Headlines: August 24, 2020
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:23 — 7.7MB)
Louis DeJoy, the US Postmaster General testified to the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday morning in a hearing that focused on changes he has made to the US Postal Service. Democrats accused DeJoy of politicizing mail delivery ahead of a high-stakes election that may be conducted largely by mail, prompting the GOP donor and Trump loyalist to react angrily. Representative Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts in a caustic back-and-forth with DeJoy during a contentious House hearing on Monday where he refused to replace high-volume mail sorting machines back after he had ordered them to be uninstalled. The House on Saturday passed a bill postponing all changes to the Postal Service until after the election. Hundreds of demonstrations took place across the US on Saturday demanding that the postal service be preserved and strengthened. On Monday the Washington Post published an analysis that further complicates the issue of voting by mail, showing that in the 2018 midterm elections, more than half a million mail-in ballots across 23 states were rejected due to, “missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes and uneven enforcement of the rules.” Such a large number of spoiled votes could, according to the paper, “make a difference in the fall if the White House contest is decided by a close margin.”
The Republican National Convention began on Monday, the week after the Democratic National Convention ended and promises to be a very different affair. Speeding through the bureaucratic processes, RNC leaders re-nominated Mike Pence for Vice President and Donald Trump for President early on Monday. The location of the RNC is Charlotte, North Carolina where hundreds of delegates gathered in person using a high-tech system of testing and contact tracing of the kind that the party has deemed too dangerous for the general public. More than a hundred protesters gathered outside the convention hall on Sunday night and faced pepper spray and arrests by police. In a stark indication of how much Trump has remade the party, Republicans decided to forego drafting up and voting on a party platform and instead resolved to, “enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” Among the RNC speakers are multiple members of the Trump family and a large number of rightwing extremist social media influencers.
A number of reports of police violence broke over the weekend including a graphic video of a black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin being shot at nearly point-blank range by officers as he tried to get into his car. The victim, a 29-year old father named Jacob Blake, was apparently attempting to break up a fight when police were summoned. Officers shot him in full view of his children. [WARNING: for our viewers and listeners, this is a graphic and potentially traumatizing video.] Angry protests took place on Sunday night in response. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has denounced the shooting and promised an investigation. Mr. Blake remains in serious condition at the hospital. In Lafayette, Louisiana, a 31-year old black man named Trayford Pellerin was fatally shot by police on Friday as he walked away from them. And a white officer in Gwinnett County, Georgia has been fired after a viral video emerged of his violent arrest of a Black woman while using a taser.
Two major hurricanes are heading toward the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean as residents begin preparing for the worst. Hurricane Marco was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday night while Hurricane Laura continued to gather intensity and hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti. At least 9 people have died and two remain missing in Haiti. A meteorologist with the National Weather Service said, “There has never been anything we’ve seen like this before, where you can have possibly two hurricanes hitting within miles of each over a 48-hour period.”
In other climate news, fires in Northern California continue to burn as firefighters in the state were fortified by military planes and National Guard troops to help battle the lightning-sparked blazes. Nearly a quarter of million people remain under evacuation orders. The fires burning around San Francisco include the second and third worst such fires the state has ever experienced. Seven people have now died including a 70-year old man. The week’s forecast includes a new thunderstorm system that could bring more lightning and gusts of wind, potentially feeding the fires even more.
In news related to the coronavirus, Associated Press found that, “Thousands of oil and gas operations, government facilities and other sites won permission to stop monitoring for hazardous emissions or otherwise bypass rules intended to protect health and the environment” under cover of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a thousand more people died from the virus in 24 hours on Saturday bringing the official death toll to 175,651 as of Sunday. A CBS News poll found that for most Republicans that massive death toll was perfectly acceptable. The same poll, conducted by CBS and YouGov found that 90% of Democrats and 67% of Independents found the high Covid death toll unacceptable. An Associated Press-NORC poll on Monday found that Trump’s approval rating overall has dropped considerably to just 31%, down from 44% in March. And, the president’s own sister, a federal judge named Maryanne Trump Barry apparently said on a secret recording made by her niece Mary that was just made public, how low her opinion of her brother is.
Hoping to garner support for his reelection, Trump has approved the public use of plasma treatment from Covid-19 survivors, above the objections of several of his own scientific experts. The World Health Organization is warning that the therapy is still experimental however. Meanwhile Hong Kong has confirmed that a patient who survived the virus has gotten reinfected months later. And China has just announced that it had begun using a Covid-19 vaccine on the Chinese public months ago, bypassing clinical trials.