Freedom trumps health. At least that’s what Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp seems to believe as the U.S. set another daily record for new coronavirus cases: 77,300. He’s sued Atlanta and other cities to prevent them from enforcing mask-wearing requirements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, two other major pandemic hot spots hit milestones: Brazil topped 2 million cases and India exceeded 1 million. And as with President Donald Trump, who’s encouraged resistance to pandemic-related restrictions, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is facing anger after the country added its second million cases in 27 days.
They’re following the thread. After a massive Twitter hack this week saw the accounts of Barack Obama and Kanye West, among others, roped into a cryptocurrency scam, the FBI is investigating what went wrong. It could have big implications for national security, given that Twitter is one of President Trump’s favorite channels for reaching the public — though his account wasn’t one of those hacked. If Twitter can’t figure out how the hackers got in and stop similar attacks in the future, the next hack could be from more malicious actors or even a foreign government.
An $850 billion coronavirus relief fund hangs in the balance as EU leaders meet to negotiate during what French President Emmanuel Macron called a “moment of truth.” A major issue is what proportion of the fund will be dispersed as grants and what proportion as loans. Hard-hit countries like Spain and Italy are desperate for a quick decision to help restart sluggish, virus-hit economies, while others have called for a more measured response. Meanwhile, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán could set fire to the process by insisting payments not be linked to a member state’s rule of law.
Lots of indicators are down, some of which are great if you’re buying or refinancing a home: The average 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate in the U.S. has fallen to 2.98 percent. That’s the lowest in the 50 years that the statistic has been compiled. That’s the good news. “It’s also an indication that we remain in a crisis,” said one economist. That may have been what kept Wall Street investors restrained yesterday, when major indexes fell about a half a percent and continued declining overnight.
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Call it online research. British security officials say hacking group APT29 — implicated in 2016 U.S. election meddling — is targeting coronavirus vaccine researchers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. in what’s “almost certainly” a Russian intelligence operation. The effort appears aimed at stealing data, not sabotage, and it’s unclear if it’s succeeded. Not that the federation isn’t doing its own research: Twenty-four people have reportedly developed COVID-19 antibodies in a Russian trial this month, and Kremlin health officials plan to produce 30 million vaccine doses this year.
Future political trends may be leaning more and more toward artificial intelligence in rooting out undecided voters, discovering what moves them and exploiting those proclivities, OZY reports. And it’s not just for well-funded national efforts. Companies such as Numinar and AdVictory are propelling conservatives to win state and local elections, while Democrats are turning to AI and machine learning outfits like OutFox A.I. and Call Time. The tech helps candidates predict “which values matter most to people,” says one digital consultant. “There is no way to do any of this without A.I.”
Like cats, minks can get COVID-19. For some 92,700 of them being raised for their pelt in Spain, that means a 100 percent mortality rate. Testing revealed that 87 percent of the creatures at a farm 60 miles northwest of Valencia are carrying the virus, prompting the Aragon region’s agriculture minister to order a cull to avoid human transmission. They’ve been isolated since late May, when seven farm workers tested positive. A similar scenario at 20 Dutch farms led to the killing of tens of thousands of mink. Spanish authorities are monitoring 120 human outbreaks since lockdown was lifted in June.
Is Doctor Strange an agent of China? It’s a “massive propaganda coup,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said yesterday, that Disney subsidiary Marvel chose to rewrite a Tibetan monk character as Celtic in Doctor Strange. That’s just one way Disney and tech companies are “kowtowing” to Beijing, he said in the latest salvo of the Trump administration’s increasingly confrontational China stance. Barr also noted that Apple removed the Quartz news app from its App Store after Chinese officials complained about its Hong Kong coverage. Many companies haven’t responded, but Cisco said it complies “fully with all export rules.”
This may be a good time for a new name. Fresh off of being pressured into dropping their racist “Redskins” moniker, Washington, D.C.’s NFL franchise must now answer to harassment claims. The Washington Post reports that 17 women, including two journalists and 15 former employees, made sexual misconduct and verbal abuse claims. Two men, one a senior vice president fired last week, and another an executive who retired Wednesday, were named as responsible, but haven’t commented. The accusers also said team owner Daniel Snyder, while not directly culpable, helped to create an environment that allowed such behavior.