Today's D Brief: New COVID peak in the US; 800,000 get misleading robocalls; NSA sees no big hacks; And a bit more.

Yet again, the U.S. set a new daily record for coronavirus infections with more than 104,000 new cases on Wednesday, according to metrics from Johns Hopkins University. The last record was set last Friday when 99,000 Americans tested positive in a single 24-hour stretch.

Several states also set new daily infection records of their own, including Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado and Idaho, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

Now more than 234,000 Americans have passed away from COVID-19 complications, according to the New York Times tracker. The U.S. is now reporting more deaths per day than any other country in the world (868), and by a long shot (India, at #2, lost 541 citizens on Wednesday), according to Reuters’ tracker. 

America’s COVID death rate has increased 21% in the past two weeks. Cases have grown 51% in that same time. Five of the country’s 10 most contagious hotspots include counties in North and South Dakota, according to the Times

  • Overall, the U.S. appears to be in its third wave of both rising cases and deaths, according to the Washington Post’s tracker. 

Navy carrier Theodore Roosevelt tops the Times’ list of “Other significant clusters” that have appeared this year, with 969 cases. (This is the ship sidelined for months by COVID — and hit again in October.) The list also includes clusters at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia (#2); South Carolina’s Savannah River Site nuclear reservation (#3); and Mississippi’s Ingalls Shipbuilding ranked #6 on that Times list with 374 cases. 

One thing you may not have expected: President Trump performed better this election “in counties with high COVID-19 death rates” than he did in 2016 Reuters’ Brad Heath noted Tuesday evening on Twitter. Why? At least in part because “partisan views about the pandemic seem to have been baked in before this week’s election,” Josh Michaud of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies tweeted today.

ICYMI: “A North Dakota Republican died of covid-19 in October. He still won his election,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday. 

Newly stressed: America’s supply chain for critical protective gear, including N95 masks, the Wall Street Journal reports separately today. Cutting to the quick: “Demand for N95 masks continues to run ahead of production in much of the country.” Meanwhile, “3M said it is working with federal agencies to direct masks to hot spots, rather than to stockpiles in states with less immediate need.” Read on, here.

From Defense One

A Big 2020 Election Hack Never Came. Here’s Why // Patrick Tucker: America’s cyber defenders are getting more proactive — and more chatty.

Would Biden WH, GOP Senate Prevent Defense-Spending Dip? // Marcus Weisgerber: As the nation waits for election results, some analysts are looking ahead.

A Dreadful New Peak for the American Pandemic // Alexis C. Madrigal and Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic: The country recorded more than 100,000 coronavirus cases today—the highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

Whatever Happens in the Election, Get Ready for a Rocky Transition // Tom Shoop, Government Executive: Trump says if he loses, he won’t help hand over power, and if he wins, he'll root out government employees he deems disloyal to him.

Robocalls Told at Least 800,000 Swing State Residents to 'Stay Home' on Election Day. The FBI Is Investigating. // Jack Gillum and Jeremy B. Merrill, ProPublica: A firm that tracks robocalls said more than 3 million calls were made on Nov. 3, which contained a cryptic message instructing people to “stay safe and stay home.” The tactics join other efforts to confuse voters this election cycle.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first and only U.S. President to be elected to a third term.

Joe Biden is inching closer to 270 Electoral College votes, and President Trump is growing agitated on Twitter this morning as Reuters reports Trump’s “leads in some states have diminished or evaporated during the [vote] counting” from Tuesday’s election. 
The quick read: “The counting continues in many states without major incident,” as NYU professor Jay Rosen noted early Wednesday. And like what happened early Wednesday, “The president just used his Twitter feed to make shadowy and unfounded accusations of a stolen election. [However] The reality is state officials planned for this, and they are unperturbed.”
The latest: Trump’s campaign wants to stop legally cast ballots from being counted. “In states where Trump appears to be losing, such as Wisconsin, the campaign said it would request a recount,” CNN reported Wednesday evening. “But in other states, where current results show Trump winning but outstanding mail-in or early votes could tilt the race in favor of Biden, the campaign is demanding the vote counting be halted.”
“STOP THE COUNT,” Trump tweeted this morning. The president is also tweeting untruths about the process of counting votes in the U.S., including, “ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!” (The truth is more than 20 states accept mail-in ballots postmarked up to Election Day.)
Protests and counterprotests have emerged in several cities “where crucial votes were being counted,” the New York Times reports this morning. Reuters has more from unrest across a few major cities like Portland, Denver, Detroit and Oakland, here.
Overseas reaction, via the BBC:

  • In Germany: Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer warned about a "very explosive situation” because Trump may cause “a constitutional crisis in the USA." 
  • In France: "Let's not kid ourselves: The United States has not been a friendly partner to European states for several years now," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Radio Classique. "The American continent has detached itself from the European continent."
  • In Russia: “There has been no official comment from the Russian government, but the pro-Kremlin politician Vyacheslav Nikonov was unafraid to revel in the uncertainty surrounding the result. ‘Whoever wins the legal battles half of Americans will not consider them the lawful president,’ he wrote on Facebook. ‘Let's stock up on large quantities of popcorn.’” More, here.

“Boogaloo” extremists appear to be getting into digital gunsmithing, and Facebook helped spread the word, according to recent FBI charges WIRED’s Andy Greenberg reported on Wednesday.
What’s going on: “A criminal complaint filed last week accuses Timothy Watson, a resident of Ranson, West Virginia, of selling more than 600 3D-printed plastic components of automatic rifles through his website,,” Greenberg writes.
If you just remove one component from this “wall hanger” hook, “the remaining small plastic piece functions perfectly as a 'drop-in auto sear,' a simple but precisely shaped rifle part that can convert a legal AR-15 into an illegal, fully automatic machine gun.” Full story, here.

For something completely different: Space Command’s Gen. James Dickinson will speak publicly this morning at the Space Foundation's Space Symposium 365. That happens at 11 a.m. ET. Details and registration, here

The U.S. formally left the Paris climate agreement, which “further isolates Washington in the world but has no immediate impact on international efforts to curb global warming,” AP reported Wednesday. “The next planned round of U.N. climate talks takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021.” More here.

Stuck at home with the same old food and recipes? The Air Force chief has a BBQ brisket recipe you can try. And the folks at Task & Purpose wrote it up for the web on Wednesday right here.

Lastly today: Congratulations to Middle East journalist Jane Arraf, who in December moves on from NPR to become the Baghdad bureau chief for the New York Times. You may remember Arraf from her late October reporting, which uncovered the identity of the Iraqi teenager at the heart of U.S. Navy Seal Edward Gallagher’s war crimes trial back in 2019.
And RIP to a controversial veteran journalist of the Middle East, Robert Fisk, who had largely lived and worked out of Beirut since the 1970s. He authored two incredible volumes of contemporary Middle Eastern history and reporting entitled, “Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon” back in 1990; and “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East” in 2005. The Guardian remembers Fisk as being “among the few Western journalists to interview the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, which he did three times during the 1990s.” The New York Times, at least in part, remembers him as “being insufficiently tough on Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.” Fisk, 74, appears to have died of a severe stroke late last week in Ireland.
News to us: He recently starred in a documentary about his career called “This Is Not a Movie,” which was released this summer. Find a trailer for that on YouTube, here.