November 21, 2020

Nearly two dozen rockets hit Kabul's heavily fortified Green Zone, where many embassies and international firms are based, on Saturday, reportedly killing at least eight civilians and wounding at least 31 others in the Afghan capital. Tariq Arian, a spokesman for Afghanistan's interior ministry, said the perpetrators mounted the rockets on a small truck and set them off, adding that an investigation is under way.

The Islamic State has reportedly claimed responsibility, while the Taliban, which is involved in peace talks with the Afghan government as the sides seek an end to their decades-long conflict, denied involvement, saying it does "not blindly fire on public places." Despite the negotiations, violence has continued to rise in Afghanistan in recent weeks, with the Taliban and other armed groups carrying out attacks. The Afghan government has maintained the Taliban orchestrated another recent attack that was similarly claimed by ISIS.

There is reportedly hope that a breakthrough in the talks is just a few days away, as the U.S., under orders from President Trump, prepares to pull more than 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan. The move has been met with skepticism, although it was received positively by the Taliban. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to meet with Taliban and Afghan negotiators Saturday in Qatar, the State Department announced Friday. Read more at Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

1:59 a.m.

Elijah and Zachary Wheeler enjoy basketball so much it didn't bother them that their hoop was broken — they played despite it, due to their love of the game.

The Ohio brothers had no idea that Aubrey, a delivery driver with FedEx, saw them playing all the time and decided to surprise the family with a brand new hoop, leaving the gift, along with a basketball, on their front porch. "This was just such a blessing for her to do this, and I never ever expected it," the boys' mother, Coledo Wheeler, told Good Morning America. "It really was a total shock."

Elijah, 11, is now starting every day before school shooting hoops. The Wheeler family is looking forward to the next time Aubrey is in the neighborhood, so they can let her know in person how much her gift meant to them. "This was definitely something that was special, and it was inspiring," Coledo said. Catherine Garcia

1:37 a.m.

President Trump gave what aides say is the closest he will come to conceding his loss to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday night, tweeting that while he is still fighting in court, "in the best interest of our country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same." The Emily in his tweet, General Services Administration head Emily Murphy, had already formally started the presidential transition process.

In an unusually personal letter to Biden and a separate email to her staff, Murphy said she had made the decision to finally start the peaceful transfer of power "independently, based on the law and available facts." She added: "I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision."

Murphy was looking for political cover to start the transition while Trump, with GOP backing, refused to concede, and she was afraid the angry president would "fire her and her top aides if she moved forward," The Washington Post reports. Her letter to Biden was issued shortly after Michigan certified Biden's victory, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court shot down yet another Trump legal challenge, and Republican pressure mounted for the transfer to commence.

But the ball started rolling late last week. Murphy's "team had notified the White House Counsel's Office on Friday that she planned to designate Biden the winner on Monday," the Post reports. "Murphy did not hear anything back." Trump hit his own "major inflection point" a day earlier, when his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and, especially, Sidney Powell, made wild, widely mocked vote fraud allegations but failed to present any credible evidence, Politico reports. Trump's more competent legal advisers, Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone, told him his chaotic legal strategy was getting untenable.

Still, "Trump only reluctantly agreed to let the transition begin," he "was described as angry about the situation," and he spent Monday calling political advisers "to say he had doubts about the GSA initiating the transition," the Post reports. "Despite Trump's resistance, officials throughout his administration were planning to coordinate directly with counterparts on the Biden team starting Tuesday," and "Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told other officials Monday evening it was time to begin the transition." Peter Weber

12:50 a.m.

David Dinkins, New York City's first and only Black mayor, died Monday. He was 93.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins graduated from Howard University, and while enrolled at Brooklyn Law School, worked at a liquor store owned by his father-in-law. Dinkins became involved with Democratic politics in Harlem, first serving in the state assembly, then becoming city clerk and Manhattan borough president.

In 1989, Dinkins defeated incumbent mayor Ed Koch and future mayor Rudy Giuliani, and at the time he was elected, the city's finances were in shambles. The first few years of his term were marked by a record number of homicides and race riots. A state investigation determined that Dinkins didn't act in a timely manner to stop the racial violence, and he was narrowly defeated in 1993 by Giuliani.

After leaving office, Dinkins was active in several charities and taught public affairs at Columbia University. In 2013, he published an autobiography, A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic. Dinkins and his wife, Joyce, had two children: Donna and David Jr. Joyce Dinkins died on Oct. 11. Catherine Garcia

12:16 a.m.

Guitar Center filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Saturday, with CEO Ron Japinga saying this is "an important and positive step in our process to significantly reduce our debt."

Based in California, Guitar Center opened in 1959, and is the largest musical instrument store in the U.S. The company, which has more than 13,000 employees, said it will keep all 510 of its stores open through the holidays.

Guitar Center declared in court documents that it was on "extraordinarily sound footing" before the pandemic, and its sales dropped primarily because of stores having to close due to the coronavirus. Company officials said Guitar Center has more than $1.3 billion in debt, and under a reorganization plan, that number will be reduced by nearly $800 million, CBS News reports.

Several major retailers have filed for bankruptcy protection amid the pandemic, including Neiman Marcus, Hertz, and J.C. Penney. Catherine Garcia

November 23, 2020

Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for a cruise missile attack against an oil facility in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The missile hit a fuel tank at a Saudi Arabian Oil Co. facility on Monday morning, and an Energy Ministry official said the strike caused a fire. The facility is near the King Abdulaziz International Airport.

In 2015, the Iranian-backed Houthis seized Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. Since then, a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the rebels, resulting in a humanitarian catastrophe. The Houthis have used cruise missiles against Saudi targets before, The Associated Press reports, with United Nations and Western officials accusing Iran of supplying the weapons, allegations Tehran has denied.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Col. Turki al-Maliki, called the missile attack "cowardly," adding that it "not only targets the kingdom, but also targets the nerve center of the world's energy supply and the security of the global economy." Catherine Garcia

November 23, 2020

The White House is still going to hold indoor parties this holiday season, with first lady Melania Trump's spokeswoman saying attending the celebrations "will be a very personal choice."

The number of coronavirus cases is surging across the United States, with the highest-ever number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, but invitations still went out for a Nov. 30 event hosted by the first lady, ABC News reports. The White House has held events linked to coronavirus outbreaks before, including a ceremony in September to introduce President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokeswoman, told NBC News in a statement that the holiday celebrations will be held in the "safest environment possible," with masks "required and available" and plenty of hand sanitizer. The guest lists will be smaller, she continued, and attendees will be served "food individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations," with all passed beverages covered.


"Attending the parties will be a very personal choice," Grisham said. "It is a longstanding tradition for people to visit and enjoy the cheer and iconic decor of the annual White House Christmas celebrations."

If he receives an invitation, Surgeon General Jerome Adams is probably going to RSVP "no," seeing as how earlier Monday he said it was important for people to "understand that these holiday parties can be superspreader events." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends holding any celebration outside with just a handful of people, and Adams said these guidelines "apply to the White House, they apply to the American people, they apply to everyone." Catherine Garcia

November 23, 2020

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Monday said she will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position of any committees next year.

Feinstein is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and if the Democrats take control of the Senate in January, she would have been in line to become its first female chairman, the Los Angeles Times reports. Feinstein said she will remain on several committees next year, including judiciary and intelligence.

In a statement, Feinstein said California is "a huge state confronting two existential threats — wildfire and drought — that are only getting worse with climate change. In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues. I also believe that defeating COVID-19, combating climate change, and protecting access to health care are critical national priorities that require even more concentration."

Feinstein faced heavy criticism from progressive lawmakers and organizations last month after she embraced Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at the end of the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She also stated, "This has been one of the best set of hearings that I've participated in." After fielding complaints about Feinstein and whether she is tough enough on Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he had a "very serious" conversation with her.

Feinstein is 87 years old, and the Times notes her announcement will likely renew speculation that she won't finish the entirety of her term. Catherine Garcia

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