News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

Hurricane Laura has begun pummeling the state of Louisiana as a Category 4 storm targeting the Lake Charles region and bringing the threat of floods that many fear will rival Hurricane Katrina. The New York Times described, “widespread destruction from Laura’s devastating winds. Roofs were peeled off, buildings were destroyed, and lampposts were tossed into the streets.” Laura is considered the most powerful hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast region in decades and is expected to dump an average of 5-10 inches of rain in just hours with 18 inches of rain in some local areas. In northern Louisiana wind speeds are expected to surpass 70 miles per hour as a tornado watch remained in effect. Hurricane Laura heads to the state of Arkansas next and expected to calm down to a tropical storm by Friday in Kentucky.

On the same day as the Hurricane bore down on Louisiana, in the state of North Carolina, the third day of the Republican National Convention opened with prayers for those who stood in the hurricane’s path. The only two speakers to reference during the evening were Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara, and his Vice President Mike Pence.  Critics slammed him for ignoring the documented climate change that is fueling such massive and destructive hurricanes each year. The RNC’s third night was much like the first two—filled with what CNN called, “egregious dishonesty and careless inaccuracy.” Mr. Pence in particular echoed familiar Republican talking points that are based in myths and conspiracies. He hailed President Donald Trump as a law and order president while denouncing the protests and riots in American cities focused racist police violence and claiming that there will be law and order in Trump’s America but not Biden’s America.  Mr. Pence failed to acknowledge that the strife in American cities is taking place in Trump’s America. While he mentioned Kenosha, Wisconsin, the latest flashpoint in protests over racist police violence, he did not bring up the police shooting of Jacob Blake which prompted the protests. Nor did he raise the shooting by a 17-year old Trump-backing armed vigilante who is suspected of having killed 2 protesters and injured one.

Although the RNC says it is requiring face coverings and strictly enforcing coronavirus testing and contact tracing at the convention where hundreds have gathered, there were few to no masks being worn and the President and Vice President mingled maskless with supporters, fist-bumping and taking pictures (photos here, here, here and here). Fox News, during its broadcast of the convention assured its viewers saying, “anybody around the president and the first lady gets tested, the COVID-19 test…We assume everybody in this area did. We don’t have that nailed down, but we assume that’s the case.” CNN later confirmed that there was no requirement for those gathered to get tested.

As if underscoring this flouting of their own government’s scientific guidelines one RNC speaker, Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota made it clear that expert advice was not welcome. PBS NewsHour pointed out that, “Noem did not mention her praise of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, a position that won her praise from President Trump, as did her lifting of the ban on fireworks at Mount Rushmore where she appeared with Trump for an Independence Day weekend rally in July.”

White House Senior Adviser Kellyanne Conway, who announced last week that she was finally leaving her position, also addressed the RNC on Wednesday night. Conway has frequently defended the President from accusations of sexism and misogyny and famously coined the phrase “alternative facts” to describe lies. At the RNC she claimed that Trump was a great supporter of women.  Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump echoed this sentiment.  A New York Times fact checker pointed out, “Of the 877 key executive branch nominees put forth by Mr. Trump for positions that require Senate confirmation, about 27.6 percent have been women. Of the 679 that have been confirmed, about 25 have been women. That’s a lower percentage than both the appointments of former President Bill Clinton (37 percent) and former President Barack Obama (43 percent).”

In other news, protests continued for a fourth straight night in Kenosha, Wisconsin against the police shooting of Jacob Blake who remains paralyzed from the waist down as a result of 7 point blank shots in his back. The Wednesday evening protests were relatively peaceful compared to the previous night when armed rightwing police- and Trump-supporting militias descended on the city and a 17-year old named Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested for killing two protesters. The Washington Post reported that, “the 17-year-old shadowed local law enforcement as a cadet and filled his social media feeds with posts declaring that ‘Blue Lives Matter.’ There were videos from the front row of a Trump rally, and photos of himself posing with guns.” Additionally, “Rittenhouse and the other armed civilians shown in videos with him were violating Kenosha’s 8 p.m. curfew, and at 17, he is too young to openly carry a gun in Wisconsin…. But police did not challenge him on either front.” Kenosha Police chief Daniel Miskinis appeared to blame the victims of the shooting for their own deaths, saying they violated curfew and, “Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.” Fox News host Tucker Carlsen lauded Rittenhouse saying he had to, “maintain order when no one else would.”  Meanwhile the officer who shot Blake has been identified as Rusten Sheskey.

Finally the latest Labor Department report on weekly jobless claims shows that although the number of Americans filing for jobless benefits fell slightly, the number remained more than a million. As Congress and the White House have moved on from offering economic relief to struggling Americans, a new report shows that Americans are spending less money on groceries.

* Photo courtesy: Congressman Ralph Abraham.

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