News briefs for November 18

Trump to spend Thanksgiving at White House

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and the first lady will spend Thanksgiving at the White House instead of attending the annual dinner at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

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The first lady’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, confirmed the plans in a “Holiday Scheduling Update” on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

Trump and his family typically spend the holiday in Palm Beach and have Thanksgiving dinner in a ballroom alongside dues-paying members who purchase tickets to attend.

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not respond to questions Tuesday about whether the Mar-a-Lago event would go on given the spike in coronavirus cases and pleas from public health officials for Americans to limit the number of people they socialize with indoors this holiday season to limit the spread.

Grassley says he tested positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator and third in the line of presidential succession, said Tuesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Grassley, 87, announced earlier Tuesday that he was quarantining after being exposed to the virus and was waiting for test results. On Tuesday evening, he tweeted that he tested positive.

“I’ve tested positive for coronavirus,” Grassley wrote. “I’ll b following my doctors’ orders/CDC guidelines & continue to quarantine. I’m feeling good + will keep up on my work for the ppl of Iowa from home.”

Grassley said he looks forward to “resuming my normal schedule soon.”

The Iowa Republican, who was in the Senate and voting Monday, did not say how he was exposed. His office said Tuesday morning that he was not experiencing any symptoms.

Controversial Fed nominee Shelton stalls in Senate test vote

WASHINGTON — The nomination of Judy Shelton, President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for the Federal Reserve, is stalled in the Senate after Vice President-elect Kamala Harris returned to the chamber to cast a key vote in a tally Tuesday.

Two key Republicans were absent because of COVID-related concerns. The 47-50 vote came as the Republican-controlled Senate continues to focus its energies in the post-election lame-duck session on confirming Trump’s appointees.

Shelton is an unusually caustic critic of the Fed and was opposed by two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, in Tuesday’s vote. Harris has been focused on the transition to the Biden administration but returned to the chamber for her first vote since winning the vice presidency.

Senator-elect Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., is likely to join the Senate when the chamber returns from its Thanksgiving break. That could leave Shelton short of support for confirmation even if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seeks a revote next month.

Another Republican opponent, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, missed Tuesday’s vote, and his return could cement Shelton’s fate, even after Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, return to the chamber after quarantining because of exposure to the coronavirus.

Hurricane Iota batters Nicaragua

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Hurricane Iota battered Nicaragua with screeching winds and pounding surf Tuesday, chasing tens of thousands of people from their homes along the same stretch of the Caribbean coast that was devastated by an equally powerful hurricane just two weeks ago.

The extent of the damage was unclear because much of the affected region was without electricity and phone and internet service, and strong winds hampered radio transmissions.

Preliminary reports from the coast included toppled trees and electric poles and roofs stripped from homes and businesses, said Guillermo González, director of Nicaragua’s emergency management agency. More than 40,000 people were in shelters.

Later, Nicaragua Vice President and first lady Rosario Murillo said that a brother and sister, ages 11 and 8, had drowned in the community of La Pinuela trying to cross the swollen Solera River. There were reports of others missing in the same area.

A day earlier, Iota intensified into a Category 5 storm, but it weakened as it neared the coast and made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 kph). The system came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane about 30 miles (45 kilometers) south of the Nicaraguan city of Puerto Cabezas, also known as Bilwi. That was just 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of where Hurricane Eta made landfall Nov. 3, also as a Category 4 storm.

Stocks fall as virus worries force big rally to take a pause

NEW YORK — Worries about the worsening pandemic pushed Wall Street to tap the brakes Tuesday on its big November rally, which had vaulted stocks back to record heights.

Treasury yields also dipped after a report showed U.S. shoppers spent less at retailers last month than economists expected. The numbers underscore how the coronavirus pandemic is worsening and threatens to drag the economy lower, at least in the near term.

Stocks that stormed higher this month on hopes that a vaccine or two may get the global economy back to normal next year receded amid the worries.

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The S&P 500 fell 17.38 points, or 0.5%, from its record to close at 3,609.53. It was the first loss for the index in three days.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average also fell from a record, down 167.09, or 0.6%, to 29,783.35. The Nasdaq composite slipped 24.79, or 0.2%, to 11,899.34.

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