Headlines: December 7, 2020
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Covid-19 infections remain high in the United States with more than 280,000 deaths from the virus and more than 14 million cases of infection since the pandemic began. Los Angeles County, California leads the nation in the number of cases of all counties, however LA County is also the nation’s most populous. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when adjusted for population, the states of Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska, Rhode Island, and Indiana have the worst outbreaks in the nation. California has about half the per capita infection rate of say Utah. Scientists say that the twin culprits of people’s lack of safety precautions and colder weather has led to the current surge in cases. But Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force struck an optimistic tone saying the nation is, “in a season of hope” and that, “help is on the way.”
While California has issued a strict, and yet confusing, stay-at-home order, in New York, that state’s largest city is reopening elementary schools. The New York Times explained that, “The decision to do so reflects changing public health thinking around the importance of keeping schools operating, particularly for young students, and the real-world experience of over two months of in-person classes in the city’s school system, the nation’s largest.” And, the Navajo Nation has expanded its lockdown as the virus spreads uncontrollably through its communities.
In other news, president elect Joe Biden has picked Xavier Becerra to lead his Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra is California’s Attorney General and a former Congress member, and, if confirmed by the Senate, will become the nation’s first Latino head of HHS. Backers of a Single Payer healthcare system were heartened and reminded of the fact that in 2017 Becerra said that he “absolutely” supported a Medicare-for-All system and that he had supported it for decades. As Health Secretary he would be able to sign waivers for states to begin to implement their own single payer healthcare systems. Mr. Biden has also named Dr. Rochelle Walensky to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walensky is chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuilani has finally tested positive for the coronavirus. Mr. Giuliani, who has become the face of the Trump campaign’s coup attempt has crisscrossed the country without taking safety precautions. Trump revealed Giuliani’s diagnosis on Twitter on Sunday calling it the “China virus.” On Monday it was revealed that Giuliani, who is 76 years old, has been admitted to Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington although he says he is, “getting great care and feeling good,” and “recovering quickly.” The lawyer has potentially exposed hundreds of people to the virus as he traveled across the U.S. and just days ago had asked a witness in Michigan to remove her mask as he sat next to her unmasked. She refused. The entire Arizona legislature is quarantined and forced to shut down after the infected lawyer spent two days maskless with Republican lawmakers.
As Republicans gear up for two Senate runoff races in Georgia on January 5th, Trump visited the state for a campaign event over the weekend to ostensibly support the GOP candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Ahead of his trip he reportedly pressured Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to overturn the state’s election results and appoint Republican electors. Journalist and attorney Seth Abramson tweeted “What I need is for lawyers who specialize in little-used federal criminal statutes like Sedition to explain to me why a federal official openly seeking to conspire with another federal official to overthrow a democratically elected government isn’t a crime.” During his speech in Valdosta, Trump briefly mentioned the two Senate candidates but spent most of his time slamming Kemp, re-airing grievances about fictional election fraud, and showcasing a misleading and propagandist video claiming to show voter fraud. Mr. Kemp called Trump’s claims, “a myth.” Geoff Duncan, Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor who is a Republican, spoke on CNN slamming Trump’s false claims. He said, “it disgusts me…It’s not American…It’s not what democracy is all about.” On Monday, after a second recount of Georgia’s votes, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is also Republican, certified Joe Biden’s win in the state.
The two GOP candidates in Georgia were slated to debate their Democratic rivals but only one debate took place – between Kelly Loeffler and Raphael Warnock. Ms. Loeffler refused to accept Joe Biden’s win in Georgia and also raised an old arrest of Mr. Warnock’s in an attempt to question his character. Loeffler is white while Warnock is Black. The Washington Post described the arrest saying that Loeffler raised, “Warnock’s arrest for obstructing a police investigation into a summer camp operated by a church he led in Baltimore, even though Warnock was exonerated and the investigators involved praised his cooperation in the case.” In the race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, Perdue simply failed to show up to the debate. Ossoff slammed him as a coward and said Perdue, “doesn’t feel that he can handle himself in debate, or perhaps is concerned that he may incriminate himself in debate.”
In other news, armed protesters supporting Trump over the weekend surrounded the home of Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. They are demanding that Michigan overturn its democratic election results to reflect a Trump win. Earlier this year an armed plot to kidnap Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer was uncovered by the FBI. Trump and his allies have routinely demonized Whitmer and other women political figures, practically inviting armed threats and attacks.
Attorney General William Barr is reportedly considering leaving his position before the end of Trump’s term. Barr, who has been a staunch Trump loyalist, failed to conjure up enough election fraud on Trump’s demand to overturn the results and has now considered departing early. Barr is pushing for US Attorney John Durham to serve as the DOJ’s special counsel in a Senate vote before he leaves office. Durham has been leading an investigation into Trump’s favorite claim that the Obama administration was spying on his campaign in 2016.
Trump’s Justice Department will oversee the most federal death row executions of any administration in more than a hundred years. Attorney General Barr resumed executions, ending a years-long moratorium. Five new executions have been announced, and according to the Associated Press, “If the five take place as planned, then a total of 13 executions since July, when the administration resumed putting inmates to death after a 17-year hiatus, will cement Trump’s legacy as the most prolific execution president in more than 130 years. He will leave office having executed about a quarter of all federal death-row prisoners, despite waning support for capital punishment among both Democrats and Republicans.”
Finally, in Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro claimed victory in National Assembly elections that took place on Sunday. U.S. backed opposition leaders had boycotted the elections leading to a low turnout. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela captured two thirds of the National Assembly seats.