Headlines: February 27, 2020
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President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening addressed reporters at the White House briefing room – only the second time he has done so as President – and announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be in charge of the nation’s response to the coronavirus scare. Trump also claimed that financial markets were volatile, not entirely because of the disruption by the Covid-19 virus but also by the Democratic candidates debating one another on stage on Tuesday. It is notable that the market first fell precipitously on Monday – 24 hours before the debate. The stock market continues to fall and rise through Thursday morning. Meanwhile a special adviser to the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, said in an interview that Trump’s remarks on the White House response to the coronavirus were, “a little incoherent.” Dr. Emanuel added, “You know, [Trump’s] a guy that admitted that he’s surprised that 25,000 to 69,000 people each year die of the flu. That just tells you how little he actually knows about public health and about the health of the American public…He just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation. We don’t know how similar or dissimilar this is to the flu.”
Mr. Pence during the White House press briefing on Wednesday touted his leadership as Indiana governor. But critics expressed skepticism and fear at Trump’s decision to put Pence in charge. The Washington Post explored how Pence dealt with a serious public health crisis that he oversaw as Governor of Indiana: “The worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history happened on his watch in 2015, which critics blamed on Pence’s belated response and his opposition to authorizing a needle-exchange program.” And, “As cases spiked, Pence reportedly turned to prayer.” Congressional Representative of New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Mike Pence literally does not believe in science. It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic. This decision could cost people their lives. Pence’s past decisions already have.” Meanwhile a new case in Sacramento County, California has emerged of a patient contracting the infection with no known contact with another infected person. It is possible the person may have come into contact without their knowledge with someone recently returning from overseas who was infected. The patient was reportedly not tested for several days even after showing symptoms because. Alex Azar, Health and Human Services head, told Congress on Thursday morning that any vaccine developed to tackle the coronavirus would be accessible to the public. A day earlier he had maintained that he could not guarantee all Americans would afford it. A vaccine is still many months away. And, a newly concluded Chinese study of the virus – the largest to date – found that the majority of coronavirus cases are mild – about 81% do not involve pneumonia or severe symptoms.
In other news, an employee of a beer brewing company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin shot and killed five people at his workplace before killing himself. This latest mass shooting on Wednesday afternoon took place on the large campus of the Molson Coors brewery and the trail of violence spanned several buildings. Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett said, “This is a tragic day for our city, this is a tragic day for our state.” Wisconsin Congressional Representative Gwen Moore said, “We know that our country needs to do more to prevent senseless gun violence.” She added, “It’s a cruel irony that tomorrow marks the anniversary of the House passing legislation to expand background checks on guns, which is languishing in the Senate.”
In election-related news, a new poll from South Carolina where the next primary race takes place on Saturday, former Vice President Joe Biden enjoys a large lead over his rivals. The Monmouth University poll found 36% supporting Biden compared to only 16% for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Biden has also recaptured his lead in the state of Florida in a new poll showing him at 35% support, followed by former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg at 25% and Sanders at 13%.
The federal government has arrested the leaders of a neo-Nazi organization called Atomwaffen Division. One of the leaders was charged with making bomb threats in the state of Virginia as well as outside countries. Separately in Seattle, Washington, a several members of the same group were arrested for, as per The Guardian, “cyber-stalking and mailing threatening communications in a campaign against journalists with swastika-laden posters telling them ‘You have been visited by your local Nazis.’”
In other news the US Marine Corps has announced it will no longer allow Confederate flags and paraphernalia related to the racist symbol on its bases worldwide. The order came just days after a Congressional hearing highlighted the increasing prevalence of extremism and white supremacy on US military bases. There are at least ten US Army bases that are named after Confederate leaders. Meanwhile the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill making lynching a federal hate crime. The Emmett Till Antilynching Act passed 410-4. California Congresswoman Karen Bass said in response to the vote, “it is a travesty that it has taken 120 years for the U.S. government to address this crime. In fact, the first bill to outlaw lynching was introduced in 1900.”
In international news, Greeks protested en masse against the construction of migrant camps on a number of Greek islands. The Greek government has a plan to build two new camps on islands like Lesbos to relieve the severe overcrowding at migrant encampments. The New York Times reports that, “On Wednesday, an angry crowd numbering nearly 1,000 besieged an army camp hosting police officers sent to Lesbos, with some residents wielding homemade firebombs and shotguns.”
The latest tally of anti-Muslim riots in the Indian capital of New Delhi has hit nearly 40. Much of the Hindu-mob violence took place during the 36 hours that US President Donald Trump was in India for his state visit. The source of the riots has now been traced to a fiery speech made by a local Hindu politician named Kapil Mishra, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Critics have called for Mishra to be arrested for inciting the riots.