5 things to know for October 20: Covid-19, economy, US election, Russia, Iraq

Sky watchers, take note. The Orionid meteor shower peaks early tomorrow morning, lighting up the darkness with the remnants of Halley’s Comet.

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Coronavirus 

There have now been more than 40 million cases of coronavirus recorded worldwide. As the numbers tick up, vaccine trials are evolving. The UK government signed a contract for the first human challenge studies, in which healthy volunteers are deliberately infected with the coronavirus in a controlled setting, and some receive an experimental vaccine. That’s a different process than a typical Phase 3 trial, in which volunteers are given the vaccine with the assumption that at least some of them will be exposed to the virus in their daily lives. In the US, Johnson & Johnson and the FDA are still mum on why the pharmaceutical giant paused its coronavirus vaccine trial last week. That concerns health experts who point out that, when you’re asking millions of people to roll up their sleeves and trust you, transparency is key.

2. Economy 

That stimulus deadline proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is coming up today, and Republican lawmakers are doubtful she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will come up with something everyone will agree to. The stock markets aren’t confident, either. The Dow went on a roller coaster yesterday over enviable new economic reports from China before ending in the red as stimulus hopes faded. No matter what happens next, the economy is in a precarious position. Amid ominous job numbers and ongoing uncertainty over stimulus talks, a new S&P report estimates there’s a 30% to 35% chance the country will fall back into a recession.

3. Election 2020

The Commission on Presidential Debates has made some changes to the rules for Thursday’s meeting between President Trump and Joe Biden in hopes it will be a little more, shall we say, civil than last month’s event. How? There’s now a plan to mute an opposing candidate’s microphones while the other person speaks. We’ll see how that plays out. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has rejected a GOP plan to limit the time period in which mail-in ballots can be counted in Pennsylvania. Now, the ballots will be counted if they are received within three days of Election Day, even if they don’t have a postmark. In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis has activated members of the National Guard to assist in cybersecurity defense efforts during the election.

4. Russia 

Six Russian military officers have been charged in an alleged worldwide cyberattack that caused nearly $1 billion in losses. According to the Justice Department, the hacking scheme executed by members of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, targeted major foreign powers and former Soviet republics, and attempted to subvert investigations into nefarious Kremlin activities. The efforts included alleged attacks against Ukraine, the nation of Georgia, French elections and the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, plus efforts to hold Russia accountable for use of Novichok, a weapons-grade nerve agent, on foreign soil. Coincidentally, the British government has just accused the GRU of carrying out cyberattacks on officials and organizations involved in planning the 2020 Olympics.

5. Iraq

The US State Department is putting pressure on Iraq’s government to rein in the actions of Iran-backed militias after an attack north of Baghdad last week left eight dead and four missing. The bloody incident comes after Iraqi security forces failed to prevent the burning of the Kurdistan Democratic Party headquarters in Baghdad after it was attacked by “Iran-backed elements,” according to the State Department. The Trump administration has long threatened to close the US embassy in Baghdad if aggression from Iranian-backed militias isn’t dealt with.


Air New Zealand is bringing back ‘mystery breaks’ to lure travelers back

Imagine the confidence you have to have to book an entire vacation without knowing where you’re going.

Hummer fans hope the new electric model redeems the divisive brand

The electric Hummer: a study in opposites.

Rich people are buying more fine jewelry during the pandemic

Quarantine gets boring, dahhlhling, and diamonds are fun!

Twitter users have chosen their least favorite famous Chris (you know, Evans, Pine, Pratt, etc.) 

Chris Pratt, it looks like you would be voted off a hypothetical Chris Island.

Archaeologists unearth ‘huge number’ of sealed Egyptian sarcophagi

And we’re going to leave them sealed, right? … RIGHT?!



That’s how many more employees CVS is hiring, in addition to 50,000 previously hired, to deal with the pandemic. About 10,000 of these jobs are full-time and part-time positions for licensed pharmacy technicians.


“If women can’t feel safe and continue to live their lives properly in Namibia, then nobody should and we have to shut it all down until we can do that.”

Namibian activist Bertha Tobias, explaining the wave of anti-femicide protests going on in her country. Demonstrators want concrete actions against the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence in Namibia.


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A story in silk

It takes skill, patience and a massive loom to make Nanjing yunjin, a type of Chinese silk that dates back almost 2,000 years. (Click here to view.)