Headlines: May 11, 2020
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As of Monday, the US death toll from the coronavirus topped 80,000 as per NBC’s latest count. The Washington Post reported just under 80,000. About 1.3 million Americans have been infected, among them several individuals in the White House’s staff. After one of Trump’s personal valets tested positive last week Katie Miller, a staff member of Vice President Mike Pence’s office who is married to Trump advisor Stephen Miller, also tested positive. One of Ivanka Trump’s assistants also had a positive test. Several people who say they were in contact with the infected individuals have now decided to self-quarantine for 2 weeks including Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert at the White House. According to one report, “several administration officials said White House staffers were encouraged to come into the office by their supervisors, and that aides who travel with [Trump] and [Pence] would not stay out for 14 days, the recommended time frame to quarantine once exposed to the virus.” Few people wear masks while at the White House. Meanwhile, Vice President Pence attended a meeting with food industry executives in Iowa on Friday and before he appeared on stage, all panelists were asked to remove the masks they were wearing.
President Donald Trump, instead of expressing grief over the mass death toll in the US – which is the largest in the world by far – touted the reopening of his golf club instead. He also spent much of Sunday firing well over one hundred other tweets promoting far right conspiracy theories and retweeting posts from accounts associated with the shadowy hate group ‘Qanon.’ And he made mentions of something called “Obamagate,” and retweeted an image of himself captioned, “Hope you had fun investigating me. Now it’s My Turn.” Meanwhile in an op-ed in the Washington Post, former Vice President and Presidential candidate Joe Biden wrote, “President Trump is reverting to a familiar strategy of deflecting blame and dividing Americans. His goal is as obvious as it is craven: He hopes to split the country into dueling camps, casting Democrats as doomsayers hoping to keep America grounded and Republicans as freedom fighters trying to liberate the economy.”
The economic fallout from the virus’ spread continues to rise and even the President’s advisers admit that the official unemployment rate could rise to 20% by next month. White House economic advisers Kevin Hassett and Steven Mnuchin in separate interviews on Sunday expressed their concern with Mnuchin saying, “The reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better….I think you’re going to have a very, very bad second quarter.” Although House Democrats are readying another economic stimulus bill hoping for a vote this week, Mnuchin expressed caution saying it was worth waiting a few more weeks. Among the things that the White House is considering is offering direct payments to Americans in exchange for cutting or delaying their Social Security payments. The idea, being called the Eagle Plan, is backed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Meanwhile a new survey of small business owners has found that more than 80% fear that their businesses will suffer over the next year or so.
Another survey confirms how the American public fears that the US is reopening businesses too soon. The poll found that a majority disapprove of the far-right anti-lockdown protests that have sprung up in various cities demanding a reopening of businesses. And the Los Angeles Times reported on how many of those protesters are White Supremacists who are now resorting to threats and online exposing of personal information of those who report quarantine violations. Specifically, “White supremacists from ‘accelerationist’ groups — which seek to weaken the political system that they believe has been diluted by multiculturalism — have sought to weaponize the deadly virus, calling on members to engage in direct attacks in order to expedite the collapse of society.”
Several states with Republican governors such as Georgia and Florida have ended their lockdowns but in other states conservative business owners are making their own rules. On Sunday, a Trump-supporting restaurant owner in Castle Rock, Colorado tweeted their decision to reopen, “against the overreach of our governor.” The restaurant boasted crowds of people celebrating Mother’s Day, almost none wearing masks or bothering to distance themselves from others. Nearly a thousand people have died of Covid-19 in Colorado. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has allowed several types of businesses to reopen but many others defied restrictions following in the footsteps of one salon owner in Dallas who gained notoriety after she was arrested for violating lockdown orders. Abbott intervened to acquit her. Meanwhile in California where a phased reopening of the economy is underway, cases are continuing to rise, especially in Los Angeles County where 40% of new cases were reported. There are more than 65,000 infections in California and 2,700 deaths.
Three children have now died in New York City from a rare inflammatory disease that appears linked to Covid-19 infections. A total of 38 children have been hospitalized. Two of the children were elementary school aged and one was an adolescent. According to the New York Times, “They lived in three different counties, and were not known to have pre-existing conditions.” Doctors continue to find new ways in which the coronavirus attacks parts of the body. In addition to lung damage, the unpredictable impacts on the body can include the heart, brain, and kidneys being damaged and cause blood clots causing strokes, or resulting in amputations of limbs. One New York City doctor told the press, “No one was expecting a disease that would not fit the pattern of pneumonia and respiratory illness.” Another said, “We don’t know why there are so many disease presentations.”
In other news, two former officials with the Justice Department wrote separate op-eds slamming Attorney General William Barr’s recent ruling to drop charges against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Writing in the Washington Post, Jonathan Kravis a former federal prosecutor said that just as in the case of Trump associate Roger Stone, the Flynn decision means that, “the department again put political patronage ahead of its commitment to the rule of law.” He added that Barr’s action, “sends an unmistakable message to prosecutors and agents — if the president demands, we will throw you under the bus.” Mary B. McCord, former acting assistant attorney general for national security writing in the New York Times took great issue with Barr’s characterization of the FBI’s interview with Flynn, during which Flynn lied and admitted as such later. She said that Barr “Twisted My Words in Dropping the Flynn Case,” and that, “The F.B.I.’s interview of Mr. Flynn was constitutional, lawful and for a legitimate counterintelligence purpose.”
Georgia’s Attorney General has asked the US Justice Department to investigate the killing of 25-year old jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery’s killing was documented on video and his suspected killers, a father and son, were not arrested for more than 2 months and only after a local outcry. A Justice Department spokesperson says the department is, “assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate.” Arbery was black and his suspected killers are white. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called the killing a “lynching,” and blamed President Trump for fostering an atmosphere where such acts are normalized. She said, “With the rhetoric we hearing coming out of the White House in so many ways, I think that many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way we otherwise would not see in 2020.”