The number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims rose last week by about 30,000 to roughly 742,000, the first week-over-week increase in more than a month. Continuing claims—those receiving benefits for at least two weeks—fell by 429,000 to 6.3 million, while the total number receiving some form of unemployment insurance dropped by 841,000 to 20.3 million.
The figures come as COVID-19 cases have surged across the US, more than doubling in the past three
weeks. Analysts fear reimposed social distancing restrictions could drive jobless numbers back up—this time without another stimulus package of the type that helped buoy the US economy during the spring and summer.
Roughly 12 million people are set to lose assistance when two stimulus-funded unemployment programs expire the day after Christmas. Congress, deadlocked over negotiations and facing a lame-duck period, heads out
for a week of vacation today.
Separately, the CDC formally issued guidance recommending Americans not travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
Georgia Recount Completed
A manual recount of roughly 5 million votes in Georgia confirmed President-elect Joe Biden won the state by a slim margin of just over 12,000 votes. While the new tally showed few discrepancies with the original count, the audit uncovered almost 6,000 overlooked ballots in four counties—their addition cut Biden's lead by 1,400 votes. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger plans to certify the results today; the Trump campaign may request a second recount, which would be done via machine scans.
In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign requested—and footed the $3M bill for—a recount of nearly 800,000 votes in heavily Democratic Dane and Milwaukee counties. President Trump trails by roughly 20,600 votes in the state, a margin of 0.6%. The recount is expected to finish by Dec. 1.
In Michigan, two Republican election officials who previously certified the vote in Wayne County (home to Detroit) attempted to rescind their decision yesterday, saying a request to audit ballots isn't being honored. Officials say there is no legal mechanism to rescind the county-level decision, but the clash sets up a potentially chaotic Monday meeting when a four-member state board—two Republicans and two Democrats—will convene to certify the state results. In an unusual step, Trump invited top Michigan state legislators to the White House
The Trump campaign has a number of ongoing lawsuits challenging the election results in closely contested states. See a rundown here.
There has been some speculation that state legislatures may attempt to send electors to the Electoral College that don't reflect the state's popular vote, although legal scholars
say that is unlikely for a variety of reasons. While individuals have defected from their state's chosen candidate, no state legislature has sent an entirely different slate of electors since laws governing the process were passed in 1887.
The Electoral College is scheduled to vote Dec. 14, with Congress meeting to certify the results Jan. 6. Inauguration Day is Jan. 20.
Famous Telescope Scrapped
Puerto Rico's iconic Arecibo Observatory radio telescope will be demolished after sustaining irreparable damage, the US National Science Foundation said yesterday. Completed in 1963, the structure features a 1,000-foot diameter dish made from almost 40,000 aluminum panels, with a 900-ton receiver antenna platform suspended by a series of cables almost 500 feet in the air (see photos). For more than five decades, it was
the world's largest single-aperture telescope.
Radio telescopes allow astronomers to image celestial objects not visible using traditional optical telescopes, which detect visible light frequencies. Exotic objects like pulsars and quasars can emit radio frequencies, and the Cosmic Microwave Background—a vestige of the Big Bang—was first detected using a radio telescope. Arecibo's death knell came after two cables
snapped in recent months, causing severe structural damage.
Some may recognize the telescope's unique design—it was the backdrop to the final fight scene (watch clip) in the 1995 James Bond film "GoldenEye."
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IN THE KNOW
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>New research proves liquid water can exist in two distinct molecular states, confirming a 30-year-old theory; at high pressure and low temperature, the two
states show a 20% difference in density and would not mix together (More)
>Study of "exceptional responders"—people whose multiple cancer tumors disappear without explanation—finds common molecular changes to the tumors that may help identify new cancer treatments (More)
>US stock markets up (S&P 500 +0.4%, Dow +0.2%, Nasdaq +0.9%) as hopes for a stimulus rise; movement comes despite weekly unemployment claims unexpectedly increasing (More)
>US existing home sales up for fifth month in a row to highest monthly level since 2006; median home prices reach all-time high (More) | Mortgage rates fall to record lows, average 30-year rate drops to 2.72% (More)
>Affirm—payments company led by PayPal cofounder that provides installment loans to customers—files for IPO (More)
>Pfizer expected to file for emergency use authorization to begin distributing COVID-19 vaccine today (More) | AstraZeneca and Oxford University say early data show its vaccine works in elderly patients (More) | Total US cases at 11.7 million, with 252,555 deaths, as of this morning; see rolling averages (cases, deaths)
>US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo becomes first top American diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank; announces the US will recognize products made in disputed settlement areas as "Made in Israel" (More) | Why are the settlements controversial? (More)
>Australian government report finds a group of its elite troops unlawfully killed at least 39 Afghan nationals while supporting war effort, characterizing the actions as war crimes (More)
Jack Ma Versus the Party
Nikkei Asia | Henny Sender. Jack Ma—one of China's most recognizable business owners and richest people—has long clashed with the Communist Party. His most recent criticism brought a halt to what would've been the world's biggest IPO. (Read)
Medicine's Greatest Underdog Story
STAT | Damian Garde, Jonathan Saltzman. The use of messenger RNA, or mRNA, in vaccines was dismissed for decades as an impractical long shot. Now, it may put an end to the worst pandemic of modern times. (Read)
Does Advertising Actually Work?
Freakonomics | Stephen Dubner. (Podcast) Convincing consumers to make a purchase is a half-a-trillion-dollar industry—but a sweeping new study questions just how effective advertising is. (Listen)
What's Wrong With Jeb's Brain?
Outside | Daniel Duane. Jeb Corliss has completed some of the world's most death-defying BASE jumps (along with many crashes). Now, with a self-diagnosed psychiatric disorder, Corliss is on a mission to understand his own brain. (Read)
Historybook: Bobby Kennedy born (1925); HBD President-elect Joe Biden (1942); Nuremberg trials against 24 Nazi war criminals begin (1945); HBD actress Bo Derek (1956); Microsoft
Windows 1.0 released (1985).
"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."
- Bobby Kennedy
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