Five Things to Know for Thursday October 15, 2020

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5 things to know for October 15: Coronavirus, Election, Supreme Court, Banks, China

1. Coronavirus

Some European countries are reporting record high Covid-19 cases, prompting leaders to choose between two drastic solutions. Limiting local restrictions would help keep economies open but might not stop another wave of the virus. A short national lockdown may be safer, according to health experts, but that could shock economies once again. The UK’s Boris Johnson is one of the leaders trying to avoid the latter. In the US, the Trump Administration has indicated it is open to natural herd immunity as a way to beat coronavirus — an option that experts say could be disastrous. Under most estimates, that would mean about 70% of the population would have to catch the disease.
Trump rally billboard says 'superspreader event this way.' (Literally.)

2. Election 2020

NBC is getting grief for scheduling its town hall with President Trump this evening at the same time as Joe Biden’s on ABC. Remember, Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis led to the second debate being canceled, and the Trump campaign rejected the suggestion of a virtual contest. The dueling town halls will air at 8 p.m. ET. As early voting continues, states are already smashing records. Harris County, Texas, set a second-day voting record and California has received 10 times as many ballots as it did this time during the 2016 election. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, says he will not support President Trump’s reelection bid.
The Trump-Biden battle is intensifying in Pennsylvania.

3. Supreme Court

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett faced the Senate Judiciary Committee one last time before her likely Senate confirmation in two weeks. While she again declined to say outright  how she would rule on specific cases once on the bench, Barrett and her Republican supporters promoted the idea that she would not be in favor of dismantling the Affordable Care Act or rolling back cases that define a constitutional right to contraceptives. During a testy exchange with Senator Kamala Harris about voting rights, Barrett declined to say whether she believes voter discrimination still exists in America. Today, the committee will hold the fourth day of the hearings, with testimony from outside witnesses for and against Barrett’s confirmation.
Amy Coney Barrett was grilled on election issues.

4. Banks

The International Monetary Fund is predicting a long and uneven recovery from the pandemic, but some banks are still winning big. Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs reported huge third-quarter gains, nearly doubling its profits to $3.6 billion. JPMorgan Chase and BlackRock also had big quarters. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo is facing a different kind of problem. The bank has fired more than 100 employees for misrepresenting themselves to obtain money from a relief fund for small businesses. Those actions could amount to defrauding the US Small Business Administration. In September, JPMorgan said it was investigating whether employees abused Paycheck Protection Program loans and other pandemic relief programs.
Women walk past the boarded up branch of a Wells Fargo bank in in Washington, DC, last summer.

5. China

China’s President Xi Jinping has told troops to put their minds on “preparing for war.” He made the alarming comments during a visit to a military base in the southern province of Guangdong. China and Washington are on especially shaky ground due to disagreements over Taiwan and the coronavirus pandemic. The White House recently announced it was planning to move ahead with the sale of three advanced weapon systems to Taiwan, bringing the US even closer, diplomatically, with the island country. Since China considers Taiwan a part of its territory, the weapons deal has definitely raised their hackles.
People wearing face masks scan a QR code with their smartphones to check their "Health Kit" to enter an area in Beijing this week.