Headlines: October 30, 2020
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A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that Minnesota’s absentee ballots arriving after Election Day (but mailed before election day), could not be counted. Minnesota’s Secretary of State Steve Simon had extended the deadline by which absentee ballots could be received and still count, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. But the appeals court in a 2-1 ruling said his extension was unconstitutional and sided with Republican state legislators. This means that any absentee ballots being delivered by hand after 3 pm or by mail after 8 pm should be set aside when vote counting commences. “There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution,” wrote the judges that struck down Mr. Simon’s order. Both President Donald Trump and Democratic Nominee Joe Biden headed to Minnesota. While Trump holds an in-person gathering in Rochester, Biden has planned a car rally in St. Paul. The former Vice President leads the state by 8 points to Trump as the President has been busy recruiting former police officers to watch polls in a thinly veiled attempt at voter intimidation.
Republicans have been adopting Democratic talking points ahead of the election claiming the opposite of reality. For example, President Trump on Friday claimed that if Biden won it would be because the Supreme Court helped him win, even though it’s the President who has been ensuring he has a conservative supermajority on the court to help him. And Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick said that if Democrats win his state on election day it will only be, “because they stole it.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been working hard to suppress the vote in Texas insisting on having only one ballot drop-box per county in the vast state. Still Texans have been showing up in droves to vote and as of Friday the early voting totals have exceeded all votes cast in the state four years ago. Across the nation early voting has resulted in 80 million ballots being cast so far – an incredibly high number.
One heartening trend is that young people are turning out to vote in high numbers as well. Four years ago turnout among voters under the age of 30 was low. That trend appears to be reversing this time. The high stakes election year is prompting Americans to purchase guns at an alarming rate. A record 17 million guns were purchased this year alone. Others are choosing a different approach including some unions discussing the idea of a general strike if Trump wins reelection.
Trump held an outdoor and very crowded rally in Tampa, Florida on Thursday where several of his supporters were treated for heat exhaustion. To relieve the heat a firetruck began spraying water into the air at which point Trump made a threatening remark. The incident came two days after Trump supporters were abandoned by the campaign in Omaha, Nebraska in the freezing cold, resulting in 30 people needing medical treatment.
During his Tampa rally Trump also continued to downplay the coronavirus even as daily cases of infections broke records. Right behind him sat crowds of people shoulder to shoulder with almost no masks in sight. Trump also failed to mention the many long-term health impacts that Covid-19 survivors experience. Trump’s son Donald Jr. echoed his father’s cavalier attitude in an interview on Fox News on Thursday night when he said that the number of deaths from the coronavirus is “almost nothing.” In truth, although survival rates are increasing, there is still an average of 800 people per day dying from the disease. Nearly 90,000 new infections were reported on Thursday alone – a new record. There have been a total of 9 million cases in the nation since the start of the pandemic and no end in sight. Experts are warning that death rates will triple by January.
Meanwhile NPR just obtained hospitalization data for COVID-19 cases that the federal government keeps hidden and found that hospitals are filling dangerously in cities like Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Baltimore. Experts are denouncing the secrecy. The House Oversight Committee just released its report on the Trump Administration’s approach to the pandemic and concluded that it was, “an American fiasco,” and, “among the worst failures of leadership in American history.” In contrast to the Trump approach, Joe Biden’s idea of a nationwide mask mandate is gaining traction among public health experts.
Trump has been using taxpayer dollars to send his cabinet members out to various parts of the nation to tout his achievements in what can only be described as campaign-style events. The line between U.S. government work and Trump’s campaign work is become dangerously blurred. AP reported that, “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos planned a ‘Moms for Trump’ rally in her home state of Michigan. The Department of Homeland Security’s top official was in Texas to celebrate completion of a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The chief of the Environmental Protection Agency headed to North Carolina after visiting Georgia the day before. That was just Thursday.” Ethics groups have denounced Trump’s unprecedented use of government resources to further his own personal agenda.
The U.S. Commerce Department reported on Friday that consumer spending increased in September but only by 1.4%. On the same day the U.S. Labor Department released figures showing that wages and benefits for workers grew by only half a percent this summer. And, since last year the growth was 2.4% – the slowest growth in 3 years. Meanwhile a new study found that Americans who began working from home during the pandemic, used the time they saved from their commute to work more. Workers spent more than 22 million extra hours per day on their job so far this year. And, responding to the alarming rise in Covid cases, stocks on Wall Street continued to fall.
President Trump’s immigration adviser Stephen Miller previewed the harsh anti-immigrant policies that he plans to unleash if Trump wins a second term. Miller is considered the architect of Trump’s cruelest policies and laid out in an interview with NBC that a second term would include four policy goals for Trump: “limiting asylum grants, punishing and outlawing so-called sanctuary cities, expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants and slapping new limits on work visas.” Meanwhile Buzzfeed published a report showing what has happened to immigrants during Trump’s first term. The outlet obtained thousands of pages of records showing that more than 40 immigrants died in government custody since 2017. Joe Biden promised that if he was elected president he would form a taskforce to reunite the 545 immigrant children remaining in the U.S. who were ripped away from their parents by Trump and whose parents have been deported. The Trump government has washed its hands off the fate of the children.