By Jonnelle Marte and Jessica Resnick-Ault March 26 (Reuters) - Optician Ali Nelson sent the final few orders of eyeglasses to clients last week before her Washington D.C.-based store closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Without a paycheck indefinitely, Nelson is one of potentially tens of millions other Americans whose livelihoods are now in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic. The weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department on Thursday is set to offer the clearest evidence yet of the coronavirus' devastating impact on the economy. Behind the numbers, which are expected to hit a new record, are worried workers like Nelson. She has already filed to receive unemployment benefits, a relatively painless process that took minutes online. But Nelson is unsure of how much money she might receive, and worries how she'll support a family of six on the amount. The maximum offered in the District of Columbia – just about $450 a week – won't be enough to cover her rent in Fairfax County, Virginia, much less health insurance, groceries and utilities. "This is not sustainable," said Nelson, 52, the primary breadwinner in her household, which includes her veteran husband who is in school and two working kids. Many of the millions of Americans bracing for life on unemployment benefits are doing so for the first time in their lives as retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants and other small business shut their doors amid the outbreak. Congress is finalizing a stimulus bill that would boost unemployment payments by $600 a week for people affected by the virus. It could also expand access to the program for self-employed workers and freelancers, who are not typically covered by the traditional program. How much money out-of-work Americans should get remained a stumbling block to the bill passing on Wednesday. Currently, U.S. unemployment benefits usually amount to half of a worker's previous pay, less than in most other developed countries. Even if the bill does pass this week, it is not clear when consumers will get cash. The surge in unemployment claims overwhelmed some states and led to processing delays. Payments of $1,200 per low and mid-income adult, promised by the White House, may take the tax agency months to process. The uncertainty is leaving at least some in this newly-unemployed set of Americans increasingly anxious. Scott Thomas, 34, lost his job as co-creative director for The Ride, a tour of Manhattan last week. As he jumped through hoops to file for unemployment this week, he said he had put aside his goals to vacation in Las Vegas this summer. “I don’t want to take the financial risk," he said. "NOT GOING TO BE SUFFICIENT" Unemployment benefits are meant to help tide workers over financially while they look for a new job. They can also help the economy rebound more quickly from a downturn by providing households with money so they can keep spending. However, the generosity of the U.S. program, which is administered by states, varies across the country. Each state determines the level of wages that are subject to unemployment insurance taxes as long as it's above the federal minimum of $7,000, according to a report by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. But many states collect taxes off a low base and some states pay lower benefits, the report found. The U.S. program offers unemployed people benefits for a shorter time and with more conditions to meet than many advanced countries, an October 2019 report from the United Nations' International Labor Office shows. The average weekly benefit was $377 in the fourth quarter of 2019, with averages ranging from slightly above $200 in some states to more than $500 in others. For some U.S. households with little to no savings, that may not be enough to cover their essential bills. Half of U.S. households have no emergency savings, and nearly 40% would struggle to afford an unexpected expense of $400, according to a survey https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2019-economic-well-being-of-us-households-in-2018-dealing-with-unexpected-expenses.htm by the Federal Reserve. Black and Hispanic workers are more likely to struggle with their monthly bills, as are people with a high school degree or less, according to the study. The changes being considered this week, which broaden access to the program and increase payments, highlight the holes in the economic safety net, economists say. "As important as these programs are, they're not going to be sufficient in a lot of cases," said Dave Cooper, senior economic analyst for the Economic Policy Institute in Washington D.C. "Unfortunately, unemployment benefits may not be enough for some folks to pay their bills." In the meantime, the benefits for workers can be low if the program is not adjusted. Louis DeAngelis, 26, worked as a bar tender in Plymouth, New Hampshire, until early last week, when the governor closed all bars and restaurants because of the virus. After applying without any problems, he found out he will receive $159 a week, or slightly less than half of his weekly income. That won't be enough to cover the rent, said DeAngelis, who was supposed to move to a new apartment in April. For now he is now looking into staying with friends or family. The money he saved for his security deposit will likely need to be used to help pay for his phone, car payment, insurance, utilities and food. "I'm fortunate to have some family who are willing to help," said DeAngelis, who also worked as a substitute teacher. "I've got options, but a lot of folks don't." (Reporting by Jonnelle Marte and Jessica Resnick Ault; editing by Heather Timmons and Edward Tobin)
- Yahoo News
If it takes a miracle for Trump to stay in office, evangelicals like Michele Bachmann are fine with that
As the inevitability of President Trump’s loss became apparent even to his acolyte Kellyanne Conway in recent days, his supporters increasingly pinned their hopes for a second term on a last-ditch appeal, not to the Supreme Court, but to the one power that can outvote it: God.
- Yahoo News
David Cohen, who helped spearhead CIA modernization efforts, could be Biden's pick for the agency's post-Trump future
Cohen is reportedly being considered as one of President-elect Joe Biden’s candidates for CIA director amid pushback from human rights experts and progressives opposed to Michael Morell, Biden’s original top choice.
- The Independent
Educator says she wants to keep on teaching when Joe Biden becomes president
Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of its deal with major powers, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Friday, a move that will raise pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, which was apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.
- Associated Press
The European Union’s aviation safety agency has extended a ban imposed on Pakistan's state-run airline this year barring it from flying to Europe after a plane crash that killed 97 people in the port city of Karachi, a spokesman said Friday. At the time — and while the probe into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash was still underway — authorities acknowledged that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots, 260 out of 860, had cheated on their pilot’s exams. Pakistan International Airlines subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots while a probe by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority into the other pilots is still ongoing.
- Yahoo News 360
Media reports suggest President Trump is eyeing another bid for the White House in four years. Will Trump 2024 become a reality?
- The Week
President-elect Joe Biden has settled on a team to lead the U.S. through its biggest ongoing crisis, two people familiar with the decision tell Politico.Jeff Zients, who headed the National Economic Council under former President Barack Obama and is co-chair of Biden's transition team, will reportedly be named the White House's COVID-19 coordinator. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general under Obama, will reportedly return to his role with more responsibilities, and Biden's coronavirus advisory board co-chair Marcella Nunez-Smith will get a special role focused on health disparities.Zients "isn't a health care guru, and he's the first to say that," one source close to Biden told Politico. But his managerial experience is seen as an asset as the U.S. prepares to roll out a vaccine and combat the coronavirus-induced economic crisis — "he's essentially playing that role with the transition now," the source said. Zients will reportedly be paired with health experts including Murthy, who has already been a part of Biden's coronavirus plans. Nunez-Smith, a Yale University associate professor of medicine, will meanwhile help address how COVID-19 and other health care issues disproportionately affect people of color.The left wing of the Democratic party isn't expected to be thrilled with Zients' selection, The New York Times reports. Progressive groups such as Revolving Door Project and Justice Democrats have already pointed out his corporate record, and the fact that an anesthesia company managed under the investment firm Zients ran had poor reviews. Under Obama, "his role was essentially to be a management consultant for the executive branch: cutting costs, finding efficiencies and looking at things like a businessman," Revolving Door said in a document about Zients' background.More stories from theweek.com What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims The Donald goes down to Georgia
The "ambitious" target for 2030 would see the UK move faster than any major economy, the PM says.
Russia protested on Friday after Latvia charged several journalists from the Rossiya Segodnya news agency with violating European Union sanctions. The journalists were charged because of their association with Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads Rossiya Segodnya, said Sputnik Latvia, a subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya. The Kremlin media mogul was sanctioned by the EU for his role in Russia's seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
- Associated Press
The United Nations' human rights chief lamented a deteriorating situation in Belarus and said Friday that reported beatings of protesters by security forces may in some cases amount to torture. Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Human Rights Council there has been no improvement since a September debate about Belarus and “recent weeks have seen continued deterioration, particularly with respect to the right of peaceful assembly.”
- The Week
President-elect Joe Biden said when it comes to the Department of Justice, he is "not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do."Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, and the discussion turned to reports that President Trump is contemplating preemptively pardoning his adult children, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Biden said this "concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks [at] us as a nation of laws and justice."Biden promised that he is "not going to be saying, 'Go prosecute A, B, or C,' I'm not going to be telling them. That's not the role, it's not my Justice Department, it's the people's Justice Department. So the persons or person I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted, who doesn't."Harris, who once served as California's attorney general, added that the administration will assume that "any decision coming out of the Justice Department ... should be based on the law, it should not be influence by politics, period."More stories from theweek.com What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims The Donald goes down to Georgia
A Chinese official's tweet of an image of an Australian soldier that sparked a furious reaction from Canberra was amplified across social media by unusual accounts, of which half were likely fake, an Israeli cybersecurity firm and Australian experts said. The digitally altered image of an Australian soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of an Afghan child was tweeted by China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday. Twitter declined Australia's request to remove the tweet.
- Associated Press
Fire danger remained high Friday amid unpredictable wind gusts and dry conditions in Southern California, as crews made progress against blazes that burned several homes and injured two firefighters. The region's notorious Santa Ana winds decreased slightly but red flag warnings of extreme wildfire risk were in place into the weekend because of low humidity. After the weather calms in the southern part of the state, winds are expected to increase in Northern California starting Sunday, forecasters said.
- The Week
President Trump reportedly needs no encouragement to start praising the dangerous, baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.The most pressing matter for federal Republicans right now is the upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia, which will determine control of the body. But in a meeting with advisers and top Senate Republicans about that matter, Trump totally derailed the conversation by bringing up QAnon, people familiar with the discussion tell The Washington Post.Trump is reportedly not thrilled with Georgia and that fact that it flipped for President-elect Joe Biden, and is publicly upset with Republican leaders in the state who haven't somehow overturned the election for him. So even though Republican advisers say Trump's help is "key to convincing his die-hard supporters to vote for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue" in the January runoff election, the president isn't thrilled about doing so, the Post reports. "Advisers say he has been frustrated at how some GOP senators have criticized him," leading Trump to appear "disinterested" when discussing Senate campaign plans, the Post continues.That was clear in a recent meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), and other aides. As they discussed Georgia's Senate races, Trump brought up the QAnon-supporting soon-to-be congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene. Trump mispronounced the name of the group as "Q-an-uhn," and then said supporters of the theory that purports Democrats are a cannibalistic, pedophilic cabal "basically believe in good government," people familiar tell the Post. Everyone reportedly went silent until White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows mentioned he had "never heard it described that way," the Post reports.Trump has been asked to denounce QAnon several times, but usually gives the theory his tacit approval instead.More stories from theweek.com What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims The Donald goes down to Georgia
- Reuters Videos
Sheets upon sheets of counterfeit cash. Police in Peru showed off a stash of nearly $6 million in counterfeit U.S notes on Wednesday (December 2) -- after they were seized in an operation in Lima. One person was arrested following the raid on Tuesday (December 1). According to local media, the individual detained in the operation was arrested for prior counterfeit offenses. Local police say Peru is considered to be one of the main countries in the world where dollars are forged, surpassing Colombia.
Philippine police on Friday threatened to cane people who violate social distancing protocols as the Southeast Asian nation fights the spread of the coronavirus during the festive season. The Philippines celebrates one of the world's longest Christmas seasons, starting as early as September, and crowds have started to flock to sprawling malls and shopping centres despite the pandemic. Police general Cesar Binag, commander of the coronavirus task force, told a news conference that police and soldiers would patrol in public areas in the capital Manila, the hotspot of COVID-19 cases, carrying 1 meter rattan sticks to measure distancing.
- Associated Press
After interviewing Dan Quayle in Arizona for his documentary on the vice presidency, filmmaker Jeffrey Roth was rushing to the airport to catch a flight to Wyoming, where he had an appointment with Dick Cheney the next morning. It was Vice President Mike Pence and his entourage. “Ben Franklin, when the Constitution was written, said, ‘we should refer to the vice president as ’his superfluous excellency,'” President-elect Joe Biden, who served eight years as Barack Obama's vice president, says in the film.
- The Week
There appears to be growing support among Senate Republicans for a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill introduced earlier this week, reports The Washington Post.The $908 billion package — championed by moderate Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (D-Maine), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) — is in between what Democratic leadership is pushing for and what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has suggested. The moderates suggested an unemployment boost and money for state governments, but no stimulus checks.While McConnell on Thursday continued to resist the bipartisan bill, pushing instead for his version, which the White House has endorsed, other Republican senators got on board with the package. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) signaled they were open to the bipartisan bill.Democratic leaders said they believed the $908 billion package should be the basis for negotiations. Several Republicans echoed that, saying it wasn't exactly what they wanted but it made for a good starting point.McConnell didn't comment directly on the bipartisan proposal, but instead urged lawmakers to pull the trigger on his version, which he called "a serious and highly targeted relief proposal including elements which we know the president is ready and willing to sign into law."More stories from theweek.com What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims The Donald goes down to Georgia
- USA TODAY
Five executions are scheduled before Joe Biden, who opposes capital punishment, takes office. Ninety current and former law officials want a halt.
The largest U.S. bank lobby group is spending $1 million on television ads to boost Republican Senator David Perdue in a bid to ensure the Senate remains in Republican hands after Georgia election runoffs in January, according to federal filings. Perdue, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee and has long been an industry ally, backing lighter banking regulations, is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.