Over 1,700 people died in the United States Tuesday from COVID-19 in what’s been described as the deadliest day of the pandemic in six months. The overall U.S. death toll is approaching a world high of 250,000. At least 20 states have broken new records for COVID-related hospitalizations.
In news from Washington, D.C., 87-year-old Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has tested positive for COVID-19. He is the oldest Republican in the Senate and its president pro tem, making him third in line for the presidency. Grassley spoke from the Senate floor without his mask Monday.
During Monday’s Senate session, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown blasted Republicans for their wanton disregard for basic coronavirus protection measures and asked Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan to wear a mask while presiding over the chamber.
Sen. Sherrod Brown: “I’d start by asking the presiding officer to please wear a mask as he speaks and people below him are — I can’t tell you what to do, but I know that the behavior is” —
Sen. Dan Sullivan: “I don’t wear a mask when I’m speaking, like most senators.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown: “Well, most senators” —
Sen. Dan Sullivan: “So, I’ll — but I don’t need your instruction, from” —
Sen. Sherrod Brown: “I know you don’t need my instruction, but there clearly isn’t much interest in this body in public health. We have a president who hasn’t shown up at the coronavirus task force meeting in months. We have a majority leader that calls us back here to vote on an unqualified nominee and, at the same time, to vote for judge after judge after judge, exposing all the people who can’t say anything, I understand, the people in front of you and the presiding officer, and expose all the staff here.”
In medical news, the FDA has authorized the first at-home coronavirus test. The nasal swab requires a prescription and can produce results in about half an hour.
President Trump has fired a top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security just days after he publicly rebuked Trump’s claims the election was rigged. Christopher Krebs served as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Last week, the agency released a statement describing the 2020 election as “the most secure in American history.” Trump fired Krebs via a message on Twitter. Krebs responded with a tweet saying, “Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow. #Protect2020.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the firing a “dangerous and shameful charade.” Krebs’s deputy Matt Travis has also been reportedly forced out of his job.
In Michigan, election officials in the state’s largest county certified Joe Biden’s victory Tuesday night after a dramatic reversal. The two white Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers initially blocked certification, saying they did not want to include votes from Detroit, which overwhelmingly supported Biden. President Trump then took to Twitter to praise the Republican effort, saying, “Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!” Rev. Wendell Anthony, the president of the NAACP in Detroit, criticized the Republican efforts to disenfranchise votes in Detroit.
Rev. Wendell Anthony: “You have extracted a Black city out of a county and said the only ones that are at fault or at issue is the city of Detroit, where 80% of the people who reside here are African Americans. Shame on you! Shame on you! … You are a disgrace as relates to the ability to have a free and impartial election in this nation.”
Ned Staebler, a vice president at Wayne State University, also criticized the Republicans on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.
Ned Staebler: “I just want to let you know that the Trump stink, the stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, have just covered yourself in, is going to follow you throughout history. Your grandchildren are going to think of you like Bull Connor or George Wallace.”
President-elect Joe Biden announced more senior White House appointments Tuesday — among them, Louisiana congressmember and former Congressional Black Caucus chair Cedric Richmond, who has been tapped to lead the White House Office of Public Engagement. Climate activists slammed the decision, with Sunrise Movement’s Varshini Prakash saying, “Today feels like a betrayal because one of President-elect Biden’s very first hires for his administration has taken more donations from the fossil fuel industry during his Congressional career than any other Democrat.” Sunrise Movement also accused Richmond of ignoring members of his community who have suffered from toxic pollution and sea-level rise.
The Senate voted Tuesday to block the confirmation of Trump nominee Judy Shelton to the board of the Federal Reserve. The 47-50 vote came after two Republican senators missed the vote — Chuck Grassley, who has COVID-19, and Florida’s Rick Scott, who is quarantining after exposure to the virus — and two Republicans sided with Democrats: Mitt Romney and Susan Collins. Lamar Alexander was not present for the vote. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed his vote to “no,” a procedural maneuver that gives him the chance to bring her nomination up again later. Shelton has criticized the Fed’s independence and has advocated returning to the “gold standard” — a controversial monetary system where the value of the dollar would be directly linked to gold. She has also been condemned for changing her views to line up with Trump’s and for regularly scheduling press interviews at the Trump Hotel.
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank this week, over 40 House Democrats are calling on him to condemn the illegal demolition of the Bedouin community of Khirbet Humsah in the Jordan Valley by Israeli forces earlier this month, which left dozens of people homeless. The effort was led by Wisconsin Congressmember Mark Pocan, who said in a statement, “There is no excuse for the de facto annexation of Palestinian land, and America cannot remain silent in the face of these human rights abuses any longer.”
The Iranian government has warned of a “crushing response” if the Trump administration strikes Iran’s main nuclear site or attacks any of its allies in the region in the last two months of Trump’s presidency. The New York Times reported this week Trump may still be looking for ways to attack Iran despite advisers warning him a strike could escalate into a bigger conflict.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is rejecting international pleas to end the country’s two-week-old conflict, and said military operations in the semi-autonomous northern state of Tigray are entering their “final phase.” Hundreds of people have died since Ethiopian troops began the attack on Tigray on November 4. More than 25,000 refugees have fled into Sudan.
In Mexico, a group of 120 Indigenous Otomí families has indefinitely moved into the Mexico City offices of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples to demand an end to continuous government violence and neglect during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. The occupation has been in place since Indigenous Peoples’ Day and is being led by Otomí women, who are calling on the government to immediately meet their needs, including food security and access to healthcare, work, education and housing.
The U.S. government has agreed to drop all charges against Mexico’s former defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos, and to allow for his return to Mexico. Cienfuegos was arrested at a Los Angeles airport in October and indicted on money laundering and drug trafficking charges. He had been accused of working with the Beltrán Leyva Cartel to arrest and torture rivals in exchange for bribes. The Mexican government has not committed to arrest or charge Cienfuegos. He served as defense secretary under former President Enrique Peña Nieto.
President Trump is pushing through new rules making it harder for people to obtain government benefits. A new regulation will make it harder for people who are denied disability benefits to appeal, by allowing the Social Security Administration to use its own lawyers to hear the appeals instead of administrative law judges, who are more independent. Meanwhile, two pending rules would restrict eligibility criteria for food assistance, potentially kicking millions off the government plan.
The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request by elderly prisoners to require stronger pandemic precautions at a Texas prison — despite older people being much more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
This comes as a group of prominent religious leaders and peace activists have called on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to grant clemency to 76-year-old David Gilbert, a Weather Underground activist who has been behind bars for nearly four decades for his role in the murder of two police officers and a security guard in 1981. The letter to Cuomo is signed by Nobel Peace laureates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the families of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
Here in New York, ahead of an expected travel boom next week for Thanksgiving, airport workers rallied at LaGuardia Tuesday to demand Governor Andrew Cuomo sign the Healthy Terminals Act, which would provide 25,000 frontline airport service workers with access to health insurance. The majority of the workers are Black, Brown and immigrants. This is SEIU Local 32BJ President Kyle Bragg.
Kyle Bragg: “It is clearly a matter of life and death for these workers. This matter is a matter of humanity and of justice and what side we will be on and remembered for in this crisis. Did we stand up for workers? Did we stand up for the airport workers, the essential workers who keep this place moving? Will they have the comfort and the security of a healthcare plan?”