Headlines: September 10, 2020
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The latest Labor Department figures on unemployment show that more than 850,000 Americans filed for jobless benefits last week, a continuation of the massive economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. An additional 839,000 American filed for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program run by the federal government for part time and gig workers. One Chicago-based economist told the New York Times, “It’s a gut punch to see these numbers every Thursday with no improvement…The numbers are going in the wrong direction.” A recent NPR poll confirmed the economic hardship facing Americans with 46% of respondents reporting, “serious financial pain during the pandemic.” House Democrats passed a massive multitrillion dollar financial relief bill months ago but faced stiff opposition from the Republican dominated Senate. On Thursday Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell attempted to push through the GOP version of a relief bill that cuts in half the amount of government assistance offered to jobless Americans and does not include a second stimulus checks of the kind approved in earlier legislation. Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer denounced the GOP bill saying, “Instead of improving their offer, Senate Republicans have made it stingier and even less appropriate to the looming crisis that we have.” Ultimately the bill failed to garner the necessary 60 votes.
President Donald Trump continues to face fallout from a recorded phone conversation he had in February with journalist Bob Woodward during which he acknowledged the severity of the Covid-19 virus at the same time that he downplayed it to the public. The recorded conversation which was released to the public is part of Woodward’s new book about Trump called Rage. Among the other revelations in the book are that Trump denigrated the U.S. military, using the word “suckers” once more, and that two of his top officials, Gen James Mattis and Dan Coats, thought he was so dangerous that they considered speaking out. Woodward also reveals that Trump refused to acknowledge that Black Americans feel the pain of racism. After the recording of his coronavirus remarks were made public Trump admitted that he had downplayed the virus’ risk in remarks to reporters on Wednesday. Later Trump tweeted, “Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?” Indeed Woodward has come under criticism for sitting on the information for many months.
Meanwhile the virus continues to spread as the death toll inches toward 200,000 Americans. Colleges and universities in all 50 states have now reported Covid-19 infections among students and faculty. School teachers are also getting infected and at least 6 deaths of teachers have now been documented. Meanwhile Politico obtained internal emails from the Health and Human Services Department that attempted to censor Dr. Anthony Fauci on the virus risks in schools. A Trump administration appointee named Paul Alexander wrote a note to Fauci’s press team ahead of an interview, “Can you ensure Dr. Fauci indicates masks are for the teachers in schools. Not for children…There is no data, none, zero, across the entire world, that shows children especially young children, spread this virus to other children, or to adults or to their teachers. None. And if it did occur, the risk is essentially zero.” More than half a million children in the US have tested positive for the virus.
Trump on Wednesday released a lengthy list of nearly 2 dozen potential Supreme Court nominees if he wins a second term, reviving a tactic he used ahead of the 2016 election. Four years ago, Trump shored up support from the evangelical anti-abortion demographic using a short list of potential nominees and he hopes to repeat the same this time. On his list were the names of several not-very-qualified political loyalists including Republicans Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley. Meanwhile after failing to pass an economic relief bill to help struggling Americans, the Republican controlled Senate returned to fulfilling a long-term conservative agenda of appointing as many rightwing judges to life-time federal positions as possible.
Trump on Thursday headed to Michigan for a political rally as Democrats sent a mobile billboard truck with quotes from Trump’s conversation with Woodward about the seriousness of the Covid-19 virus. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is among the many women Trump routinely denigrates, said in advance of Trump’s visit, “His failure to act has cost so many lives and sent our economy in a tailspin…It’s just devastating to hear that. The biggest threat to the American people is the American president right now.”
Trump has also resumed his routine attacks on professional athletes that take a stand for racial justice. Four years ago the National Football League took a similar position to Trump in denouncing players that kneeled during the national anthem as a protest against racist police violence. Now, even the NFL has come around on the issue while the President remains adamantly opposed to peaceful protest. A new Washington Post poll found that even a majority of Americans now support athletes using their public platforms to speak out against racism. The New York Times on Thursday published an analysis of the 922 most powerful people in the US and found that 80% of them are white even as the nation becomes more racially diverse.
A witness in the police killing of a Portland suspect say he was not warned before being fatally shot. Michael Reinoehl who was the suspected shooter of a rightwing Trump supporter at a recent Portland clash was killed when federal officers say he tried to shoot at them while being arrested. But now a witness named Nate Dinguss, who is an ordained minister says that Reinoehl was holding a cell phone and eating when federal officers with a “fugitive task force” began firing at him without warning. Dinguss’ lawyers say he fears retaliation from Trump-supporting rightwing militias and law enforcement.
Seven people have died in fires that continue to rage all along the Western coast of the U.S. from Washington to Oregon and California. The San Francisco bay area was blanketed in a deep orange haze during the day time. Smoke-filled air in various parts of the Western states are making it dangerous to breathe. In Oregon at least 5 towns have been devastated and the death toll is as yet unknown. Scientists agree there is a direct link between the conditions driving the ferocious fires and climate change.
Two other unrelated fires in other parts of the world are making headlines. A massive fire in a migrant refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos has displaced more than 10,000 people who were already living in squalor. And, a huge fire just broke out at a port warehouse in Beirut, Lebanon just a month after a devastating explosion destroyed most of the city.
And finally, Brown University’s Costs of War project has found that, “at least 37 million people have fled their homes in the eight most violent wars the U.S. military has launched or participated in since 2001.” The report, released a day before the 19th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, says the 37 million number is a likely underestimate.