Headlines: September 15, 2020
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President Donald Trump visited California on Monday meeting with state officials as wildfires burned up and down the length of the state killing dozens, causing evacuations of thousands, and creating hazardous air quality for millions. Upon landing in Sacramento Trump revived his favorite theory about California wildfires while speaking to reporters. Later, when meeting with state officials, California Gov. Gavin Newsom informed Trump that the majority of forest land is federally managed land and only 3% is managed by the state. In an exchange with Gov. Newsom’s top environmental adviser, Trump in his usual manner of thinking out loud and making claims without evidence said that “it will start getting cooler,” and casually dismissed science. Meanwhile Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden denounced Trump as a “climate arsonist.” PLAY VIDEO. That’s Joe Biden speaking on Monday from Delaware as Trump visited California.
There are fears of the fires worsening in size and ferocity as weather forecasts predict wind and low humidity. Air quality is so hazardous that Associated Press explained how residents in, “Oregon, Washington and parts of California were struggling under acrid yellowish-green smog — the worst, most unhealthy air on the planet according to some measurements.” The Guardian published a disturbing report of inmates from 4 state prisons in Oregon being evacuated due to poor air quality and placed in close quarters where guards have repeatedly used pepper spray on them as a control measure. The pepper spray has further exacerbated respiratory problems from the smoky air and increased susceptibility to the coronavirus. Meanwhile on the Gulf Coast of the US Hurricane Sally slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi with historic flooding expected. Sally is one of five massive storms in the Atlantic right now with meteorologists pointing out that it is only the second time in recorded history that five tropical cyclones were moving over the ocean. Like West Coast wildfires, Gulf and East Coast hurricanes are getting more frequent and stronger—a direct result of climate change and predicted for years by climate scientists.
As poverty continues to strike Americans struggling with pandemic-related job losses a group of 50 lawmakers from both parties have cobbled together a coronavirus economic relief bill in the hopes that it will appeal to both parties. The centrist lawmakers are promoting a $1.5 trillion bill that is half the size of the one passed by the House and only a little bigger than the one that the Senate failed to pass. Meanwhile a new report finds that the modest economic gains and job creation that is taking place during the pandemic is disproportionately benefitting white workers over black workers. The Economic Policy Institute analyzed unemployment figures and concluded that white workers are getting hired back for jobs at twice the rate of black workers.
The Los Angeles Times conducted an experiment to test delays in the Postal Service by mailing and tracking 100 letters around the state of California and the U.S. and concluded that, “postal performance in the summer of 2020 is spotty at best, dismal at worst.” It measured the actual delivery times to the Postal Service’s own advertised delivery times. The top positions at the Postal Service are held by Trump loyalists who have vowed in the past to undermine the revered government service—the same service that voters who cast ballots by mail rely on. Even as the President and his reelection campaign are spreading unfounded fears of fraud from mail-in voting, the Republican party is pushing its own voters to use Absentee ballots. Meanwhile the state of Pennsylvania—and important swing state—authorities decided mail-in votes would not be tossed out over signature problems. In many states election poll workers who are not trained in handwriting analysis, toss out thousands of ballots over signatures.
Also in Pennsylvania, a federal judge just struck down the governor’s coronavirus restrictions calling them “unconstitutional.” President Trump celebrated the ruling. The President has flouted Covid-related social distancing rules at his own rallies and public appearances and defended his decision to hold a crowded indoor rally in Las Vegas recently. In remarks to reporters he said, “I’m on a stage that’s very far away. And so I’m not at all concerned.” The site that hosted Trump’s rally was fined $3,000 for violating the state ban on large gatherings. On Monday journalist Bob Woodward released a new recording of his phone conversation with Trump in February when the President candidly explained just how frightened he was of catching the virus.
In immigration news, a nurse turned whistle-blower named Dawn Wooten is sounding the alarm about damning medical neglect and forced hysterectomies of detainees at a Georgia immigrant detention center. Wooten worked at the Irwin County detention center which is run by a private company called Le Salle Corrections and accused authorities of conducting an unusual number of hysterectomies of Spanish-speaking women who may not have understood the medical procedures. We’ll be covering this story in more detail later on. Meanwhile a federal court just ruled that about 400,000 people living in the U.S. under the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) order can indeed be forced to leave the nation as Trump has demanded. The ruling impacts primarily black and brown immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean. An earlier decision by a federal judge found that the Department of Homeland Security could not enforce new asylum restrictions because Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf is likely serving in his role illegally. Wolf has not been confirmed by the Senate as required.
The city of Louisville has reached a $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor who was wrongfully killed by police while asleep in her apartment. The family has also won reforms of police procedures in the city to prevent similar killings. And the Death Penalty Information Center in a new report found significant racial disparities in death row cases. In particular, “killers of white people were more likely than the killers of Black people to face a capital prosecution.”
And finally Trump triumphantly hosted the signing of a deal between Arab nations and Israel at the White House on Tuesday. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel—a nation that they had not been battling in any form—in exchange for a promise of future weapons sales from the U.S. But Trump is casting the agreement as a “dawn of a new Middle East.” Generally U.S. Presidents have framed Middle East foreign policy as centering on Israel and the Palestinian territories but Palestinians have been left out of the equation. During remarks to the press about aid to Palestinians, Trump said, “if they’re not going to speak well of us, we’re not going to be involved.” Outside the White House, on Black Lives Matter Plaza, a coalition of 50 peace groups held a protest calling for no normalization of relations with Israel.