CORONAVIRUS RAGES ACROSS NC, 4,514 NEW CASES YESTERDAY: At least 336,775 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 5,034 have died, according to health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday reported 4,514 new COVID-19 cases, up from 3,415 reported Saturday and breaking the state’s previous record of 4,296 cases reported Thursday. As of Sunday, 1,571 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19. State officials last week said patient counts would be higher due to a change in how the federal government reports hospital stays. About 7.1% of tests were reported positive on Friday, the latest day for which data are available.
NC LAWYER SYDNEY POWELL BOOTED FROM TRUMP'S "ELITE" LEGAL TEAM: President Trump's campaign said in a Sunday statement that Sidney Powell is neither a member of its legal team nor a lawyer for Trump in his personal capacity. Powell was a part of the campaign's wild, conspiratorial Thursday press conference and baselessly floated unfounded conspiracy theories that included a claim that President-elect Biden won the 2020 presidential election thanks to "communist money" from the Venezuelan regime. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally, called Powell's actions "a national embarrassment" due to her "outrageous conduct." Powell first rose to conservative prominence after criticizing the Mueller investigation and becoming the primary attorney for Trump's former national security adviser adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to the FBI for lying about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during Trump's transition.
RDU GETS READY FOR HOLIDAY RUSH AS MILLIONS IGNORE CDC WARNING ABOUT THANKSGIVING TRAVEL: Despite an increase in coronavirus cases and warnings from health leaders, the TSA reports millions of people are traveling for the holiday. Some airlines, including American, are allowing changes to flights with no penalty through Dec. 31 for travelers who booked flights early but changed their minds earlier this month when the CDC advised against Thanksgiving travel. All travelers should check their airline's individual policies. On Friday, one million travelers were screened through security nationwide for the first time since March, according to the TSA’s data. But the bustling holiday airports are exactly what health officials are advising against, asking people to instead stay home and celebrate with immediate family if possible. According to AAA, air travel is still expected to see its largest one-year decrease on record for Thanksgiving, a nearly 48% drop, with just 2.4 million travelers expected to fly.
TRUMP DONOR GOT 3% ($25 MILLION) LOAN, SO HE COULD CHARGE 350% FOR LOANS HE SELLS: A company owned by a major donor to President Trump that operates auto-title loan stores with names such as LoanStar and Moneymax secured a $25 million low-interest loan from a government pandemic aid program, using what consumer advocates describe as a loophole to a rule designed to prevent most lenders from getting this federal help. The cash infusion to Wellshire Financial Services — part of a multi-state title loan empire run by Atlanta businessman Rod Aycox — came from the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion Main Street Lending program for small- and medium-size businesses. It’s the same program that is among the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities that will be allowed to expire at year’s end after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced last week the unspent funds will be redirected to more distressed parts of the U.S. economy. The decision does not affect loans that already have been made, such as the one to Wellshire. Wellshire’s government-backed, five-year loan came with a 3.15 percent interest rate, Fed records show. Loans to consumers at Wellshire’s auto-title loan stores can carry a 350 percent annual rate, thanks to high fees and interest supercharging the cost of borrowing, according to corporate disclosure documents. One of Aycox’s stores, LoanStar, which has dozens of branches in Texas, notes that someone taking out a $1,200 loan, secured by a vehicle as collateral, needs to pay back $1,589.97 within one month or potentially lose their vehicle.
BIDEN MAKES CABINET SELECTIONS, INCLUDING ANTONY BLINKEN AS SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. Blinken, 58, a former deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama, began his career at the State Department during the Clinton administration. His extensive foreign policy credentials are expected to help calm American diplomats and global leaders alike after four years of the Trump administration’s ricocheting strategies and nationalist swaggering. Mr. Biden is also expected to name another close aide, Jake Sullivan, as national security adviser, according to a person familiar with the process. Mr. Sullivan, 43, succeeded Mr. Blinken as Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, and served as the head of policy planning at the State Department under Hillary Clinton, becoming her closest strategic adviser. Mr. Biden is also expected to name Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the Foreign Service who has served in diplomatic posts around the world, as his ambassador to the United Nations, according to two people with knowledge of the process. Mr. Biden will also restore the post to cabinet-level status after Mr. Trump downgraded it, giving Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, who is Black, a seat on his National Security Council. “Simply put, the big problems that we face as a country and as a planet, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s a pandemic, whether it’s the spread of bad weapons — to state the obvious, none of these have unilateral solutions,” Mr. Blinken said at a forum at the Hudson Institute in July. “Even a country as powerful as the United States can’t handle them alone.”