First Thing: Biden boosts diversity of top team while Trump continues election assault

Molly Blackall
·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP</span>
Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Good morning. Joe Biden has announced an all-female senior communications team at the White House, as he presses on with preparations for his administration despite Donald Trump’s continued attempts to derail the transition.

The communications director of Biden’s election campaign, Kate Bedingfield, will move up to the same position in the White House, while Jen Psaki, a longstanding Democratic spokeswoman, will become press secretary. Biden is also expected to announce the appointment of the liberal thinktank executive Neera Tanden as head of the Office of Management and Budget – all three women are veterans of the Obama administration.

Jen Psaki was a White House communications director and a spokeswoman at the state department.
Jen Psaki was a White House communications director and a spokeswoman at the state department. Photograph: Pablo Martínez Monsiváis/AP

The president-elect has so far tread a decidedly centrist line with his senior staff picks, managing not to rile the left wing of the Democratic party too strongly, writes Daniel Strauss. His selection of women and people of color for top positions has won him praise from the party’s progressive wing.

  • Biden fractured his right foot while playing with his dog on Saturday and he may have to wear a boot for several weeks, according to his doctor. The injury appears to be mild.

Trump is angry with judges for rejecting his baseless claims of voter fraud

Screengrab from Fox News as Trump blames the courts for his campaign&#x002019;s so far unsuccessful legal challenges.
Screengrab from Fox News as Trump blames the courts for his campaign’s so far unsuccessful legal challenges. Photograph: Fox News

Trump made his first media appearance since losing the election on Sunday, phoning Fox News to blame judges for his failure to overturn the election result. The president said his team was “not allowed to put in our proof”, pledging – in true Trump style – that he would “file one nice, big, beautiful lawsuit”.

The claims came a day after Pennsylvania’s high court rejected a lower court’s order that prevented the state from certifying results, the latest in the Trump campaign’s series of unsuccessful lawsuits against the election results.

  • Five reasons US democracy survived: Despite Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, his path to victory seems less and less likely. Tom McCarthy looks at five factors of the democratic system that helped resist Trump’s attempts to undermine it.

The number of coronavirus cases in November is more than double October’s figure – and that was a record

&#x002018;I want to be straight with the American people, it&#x002019;s gonna get worse over the next several weeks,&#x002019; the surgeon general Jerome Adams said on Sunday.
‘I want to be straight with the American people, it’s gonna get worse over the next several weeks,’ the surgeon general Jerome Adams said on Sunday. Photograph: Noam Galai/Getty Images

The US has recorded more than 4m cases of coronavirus for the month of November, more than doubling the record 1.9m cases set in October. The milestone, passed on Saturday, comes amid warnings from experts that the spread of the virus may surge as over the Christmas holiday season.

Dr Anthony Fauci told NBC on Sunday that “what we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in”. Airline and transport companies reported high rates of travel at the weekend, while retailers recorded large crowds and overnight queues for Black Friday.

  • Public schools in New York City will reopen for in-person learning on 7 December, beginning with elementary school students whose parents agree to weekly testing for coronavirus. The mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced the measures on Sunday, after the closure of schools two weeks ago when positive test results exceeded the 3% benchmark agreed by the mayor and teachers’ union.

  • Testing negative may not mean you are clear to see family over Christmas, because of the virus incubation period. Read this explainer from Lauren Aratani on what you need to know if you are getting tested for the holidays.

Jared Kushner is traveling to the Middle East amid growing regional tensions

The senior advisor to the president, Jared Kushner, with Qatar&#x002019;s ruler Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in the Qatari capital, Doha, earlier this year.
The senior advisor to the president, Jared Kushner, with Qatar’s ruler Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in the Qatari capital, Doha, earlier this year. Photograph: Qatar News Agency/AFP/Getty Images

The White House senior adviser, Jared Kushner, will visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week to help stem rising tensions in the region after the killing of a top Iranian nuclear scientist. The White House is hopeful that persuading Saudi Arabia to agree to a deal with Israel would stir other Arab nations to follow suit – though the Saudis do not appear keen.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, widely considered to be the architect of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, was killed in a military-style gun and bomb assault in Tehran on Friday. His body has been buried, and the supreme leader has promised “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered [the attack]”. Iran blames Israel though the country has not claimed responsibility.

In other news …

Diego Maradona&#x002019;s doctor is being investigated for involuntary manslaughter after the Argentina legend had a fatal heart attack, the Argentine news agency Telam reported.
Diego Maradona’s doctor is being investigated for involuntary manslaughter after the Argentina legend had a fatal heart attack, the Argentine news agency Telam reported. Photograph: Diego Maradona press office/AFP/Getty Images
  • Diego Maradona’s personal doctor has denied responsibility for the former footballer’s death after police raided his home and surgery on Sunday and seized devices and medical records. Argentinian media reports said police were attempting to establish if there had been negligence involved in Maradona’s fatal heart attack on Wednesday.

  • The Denver Broncos played without a quarterback on Sunday after all four of their full-time signal callers were forced to isolate because of coronavirus risks. The team played with a back-up wide receiver instead, in the latest development in the NFL’s growing crisis over Covid-19.

  • One of the world’s largest collections of prehistoric rock art has been discovered in the Amazon rainforest and hailed as “the Sistine Chapel of the ancients”. Archaeologists found tens of thousands of paintings of animals and humans, up to 12,500 years old, across nearly eight miles of cliff faces in Colombia.

View from the right: The electoral college system is more important than ever

Rejecting criticism that the electoral college system is no longer fit for purpose, David Harsanyi argues in the New York Post that the 2020 presidential election reinforced its value. He says the system is critical to democracy, now more than ever.

The fact that the electoral college doesn’t align with the ‘popular vote’ isn’t alarming; it is the point. If the electoral college synchronized with the outcome of the direct democratic national vote tally every election, it wouldn’t need to exist. It isn’t a loophole; it is a bulwark.

Don’t miss this: Gaza through the eyes of a photojournalist

The Palestinian photographer Jehad al-Saftawi, who is seeking asylum in the US, grew up and worked in Gaza. In this piece, he shares poignant images of the area as he discusses documenting suffering, growing up in a conflict zone and the threats to Palestinian journalists from Israeli authorities.

Last Thing: Mysterious metal monolith goes missing

The Utah public safety department, whose helicopter crew discovered the installation on 18 November during a count of bighorn sheep.
The Utah public safety department, whose helicopter crew discovered the installation on 18 November during a count of bighorn sheep. Photograph: @davidsurber_/Reuters

You may remember the discovery of a metal monolith in the Utah desert last week, which caused widespread speculation about its creator, with guesses ranging from artwork to aliens. The plot thickened on Friday night when the mysterious structure vanished, with officials saying it had been removed by “an unknown party”. According to two adventurers who had gone looking for it, all that was left was a “message written in the dirt that said ‘bye, bitch’ with a fresh pee stain right next to it”. Not obviously the work of UFOs, but who can predict what message they would have left.

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