Headlines: August 20, 2020
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The third night of the Democratic National Convention featured several party stars and heavy hitters, most notably former President Barack Obama, who issued his most scathing and brutally honest critique of Donald Trump so far. President Trump, clearly rankled by Obama’s criticism, anger-tweeted several times in capital letters during the speech. Obama’s Secretary of State and the winner of the popular vote in the 2016 Presidential race, Hillary Clinton also addressed the virtual gathering warning Americans of the importance of voting. California Senator Kamala Harris made history in becoming the first Black, first Asian of any major party to accept the Vice Presidential nomination, and the second woman (after Geraldine Ferraro) to accept the Vice Presidential nomination for the Democratic Party. Here is part of her speech. On Thursday, the fourth and final night of the convention, Joe Biden will accept the Presidential nomination. Hoping to upstage Biden, Trump announced a plan to speak at an event in Pennsylvania outlining his rival’s failings.
Trump’s former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has been arrested on charges of fraud along with three other men. New York federal prosecutors charged the group with misusing millions of dollars raised from a private crowdfunding campaign to finance the President’s pet project of a border wall with Mexico. Although all four claimed their group “We Build the Wall” would be run by volunteers, Bannon and his colleagues spent significant portions of the money on their own personal use, using shell companies and fake invoices to try to hide the paper trail. According to the Washington Post, “Bannon…was taken into custody off the coast of Westbrook, Conn., while aboard a 150-foot yacht owned by his friend, Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui — who is wanted by authorities in Beijing on charges of fraud, blackmail and bribery.” Trump has distanced himself from Bannon and the project but just one year ago the President’s son Donald Jr. appeared as a special guest at a speaking event hosted by We Build the Wall and lauded their efforts saying, “What you guys are doing is amazing.” The group also offered autographed copies of Trump Jr.’s books in exchange for donations.
A federal judge just ruled that Trump must turn over 8 years worth of personal and business tax returns to the New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in a case involving investigation of potential criminal activity by the Trump organization. The president’s lawyers are likely to appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court – the second time the case would go before the nation’s highest court.
Trump on Wednesday expressed support for the shadowy conspiracy group QAnon saying, “I don’t know much about the movement; I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate. I heard these are people that love our country.” That’s Trump giving his blessing to a movement of rightwing conspiracy-theorists who believe among other things that Trump is saving America from a Democratic Party that is a Satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Recently one QAnon member won a GOP Primary in Georgia and Trump dubbed her a “rising star.”
In economic news, unemployment claims are once more up, breaking through the 1-million mark. The Labor Department’s latest figures from jobless benefits filed last week show an increase after a minor decrease from the week before. The numbers underscore the desperate and urgent need for economic relief for Americans in a bill that has stalled in Congress after Senate Republicans balked at spending money on ordinary people. Meanwhile a new study found that at the intersection of the pandemic and related economic collapse, many working mothers have been forced to give up their jobs and turn to childcare in the home.
In California, a utilities worker and a helicopter pilot were killed fighting the raging fires in the Bay area that have blanketed the region in smoke and burned more acres of land so far than in all of 2019. The fires were ignited by about 11,000 lightning strikes in hot, dry, and windy conditions during a record-breaking heat wave. Californians are having to choose between running their air conditioning as they keep their windows closed in 90-degree weather to keep out the smoke, or risking power outages in rolling blackouts, that is if they even have air conditioning.
And finally, the state of Michigan has reached a $600 million settlement with defendants in a 5-year long case over the Flint water crisis. The money will go into a fund that will directly benefit victims of the water crisis, in particular young people who were disproportionately impacted.