Biden fractures his foot while playing with his dog

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US president-elect Joe Biden has a foot fracture and will likely have to wear a medical boot, his team said Sunday after the 78-year-old was taken to the doctor because he had slipped while playing with his dog.

Biden, who will become the oldest US president upon his January swearing-in, suffered the injury Saturday with Major, one of his two German shepherds.

The president-elect’s personal physician Kevin O’Connor initially said x-rays had not uncovered any “obvious fracture”, but added that an additional CT scan would still be done.

That scan “confirmed hairline (small) fractures… in the mid-foot,” O’Connor said in a subsequent statement released by Biden’s office.

He added that the former vice president, who won election against Donald Trump in November, “will likely require a walking boot for several weeks”.

With both Biden and Trump in their 70s, age was an issue in the presidential race, even if it often took a backseat to pressing matters like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trump’s health was briefly of intense concern when he caught Covid-19, but the president resumed campaigning after getting a series of treatments — including an experimental antibody cocktail.

Trump, a famously finicky germophobe, was the first president in over a century to not have a dog.

The Bidens fostered and then adopted Major in 2018, while Champ has been with the family since 2008.  

Biden officials have said Major will become the first rescue dog to live in the White House.


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Bolsonaro suffers losses, centre-right makes gains in Brazil local polls

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Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s candidates suffered further defeats Sunday and the traditional centre-right emerged stronger in municipal runoff elections seen as a gauge of where things stand in Brazilian politics ahead of presidential polls in 2022.

Brazil‘s biggest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, both elected experienced centre-right mayors — incumbent Bruno Covas and returning veteran Eduardo Paes, respectively — as the candidates endorsed by Bolsonaro were roundly defeated, according to full official results.

The Brazilian left meanwhile continued to struggle to bounce back from the damaging impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and the jailing of her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on corruption charges — the events that paved the way for Bolsonaro’s “conservative wave.”

The runoff elections “confirmed what we’d already seen in the first-round vote (on November 15): a defeat for Bolsonaro’s camp,” said political scientist Leonardo Avritzer of the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

“The left meanwhile continues to have enormous difficulties.”

For the first time in its history, Lula’s and Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) failed to win a single mayoral race in Brazil’s 26 state capitals.

Traditional parties to the center and right meanwhile consolidated the comeback they made in the first round, including Sao Paulo Mayor Covas’s Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and Rio mayor-elect Paes’s Democrats (DEM).

Bolsonaro, the politician known as the “Tropical Trump,” will for his part have to work to bolster his position before his expected reelection bid, analysts said.

“Bolsonaro showed little political capacity as a leader,” said political scientist Flavia Biroli of the University of Brasilia.

“The center-right and right came out as winners, but that is not the same as the Bolsonaro right,” she told AFP.

Against ‘politics of hate’ 

Covas and Paes both took aim at Bolsonaro in their victory speeches.

Covas, a 40-year-old cancer survivor tasked with handling one of the world’s biggest coronavirus outbreaks, called his win a victory for “science and moderation.”

That was seen as a veiled jab at Bolsonaro’s polarizing style and controversial handling of Covid-19, which the president has downplayed as a “little flu” even as it has killed more than 172,000 people in Brazil, the second-highest death toll worldwide, after the United States.

Covas had to fend off what looked at times to be a tough challenge from leftist activist turned politician Guilherme Boulos, hailed by progressives as the new face of the Brazilian left.

However, the result was not close in the end: Covas won 59 percent of the vote in Latin America’s biggest city, to 41 percent for Boulos.

The incumbent received warm congratulations from his predecessor and mentor, Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria, a top contender to challenge Bolsonaro for the presidency.

In Rio, Paes condemned the “politics of hate” associated with both Bolsonaro and the candidate the president backed, Evangelical pastor and incumbent Mayor Marcelo Crivella.

“The results of extremism, hate and division have been good for no one,” said Paes, who was previously Rio mayor from 2009 to 2016.

Paes won with 64 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Crivella.

The other runoff candidate backed by Bolsonaro, police reserve captain Wagner Sousa Gomes, also lost in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.

Bolsonaro candidates routed 

The municipal polls, which are essentially Brazil’s midterm elections, bore the indelible mark of the pandemic.

The soaring death toll and the economic crisis that has ensued were central issues.

Brazil’s 148 million voters were electing mayors and city councils in 5,569 municipalities, with runoffs held in 57 cities.

In other closely watched races, another rising left-wing star, Manuela D’Avila of the Communist Party of Brazil, lost to centrist candidate Sebastiao Melo in the southern city of Porto Alegre.

In the northeastern city of Recife, scene of a left-wing family feud pitting two cousins against each other, Joao Campos of the center-left Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) defeated Marilia Arraes of the PT.

Bolsonaro, who currently has no political party — but must choose one to stand in 2022 — meanwhile got bleak results for his candidates.

Just two of the 13 mayoral candidates he endorsed won, and nine of 45 city council candidates.


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Fauci warns of post-Thanksgiving surge in US Covid-19 cases

America should prepare for a “surge upon a surge” in coronavirus cases as millions of travellers return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, top US scientist Anthony Fauci warned Sunday.

The United States is the worst-affected country, with 266,074 Covid-19 deaths, and President Donald Trump‘s administration has issued conflicting messages on mask-wearing, travel and the danger posed by the virus.

“There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel,” Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union.” 

Travel surrounding Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday made this the busiest week in US airports since the pandemic began.

“We may see a surge upon a surge” in two or three weeks, Fauci added. “We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s the reality.”

The trend is ominous, Fauci and other government scientists said, with the Christmas holidays soon bringing more travel and family gatherings.

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted a surge in Covid-19 after a holiday weekend in May.

“Now we’re entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country,’ she told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“We are deeply worried.”

The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, was equally blunt. 

“I want to be straight with the American people,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s going to get worse over the next several weeks.”

Desperate wait for vaccine 

Elsewhere, thousands of health workers marched in Madrid in support of the public health system in Spain, one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

And guards opened fire to quell a prison riot in Sri Lanka, where four inmates were killed while protesting a surge of coronavirus infections.

In France, the highest administrative court ordered the government to loosen rules allowing no more than 30 people at religious services, in the face of angry objections from church leaders.

Around 9,000 runners — some wearing face masks — took part in the Shanghai International Marathon, according to Chinese media, a mass-participation sports event rare during the pandemic.

And New York City again took a small step back toward normality, as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that elementary schools would reopen for in-person instruction on December 7. 

The US news media, meantime, reported that first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 — one of the first to claim high effectiveness, along with a Moderna product — had arrived in the United States from a Pfizer lab in Belgium.

Pfizer was using charter flights to pre-position vaccine for quick distribution once it receives US emergency authorization — expected as early as December 10 — the Wall Street Journal and other media reported.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both said to be safe and perhaps 95 percent effective, have introduced a glimmer of hope after months of gloomy news.

“This is the way we get out of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the US official overseeing coronavirus testing, told CNN.

But like Fauci and the other scientists, he expressed grave concerns about the months immediately ahead.

“About 20 percent of all people in the hospital have Covid, so this is a really dangerous time,” Giroir said. 

Europe struggles to reopen 

Until large numbers of Americans have been vaccinated — Giroir said half the eligible population might be by March — much will still depend on people taking precautions, including mask-wearing and distancing, he and Fauci said.

Giroir said it might take until the second or third quarter of next year for most Americans to be vaccinated, but that substantial benefits would accrue much sooner.

By first vaccinating those at highest risk, he said, “we can absolutely get 80 percent of the benefit of the vaccine by only immunizing a few percent of the population.”

Adams, the US surgeon general also expressed cautious optimism, saying, “We are mere weeks away from starting to vaccinate the vulnerable, and we can significantly protect people who are at risk for this virus.

“So hang on just a little bit longer.”

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,453,074 people worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.

Europe on Saturday crossed a grim barrier, registering 400,649 deaths.

Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe’s coronavirus nightmare, reached on Friday the mark of more than one million cases.


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US President-elect Joe Biden chooses all-female White House communications team

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President-elect Joe Biden will have an all-female senior communications team at his White House, led by campaign communications director Kate Bedingfield.

Bedingfield will serve as Biden’s White House communications director, and Jen Psaki, a longtime Democratic spokeswoman, will be his press secretary.

Biden also plans to name Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, according to a person familiar with the transition process granted anonymity to speak freely about internal deliberations.

All three are veterans of the Obama administration. Bedingfield served as communications director for Biden while he was vice president; Psaki was a White House communications director and a spokesperson at the State Department; and Tanden served as a senior adviser to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House,” Biden said in a statement.

“These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” he added.

Karine Jean Pierre, who was Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ chief of staff, will serve as a principal deputy press secretary for the president-elect. She’s another Obama administration alum, having served as a regional political director for the White House office of political affairs.

Pili Tobar, who was communications director for coalitions on Biden’s campaign, will be his deputy White House communications director.


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Making Bar Trivia Virtual – The New York Times

“There was a very concerted call and an effort within the trivia community to make sure that you’re not just asking questions about white America and white Americana,” Ms. Yu said.

Newcomers to trivia, even those with decent general knowledge and a trove of weirder info lodged somewhere in the hippocampus, may find quiz questions difficult. “To be completely honest, a lot of the pub trivia I played online is too hard,” said Bill Patschak, a founder of the new site BPtrivia. But, as with any new skill, players improve through practice, learning not only facts but the types of questions asked, and the way writers might frame them.

“Everyone is an expert in something,” Ms. Yu said reassuringly. “And they do know more than they think they do.” And if thinking too hard about health crises or fraught transfers of power has you down, it can be relaxing to spend 10 minutes or a couple of hours immersing yourself in material that doesn’t matter at all.

“It’s testing knowledge, but it’s not testing anything important,” Shayne Busfield, a founder of the exclusive quiz site Learned League said.

Here are some ways to play bar trivia from home, with or without pants. Just bring your brain, and your own booze.

Bar trivia without the bar

Many major trivia companies, like King Trivia, Geeks Who Drink, Brainstormer Trivia! and the Big Quiz Thing, have all migrated some of their live events online. While O’Brien’s weekly quizzes are invite-only, its monthly Frankenquizes, found via the pub’s Facebook and Twitter pages, are open to all. There are two rounds of 15 questions each, plus two handouts (now Google docs) that players work on in snatched minutes between rounds.

If you can assemble a dedicated squad, remotely, try Online Quiz League USA, which Mr. Bahnaman co-founded and described as a bowling league for the brain. Each week, your four-person team plays another via Zoom, Skype or Messenger. The season finishes with a cup tournament, when teams play for trophies and bragging rights.

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LA residents face off against officers evicting homeless families from state-owned houses on Thanksgiving

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Residents and protesters in Los Angeles, California confronted law enforcement officers violently evicting homeless and housing-insecure families from state-owned houses at night on November 25 and 26. The families, members of a local housing activist group, argued that they were using the homes to “shelter in place” as Covid-19 cases surged in California.

On the night before Thanksgiving, officers of the California Highway Patrol (a state law enforcement agency) were filmed knocking down the door of a house with a battering ram in the city’s El Sereno neighbourhood.

A video in a November 26 Twitter thread posted by security CEO Chad Loder shows officers ramming the door of the house while indignant onlookers yell at them to stop, saying that “there’s a family in there”.

The vacant house, purchased by the California Department of Transportation for demolition for its defunct 710 freeway expansion project, was one of many occupied since Wednesday morning by 20 families in the “Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community” activist group. A November 25 YouTube video by the group stated that the families included “children as young as 3 months old and seniors over 70 years old […] that have been living in cars and in encampments”.

As the situation escalated, officers were filmed carrying out struggling members amid screams from onlookers.

The officers also entered other houses on the block occupied by “Remain” members, as this video shows. However, they were met with resistance from locals, who tried to prevent the officers from circulating on the block and berated them for their actions.

This November 26 Twitter video shows rattled officers yelling at locals to ‘get back’ as they peacefully stand in the officers’ way.

This November 26 Twitter video shows a man berating a line of silent officers. ‘Are you guys proud of yourselves? Happy Thanksgiving,’ he says. ‘Your kids are going to be embarrassed to tell their friends what their parents do for a living.’

Local news channel ABC7 reported that around 100 officers were present in the neighbourhood that night. It wasn’t clear how many people were evicted.

On November 26, the night of Thanksgiving, officers returned to the same neighbourhood amid protests from a large crowd of local residents and demonstrators, who rallied following the diffusion of the previous night’s videos on social media. 

This November 27 Twitter video shows demonstrators facing off against a couple of dozen officers in front of another home in the El Sereno neighbourhood, chanting, ‘Pigs go home!’

As the scene grew more chaotic, officers tied up and carried off people who appear to have been demonstrating in front of the homes, while the crowd screamed insults at them.

On November 27 at 7.30am PST, it is not known how many people were evicted. FRANCE 24 Observers has reached out to the California Highway Patrol, who has not responded to inquiries.

A movement to reclaim community homes months in the making

Members of the “Reclaim” activist group first occupied vacant state-owned homes in El Sereno in March, as California ordered residents to shelter in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

This eventually led to the creation of a transition housing programme by the state in late October, turning 23 of the vacant properties into temporary housing for people in need, including 13 families from the activist group. Members of the programme could be allowed to stay in the homes for up to two years.

Activists, however, want to see the homes become permanent housing by transferring them to the community’s land trust so that they would be owned communally. 

‘It is unconscionable that anyone should be forced to spend Thanksgiving, or any other day of the year, on the street.’

Addressing the evictions in a November 26 Twitter post, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León said that his office “worked to secure hotel vouchers and other rapid rehousing solutions for those in immediate need” and was working with state officials to expand permanent housing solutions for more families. He also criticised the “physical methods of enforcement” used by the officers, saying that images of the evictions were “heartbreaking” and “unacceptable”.

Although he mentioned that the city had begun to house people in some of the vacant homes, he did not specify whether the homes from which the families were evicted were a part of the transition housing programme.

In an email to local news channel CBSLA, a representative of the California Department of Transportation said that the homes in question were unsafe and uninhabitable for occupants, and that officers were ordered to remove trespassers so that the properties could be re-secured.

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Trump says he will leave the White House if US Electoral College votes for Biden

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U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov. 3 election, even as he reiterated his unfounded claims of massive voter fraud.

Speaking to reporters on the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Trump said if Democrat Biden – who is due to be sworn in on Jan. 20 – is certified the election winner by the Electoral College, he will depart the White House.

But Trump said it would be hard for him to concede under the current circumstances and declined to say whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration. The electors are scheduled to meet on Dec. 14.

“This election was a fraud,” Trump insisted, while offering no concrete evidence of such voting irregularities.

Biden and Trump both stayed close to home to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic raged across the country.

Biden spent the holiday in the small seaside town of Rehoboth, Delaware, where he and his wife Jill have a vacation home. The Bidens are hosting daughter Ashley Biden and her husband Dr. Howard Krein for the holiday meal.

The former vice president, appearing with his wife in a video message posted to his Twitter account on Thanksgiving, said his family typically holds a large gathering on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts, but would remain in Delaware this year “with just a small group around our dinner table” because of the pandemic.

In the presidential-style address to a nation that has lost more than 260,000 lives to the coronavirus, the Democratic president-elect said Americans were making a “shared sacrifice for the whole country” and a “statement of common purpose” by staying at home with their immediate families.

“I know this isn’t the way many of us hoped we’d spend our holiday. We know that a small act of staying home is a gift to our fellow Americans,” said Biden. “I know better days are coming.”

Republican President Trump often likes to celebrate holidays at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida. But on Thursday he remained in the Washington area, spending part of the morning at his Trump National Golf Club in Virginia where he played a round of golf.

It was a far cry from last year when he made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, where he served turkey to U.S. troops before sitting down to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them.

This time, Trump spoke by video link from the White House to members of the military.


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