Headlines: December 3, 2020
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The United States reported a new grim tally this week of 3,100 deaths related to the coronavirus on Wednesday—the largest 24-hour death toll since the pandemic began. There were more than 200,000 new cases of infection reported in the same time period as well and hospitalizations for the disease hit a high of 100,000 for the first time. The American Ambulance Association wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saying that the nation’s emergency response systems have hit a “breaking point.” According to the letter, “Without additional relief, it seems likely to break, even as we enter the third surge of the virus in the Mid-West and West.” Still, government officials in Washington DC appear to be ignoring safety guidelines by holding large indoor parties. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the latest official to be caught inviting hundreds of people to an indoor party after State Department employees were warned against doing the same.
Meanwhile, government officials are starting to offer guidelines about vaccine distribution to the public as an FDA advisory committee plans to meet on December 10th. The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the data from two pharmaceutical companies’ trials, Pfizer and Moderna. HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday said that there would be 20 million doses of a vaccine available by the end of the month. Meanwhile Moderna announced that it would begin to test its vaccine on children aged 12-17 within the month. The trial will include 3,000 children. Responding to growing vaccine denialism, doctors are attempting to assuage fears about the purported side effects of a Covid-19 vaccine. Like a flu vaccine, a Covid-19 vaccine may cause soreness and aching at the site of the injection or even mild flu-like symptoms for a day or more. Doctors say that such reactions are utterly normal. Three former U.S. Presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have said they plan to get vaccinated on camera to encourage Americans to do the same. Still, misinformation and propaganda against vaccine abounds online and particularly on social media. Facebook has now announced it will take down “misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm,” including, “false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines.”
The Labor Department released its figures on unemployment claims from last week showing that 75,000 fewer people applied for jobless benefits compared to the week before. Economists estimate that the holiday season is the reason for the change in numbers. Meanwhile House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have backed a centrist bi-partisan Covid-relief bill. The $908 billion bill is less than half the size of a bill that House Democrats passed earlier this year but which the GOP-dominated Senate refused to even consider. Pelosi and Schumer released a statement on the compromise bill saying, “Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate, and we believe that with good-faith negotiations, we could come to an agreement.” President Donald Trump said he would sign a bill if it passed both houses of Congress.
Meanwhile the President continues to spread lies about his election loss, posting a 46 minute video to Facebook this week filled with what the Washington Post described as, “baseless allegations of voter fraud and outright falsehoods.” He filmed the video from the White House using the accoutrements of the White House and his office to lend a veneer of legitimacy to his laughable assertion that it was “statistically impossible” for him to have lost to Joe Biden. Trump called it “the most important speech I’ve ever made.” But even his Attorney General William Barr, who has been unfailingly loyal to him has publicly said he saw no evidence of voter fraud that could have changed the outcome of the election. Barr is now in danger of being fired for his insubordination. When asked about Barr’s statements Trump said, “He hasn’t done anything, so he hasn’t looked. When he looks, he’ll see the kind of evidence that right now you are seeing in the Georgia Senate.”
Georgia Republicans are tying themselves into knots in order to appease Trump’s wild claims. Meanwhile a former Trump campaign lawyer and QAnon conspiracist named Sidney Powell is encouraging Republicans to boycott the two Georgia Senate runoff races scheduled for January 5th. Speaking to a crowd in Atlanta Powell said, “I would encourage all Georgians to make it known that you will not vote at all until your vote is secure.” Meanwhile three voter registration groups are suing the Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for voter suppression saying that 200,000 voters had their registrations wrongly canceled ahead of the elections. The groups include Black Voters Matter and the Rainbow Push Coalition. And, one of the two Republican Senate candidates, David Perdue is under increasing scrutiny for prolific stock trading that he engaged in while sitting on a committee overseeing many of the same companies whose stocks he bought and sold. The New York Times reports that he, “made 2,596 stock trades in one term in office, including, at times, 20 or more transactions in a single day.” Although the Justice Department investigated his activities it declined to charge him.
A hearing in Michigan over Trump’s baseless election claims has gone viral for its star witness’s unhinged testimony. This is Republican representative Steven Johnson questioning Melissa Carone. Another witness claimed “all Chinese people look alike.”
In other news, immigrant advocates are calling for an investigation and possible criminal charges into the Trump Administration’s withholding of critical information needed to reunite separated families. Lawyers hoping to reunite immigrant children have been working on the order of a federal judge to find deported parents but the Trump administration, which separated the families in the first place has for months refused to release data until recently. Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas said on Wednesday, “The Trump admin withheld addresses and phone numbers of separated families, making it harder to reunite. These families belong together here in the United States — and a human rights commission should investigate what happened, even refer prosecutions.”
And finally, the U.S. has announced a tightening of visa rules for members of China’s Communist Party. The New York Times explained that, “New guidelines mean that China’s 92 million party members will be limited to one-month, single-entry U.S. permits — if the State Department can figure out who they are.” Chinese government officials lashed out at what they called, “an escalation of political suppression.” The stricter visa rules came at the same time that the Trump administration called China the “greatest national security threat” to the U.S.