Saturday News: Here comes Joe!

BIDEN SCHEDULED TO VISIT DURHAM TOMORROW AFTERNOON: More than one million North Carolina voters have already cast their ballots, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is hoping to increase those numbers. Biden will visit Durham on Sunday for a 1 p.m. event aimed at getting out the vote, his campaign announced Friday. No other details were released Friday afternoon. Election Day is Nov. 3. But North Carolinians have been voting since early September via absentee by-mail ballots and, since Thursday, by in-person early voting. More than 556,000 people have voted by mail and more than 468,000 have voted in-person as of Friday afternoon. North Carolina has 7.2 million registered voters. More than 4.7 million voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential contest in North Carolina.

GARY PENDLETON BARRED FROM POLL WATCHING AFTER SHOVING INCIDENT: At the direction of his county party, Pendleton said he had sought to gain access to the site an hour before the polls opened at 8 a.m. to make sure no fraudulent voting activities were taking place. He said he was met by a security guard who refused him entrance. When he asked for a supervisor to let him in, the supervisor instructed him that he'd have to wait outside. Frustrated with the experience, Pendleton tried to re-enter about 20 minutes later, where he was again refused entry by the same elections official. “He was on one side, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just go around you,'” Pendleton said. “So I went around, he jumped over in front of me about 3 feet (away) mouth to mouth. I pushed him back because I don't want to get COVID-19.” Law enforcement arrived after the polls opened and cited Pendleton with the Class 3 misdemeanor. He then left the early voting site. Pendleton will not be permitted to serve as a poll observer for the rest of this election cycle, Gannon said. He plans to appeal the assault charge in court.

LEXINGTON MOVED SWIFTLY TO REMOVE CONFEDERATE STATUE: In the early morning hours Friday, Oct. 16, the Confederate statue in Lexington, which has been the focal point of months of protest and counterprotest, was removed. Less than 24 hours after a Superior Court judge dissolved a restraining order filed by Davidson County preventing its removal, the city of Lexington arranged for the statue to be taken down under the cover of darkness. The monument has been the subject of months of protest from a group of citizens asking for its removal, and counter-demonstrations in support of it remaining in place. In August, the city sued Davidson County and the Robert E. Lee Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy to authorize the permanent removal of the Confederate statue in uptown Lexington. According to the agreement, the city will pay for the removal of the statue and will “deliver it to the possession of the Robert E. Lee Chapter to an alternative location selected by the Robert E. Lee Chapter, provide said alternative location outside the city boundaries.”

TRUMP REJECTS PUTIN'S OFFER TO EXTEND NUCLEAR ARMS TREATY: Putin offered to extend New START, a 10-year treaty that places limits on the two countries’ nuclear warheads, without preconditions at a meeting of his security council, but national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien called the proposal a “non-starter.” “We hope that Russia will reevaluate its position before a costly arms race ensues,” O’Brien said in a statement. The breakdown in negotiations comes as President Trump, trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in national polling, urges his diplomats to bring him foreign policy victories. The 2010 treaty, which expires in February, restricts the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and certain launch platforms. If the treaty isn’t extended or replaced, the world’s two biggest nuclear powers will return to an era without substantive restraints on their arsenals for the first time in decades. On Friday, Putin said it would be “exceedingly sad” if the treaty expired. His foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, blamed U.S. intransigence for demanding a large number of preconditions that go beyond the treaty. The Trump administration didn’t start negotiations in earnest until earlier this year, prompting criticism from arms-control advocates who said discussions with the Russians should have begun much sooner.

TRUMP OPPOSES INCREASED TESTING FOR CORONAVIRUS, PART OF DEM STIMULUS PACKAGE: Many public health experts, and some economists like Mr. Romer, say that a far more sweeping program would save lives and bolster the economy by helping as many Americans as possible learn quickly if they are infected — and then take steps to avoid spreading the virus. Dr. Atlas and other administration officials playing influential roles in the government’s virus response effectively say the opposite: that more widespread testing would infringe on Americans’ privacy and hurt the economy, by keeping potentially infected workers who show no symptoms from reporting to their jobs. While White House negotiators resisted those demands for months, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will accept such wording with minor edits. Top Democratic staff, including the top health adviser to Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, walked Mr. Mnuchin through the party’s proposal on Friday, according to a person familiar with the discussion, but they had yet to announce agreement on language by early evening. In an interview on Thursday, Dr. Atlas, who is not involved in the stimulus talks, said that the United States had a “massive” testing program over all, but that it should be used strategically to protect vulnerable populations, like nursing home residents — not young, healthy individuals who he said were at low risk of contracting the disease. He said that large-scale government test and isolate programs infringed on civil liberties, and that new research had persuaded him that herd immunity might be achieved once 20 or 40 percent of Americans are infected.



Dr. Atlas is a quack, of course

Something his former colleagues at Stanford tried to tell us a month ago:

Atlas, a neuroradiologist by training with no background in treating infectious diseases, joined the president's medical advisory staff last month. Before doing so, he made frequent appearances on Fox News, where he often cast doubt on the efficacy of wearing masks and pushed for schools to reopen with in-person learning – positions in line with Trump's own public sentiments.

In a "Dear Colleagues" letter penned Wednesday, the Stanford experts wrote that they have a "moral and ethical responsibility" to push back on Atlas' controversial claims about mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, which they characterized as "opinions and statements [that] run counter to established science" and "undermine public health authorities and the credible science that guides effective public health policy."

Their last point, for example, denounces the use of natural "herd immunity," the notion of allowing the disease to tear through the population to build up natural immunity, as "not a safe public health strategy."

Last month, the Washington Post reported that Atlas advocated for the administration to embrace natural herd immunity, citing five unnamed sources. Atlas vehemently denied the report.

"There is no policy of the President or this administration of achieving herd immunity. There never has been any such policy recommended to the President or to anyone else from me. That's a lie," Atlas said in a statement released by the White House.

Atlas doubled down on his defense to CNN's Michael Smerconish on Sunday. "It's not just a lie, it's an overt lie, it's a disgusting lie, and it's a harmful statement to make. I have never advised the president to push a herd immunity strategy," he said.

Well, you're definitely pushing it now. Or is that a lie, too?