5 things you need to know now
5 things you need to know now
  • Trump officially nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

  • New York reports 1,000 coronavirus cases for first time in months

  • Johnson & Johnson shares promising early vaccine trial results

  • Portland preparing for potentially violent dueling protests

  • Lebanon's prime minister-designate announces resignation

As expected, President Trump on Saturday officially nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, for a Supreme Court seat following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week. Speaking at the White House, Trump described Barrett, who traveled to Washington, D.C., from her home in South Bend, Indiana, for the nomination, as "one of our nation's most gifted and brilliant legal minds" and a "woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution." During her own remarks, Barrett, who is well-respected in conservative circles, said she shares the judicial philosophy of her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Judges, she said, "must apply the law as written" while "setting aside any policy views they might hold." Barrett must now be confirmed by the Senate in what is expected to be a contentious process.

Source: The New York Times, Politico

For the first time since June 5, New York state, the home of the United States' worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began earlier this year, reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Saturday that the Empire State crossed the quadruple-digit threshold, though he didn't specifically address the number, saying only that New Yorkers should continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, and follow other mitigation guidelines. The state has seen a consistently upward trend in cases over the last week, which has prompted some concern as businesses and college campuses reopen, but New York also continues to see a high number of daily tests. The positivity rate has remained at 1 percent, or just a tick below for some time now, indicating that the high volume of tests is a significant factor in the case increase.

Source: Bloomberg, NBC New York

Johnson & Johnson published interim results from its early-to-mid stage coronavirus vaccine clinical trial Friday, reporting that 99 percent of the participants between the ages of 18 and 55 developed neutralizing antibodies against the novel virus. The analysis also found that most of the side effects associated with the vaccine were mild and resolved within a matter of days. It wasn't clear, however, whether participants over 65 were well-protected since immune response results were available for only 15 people in the demographic. One of the key aspects of Johnson & Johnson's trial is that just a single dose produced a strong immune response in participants. Other companies developing vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer are using a two-dose approach. If Johnson & Johnson's recently-launched phase three trial, in which 60,000 volunteers will enroll across three continents, eventually proves the single dose is safe and effective, it could simplify distribution of the vaccine.

Source: Reuters, CNN

Portland, Oregon, is preparing for members of the far-right group, the Proud Boys, to arrive in the city in large numbers Saturday evening, stoking fears of a clash between dueling protesters as tensions continue to rise across the United States following the decision not to charge Louisivlle, Kentucky, police officers for killing Breonna Taylor. The Proud Boys, who are known to engage in violent conflict, are headed to Portland for what the group describes as a free speech event in support of President Trump and the police, as well as a rally to "end domestic terrorism," likely referring to Portland's left-wing and antifascist activists, who have been demonstrating against police brutality for months, and have planned rallies in response to the Proud Boys. Local and state officials have condemned the Proud Boys' gathering and are sending in reinforcements to aid Portland's police force.

Source: The Guardian, The New York Times

Mustapha Adib, Lebanon's prime minister-designate, resigned Saturday after he was unable to form a non-partisan cabinet in the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion in August that killed around 200 people and left thousands homeless, prompting the last cabinet to step down amid accusations of corruption and neglect. Even before the blast, Lebanon was struggling with ongoing political and economic crises. Adib, who was designated prime minister at the end of August, was reportedly trying to move away from Lebanon's sectarian-based system of government and "create a government of experts" to address the crises, but his efforts reportedly ran into trouble when two of Lebanon's dominant Shia parties, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, insisted "they wanted the finance minister portfolio."

Source: Al Jazeera, The Financial Times