Friday, 27 Nov 2020

Your Friday Briefing

Counting continues in the U.S. election.

By Natasha Frost

Good morning.

We’re covering the latest from the U.S. election, England’s spotty lockdown and a climate challenge to Norway’s biggest industry.

A third day of vote counting in the U.S. election

Two days after polls closed in the U.S. election, new vote tallies are giving Joe Biden fresh momentum.

The Democratic nominee extended his lead in Nevada and Arizona, two states where counts are not expected to conclude until at least Friday, while President Trump’s lead shrank in Georgia and Pennsylvania. “Democracy is sometimes messy,” Mr. Biden said in a brief statement to reporters on Thursday. “It sometimes requires a little patience as well.”

President Trump broke a two-day silence to deliver a brief statement filled with egregious lies and smears about the election process as workers in a handful of states continued to tabulate votes in the presidential race. “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Mr. Trump said, offering no evidence for this claim.

Here is the state of play in the candidates’ pathways to 270 Electoral College votes.

Legal matters: The Trump campaign scored a minor victory in a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, gaining the campaign’s election monitors better access to vote counters, while suits in Michigan and Georgia were rejected.

On the ground: Americans took to the streets in mostly peaceful marches across the country. Supporters of Mr. Trump gathered outside ballot-counting offices to demand that officials “stop the count” of ballots. But the process continued.

Meanwhile, in Russia: The drawn-out aftermath of America’s Election Day has become the focus of a domestic political struggle in its own right, feeding a debate over whether Russia’s tightly scripted political landscape has unique advantages over American democracy.

In England, a lockdown with loopholes

England’s second lockdown, which began on Thursday, in some respects scarcely resembles a lockdown. Many stores have remained open, as have in-person classes at schools and universities.

With little political consensus around lockdown measures, England’s new rules are shot through with loopholes. Companies have openly flouted what relatively lenient restrictions are in place. And many scientists doubt that four weeks of spotty restrictions will be enough to stamp out the virus, or that the government will have done enough by then to revamp its inadequate contact-tracing system.

The British economy is similarly troubled. On Thursday, the government and central bank announced an extension of emergency stimulus measures they had introduced in the spring, while the Bank of England downgraded its forecasts for economic growth, saying the recession this year would be deeper and the recovery next year would be slower than it previously predicted.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

For the second day in a row, the United States on Thursday recorded over 100,000 new coronavirus cases as daily records were broken across the country.

China halted the entry of almost all travelers from Bangladesh, Belgium, Britain, India and the Philippines, except for Chinese citizens, in the latest move to control the coronavirus.

Olivier Véran, France’s health minister, warned that if new rules were not scrupulously followed, intensive care units would be overwhelmed by mid-November.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece on Thursday announced a three-week nationwide lockdown starting Saturday, after a sharp spike in infections and amid fears about increasing pressure on Greek hospitals.

A climate challenge to Norway’s oil and gas industry

A contradiction of sorts: The Norwegian Constitution declares that all citizens have the right to a healthy environment. But the country’s economy is built around an oil and gas industry that accounts for more than half of national exports.

Norway’s Supreme Court must now confront this apparent paradox head-on, as it hears a challenge by environmental groups seeking to invalidate licenses for new oil exploration in the Arctic on constitutional grounds. Experts said it was unclear how the 15 judges in the case, which began on Wednesday, would rule.

It is among the highest-profile cases in a series of climate-change lawsuits brought by activists in Europe and elsewhere — one that Norwegian news outlets have described as “the case of the century.”

Quotable: The lawsuit “is our generation’s best shot to make sure a significant amount of carbon dioxide stays buried under the ground and never gets burned,” said Andreas Randoy, deputy head of Nature and Youth Norway, adding that a victory would mean “the beginning of the end of the oil age.”

If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it

How many more Earths are out there?

A decade ago, a band of astronomers set out to answer one of the oldest questions taunting philosophers, scientists, priests, mystics and the rest of the human race: How many far-flung planets exist that could harbor life as we know it?

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has an answer, of sorts: There may be as many as 300 million potentially habitable exoplanets out there in the Milky Way alone. And that’s a low estimate. Our science reporter explains.

Here’s what else is happening

Kosovo: President Hashim Thaci, a guerrilla leader during Kosovo’s fight for independence against Serbia, resigned to face charges of crimes against humanity at a special international court in The Hague. Mr. Thaci was indicted in June by the special court in the Netherlands on 10 counts of war crimes.

Stimulus package: Political uncertainty in the U.S. has revived the possibility that lawmakers could agree on a new economic rescue bill before Christmas. The S&P 500 jumped nearly 2 percent, defying predictions that investors would be spooked by election uncertainty, even as 738,000 workers last week filed new claims for state unemployment benefits.

No smoking in North Korea: The government expanded a national campaign by banning smoking in public places. But state news media continues to show the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, smoking on the subway, at schools and in hospitals.

Snapshot: Above, Tiffanie Davis, an American who moved to Paris in 2017, posts videos about life as an expatriate. Many travel influencers are hitting their stride as stressed-out people in lockdown (especially Americans) scroll through Instagram to find an escape.

Lives Lived: Elsa Raven, a character actress perhaps best remembered for a small but crucial role in the hit 1985 time-travel comedy “Back to the Future,” died at 91 on Monday at her home in Los Angeles.

What we’re reading: This Guardian article on funny memes from the U.S. election. Take time for laughter in a week awash with anxiety.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: This onion tart is straightforward and uncomplicated, rustic and refined all at once.

Watch: “Koko-di Koko-da,” an unsettling Swedish horror movie, will ensure you never go down to the woods again, our reviewer writes.

Do: There is plenty of evidence that aerobic exercise can elevate your mood. Now, a new study shows that weight training may help ease anxiety.

You deserve a break. Our At Home collection can help, with ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

A pandemic during the U.S. elections

As Americans waited for the outcome of a nail-biting election, the number of new daily coronavirus cases hit a record of 107,000 on Wednesday, and expectations grew that the outbreak in the U.S. was likely to get worse in the coming weeks. Lisa Lerer, a reporter who writes about politics, spoke to our colleagues from the Coronavirus Briefing about covering the election during a pandemic. Here’s an excerpt.

What has been your experience as a political reporter covering this election?

Lisa: It has basically been all but unrecognizable to how we normally cover elections. One example is that voters have not been eager to talk to me. My go-to spot for talking to voters is Costco parking lots because it takes people a long time to load up their cars with all their avocados or whatever, so you have time to talk to them. But this year I was kicked out of two parking lots, and that’s never happened to me before.

How will this election shape electoral contests in the future?

I think people want to keep mail-in voting and early voting. I also think there has been some innovation because of technology. Maybe we’ll see more Zoom fund-raisers, particularly for lower-dollar events, because we’ve seen that you can scoop up a lot of money that way. .

Based on the conversations you’ve had, how has the pandemic changed the tenor of the election?

I think that the isolation from the pandemic has contributed to a lot of the rage on both sides. I definitely have felt that people are more reluctant to give me their name because they’re worried that if it shows up in the paper, someone is going to go after them for their political views.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend. Until next time.

— Natasha

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the state of the election.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Behavioral quirk (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Need a jolt of pure joy? Watch this 52-second colorized video of a snowball fight, captured in France in 1897.
• The New York Times hit seven million subscribers in the third quarter. For the first time, the publisher brings in more revenue from online readers than from print subscribers.

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