Headlines: September 11, 2020
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As fires continue to rage across the Western coast of the United States, a record breaking 3 million acres have now burned across California. The Los Angeles Times reports that, “On Thursday, the August Complex — the product of 37 fires in and around Tehama County — became the largest ever recorded in California at 471,000 acres.” At least 23 people have died across California, Oregon, and Washington. In Oregon, at least half a million people are under evacuation orders. Gov. Kate Brown warned, “We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state,” adding, “If you’re advised to evacuate, do so immediately. You may not get a second chance.” Several small towns including Phoenix, Talent, Detroit and Blue River in Oregon were nearly destroyed. Walden, Washington, and Berry Creek, California are also devastated. Meanwhile rumors began spreading on social media platforms about anti-fascist activist setting off fires as authorities quickly moved to quash them declaring them false. While scientists are in agreement that catastrophic climate change is to blame for the fires, the issue has hardly been raised during the presidential campaigns of the two major party candidates, less than two months ahead of the election.
In other news, Friday marks the 19th anniversary of the September 11th 2001 attacks—an issue that both candidates are only too thrilled to raise as part of their campaigns. President Donald Trump traveled to Shanksville, Pennsylvania where the passengers of Flight 93 fought back against their hijackers before their plane crashed. Democratic Nominee Joe Biden traveled to New York where the Twin Towers were destroyed nearly 2 decades ago and then headed to Pennsylvania as well. Neither men acknowledged the mass death and displacement on the other side of the world that the post 9-11 U.S. wars brought in the decades since.
In news from the election trail, the Trump campaign has pulled back from spending on television ads as its coffers are dangerously low. The move has worried many in the Republican Party that have thrown their lot behind Trump. Trump rallied in Freeland, Michigan on Thursday evening as thousands of red MAGA hat wearing Trump supporters thronged with no social distancing and very few masks. One New York Times reporter Kathy Gray, who tweeted about the lack of masks was tracked down by Trump’s security and kicked out of the rally after she posted her photos. A government official, Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health said he was “puzzled” and “disheartened” by the lack of safety measures at Trump’s rally. During his lengthy speech, Trump railed against his usual enemies and whipped up a frenzy among his supporters about “taking back the country.” The message was a strange echo of his campaign slogan from 4 years ago considering that the nation has been under Trump’s rule for nearly 4 years and it was unclear whether he meant to fix the problems he had created.
As Americans marked the grim anniversary of the September 11th attacks, some pointed out that the Coronavirus death toll of nearly 200,000 was akin to dozens of terrorist attacks of the same scale. On Thursday cases of infection in the U.S. rose for the third consecutive day even as Trump continued to face political fallout from the revelation that he lied to the American people about the severity of the virus. When an ABC reporter asked Trump at a Thursday press conference, why, as per journalist Bob Woodward’s book, did he lie, the President tore into him. In fact, Trump repeatedly said in public that the virus was not as dangerous as the flu that it would simply disappear one day. His claim that he held back from telling the truth in order to not cause panic was met with derision from critics who pointed out that Trump has never held back from causing baseless fear and panic over immigrants, anti-fascist activists, mail-in voting, and more. Well known historian Allan Lichtman pointed out that Trump’s lying about the virus would be poorly judged in the future and said it was, “the greatest dereliction of duty in the history of the U.S. presidency.”
Meanwhile the federal government has just charged a Russian national of attempting to thwart the U.S. presidential election. Associated Press pointed out that the charges, “reflect a dichotomy in the administration with officials taking aim at Russian interference in the political process even as President Donald Trump expresses doubt about Russian meddling.” And a Ukrainian lawmaker with ties to Russia named Andrii Derkach was sanctioned over an attempt to hurt Joe Biden’s campaign using the same smear that Trump and his Fox News allies have touted. In fact, Derkach had been working directly with Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. And, the tech company Microsoft has accused hackers from Russia and China of digital spying on the campaigns of both major party presidential nominees. The governments of both nations have denied any involvement.
As the Republican dominated Senate on Thursday failed to pass legislation offering economic relief for ordinary Americans, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in a speech on the Senate floor railed against the failure to help ordinary Americans and demanded austerity for the wealthiest Americans.