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HeadlinesMarch 26, 2020

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Senate Approves Historic $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package

Mar 26, 2020

The United States Senate has voted unanimously to approve a record-shattering $2.2 trillion emergency relief package to battle the unprecedented economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. The House of Representatives is set to vote on the legislation on Friday, and President Trump has promised to sign it as soon as it reaches his desk.

The bailout package would massively expand unemployment benefits, providing laid-off workers up to 100% of their salary and health insurance benefits for four months. Freelancers and gig economy workers would be eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time ever. Over $300 billion would go toward direct cash payments to most Americans, with one-time checks of $1,200 for adults and $500 per child. States and municipalities would receive $150 billion in direct aid; companies would receive $221 billion in tax benefits; $117 billion would fund hospitals and veterans’ healthcare; and a half-trillion-dollar fund would provide loans and loan guarantees for corporations.

Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who successfully fought to strengthen the bill’s assistance to laid-off workers, voted “yes” even as he warned about the bill’s corporate bailout fund.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “We do not need, at this moment in history, to provide a massive amount of corporate welfare to large profitable corporations. I think as many of you are aware, you have industries like the airlines industry, among others, that have provided for stock buybacks, billions and billions of dollars for stock buybacks. They spent all their cash rewarding themselves and their stockholders. And lo and behold, today they need a major bailout.”

Republican Sen. John Thune Misses Vote on Coronavirus Bailout Due to Illness

Mar 26, 2020

The Senate’s historic vote just before midnight Wednesday was 96 to 0, with four senators absent. Just minutes before the roll call, Republican Senator John Thune announced he was feeling ill and would return to his home in South Dakota. Three other senators were also absent due to the coronavirus: Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has tested positive, and Utah Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, who are in self-quarantine.

New York City Hospitals Set Up Makeshift Morgues as COVID-19 Deaths Multiply

Mar 26, 2020

Here in New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, hospitals are seeing the same surge in cases that overwhelmed healthcare systems in China, Italy and Spain. Refrigerated trucks and tents have been stationed outside some hospitals to hold the bodies of the dead as morgues fill up.

In just 24 hours on Tuesday, 13 people reportedly died at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. New York City is reporting 366 deaths and over 33,000 confirmed cases — though the number is likely far higher due to a critical lack of tests. More than 4,000 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in New York, where a leaked FEMA briefing shows all 1,800 intensive care beds in the city are expected to be full by Friday. We’ll have more on the healthcare crisis here in New York after headlines, when we’ll speak with Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Top 1,000 as Louisiana Cases Soar

Mar 26, 2020

Across the United States, new coronavirus infections continued to increase exponentially, with 13,000 newly confirmed cases reported Wednesday, pushing the nationwide total above 68,000. Over a thousand people have died. Louisiana, with one of the fastest infection rates in the world, marked its largest one-day increase, bringing its toll to 65 dead and nearly 2,000 infected.

In neighboring Mississippi, Republican Governor Tate Reeves defied calls for an emergency stay-at-home order, declaring, “Mississippi is never going to be China.” The Washington Post reports 140 U.S. nursing homes have recorded at least one coronavirus case.

The Pentagon has ordered a 60-day freeze on troop movements overseas, with at least 415 Department of Defense employees testing positive for coronavirus.

Attorney General William Barr has directed federal prosecutors to charge anyone deliberately spreading, or threatening to spread, coronavirus with terrorism.

Pittsburgh Sanitation Workers Hold Wildcat Strike, Demanding Safety Gear

Mar 26, 2020

Amazon says it will keep its massive fulfillment centers open amid a surge of online orders, after workers in at least eight Amazon warehouses around the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, hundreds of sanitation workers held a wildcat strike Wednesday demanding more protection from the virus. This is one of the workers, Sheldon White.

Sheldon White: “We want better equipment, protective gear. We have no mask. We want hazard pay. Hazard pay is very important. Why? Because we have high copayments for any type of bill. We risk our life. Every time we grab a garbage bag, there could be a needle or something in there.”

COVID-19 Claims Playwright Terrence McNally, Chef Floyd Cardoz and Fashionista Jenny Polanco

Mar 26, 2020

Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally has died in Florida of complications from COVID-19. McNally’s career spanned six decades and included celebrated productions like “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Love! Valour! Compassion!” McNally was an openly gay writer whose plays tackled issues of love, homophobia and the HIV/AIDS crisis. He was 81 years old.

Celebrated chef Floyd Cardoz has died from a coronavirus infection. Cardoz was the first chef born and raised in India to head a major kitchen in New York City, Tabla.

In the Dominican Republic, acclaimed fashion designer Jenny Polanco has died from complications of COVID-19. Polanco’s career spanned four decades, and she was a regular fixture at Miami Fashion Week.

World Health Organization Urges Dramatic Action as Global Coronavirus Cases Near 500,000

Mar 26, 2020

In Geneva, the director-general of the World Health Organization on Wednesday urged world leaders to take strong actions to end the scourge of coronavirus sweeping the globe, as global confirmed cases approached a half a million.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “We have overcome many pandemics and crises before. We will overcome this one, too. The question is how large a price we will pay. Already we have lost more than 16,000 lives. We know we will lose more. How many more will be determined by the decisions we make and the actions we take now.”

Italy’s COVID-19 Infection Rate Slows as Spain’s Death Toll Surpasses China’s

Mar 26, 2020

In Italy, the nation hardest hit by the pandemic, the death toll has topped 7,500. But for the fourth straight day, the pace of new coronavirus cases fell Wednesday, raising hopes that a nationwide lockdown is beginning to flatten the curve of infections.

Spain announced 738 coronavirus new deaths Wednesday, surpassing China’s death toll with over 3,600 fatalities.

In China, authorities have lifted restrictions on millions of residents of Hubei province — the original epicenter of the pandemic — although the provincial capital Wuhan remains on lockdown. Chinese officials say new cases of COVID-19 have all but stopped in Hubei, but some observers question that assessment and fear a potential second wave of cases.

Indian Police Beat Curfew Violators on First Day of Lockdown for 1.3 Billion People

Mar 26, 2020

In cities across India, police are using violence to crack down on curfew violators, beating and whipping anyone flouting a nationwide lockdown for 1.3 billion people. Viral videos showed Indian police forcing groups of men to do squats and pushups as punishment. India’s bus and train services have been canceled, creating a crisis for thousands of migrant workers trapped in big cities. There are widespread reports of hoarding, raising fears of shortages of food, medicine and supplies. We’ll have more on India’s coronavirus crisis later in the broadcast.

Kosovo Prime Minister Ousted over Coronavirus Response as Santiago, Chile Locks Down

Mar 26, 2020

In Kosovo, lawmakers ousted Prime Minister Albin Kurti in a no-confidence vote Wednesday over his refusal to declare a state of emergency over coronavirus.

In Chile, with over 1,000 confirmed cases, large parts of the capital Santiago will go into lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Earlier this month, fears over the pandemic ended five months of large-scale protests demanding the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera.

In Stockholm, Sweden, 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg said she “very likely” had COVID-19 and has since recovered. Thunberg said she experienced a very mild illness, while her father Svante experienced much more intense symptoms.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern: Act Like You Have COVID-19 and Stay Home

Mar 26, 2020

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked her nation’s 5 million residents to behave as though they were contagious, as a sweeping nationwide “remain at home” policy came into effect at midnight Thursday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “If you have any questions about what you can or can’t do and you’re looking for answers, apply a simple principle: Act like you have COVID-19. Every move you make could be a risk to someone else.”

Ardern’s plea came on the same day that the white supremacist terrorist who massacred Muslim worshipers in two New Zealand mosques last March pleaded guilty to the murder of 51 people. His sentencing trial will be delayed until New Zealand’s COVID-19 epidemic is under control and family members of the victims have a chance to attend.

Joe Biden Dismisses Bernie Sanders Challenge for April Presidential Debate

Mar 26, 2020

Senator Bernie Sanders has challenged former Vice President Joe Biden to a 12th and final debate next month, signaling he will continue to compete for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The Democratic National Committee has yet to schedule a date or a broadcast partner for an April debate, and on Wednesday Biden dismissed the idea.

Joe Biden: “My focus is just dealing with this crisis right now. I haven’t thought about any more debates. I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this.”

Trump Repeats Call to Reopen U.S. Economy on Easter Sunday Despite Dire Warnings from Health Officials

Mar 26, 2020

At the White House, President Donald Trump Wednesday repeated his call for the United States to reopen for business on April 12, Easter Sunday — around the time the coronavirus crisis is expected to peak in New York City. Trump’s call for “packed churches” across the U.S. in mid-April came as Pope Francis ordered bishops around the world to instruct Catholics to celebrate Easter in their homes.

Trump’s plan also defies the entire medical establishment, which is pleading with Americans to remain at home to prevent new COVID-19 patients from overwhelming the healthcare system. Researchers at the Imperial College of London estimate that without measures like lockdowns and social distancing, 2.2 million people in the United States will die of COVID-19.

Federal Judge Orders Environmental Review of Dakota Access Pipeline

Mar 26, 2020

In a major victory for environmentalists and indigenous water protectors, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it permitted construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The court ruled the corps failed to resolve concerns by the Standing Rock Sioux about the potential impacts of oil spills, and ordered the Trump administration to prepare a full environmental impact statement on the pipeline.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Mike Faith celebrated the ruling, writing, “It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet. Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too.”

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