Monday Sunrise Briefing: US debate shifts from COVID to Court

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
People gathered this weekend on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, to light candles, leave flowers, and notes in honor of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.

The focus of 2020 U.S. presidential campaign shifted dramatically this weekend.  Almost immediately on the heels of tributes for legendary Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, came a galvanizing debate over naming a new justice. Instead of the pandemic, racial justice, crime, and the economy, both campaigns are now telling voters what a conservative shift in the nation’s highest court could mean for American society.  

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he’ll nominate a woman to fill the seat, possibly this week. In an about-face from 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised a confirmation vote before the Nov. 3 election. Nothing unifies the Republican Party factions like the prospect of a lifetime court appointment, said some analysts, adding it could help the GOP hold on to the White House and the Senate

But if previous High Court nomination battles are any guide, both political parties could benefit as their supporters rally around how a conservative court might address hot-button issues such as health care, abortion, environmental regulations, and LGBTQ rights. The court is scheduled to hear a GOP challenge to the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 11. Indeed, Democrats raised a remarkable $91.4 million from Friday night through Saturday. And both parties know that if the 2020 election results are contested, the Supreme Court could choose the next president.

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, September 21, 2020, sunrise briefing.

Here are three news events from this past weekend (while you may have been apple picking, power walking to the latest Alicia Keys album, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

2. Excellence on the small-screen. “Schitt's Creek,” the Canadian show about a down-and-out rich family remaking itself, made history at Sunday's Emmy Awards with a sweep of the comedy awards. For her portrayal of a troubled teen in “Euphoria,” the 24-year-old Zendaya became the youngest actor to win the lead drama Emmy and only the second Black actress to claim the award, following Viola Davis in 2015.  “I just want to say there is hope in the young people out there,” she said. “I know our TV show doesn’t always feel like a great example of that,” but young people are  “doing the work.”

The awards often offer a window on societal and industry trends:  A record number of Black actors and other artists (35) were nominated. Nine Black actors won awards. Among the vast array of TV platforms jockeying for honors, HBO was the clear winner with 30 trophies (including 11 for “Watchman”), proving there’s life after “Game of Thrones.” It was followed by Netflix with 21, Pop TV with 10, and Disney+ and NBC with eight each. 

3. English alphabet exhausted. For only the second time since 1953, the National Hurricane Center has used up all 23 names allocated for the 2020 hurricane season. Next up, the Greek alphabet. On Sunday, Tropical Storm Beta approached Texas and Louisiana. Beta is forecast to make landfall Monday, bringing heavy rains and flooding. In 2005, 27 tropical storms (including 15 hurricanes) were named (drawing on four Greek letters). The frequency of tropical storms this year is the result of several factors, say meteorologists: above-average sea temperatures and low wind shear (which tends to disrupt storm formation). The presence of La Niña (a Pacific weather pattern) may be a factor in reducing wind shear, the Guardian reports. The U.S. hurricane season lasts until Nov. 3o. 

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Stunning victory. Rookie Tadej Pogacar became the first winner from Slovenia and, at 22, the second-youngest winner of the 117-year-old Tour de France cycling race. Shown here on the podium in Paris, Sunday, Sept. 20. 2020.

Look Ahead

Monday, Sept. 21

Belarus and the EU. Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya leads a group of Belarusian opposition figures in meetings with EU officials in Brussels.  

Tuesday, Sept. 22 

Conservatives gather. The 15th annual Value Voters Summit, a meeting of conservative activists, begins online today. Scheduled speakers include U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, and Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

Thursday, Sept. 24

A path to peace? EU leaders gather for an extraordinary summit in Brussels. The focus is expected to be tensions between Greece and Turkey over fossil- fuel rights in the Mediterranean.

Friday, Sept. 25.

Climate change strike. Several activist groups are calling it a day of “climate action.” They’re organizing strikes, school walkouts, acts of service, and social media events to bring attention to climate change issues.

Indigenous recognition. Native American Day is celebrated online this year in California and Nevada, in lieu of October's Columbus Day. This year’s theme is "Healing Nations – Protecting Elders, Women, and Children."

Music festival live, but at a distance. Yes, an outdoor concert - actually, three concerts held simultaneously in Austin, Dallas, and Lubbock, Texas on Friday and Saturday nights. This is billed as a large-scale test of social distancing in a concert venue. Attendees must sign a code of conduct, a COVID-19 waiver, and wear a mask. Tickets purchase a drive-in parking spot or 8-foot by 8-foot space on the lawn. Food is ordered on an app and delivered. The concert features a combo of live and streamed appearances from Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Cody Johnson, Lee Brice, and other performers. 

Generosity Watch

REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Eagle Point resident Joey Delcerro, whose family was displaced by the South Obenchain Fire, helps his daughter Charlie, 5, carry a bag of dog food from a makeshift donation organized by mothers in White City, Oregon, on Sept. 11, 2020.

As tens of thousands have fled the wildfires in Oregon - sometimes with nothing but the clothes on their back - they have been greeted by the generosity of strangers. 

  • In Gladstone, Oregon, just south of Portland, people slept in cars, parked RVs and set up tents in the parking lot of the Oregon Conference Headquarters of Seventh-day Adventists. And local residents arrived with donations. At the entrance of the site, two tables held board games, toiletries, food, and cleaning supplies for evacuee. "Tragedy brings out the kindness in people," volunteer John Wesslen tells the Willamette Week. 
  • In nearby Clackamette Park, Oregon City, another evacuation site had a supply tent with donations of water, clothing, toiletries, donuts, and fresh Papa Murphy’s pizzas. "That kinda restores your faith, doesn't it?" evacuee Bill Olson told the Willamette Week on Sept. 11. He laments that such generosity usually fades. “It would be nice if we could just hang on to a little bit of that when we move out of the crisis.”

Across the country in Danville, Virginia, two tractor-trailers filled with supplies were shipped to Oregon this past Wednesday by God’s Pit Crew. The Christian disaster relief group specializes in shipping “Blessing Buckets.” The five-gallon buckets are filled with essentials, such as food, water, soap, toilet paper, a flashlight, and, yes, encouragement: A Bible and a personal note that someone is thinking of the recipient.

Since August 27, God's Pit Crew has shipped more than 5,317 Blessing Buckets to Hurricane Laura victims in Louisiana and wildfire victims in Oregon, reports WSET-TV in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

Hidden gem 

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

Picture of comfort: Gardening in times of crisis (animation)

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about the revival of the local corner store in the United Kingdom. 

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday's subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. The United Nations at 75: Indispensable or irrelevant?
  2. As Oregon fights historic fires, college students on front lines
  3. Bolivia cancels school year. Parents ask: What now?
  4. Life in clouds of Venus? Why murky clue tantalizes scientists.
  5. How video games are teaching the world to speak English

And a bonus read published Saturday: 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Fierce women’s advocate, and icon in her own right

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