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HeadlinesMay 20, 2020

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CDC Unveils Guidance on Reopening, Excluding Advice to Houses of Worship

May 20, 2020

As the U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic nears 92,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released detailed guidance to states on how to reopen their economies during the pandemic. The CDC’s 60-page planning document comes a week after the White House shelved a 68-page version of the plan, and after nearly every state has at least partially reopened. The newly released document provides guidance for transit agencies, schools, restaurants and other gathering places. Excluded from the document is advice to religious groups. The previous draft included recommendations including replacing church choirs with solo singers, not passing the collection plate and limiting the sharing of religious books.

At the Justice Department, Attorney General Bill Barr on Tuesday threatened California with legal action over its plan for a phased reopening, claiming it’s biased against religious groups. This comes after the CDC published a case study that found 35 of the 92 people who attended services at a rural church in Arkansas in March tested positive for the coronavirus, leading to three deaths. 

Florida, Georgia Accused of Manipulating Data on Coronavirus Outbreaks

May 20, 2020

In Florida, the lead software developer for the state’s coronavirus data portal says she was forced to resign after she refused to censor information about Florida’s outbreak. Rebekah Jones told CBS 12 News she was pushed out of her job as architect of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard after she declined to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”

In Georgia, Republican Governor Brian Kemp was forced to apologize after a state website falsely showed a downward trend in COVID-19 infections. A bar chart published by the Georgia Department of Public Health had dates along the x-axis reordered, creating the illusion of a decline in cases. Democratic state representative and microbiologist Jasmine Clark told reporters, “Sadly it feels like there’s been an attempt to make the data fit the narrative, and that’s not how data works.”

Senators Grill Treasury Secretary, Fed Chair over Coronavirus Loan Programs

May 20, 2020

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee and warned the U.S. economy could face permanent damage if businesses don’t begin to reopen soon. During the hearing, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown questioned Mnuchin about putting the lives of workers at risk.

Sen. Sherrod Brown: “How many workers will die if we send people back to work without the protections they need? How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or  Dow Jones by a thousand points?”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: “No workers should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator. And I think your characterization is unfair.”

Trump Claims Meat Plants Are Safe Despite Surging Coronavirus Cases

May 20, 2020

The state of Nebraska has announced workers in meatpacking factories account for about one-quarter of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases. Two thousand six hundred meatpackers have tested positive in Nebraska; eight have died. Meanwhile, President Trump claimed on Tuesday that meatpacking plants are “cleaner than they’ve ever been.” The majority of Nebraska’s meatpackers are immigrants.

Unhoused New Orleans Residents Demand Rooms in Hotels Idled by Pandemic

May 20, 2020
Image Credit: Courtesy: Lily Keber and Jordan Flaherty

Here in New York, protesters marched through the Bronx Tuesday demanding that Governor Andrew Cuomo create a relief fund and cancel rent payments for laid-off workers during the lockdown.

In New Orleans, activists are demanding that city officials expand a program to provide hotel rooms to unhoused people during the pandemic. This is community organizer Cole Williams.

Cole Williams: “This week, we’re going to be at Duncan Plaza every morning at 8 a.m. demonstrating with the homeless in front of City Hall.”

Protester 1: “What do we want?”

Protesters: “Housing!”

Protester 1: “What do we want?”

Protesters: “Housing!”

Protester 2: “Wade in the water / Wade in the water, children.”

Cole Williams: “There’s a deep lack of concern for the houseless, and there’s a deep lack of concern about, like, what’s happening to Black people during this pandemic.”

Federal Judge Rules Texas Must Allow Residents to Vote by Mail

May 20, 2020

A federal judge in Texas has ruled all voters in the state will be allowed to vote by mail during the pandemic. The Republican attorney general of Texas has announced plans to appeal the ruling, which came in a case brought by the Texas Democratic Party. Judge Fred Biery wrote, “One’s right to vote should not be elusively based on the whims of nature. Citizens should have the option to choose voting by letter carrier versus voting with disease carriers.”

Homeland Security Department Watchdog to Probe Coronavirus Response

May 20, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general is launching two new probes into the agency’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. One probe will investigate how FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has dealt with the crisis. The second probe will focus on the treatment of immigrants held at Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. ICE reported last week that at least 1,145 immigrants in their custody have tested positive for COVID-19 across U.S. immigration jails.

ICE’s Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Florida, is emerging as a new hot spot for the virus. In recent days, the number of COVID infections jumped from three to nearly 20, a more than 500% increase.

In other immigration news, the CDC has indefinitely extended an order that gives border agents the power to quickly expel migrants without due process. On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed to nonessential travel until at least June 22. 

Trump Defends Use of Unproven Antimalarial Drug Despite Medical Warnings

May 20, 2020

The White House on Tuesday supported President Trump’s claim he’s been taking the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to protect himself against the coronavirus, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration of its potentially serious and even deadly side effects. Trump defended his use of the drug Tuesday while speaking to reporters at the White House.

President Donald Trump: “I think it gives you an additional level of safety. But you can ask — many doctors are in favor of it. Many frontline workers won’t go there unless they have the hydroxy.”

Multiple studies have concluded that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Brazilian President Pushes Chloroquine Use as COVID-19 Cases Soar

May 20, 2020

In Brazil, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro plans to expand the country’s use of chloroquine for treating the coronavirus. Brazil’s Health Ministry is expected to issue the new guidelines today. This comes as Brazil is reporting a record 17,400 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and over 1,100 new deaths. The country now has the third-highest number of infections of any country in the world. Despite the outbreak, Brazilian police are continuing to conduct raids inside the favelas, or slums, of Rio de Janeiro, terrifying residents who are on lockdown. One police operation on Friday killed at least 13 people; another raid on Monday killed a 14-year-old boy named João Pedro, who was playing inside his house with his cousins.

Bolivian Protesters Demand End to Coronavirus Lockdown as Hunger Mounts

May 20, 2020

In Bolivia, residents in the city of Cochabamba took to the streets Tuesday demanding an end to the nationwide lockdown, as they say quarantine restrictions have left them unemployed, without money or food. Police in riot gear and soldiers were deployed to the protest after demonstrators set up road blockades. This is one of the protesters. 

Protester: “Over there you have soldiers, and there you have the police. What have we become? Going out and asking for bread, for food for our children is a crime? There is no food. There is no food. The only thing we are demanding is for quarantine to be lifted, to adopt security measures and to go out and work. That’s it.”

Mexican Maquiladora Workers March to Demand Safe Working Conditions

May 20, 2020

In Mexico City, an Associated Press investigation uncovered more than 4,500 death certificates that listed COVID-19 as a possible factor — suggesting the city’s death toll from coronavirus may be three times higher than official government figures.

This comes as workers at U.S.-owned factories in the northern Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez continue to resist orders to return to work, citing shortages of personal protective equipment and unsafe conditions. This is a factory worker speaking at a socially distanced protest march in Juárez on Monday.

Maria: “They prefer economic gains to keeping human beings alive and healthy. They prefer to sell things rather than acting according to the health needs of all of us who live here.”

In Deathbed Confession, Plaintiff in Roe v. Wade Admitted She Was Paid by Abortion Foes

May 20, 2020
Image Credit: FX Networks

The woman at the center of the landmark 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade case ruling legalizing abortion has revealed she was later paid by the anti-abortion movement to become a prominent Christian anti-choice activist. The late Norma McCorvey is seen in a new documentary making what she describes as a deathbed confession. She says, “I was the big fish. I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money, and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say. It was all an act. I did it well, too. I am a good actress.” The film ”AKA Jane Roe” reveals McCorvey received at least $450,000 in gifts from the anti-abortion movement.

Johnson & Johnson to End Some Talcum Powder Sales over Asbestos

May 20, 2020

Johnson & Johnson says it has stopped selling its brand of talcum powder in the United States and Canada. In 2018, a Reuters investigation found the pharmaceutical giant knew as early as 1971 that some of its talcum powder contained dangerous levels of asbestos, but covered up its findings about the deadly carcinogen. It has faced tens of thousands of lawsuits.

Afghan Air Force Bombs Health Clinic as U.N. Warns of Mounting Civilian Deaths

May 20, 2020

In Afghanistan, gunmen stormed a mosque in Parwan province Tuesday evening, killing seven people and wounding 12 others. Elsewhere, Afghanistan’s Air Force bombed a medical clinic in the northern city of Kunduz, injuring patients and healthcare workers. The airstrike came as Afghan troops fought off a major Taliban assault on Kunduz. On Tuesday, the United Nations blamed all warring parties, including U.S.-backed Afghan forces, for killing and injuring hundreds of civilians last month. Meanwhile, Afghanistan recorded its largest one-day jump in coronavirus infections Tuesday, with 581 new cases detected despite extremely limited testing capacity.

Supercyclone Prompts Mass Evacuations in Bangladesh and India 

May 20, 2020

Authorities in eastern India and Bangladesh struggled to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people as Supercyclone Amphan hammers the region. Evacuation efforts have been hampered by social distancing and other rules aimed at preventing the further spread of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, thousands of migrant workers are still on the roads trying to get home after India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown left them jobless.

Thousands Evacuate Catastrophic Flooding in Michigan as Dams Fail

May 20, 2020

In Michigan, two days of heavy rains led a pair of dams to breach Tuesday, forcing thousands of residents to pack into shelters despite statewide remain-at-home orders during the pandemic. Flooding from the breach left much of the city of Midland, home to more than 40,000 people, under several feet of floodwater.

Climate Activists Declare “Shell Must Fall” Outside Shareholders’ Meeting

May 20, 2020
Image Credit: TC Vortex

In the Netherlands, dozens of climate activists followed social distancing guidelines Tuesday as they protested outside the headquarters of Shell Oil in The Hague, where the fossil fuel giant held its annual shareholder meeting. This is Greenpeace organizer Helena Spiritus.

Helena Spiritus: “We’re in front of Shell’s headquarters because we are in the middle of a climate crisis, we’re in the middle of a biodiversity crisis and a pandemic, and Shell is still behaving as it’s business as usual.”

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