Thursday morning news – October 29, 2020

Zeta slams Gulf Coast as Category 2 » AUDIO: [Sound of hurricane]

Hurricane Zeta pounded storm-weary Louisiana on Wednesday, with heavy rain and winds of more than 100 miles per hour. 

It slammed the Gulf Coast as a Category 2, stronger than first expected.

Ken Graham with the National Hurricane Center says it roared ashore around a small fishing village. 

GRAHAM: Made landfall around 4pm Central Time near Cocodrie, right near Terrebonne Bay.  

The storm continued to the north and east, battering New Orleans, where it toppled trees and ripped the roofs off of houses. 

New Orleans has been in the warning areas of six previous storms that veered east or west this season. This time, Zeta stayed on course.

Utilities said the hurricane knocked out power to hundreds of thousands in Louisiana. And it’s not done wreaking havoc. 

Zeta was pushing to the northeast this morning with officials issuing Tropical Storm warnings as far inland as the north Georgia mountains. 

Giroir: COVID-19 infections are rising » Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir said Wednesday that COVID-19 infections are in fact rising almost nationwide. 

Confirmed cases are now at an all-time high in the United States, more than 72,000 per day. The previous highwater mark was just under 70,000 daily in July. 

The country now has greater testing capacity, and Giroir said that’s part of the equation, but not all of it. 

GIROIR: Yes, we’re getting more cases identified, but the cases are actually going up. And we know that too because hospitalizations are going up.

Deaths are also up, now over 800 per day, but far below the April peak of more than 2,000 per day. 

Speaking with Good Morning America, Giroir said the Trump administration is not waving a “white flag” regarding the virus and will continue to fight it. 

He also said a vaccine is coming, likely by the end of the year. But he urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance in the meantime—both to avoid more illness, but also to avoid more coronavirus lockdowns. 

Judge orders USPS to ‘perform late and extra trips’ to deliver election mail » A federal judge this week ordered the U.S. Postal Service to do whatever it takes to ensure on-time delivery of election mail. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the post office to scrap the cost-cutting measures that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy put in place over the summer.

He said “personnel are instructed to perform late and extra trips to the maximum extent necessary.” He added “To be clear, late and extra trips will be approved to the same or greater degree than they were performed prior to July 2020.”

In a statement, the Postal Service said delivering election mail securely and on time is its top priority and that it is “deploying extraordinary measures” to ensure that happens. 

That includes “expedited handling, extra deliveries, and special pickups.”

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Senate panel grills social media CEOs » Lawmakers on a Senate panel grilled the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, and Google Wednesday. 

Republicans pressed the execs on what they called anti-conservative bias on the platforms. Senator Ted Cruz questioned Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. 

CRUZ: Does Twitter have the ability to influence elections?
CRUZ: So you’re testifying to this committee right now that Twitter, when it silences people, when it censors people, when it blocks political speech, that has no impact on elections?
DORSEY: People have choice. 

Twitter recently blocked links to a New York Post report about the Biden family’s alleged dealings in Ukraine. The company later changed its rules to allow it. 

The platform has also selectively annotated tweets by President Trump—more or less fact-checking him. 

The tech giants enjoy legal protection from lawsuits over user-posted content under portions of a 1996 law known as Section 230. And GOP Senator Roger Wicker said that has helped protect “online platforms from endless” lawsuits. 

WICKER: But it has also given these internet platforms the ability to control, stifle, and even censor content in whatever manner meets their respective standards.

And he added—quote—“the time has come for that free pass to end.”

Some Democrats share concerns that the companies may have too much unchecked power. But they also want the platforms to take an active role in curbing malicious content. Washington Senator Maria Cantwell…

CANTWELL: What I do not want today’s hearing to be is a chilling effect making sure that hate speech or misinformation related to health and public safety are allowed to remain on the internet. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the companies are getting mixed messages from lawmakers. 

ZUCKERBERG: Democrats often say that we don’t remove enough content and Republicans often say we remove too much. And the fact that both sides criticize us doesn’t mean we’re getting this right. But it does mean that there are real disagreements about where the limits of online speech should be. 

Regarding Section 230, Zuckerberg said Congress should—his words—“update the law to make sure it’s working as intended.”

But Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai urged caution in making any changes.

Satellite images show construction at Iran nuclear site » New satellite images show that Iran has begun construction at its Natanz nuclear facility south of Tehran. WORLD’s Leigh Jones has that story. 

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: The images come as the U.N. nuclear agency acknowledged that Tehran is building an underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant. Its last plant exploded in a reported sabotage attack last summer.

Analysts say Iran appears to be excavating at the site and may be tunneling into a mountainside. 

Iran’s top nuclear official said last month that the government would replace the destroyed above-ground facility with one “in the heart of the mountains around Natanz.”

The Trump administration continues to call on other world powers to join its maximum pressure campaign to curb Iran’s nuclear pursuit. 

Democratic rival Joe Biden has signaled interest in rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. President Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.

(Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP) Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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