Headlines: July 29, 2020
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150,000 Americans have now died from the Covid-19 virus in the United States, with more than 4.3 million people infected. The grim milestone came at the same time that 21 states entered the so-called “red zone” of emergency as per federal government standards for rising death rates. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator remarked on Tuesday that, “We can see the virus moving north. What we’re seeing across the south right now is both rural infections, as well as small metros and major metros, simultaneously.” The New York Times surveyed every 4-year college and university in the US and estimated that 6,300 Covid-19 cases have been linked to about 270 campuses offering a sober warning to in-person instruction resuming in the fall. On Tuesday Democratic lawmakers wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos demanding to know if the White House improperly pressured her to reopen schools based on political considerations. And the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) announced to its membership that it would support so-called “safety strikes” by teachers who were being forced to return to schools.
Republican Congressman Louis Gohmert has tested positive for Covid-19 during routine White House screening ahead of a scheduled meeting with President Donald Trump. Gohmert had been going about business-as-usual and had been refusing to wear a mask. He even attended Tuesday’s hearing with Attorney General William Barr without a mask on. Meanwhile two employees of a Trader Joes grocery store in Manhattan reportedly were targeted by a pair of mask refusing customers. One ended up in the hospital. The offenders were arrested and charged.
President Trump is upset that Dr. Anthony Fauci’s approval ratings are higher than his and rather than focus on the mounting death toll, told reporters, “He’s got this high approval rating…why don’t I have a high approval rating?” Reporters have been asking Trump about a video he tweeted earlier this week that was so full of misinformation that social media platforms deleted them. The videos featured a group of Trump-linked doctors including a Houston-based pediatrician named Dr. Stella Immanuel whose controversial claims include linking gynecological conditions to intercourse with demons. In the videos Trump and others tweeted Dr. Immanuel promoted Trump’s favorite drug hydroxychloroquine. This is how the President responded to questions about it on Tuesday.
The physician in question says she is part of a group called “America’s Frontline Doctors” that has gained a following online after the extremist rightwing website Breitbart live-streamed their press conference. Huffington Post has revealed that, “a conservative dark-money group was behind the press event,” and that event was organized, “by Tea Party Patriots, a wealthy Republican donor-backed nonprofit that, in partnership with FreedomWorks and other right-wing dark money groups, launched the Save Our Country Coalition in April to push for America’s rapid reopening.” The founder of “America’s Frontline Doctors” is a frequent guest on Fox News. Meanwhile, after Facebook, Twitter, and Google pulled the video of the press conference from their platforms, Fox host Tucker Carlson aired clips of it on his show. So widespread are Covid-19 conspiracy theories now that even pop star Madonna on Tuesday posted the same video to her Instagram account saying, “The truth will set us all Free! But some people don’t want to hear the truth.” Meanwhile Associated Press reports that, “U.S. officials say Russian intelligence officers are spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic through English-language websites.”
Senate Republicans continue to drag their feet on passing a new Covid-relief bill, unable to come to agreement on jobless benefits and other details. Republicans want to reduce the $600 a week in benefits that millions of unemployed Americans have been getting and that are about to expire. Trump, who has been carrying out a vendetta against Democratic-run liberal cities, has totally rejected aid for such cities to be included in the package. And Republicans are at odds with Trump over the inclusion of funds to build a new FBI headquarters in the bill, near a Trump hotel in DC. The state of California is considering extending the $600 in benefits for jobless Americans if the federal government pulls funding. Meanwhile a federal moratorium on evictions has just expired on the eve of August rents being due, threatening to push millions of Americans out of their rental homes.
The Small Business Administration’s inspector general’s office has announced that the government’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program has been the target of fraud. The Wall Street Journal reports that there have been, “more than 5,000 complaints of suspected fraud from lenders.” The EIDL program is separate from the Paycheck Protection Program. Reuters reports that, “small businesses face mass closures without more pandemic aid,” and that, “Many small businesses nationwide are reaching … breaking points.”
The CEOs of the four biggest tech companies in the US appeared together at a Congressional hearing for the first time on Wednesday. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai of Google made their case to lawmakers that there is no need for government regulation and that they already face stiff competition. This is Mr. Bezos at the all-digital hearing. Bezos is the world’s richest man and recently made headlines for making $13 billion in a single day. Ahead of the Big Tech testimonies to the Congressional Panel that oversees anti-trust laws, reports emerged of the Democrats on that committee having received large campaign donations from the companies that the testifying CEOs represent.
In news from Portland, Oregon where federal agents have been violently attacking protesters, talks are apparently underway for a “phased withdrawal,” as a result of negotiations between the White House and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Jenny Durkan, the mayor of Seattle, Washington tweeted that she was informed by Homeland Security that, “federal forces deployed to Seattle have demobilized & left.” And a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that support for the Black Lives Matter movement has somewhat fallen but there is widespread disapproval of Trump’s tactics to deploy federal agents to cities like Portland.
And finally, the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden has said that he would announce his much anticipated choice of running mate next week. A photographer captured handwritten notes in Biden’s hands referring to Senator Kamala Harris fueling rumors that Harris is the pick.