with Mariana Alfaro

WILMINGTON, Del. – Four years ago, President-elect Donald Trump picked ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state after meeting him just once. After running against the Washington establishment, the only president in American history to take office with no prior governing or military experience picked someone with no prior governing or military experience to be the nation’s chief diplomat. It did not go well.

On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Antony Blinken to be secretary of state during an event here. He will also name Jake Sullivan as national security adviser and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations. All three are alumni of the Obama administration. More than that, they are stylistically and experientially the opposites of the people Trump tapped for the same roles.

After working for President Bill Clinton, Blinken became Biden’s staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he was chairman and then his national security adviser when he became vice president. Then Blinken became President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser and John Kerry’s No. 2 at State.

Blinken, 58, is poised to get the top job at least in part because Biden decided he does not have the stomach for a tough confirmation fight to confirm Susan Rice as secretary of state. Three people close to Biden’s orbit say he has seemed uninterested in an all-out brawl with the Senate, which weighed against her – though there were other concerns, including that she openly considered running against Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate whose vote she would probably have needed. He is wary about spending limited political capital and apparently feared that Senate Republicans would block Rice after using the process to relitigate the Benghazi imbroglio.

In contrast, Trump was warned that confirming Tillerson would be difficult. Exxon had done extensive business in Russia, and Tillerson had received the special Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin in 2013. But Trump relished fights with Congress to establish his dominance in the relationship, and he was fine to pressure recalcitrant lawmakers. The contentious confirmation hearing did not faze the incoming president.

Once Tillerson got the job, he never clicked with Trump. Worse, the president repeatedly and publicly undermined his first secretary of state. In October 2017, while Tillerson was visiting Beijing and trying to establish a dialogue with North Korea, Trump tweeted that he was “wasting his time.” 

Foreign governments often found that they could bypass the State Department by reaching out to Trump directly or his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. A perception among allies and adversaries alike that Tillerson did not even have Trump’s ear made him ineffective. In March 2018, Trump fired Tillerson over Twitter while the secretary of state was in Africa trying to clean up the damage caused by the president’s disparaging comments about “shithole countries.”

No one will ever doubt that Blinken speaks for Biden when he travels the world. That has been a key ingredient of success for previous occupants of the job, such as Jim Baker under President George H.W. Bush or Condi Rice under President George W. Bush. Blinken has often been at Biden’s side during this year’s campaign, and he helped set up his foundation after he left the White House.

Sullivan has also been a fixture at Biden’s side during the campaign, taking the lead on drafting his “Build Back Better” plans for recovering from the public health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus. The 43-year-old Minnesota native followed him as national security adviser to Biden in the vice president’s office. He took that job after serving as the State Department’s director of policy planning under Hillary Clinton. Sullivan, a Rhodes Scholar, was a top policy adviser to Clinton’s 2016 campaign and taught a class afterward at Yale about what he learned. (Greg Jaffe wrote an excellent profile of Jake three years ago.)

Just as Blinken is in so many ways the opposite of Tillerson, Sullivan is about as different as possible from Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced out of the Defense Intelligence Agency by Obama and only lasted 24 days in the Trump White House. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russians during the transition, but he has tried to take back his past admissions and Trump’s administration has maneuvered to let Flynn off the hook.

Four years ago, Trump picked South Carolina’s then-governor, Nikki Haley, to be ambassador to the United Nations. Haley has an inspiring personal story as the daughter of Sikh immigrants, but she had no foreign policy experience. She used the U.N. job to boost her national profile and has used the years since she left New York to lay the groundwork for a potential 2024 run for president.

While Trump has denigrated civil servants as part of what he disdainfully refers to as the Deep State, and routinely marginalized experts inside the government, Biden has chosen a career Foreign Service officer to be the country’s representative at the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield rose to become the assistant secretary of state for African affairs during Obama’s second term – a few years after a tour of duty as ambassador to Liberia during George W. Bush’s presidency. She was in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, where she found herself held at gunpoint and was able to convince the gunman not to kill her. She grew up in the segregated South and attended Louisiana State University at the same time as David Duke, who would later run the Ku Klux Klan. She gave a 10-minute Ted Talk about these experiences last year:

So far, everything Biden has done since winning the election was predictable and foreseeable. Nothing he has said or done since being declared the winner has been surprising to political observers. And that’s just the way he wants it: Biden seeks to project that he will hold a steady hand on the tiller of the ship of state after the four year roller-coaster ride under Trump, which has been characterized by perplexing personnel moves, erratic firings and a herky-jerky policy-making process.

Substantively, Biden also hopes to undo as much of Trump’s foreign policy as possible. He has promised to rejoin the Paris climate change agreement, undo the U.S. exit from the World Health Organization and rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. He pledged to shore up global alliances, starting with NATO, to take a harder line on Russia and to restore human rights as a top-tier priority in foreign policy.

While Blinken has been described as having a centrist view of the world, he has also supported interventionist positions. “He once broke with Biden and supported military action in Libya, for example. During the Obama administration, he advocated for American action in Syria,” Annie Linskey, Matt Viser and John Hudson report. They also note that Blinken co-founded a political strategy firm, WestExec Advisers, with Michele Flournoy, who is considered a leading candidate to be Biden’s secretary of defense. She could be the first woman to lead the Pentagon.

Blinken’s worldview was shaped indelibly by his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, who survived Auschwitz and Dachau. “When he has to worry today about poison gas in Syria, he almost inevitably thinks about the gas with which my entire family was eliminated,” Pisar told The Washington Post in 2013.

In May, during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Blinken lamented the Obama administration’s “failure” in Syria sand said that Trump made “a horrific situation” even worse by pulling U.S. troops out of the country, which he said squandered potential leverage.

“The last administration has to acknowledge that we failed, not for want of trying, but we failed,” Blinken said. “We failed to prevent a horrific loss of life. We failed to prevent massive displacement of people internally in Syria and, of course, externally as refugees. And it's something that I will take with me for the rest of my days. It's something that I feel very strongly.”

Blinken was a major advocate during the Obama administration for allowing more refugees into the United States. As he left the State Department in 2017, the government had a cap of 110,000 for the number of new refugees who would be allowed to settle here each year. Trump has lowered that number to 15,000. As a candidate this year, Biden promised to raise the number and be more welcoming of refugees.

Blinken has made the case for letting in more refugees to anyone who would listen. In 2016, he even appeared on “Sesame Street,” the children’s show, to talk with Grover about it: “Grover, can you imagine how difficult it would have to be to leave your home? … Sadly, refugees have to leave everything behind – communities, schools, friends, even all of their favorite things,” he told the blue Muppet. “Even though they come from many different places, they’re just like you and me. … We all have something to learn and gain from one another.”

Here is the clip:

The latest on Biden's preparations

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on Nov. 22 criticized the General Services Administration for failing to ascertain the results of the 2020 election. (The Washington Post)
Biden is planning an inauguration that will look like no other.

“Discussions are ongoing about requiring everyone to wear masks and stand at a social distance,” Matt Viser reports. ”Those allowed near Biden for the inauguration ceremony will probably undergo coronavirus testing. The traditional post-swearing-in luncheon, held in Statuary Hall with members of Congress, could be scrapped altogether. There may not be any inaugural balls. Crowds, in all cases, will probably be severely limited. 

"Biden advisers are almost certain Trump will not attend Biden’s swearing-in. They find it hard to imagine the traditional tea beforehand at the White House, the typical drive together to the Capitol, or Trump allowing any image of himself looking on as Biden is sworn into office. Those close to Biden insist that the ceremony must still have the august feeling of past inaugurations — a desire that is all the more important to establish his legitimacy as president, which Trump is continuing to deny. … Biden aides also view it as a cathartic release for those who wanted Trump out of office and, perhaps paradoxically, as a moment to try to unify the country. … The White House declined to comment on whether Trump will attend. … It is unclear whether past presidents will attend or see the event as potentially risky to their health. … Traditionally, the Supreme Court chief justice performs the swearing-in ceremony at the inauguration, but this year, that, too, is unclear. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been cautious about health protocols. …

Although construction for a platform has begun on the west side of the Capitol, where inaugurations in recent years have been held, it is possible that the swearing-in could take place elsewhere, according to people involved in the planning. Of the 55 times the oath of office has been administered, 34 have occurred on the East Portico, the other side of the building, which does not afford space for large gatherings down the Mall. Oaths also have been staged on the West side (eight times), in the hall of the House of Representatives (six times), and in the Senate chamber (three times). In 1985, after a noontime temperature of 7 degrees made for the coldest inauguration in history, President Ronald Reagan took the oath inside the Capitol Rotunda. Biden has not yet appointed a Presidential Inaugural Committee, which will help plan the events surrounding the swearing-in, but a decision is expected soon.”

A group of leading GOP national security experts — including former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge — urged congressional Republicans this morning to demand Trump concede the election and immediately begin the transition. “President Trump’s refusal to permit the presidential transition poses significant risks to our national security, at a time when the U.S. confronts a global pandemic and faces serious threats from global adversaries, terrorist groups, and other forces,” said a statement signed by more than 100 GOP luminaries. (Tom Hamburger and Ellen Nakashima)

  • More than 100 chief executives also sent a letter asking the administration to immediately acknowledge Biden as the winner and issue the certificate of ascertainment. “As a way of gaining leverage over the G.O.P., some of the executives have also discussed withholding campaign donations from the two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia unless party leaders agree to push for a presidential transition, according to four people who participated in a conference call Friday,” the Times reports.
  • Stephen Schwarzman, a close Trump confidante and chief executive of private equity giant Blackstone, said Biden won and “the country should move on.” (John Wagner)
The Biden team anticipates a brutal double-dip recession early next year. 

Biden's advisers are quietly pushing for Democratic leaders in Congress to reach a quick stimulus deal with Senate Republicans, even if it falls short of the larger package Democrats have been seeking, the New York Times reports. "Mr. Biden’s aides have weighed having the president-elect announce in the coming weeks that he will sign executive orders on his first day in office extending moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and deferrals of some student loan payments that are set to expire at the end of the year … He could also announce that he will sign an order providing a more gradual schedule for repayment of payroll taxes that some employers, including the federal government, had deferred into 2021 under an executive order issued by Trump.”

California's governor faces pressure to pick a woman of color to replace Kamala Harris.

As speculation grows that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is leaning toward California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the vice president-elect's Senate seat, a crowd of Democratic donors and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown – who is Harris's ex-boyfriend – are launching an aggressive campaign to argue that another woman of color should fill that seat instead, Politico reports: “Among the leading choices, he said, are Reps. Barbara Lee, Karen Bass and Maxine Waters; San Francisco Mayor London Breed; and state Sen. Holly Mitchell. … [Padilla] would be the first Latino U.S. Senator in the state's 170-year history. Picking a statewide officeholder like Padilla would give Newsom two appointments since he also could choose their replacement.”

The voting wars

The Post's Jon Swaine analyzes the Trump Campaign's last ditch legal attempts to get the result of the 2020 election overturned. (The Washington Post)
More Republicans call on Trump to allow the transition to begin.

“Chris Christie, a Trump confidant who helped prepare the president for the debates, called the conduct of Trump’s legal team a ‘national embarrassment.’ Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said Trump had ‘exhausted all plausible legal options’ and urged him to concede. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said it’s time to begin the transition,” Paul Kane and Felicia Sonmez report. “Christie criticized Trump’s lawyers for proffering false conspiracy theories at news conferences and other media appearances. ‘They don’t do it in the courtroom,’ the 2016 Republican presidential candidate said, suggesting the attorneys are fearful of making baseless arguments under oath before federal judges. ‘It must mean the evidence doesn’t exist.’ Christie said the Republican Party should focus on trying to win Georgia’s two runoff elections Jan. 5. …

The president’s legal team was thrown into tumult Sunday when two Trump attorneys — Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jenna Ellis — released a statement abruptly distancing the campaign from a third attorney, Sidney Powell. … Powell in particular has been vocal in lobbing some of the most convoluted claims, alleging a conspiracy that involved ‘communist money,’ the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and an algorithm favoring Democrats." At the top of their bizarre Thursday news conference, Giuliani announced that he, Ellis and Powell were “representing President Trump and we’re representing the Trump campaign.” In his statement with Ellis on Sunday, Giuliani said: “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.” 

"Two advisers to Trump … said that the president disliked the coverage Powell was receiving from Tucker Carlson and others, and that several allies had reached out to say she had gone too far. The advisers also said that she fought with Giuliani and others in recent days. … ‘She was too crazy even for the president,’ a campaign official said. … 

“Late Saturday night, after a federal judge threw out Trump’s legal attempt to invalidate millions of votes, Toomey congratulated Biden. … ‘Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania,’ Toomey said, … noting that the deciding judge, Matthew W. Brann, is a ‘longtime conservative Republican.’ This result, Toomey noted, followed Georgia’s certification Friday of Biden’s victory there and Michigan’s GOP legislative leaders rejecting efforts to block the certification of Biden’s clear victory in that state. … Republicans are aware that any perceived lack of loyalty to the president could prompt him to attack the defectors — just as Trump did Saturday night when he called Brann a ‘product of Senator Pat ‘No Tarriffs’ Toomey.’ ‘No friend of mine,’ Trump tweeted."

A GOP member of Michigan's canvassing board is expected to vote against certifying results. 

“According to Michigan GOP Rep. Paul Mitchell, who said he spoke days ago with Norman Shinkle, one of the two GOP members on the board, Shinkle indicated last week he would vote against certifying the election results until an investigation is completed so as to push a delay even though there is no evidence of fraud or malfeasance that would necessitate such a move,” CNN reports. “Depending on how Aaron Van Langevelde, the other GOP member of the board, casts his vote, Mitchell (said) either members of the Trump team end up delaying the certification of the election results or they have something that they can point to as evidence of unfairness, even if it isn't. … ‘It’s a win-win’ for the Trump team, Mitchell said, since it will either be able to delay the inevitable [Biden] transition process or have more ammo to falsely claim Trump won the election.” 

The coronavirus

Anthony S. Fauci, top U.S. infectious-disease specialist, said less than a week before Thanksgiving that Americans must weigh the risks of visiting loved ones. (Reuters)
AstraZeneca's vaccine is slightly less effective than others, but it might prove more helpful.

“The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is up to 90 percent effective when administered at half dose and then a full booster dose a month later,” William Booth and Antonia Noori Farzan report. “The Oxford-AstraZeneca team said in a video conference with journalists that the vaccine’s average efficacy was 70 percent, reflecting the disparate results from two different dosing regimens. When two full doses were given at least one month apart, efficacy fell to 62 percent. … No participants who received the vaccine developed severe cases or required hospitalization, AstraZeneca said … 

“The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna showed efficacy of more than 95 percent, according to data from late-stage trials that the companies released last week. While the results released by AstraZeneca indicate slightly lower efficacy, the vaccine can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated conditions for up to six months. That could make it significantly easier to roll out than Pfizer’s vaccine, which has to be stored at negative 70 degrees Celsius, or Moderna’s, which is stable in refrigerated conditions for only 30 days and must be frozen at minus-20 degrees Celsius after that.” It is also cheaper to manufacture. 

Many Americans are ignoring pleas not to travel for Thanksgiving.

“With nationwide coronavirus hospitalizations topping 80,000 and case counts on the cusp of 200,000 a day, officials and experts are giving their final pleas for caution in the days before Thanksgiving,” Paulina Firozi, Lena Sun and Hannah Knowles report. “Average cases reported each day in the United States have jumped nearly 15 percent in a week, according to data tracked by The Post. Deaths are also on the rise, with some communities overwhelmed by the bodies — in El Paso County, Tex., the National Guard was called in to help the morgues. …

"Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious-disease expert, said he understands that many Americans are experiencing ‘covid fatigue’ after months of pandemic restrictions, now tightening again in many places. But traveling over the holidays and ignoring public health guidelines are ‘going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now,’ he said. 

“The pressure on health-care resources has spurred many leaders to roll back reopening. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) on Sunday announced a ‘statewide pause’ of at least three weeks starting Tuesday, with stricter capacity limits for many businesses, a decreased limit on gatherings and a more extensive mask mandate. … Los Angeles County, home to 10 million people, also announced new restrictions Sunday, ordering restaurants and bars to shift to takeout, drive-through and delivery only. … More than 1 million people went through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in airports nationwide on Friday, according to data released daily by the agency, and more than 980,000 travelers were screened Saturday. The number of travelers screened Friday was the second-highest single-day rush since March 16. … 

Operation Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui “said Sunday that the federal government will be ready to start shipping vaccines within 24 hours after a candidate receives emergency authorization from the FDA. He noted that the CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices must review the data and recommend who should get immunized first. … Pfizer filed for emergency authorization for its vaccine on Friday. The FDA has announced that a committee of external advisers will meet Dec. 10 to make recommendations to the agency on whether to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine. Slaoui said the advisers will meet Dec. 17 to review the shot developed by Moderna, which has not yet filed for clearance for its vaccine.” 

  • The FDA granted emergency authorization to the experimental treatment given to Trump last month. The drug cocktail, made by Regeneron, is designed to prevent infected people from developing severe illness. It is the second monoclonal antibody cleared for treating covid-19. (Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Johnson)
  • The Ad Council, a nonprofit advertising group, plans one of the largest public education campaigns in history to convince people to take the vaccine once it’s available. “The White House has collaborated with the Ad Council on previous public health efforts, but it is not currently involved in this one,” the Times reports.
College students are coming home for the holidays, potentially carrying the virus with them. 

“Many schools that brought large numbers of students back to campus are dispersing them for the rest of the year — discouraging back-and-forth holiday travel — and pondering how much they can resume operations in January," Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga report. "The CDC warned … that college students traveling home should be treated as ‘overnight guests’ and take appropriate precautions. But many are unlikely to take the rigorous quarantine steps that public health experts advise.”

  • School leaders are once again confronting tough choices. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has closed all high schools. Dozens of districts, including Chicago, Sacramento and Minneapolis, remain closed and expressed dwindling hope of reopening anytime soon. (Moriah Balingit)
  • Most cases are spread by asymptomatic people, the CDC said, which is why mask-wearing is so important. Fresh CDC guidance says more than 50 percent of all infections are transmitted by people not exhibiting symptoms, and peak infectiousness comes five days after infection. (CNN)
  • The CDC says those who plan to fly internationally should consider getting tested one to three days before their flights and again three to five days after travel. “In addition to getting tested after they have completed their travels, the CDC said, people should stay home for seven days — even if they test negative,” Lori Aratani reports.
  • North Dakota will roll out rapid testing for K-12 school teachers, staff and administrators as part of a pilot project to identify asymptomatic cases to prevent the spread, Valley News reports. Hospitalizations are back over the 300 mark in the state that, for the past two weeks, has ranked first in the country for new cases per capita, per the Bismarck Tribune.
  • Pennsylvania backtracked from tightened protocols that would have required many of the state’s professional and college athletes to wear masks even during competition. (Matt Bonesteel and Jake Russell)

Quote of the day

“The message for everyone is: You can’t assume you don’t have the virus, and you can’t assume the people whose homes you’re about to enter don’t have the virus at this point in our pandemic,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. (Fox News)

The nation’s smallest health providers face the biggest problem: Finding PPE amid the surge in cases. 

“Community health centers and small doctors’ offices, AIDS clinics and homeless shelters are struggling with a scarcity of protective gear to buffer workers from harm, their budgets and buying power unable to compete with large medical institutions,” Amy Goldstein reports. “Most U.S. hospitals and health systems have, over the pandemic’s nine months, stitched together systems and improvisations to acquire masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment. Yet many small health-care and social-service settings continue to suffer from shortages they expect to grow worse. A New Orleans mission for the homeless and addicted finally gave up searching for masks after an offer from a local sports team fizzled, so its staff members rely on disinfecting throughout the day. To conserve gowns, a Boston health center requires nurses to stand without them on the opposite side of plexiglass barriers from most patients who come for coronavirus tests, instructing people how to swab their own noses. And a pediatrician near Fredericksburg, Va., was thrilled when her husband spotted N95 masks at a nearby Lowe’s, because her office manager was unable to get more than a list of where to look for supplies from the state.”

The U.S. has enough ventilators now, but there are too few specialists to operate them. “The sophisticated breathing machines, used to sustain the most critically ill patients, are far more plentiful than they were eight months ago, when New York, New Jersey and other hard-hit states were desperate to obtain more of the devices, and hospitals were reviewing triage protocols for rationing care. Now, many hot spots face a different problem: They have enough ventilators, but not nearly enough respiratory therapists, pulmonologists and critical care doctors who have the training to operate the machines and provide round-the-clock care for patients who cannot breathe on their own,” the Times reports.

  • Hospitals in Utah have begun rationing care informally, doctors said, to cope with a surge of cases. (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • About 650 bodies of people who died in New York City during last spring's coronavirus surge are still in storage in freezer trucks on the Brooklyn waterfront. Many of the bodies are of victims whose families can’t be located or cannot afford a proper burial. (WSJ)
  • California Gov. Newsom is in quarantine for two weeks after his children were exposed to a California Highway Patrol officer with covid-19. The governor recently faced backlash for attending a dinner party. He’s apologized. (Sacramento Bee)
Cases are spiking in the D.C. region. Experts say the worst is yet to come. 

“The past two weeks brought record caseloads and a test positivity rate that climbed well past 5 percent and into territory that experts consider widespread community transmission of the virus. Public health experts and hospital administrators say the abrupt rise in new cases is unlikely to abate in the next few weeks and could foreshadow a more difficult December, followed by an even rougher January and a darker February," Erin Cox and Julie Zauzmer report. "Hospitals in some parts of the region already are nearing capacity, while others are beginning to execute contingency plans to care for the sick: setting up tents in parking lots, scrounging for staffers and reallocating resources. The daily case rates in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia are better than the rates in at least 36 other states in the country, according to Friday’s numbers, but public health experts say the region’s recent rapid ascent in cases could put it on course to join some of the nation’s hardest-hit areas.”

Italy is once again seeing one of the world’s highest covid-19 death tolls.

“At the national health institute in Rome, which logs Italy’s coronavirus toll, the medical records of the dead arrive in a dropbox one after the next — hundreds of victims every day, and still more coming the next morning, as the researcher who handles the files turns on her computer,” Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli report. “‘The number just jumped again,’ said Cinzia Lo Noce, the researcher, when 10 more victims’ medical records arrived. At the outset of the pandemic, Italy’s immense daily death tolls — 919 at the peak — froze the country in fear and put much of the world on alert. But as the tolls again approach those heights, Italy is becoming emblematic of a far different point of the pandemic, when the dangers continue unabated even as so many are desensitized, fatigued and preoccupied with economic survival. In Italy, the scale of death no longer registers as a consuming national tragedy. But the tragedy is there nonetheless — playing out more quietly, in specific nursing homes, hospitals and living rooms. Some 10,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Italy this month — a per capita rate more than double that of the United States.”

  • People over the age of 60 make up more than nine in 10 covid-19 fatalities in Europe since the start of August, with more men than women succumbing. (WSJ)
  • The Gaza Strip faces a shortage of ventilators as infections surge in the Palestinian territory, the WHO said. Gaza has minimal health-care infrastructure and only 100 ventilators. Of those, 79 are currently being used by coronavirus patients. (Farzan)
  • South Korea will ratchet up social distancing rules in Seoul to combat a resurgence of infections, closing bars and limiting gatherings. The country added 271 cases of the virus on Monday, after reporting more than 300 new cases for five days in row last week. (Min Joo Kim)
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she spoke with Biden in a “positive and warm phone call” and has offered to share resources, data and experts who can shed light on her country’s successful coronavirus response. (Farzan)
  • More than 17,000 employees were sealed inside Shanghai’s main airport yesterday for coronavirus testing after an outbreak was traced to one of them. (Eva Dou)
World leaders close the G20 with calls for a more coordinated response. 

This year’s G20 summit “was a muted affair, presented virtually during a resurgent global pandemic. Its host, Saudi Arabia, was criticized by human rights groups for a record of abuses,” Kareem Fahim reports. “German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that ‘if we stand together worldwide, we can control and overcome the virus and its consequences.’ Trump confirmed his attendance at the summit the day before it began. In remarks to the group Saturday, he touted his administration’s record in combating the virus, saying it had ‘marshaled every resource.’ He made no promise to expand the availability of U.S. vaccines. Then he played golf.”

The Trump agenda

Israel's prime minister visits Saudi Arabia for the first time.

“Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, a visit that would mark a dramatic shift in the historically hostile relations between the Jewish State and the Arab power that is the home of Islam's holiest sites,” Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin report. If confirmed, "the brief trip would represent the first visit by an Israeli official to Saudi Arabia and comes amid a flurry of diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It also reportedly occurred as tensions with Iran, viewed as a common enemy of both countries, are on the rise. According to the Israeli publication Ynet, Netanyahu spent only a few hours late Sunday in the Saudi coastal city of Neom, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. …

“In August, Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement to establish formal relations and open up trade, security and tourism ties. Bahrain and Sudan followed suit, marking a collapse of long-standing Arab unity that resisted making such negotiations with Israel as long as the country continued to occupy the West Bank. Palestinian leaders have condemned the Arab deals as a betrayal. But in recent weeks, speculation in Israel has risen that Riyadh and Jerusalem are close to a similar agreement. … 

"With Trump’s defeat, anxiety has risen in both Saudi Arabia and Israel that [Biden] will reverse Trump’s hardline policies against Iran and seek to revise Washington’s participation in the Iran nuclear deal … The Saudi foreign minister said Saturday that Riyadh was ready to cooperate with the incoming administration. But speculation that the Trump administration was preparing for military action against Iran nuclear capacities in its waning days has been rising. Some saw Netanyahu’s clandestine visit to the kingdom as further evidence that a strike was possible.”

  • The United States formally withdrew from the Treaty on Open Skies, a decades-old pact meant to reduce the chances of an accidental war by allowing mutual reconnaissance flights by parties to the 34-nation agreement. “The move risks sowing further divisions between the United States and European allies,” Paulina Firozi reports. “Biden said that in announcing the intention to withdraw, Trump ‘doubled down on his short-sighted policy of going it alone and abandoning American leadership.’"
  • The Trump administration is close to declaring that 89 Chinese companies have military ties, which would restrict them from buying a range of U.S. goods and technology, stoking tensions with Beijing. (Reuters)
  • Trump’s ban on transgender troops harmed U.S. military readiness, former top military physicians conclude in a new study published by the Palm Center. (Alex Horton
Pregnant, undocumented women are afraid to get prenatal care because of Trump’s immigration policies. 

“When Trump unleashed his crackdown on immigration, people without legal status scrambled to erase the traces of their existence to avoid being swept up,” the Times reports. “Thousands dropped out of welfare programs to steer clear of a policy that posed a less visible threat. Under an expansion of the limits on ‘public charge,’ the administration said it would withhold legalization for undocumented immigrants who had used certain public benefits. … The policy contained exemptions for some vulnerable groups, including pregnant women. But doctors and public health officials say that many undocumented women are convinced nonetheless that their chances of legalization will be diminished, and they worry that immigration officers, who are often seen at hospitals along the border, could target them for deportation. … Within days of when the public charge policy became public … medical clinics saw no-show rates for prenatal care appointments rise sharply. … Doctors said they saw a spike in the number of women arriving in emergency rooms with serious complications … without having been to a single prenatal appointment … [Biden] has indicated that he would begin to reverse the changes to public charge designations during his first 100 days in office, but experts say some of the fear that has been instilled is likely to linger.”

Social media speed read

The National Zoo named its newest panda cub Xiao Qi Ji, which translates to “Little Miracle” in English: 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who represents a state with a rocketing number of cases and where prisoners are being enlisted to move the bodies of the covid-19 dead, trolled public-health professionals urging people to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings:

The mayor of Oklahoma City is among the still strikingly small number of GOP elected officials speaking out against Trump's dangerous and baseless claims of voter fraud:

Videos of the day

Trevor Noah had some coronavirus Thanksgiving tips: 

From a classic to the unconventional, Mary Beth Albright and Daniela Galarza explore what Thanksgiving movies to watch at home this year:

From a classic to the unconventional, the Post’s Mary Beth Albright and Daniela Galarza explore what Thanksgiving movies to watch in 2020. (The Washington Post)