Headlines: October 23, 2020
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The second and final Presidential debate of 2020 took place Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee and was markedly different from the first one in late September. The Commission on Presidential Debates had changed the rules to mute the microphones of President Donald Trump and Democratic Nominee Joe Biden while the other was giving their main answer to questions. Mr. Trump, who was widely castigated after his first debate performance for raging uncontrollably and continuously interrupting Biden and the moderator, changed his behavior during the second debate. However, the deception that the President has made a hallmark of his tenure remained at high levels. Fact checkers found that Trump spewed the most lies of the night by far. The New York Times summarized it this way: “Mr. Trump unleashed an unrelenting series of false, misleading and exaggerated statements as he sought to distort Mr. Biden’s record and positions and boost his own re-election hopes… The president once again relied heavily on well-worn talking points that have long been shown to be false.”
Among the numerous issues discussed at the debate was the coronavirus pandemic which has so far claimed more than 220,000 American lives. Immigration was also a hot topic at the debate and the immigrant family separations that Trump’s government adopted as a deterrent was under scrutiny. Trump claimed that the majority of children separated from their parents were brought by “coyotes” or traffickers, and not by their own parents, even though it has been well documented that separating children from parents was a policy. Mr. Biden took Trump to task on the issue. Arguably the most shocking line of the night came from Trump who claimed that most immigrants do not reappear for their court hearings except those with the “lowest IQ”.
The issues of race and policing were also front and center with Mr. Trump claiming contrary to all evidence that he had done more for the Black community than any other president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, and that he was the least racist person in the room. Among Biden’s responses was a reminder that Trump was one of the loudest champions of the death penalty for the Central Park 5, a group of falsely accused African American teens. Also discussed during the debate was climate change, healthcare, Trump’s taxes, the minimum wage and more. A CNN poll of viewers and undecided voters concluded that Biden won the debate while observers pointed out that Trump’s wild and deceptive claims had strong echoes of Fox News talking points in a way that most people who don’t consume rightwing news may have been alienated by.
As election day nears a record-shattering 50 million voters have already cast their ballots in early voting states. Meanwhile Trump and Biden are both setting up legal teams in case there is a contested vote. But the Trump reelection campaign has far less money on hand than Biden’s campaign. Still, the President’s campaign apparently has enough funding to secretly videotape voters dropping off ballots at drop boxes in Philadelphia, which Pennsylvania’s attorney general says amounts to illegal voter intimidation. As the battle over mail-in voting continues a federal judge has ruled that the US Postal Service needs to re-install the high-volume mail sorting machines that Trump loyalist and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy decommissioned. Foreign interference is also expected to play a role as US intelligence officials point the finger at both Iran and Russia but warn Russia is the far bigger threat. And, at least one plan for violence has been thwarted. Federal officials just arrested a 19-year old white man who was planning on assassinating Biden and had in his possession a van full of weapons and ammunition.
Coronavirus infections continue to rise in the U.S. with the second highest daily total being reported on Thursday since the pandemic began. More than 75,000 new cases were documented, just 2,000 short of the highest total reported in July. Hospitals across the U.S. are dangerously reaching capacity. The states of Utah, Montana, Wyoming that had been relatively quiet on the virus front are now emerging as a new national hotspot for the disease. Health officials are citing resistance to mask wearing as the culprit. A letter signed by 130 Democratic lawmakers and led by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ro Khanna urged the federal government to take action. In the letter are five clearly articulated steps that the signatories outline including ramping medical supply chains, ramping up public health jobs, tackling the systemic racism that leads to Black and Brown Americans to have worse health outcomes, and long-term environmental solutions to prevent future pandemics.
The city of New York has launched a suit against the federal government’s labeling of it as an “anarchist jurisdiction,” saying the move will cost the local government billions. Trump last month asked the Justice Department in a shocking and unprecedented move to withhold federal funds from the cities of New York, Portland, and Seattle because, according to him, they have allowed “themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”
Nineteen women have now been found to have been medically abused in a privately-run Georgia immigrant detention center. The Los Angeles Times obtained a report written by numerous gynecologists and nursing experts at academic institutions who reviewed thousands of pages of medical records and concluded that abuse took place in the form of overly aggressive or medically unnecessary procedures without their consent, including depriving some women of their ability to have children.
The attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, published an op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday accusing the Justice Department of letting one of the world’s wealthiest families off the hook in a major case around the opioid epidemic. Ms. Healey wrote, “The Justice Department cut a deal on Wednesday with the Sackler family, the billionaire owners of Purdue Pharma who are accused by my office and others of causing much of the opioid epidemic through their illegal marketing of OxyContin. Selling opioids made the Sacklers one of the richest families in the world, with a fortune reported at $13 billion beyond the value of Purdue. But the Justice Department decided to let the Sacklers pay $225 million and walk away.”
This week marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the Iraq war logs that whistleblower Chelsea Manning was accused of having leaked to Wikileaks and comes a few months after the tenth anniversary of the Afghan war logs. The logs were classified U.S. military documents that revealed evidence of American war crimes in both wars. Both Manning and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange have paid a high price of lengthy incarcerations in connection to the release of the documents.
And finally, the United Nations has hailed as historic a permanent ceasefire in the Libya war. All the warring sides on Friday agreed to a permanent cessation of hostilities that could pave the way for elections. It remains to be seen if the ceasefire holds.