Headlines: November 19, 2020
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More than a quarter million Americans have officially died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began. Across the country cases of infection are increasing just as scientists predicted they would in the winter months. States are returning to restrictions and curfews including in New York City where schools will once more close down 8 weeks after reopening. The state of Iowa has mandated wearing masks and in Ohio there is now a curfew at night. Hawaii is the only state where cases remain steady. Dr. Anthony Fauci lamented the “disjointed” approach to curbing the virus and said the nation needed “a uniform approach,” which strongly implied that President Donald Trump’s leadership has failed on this front. The number of people hospitalized has doubled in the past month. Associated Press explained, “Overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas. Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centers in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers.” Admiral Brett Giroir of the Department of Health and Human Services said, “I lose sleep at night over where we are in the pandemic right now…This is crunch time. This is not crying wolf.”
President Donald Trump’s failures on the pandemic is on full display with a clear correlation showing how states with the fewest restrictions have had the worst outbreaks of the virus. The conclusion is based on a study by Oxford University researchers one of whom told the New York Times, “States that have kept more control policies in a more consistent way — New England states, for example — have avoided a summer surge and are now having a smaller fall surge, as opposed to states that rolled them back very quickly like Florida or Texas.” Trump and his Republican Party allies have repeatedly and vociferously denounced safety precautions against the virus. Trump adviser Scott Atlas just days ago urged Michiganders to “rise up” against new restrictions in their state. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, whose state has one of the worst outbreaks has rigidly backed Trump’s approach in the face of mass infections and deaths.
In other news, a lawsuit against Tyson Foods corporation alleges that managers bet money on their workers catching the virus. The lawsuit blames the company for “fraudulent misrepresentations, gross negligence and incorrigible, willful and wanton disregard for worker safety.” As infections increase retail workers who are still required to work indoors are not getting extra hazard pay for their risks. Among the businesses whose profits are booming but who stopped the hazard pay are Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger. Walmart is also under fire for underpaying its employees so much that taxpayers are forced to subsidize their bottom line through federal programs. Walmart and other similar corporations are singled out in a new report by the Government Accountability Office. Senator Bernie Sanders denounced the findings saying on Twitter, “The Walton family is worth $238 billion. Yet they pay wages so low, 14,541 of their workers in 9 states are forced to rely on food stamps to feed their families. Outrageous. I say to the Walton family: Get off welfare. Pay your workers a living wage—at least $15 an hour.” And, in other economic news, the Labor Department reported that 743,000 workers filed for jobless benefits last week, a new surge from the week before.
As official state vote counts from the November 3rd election are finalized, president elect Joe Biden looks to have won a whopping 80 million votes, a historic record. Conversely outgoing President Donald Trump set his own record, winning the most votes for a losing candidate. Trump continues to refuse to concede to Biden however, and his campaign held a bizarre press conference on Thursday morning where his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani came to the shocking conclusion that if you exclude Democratic votes Trump would have won. Trump’s goal has been to claim that votes for him were “legal,” and votes for Biden were “illegal.” The attack on the democratic rights of the nation’s people by a sitting president is unprecedented. Trump’s Republican allies continue to try to help him remain in power, delaying vote counting or trying to disqualify votes wherever they can, including in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that in the cases of thousands of arrests at Black Lives Matter protests around the country earlier this year prosecutors have declined to press charges. Mass protests against racist police brutality were met with more police brutality as law enforcement officers wantonly arrested thousands of people often for no justifiable reason. According to the Times, “Prosecutors called the scale of both the mass arrests and mass dismissals within a few short months unrivaled, at least since the civil rights protests of the early 1960s… In the aftermath, prosecutors declined to pursue many of the cases because they concluded that the protesters were exercising their basic civil rights.” Additionally, “There was also the recognition that law enforcement officers often use mass arrests as a technique to help clear the streets, not to confront illegal behavior.” There was no mention of whether police would be held accountable for violating people’s First Amendment rights—although protecting free speech is often the justification given for why police fail to intervene when armed rightwing activists rally in public.
A new study concluded that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell to their lowest levels this year, inadvertently keeping the nation on track to meet the requirements of the Paris Accord which Trump withdrew from. The drop in emissions was linked directly to the economic standstill resulting from the pandemic, and was offset by emissions from massive climate-change-related wildfires on the West Coast. As president elect Joe Biden claims he will undo Trump’s damage on the climate but indigenous activists and environmentalists plan to rally in front of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington D.C. on Thursday. Their goal is to ensure Biden keeps his climate promises and they have denounced his appointments of fossil-fuel-industry friendly figures like Representative Cedric Richmond and former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
Secretary of State and Trump loyalist Mike Pompeo visited the occupied West Bank this week becoming the senior-most U.S. government official to set foot in an illegal Israeli settlement. Among Pompeo’s declarations was that the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) would be considered “antisemitic” by the U.S. and that illegal Israeli settlement made goods exported to the U.S. would be labeled “made in Israel.” Israel’s virulently rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the statements as “simply wonderful.” A growing number of Americans, including Jewish Americans recognize Israel’s occupation as illegal and immoral.
And finally, Senators from both parties have blocked a secret Trump administration deal to sell U.S.-made weapons to the United Arab Emirates. The massive $23 billion weapons deal was the U.S. government’s gift to the U.A.E. in exchange for the Gulf Arab state officially recognizing the state of Israel in a deal that Trump heavily touted earlier this year. Now Senators Bob Menendez, Chris Murphy, and Rand Paul have introduced 4 bills to block the sale. The U.A.E., along with US-ally Saudi Arabia has waged a relentless years-long war alongside the U.S. against the poverty-stricken nation of Yemen.