10 things you need to know today: August 20, 2020

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on the third night of the

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Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on the third night of the party's virtual convention on Wednesday, becoming the first Black and South Asian woman ever nominated to a major presidential party ticket. Harris said the United States is at an "inflection point" as President Trump creates "constant chaos" and division. "The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. We can do better and deserve so much more. We must elect a president who will bring something different ... and do the important work." Harris urged voters to get behind the party's presidential candidate, Joe Biden, saying he shares a "vision of our nation as a beloved community — where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love." [The Washington Post]

President Trump announced Wednesday that he would call for reviving all United Nations sanctions against Iran. The demand follows the Trump administration's failure to extend an arms embargo against Iran, and it set up a clash over policy toward Tehran. "Two years ago I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal, which was a product of the Obama-Biden foreign policy failure," Trump said, adding that the U.S. paid a great deal of money "for absolutely nothing and a short-term deal." Trump said if he wins re-election, "Iran will come to us and they are going to be asking for a deal so quickly because they are doing very poorly." Trump said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will present the demand to the U.N. in New York on Thursday. [The Associated Press]

Former President Barack Obama and other Democratic convention speakers on Wednesday said democracy is on the line in the November election. Obama said President Trump "hasn't grown into the job, because he can't," and that the consequences of Trump's failure "are severe. One hundred seventy thousand Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone." Obama urged voters to back Democratic candidate Joe Biden, stressing his character and experience as vice president. Other speakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), praised Biden's plans on childcare, climate change, and other issues. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton warned against dismissing Trump as many did in 2016. "For four years, people have said to me, 'I didn't realize how dangerous he was,'" Clinton said. "Well, this can't be another woulda, coulda, shoulda election." [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

Federal Reserve officials expect the U.S. economy to need more support to recover from the coronavirus crisis, according to minutes from the central bank's July 28-29 policy meeting released Wednesday. Some Fed leaders said they thought "additional accommodation could be required" to stimulate the economy as the pandemic disrupts supply chains, forces layoffs, and drags down many businesses. One change under discussion that could provide certainty was offering details on how long the Fed expects to keep interest rates near zero, after dropping them in March and increasing the central bank's asset holdings from $3 trillion to $7 trillion. U.S. stock index futures fell early Thursday as investors digested the Fed expression of uncertainty, but pared the losses after China announced that U.S.-China trade talks would resume within days. [The Wall Street Journal, CNBC]

Attorney General William Barr announced Wednesday that 1,485 people had been arrested in Operation Legend, an initiative in which the Trump administration sent more than 1,000 federal law enforcement officers to assist local law enforcement agencies in nine cities with rising crime rates. The program launched last month at a politically charged White House event. President Trump said he was targeting areas "all run by liberal Democrats," fueling suspicions the initiative was linked to the dispatching of federal agents to clamp down on sometimes violent demonstrations in Portland, Oregon. The criticism faded as the operation expanded and federal agents collaborated with police. About 217 people have been charged with federal crimes, most of them drug- or gun-related. Barr said more than 90 defendants were "suspected killers." [CNN, ABC News]

President Trump on Wednesday praised followers of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, which centers on a false narrative that Trump is leading a secret fight against a criminal band of pedophiles and satanic worshippers. "Is that supposed to be a bad thing?" Trump said. "If I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it." QAnon followers have committed acts of violence, and the FBI classified QAnon as a domestic terrorism threat. But Trump described the conspiracy theory's followers as patriots upset over unrest in cities run by Democrats. "I've heard these are people that love our country," Trump said during a White House coronavirus news conference. "So I don't know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me." [The New York Times, NPR]

Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that the United States will drop its push for the death penalty for two British Islamic State members tied to the killings of Western hostages, provided the U.K. turns over evidence needed for their prosecution. The suspects, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, are members of an ISIS execution squad nicknamed the "Beatles" because its members are English speakers. The group has been blamed for the murders of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig. Barr sent a letter to Priti Patel, Britain's interior minister, this week saying that if the U.K. doesn't provide the evidence by Oct. 15 the men will be transferred from U.S. military detention in an unidentified overseas location to the Iraq justice system. [The Washington Post, Reuters]

This week, the state of Michigan is expected to announce that it will pay $600 million to victims of the Flint water crisis, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing two people with knowledge of the matter. In 2014, the city of Flint switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the polluted Flint River, and residents were exposed to lead-contaminated water for nearly two years. Tens of thousands of residents are expected to be eligible to receive funds, the Times reports, with most of the settlement money going to children. The settlement is still subject to approval by a federal judge. [The New York Times]

Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, was rushed to the hospital Thursday and placed on a ventilator after he became suddenly ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia. Kira Yarmysh, the press secretary for Navalny's anti-corruption organization, tweeted that he apparently drank poisoned tea. Navalny, 44, has frequently been jailed by Russian state prosecutors. He once had a mysterious allergic reaction to food in a Russian jail last year and a green astringent substance thrown at his eyes and face in 2017. Critics of Putin have been poisoned in recent years, fallen to their deaths from balconies, and been assassinated in European cities. Navalny had been in Siberia campaigning for opposition candidates in upcoming local elections. [BBC News, The Guardian]

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Wednesday that there were 367 wildfires burning in the state, many apparently started by some of the nearly 11,000 dry lightning strikes that have hit Northern and Central California since Sunday. The first fatality in the fires occurred on Wednesday when a helicopter fighting a blaze crashed, killing the pilot. The Hennessy fire is one of the biggest. It started in Napa County on Monday and has spread to two other counties, Solano and Yolo. It has destroyed 50 buildings, damaged another 50 structures, and forced thousands to evacuate. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said that so far this year, more than 300,000 acres have burned in the state, compared to 270,000 acres in all of 2019. [Los Angeles Times, NPR]

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