Headlines: September 16, 2020
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The impacts of climate change are evident on the Gulf Coast of the United States this week with Hurricane Sally slamming into Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi with terrifying force. The slow-moving storm dumped 30 inches of rain on Pensacola, Florida, destroying a section of the Bay Bridge. Weather forecasters warned that, “Historic and catastrophic flooding, including widespread moderate to major river flooding, is unfolding.” More than half a million homes and businesses in Alabama and Florida have lost power. About 60,000 people in Louisiana have been without power since Hurricane Laura hit weeks ago. The storm is the 8th hurricane to make landfall on the continental United States this year alone – the largest number in recorded history to manifest before mid-September. Climate scientists point out that global warming predicts wetter hurricanes that move slower, thereby unleashing so much rain onto coastal areas that devastating floods are to be expected.
As the hurricanes wreak havoc off the Atlantic, on the Pacific coast of the nation f as the smoke and haze traveled as far as the East Coast and Europe. In Southern California where two major fires, the El Dorado and the Bobcat fires are still burning, the historic Mount Wilson Observatory is in danger of burning down. Nearby the observatory are transmission towers for most major radio and television stations in Southern California, including KPFK where our program is produced. Fire crews worked overnight to keep the Bobcat fire in check but the blaze remains less than 10% contained. State firefighting resources on the West Coast are running low on funds and the fire season is only at its halfway mark. Air quality is so dangerous that hospitals are seeing a rise in patients struggling with headaches and breathing problems.
In an embarrassing performance President Donald Trump on Tuesday interacted with undecided voters as part of an ABC News town hall event. Among the questions that voters asked was why Trump was tearing down the protections for people with pre-existing conditions in the Affordable Care Act. As Trump began answering, host George Stephanopoulos fact-checked him. The Washington Post fact-checked Trump’s answers and concluded it was essentially, “Four Pinocchios, over and over again.” CNN Journalist Daniel Dale later fact-checked Trump’s litany of lies in a powerful monologue that has been widely viewed.
Among his other claims at the town hall was his record on the coronavirus pandemic where, after being accused of downplaying the dangers of the virus, Trump claimed he in fact had “up-played” it. He then went on to make bizarre-sounding claims of something involving what he called “herd-mentality.” Observers pointed out that Trump may have been referring to a controversial approach to the virus that some have called herd immunity through allowing the virus to spread unchecked until it infects or kills enough people to stop spreading. In fact the term “herd immunity” is used to describe the state developed by a society that has high levels of vaccination against a disease. During the town hall Trump also blamed Joe Biden for not imposing a national mask mandate—perhaps forgetting that it is he who is president and not Biden.
While Trump threw doubt on the effectiveness of mask-wearing, Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday that masks may be more effective than a vaccine. He also said that the nation would have enough vaccines to return to normalcy by the third quarter of 2021—in direct contrast to Trump who has promised one by the end of this year or even before the November 3rd election. The federal government released its outline for rolling out nationwide vaccinations at no-cost to the public but has not accounted for the fact that a massive proportion of the public is too worried about vaccine safety given the speed of its development. One of the nation’s most revered publications, Scientific American, has decided for the first time in its 175-year history to endorse a presidential candidate. Citing Trump’s failures on the pandemic, the magazine has picked Democrat Joe Biden saying, “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science.”
Meanwhile Mr. Biden maintains his lead in several polls including in the battleground state of Wisconsin where he garnered 52% of support compared to 46% for Trump. Trump’s low poll numbers in some other swing states bounced back up but not enough to overcome Biden’s lead. The former Vice President traveled to Florida on Tuesday in his first visit to the swing state since become the Democratic Party nominee. Biden’s goal was to improve relations with Latino voters. During his trip Reuters reports that he, “rolled out an economic recovery plan for Puerto Rico that would remove restrictions on its access to disaster relief funding, forgive some federal disaster loans and expand investment in community health centers.”
In police brutality news, officials in Rochester, New York were found to have withheld information about the death by asphyxiation of a black man named Daniel Prude. Internal documents reveal correspondence between top police officials in Rochester, one of whom wrote in explaining why information should be withheld, “We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers’ actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement nationally.” And activists who were charged over civil disobedience actions aimed at the police killing of a man in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are now facing a $1 million bail. The father of one of the jailed activists called the amount “obscene.” In Omaha, Nebraska, a white bar owner has finally been indicted in the shooting death of a black man named James Scurlock during a protest this past May. Jake Gardner claimed he was acting in self-defense but a grand jury indicted him on attempted first-degree assault and making terrorist threats.