Headlines: July 6, 2020
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President Donald Trump gave a signature speech on Saturday the 4th of July at the White House marking American independence by painting his failures as successes and denouncing what he called the “radical left.” Trump held a large party outside the White House in violation of social distancing rules that are still in place. A day earlier Trump had spoken at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota in what numerous commentators denounced as one his most divisive speeches ever. Flouting rules to curb the spread of coronavirus, there were no requirements for his supporters to wear masks and thousands crowded around one another as Trump spoke against a backdrop of fireworks that had been prohibited by the National Park Service.
During his White House 4th of July speech Trump made a bizarre and totally false claim about the deadliness of Covid-19 saying, “Now we have tested over 40 million people. But by so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless.” In an interview a day later on CNN, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn was asked about this claim and he neither confirmed nor denied it choosing instead to deflect by saying, “I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong.” On Monday the US officially surpassed 130,000 deaths from the disease. The states of Florida and Texas have contributed most so far to a new surge in infections with both confirming their largest single-day totals in recent days. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, “I will tell you, a month ago one in 10 people were testing positive. Today, it’s one in four.” The city’s hospital system is expected to be overwhelmed beyond capacity as Turner explained, “We can always provide additional beds, but we need the people, the nurses … the medical professionals to staff those beds. That’s the critical point right now.” The Houston Mayor denounced state government officials for reopening businesses too quickly. Florida cities are suffering in a similar manner as four hospitals in Tampa are already reportedly at capacity.
Mayors of cities around the country are denouncing the federal government’s Orwellian celebration of its success in tackling the disease and supposedly bringing it under control when exactly the opposite is playing out in reality. Phoenix, Arizona Mayor Kate Gallego said the Trump administration is, “declaring victory while we’re still in crisis mode.” Cases have also risen rapidly in California, which was one of the earliest states in the nation to impose a lockdown. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order worked but after the state began reopening businesses, infections rose a few weeks later and are now spiking particularly in Los Angeles county – the nation’s most populous county.
As the US plunges deep into a wildfire of infections, many nations in the rest of the world appear to have successfully curbed the disease through stringent methods of testing, contact tracing, and mask-wearing, and are now restarting their economies under strict control measures. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Echoing the achievement of Asia-Pacific countries such as New Zealand, Vietnam and Taiwan, a handful of places in Europe are reporting only a smattering of new daily infections. Their success in containing the pandemic has allowed them to reopen their economies earlier, at a faster clip and with greater confidence than the stop-start efforts of U.S. states and hard-hit neighbors such as the U.K.”
The White House is particularly resistant to adopting a national strategy to mandate the wearing of homemade cloth masks – a cheap, easy, and very effective method that has been proven to curb the virus’ spread. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in an interview said, “a national mandate is not in order. We’re allowing our governors and our local mayors to weigh in on that,” In the absence of federal leadership, the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and American Hospital Association wrote an open letter on Monday saying, “we are urging the American public to take the simple steps we know will help stop the spread of the virus: wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distancing, and washing hands.” Meanwhile internationally hundreds of scientists wrote to the World Health Organization urging it to acknowledge that the virus is transmitted through airborne droplets. And, a New York Times in-depth analysis based on newly released federal data confirmed what was already known – that the virus disproportionately impacts African Americans and Latinos.
Meanwhile Congress began its 2-week summer break this week without addressing the spike in Covid-19 infections or the resulting impact to the US economy. As the economy remains in shambles, the Trump Treasury Department on Monday finally released a list of the hundreds of thousands of US businesses that received coronavirus-related relief funds. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin had for weeks resisted releasing the information saying it was proprietary.
In other news, data from large cities shows that in the months following the declaration of the pandemic, violent crimes in all categories are down – except for murders. In a disturbing trend, the New York Times explained that, “Overall crime is down 5.3 percent in 25 large American cities,” compared to last year. But, “murder in these 25 cities is up 16.1 percent in relation to last year.” Some experts fear the uptick in murders is due to an increase in domestic violence incidents during the lockdowns. Chicago, Illinois, which is often an epicenter of homicides, has an even more disturbing trend – a rise in murders of children. One report found that, “Nine children under the age of 18 have been shot dead in Chicago since June 20.” One of the most high-profile murders in recent days is that of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén, a young soldier who had disappeared from Fort Hood two months ago and whose body was discovered and identified by her family. In other crime trends, a new report by the group Stop AAPI Hate found that anti-Asian hate crimes are at an all-time high with more than 800 documented incidents in California alone, in just 3 months.
Police violence also continues despite being the focus of mass nationwide protests. In Phoenix, Arizona, a video of law enforcement fatally shooting a man in his car has gone viral and prompted mass demonstrations. And in Seattle, Washington, a young woman died and another protester is critically injured after a car drove into a crowd demonstrating against police brutality on an interstate highway.
Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate and partner of convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is scheduled to appear in court on Friday. Maxwell was arrested just days ago – many months after Epstein’s arrest and subsequent death in custody. Photos of President Trump and his wife Melania with Epstein and Maxwell are making the rounds of the internet once more and now Fox News has apologized for apparently accidentally cropping the President out of one photo.
And the US Supreme Court has just ruled that electoral college representatives must vote for whichever presidential candidate their state’s voters choose, clarifying a worrying concern leading up to the November race. Many fear that Trump will attempt to hold on to power even if he loses the election. A new Gallup poll shows that the President’s approval rating remains very low, and that he has lost support particularly among independent voters. Specifically, according to Gallup, “The current 89-point difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ ratings of Trump is the largest partisan gap Gallup has ever measured for a presidential approval rating in a single survey.”