Headlines: November 16, 2020
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The pharmaceutical company Moderna on Monday announced via press release that the Covid-19 vaccine it has been working on has shown 94.5% effectiveness. The company is one of several that has received billions of tax dollars from the Trump administration to develop a vaccine as part of the President’s Operation Warp Speed. Moderna’s announcement comes a week after Pfizer in collaboration with a company called BioNTech declared that its vaccine –which is not part of Trump’s operation—showed very promising results at more than 90% effectiveness. The New York Times explained that, “Pfizer and Moderna each announced the findings in news releases, not in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and the companies have not yet disclosed the detailed data that would allow outside experts to evaluate their claims. Therefore, the results cannot be considered conclusive. The studies are continuing, and the figures on effectiveness may change.” Stocks rose on Monday based on the Moderna vaccine announcement.
President elect Joe Biden has been iced out of the transition process by the current occupant of the White House who refuses to accept his election loss. Biden’s team is reportedly meeting directly with vaccine makers to remedy this failure. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases lamented the situation saying, “Of course it would be better if we could start working with them.” Most critically the incoming Biden administration needs to know how the Department of Health and Human Services plans on distributing the vaccine across the nation once all studies are complete and the Food and Drug Administration signs off. Virus cases are off the charts in the U.S. with a whopping 11 million cases of infection so far. There were a million new cases in the past week alone suggesting an exponential rise in the rate of infections. The large figure means that most Americans now know someone who has been infected. Researchers estimate that about a third of all Americans know someone who has died from the virus.
As states around the country consider new shutdowns to stop the spread of the virus, President Trump’s controversial coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas shockingly told the residents of Michigan to “rise up” against restrictions that Gov. Gretchen Whittmer announced on Sunday night. Whittmer, who was the target of a thwarted kidnapping by a Trump supporter, responded saying, “We know that the White House likes to single us out here in Michigan, me out in particular. I’m not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals.” Meanwhile given the lack of federal government aid to help them tide over the economic impact, businesses are rushing to lobby against more restrictions. Other states joining Michigan are Washington, Oregon, and New Mexico, as well as the Navajo Nation in Arizona.
Several thousand people rallied in Washington DC this past weekend claiming that the President election was rigged and supporting outgoing President Donald Trump. The so-called Million MAGA march attracted the usual mix of white supremacists, nationalists, armed chauvinists, racists, conspiracists, and other representatives of Trump’s America. Fox News which was carrying live coverage at one point managed to express shock at the sight of a racist protest sign that read, “Coming for Blacks & Indians first welcome to the new world order.” Trump drove his motorcade through the rally to showcase his allegiance to the hateful mob. Twenty people were arrested and one person stabbed during clashes with counter protesters.
Charles Koch, the surviving brother of the Koch-Brothers duo that spent decades and billions of dollars funding conservative causes and fueling the rise of the extremist right, now says he has regrets. The 85-year old spoke to the Wall Street Journal in an interview published last Friday. The Journal explained, “Mr. Koch said he has since come to regret his partisanship, which he says badly deepened divisions. ‘Boy, did we screw up!’ he writes in his new book. ‘What a mess!’”
President elect Joe Biden and Vice President elect Kamala Harris gave a public address about the U.S. economy. According to AP, “Before his Monday address, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held virtual meetings with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Microsoft President and CEO Satya Nadella, among others.” Biden’s team says he may campaign in Georgia in the coming weeks where Democrats could cinch control of the U.S. senate if they win both Senate runoff races in January. Republicans have flooded the state with dollars and campaign operatives.
A New York federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration’s appointment of Chad Wolf to head the Department of Homeland Security was unlawful and therefore Mr. Wolf lacked the authority to deny work permits to hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients. Advocates of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program lauded the decision and hope that the incoming Biden administration restores the integrity of the program as promised.
The FBI released its annual hate crimes report on Monday showing that incidents have reached a decade-long high. In 2019 there were 7,314 hate crimes which is about 200 more than the year before. There were more than 50 people murdered in acts of hate last year. There has been a 7% increase in religion-based hate crimes in 2019 compared to the year before, particularly targeting Jews. Hate crimes against Latinos also rose. President Trump has spent nearly 4 years courting hate groups and whipping up a frenzied resentment among white Americans against non-whites and non-Christians.
The Boy Scouts of America are struggling with a whopping 82,000 cases of sex abuse claims – far higher than the number facing the Catholic Church. The group, which has more than a $1 billion in assets is seeking to reorganize its finances as it pays to settle sex abuse claims and survive bankruptcy. The Boy Scouts released a statement saying it were, “devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting.”
Another hurricane is gaining strength in Central America. Before communities can recover from the devastation of Hurricane Eta that smashed through nations like Honduras before landing in the the U.S. Gulf, Hurricane Iota is now threatening a similar impact. Climate scientists are seeing a clear link between climate change and the intensity, strength and rainfall of this year’s storms. Meanwhile the Trump Administration, which has reveled in deregulation of fossil fuels, is selling off drilling permits to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as fast as possible before the Biden administration takes over.
Chaos reigns in Peru after interim President Manuel Merino quit his position after just five days in power. Peruvians have been mobilizing mass protests non-stop after a purported coup ousted President Martín Vizcarra and led to Merino being installed in his place. Now there is no one at the helm of the South American nation. AP explained, “There are two potential exits to the ordeal: Congress could put forward a new candidate to approve with a simple majority vote or the country’s highest court could step in. But with neither route guaranteed to bring a solution, some Peruvians called for new protests and the country verged on collapse.”