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  • Harry Reid says that Biden should spend 'no more than three weeks' testing Republican cooperation before eliminating the Senate filibuster news

    The former Democratic senator from Nevada and Senate Majority Leader insisted that GOP obstruction should not be tolerated.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 10:07:02 -0400
  • 'An incredibly tragic day for Ocala': Florida police chief Greg Graham killed in plane crash news

    The death of Greg Graham, who became Ocala's 30th police chief in January 2012, stunned the central Florida city northwest of Orlando.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 18:15:37 -0400
  • U.S. sees highest number of new COVID-19 cases in past two days news

    The United States reported 79,852 new infections on Saturday, close to the previous day's record of 84,244 new cases. Cases in the Midwest set a new record on Saturday and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in that region hit an all-time high for the ninth day in a row. Hospitals are strained in several states including North Dakota, which is the hardest hit based on recent new cases per capita, according to a Reuters analysis.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 09:49:20 -0400
  • Colombia surpasses one million Covid-19 cases: ministry news

    Colombia on Saturday surpassed the benchmark of one million cases of Covid-19 registered in the country since the beginning of the pandemic, the health ministry announced.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 20:05:26 -0400
  • Nigeria's police order massive mobilization after unrest news

    Nigeria’s top police official on Saturday ordered the immediate mobilization of all officers to “reclaim the public space from criminal elements masquerading as protesters” after days of unrest and demonstrations over police abuses that left at least 69 people dead. The police order could further heighten tensions in Africa’s most populous country after some of its worst turmoil in years. Nigeria’s inspector general of police, M.A. Adamu, ordered colleagues to “dominate the public space” while announcing that enough is enough, a statement said.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 14:46:28 -0400
  • A white woman yelled 'f--- Black Lives Matter' at a Starbucks barista after she told her to wear a mask news

    An unnamed white woman yelled at barista Alex Beckom when she told her she had to put on a mask in Starbucks. A video of the encounter went viral.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 11:03:17 -0400
  • Ethiopia blasts Trump remark that Egypt will 'blow up' dam news

    Ethiopia on Saturday denounced “belligerent threats” by President Trump over the huge dam it has nearly completed on the Blue Nile River. This comes a day after Trump said downstream Egypt will “blow up” the project it has called an existential threat.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 13:10:16 -0400
  • Pelosi Says She Will Run for Speaker Again as Coronavirus Stimulus Talks Remain Stalled news

    House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that she plans to run for speaker again as Democrats and Republicans struggle to reach a deal on another coronavirus stimulus package before the election in November."If Democrats keep the House, are you going to run for another term as Speaker?" CNN's Jake Tapper asked Pelosi during an interview on State of the Union."Yes, I am," Pelosi responded, adding that "we have to also win the Senate."Talks on another stimulus bill to offset the economic damage of the pandemic remain sluggish as differences remain among House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the Trump administration.The White House offered to support a nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, less than the $2.2 trillion bill House Democrats passed earlier this month. Two of the biggest sticking points are how much supplemental unemployment insurance to provide as well as Democrats' request to send more aid to states and localities."I'll never give up hope. I'm optimistic," Pelosi said, adding that she sent the administration a list of concerns that she was informed she would receive feedback about on Monday."To do anything, though, that does not crush the virus is really official malfeasance. And to crush the virus, we just have to follow the science, testing, tracing, treatment, mask-wearing, ventilation, separation, and the rest," Pelosi added.“I don’t think Speaker Pelosi has any intention of doing a deal before the election but hopefully we can do one shortly thereafter,” GOP Senator John Cornyn said Friday.The next coronavirus bill would send another $1,200 direct payment to Americans.“I’d like to see the people get the money,” President Trump said Friday. “I don’t think she wants the people to get the money before the election. I don’t think that’s a good point for her.”During Thursday's presidential debate, Trump said he believes that Republicans will win a majority in the House during the general election in November."You keep thinking that, Mr. President," Pelosi said Sunday of Trump's prediction, calling the president's remark another example of his "delusional" statements.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 11:21:30 -0400
  • China Communist Party plenum kicks off in Beijing news

    The three-day meeting comes amid speculation that President Xi intends to be "president-for-life".

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 03:43:00 -0400
  • Singapore Airlines doesn't want to dethrone its original world's longest flight even though the new one is 3 miles longer – here's how the two will differ news

    The new Singapore-New York route is one of the few new international routes to launch during the pandemic, but the airline is keeping it low-key.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 08:45:00 -0400
  • The Trump administration has surrendered to the pandemic news

    As America heads into the final week of the 2020 presidential election, it is baffling and frustrating that the Trump administration continues to do so little to meaningfully confront the coronavirus pandemic.It's baffling because the White House's bungling of the crisis might be President Trump's biggest obstacle to re-election. Appearing to take the virus seriously this late in the game might not win the president enough votes by next week, but it might help staunch the bleeding in the polls. And it's frustrating because — Trump's political future aside — the health and well-being of millions of Americans remains in the balance, threatened both by the virus and its social and economic effects.Yet on Sunday, Trump's chief of staff signaled to the world that this president has all but given up. "We are not going to control the pandemic," Mark Meadows said on CNN. "We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigation areas."And why isn't the U.S. going to try to control the pandemic? "Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu," Meadows said.The production of vaccines and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 is important, of course, but Meadows' comments sounded like a surrender. At the beginning of the crisis, back in the spring, Trump likened himself to a "wartime president." But Franklin Roosevelt didn't shrug at the bombing of Pearl Harbor.Trump's pandemic failures are well-documented by now. Even at this late date, though, the administration's mistakes remain shockingly persistent and prominent. The last few days have been a microcosm of the president's shortcomings.The most obvious problem has been the White House's inability to take the coronavirus seriously. Over the weekend we learned that five members of Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, have contracted the virus. As with Trump's own illness a few weeks ago, these incidents threaten the good functioning of American government. Pence — despite being in close contact with Short — plans to maintain his busy schedule rather than isolate. Meanwhile Trump himself continues to hold large rallies in the final days of the campaign, even though coronavirus cases appear to surge in the cities he visits. And as The New York Times reports, "masks are not routinely worn" in the White House.Rather than try to limit the spread of the virus, the president and his advisers have focused on obscuring its devastating effects using a mix of lies, omissions, and misdirections. Meadows, for example, tried to keep secret the outbreak among Pence's associates. Trump repeats the false claim that the rise in cases — the United States is experiencing record daily numbers — is the result of increased testing, or profit-hungry doctors. He ignores the fact that hospitals in some states are increasingly overwhelmed by patients needing intensive treatment. And the president continues to assert "we have turned the corner" in the pandemic, even though that is clearly not the case.Meanwhile, Trump refuses to do the one thing that could make a tremendous difference but takes very little effort. He could unabashedly endorse — and model — mask wearing. A new study suggests that 130,000 lives could be saved this winter if 95 percent of Americans wore masks. Instead, the president continues to equivocate on the matter.Mostly, Trump seems irritated that COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines."Turn on the television. 'COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID,'" he told rallygoers over the weekend. "A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don't talk about it. 'COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID.' By the way, on November 4th, you won't hear about it anymore."That statement is a mockery of the many lives ended and upended by the pandemic. More than 220,000 Americans have died from the virus. The unemployment rate is historically high. The pandemic remains a world-historical challenge. Until the president takes it seriously — or is replaced — the United States will continue to fail, to deadly effect.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.More stories from Trump loses on the merits Who won the final 2020 debate? Call it a draw. Get ready for Trump TV, America

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 05:58:04 -0400
  • 'Totally irresponsible': Dems criticize Pence presiding over Amy Coney Barrett vote after aides contract COVID-19 news

    "As vice president, I’m president of the Senate. And I’m gonna be in the chair because I wouldn’t miss that vote for the world," Pence said Saturday.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 17:47:13 -0400
  • Critics slam 'shameless hypocrisy' of Saudi G20 meeting as women activists sit in jail news

    A virtual business event hosted by Riyadh promises to place a "special emphasis" on "creating a more equitable future for women."

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 06:15:25 -0400
  • 'Thailand doesn't need you': ultra-royalists push back against protesters news

    Pictures of coffins and guns, and threats of death and violence: protests targeting Thailand's government and monarchy have hardened feelings amongst ultra-royalists, who are pushing back with aggressive abuse online.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 02:00:39 -0400
  • Roe v. Wade ruling matters, but mostly as a symbol. It has not protected abortion rights. news

    Abortion rights don't hinge on whether a new Justice Amy Coney Barrett votes to overturn Roe. They're already at death's door by a thousand smaller cuts.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 03:15:04 -0400
  • Mexico seizes industrial-scale meth, fentanyl lab in capital

    No description related. Click here to go to original article.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 18:24:13 -0400
  • Opposition leader flees Venezuela, heads towards Spain and the United States news

    Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López escaped from the South American country and was traveling on Saturday to Spain, where he will spend time with his family before eventually heading towards the United States to continue the efforts to outs the Nicolas Maduro regime, sources close to the former political prisoner told el Nuevo Herald.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 17:46:38 -0400
  • Cameroon: Children killed in attack on school in Kumba news

    Officials have blamed Anglophone secessionists for the attack on a private school in a restive region.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 15:13:07 -0400
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is heavily favored to win her reelection race. Her challenger has still raised $10 million because Republicans are desperate to beat her. news

    "I guarantee you 75% of his contributors don't know anything about him," a Republican strategist told The New York Times.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 12:22:32 -0400
  • Revealed: Britain scrambling to save the US trade deal if Joe Biden wins news

    British officials are preparing a rescue strategy to save the UK-US free trade deal if Joe Biden wins the American presidency in a little more than a week amid fears talks could be pushed to one side and indefinitely delayed. UK government figures are ready to reach out to influential people around the Democratic presidential nominee within days of a victory result and have been making a concerted effort in recent weeks to open back channels. One push would see Britain attempt to tie the agreement to Mr Biden’s agenda of rebuilding the US economy after the pandemic and improving relationships across the Atlantic in a bid to keep talks a priority in Washington. Another would see the UK leverage its leading role in two major multilateral forums next year, its presidency of the G7 group of nations and its hosting of the UN Climate Change Conference, to be seen as a critical international partner. Officials are even investigating whether talks could continue in some form during what would be a “lame duck” period between the election on November 3 and the inauguration of Mr Biden on January 20 should Donald Trump lose. The details, shared with The Telegraph by well-placed sources, comes as Whitehall braces for a potential change of US administration that would create new uncertainty about the path to the trade deal so long sought by Number 10.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 12:36:29 -0400
  • Police chief: Illinois officer who shot Black couple in car fired news

    A police officer who shot a Black couple inside a vehicle — killing a 19-year-old man and wounding his girlfriend — has been fired, the police chief announced Friday.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 12:00:24 -0400
  • Hundreds of thousands lose power as Northern California braces for more wildfires news

    "This is the fire weather forecast I was hoping wouldn't come to pass," a climate scientist said.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 22:18:00 -0400
  • Erdogan doubles down in backlash against Macron's Islam comments news

    The backlash against President Emmanuel Macron's comments on Islam intensified Sunday, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again urging him to have "mental checks" and protests in Muslim-majority nations.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 17:09:04 -0400
  • Spain announces new state of emergency as COVID infections soar news

    Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a new state of emergency on Sunday in an effort to curb soaring coronavirus infections, imposing local nighttime curfews and banning travel between regions in some cases. The measures go into force from Sunday night and will require all regions except the Canary Islands to impose a nighttime curfew and limit the number of people allowed to meet to six. Catalonia was one of the first regions on Sunday to use the new legislation to impose a curfew, which will take effect at 10 p.m. Establishments open to the public will have to close at 9 p.m.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 09:03:33 -0400
  • Gottlieb warns of "dangerous tipping point" as virus spread accelerates news

    "These cases are going to continue to build. There's really no backstop here," Gottlieb said on "Face the Nation."

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 12:29:11 -0400
  • Black contractor braves threats in removing Confederate statues in Richmond news

    Devon Henry paced in nervous anticipation, because this was a project like nothing he’d ever done. An accomplished Black businessman, Henry took on a job the city says others were unwilling to do: lead contractor for the now-completed removal of 14 pieces of Confederate statuary that dotted Virginia’s capital city. “You did it, man,” said Rodney Henry.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 09:38:03 -0400
  • Pfizer has expanded its COVID-19 vaccine trial to include minors. Some say it's risky. Others argue it's necessary. news

    After months of testing its COVID-19 candidate vaccine in adults, Pfizer recently lowered the age of participation to 16.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 14:45:02 -0400
  • US Senate votes 51-48 to advance the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before final vote Monday news

    The federal judge is just one step away from becoming the newest member of the high court, in one of the swiftest nomination processes in memory.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 14:23:50 -0400
  • Manhood on the ballot: Trump's self-absorbed bullying vs. Biden's compassion and humility news

    Voters have a choice between Trump's outdated, unhealthy version of manhood and Biden's liberating masculinity that frees men to live healthier lives.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 06:01:39 -0400
  • The 23 most horrifying things tourists have done recently news

    Whether it's damaging $200,000 worth of art while taking a selfie or slapping an airline gate agent, these stories will mortify you.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 11:16:00 -0400
  • Snow due to hit Colorado wildfire areas news

    "We don’t anticipate it will be a season-ending event, but we do believe it will help us a great bit," said a fire incident spokesman.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 18:07:59 -0400
  • Looters raid Nigeria food warehouse as unrest spreads news

    Several thousand people ransacked and looted a government food warehouse in central Nigeria on Saturday in the latest in two weeks of unrest sweeping over Africa's most populous country.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 20:13:36 -0400
  • Wary of angering public, Iran has few ways to contain virus news

    As coronavirus infections reached new heights in Iran this month, overwhelming its hospitals and driving up its death toll, the country’s health minister gave a rare speech criticizing his own government’s refusal to enforce basic health measures. “We asked for fines to be collected from anyone who doesn’t wear a mask,” Saeed Namaki said last week, referring to the government’s new mandate for Tehran, the capital. Namaki’s speech, lamenting the country’s “great suffering” and “hospitals full of patients,” clearly laid the blame for the virus’ resurgence at the government’s door — a stark contrast to the usual speeches from officials who point the finger at the public’s defiance of restrictions.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 02:03:36 -0400
  • New York reports half a million COVID-19 cases as infections surge nationwide news

    New York State is reporting 80% more cases in the past four weeks as compared to the previous four weeks, according to a Reuters analysis. California has the most reported cases in the nation at over 900,000, followed by Texas and Florida. New York has reported over 33,000 deaths, the most in the country and the second highest on a per capita basis after New Jersey.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 14:23:03 -0400
  • Fauci advocates mask mandate amid COVID-19 surge across US news

    On Friday, top infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested it might be time for face coverings to be made mandatory to stop the spread of the virus. “Well, if people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett during an interview. “I don’t like to be the authoritarian from the federal government, but at the local level, if governors and others essentially mandate the use of masks when you have an outbreak, I think that would be very important,” Fauci told Alabama Sen. Doug Jones during a Facebook Live event in July.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 14:53:25 -0400
  • Australia condemns intimate examination of female travellers over baby abandoned at Doha airport news

    Australia on Monday condemned Qatar authorities' treatment of women passengers on a flight to Sydney who were subjected to internal examinations after a newborn baby was found abandoned at a Doha airport. The women, including 13 Australians, were examined at Hamad International Airport on October 2 after Qatar Airways Flight 908 to Sydney was delayed. Australia's foreign affairs department described the treatment of the women as inappropriate and beyond circumstances in which they could give free and informed consent. "This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events," Foreign Minister Marise Payne said. "It's not something that I've ever heard of occurring in my life, in any context. We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on this matter." Australia would await a report from the Qatari government before "we will determine the next steps", Ms Payne said. She said the incident had been reported to Australian Federal Police, but did not explain which action police might take.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 21:56:35 -0400
  • Democrats planning 30-hour 'digital filibuster' to try to stop Amy Coney Barrett being confirmed news

    Senators including Kamala Harris and Chuck Schumer will deliver messages as part of a campaign of protest against the woman set to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 11:16:58 -0400
  • Ex-CIA Director Brennan: 'Outrageous' for Trump to talk of inviting Saudi crown prince to D.C. news

    On the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast, former CIA Director John Brennan said it is “outrageous" for President Trump to talk about inviting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Washington.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 15:58:04 -0400
  • A White House lawyer reportedly tried to get The Wall Street Journal to scoop Hunter Biden's emails news

    The Wall Street Journal published a short article Thursday night on Hunter Biden's business dealings that concluded: "Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden." The same night, the Journal published an opinion piece that asserted the Democratic presidential nominee had been aware of and/or involved in his son's business endeavors, about 24 hours after Breitbart News published a statement from a former Hunter Biden business partner, Tony Bobulinksi.That wasn't how President Trump's allies had wanted this to go, Ben Smith reports in The New York Times.In early October, three men allied with Trump — Arthur Schwartz, a public relations man close to Donald Trump Jr.; former deputy White House Counsel Stefan Passantino; and Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer currently on the public payroll as "senior adviser to the president" — met in a McLean, Virginia, house and pitched the Hunter Biden story to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, Smith reports, citing two people familiar with the meeting. Bobulinksi called in and offered to go on the record.The trio gave Bender a cache of Hunter Biden emails and ended the meeting "believing that the Journal would blow the thing open, and their excitement was conveyed to the president," who said on an Oct. 19 conference call that an "important piece" was coming in the Journal, Smith reports. The Journal had assigned a group of reporters to dig in to the allegations, and Trump and his allies expected their article to appear in the Journal that day, former Trump campaign chairman Stephen Bannon told Smith."The editors didn't like Trump's insinuation that we were being teed up to do this hit job," a Journal reporter not directly involved in the story told Smith. But the Journal continued working on the report. But by that point, things had already gotten "messy," Smith reports. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's political operative, had "delivered a cache of documents of questionable provenance — but containing some of the same emails — to the New York Post, a sister publication to the Journal in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.," casting "a pall over the story."Smith, a media reporter, splits his weekly column between a report on "the McLean group's failed attempt to sway the election" and an analysis of the media's gatekeeper role. Read the entire column at The New York Times.More stories from Trump loses on the merits Who won the final 2020 debate? Call it a draw. Get ready for Trump TV, America

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 02:18:00 -0400
  • Tropical Storm Zeta expected to strengthen into hurricane news

    The formation of Zeta puts the 2020 hurricane season one name storm away from tying the all-time record.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 20:07:00 -0400
  • More mass testing in China after 137 virus cases in Xinjiang news

    Chinese officials were racing Sunday to smother a fresh coronavirus outbreak in the country's far northwest after 137 new infections were discovered.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 12:40:53 -0400
  • More than 57 million Americans have already voted, suggesting a huge voter turnout for 2020. But it's not clear who that would favor. news

    Americans have already cast 41% of the total votes submitted in 2016, and there is more than a week to go.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 10:58:41 -0400
  • Iran reports COVID-19 death every four minutes, extends curbs news

    Iran extended COVID-19 curbs in Tehran and across the country on Monday as health authorities said they were recording a death from the virus every four minutes. The health ministry in the Middle East's hardest-hit country reported 337 new deaths and 5,960 new cases over the past 24 hours. A banner on state TV said that amounted to a death every four minutes.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 05:58:53 -0400
  • Texas boy, 3, dies after accidentally shooting himself in the chest at birthday party news

    The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said its "thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this tragic accident."

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 10:18:00 -0400
  • A 58-year-old woman who's a suspect in her elderly mother's stabbing told police 'she deserved it and now she's in a better place' news

    When Salt Lake City authorities questioned Lori Lee Donlay's motive, she told them "she'll take it to the grave," according to Utah's Deseret News.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 15:40:18 -0400
  • Brexit talks could see Merkel intervene after France refused fishing compromise news

    Brexit talks face a roadblock this week after France refused to compromise on fishing, with Government sources hoping Angela Merkel will intervene to break the impasse. Sources close to the negotiations said that Emmanuel Macron was refusing to soften his stance and had adopted an “egregious” position on the issue. The UK has proposed adopting a similar arrangement to Norway, whereby fishing quotas would be agreed annually in shared fishing zones. However, sources said that Brussels negotiators, under pressure from France, have “not moved at all” leading to fresh deadlock. The Government hopes the German Chancellor will manage to persuade the French President to budge. A Whitehall source said: “We are relatively optimistic but that doesn’t mean it won’t end in tears. Fisheries is the biggest thing. We are hoping Merkel can unlock Macron on fisheries.”

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 15:45:49 -0400
  • Miami nurse sues doctor colleague, says he ‘deliberately’ infected her with COVID-19 news

    A Miami-Dade nurse practitioner and mother of a 2-year-old said she was deliberately exposed to COVID-19 by a Miami physician at their place of work. She has filed a lawsuit against him, the medical office and the hospital that owns the medical office.

    Sat, 24 Oct 2020 13:06:54 -0400
  • The week in polls: Trump gains in 9 of 12 swing states, but Biden still leads in 10 of them news

    With just eight days to go to Election Day, both national polls and swing state surveys make it clear the race between Trump and Biden is tightening.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 08:35:32 -0400
  • Philippines: Typhoon leaves 13 missing, displaces thousands news

    A fast-moving typhoon blew away from the Philippines on Monday after leaving at least 13 people missing, forcing thousands of villagers to flee to safety and flooding rural villages, disaster-response officials said. The 13 people missing from Typhoon Molave included a dozen fishermen who ventured out to sea over the weekend despite a no-sail restriction due to very rough seas. The typhoon was blowing west toward the South China Sea with sustained winds of 125 kilometers (77 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph).

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 21:28:43 -0400
  • Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic, With 'Nothing Off-Limits' news

    Ohio Wesleyan University is eliminating 18 majors. The University of Florida's trustees this month took the first steps toward letting the school furlough faculty. The University of California, Berkeley, has paused admissions to its doctoral programs in anthropology, sociology and art history.As it resurges across the country, the coronavirus is forcing universities large and small to make deep and possibly lasting cuts to close widening budget shortfalls. By one estimate, the pandemic has cost colleges at least $120 billion, with even Harvard University, despite its $41.9 billion endowment, reporting a $10 million deficit that has prompted belt tightening.Though many colleges imposed stopgap measures such as hiring freezes and early retirements to save money in the spring, the persistence of the economic downturn is taking a devastating financial toll, pushing many to lay off or furlough employees, delay graduate admissions and even cut or consolidate core programs like liberal arts departments.The University of South Florida announced last week that its college of education would become a graduate school only, phasing out undergraduate education degrees to help close a $6.8 million budget gap. In Ohio, the University of Akron, citing the coronavirus, successfully invoked a clause in its collective-bargaining agreement in September to supersede tenure rules and lay off 97 unionized faculty members."We haven't seen a budget crisis like this in a generation," said Robert Kelchen, a Seton Hall University associate professor of higher education who has been tracking the administrative response to the pandemic. "There's nothing off-limits at this point."Even before the pandemic, colleges and universities were grappling with a growing financial crisis, brought on by years of shrinking state support, declining enrollment, and student concerns with skyrocketing tuition and burdensome debt. Now the coronavirus has amplified the financial trouble systemwide, though elite, well-endowed colleges seem sure to weather it with far less pain."We have been in aggressive recession management for 12 years -- probably more than 12 years," Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, told his board of governors last week as they voted to forge ahead with a proposal to merge a half-dozen small schools into two academic entities.Once linchpins of social mobility in the state's working-class coal towns, the 14 campuses in Pennsylvania's system have lost roughly a fifth of their enrollment over the past decade. The proposal, long underway but made more urgent by pandemic losses, would merge Clarion, California, and Edinboro universities into one unit and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities into another to serve a region whose demographics have changed.Such pressures have reached critical mass throughout the country in the months since the pandemic hit. State governments from Washington to Connecticut, tightening their own belts, have told public universities to expect steep cuts in appropriations. Students and families, facing skyrocketing unemployment, have balked at the prospect of paying full fare for largely online instruction, opting instead for gap years or less expensive schools closer to home.Costs have also soared as colleges have spent millions on testing, tracing and quarantining students, only to face outbreaks. A New York Times database has confirmed more than 214,000 cases this year at college campuses, with at least 75 deaths, mostly among adults last spring, but also including some students more recently.Freshman enrollment is down more than 16% from last year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has reported -- part of a 4% overall drop in undergraduate enrollment that is taking tuition revenue down with it.In a letter to Congress this week, the American Council on Education and other higher education organizations estimated that the virus would cost institutions more than $120 billion in increased student aid, lost housing fees, forgone sports revenue, public health measures, learning technology and other adjustments.And because donations to all but the heftiest endowments limit those funds to specific uses, most colleges cannot freely dip into them as emergency reserves. Harvard has the largest endowment in the nation, but its pandemic losses turned a $300 million-plus surplus in 2019 into a $10 million operating loss in 2020, according to an annual report posted this week, forcing the university to freeze hiring, slash capital spending and cut senior managers' pay.That has meant months of cutbacks, including abolishing athletic programs, deferring campus construction and laying off administrative staff and cafeteria workers. Scores of graduate programs, including some at elite research universities such as Harvard, Princeton and UC Berkeley, have temporarily stopped taking new doctoral students -- the result of financial aid budgets strained by current doctoral candidates whose research is taking more time because of the pandemic.A Chronicle of Higher Education database tracking the budgetary triage has documented more than 100 such suspended programs, from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Arts and Sciences, which will not take new doctoral students next fall, to Rice University, which paused admissions to all five of the doctoral programs in its school of humanities.Most of the suspensions are in social sciences and humanities programs where the universities -- rather than outside funders such as corporations, foundations and the federal government -- typically underwrite the multiyear financial aid packages offered to doctoral students. University officials say the suspensions are necessary to ensure their strapped budgets can continue supporting students already in doctoral pipelines.But Suzanne T. Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, noted that interrupting that pipeline could also have a lingering impact on the higher education workforce, diverting promising students from low-income households, for example, or discouraging candidates who might bring much needed diversity to faculty rosters.As it is, the pandemic has had an outsized impact on less affluent students: A survey of 292 private, nonprofit schools released last week by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reported a nearly 8% decrease in enrollment among students who receive federal Pell Grants."A couple years off is not necessarily the end of the world and may even be a wise thing," Ortega said. "But if our universities don't remain in touch with those students, and connect with them, and encourage them to keep thinking about grad school, we could have our own lost generation of students who get busy with other things and then don't fulfill their dreams."As schools exhaust the possibilities of trims around the margins, what is left, administrators say, is payroll, typically the largest line item in higher education. Since February, when the coronavirus hit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that colleges and universities have shed more than 300,000 mostly nonfaculty jobs."Some of these institutions have redone their budgets three, four, five times," said Jim Hundrieser, vice president for consulting and business development at the National Association of College and University Business Officers, a professional organization for finance officers in higher education."As this next chapter unfolds, what's left is just staffing. For most, this will be the toughest round."In central New York, Ithaca College's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, La Jerne T. Cornish, said "there is no joy" as the school accelerated plans to cut 131 full-time faculty jobs, a result of declining enrollment exacerbated by the pandemic. Cornish said the school had already furloughed 167 nonfaculty staff members and offered early retirement to 30 faculty members to address an $8 million shortfall.But, Cornish said, further action was needed to bring the payroll into line with enrollment declines.Ohio Wesleyan's president, Rock Jones, told students in a recent email that the university would eliminate or phase out majors in comparative literature, urban studies, journalism and 15 other subjects. The move, he wrote, would merge religion and philosophy into one department and lump Black studies and women's studies into a single "critical identity studies" program, but also will save about $4 million and limit faculty layoffs to one tenured post.Kelchen, the higher education professor, said such consolidations often can allow institutions to downsize despite faculty job protections as well as encourage people in positions deemed redundant to take early retirement."Even if the faculty can stay on," he said, "they'll get reassigned, maybe to teach in another department or do administrative work."Other schools are laying the groundwork now for cuts they expect later. Trustees at the University of Florida took the first step in September to allow faculty furloughs to help close a projected $49 million shortfall from the coronavirus. Steve Orlando, a university spokesman, said the next step -- a formal furlough policy -- is expected to come to the board this year.Daniel Meisenzahl, a spokesman for the University of Hawaii, said the 10-campus system had embarked on an exhaustive fiscal review in which "every single unit" was being examined, including an array of bachelors' programs and university centers for public policy and conflict resolution. The system is facing a projected 13% decline in revenue and a net loss of nearly $67 million in operating income.Kelchen said that the coronavirus had worked its way into the core of the nation's academic machinery, and that the damage would likely be lasting."These cuts are going to continue long past the pandemic," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 08:16:46 -0400
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