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Sen. Mitch McConnell Recognizes Joe Biden as President Elect

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  • On Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged President-Elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election while speaking on the Senate floor. He said that while many hoped for other results,The Electoral College has spokenI want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.” 
  • This comes one day after the Electoral College certified Biden’s win. This moment prompted other key Republicans, including Sen. John Thune and Sen. Roy Blunt, to also recognize Biden’s victory.
  • Biden delivered remarks about his win and praised the strength of the United States, saying: “The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.”
  • For his part, President Trump is continuing to deny the results of the election and is making baseless claims of fraud on Twitter. 

Republicans Acknowledge Biden’s Win

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged and congratulated President-Elect Joe Biden on his win Tuesday morning following the Electoral College certifying the victory. 

“Many millions of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has a process to determine who will be sworn in on January the 20th,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “The Electoral College has spoken, so today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.” 

The election was called for Biden 38 days ago but many key Republicans either avoided acknowledging President Donald Trump’s defeat or outright denied it. The Electoral College’s certification marked a change in tune for many leaders in the party who are now finally coming to terms with the results. 

“At some point you have to face the music,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-Sd.) said on Monday. “Once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.

“We’ve now gone through the constitutional process, and the electors have voted, so there’s a president-elect,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the inaugural committee, told reporters. Blunt had repeatedly avoided calling Biden the president-elect in the past. 

“I will, as chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, work with President-elect Biden and his presidential inaugural committee to plan for the swearing-in ceremony on January 20,” he later added in an interview with the Kansas City Star.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.) still refused to directly recognize Biden’s win but did imply that Trump’s odds of overturning the election’s results are looking increasingly worse. 

“It’s a very, very narrow path for the president,” he told reporters, “but having said that, I think we’ll let those legal challenges play out.”

Even Russian President Vladamir Putin has now congratulated Biden on his win. 

“Vladimir Putin wished the President-elect every success and expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today,” the Kremlin said in a Tuesday statement.

Electoral College Certifies Biden’s Win

Now that the Electoral College has certified Biden’s win, with 306 votes to Trump’s 232, Biden delivered remarks celebrating the victory. He praised the strength of the country’s democracy and thanked those who worked hard to uphold it. 

“In America, politicians don’t take power, people grant power to them,” Biden said. “The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.” 

Biden gave a special thanks to election workers who not only worked through a pandemic, but stood their ground as Trump tried to lodge baseless claim after baseless claim of fraud, leading to threats against them. 

“[The election] was honest, it was free, and it was fair,” Biden said. “They saw it with their own eyes, and they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything differently.” 

 The Electoral College results will be sent to Congress to be counted on Jan. 6.

Barr Resigns

For his part, Trump is still sending out endless tweets making unfounded claims of voter fraud. Dozens of lawsuits challenging the election have been tossed out across the country, but that has not stopped the president from pulling at straws, even as he is set to leave the White House in five weeks. 

Even with that limited time in office, he is continuing to wage a war against those who go against him. On Monday, Attorney General William Barr announced his resignation. Barr was among Trump’s closest allies until early December when he released a statement saying that the Department of Justice had found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election. He then fell out of the President’s favor. The president slammed him for Barr for this, and continued criticisms of him over the weekend, lashing out at Barr for not publicly disclosing information related to an investigation into Hunter Biden.

He then announced Barr’s departure in a tweet. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will take his place for the remaining month of Trump’s term. 

Barr also made comments about his departure, releasing a letter that showered Trump with praise. 

“I am greatly honored that you called on me to serve your Administration and the American people once again as Attorney General,” he wrote. “I am proud to have played a role in the many successes and unprecedented achievements you have delivered for the American people.”

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Associated Press) (NPR)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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