Headlines: May 1, 2020
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Friday May 1st marks the day that thousands of Americans are taking part in the biggest rent strike in decades. As per The Guardian, renters in New York, Pennsylvania and California are collectively withholding rent to protest the on-going lack of financial help going to the poorest Americans. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained, “People aren’t striking because they don’t feel like paying rent, they’re striking because they can’t.” May Day is also when workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, and Instacart are striking for their labor rights. Workers across a number of companies and industries walked off their jobs demanding hazard pay, protective equipment, paid sick leave, and more. The actions are part of an international trend with Associated Press reporting that, “Millions of workers worldwide marked international labor day on Friday trapped between hunger and fear — struggling without jobs or worried they don’t have enough protections against the coronavirus as more countries and states reopen for business.” Workers in Greece, Turkey, China, Spain, Indonesia, and the Czech Republic joined in. In contrast to the news, the world’s largest retailer, Amazon, announced it raked in $75 billion in revenues in the first quarter of this year. The company is claiming it will spend a small portion of that on protection for workers.
Nearly a dozen US states reopened businesses on May 1st, in line with President Donald Trump’s desire for the economy to return to normal in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the US leading the world in infections and deaths, states like Texas allowed the reopening of some types of businesses, following from states like Georgia last week. In fact Texas reported its highest single-day death toll from the virus a day before easing restrictions. However, Michigan, California, and others extended their stay-at-home orders. The World Health Organization on Friday extended its declaration of a global health emergency. Meanwhile a new report by the University of Minnesota, written by infectious disease experts, has concluded that, “we must be prepared for at least another 18 to 24 months of significant COVID-19 activity, with hot spots popping up periodically in diverse geographic areas.”
A large crowd of heavily armed white protesters toting rifles and wearing pro-Trump memorabilia forced their way into the Michigan capitol building on Thursday. The protesters compared Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to Hitler, and echoed President Trump’s frequent belligerent criticisms of the Democratic female leader. Some state lawmakers felt nervous enough to wear bullet proof vests as the protesters crowded into the capitol building unencumbered and ignoring social distancing rules as they waved their weapons. One protester carried a sign saying “Tyrants get the rope.” After screaming “Let Us In,” police allowed the protesters to enter. The incident has prompted critics to wonder how police would have reacted to non-white armed protesters entering a government building. Making no attempt to hide the fact that he has provoked the protests, Trump said on Twitter, “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.” US Attorney General William Barr, who has been repeatedly accused of behaving like the President’s personal lawyer issued a 2-page memo to federal prosecutors signaling support for the protesters.
Trump during Thursday’s White House Press briefing blamed the Obama Administration for interfering in the federal government’s Covid response even though the virus did not exist until 2019. CNN’s Jim Acosta challenged the President on his obvious lie but Trump brushed it aside. Meanwhile, State governors have been complaining bitterly that the federal government has not provided them with enough tests, prompting Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, to guard the large stash of tests he obtained for his residents from South Korea. Gov. Hogan is apparently protecting the tests from being seized by the federal government. In addition to congratulating himself repeatedly for his response to the virus, Trump has continued to push federal intelligence agencies to investigate a far-fetched conspiracy theory that China created the Covid-19 virus in a lab saying he had evidence that he could not disclose. After being confronted with his own Director of National Intelligence’s statement saying there was no evidence, Trump simply dismissed the truth. He has gone as far as threatening China with tariffs over the unsubstantiated conspiracy. The New York Times on Friday pointed out that, “Trump has led no national mourning for the more than 63,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus.” NBC News reports that the Trump administration placed an order for 100,000 body bags in April.
In other news Vice President Mike Pence has threatened to sue the reporter who tweeted a photo of him violating Mayo Clinic’s requirements that everyone wear a face mask. Steve Herman of Voice of America says he has also been banned from future trips covering Pence. Mr. Pence, who had responded angrily over the Mayo Clinic controversy saying he was frequently being tested and therefore didn’t need to cover his face, wore a mask during a tour of a GM plant on Thursday in his home state of Indiana.
As more journalists dig into the taxpayer backed loan program in the CARES Act, the Washington Post has found that more than $1 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program was loaned to about 300 publicly traded companies even though those funds were designed for small businesses. Only a handful have been shamed into returning the money. And, the Post also reports that, “at least 25 former officials who once worked for the Trump administration, campaign or transition team are now registered as lobbyists for clients” seeking federal bailouts. The CARES Act also authorized up to $1,200 in direct stipends to cash-strapped Americans but many are still waiting for their checks to arrive. One woman made headlines after she received her check because she is wealthy – and lives in London – and is a citizen of the UK, not the US.
In other news, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden has finally released a statement on the sexual assault allegations against him by a former Senate staffer named Tara Reade. In the statement Biden opened with his support of the Violence Against Women Act and then went on to deny the assault happened. Following that he gave an interview on MSNBC. While Biden has said he supports a search in the National Archives for any evidence of a complaint that Reade might have made, he resisted querying his Senate records that are stored at the University of Delaware and refused to answer the host’s question. Ms. Reade in an interview with Buzzfeed says she feels, “marginalized,” “smeared,” and “discounted” by her fellow Democrats who have been defending Biden.
In international news, the Afghan Taliban is once more escalating its attacks on Afghan government forces, in spite of having signed a recent peace deal with the US. The Afghan National Security Council is reporting an average of 55 attacks a day since the beginning of March. The US’s Inspector General watchdog group on Afghanistan says that the Taliban has held back from attacking US and NATO forces and instead stepped up attacks on the US-backed Afghan government.