First Thing: Democrats in touching distance of Senate control as Georgia makes history

Molly Blackall
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Raphael Warnock Via Youtube/EPA</span>
Photograph: Raphael Warnock Via Youtube/EPA

Good morning.

Democrat Raphael Warnock has beaten the incumbent Republican senator Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s critical Senate races. In doing so, he has become the first Black senator for Georgia and taken the Democrats a step closer to controlling the Senate. Current results also put Jon Ossoff marginally ahead of the Republican candidate David Perdue in a race that is too close to call. If Democrats win both seats, the Senate will be split 50/50, giving Kamala Harris as vice-president the tie-breaking vote.

Some fingers were pointed at Donald Trump last night over the Republicans’ disappointing results in Georgia. The senior Republican official Gabriel Sterling told CNN that if the party’s candidates lose, the blame will “fall squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since November 3”. Meanwhile, Trump has been stirring up doubt over the legitimacy of the election, alleging that one county found “another 4,000 ballots” and retweeting a series of baseless accusations of fraud.

  • Follow the results live here. According to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, the full results will not be available until lunchtime, but our team will be bringing you live updates from Georgia around the clock.

  • Facebook has banned political advertising aimed at Georgians following the Senate election on Tuesday. The social media company said users in Georgia would be given the same political ad ban that was implemented across the US during the presidential election in November.

The officer who shot and paralysed Jacob Blake will not be charged

The white police officer who repeatedly shot Jacob Blake in the back in August, leaving him paralysed from the waist down, will not face criminal charges, a Wisconsin prosecutor announced on Tuesday. Rusten Sheskey was not charged based on the state’s laws relating to self-defence, the prosecutor said.

The decision triggered a wave of anger from attorneys representing Blake, a Black father whose three children were present at his shooting. They warned it sent a dangerous message to police that it was “OK” for them to “abuse their power”. Blake’s shooting, which came three months after George Floyd was killed by police, sparked international outrage and triggered mass protests against racism and police brutality around the world.

Trump is piling pressure on Pence to interfere with the election – but officials suggest he won’t

Trump and Pence pictured in 2016
At a rally in Georgia, Trump said of Pence, both pictured here in 2016: ‘I hope Mike Pence comes through for us ... He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.’ Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

Trump is ramping up pressure on the vice-president, Mike Pence, to overturn the result of the presidential election when Congress meets later on Wednesday to ratify Joe Biden’s victory. Pence’s role as presiding officer in the affair is ceremonial, but Trump claims the vice-president has the power to “reject fraudulently chosen electors” – allegations debunked by experts. Despite the pressure, sources close to the vice-president suggest he will not interfere with the democratic process, but Trump urged him to do so again on Wednesday morning, tweeting: “If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency. Many States want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be). Mike can send it back!”

The lame duck president has been attempting to stir up hype around the ratification, which should be a rubber-stamp exercise, calling for his supporters to have “wild” street demonstrations. He has managed to win some support – a handful of congressional Republicans are preparing to object to the certification of the results – but the verification of a Biden victory is all but nailed on.

  • The environment has been dealt another major blow, as the Environmental Protection Agency changes how it considers evidence of harm from pollutants. Opponents warn this could damage public health regulation and make it harder to set limits on toxic substances and introduce clean-air protections.

  • Trump’s migration policy “needlessly and foreseeably” exposed asylum seekers to harm, a report has said. Those interviewed in the report from Human Rights Watch, including children, reported crimes including rape, abduction and armed robbery as a result of the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

In other news…

A Hong Kong police senior superintendent, Li Kwai-wah, speaks at a press conference on Wednesday
A Hong Kong police senior superintendent, Li Kwai-wah, speaks at a press conference on Wednesday. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP
  • Dozens of pro-democracy campaigners have been arrested in Hong Kong during early morning raids, in an unprecedented crackdown by authorities. The activists were reportedly held under the national security law, in what opponents said was a “despicable” assault on freedom. An American human rights lawyer was reportedly among those arrested.

  • Ghislaine Maxwell was tracked down via data from her mobile phone, unsealed court documents show. Maxwell has been accused of recruiting and grooming three girls, one aged 14, to be sexually abused by the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. She was arrested in July after the FBI located her phone.

  • Russia is likely to be behind a series of hacks into US federal government agencies that made headlines last month, the office of the US director of national intelligence has said. The office said hackers breached fewer than 10 agencies, and aimed to collect intelligence.

Stat of the day: Black people are 4.5 times more likely than whites to be punished for coronavirus offences

People of color are more likely to be punished for breaking coronavirus restrictions than white people, according to the Covid-19 Policing Project, which reviewed public information about enforcement in the US over the past six months. They found that Black, Indigenous and people of color (Bipoc) were 2.5 times more likely to be policed and punished for violating public health orders, with Black people 4.5 times more likely.

Don’t miss this: why the pandemic has caused a rise in plastic surgery

With people spending more time looking at their face on Zoom calls, or scrolling through social media, pressures on appearances have increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Surgeons in the US have reported an influx of people seeking plastic surgery, with people also having more time at home to recover from swelling or bruising after surgery without being seen.

Last thing: naked fugitive found in crocodile-infested waters

A naked man reportedly wanted by police was found by two fishermen in Australia on Tuesday, sitting in a tree above crocodile-infested waters. Luke Voskresensky, 40, said he had been in the wild for four days and survived by eating snails. He said his clothes had been used for “bits and pieces over the way”. The fishermen gave Voskresensky beer and a pair of shorts and took him back to land on their boat, where he was placed in hospital under police guard.

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