertainty about a second term and a second wave (Guardian)
- Dr. Scott Gottlieb warns of period of 1,000 US Covid deaths per day (CNBC)
- Supreme Court’s Abortion Cases Could Threaten Birth Control, Too (NPR)
- On Family Separation, a Lesson From Immigration History (Time)
What Happens When Google Goes Away?
(Lorenzo Di Cola via Getty Images)
- We’ve spent the history of the modern internet putting more and more of our lives online, and there’s very little left that big tech doesn’t touch. We don’t realize that until we lose access, when it’s too late. A game developer was shocked to suddenly discover that he’d had all his Google accounts disabled due to a “serious violation of Google’s policies.”
- He immediately appealed the ban. The next day he received an automated response saying Google had determined the developer had “broken their terms of service” and his account wouldn’t be reinstated. No explanation was given for exactly what had happened. When he tweeted about his fear of being locked out of his Google account after 15 years of use, others posted about the impact of being barred from the company that runs most of the services we use in our day-to-day lives.
- Turns out the developer is just one of a number of people who’ve had their accounts suspended in the last few days and weeks. A software developer from the UK also had his account terminated for “violating the terms of service” — his account, too, was “irrecoverable.” He lost data including emails, photos, documents and diagrams that he’d developed for his work. “My account and all its data is gone,” he said. Others said they’d been barred from using Microsoft services and Facebook accounts.
- “This is just how life is when you’re dealing with trillion-dollar faceless corporations,” said one user who has long campaigned against the control of our data — and lives — by big tech firms. “It’s just one reason why it’s so important that we fund and develop human-scale small tech as an alternative to the stranglehold of big tech on our lives.” (Business Insider)
- All these polls can take a toll: Stress Relief Tips to Relieve Election Anxiety & How to Worry More Mindfully (NYT, $)
- Yes, the Constitution Set Up a Democracy (Atlantic, $)
- This Election Day, we’re voting for infrastructure (The Verge). Let’s build things, just not a wall.
- The Man Who Helped Turn 4chan Into the Internet’s Racist Engine (Vice)
- Zoom Finally Has End-to-End Encryption. Here’s How to Use It (Wired)
- Eyes/spies in the sky: Amazon’s Surveillance Drones Violate FCC Rules. It’s Time To Enforce Them (Vice)
- How Jeff Bezos Is Spending His $10 Billion Earth Fund (Atlantic)
- Save Your Finances by Avoiding These Common Mistakes (Lifehacker)
- How to Manage Your Career During Covid (NYT, $)
- Common Probability Errors to Avoid (Farnam Street)
- ‘Taste. Think. Tweak’ – chefs’ 20 top kitchen tips (Guardian)
- Did Neanderthals go to war with our ancestors? (BBC)
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