CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 9,284,261 and the nation’s death toll stands at 231,507, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… The number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. rose 18 percent and deaths increased by 3 percent last week, according to a Reuters analysis. It marked the fourth straight week of rises in new cases, with the biggest increases seen in the last two weeks. Texas reported the most new cases last week with more than 45,600, followed by Illinois, with more than 44,500 new cases. South Dakota led the nation with the highest positive test rate at 50 percent, followed by Iowa at 44 percent and Wyoming at 43 percent. A total of 17 states had a positive test rate of over 10 percent… White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx reportedly urged “much more aggressive action” against the coronavirus in an internal memo to Trump administration officials. Birx warned that “We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic… leading to increasing mortality,” in the memo, which was obtained by the Washington Post.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DAY… Americans who have not yet voted will be casting their votes today in the historic 2020 presidential election. President Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden made their final pitches to voters yesterday. Trump appeared at rallies in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan as he seeks to avoid becoming the first incumbent president to lose re-election since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992. Biden spoke to groups in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Final polls showed Biden leading nationally and in the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A record-setting 98.4 million early votes have been cast either in person or by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project. The number is equal to 71.4 percent of the entire voter turnout for the 2016 election and represents about 40 percent of all Americans who are legally eligible to vote. Officials don’t know how long it will take to county all the ballots, and it might take weeks to determine final numbers.
TWO MORE GOP BALLOT-COUNTING EFFORTS DENIED… Republican efforts aimed at limiting ballot counting continue to be rejected by the courts. A federal judge in Texas yesterday threw out a challenge to Harris County’s “drive-through” polling places, allowing 127,000 ballots to be counted. In Nevada, a District court judge rejected a GOP lawsuit that aimed to halt early vote counts in Clark County, home of Las Vegas and 70 percent of the state’s voters. President Trump yesterday expressed anger at last week’s Supreme Court ruling that allows Pennsylvania to accept absentee ballots received three days after Election Day. Trump tweeted that the decision will “induce violence.”
GREEN CARD POLICY STRUCK DOWN… A federal judge in Chicago yesterday struck down the Trump administration immigration policy that would have denied immigrant green card applications for those who receive food stamps or other public benefits. The rule had recently taken effect in September after the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a New York federal judge. Immigrant rights advocates called the expansion a “wealth test.”
MAN WHO TORCHED LOUISIANA CHURCHES SENTENCED… The 23-year-old man who pleaded guilty to setting fire last year to three historically Black churches in Louisiana was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $2.66 million in restitution to the churches, the Justice Department announced yesterday. Holden Matthews pleaded guilty in February to intentionally setting fire to the three African American Baptist churches over a 10-day period in March and April 2019. Prosecutors say he set the fires “because of the religious character of these buildings, in an effort to raise his profile as a ‘Black Metal’ musician.”
DEPP LOSES BRITISH LIBEL CASE… Johnny Depp and his lawyers are planning to appeal after losing their libel suit against a British tabloid. London’s high court ruled that the Sun newspaper was “substantially true” when it labeled Depp a “wife beater” in a 2018 article. The article claimed the 57-year-old Depp assaulted his ex-wife, Amber Heard, during their marriage. Heard, who testified as the defense’s star witness, specified 14 cases of abuse Depp allegedly committed between 2013 and 2016.
5 ELECTED TO NASHVILLE SONGWRITERS HALL OF FAME… The newest additions to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame were announced yesterday. Steve Earle, Bobbie Gentry, Kent Blazy, Brett James and Spooner Oldham have been elected to the Class of 2020. They will join the yet-to-to-be-named Class of 2021 during a joint induction ceremony scheduled for next November… Earle is known for his self-penned hits such as “Guitar Town,” “Copperhead Road” and “The Devil’s Right Hand”… Gentry is known for “Ode To Billie Joe,” “Fancy” and “Mornin’ Glory”… Blazy’s songwriting credits include Garth Brooks’ “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til The Sun Comes Up)”… James has penned Carie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel” and Rascal Flatts’ “Summer Nights”… Oldham is the writer of songs “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify, “Cry Like A Baby” by The Box Tops and “Sweet Inspiration” by The Sweet Inspirations.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL…
Tampa Bay 25 – N.Y. GIANTS 23… The Buccaneers (6-2) withstood a game-tying two-point conversion attempt in the final half minute to top the Giants (1-7). Tom Brady threw two second-half touchdown passes. Ryan Succop booted four field goals to 43 yards.
NFL NEWS… The NFL has suspended Chicago Bears wide receiver Javon Wims two games without pay for punching New Orleans Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson during the third quarter of Chicago’s loss on Sunday. Wims will miss Chicago’s games against Tennessee and Minnesota in the next two weeks and becomes eligible to return on November 17, the day the Bears begin their bye week…. Sunday’s loss to Seattle was especially painful for the San Francisco 49ers after they learned it cost them quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and All-Pro tight end George Kittle for an extended period of time. Garoppolo suffered a high-ankle sprain that could keep him sidelined a minimum of six weeks. Kittle suffered a foot injury that will sideline him indefinitely.