5 things to know for September 22: Coronavirus, SCOTUS, China, Navalny, Botswana

Nearly 11 million people are under flash flood watches across the Texas and Louisiana coasts after Tropical Storm Beta made landfall.

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Coronavirus

Just days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted guidance that the coronavirus could commonly spread through lingering droplets in the air and travel further than 6 feet. The agency abruptly removed that guidance yesterday, reverting to its previous statement that the virus spreads mainly from person to person. The CDC said the recent updates were posted in error and that it’s revising recommendations on airborne transmission. The virus can still spread through the air, a CDC official said, but that isn’t thought to be the primary way it’s transmitted. The confusion is the latest sign of how President Trump’s administration has mishandled the Covid-19 response, CNN’s Stephen Collinson writes. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, there’s also another thing getting in the way of clear and consistent messaging on Covid-19: the country’s “divisive state.”

2. Supreme Court

President Trump is narrowing down his short list to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. On the list is Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appellate judge and proven conservative who has the backing of religious conservatives and advocates on the far right. Also being considered is Barbara Lagoa, a conservative judge whose Cuban American heritage could help Trump politically in her home state, Florida. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving closer to locking down the support he needs to confirm a nominee, despite his resistance in 2016 to filling a Supreme Court seat during an election year. So far, two Republicans — Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins — have voiced opposition to taking up whomever Trump nominates before November’s election. But it’s unclear if others will follow.

3. China

A Chinese billionaire who criticized President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been jailed for 18 years on corruption charges. Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real estate tycoon with close ties to senior Chinese officials, disappeared in March after he allegedly wrote a scathing essay criticizing Xi’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. As Beijing continues to deal with the fallout from the pandemic and face international pressure, his conviction and harsh sentence is likely a warning sign to other members of the Chinese elite that any public defiance of Xi will not be tolerated.

4. Russia

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny, who is recovering from a near-fatal suspected poisoning, is demanding that Russian authorities return the clothes he was wearing the day he fell ill, calling them vital evidence. The German government has said the Kremlin critic was poisoned with a chemical agent from the Soviet-era Novichok group, a conclusion supported by two labs in France and Sweden. Though Russia has strongly denied any involvement, there are still several questions. Navalny is in treatment at a hospital in Berlin. He said last week he still can’t pour himself a glass of water or use his phone properly but is on a “clear road” to recovery.

5. Botswana

Government wildlife officials now have an explanation for the mysterious deaths this year of hundreds of elephants in Botswana. Authorities are blaming toxin-producing cyanobacteria in waterholes. But some conservationists, who had suspected poachers of killing the elephants, are skeptical. Though the government has denied human involvement in the elephant deaths, conservationists are demanding it release the full results of the investigation, saying the evidence isn’t conclusive enough.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin are teaming up to start a new NASCAR team, with Bubba Wallace as a driver

Jordan said NASCAR’s struggles with diversity and its lack of Black owners played a part in his decision.

The CDC is discouraging trick-or-treating, costume masks and Halloween parties this year

Womp womp.

The first man to climb Everest 10 times has died at 72

Ang Rita Sherpa was known as the “snow leopard.”

A man known as the ‘Dreadhead Cowboy’ was arrested for riding his horse on a Chicago highway

Turns out the stunt was for a good cause.

This is the healthiest community in the US

See if your home made the cut.

TODAY’S NUMBER

$5 million

That’s about how much former CIA contractor Edward Snowden has agreed to give up to the US government for publishing his book, “Permanent Record,” without approval. Ex-national security adviser John Bolton, who published a damaging book about President Trump this year, faces a similar attempt by the Justice Department to claw back book proceeds.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“This is the one chance that we have.”

Professor Niklas Höhne, co-author of an upcoming study by the Climate Action Tracker, on how the pandemic gave governments around the world a chance to pivot toward a greener future. Instead, CNN finds, that opportunity is about to be wasted.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

How pizza is made in 7 countries 

From corn to grasshoppers to bananas as toppings, our favorite comfort food looks very different, depending on where you are. (Click here to view.)

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