Biden on the defensive — On Friday, Joe Biden publicly addressed Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault against him for the first time. Reade, a former Senate staffer, accused Biden of sexually assaulting her when she worked in his office in 1993. Amid mounting pressure, Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, came out and denied the allegations, releasing a lengthy statement on the matter. “They aren’t true. This never happened,” Biden said, adding that, while women who step forward “should be heard, not silenced,” their stories “should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny.” Biden released his statement as President Trump’s campaign is releasing a new advertisement targeting Biden’s record on China as weak. With China dominating headlines for its handling of the coronavirus, President Trump appears intent on making the election at least in part a referendum on China. We’ll see next week whether the advertisement has an effect, but more importantly, we’ll see what the fallout is from Biden’s denial of sexually assaulting Reade. States easing COVID restrictions — Some states, including Texas, Alabama, and others, are taking initial steps to relax their state-at-home orders, which were implemented to combat the coronavirus. The federal government’s guidelines for social distancing expired Thursday and were replaced by recommendations that leave it up to each state to decide when and how to reopen its society. States are taking a wide variety of approaches, with more than half of the country’s governors easing restrictions in some manner. New York and California, for example, are proceeding more cautiously, effectively keeping the restrictions in place, while Texas, Iowa, and Alabama began to reopen on Friday. We’ll have to watch next week to see how the states that have reopened fare, and whether demonstrations continue in places that remain on lockdown. US investigating COIVD’s origins, Trump considering tariffs on China — The American intelligence community is currently investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China. So far, intelligence agencies have not ruled out that the virus may have accidentally leaked from a Chinese lab. The US and countries around the world have expressed outrage at China’s handling of the outbreak. Several media outlets have detailed how China misled the world about the nature of the virus. President Trump is considering measures to punish China and hold it accountable for causing a local outbreak to become a global pandemic. When asked this week about reports that he could cancel America’s debt obligations to China, President Trump responded, “I could do the same thing but even for more money, just putting on tariffs.” The US could move anytime, perhaps as early as next week, to begin imposing such measures on China. And we’ll have to wait and see what the intelligence community concludes about the origins of the virus. Hong Kong protesters preparing to return to streets amid Chinese crackdown — Expect tensions between the people of Hong Kong and the Chinese government to rise. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters are attempting to return to the streets after hunkering down amid the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, Hong Kong’s government, which Beijing controls, has arrested pro-democracy activists. These activists oppose China’s efforts to subjugate Hong Kong through coercion and erase the idea of “one country, two systems,” which is supposed to define the relationship between China and Hong Kong and ensure the latter retains much independence. It seems Beijing only wants to escalate the situation. As the Wall Street Journal reports: In recent weeks, Beijing officials have demanded that Hong Kong enact national-security legislation — which would ban treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the Chinese government — and condemned the tactics of an opposition lawmaker who is holding up passage of a law criminalizing disrespect of China’s national anthem.” The report continues: “Two offices that represent the Chinese government in the city are asserting their power, wading into political debates. And local police have rounded up veteran pro-democracy figures who were involved in last year’s months-long series of mass rallies that began in June.” Beijing will continue to try to use the coronavirus to restrict large social gatherings in order to prevent mass demonstrations in Hong Kong. But the people of Hong Kong, committed to freedom and democracy, will try to protest, nonetheless. The situation will once again boil over, as it did last year, in the coming weeks. Watch for signs this coming week. Kim Jong Un’s health — Last week we told you to watch for any new developments on the status of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s eccentric and tyrannical leader. Some news outlets had reported that Kim may be gravely ill following surgery. But South Korea, which has the best intelligence on the North of any country, repeated several times that Kim is “alive and well.” Others claimed that Kim may just be recovering from surgery but not in dire shape. Amid such uncertainty, the speculation was rampant. Of course, if Kim were dead or unfit to rule for health reasons, that could have major implications for the future of North Korea. Most recently, Taiwan’s intelligence chief, Chiu Kuo-cheng, said Thursday that Kim is “sick,” and that Taiwan has emergency plans in place in case Kim dies and there is a struggle for power in North Korea. But don’t be alarmed just yet. Chiu’s deputy, Hu Mu-yuan, later added, “From what we know, Kim is still in charge and in control of North Korea’s military and its government.” We’ll have to continue our Kim watch next week and see whether we learn anything new and concrete.