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HeadlinesMarch 13, 2020

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Coronavirus Infections Around the Globe Reach 135,000 People, Nearly 5,000 Dead

Mar 13, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to spread across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, coronavirus has now infected over 135,000 people and killed nearly 5,000. Kenya and Ghana have confirmed their first coronavirus cases. India has reported its first coronavirus death. The death toll in Italy has surpassed 1,000, while the country’s medical system struggles to treat the sick. Meanwhile, satellite photographs have been published online showing what appear to be mass graves in Iran where coronavirus victims have been buried. The official death toll in Iran is around 429, but many fear the actual number is far higher. France, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Turkey and Norway have all begun taking steps to close schools to stop the spread of the virus.

U.S. Coronavirus Infections Rise to 1,650 as Actual Number Believed to Be Higher

Mar 13, 2020

In the United States, the number of reported coronavirus infections jumped by nearly 400 Thursday to about 1,650, but the actual number is believed to be higher. Congress’s in-house doctor has privately told Capitol Hill staffers that he expects 70 to 150 million people in the U.S. will contract the coronavirus.

Six states have announced plans to close all public schools: Oregon, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Kentucky and New Mexico. Schools in Houston, Texas, and near Seattle are also closing. Almost 5 million children are being impacted by the closings.

All major sporting events in the United States have been halted. The NCAA has canceled for the first time ever the men and women’s college basketball tournaments known as March Madness. Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert has apologized after testing positive for coronavirus just days after he jokingly touched reporters’ microphones and phones while leaving a news conference Monday. Gobert wrote, “At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously.”

Disney has shuttered all of its theme parks around the world, including Disney World in Florida. New York state has banned public gatherings of more than 500 people — including all productions on Broadway.

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency as the number of confirmed cases in the city jumped from 42 to 95 in a single day.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “But the last 24 hours have been very, very sobering. Literally, yesterday morning feels like a long time ago. We got a lot of information in the course of the day yesterday. A lot changed then. Then, last night, it just seemed like the world turned upside down in the course of just a few hours.”

Dow Jones Plummets 10% in Biggest Drop Since 1987

Mar 13, 2020

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 10% on Thursday in its biggest drop since 1987. Airlines and cruise companies have been particularly hard hit. Major international cruise lines, including Princess Cruises and Viking, have suspended operations. President Trump’s ban on Europeans flying into the United States from 26 European countries goes into effect tonight at midnight.

The stock market losses came despite the Federal Reserve injecting about $1.5 trillion into the financial system in an effort to prop up the markets. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich tweeted, “Total student loan debt: $1.7 trillion. Total cost of the Fed’s short-term bank funding: $1.5 trillion. America has socialism for the rich, harsh capitalism for everyone else.” Rev. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign tweeted, “Overnight they found $1.5 trillion for Wall St, but they can’t find money to provide healthcare & living wages for 140 mil poor & low wealth people in America.”

Trump Administration Faces Backlash for Handling of Coronavirus Outbreak, Testing

Mar 13, 2020

The Trump administration is facing widespread criticism for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the U.S. is failing when it comes to testing for the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: “The system does not — is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “A failing, yes.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci: “It is a failing, let’s admit it. … The idea of anybody getting it easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not.”

The BBC reports nearly 20,000 people are being tested for coronavirus every day in South Korea — far more than the 11,000 tests done in the United States since the outbreak began. On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is close to reaching a deal with the White House on a coronavirus aid package that includes funding for temporary paid sick leave and free virus testing. On Thursday, Democratic Congressmember Katie Porter of California grilled CDC Director Robert Redfield on the affordability of coronavirus testing.

Rep. Katie Porter: “Dr. Redfield, do you want to know who has the coronavirus and who doesn’t?”

Dr. Robert Redfield: “Yes.”

Rep. Katie Porter: “Not just rich people, but everybody who might have the virus?”

Dr. Robert Redfield: “All of America.”

Rep. Katie Porter: “Will you commit to the CDC right now using that existing authority to pay for diagnostic testing free to every American regardless of insurance?”

Dr. Robert Redfield: “Well, I can say that we’re going to do everything to make sure everybody can get the care they need.”

Rep. Katie Porter: “No, not good enough. Reclaiming my time. Dr. Redfield, you have the existing authority. Will you commit, right now, to using the authority that you have, vested in you, under law, that provides in a public health emergency for testing, treatment, exam, isolation without cost, yes or no?”

Dr. Robert Redfield: “What I’m going to say is I’m going to review it in detail with” —

Rep. Katie Porter: “No.”

Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s Aide Tests Positive for COVID-19 Days After Meeting with Trump

Mar 13, 2020

The press secretary of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for COVID-19. The official was photographed last week standing shoulder to shoulder with President Trump — and just a few feet from Vice President Mike Pence — during Bolsonaro’s recent trip to Florida. The official is also seen standing just behind Trump in video taken at the meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who was at the Mar-a-Lago meeting, says he will self-quarantine while awaiting the results of a coronavirus test; so will Florida Senator Rick Scott, who met separately with Bolsonaro and the aide on Monday. The White House, however, said President Trump does not plan to get tested.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Home Minister Peter Dutton has tested positive for coronavirus. Last week he met with President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and Attorney General William Barr.

In Canada, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday. She reported mild flu-like symptoms after a trip to the U.K. Prime Minister Trudeau says he does not have symptoms but will work from isolation for 14 days.

Philippines President Duterte Orders Lockdown in Manila Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Mar 13, 2020

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a lockdown of Metropolitan Manila, home to 13 million people. Duterte’s order cuts off land, domestic air and sea travel to and from Metro Manila and imposes bans on mass gatherings. Schools have been ordered shut for a month, and community quarantining is in effect. Local officials who defy government orders face jail time. Duterte was tested for coronavirus after a possible exposure. Meanwhile, six of his Cabinet ministers, 16 lawmakers, and the Philippines’ central bank governor have all gone into self-quarantine.

Advocates Afraid of Deadly Coronavirus Outbreak in Immigration Jails Plagued by Medical Neglect

Mar 13, 2020

As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., immigration advocates are afraid of a deadly outbreak inside immigration jails. Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, said in a statement, “Lives are already at risk in detention, and with the spread of coronavirus, people are sitting ducks in a system notorious for its fatally flawed medical care.”

There are also mounting concerns that the deportation of asylum seekers from the U.S. and Mexico could accelerate the spread of coronavirus across Central America. Honduras canceled the arrival of flights with people who were deported as the country already declared its first two cases of the virus.

El Salvador has declared a national quarantine and banned all foreign travelers, even though it hasn’t had any confirmed coronavirus cases yet. This comes as the Guatemalan government announced Wednesday it would ban the entry of European citizens, as well as people from Iran, China, South Korea and North Korea, as an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, doctors working at a refugee camp aiding thousands of people in the border city of Matamoros are preparing for the inevitable arrival of the coronavirus to shelters and camps across the U.S.-Mexico border. One doctor at the Matamoros shelter said COVID-19 infections along the border will be “catastrophic.”

In other news from the U.S.-Mexico border, a 19-year-old pregnant woman from Guatemala has died from injuries she sustained after she fell while attempting to scale the U.S. border wall. Attempts to deliver her unborn baby were unsuccessful after she fell more than 19 feet.

Democratic Presidential Debate Relocated from Arizona to D.C. over Coronavirus Outbreak

Mar 13, 2020

The Democratic National Committee has announced Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will take place in CNN’s studio in Washington, D.C., instead of in Arizona, due to the coronavirus outbreak. There will be no live audience.

On Thursday, Senator Sanders called on President Trump to declare a national emergency and for everyone in the country to be able to get the healthcare they need without cost.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “If there ever was a time in the modern history of our country when we are all in this together, this is that moment. Now is the time for solidarity. Now is the time to come together with love and compassion for all, including the most vulnerable people in our society, who will face this pandemic from a health perspective or face it from an economic perspective.”

Senator Sanders also called for an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs during the crisis. On Thursday, the Miami-Dade Police Department announced its officers would not assist with evictions during the pandemic outbreak.

U.S. Launches Air Raids in Iraq Targeting Iran-Backed Militia in Retaliation for Rocket Attack on U.S., British Troops

Mar 13, 2020

In Iraq, the United States launched a series of air raids targeting Iran-backed militia groups. The U.S. described the attacks as retaliation for a rocket attack that killed two U.S. soldiers and a British Army medic on Wednesday. Al Jazeera reports Iraq’s military confirmed the U.S. air raids late Thursday night hit four locations, including an airport under construction in the holy city of Karbala. There have been injuries but no fatalities reported so far. No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s rocket attack against British and U.S. troops, but the U.S. blamed the Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia.

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Judge Orders Immediate Release of U.S. Army Whistleblower Chelsea Manning After 1 Year in Jail

Mar 13, 2020

In the United States, U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning will soon be released from jail after one year behind bars on contempt charges for refusing to cooperate in a federal grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks. The order for her immediate release comes one day after Manning was hospitalized in Virginia after she reportedly attempted suicide at a federal prison in Alexandria. On Thursday, Judge Anthony J. Trenga wrote, “The court finds Ms. Manning’s appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose.” Judge Trenga, however, rejected a request to cancel the fines imposed against Manning for refusing to testify. Manning will now have to pay $256,000. In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking documents and video to WikiLeaks showing evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama granted her clemency in 2017.

Trump Supporter Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison for Threatening to Assault & Murder Rep. Ilhan Omar

Mar 13, 2020

A vocal supporter of Donald Trump was sentenced Wednesday to a one-year prison term for threatening to assault and murder Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar. Fifty-five-year-old Patrick Carlineo Jr., who told investigators he “loves the president” and “hates radical Muslims in our government,” called Omar’s office in 2018 and delivered the threat in an expletive-laden rant. Congressmember Omar is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and is the only lawmaker to wear a hijab. At a sentencing hearing in federal court in western New York Wednesday, Carlineo received a shortened prison term after Congressmember Omar pleaded for leniency. She wrote in a statement to the judge, “The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion. He should understand the consequences of his actions, be given the opportunity to make amends and seek redemption.”

U.N. Warns Polar Ice Caps Melting Six Times Faster Than They Were in the 1990s

Mar 13, 2020

Top United Nations researchers are warning that polar ice caps are melting six times faster than they were in the 1990s, threatening sea level rise that will displace hundreds of millions of people by the end of the century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says ice loss data from Greenland and Antarctica is in line with some of the most pessimistic predictions of climate change, and that even if global carbon emissions were somehow halted today, Arctic ice would continue to melt for another three decades.

Outdated Anti-LGBTQ Law in South Carolina Declared Unconstitutional

Mar 13, 2020

In South Carolina, a 1988 anti-LGBTQ law that prohibited public schools from mentioning same-sex relationships in sex and health education has been declared unconstitutional by a U.S. district judge. The banning of the outdated law comes two weeks after a federal lawsuit was filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal on behalf of a high school LGBTQ student organization and other LGBTQ rights groups. The lawsuit said the 1988 law violated the 14th Amendment by discriminating against LGBTQ students as it prevented them from having access to vital health education.

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Colorado Replaces Columbus Day with Holiday Honoring Patron Saint of Immigrants

Mar 13, 2020

Colorado state lawmakers have approved a bill to replace Columbus Day with a holiday honoring Frances Xavier Cabrini — the patron saint of immigrants. The Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado celebrated passage of the bill, writing, “For decades the holiday officially justified the substitution of fallacy for history in repeating a false narrative about the heroism of Columbus, while ignoring his brutality and crimes against the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.” If the bill is signed by Governor Jared Polis, Colorado will join 12 other states and dozens of local governments that will no longer celebrate Columbus Day. Most of them now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in its place.

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