Headlines: August 12, 2020
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:37 — 7.9MB)
Democratic Presidential candidate and presumptive nominee Joe Biden has finally announced his Vice Presidential selection and it is California Senator Kamala Harris. Biden had taken an extraordinarily long time to make a decision with dozens of candidates and a very detailed vetting process. He had made clear he wanted to pick a female running mate and faced pressure from advocacy groups demanding that he choose a black female VP. His choice of Harris—the daughter of an Indian woman and Jamaican father—appeared to satisfy several demands for racial and gender representation while protecting him from Republican accusations of being anti-police, anti-Wall Street, or anti-Israel. Harris, the former California Attorney General faces accusations from the left of being too easy on abusive police, and on big banks and mortgage lenders while she held that role. She has also faced criticism of being too pro-Israel as a Senator. Harris, who was also a presidential candidate alongside Biden had initially endorsed Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan which Biden vehemently opposes but is largely favored by the public. She had quickly backtracked and then offered a watered-down version of the bill. Still, others on the left, such as academic and historian Manisha Sinha, author of “The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition,” lauded Biden’s choice of Harris in a New York Times op-ed. Dr. Sinha compared Harris to Barack Obama saying they both, “represent the cosmopolitan, interracial democracy that a majority of Americans aspire to live in today.” Fox News host Chris Wallace proclaimed that Harris “doesn’t do any harm” to Biden’s chances in the November election. Biden and Harris planned a joint speaking event in Delaware on Wednesday, after raising a record number of small donations in the wake of his VP announcement.
In other election news, Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar just won her first primary challenge 2 years after becoming one of the two first Muslim American women in Congress. Omar, a Somali American former refugee, has faced attacks from Republicans as well as the center right of the Democratic Party. She handily defeated a well-funded Democratic opponent named Antone Melton-Meaux. Omar is considered one of the “squad” of 4 freshmen progressive and outspoken congresswomen of color elected in 2018. All four, including Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib beat back primary challengers this year.
In notable Republican primary wins, a far right conspiracy theorist who has made racist statements on video won a GOP primary in Georgia. Marjorie Taylor Greene is an avowed supporter of the QAnon conspiracy group whose accounts have been removed from numerous social media platforms and won the race for Georgia’s 14th Congressional district. President Donald Trump congratulated her on Twitter as a “future Republican star.”
Trump’s weekend announcements to sign “four executive orders” on financial relief for Americans struggling from the pandemic are being met with skepticism. Only one was actually an executive order– on housing—and even that does not actually extend a federal eviction moratorium as it has been cast as. His payroll tax holiday, which is meant to temporarily make more money available to working Americans, excludes tens of millions of unemployed Americans who need the most help, and requires people to pay back the deferred taxes next year, creating a logistical and confusing nightmare for employers, the IRS, and the Social Security Administration. His extension of jobless benefits reduces the weekly amount from $600 to $300 and requires that cash-strapped states kick in an additional $100 a week. And his student loan order only defers interest payments on loans, and only until the end of the year. Meanwhile Congress remains deadlocked.
Russia has approved the first Covid-19 vaccine with President Vladimir Putin announcing on Tuesday that it “works quite effectively.” The vaccine, called ‘Sputnik V,’ has not even completed clinical trials, leading experts to treat it with extreme caution. Dr. Anthony Fauci is among the skeptics and said, “Having a vaccine and proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things.” Meanwhile companies in the US are testing the use of Covid-19 antibodies to provide immunity while vaccine trials continue. AP explained the difference saying, “Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking there’s an infection so it makes antibodies and remembers how to do that if the real bug turns up.”
New research offers definitive evidence of what scientists have been saying all along: that airborne transmission is a significant method of the virus’ spread. The New York Times summarized the study saying that, “floating respiratory droplets called aerosols contain live virus, and not just fragments of genetic material.” The particles were collected at a distance of 7 to 16 feet from infected patients, suggesting that social distancing alone is not enough to curb the spread of the virus and that masks that trap respiratory droplets are necessary. The study did not determine if the amount of live virus collected in the air was enough to trigger infection. Meanwhile a separate study of different face coverings show that fitted N-95 masks continue to be the most effective at stopping viral particles, while homemade cotton cloth face coverings were second best—as good as surgical masks. Bandanas and knitted masks are not as effective and so-called neck gaiters made from stretchy breathable fabric are possibly worse than no mask at all. In Florida, where Covid-19 infections continue to break records, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods has banned his staff from wearing masks claiming there was no consensus on its safety. In Georgia, where schools have reopened with largely no masks or social distancing, nearly 1,000 people have already been ordered to quarantine after a week.
Seattle’s police chief Carmen Best has announced she is retiring on September 2nd. Her announcement came at the same time as Seattle’s City Council voted unanimously to cut police funding and reduce law enforcement by as many as 100 officers. In Portland, Oregon, where Black Lives Matter protests were violently targeted by President Trump’s federal officers, many will not face charges. The city announced its new policy on Tuesday that hundreds of people arrested on non-violent misdemeanor charges will not be prosecuted. Colorado’s Attorney General has announced a new civil rights investigation into the Aurora police department whose officers killed of 23-year old Elijah McClain last year. McClain’s parents have filed a lawsuit over their son’s death. In Florida, a state known for arresting very small children in schools, Key West police arrested an 8-year old boy for hitting his teacher – a boy so small that the handcuffs were too large for his wrists. And in California, a new poll finds strong public appetite for police reforms. The LA Times explained that, “80% of respondents favored passing laws that would make it easier to prosecute police officers who use excessive force, 78% favored banning officers from using chokeholds and strangleholds when detaining suspects, 70% favored granting civilians the right to sue officers for misconduct and excessive force, and 61% favored limiting the power of police unions by reducing their collective bargaining rights.”
And finally, six former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency—which is most living former EPA Directors—have joined a call for an agency “reset” once President Trump is out of office. The former agency heads served under Democratic and Republican administrations and backed a series of detailed recommendations made by the Environmental Protection Network in a document entitled, “Resetting the Course of EPA.”