The trip comes one year after Pompeo said the settlements are not in violation of international law
Friday, November 20, 2020

Georgia’s recount of ballots from the presidential election reaffirmed that President-elect Joe Biden won the state. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the highest-ranking American official to visit a settlement in the occupied West Bank, and the CDC recommended that Americans stay home on Thanksgiving.

It is opportunistic and self-serving, and it damages the chances for peace.
PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi, on the U.S. recognizing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as legal.

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The Breakdown

People hand recount election ballots during an audit in Lawrenceville, Georgia. (Photo by: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Thursday announced the results of the state’s hand recount of ballots in the 2020 election, reaffirming that President-elect Joe Biden won the state. 

Biden beat President Donald Trump by 12,284 votes, according to the final tally from the audit, a slightly smaller margin than in the original results.1  

"Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” said Raffensperger. 

Georgia has 16 electoral votes. The state voted Republican in the previous six presidential elections.2

The state is required to certify the results no later than Friday. Trump then has two days to request another recount, which would use scanners. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Photo by JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday became the highest-ranking American official to visit a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The trip comes one year after Pompeo said the settlements are not in violation of international law. Prior to his statement, the U.S. position had for decades been that the settlements were not legal.1

Palestinians and their supporters say settlements are illegal and are a barrier to creating an independent Palestinian state.

Pompeo also visited the Golan Heights, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.2 Israel later annexed the region, a move not recognized by the U.N., which still considers it an occupied territory.3

U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the territory as part of Israel last year, the only country in the world to do so.

Earlier, Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.4

After the meeting, Pompeo announced that the state department will declare the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic.5

BDS demands Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories, the removal of the West Bank wall barrier, equality for Arab and Palestinian citizens of Israel, and "respecting, protecting, and promoting the right of return for Palestinian refugees."6

Pompeo also visited Psagot winery, which has manufactured a “Pompeo” wine since last year.7 The winery, reportedly built on Palestinian land, has previously lost cases in the EU, Canada, and other jurisdictions over labeling its wines as "Made in Israel."8

Later, Pompeo issued a statement saying that "producers within areas where Israel exercises the relevant authorities – most notably Area C under the Oslo Accords - will be required to mark goods as 'Israel', 'Product of Israel', or 'Made in Israel' when exporting to the United States."9

Area C covers over 60% of the West Bank and includes several settlements and businesses, including the Psagot Winery.10


'Settlements can be lawful, appropriate'

  • Pompeo told reporters that "for a long time the state department took the wrong view of settlements" in the West Bank. The State Department "stands strongly to the recognition that settlements can be done in a way that's lawful and appropriate and proper," he added.


‘U.S. actively participating in occupation’

  • Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Trump administration was acting in "flagrant defiance of all international legitimacy resolutions" and "actively participating in the occupation of the Palestinian territories."11

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials said on Thursday that Americans should stay home on Thanksgiving and celebrate the holiday only with members of their own households.

“You know, right now as we’re seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Dr. Henry Walke, CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said in a phone briefing with reporters.1

Walker said his agency was concerned about people’s ability to maintain proper social distancing in lines at transportation hubs, such as bus stations and airports.

Travelers could bring the virus to any gathering with them, and the CDC says roughly 30% to 40% of the people who get the virus are infected by asymptomatic carriers.

The head of the agency’s task force for community intervention and critical population, Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz, said that only people living under the same roof for 14 days prior to the holiday celebration should attend any gathering, a definition that could exclude family members in the military or in college, among others, who want to return for the holiday.

The CDC has posted its recommendations for holiday gatherings, including tips for those who intend to host larger gatherings, on its website.2

As of Thursday afternoon, the U.S. has reported over 12 million coronavirus cases, including almost 141,000 new cases for the day, according to the online tracking site Worldometer.3 Almost 258,000 people have died during the pandemic, including over 1,400 new deaths reported Thursday.

AstraZeneca logo displayed with a syringe. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine being developed by drugmaker AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is safe and produces a positive immune response among all adults, according to preliminary data published in The Lancet, a global medicine journal, on Thursday. 

The study examined 560 adults from a Phase 2 trial, including 240 over the age of 70. Initial findings show the vaccine to be safe, and that it produced similar immune responses for those over the age of 56 and ages 18 to 55.1  

“Older adults are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination, because they are at increased risk of severe disease, but we know that they tend to have poorer vaccine responses,” said Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy, Investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group.2  

Not only do the results show that the vaccine is successful in producing antibodies in older people, but it also “appears to be better tolerated in older adults than in younger adults,” the study says.

The Phase 2 trial did not assess the efficacy of the two-dose vaccine, though trials are currently ongoing to determine that. 

Earlier this week, Pfizer and BioNTech said their candidate vaccine was 95% effective, and Moderna said its candidate vaccine was 94.5% effective.3

Researchers noted some limitations to the study. The oldest participants in the age group averaged 73 to 74, few had underlying health conditions, and the majority of participants were white and nonsmokers. 

A more diverse pool of participants will be included in the Phase 3 trial, the researchers said. 

AstraZeneca and Oxford had to pause the Phase 3 trial in the U.K. and the U.S. following the occurrence of an unexplained illness in a participant, but have since been resumed.4

Chief of the Australian Defence Force Gen. Angus Campbell speaks Thursday (Photo by Mick Tsikas - Pool/Getty Images)

Australia’s defense chief released an inspector general’s report on Thursday alleging the country’s special forces committed war crimes by killing 39 civilians and prisoners during operations in Afghanistan.

The report followed a four-year inquiry and details unlawful actions and violations of international law from 2009 to 2013.1

“It’s alleged that some patrols took the law into their own hands: Rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told, prisoners killed, and once that rule was broken, so, too, was further restraint,” said Australian Chief of the Defence Force Gen. Angus Campbell.2 “Those who wished to speak up were allegedly discouraged, intimidated and discredited.”

Among the allegations is that senior special forces members had junior troops shoot a prisoner to get their first kill behind them, a practice called “blooding.” The report also alleges at least two incidents in which prisoners were subjected to “cruel treatment.”

The inquiry, led by New South Wales Court Of Appeal Justice Paul Brereton, has recommended that the Australian Federal Police handle 36 incidents.

The BBC reported that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated a special investigator will be appointed “to consider prosecutions from information contained in the report.”3


A ‘profound betrayal’ of standards

  • The report revealed a "disgraceful and a profound betrayal of the Australian Defence Force’s professional standards and expectations,” Campbell said.


Report’s publication, special investigator important

  • “While the Government and the people of Afghanistan are grateful for the full and continued support of the Australian Government over the past 19 years, in unison with the Australian Government, it strongly condemns these violations and considers them unforgivable, and deems the publication of the above report and the appointment of a Special Investigator to address this issue as an important step torwards achieving justice.4

The Snapshot

Companies Apple has agreed to pay a $113 million settlement to end a lawsuit over allegations it slowed down older iPhones to make their batteries last longer.

Companies Tyson Foods said it was “extremely upset” by allegations that an Iowa plant manager organized a betting pool on how many workers would test positive for COVID-19.


Workers ‘top priority’


Allegation ‘shocking’

Companies Media company BuzzFeed bought news website HuffPost from Verizon Communications in a stock deal bringing together two of the industry’s high-profile names. 

Economy The number of Americans who filed initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to 742,000 during the week ended November 14, the Labor Department said. 

Europe Former Wirecard CEO Markus Braun appeared before a German parliamentary inquiry to answer questions relating to the company's allegedly illegal practices.

The Teardown

A healthcare worker conducts a COVID-19 nasal swab test. (Photo by Patrick Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

What follows is a snapshot of the state of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and the world.


  • New cases in the week ended Nov. 19: 1,132,477 compared with 910,003 in the previous week.1

  • New deaths in the past week: 9,296

  • Current hospitalizations: 80,698

  • Total cases: 11.56 million

  • Total deaths: 243,675


  • New cases in the week ended November 9: 4 million2

  • New deaths in the past week: 60,161

  • Total cases: 55.93 million

  • Total deaths: 1.34 million

Over 150 public health experts signed a letter on Thursday urging the Trump administration to authorize the presidential transition process, warning that the delay “places American lives at risk” from the COVID-19 coronavirus3  

The letter is addressed to Emily Murphy, Administrator of the General Services Administration, who has yet to sign paperwork that would allow President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to access official government information, agencies and other resources. 

“Doing so will enable the incoming Biden team to liaise with key health officials in the Trump Administration and prepare a robust, coordinated response to the pandemic,” the letter wrote, citing vaccine development and distribution, testing capacity, and mitigation strategies. 

The letter was sent as the U.S., according to some organizations, has reported some 250,000 deaths from COVID-19, by far the most of any nation in the world.

“With the pandemic worsening nationwide and only two months until the transition of power, every day the transition is delayed is a day the country cannot afford. Ensuring a rapid and smooth transition will save American lives,” the letter wrote. 

Note to readers: The COVID tracking project, our source for U.S. COVID-19 coronavirus data in this story, has stopped reporting recoveries because not all states report that information.

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