Headlines: December 11, 2020
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The Trump administration on Thursday night oversaw the execution of a federal death row inmate named Brandon Bernard who was killed by lethal injection in a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. The 40-year old African American was only 18 when he was convicted of a crime which led to the murder of an Iowa couple. He did not directly kill them. Numerous well-known figures including Kim Kardashian-West appealed to the Trump administration to commute Bernard’s sentence to no avail. Lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court to stay his execution, but the court denied the request. Even as he fights to overturn the results of the election, Trump’s death row killing spree continues unabated as a second inmate named Alfred Bourgeois is scheduled to be killed on Friday. It is exceptionally rare for presidents in the midst of transitioning out of their positions to conduct executions.
Meanwhile more than half of all House Republicans have joined Trump in a new lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, appealing to the Supreme Court for help in an attempted coup. The Washington Post called it an “unprecedented assault on the U.S. election system.” The basis of the lawsuit is to nullify 10.4 million votes in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan – but only those parts of the ballot pertaining to the Presidential race, not the down-ballot races that helped Republicans win some House seats and retain most Senate seats. On Monday December 14th, state electors will meet to cast their votes in the electoral college, cementing Joe Biden’s win. Twenty states, including the District of Columbia have called on the Supreme Court to reject this new lawsuit. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the suit a, “seditious abuse of the judicial process.” On Friday morning Trump cryptically tweeted, “I just want to stop the world from killing itself!”
Among the relentless false claims that Trump and his allies have been making to base their coup attempt on is that thousands of people in each state “voted illegally.” Their lawsuits have revealed the names and addresses of voters without their permission. In Georgia one state Democrat followed up and found they were legitimate voters who had cast legitimate ballots.
In other news Attorney General William Barr apparently knew about a federal tax investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter for months but kept it secret. Trump, livid over having missed the opportunity to politicize the investigation to benefit his election chances tweeted, “Why didn’t the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election.” He then went on to claim he won the election anyway.
Trump himself faces an intensifying investigation from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office over his business dealings. The New York Times reports that, “State prosecutors in Manhattan have interviewed several employees of President Trump’s bank and insurance broker in recent weeks, according to people with knowledge of the matter, significantly escalating an investigation into the president that he is powerless to stop.” Once Trump leaves office he no longer has the legal immunity that the office of the Presidency affords him. He also cannot pardon himself for state-level crimes.
In other news, an FDA panel on Thursday approved the new Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, clearing the way for formal approval as early as Saturday. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Friday, “We could see people getting vaccinated Monday, Tuesday of next week.” Predictably Trump slammed the FDA for not shaping their vaccine approval schedule to suit his political ambitions ahead of the election. Thursday saw the second highest Covid-19 24-hour death toll as the daily infection rate climbed to nearly a quarter of a million a day.
A former state-employed data scientist in Florida who made headlines earlier this year for doing her job and showing the true extent of the virus was raided by state agents. Rebekah Jones, who was fired from her position but then continued privately to count cases, was at home with her husband and young children when armed law enforcement raided her home. Authorities released video of the encounter. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis angrily denounced the characterization of the incident as a “raid,” accusing a journalist of exaggerating.
Covid-relief talks remain deadlocked as Congress readies itself for a recess. After days of inching close to a $908 billion deal Senate Republicans are once more distancing themselves from being able to help millions of ordinary Americans that are struggling from the pandemic-related fallout. The Washington Post explained that, “multiple lawmakers appeared to be pursuing conflicting goals, with little time to sort out disagreements.” In separate efforts to keep the government and military going, the House passed a stop-gap federal government funding measure and also a defense funding bill. Senator Bernie Sanders slammed his colleagues for wanting to go on recess without passing economic aid making an impassioned plea on the floor of the Senate.
The Trump administration has just moved to recognize Morocco’s control of Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco’s recognition of Israel as a state. No other Western nation has backed Morocco in its effort last month to militarily enter the semi-autonomous region. The Trump administration has pushed through deals whichever way it can in order to fulfill Israel’s agenda. Morocco now joins Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates in recognizing its contentious statehood that is built on occupation of Palestine. Many have drawn parallels between Israel’s occupation and Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara region. Moroccan officials, as per the New York Times, “committed only to reopening so-called liaison offices with Israel — not embassies or consulates — pledging vaguely to ‘resume diplomatic relations as soon as possible.’”
In other international news, European Union leaders worked late into the night to approve an agreement to cut fossil fuel emissions by 55% by the end of the decade. The agreement is the culmination of a 2-day summit in Brussels that precedes a virtual United Nations climate meeting over the weekend.
And finally, in Argentina, the Lower House of the government approved a hard-won bill legalizing abortion. Thousands of women’s rights activists remained overnight outside the Congress building the capital Buenos Aires awaiting the vote which passed 131 to 117. Celebrations erupted soon after. AP explained, “Several thousand women seeking abortions have died during unsafe, clandestine procedures in Argentina since 1983, and about 38,000 women are hospitalized every year because of botched procedures conducted in secret.”