Trump, Covid-19, Terrorism: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good Morning.

We report the latest from the US electionWeakness in Egypt’s underfunded health system and how Pollsters got it wrong, once again.

When President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus declared an implausible landslide victory in an election in August, the United States and other Western nations denounced what they described as brazen defiance against the will of the voters.

But just a few months later, President Trump and various of his supporters borrowed from Mr. Lukashenko’s playbook to declare Mr. Trump the election winner – despite all evidence to the contrary. The Times called officials in each state who represented both political parties. No one reported major voting problems, which Mr. Trump’s narrative firmly opposed.

Mr Trump’s actions put him among other anti-democratic leaders such as Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe, Nicolás Maduro from Venezuela and Slobodan Milosevic from Serbia. Experts warn that he is running the risk of creating “a new model” for like-minded populists in Europe and elsewhere.

Biden’s political agenda: President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is preparing several policy proposals, including the ambitious agenda set in his winning campaign and acknowledging that it may need to be scaled back in recognition of the divided government.

Call me Maybe: Along with the leaders of France and Germany, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was included in Mr Biden’s first round of calls – closely followed by Prime Minister Micheal Martin, in a clear reference to the President-elect’s relations with Ireland.

Six years ago, at the start of his presidency, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi vowed to put improving health care at the center of his agenda. But it didn’t work out that way, in a country where the needs of the military always come first.

The pandemic has exposed chronic weaknesses in Egypt’s underfunded public health system and in Mr el-Sisi’s rule, where a tiered privilege system rewards a powerful military – often at the expense of an increasingly poor citizenry. Hospitals fought early on, doctors went on strike and Egypt soon had one of the highest death rates in the Arab world.

“Gun purchases and vanity mega-projects were his priorities, even during the pandemic,” said one Egyptian scholar. “And that has diverted scarce government resources from the critical needs of the Egyptian people.”

By the numbers: In the region, the test rate in Egypt, at 953 tests per 100,000 people, is only above the numbers in crisis countries such as Yemen and Syria and far below the rate in Iraq, Jordan and even war-torn Libya.

Quote: “People tend to believe the pandemic is over,” said Dr. Pierre Nabeth from the World Health Organization. “This is an alarming situation as the winter season is actually beginning.”

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • South Africa will open its borders to all international travelers, even as the number of new coronavirus cases increases in some parts of the country.

  • The executive of the European Union proposed a “European Health Union” to coordinate a patchwork of Covid-19 measures across the bloc and centralize responses to the pandemic.

  • Covid-19 hospital stays in the US hit a record high of 61,964 on Tuesday, and for the first time 139,000 new cases were treated daily.

  • With coronavirus cases rising in New York, the state will put limits on indoor and outdoor private gatherings nationwide, while gyms, bars, and restaurants must close at 10 p.m. every day

On Tuesday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz from Austria and President Emmanuel Macron from France met in Paris to discuss counter-terrorism measures in their countries after the attacks. According to analysts, the meeting was as much about the domestic political concerns of the two heads of state and government – Mr Macron hopes to fend off right-wing extremist leader Marine Le Pen in an upcoming election – as it was about the containment of terror.

Mr. Kurtz yesterday announced major legislative proposals as part of a broader crackdown on Islamist terror, including allowing the courts to extend the sentences of convicted terrorists and create a new offense for people who “create the breeding ground for terrorism”.

France’s concerns continue. At least two people were injured in an explosion at a non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at a ceremony organized by the French consulate on Wednesday. The attack came at a time of increasing tension between France and a number of Muslim countries.

Mozambique: The United Nations called for an investigation into reports of many people beheaded in northern Mozambique where Islamist insurgents intensified a brutal campaign against civilians.

When President-elect Joe Biden, in his victory speech, thanked the black voters for saving his election campaign and promised to return the favor, not everyone cheered. Upstairs an Atlanta bar during the speech.

In more than two dozen interviews, African American voters said they expected the government to demonstrate their sincerity by addressing racial differences. The pressure on Mr Biden could be even greater due to the recent summer of protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

Princess Diana: A quarter of a century after the princess admitted infidelity in a seminal interview with Martin Bashir, the journalist is again accused of acting unethically to secure the shovel. The BBC announced that it would open an independent investigation into the allegations.

Elections in Myanmar: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party secured even more seats in parliament than in 2015 when the government signed a power-sharing agreement with the military. Many ethnic minority voters were prevented from casting their ballots.

Hong Kong: China forced the overthrow of four pro-democracy lawmakers and effectively silenced the Hong Kong Legislative Council. The rest of the opposition promised to resign in protest.

Jeffrey Toobin: The star journalist and commentator announced on Twitter that he was fired from The New Yorker after exposing himself to coworkers on a work video call last month.

Snapshot: Above, couriers in Beijing prepare for deliveries. In the weeks leading up to China’s Singles’ Day, the mega-event for online shopping, postal couriers have joined strikes and protests to draw more attention to their low wages and stressful working conditions.

Postponement of the fig tree: In Kenya, an estimated 100-year-old tree to be removed to make way for a new expressway will survive another day following a backlash from environmentalists in Nairobi.

Lived life: Natan Zach, an Israeli poet who helped revolutionize Hebrew poetry by disdaining the formality of its more established contemporaries in favor of a simple, even blunt verse, died last week at the age of 89. Here are two of his poems in translation.

What we read: This Artnet article about a recently botched art restoration. Alexandria Symonds, an editor, says she set up a Google alert for “botched art restoration” that occasionally pays off “- like this week.

Bake a cake, fly a kite, try yoga. Whatever it is, our At Home collection shows you how.

Lisa Lehrer, who writes the On Politics newsletter, spoke to Charles Franklin, director of Wisconsin’s best-known political poll, about why polls were wrong again. This transcript was extracted from the original.

Why did pollsters have so much trouble finding Trump supporters?

I don’t think this is the “shy Trump” voter as we understood it as people don’t want to admit they are voting for him.

I am more inclined to believe that we are seeing a phenomenon of a fairly small segment that systematically refuses to conduct polls altogether that are quite against the press, against polls and in many ways against conventional political engagement. They can also be people who, in fact, are not strongly identified with the Republican Party.

The Times conducted a large number of surveys during this cycle many of the same problems. We are not blameless either. What better way media organizations should use surveys?

We may have been looking for clues to problems that are different from what we actually experienced. To quote a former defense minister, it is always the unknown strangers rather than the known strangers. Although we tried to find sources of error, we didn’t.

Are you concerned about the poll’s reputation, especially in an environment where the President has politicized the polls?

The obvious, and not wrong, impression is that the survey had a really bad year. That means, for at least the next four years, as we do today, we’ll be talking about what went wrong with the survey.

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