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5 things to know for September 18: coronavirus, election 2020, USPS, Taiwan

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

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1. Coronavirus 

Global coronavirus cases have now topped 30 million, and the US, Brazil and India have had more than half of the world's infections put together. However, the World Health Organization is also concerned about Europe. The WHO has warned of an alarming surge of cases there, in some instances exceeding infection numbers from the pandemic's first peak in March. Officials say it's a sign of what's to come as colder weather arrives and people tire of safety measures. European governments are imposing strict local measures and weighing up further lockdowns in a bid to halt this growing second wave. In the US, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has delayed in-person public school openings for most students as schools across the country try to balance reopening procedures and coronavirus safety.

2. Election 2020

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee that Russia is trying to actively influence the US elections, chiefly through attempts to "denigrate" Democratic candidate Joe Biden. According to Wray, Russia is using social media, proxies, state media and online journals to sow "divisiveness and discord" and attack Biden's campaign. Biden held a town hall last night, where he cast the United States as unsafe under President Trump and claimed he could unite the country as "America's president" rather than a partisan one. Meanwhile, President Trump criticized what he called "the liberal indoctrination of America's youth" during a Constitution Day speech, and said he wants to create a "national commission to promote patriotic education."

3. USPS

A federal judge has blocked the US Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from changing a wide swath of USPS policies or protocols ahead of November's presidential election. Judge Stanley Bastian specifically said the changes would amount to "voter disenfranchisement." The decision mandates that all election mail, regardless of postage, must be treated as first-class mail -- a courtesy it has regularly extended for mail-in ballots and similar items. Additionally, the USPS must undo all of the changes it's made in the last few months, including restrictions on late and extra mail trips.

4. Spending bill 

Congress is still negotiating a spending bill to keep the government open after the end of the month, but talks are at least going in the right direction. House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer says Democrats will likely introduce a stop-gap bill today, with a probable vote Tuesday. One of the key disagreements between the two sides is how long the spending bill should last. Democrats want a continuing resolution to go to February, when there is a chance Democrats will have won the White House or the Senate. Republicans are looking for a shorter-term continuing resolution into mid-December. Meanwhile, our nation's top legislators are also still debating over how to get a much-anticipated new stimulus deal done.

5. Taiwan

The US is strengthening ties with Taiwan, much to the chagrin of mainland China which sees the island nation as part of its territory. The Trump administration is expected to approve another major weapons sale to Taiwan valued at $600 million. The sale will reportedly include shipments of MQ-9B Reaper drones and anti-ship missiles. Washington has long provided arms to the island, but those sales have increased under the Trump administration. A high-profile United States official is also in Taiwan for the weekend. The presence of Keith Krach, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, marks the second major US visit in two months.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

A new reality show promises to blast the winner into space for 10 days 

A historian watches Disney's new 'Mulan.' Here are her thoughts

An Alaska dentist who extracted a patient's tooth on a hoverboard sentenced to 12 years in jail

This is it, today's Mad Lib headline. 

Spider-like venom found in Australian stinging trees -- and the pain can last for weeks

Really?! Even the trees in Australia are scary.

Hundreds pose nude wearing only masks for London art installation

If you click on this story, please know the first thing to greet you will be a bunch of bare bums. Which is perfectly fine! But just FYI. 

HAPPENING LATER

Rosh Hashanah starts tonight 

And, needless to say, a pandemic is a strange time to be celebrating the Jewish New Year. 

TODAY'S NUMBER

$845 billion

That's how much America's billionaires are worth right now. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the country's wealthiest have seen their fortunes skyrocket during the pandemic even as millions of normal Americans feel the financial crunch. 

TODAY'S QUOTE

medicane (n): a rare hurricane-like storm that forms in the Mediterranean Sea

One such storm is expected to hit Western Greece today. Medicanes can form over cooler waters and usually move from west to east, whereas hurricanes move from east to west.

TODAY'S WEATHER

AND FINALLY

It's FriYAY!

You've made it to the weekend. Celebrate with this peacock spider dancing to YMCA. (Click here to view) 

Football news:

Hans-Dieter flick: I Hope Alaba will sign a contract with Bayern. Our club is one of the best in the world
Diego Maradona: Messi gave Barca everything, brought them to the top. He was not treated the way he deserved
Federico Chiesa: I hope to leave my mark in Juve. We will achieve great results
The Coach Of Benfica: I don't want us to look like the current Barcelona, it has nothing
Guardiola on returning to Barca: I'm happy at Manchester City. I hope to stay here
Fabinho will not play with West ham due to injury
Ronald Koeman: Maradona was the best in his time. Now the best Messi