Headlines: September 30, 2020
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The first Presidential debate of the November 3rd race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden took place on Tuesday evening at Case Western University in Ohio and by all accounts it was a disaster. Moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, the debate devolved instantly into a shouting match, largely due to President Trump trampling over time limits, cutting off both Wallace and Biden repeatedly to insert his points, most of which were lies or exaggerations. Wallace at several points appeared exasperated by the President’s behavior. The President was so belligerent that even rightwing media outlets said so and even Trump’s debate coach Chris Christie admitted Trump was “too hot.” Republican pollster Frank Luntz said that his focus group felt that Trump played the “aggressor” in the debate and was viewed negatively. Most observers concluded that Biden won the debate.
Aside from the tone of the debate the most shocking moment of the evening was when Mr. Wallace asked Trump if he would denounce white supremacists and the President essentially refused. The Proud Boys are a Trump-supporting white nationalist group who show up at social justice protests with weapons to provoke violence. According to one report, Proud Boys members interpreted Trump’s remarks as tacit approval of their tactics. But Trump’s allies attempted to do damage control saying they did not hear the President speak approvingly of the white supremacists. During the debate Trump also urged his supporters to show up at the polls on election day. A federal consent decree to prevent voter intimidation of the sort that the Republican Party has historically employed against black and brown voters was in place since 1982 but expired two years ago.
Factcheckers had a field day debunking lies during the debate, nearly all of which emerged from Trump’s mouth. Among the many deceptions he peddled were a claim that the Sheriff in Portland, Oregon endorsed him, prompting Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese to announce unequivocally, “I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him.” Trump also claimed that he had ensured the price of insulin is, “so cheap it’s like water.” But diabetic patients pointed out that insulin prices remain at about $300 a vial. Trump also repeated his lies about the Obama government spying on his campaign (it didn’t) and much more. Later on our program we’ll examine the issues that the two candidates discussed including healthcare, the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, racial justice, and climate change.
In other news, Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron has back peddled on his promise to release grand jury evidence in the case of the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Saying that his office needed time to redact personal information of witnesses, he has asked for a 1-week delay. At least one member of the grand jury says Cameron misconstrued the non-indictments of the two police officers whose bullets shot Taylor. In a television interview this week Cameron admitted that his office did not recommend that officers Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove be indicted when earlier he had claimed that the grand jury had chosen not to indict them. There are reports that the grand jurors were told they could not consider indicting Mattingly and Cosgrove. And Human Rights Watch has just released a report on “systemic police brutality” in the United States including the barbaric treatment of those protesting police brutality. The organization denounced the documented police violence as, “intentional, planned, and unjustified.”
In other news, a survey of households in the US found that Black and Latino families with children are experiencing the brunt of financial pain during the pandemic. And a new report shows that women are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic-related recession and could lose decades of progress. Some economists are even calling it the “first female recession.” Meanwhile the U.S. Treasury Department has just offered billions of dollars of government-backed loans for the airline industry.
A government watchdog group has found that the commissioner of the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the owner of two rental properties at the Trump International Waikiki, which he earns profits from. Mr. Charles Rettig also happens to be responsible for releasing Trump’s tax returns to Congress and the revelation of his financial ties to Trump now raises serious questions about conflict of interest. Rettig failed to disclose these ties to Congress when he was first appointed.
The conservative political operative responsible for entrapping a Planned Parenthood official years ago is at it again. This time James O’Keefe has targeted Somali American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota who has been a target of Trump’s criticism. O’Keefe released a deceptively edited video, which Trump’s son Donald Jr. promoted on social media. The video purports to show Omar engaged in voter fraud but is in fact nothing of the sort. Stanford University researchers called the effort, “a great example of what a coordinated disinformation campaign looks like.”
In news from the coronavirus, the CDC released a study on Tuesday examining new infections in August concluding that the largest increase was seen among younger people aged 18-22. On the same day the University of North Carolina released a report showing that the virus surged among college students, consistent with the CDC study. And a massive study of Covid-19 cases in India has given researchers a clearer picture of how so-called “super-spreaders” are responsible for a disproportionate number of infections. The lead researcher concluded, “Super-spreading events are the rule rather than the exception.” The same study showed that while children were less susceptible to the disease, they are at least as efficient as adults at spreading it. A study based in South Korea— a nation impacted seriously earlier in the year–found that 90% of Covid survivors are left with side-effects from the disease.
The Trump administration is planning on deploying federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security to so-called sanctuary cities just before the election to conduct high-profile raids. The move is a thinly veiled attempt at using federal resources to provoke fear in immigrant communities to score political points. According to the Washington Post which first reported it, “Two officials with knowledge of plans for the sanctuary op described it as more of a political messaging campaign than a major ICE operation.” Meanwhile California governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill passed by his state’s legislature to offer financial relief to undocumented workers that have been hurt by the pandemic but are ineligible for other government relief.
And finally, fires continue to burn in Northern California as hot, dry weather plagues the West Coast all week. The Glass fire has devastated wine country in and around Sonoma and Napa Valleys as historic vineyards burned down.