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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photo: Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday refused assistance from the United States to help fight the coronavirus outbreak in his country, citing a conspiracy theory that accuses the U.S. military of developing and spreading the virus, AP reports.

Why it matters: Iran has reported more than 20,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,600 deaths, making it one of the hardest-hit countries in the world. Its economy was already in free-fall mostly due to sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

  • The conspiracy theory Khamenei used is the same one being spread by some Chinese officials to deflect blame for the pandemic.

What he's saying: “I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication?” Khamenei said, according to AP. “Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.”

  • “You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person,” he said.
  • Khameini also alleged without evidence that the virus “is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means.”

The big picture: Iranian officials have criticized offers of aid from the U.S., claiming they are disingenuous.

  • U.S. sanctions have blocked Iran from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that "the whole world should know that humanitarian assistance to Iran is wide open, it’s not sanctioned. ... They’ve got a terrible problem there and we want that humanitarian, medical assistance to get to the people of Iran."

One person dies in Iran every 10 minutes from the coronavirus, and someone is infected every 50 minutes, according to the Health Ministry.

  • Iran on Sunday enacted a two-week closure on major shopping centers in the country. Only pharmacies, supermarkets, groceries and bakeries remain open.

Go deeper: Coronavirus could force the world into an unprecedented depression

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Social Democrats' win in Germany could shake up Europe

Olaf Scholz caught the bouquet on Sunday. Photo: Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty

BERLIN Angela Merkel's political farewell was spoiled Sunday night when the Social Democrats (SPD) narrowly claimed victory in Germany's elections, just four years after suffering their worst loss since World War II.

Why it matters: The stunning political comeback could swing the balance of power in Germany leftward after 16 years of rule by Merkel's conservative bloc, and it could lay the groundwork for a more ambitious European Union.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans sink short-term government funding, debt limit bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Republicans on Monday voted down the House-passed bill to fund the government through Dec. 3 and raise the debt limit.

Why it matters: Congress is just 72 hours away from a potential shutdown, so now comes Democrats' Plan B. Democratic leadership is expected strip the short-term funding bill of language about raising the debt limit — the part that Republicans' reject — in order to pass a bill before federal agencies close down on Friday.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Laurene Powell Jobs' $3.5 billion climate campaign

Laurene Powell Jobs, president of Emerson Collective, is investing $3.5 billion in her new climate-action group, the Waverley Street Foundation — all to be spent in 10 years, as a way to show urgency on the issue.

  • Then the group will sunset.

The big picture: The foundation "will focus on initiatives and ideas that will aid underserved communities who are most impacted by climate change," an official tells Axios.

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