Headlines: January 5, 2021
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:19 — 7.6MB)
Georgia voters headed to the polls on Tuesday to choose between Republicans and Democrats for the last two undecided U.S. Senate seats. Having already captured 48 seats, the Democratic Party could gain a bare minimum control of the chamber if their candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win both their races against incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Weeks of early voting have been dominated by Democratic voters, but Republicans are expected to turn out in high numbers on Tuesday. Both races are close if polls are to be believed and the outcomes may not be known for a few days. The GOP Senators fighting to keep their seats have both backed to varying degrees, President Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the Presidential election. On Monday Loeffler took to the stage at a Trump rally saying she would join the group of Republicans Senators objecting to the electoral college vote. Her opponent Warnock cited her stated intention on Twitter saying she wants to, “undermine your vote and overturn Georgia’s election.”
President Trump has made the Georgia Senate races about his Presidential state loss as well, and in conflating the two has risked lowering Republican turnout. On Monday, Gabriel Sterling, a Voting System Implementation Manager for Georgia and a Republican, responded to the now-infamous tape of the Saturday phone call that Trump had with State Secretary Brad Raffensperger. Sterling debunked Trump’s wild claims point-by-point, without mincing words, and indicating just how frustrated he was with the President. “I wanted to scream,” he said when he heard the Trump call before going on to explain.
But proving once again that facts don’t matter to him Trump regurgitated the lies at his Georgia rally which was ostensibly meant as a booster for the GOP Senate candidates. Two days before the electoral college votes are formally tallied he remained adamant saying, “I’ll fight like hell” to remain in power, echoing the sentiment of an undemocratic dictator. And he claimed that “everyone loved my phone call” with the Georgia Secretary of State. Meanwhile, President elect Joe Biden who was also in Georgia to rally behind the Democratic candidates reminded voters in that state that they held the power now to determine which party would be in charge. Mr. Biden even tied $2,000 economic stimulus checks to the senate races. Biden also accused Trump of “whining and complaining” rather than addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
In other news the leader of the pro-Trump men-only hate-group Proud Boys, has been arrested. Enrique Tarrio was charged with destroying a Black Lives Matter banner that hung outside a Black church in Washington DC during a violent rally late last year where several people were beaten and stabbed. The Proud Boys have planned a similar gathering on Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the formal step of declaring a democratically elected president. The plans have prompted the Mayor of DC to mobilize the National Guard.
In news from the pandemic, the U.S. continues to break records on new infections, especially in California where 74,000 people were diagnosed on Monday alone. Los Angeles County where this program is produced, has become the nation’s leading hot spot. Now emergency responders in LA are being advised not to bring Covid-19 patients into hospitals if it is clear they are unlikely to survive. Hospitals are inundated with patients and are facing shortages of ambulances and other critical equipment. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti explained that a new infection is estimated to take place every 6 seconds in the city and that on average there was a death every ten minutes. To make matters worse, an expected surge of infections from New Year’s gatherings is expected to show up any time now.
Meanwhile a new variant of the Covid-19 virus first identified in the UK has now been confirmed in at least four states in the U.S. that include New York, Colorado, California, and Florida. The new variant is significantly more transmissible. And, vaccination efforts across the nation and in California are excruciatingly slow. Gov. Gavin Newsom said only a third of all vaccines shipped to hospitals have so far been dispensed and vowed to do better. Reuters reports that, “More than two-thirds of the 15 million coronavirus vaccines shipped within the United States have gone unused.” The Governors of New York and Florida are now moving to penalize hospitals if they store the vaccines for too long without dispensing them. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “I don’t want the vaccine in a fridge or a freezer, I want it in somebody’s arm…If you’re not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital.” In Wisconsin, a pharmacist who was caught having intentionally sabotaged more than 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine has admitted to being a conspiracy theorist who believes that the vaccine is dangerous and changes people’s DNA.
Nations around the world are continuing or strengthening their lockdowns as cases surge outside the U.S. too. In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third nation-wide stay-at-home order as cases have surged there. In Germany an existing order enacted in December will remain in place through January as deaths mount.
Back in the United States, Wisconsin is bracing itself for potential violence in the wake of two legal decisions related to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests. A decision whether or not to charge a white officer accused of shooting a Black man named Jacob Blake in Kenosha is expected on Tuesday. Gov. Tony Evers has called in the National Guard in anticipation. And, a white teenage boy from Illinois, Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of killing two BLM protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is expected to enter his plea. The families of Rittenhouse’s alleged victims have filed negligence claims against the city and County of Kenosha.