Headlines: August 31, 2020
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Violence flared in Portland, Oregon, where one person associated with a rightwing group of protesters was shot and killed on Saturday. The man was part of a caravan of conservatives supporting President Donald Trump and opposed to the Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place in Portland. So far the name of the victim and the suspected shooter have not been released. The Trump supporters shot paintballs and pepper spray from their vehicles at protesters – actions that were captured in a video that Trump tweeted. Trump assailed Portland mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, calling him “a fool,” among other things. Wheeler blamed Trump saying, “Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President,…why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence? It’s you who have created the hate and the division.” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Sunday left open the possibility of redeploying federal troops to Portland despite the fact that such troops only served to heighten tensions earlier in the summer. Trump, who has painted himself as a “law-and-order” candidate, seized on the issue.
Trump will visit Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday where a 17-year old white shooter has been arrested in the killing of two white activists protesting police brutality. Even though Wisconsin’s governor and Kenosha’s mayor have opposed his visit, Trump appears determined to insert himself into the matter. To try to counter the protests against the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a pro-police march took place in Kenosha on Sunday. Meanwhile police and protesters once more clashed in Washington DC near the street outside the White House that earlier this year was renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza. Early on Monday morning police once more deployed tear gas on people despite its serious health risks. According to the Washington Post, “Officers were seen slamming people against parked vehicles and pinning others against the sidewalk.” In Southern California where this program is based, a pro-Trump car caravan drove from Woodland Hills to Studio City and police are investigating reports of gunfire.
Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden on Sunday responded to Trump saying that the President was “fanning the flames of hate and division in our society” and “recklessly encouraging violence.” In a statement released by his campaign the former Vice President implored Americans to, “not become a country at war with ourselves…But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are. … All of us are less safe because Donald Trump can’t do the job of the American president.” Biden flew to Pittsburgh on Monday for a rare public appearance where he addressed Trump on the racial tensions in cities like Portland and Kenosha.
Democrats are outraged over the recent announcement that Congress will no longer receive in-person intelligence briefings from the Director of National Intelligence regarding election security. While Republicans dismissed accusations of a cover up as “being blown way out of proportion,” Democrats like Senator Angus King said this.
Meanwhile primary elections are taking place on Tuesday in Massachusetts where Representative Richard Neal faces a primary challenge from the left. Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, has been endorsed by New York’s Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to try to oust the politically powerful chair of the House Ways and Means committee. And, Senator Ed Markey faces a primary challenge from the other side of the political spectrum. Representative Joe Kennedy III has been endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in his bid to unseat the Senate co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution. But Markey, who has also been endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez, appears to be ahead in the polls.
In other election news, a judge granted Trump’s request to block 50,000 absentee ballot requests in Iowa. TheHill.com explained, “Now, voters will have to submit new blank requests for absentee ballots or vote in person on Election Day on Nov. 3.” But in Texas a federal judge ruled that state officials were violating law by not allowing Texan voters to register to vote when they renewed their driver’s licenses.
In news from the pandemic, cases of Covid-19 infections in the US have now surpassed 6 million. As if underscoring the president’s general lack of a plan to tackle the spread of the disease, a White House advisor named Scott Atlas from the conservative Hoover Institution has apparently been suggesting the US adopt a so-called “herd immunity” strategy to the coronavirus. The term “herd immunity” is actually used to describe the protection that a community generates when enough people are vaccinated against a disease. But conservative leaders– loathe to intervene to protect people– have used the term to provide cover for a strategy that involves allowing the virus to spread unchecked until enough people have survived or died from the disease that it slows down. Trump has also been reportedly interfering in the work of the top federal government agency responsible for approving medical treatments – the Food and Drug Administration. After FDA administrator Stephen Hahn walked back his claims about the safety of using survivor plasma, two officials were fired in response. Mr. Hahn has also been willing to approve a vaccine before the end of the year whether or not it has been properly tested for safety and efficiency. Trump has been counting on fulfilling a promise of a vaccine by year’s end as a reelection strategy. A number of scientists say that rushing to approve a vaccine could worsen the pandemic.
News emerged on Friday evening that actor Chadwick Boseman had died of colon cancer. Keeping his disease and its treatment a secret for years, the popular leading man’s loss shocked people worldwide. Boseman, who was only 43, was known for his powerful and heroic roles such as the Black Panther superhero, as well as pioneering baseball player Jackie Robinson and iconic musical performer James Brown.
And finally Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Monday along with Israeli diplomats to finalize the details of an agreement between Israel and the UAE. Although many details have been hammered out, at stake is the UAE’s desire to purchase military weapons and equipment from the US that Israel feels could threaten its military superiority. An Israeli spokesperson said quite clearly, “We are opposed to a sale that could negatively affect our qualitative military edge.”