10 things you need to know today: August 12, 2020

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he has picked Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate. Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, will be the first woman of color on a major party ticket, making her a historic choice as a vice-presidential candidate at a time of nationwide protests against racial injustice. She ran for the presidential nomination in a crowded field, and briefly surged in polls after criticizing Biden’s record on school integration during a debate. Harris, a pragmatic moderate, was considered a strong but safe pick for Biden. Harris earned a reputation for aggressively questioning Trump administration officials and nominees in Senate hearings. President Trump called her “nasty” and “just about the most liberal person in the U.S. Senate.” [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office announced Tuesday that it is “investigating patterns and practices of the Aurora Police Department that might deprive individuals of their constitutional rights under state or federal law.” The civil rights inquiry came after several high-profile cases of alleged excessive force and misconduct. The review began several weeks ago, a spokesperson said, and is separate from an investigation into the 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, an unarmed Black man who died after officers used a chokehold on him. Earlier Tuesday, McClain’s family filed a lawsuit against the Aurora Police Department and paramedics, who injected him with ketamine. Last week, a video went viral showing Aurora officers holding a Black family at gunpoint, after police mistakenly thought they were in a stolen car. [The Denver Post, The Associated Press]

The nationwide single-day coronavirus death toll exceeded 1,000 again on Tuesday after falling over the weekend, extending the trend of four-digit tolls for a fourth week. Florida and Georgia recorded record high single-day death tolls. Florida had 277 of the nation’s 1,282 deaths, and Georgia reported 122, according to The Washington Post‘s data analysis. More than 200 Florida residents age 25 to 44 have now died of COVID-19, more than half of them in July, The New York Times reported, citing an analysis of Florida Department of Health data. That’s a small slice of the more than 8,000 COVID-19 deaths in the state, but it marks a shift in a state where Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has frequently stressed that the coronavirus crisis is concentrated among the very old. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

The Big Ten and Pac-12 college conferences on Tuesday called off their fall football seasons due to coronavirus concerns. “This was an extremely difficult and painful decision that we know will have important impacts on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and our fans,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. The Big Ten is postponing all fall sports, but hoping to hold a make-up season of some kind in the spring. In a sign of how fast the situation is evolving, the Big Ten’s announcement came just six days after it released a revised football schedule that only included conference games. Without centralized leadership, the NCAA football conferences are making their own decisions, and the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, and Southeastern Conference all have plans to play a season. [The Associated Press]

Scientists in Russia and other countries warned Tuesday that Russia’s claim to have registered the first coronavirus vaccine was not the breakthrough that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed. They noted that the vaccine had not gone through final-stage, Phase 3 trials, which are expected to take months and are the only way to be sure an experimental drug is safe and effective. “Fast-tracked approval will not make Russia the leader in the race, it will just expose consumers of the vaccine to unnecessary danger,” said Russia’s Association of Clinical Trials Organizations, which urged government officials to delay approval until the advanced trials are completed. Russian officials say large-scale production of the vaccine is scheduled for September, with vaccination of doctors starting as early as this month. [The Associated Press]

The Democratic National Convention Committee on Tuesday unveiled the list of speakers at next week’s Democratic National Convention. Former President Barack Obama and several former presidential candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are scheduled to speak. One former primary hopeful not on the list, Andrew Yang, said he had “expected to speak.” The convention will largely be held virtually, and speakers are expected to appear via livestream or pre-recorded videos. Other speakers include former first lady Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to accept the nomination via video from Delaware. His newly announced running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, is slotted to speak on Wednesday night. [CNN]

Belarus opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has fled to Lithuania as crowds continue to protest the reelection of longtime authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in a vote widely criticized as rigged. Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said Tikhanovskaya had arrived and was “safe.” In Belarus, riot police have fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades at people who have taken to the streets in Minsk since election officials announced that Lukashenko beat Tikhanovskaya, 80 percent to 10 percent, in the rare contested national election. No outside observers were allowed to monitor the election, and the internet was down for much of the day, bolstering allegations of voting fraud. Tikhanovskaya claimed Monday that she actually won the popular vote. [BBC News, Lithuanian Foreign Ministry]

President Trump said Tuesday that the federal government will purchase 100 million doses of Moderna’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, now in late-stage human trials. Moderna said separately that the deal is worth $1.5 billion, bringing the U.S. investment in Moderna’s vaccine development to $2.5 billion. The new deal gives the government the option to buy up to 400 million doses, Moderna said. The U.S. has similar arrangements with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, and other drug makers for early access to their potential COVID-19 vaccines. “We are investing in the development and manufacture of the top six vaccine candidates to ensure rapid delivery,” Trump said. “The military is ready to go, they’re ready to deliver a vaccine to Americans as soon as one is fully approved by the FDA.” [CNBC]

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday announced that she had ordered a new lockdown after the confirmation of four new COVID-19 cases, the country’s first in 102 days. All of the cases came from the same household in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. The lockdown will last from midday Wednesday through midnight Friday. Schools, most businesses, bars, and other non-essential places will be closed. “These three days will give us time to assess the situation, gather information, make sure we have widespread contact tracing so we can find out more about how this case arose and make decisions about how to respond,” Ardern said at a hastily arranged news conference. The country has been seen as a success case since Ardern’s government declared that COVID-19 had been effectively eradicated in June. [New York Post]

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) won her primary against four challengers on Tuesday, beating her main opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, by more than 15 percentage points. Omar, the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress, completed a clean sweep in reelection contests for the members of the “squad” of progressive women of color elected to Congress in 2018. In another high-profile primary, controversial Republican candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for her incendiary rhetoric, defeated equally pro-Trump neurosurgeon John Cowan. Greene has embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory that asserts that President Trump is fighting “deep state,” Satan-worshipping saboteurs who traffic children for sex. She was ahead by about 15 percentage points early Wednesday, all but wrapping up the election in the deep-red district. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]



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