Headlines: May 22, 2020
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As the number of Covid-19 related deaths in the US inches toward 100,000, President Donald Trump announced defiantly that he would not “close the country” if there was a second wave of infections. Trump’s remarks were made during a tour of a Ford factory in Michigan when he was asked about a possible resurgence of infections. Trump failed to mention the fact that he did not impose a national lockdown at all – it was state governors who made individual decisions to close businesses in the absence of federal action. He said on Thursday, “We can put out the fires. Whether it is an ember or a flame, we are going to put it out. But we are not closing our country.” He did not say how the nation would “put out the fires” as there is no systematic federal program to document and trace infections. Upon the urging of Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Trump announced he would lower flags on federal buildings to half-mast over 3 days to mourn the US coronavirus deaths.
During his visit to the Ford plant Trump refused to wear a mask in violation of the factory’s rules, as well as state law and in defiance of the Michigan Attorney General’s demand. He apparently wore a mask for a brief moment during a private part of the tour but left it off for most of the visit. As an explanation for his behavior he said, “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.” Michigan’s AG Dana Nessel called Trump, “a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules,” and said she was, “ashamed to have him be president.” Trump lashed back at her on Twitter. During his speech to workers Trump paused to go off script when discussing Henry Ford. Critics immediately pointed out that Mr. Ford was a notorious anti-Semite, favored by Adolf Hitler and was awarded the highest Nazi honor for non-Germans. Trump also claimed he had won a “man of the year” award in Michigan years ago but such an award does not exist.
After weeks of delays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose reputation under Trump has deeply suffered, has revised its guidelines for human interactions saying that while the Covid-19 virus, “is spreading very easily and sustainably between people,” “[t]he virus does not spread easily in other ways,” notably from surfaces. On its website the CDC now says, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.” The CDC still recommends that people, “Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.”
A new study on how Covid-19 damages the human body has found that the virus attacks the lining of blood vessels in the lungs – a critical difference from the seasonal flu. The lungs of Covid-19 patients also show microscopic blood clots – an unusual aspect of a respiratory disease. Interestingly the lung tissue examined shows that patients’ bodies also grow significant amounts of new blood vessels in the lungs perhaps as a way to get more oxygen and according to one of the study’s authors, “That may be one of the things that gets people better.” Meanwhile The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, on Friday published a global study of nearly 100,000 Covid patients who took the anti-malaria medication that President Trump has been promoting. The results of the study are disturbing and show that those infected with Covid-19 have a significantly higher risk of death if they took hydroxychloroquine. One scientist commenting on the results told the Washington Post, “It’s one thing not to have benefit, but this shows distinct harm… If there was ever hope for this drug, this is the death of it.” Another said, “these findings provide absolutely no reason for optimism that these drugs might be useful in the prevention or treatment of covid-19.” Trump shocked the nation earlier this week in claiming that he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure.
A new ABC/Ipsos poll highlights the racial disparities in the disease’s outcomes and finds that, “black Americans and Latinos… are nearly three times as likely to personally know someone who has died from the virus than white Americans.” Ohio’s largest county is under fire for issuing mask wearing guidelines that suggest people of color take steps to avoid appearing like criminals. The website of the Franklin County Public Health department asks people to, “Avoid fabrics that elicit deeply held stereotypes,” and patterns, “associated with gang symbolism.” Critics slammed the department for making suggestions to non-whites on how not to appear threatening rather than reminding white people to not be racist.
State Secretary Mike Pompeo, who was being investigated for abuse of power and who pushed for the firing of his department’s inspector general is reportedly continuing to violate ethical boundaries. The New York Times reported that Pompeo, who is angling for a Senate seat in Kansas, has been quietly visiting donors and conservative allies off the books during his publicly funded trips as State Secretary. And CNN reported late on Thursday that, “Pompeo pushed State Department officials to find a way to justify the emergency declaration that he had already decided to implement in order to fast-track the $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year — stunning career diplomats.” The State Department’s IG had been investigating the Saudi weapons’ sale before he was fired.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has once more put his foot in his mouth as he attempts to raise his Presidential campaign’s visibility. During an interview with the nationally syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club, popular with black millennials, Biden said this to the host: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t black.” Biden was also asked about reports that Senator Amy Klobuchar was undergoing an official vetting process to be his running mate. Many supporters have urged Biden to either pick a black female running mate such as Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams, or at least a very progressive white woman such as Elizabeth Warren. Klobuchar is neither.
In international news, a plane has crashed near Karachi airport in Pakistan, killing more than 90 people. There were a total of 99 people on board the Airbus A390 that was arriving from Lahore to Karachi. There are at least 2 survivors. The fatal crash comes only days after Pakistan resumed domestic air travel after a Covid-19 lockdown. The plane crashed in a busy suburb near the airport called Model colony damaging at least 8 houses. Prime Minister Imran Khan said an, “Immediate inquiry will be instituted.”
And finally, Hong Kong’s residents have planned mass protests against a sweeping new security law that China just announced out of nowhere. The law, according to pro-democracy activists, means the end of Hong Kong and the end of the “one country, two systems” framework. The last time China proposed such a national security law was in 2003, prompting half a million people to protest and leading to the law’s withdrawal. President Trump, who has been railing against China over the coronavirus, jumped at the chance to slam the Chinese government over the proposed Hong Kong law.