5 things to know for November 18: Covid-19, election, stimulus, US troops, Ethiopia

Here's what you need to know to get up to speed and on with your day
5 Things You Need To Know

1. Coronavirus

The FDA has issued an emergency authorization for the first rapid coronavirus test that can be used at home and deliver results within minutes. The new test uses nasal swab samples and is authorized for ages 14 and older. It’ll help people skip long lines as coronavirus cases skyrocket nationwide and comes days after more positive news on vaccine trials: Moderna announced a 94.5% effective rate, while Pfizer/BioNTech said final analysis shows its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective with no safety concerns and Pfizer’s CEO says the company plans to file for emergency use authorization for it soon. The US continues to set grim records, with about 76,830 people hospitalized nationwide, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. This is likely the “last big surge” before a vaccine offers help, said Dr. Mark McClellan, a former FDA commissioner. “The months ahead are going to look better than the weeks ahead,” he added.

2. Election 2020

President Trump has fired the head of a federal cybersecurity agency who debunked his election conspiracy theories. Christopher Krebs was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Homeland Security Department. His agency recently launched an online rumor control blog rebutting claims of election fraud spread by Trump and his supporters. Krebs also posted on social media — often with blaring red siren emojis — fact checks of the baseless claims. In a tweet announcing the ouster, the President called Krebs’ characterization of the election “highly inaccurate.” Krebs fired back with a tweet of his own: “Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow (sic).” Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden announced nine key members of his White House senior staff.

3. Stimulus

The fate of a federal stimulus package is looking bleak. Lawmakers are getting less confident a deal can be reached in the lame duck session — with the focus instead turning to a government spending negotiation that must be finished by December 11. Aides on both sides say serious conversations about the stimulus have tapered off, even as US coronavirus cases have soared past 11 million. “The men and women throughout our country — they’re suffering because of Covid and we’re not doing a damn thing to help them,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat. The divide between Republicans and Democrats continues to simmer over how much money each side is willing to spend. Democrats — including Biden — have urged Senate Republicans to pass House Democrats’ Heroes Act, which totals more than $2 trillion. Republicans, meanwhile, have made it clear they are not willing to spend much north of $1 trillion.

4. US troops

With two months left in office, President Trump is rushing to bring more US troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. The withdrawal of thousands of troops would be completed by January 15 (just ahead of Biden’s inauguration), leaving Afghanistan and Iraq with 2,500 troops each — down from about 4,500 and 3,000, respectively, the acting defense secretary said. A senior defense official said the move is consistent with Trump’s promise to the American people. But it also suggests the President may fall short of fulfilling one of his core pledges to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan before he leaves office — something he pledged as recently as October.

5. Ethiopia

A deadly humanitarian crisis is developing in Ethiopia, where thousands of people are fleeing violence in the Tigray region. About 4,000 have crossed the border into eastern Sudan every day over the past week, and that number is growing, the United Nations warned. The crisis started on November 4 after the Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel laureate Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in the region after accusing forces loyal to local leaders of attacking federal troops deployed there. The federal forces have since bombed targets in Tigray, leading to intense clashes with local forces. Pleas from neighboring nations to deescalate have fallen on deaf ears.


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Patience in action

Ever seen a science project with 250,000 falling dominoes? We haven’t either, so here goes. Try not to think about the cleanup. (Click here to view.)

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