Headlines: August 13, 2020
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A New York Times analysis of mortality statistics has concluded that the US has been undercounting deaths due to the coronavirus and that more than 200,000 people have already died from the disease. The analysis was based on a comparison of this year’s death rate compared to last year’s and a calculation to arrive at “excess deaths,” that are most likely attributed to Covid-19. The study comes at the same time as the US had its worst single-day death toll of the summer on Wednesday with more than 1,500 people dying from the virus. In contrast the entire European Union recorded 115 deaths on the same day. To add to the bad news, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Thursday published a study concluding that in the first 2 months of the pandemic New York City lost more lives to Covid-19 than were lost in the same city in the first two months of the 1918 flu pandemic. That disease eventually killed 675,000 people in the US alone and 50 million worldwide.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a dire warning about this fall. In an interview with WebMD Redfield said, “For your country right now and for the war that we’re in against Covid, I’m asking you to do four simple things: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and be smart about crowds.” Without following these steps Redfield warned that the US could have, “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.” The CDC also issued a new warning over face masks that are outfitted with valves or vents for easier breathing. Such masks do not stop the transmission of respiratory droplets being inhaled or exhaled and as such are not effective.
Meanwhile as hospitals are overloaded with patients in various Covid-19 hotspots reports are emerging that health workers are being required to work even if they have symptoms of the virus. A survey found that, “roughly a third of those who said they had gotten sick reported returning to work with symptoms.” Nearly a thousand health workers have already died from Covid-19 and it is possible some of those lives were lost because of inadequate Personal Protective Equipment.
The latest Labor Department figures on unemployment show that the number of people seeking jobless benefits last week finally fell below 1 million, after 20 straight weeks at more than a million. The drop was small though, at 963,000 more Americans filing for unemployment even as the CARES Act weekly benefits have dried up in the face of Republican opposition. Vice President Mike Pence boasted on Fox News that, “We’ve created more jobs in the last 3 months than Joe Biden and Barack Obama created in their 8 years in office.” Critics pointed out that Pence was purposely not referring to “net” numbers of jobs created and that his statement was misleading considering that the economy lost tens of millions of jobs in the first six months of the year due to the pandemic.
The presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden appeared alongside his running mate on Wednesday for the first time since he announced Senator Kamala Harris was his Vice Presidential choice. The former Vice President and his wife appeared alongside Harris and her husband at a Delaware gym without a live audience and introduced her in reference to his late son Beau who knew Harris. Mr. Biden’s campaign raised $26 million in the 24 hours after he announced that Harris would join him as a running mate. Associated Press reports that, “Democrats are close to matching, if not surpassing, the massive $300 million cash stockpile President Donald Trump and Republicans reported in July.” Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal on Thursday published the headline, “As Kamala Harris Joins Biden Ticket, Wall Street Sighs in Relief.” The paper of choice for corporate America lauded the fact that for Biden and Harris, “tougher financial regulation isn’t a top priority.” Meanwhile President Trump wasted no time in attacking Harris calling her a, “sort of a mad woman” in an interview on Fox Business News. He proceeded to attack several other Democratic women and women in media—who are often his favorite targets. Trump campaign advisor Jenna Ellis also revived the sort of racist attack that Trump had leveled against President Barack Obama, questioning whether his birthplace was in the US. Ellis tweeted an article questioning whether Harris was born in the US and when asked about it said, “it’s an open question, and one I think Harris should answer so the American people know for sure she is eligible.”
Trump continued his attacks on the US Postal Service and on mail-in voting, by withholding the necessary funding that USPS needs in order to ensure American voters get their ballots in a timely manner during the on-going pandemic. In an interview on Fox News Trump admitted that his agenda was to ensure that the postal service didn’t get the money it needed to carry out the task. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has issued a warning about the “serious challenges” to American democracy as a result, and 175 members of the US Congress have demanded in a letter that Postmaster Louis DeJoy reverse the changes he has implemented –changes that include delays to mail delivery.
A new report by more than 500 climate scientists from more than 60 countries has concluded that the last ten years were the hottest decade on record and that every decade since 1980 has been hotter than the decade that came before it. On the same day the Trump Environmental Protection Agency deliberately reversed a methane regulation that even fossil fuel companies don’t oppose. Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide and the Obama administration adopted methane emission regulations. Also, a wildfire in Southern California has exploded in size and ferocity as firefighters struggle to control it. The Lake Hughes fire began in the Angeles National Forest and expanded to more than 10,000 acres in just a few hours. Wildfires are stronger and more prevalent in a warming climate.
Finally, Trump is touting a deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries. The UAE now becomes the first Gulf Arab nation to recognize the state of Israel. Trump is hoping that the deal will be a foreign policy achievement he can tout ahead of the November elections after the Afghanistan peace deal remains tenuous and relations between the US and North Korea did not normalize as he had hoped.