Headlines: August 17, 2020
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has summoned lawmakers back to Capitol Hill cutting short their summer break in order to discuss President Donald Trump’s attacks on the US Postal Service and its ability to carry out universal vote-by-mail for the November 3rd election. In explaining her logic, Pelosi wrote a letter to her colleagues on Sunday saying, “In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central… Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the president.” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said Trump’s actions amounted to, “a crisis for American democracy.” Trump claimed on Fox News that, “I want to make the post office great again,” in defending the changes that his Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy—a staunch Trump loyalist—has been making. Appearing to break with the president Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’re going to make sure that the ability to function going into the election is not adversely affected…And I don’t share the president’s concerns.” Democrats announced that they have requested top Postal Service appointees including DeJoy to address their concerns next week at an August 24th hearing in front of the House Oversight Committee.
The Washington Post summarized DeJoy’s changes saying that he, “banned postal workers from making extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery and cracked down on overtime hours. Localities across the country have struggled with USPS backlogs of up to a week, hamstringing local businesses and delaying the arrival of crucial mail items, including prescription medications, Social Security checks and bills.” Additionally, the Postal Service is removing hundreds of high-capacity mail sorting machines, as well as removing public collection boxes from states such as California, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. Later USPS said it would stop the removals until after the election. Angry about these changes, protesters picketed outside Mr. DeJoy’s house in Washington DC early on Saturday morning using noise-makers in the early hours of the morning.
Meanwhile voters in North Carolina bizarrely received absentee ballot request forms with Trump’s face on them, paid for by the Trump reelection campaign. One registered Republican voter who plans to not vote for Trump told CNN, “”The irony is very thick and definitely not lost on me…Trump has been saying mail-in ballots will bring fraud to the election but absentee ballots are legit. Which is it? It can’t be both ways.”
In other news, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration was using a private security and transportation company called MVM Inc. to transport and hold undocumented children at major hotel chains before deporting them. Hotel corporations like Best Western and Hampton Inn are being used as detention facilities for children as young as 1 year old, being supervised by authorities that are not trained in childcare and away from the type of government oversight that is required in child detention facilities. The Times explained that, “Parents and lawyers have no way of finding the children or monitoring their well-being while they are in custody.” Meanwhile attempted border crossings have increased at the US’s southern border—mostly driven by single adults from Mexico. This is a change from previous months and years where families largely from Central American nations arrived at the US border. And a federal judge in San Francisco has ordered mandatory Covid-19 testing of all immigrant detainees and security staff at the Mesa Verde ICE Detention facility in Bakersfield, California. Nearly half of all detainees that had been tested have been diagnosed with Covid-19.
The nation’s second largest school district, the Los Angeles Unified School district just announced an aggressive testing and contact tracing plan for all 700,000 students, staff, and their families, as online school begins this week. The LA Times explained that, “If the plan unfolds as described, it could be one of the most detailed to date for an American school district, involving nearly 500,000 students and 75,000 staff members. Meanwhile the Washington Post reports that, “a stunning number of young people are locked out of virtual classes because they lack high-speed Internet service at home,” an issue that, “affects a disproportionately high percentage of Black, Latino and Native American households.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that pregnant Latinas are struck with Covid-19 in staggeringly high numbers. Nearly half of all cases of Covid-19 among pregnant women nationwide are of Latina mothers. One expert called it, “very, very alarming,” and added, “We still can’t figure out why we’re seeing these numbers.” And, new data shows that Covid-19 survivors often sustain serious damage to their hearts. Covid-19-associated myocarditis or inflammation of the heart has been a severe side effect of the disease for survivors.
In election news, a new Washington Post/ABC poll has found that the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Democratic Presidential ticket has a double digit lead on Trump and Mike Pence. The Democrats enjoy a 53-41% lead among registered voters. The results were likely welcome news for the first day of the Democratic National Convention. The convention officially begins Monday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but will largely take place online. Wall Street firms are now giving more contributions to Democrats than to Republicans – for the first time in a decade—according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And the Wall Street Journal has published an op-ed by Trump and his Housing Secretary Ben Carson claiming the wonders of overturning an Obama-era zoning law intended to prevent housing discrimination.
Puerto Rico held its gubernatorial primary elections on Sunday and Gov. Wanda Vasquez lost her bid to a former Congressional Representative Pedro Pierluisi of the New Progressive Party. Vasquez had been appointed after mass protests forced the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello. She had said she would only serve out the remainder of the term but then changed her mind and ran in earnest for the highest office on the US colony.
Violent clashes took place between far right groups like the Proud Boys, police officers, and Black Lives Matter activists in Portland, Oregon and other cities over the weekend. In Portland specifically, a man driving a pickup truck allegedly attempted to drive into protesters and crashed his vehicle. According to reports, activists pulled him out of his car and attacked him physically until police came to arrest him. And a Black man named Anthony McClain was killed by Pasadena police officers in Southern California with three shots late on Saturday. The 32-year old father of 3 was accosted by police during a traffic stop. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
And, in climate news, on the same day that heat in Death Valley, California soared to 130 degreesFahrenheit – the highest ever recorded temperature on earth since 1931—President Trump finalized a plan for oil drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In international news, Italy is once more considering a lockdown as Covid-19 cases are on the rise. The government has closed down nightclubs and mandated masks. New Zealand delayed its election by 4 weeks over virus-related concerns. In Lebanon, a sharp increase in Covid-19 infections has been observed in the days following a horrific and devastating explosion that destroyed the capital Beirut. And, in South Korea, the rightwing pastor of a church linked to hundreds of Covid-19 cases, has just tested positive for the disease.