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HeadlinesMay 28, 2020

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U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 100,000

May 28, 2020

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States has passed 100,000, just three months after the U.S. recorded its first deaths from the novel coronavirus that emerged in China late last year. With just over 4% of the world’s population, the United States has recorded roughly one-third of all coronavirus cases, averaging over 1,100 deaths per day since March. As bad as that figure is, a New York Times review of excess deaths suggests the true U.S. death toll is likely over 125,000. Throughout the month of February, as the coronavirus spread largely undetected throughout the United States, President Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus and claimed it was going to “go away.”

President Donald Trump: “We have done an incredible job. We’re going to continue. It’s going to disappear one day. It’s like a miracle.”

On Wednesday, President Trump flew to Florida to watch NASA’s planned launch of a new SpaceX spacecraft. The launch was aborted due to bad weather. Throughout the day, Trump made no mention of the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths — no written statement honoring those who have died, no condolences offered to families, and not even a tweet acknowledging the six-figure death toll.

Minneapolis Erupts in Flames as Protesters Rage Against Police Killing of George Floyd

May 28, 2020

In Minnesota, parts of Minneapolis erupted in flames Wednesday night as residents took to the streets for a second night to protest the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police on Monday. A video circulated widely on social media earlier this week shows George Floyd gasping for air and telling the officers “I cannot breathe,” while a white officer named Derek Chauvin pinned him to the pavement with a knee to his neck. Three other officers stood nearby. All four officers have since been fired. The officers confronted Floyd after receiving a complaint that he tried using a counterfeit bill to buy groceries.

On Wednesday, protesters held a day-long demonstration outside the city’s 3rd Precinct police headquarters. Police fired tear gas, flash-bang grenades and projectiles in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Demonstrators also rallied outside the home of former officer Derek Chauvin.

On Wednesday night, the city requested help from the National Guard as a number of buildings were set ablaze. Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called on prosecutors to file criminal charges against Chauvin.

Mayor Jacob Frey: “Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail? … George Floyd deserves justice. His family deserves justice. The Black community deserves justice. And our city deserves justice.”

The Star Tribune reports Derek Chauvin was involved in multiple police shootings in his 19 years on the Minneapolis police force and was the subject of a dozen police conduct complaints. Protests over the killing of George Floyd have also erupted in other cities, including Los Angeles, where demonstrators temporarily blocked traffic on Highway 101.

China Tightens Grip on Hong Kong with New National Security Law

May 28, 2020

China’s parliament has approved a new law that criminalizes any conduct in Hong Kong that harms national security, and allows Chinese intelligence agencies to set up in the former British colony for the first time. Hundreds of Hong Kong protesters have been arrested in recent days opposing the law, as well as a separate bill making disrespect of the Chinese national anthem a crime. Earlier today, a group of Hong Kong protesters gathered at a shopping mall.

Protester: “Eventually, after they pass the national security law, if there is really a national security agency established in Hong Kong, then what will happen to the protesters? Does our next generation in Hong Kong need to be accepted into reeducation camps like those in Xinjiang?”

The Trump administration has strongly criticized the new Chinese law. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told Congress that the U.S. no longer views Hong Kong as fully autonomous from China — a move that may lead to Hong Kong losing its special economic status with the United States.

House of Representatives Holds First-Ever Remote Vote Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

May 28, 2020

In Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives held its first-ever remote vote on Wednesday, with over 70 Democratic lawmakers casting floor votes by proxy as they stayed away from Capitol Hill in order to stop community spread of the coronavirus. House Republicans on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block remote voting as unconstitutional, describing it as a “partisan power grab” by majority Democrats.

Meanwhile, civil liberties groups are calling on congressmembers to vote down a PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill that would allow the Justice Department and FBI to spy on the internet browser histories of U.S. residents. A similar bill passed the Senate last week by a single vote.

Protesters Surround Sing Sing Prison Demanding Release of Prisoners at Risk of COVID-19

May 28, 2020

In New York, scores of activists held a car caravan protest outside the notorious Sing Sing prison on Wednesday, demanding that Governor Andrew Cuomo immediately release prisoners at risk of COVID-19. At least four Sing Sing prisoners have died of the disease, and dozens more have tested positive.

Elsewhere, protesters deposited effigies of body bags outside New York City Hall Wednesday to mourn the deaths of 78 unhoused New Yorkers during the pandemic. The protesters held signs reading “Mayor de Blasio: There is blood on your hands.” They’re demanding the city open thousands of vacant hotel rooms to unhoused people to self-isolate and for an end to punitive sweeps against the homeless.

Researchers: 6 Feet of Social Distancing Might Not Be Enough to Stop Coronavirus Spread

May 28, 2020

A new study finds even mild cases of COVID-19 trigger people’s immune systems to produce antibodies against the novel coronavirus. The findings by researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France raise hopes that most people who contract the coronavirus will have some form of immunity against a second infection.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara say six feet of social distance might not be enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus, especially in cold and humid weather. The researchers found that under certain conditions, droplets carrying the virus can travel up to 20 feet after they’re exhaled by infected people. The finding was published on a preprint server and has not yet been peer reviewed.

Doctors Without Borders Warns of Spike in Coronavirus Cases Among Florida Farmworkers

May 28, 2020

In southwestern Florida, there’s been an explosion of coronavirus cases in Immokalee, with over 420 people testing positive. The rural community is home to some of Florida’s largest populations of immigrant farmworkers, who’ve been deemed essential during the pandemic but who often lack access to healthcare, paid sick leave and other on-the-job protections. The aid group Doctors Without Borders is calling on Florida officials to aggressively ramp up testing and contact tracing for farmworkers.

Brazilian Police Raid Fake News Network Linked to Son of Far-Right President

May 28, 2020

In Brazil, police raided dozens of locations Wednesday linked to extremist right-wing activists propagating fake news online in support of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. The raids came as part of an ongoing investigation into a fake news network that authorities believe is linked to the president’s son, Carlos Bolsonaro.

Brazil’s COVID-19 cases have topped 410,000 with over 25,000 deaths. Brazil is now second to the United States for the most coronavirus infections in the world.

Argentina Seals Off Buenos Aires Slum as COVID-19 Cases Surge

May 28, 2020

In Argentina, security forces have sealed off one of the poorest neighborhoods in the outskirts of the capital Buenos Aires, preventing people from entering or leaving, after more than half of the slum’s 300 residents tested earlier in the week tested positive for COVID-19. Local activists and some members of Argentina’s leftist government condemned the move, saying it felt like the country was building “ghettos for poor people.” Argentina’s slums are often overcrowded and lack proper sewerage or running water, making it nearly impossible for residents to isolate or maintain proper hygiene.

Peru’s Hospitals Collapse as COVID-19 Cases Surge

May 28, 2020

In Peru, hospitals across the country are on the brink of collapse as coronavirus cases continue to surge, forcing some healthcare facilities to place patients in improvised tents outside.

Dr. Carlos Contreras: “Right now we find ourselves in a collapsed reality. We don’t have beds in the ICU. We don’t have beds here in the Rezola Hospital. Patients are dying every day, and there are no results from authorities. So we’re urgently asking for help, for our personal protective equipment to arrive.”

European Commission Proposes $820 Billion Coronavirus Stimulus Package

May 28, 2020

In Brussels, the European Commission has unveiled a coronavirus aid package worth over $820 billion. The plan, which needs the unanimous support of all 27 European member nations, would speed investments in green industries like renewable energy as part of Europe’s “Green Deal” initiative.

Spain has begun 10 days of national mourning for victims of the coronavirus pandemic. So far, more than 27,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Spain.

Human Rights Groups Call on U.S. Congress to Halt Weapons Sales to Philippines

May 28, 2020

An international coalition of antiwar and human rights groups are calling on the U.S. Congress to block two pending weapons sales to the Philippines — worth $2 billion — saying President Rodrigo Duterte has a legacy of human rights violations and that the weapons could be used to unleash violence on innocent Filipinos. In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, the coalition writes, “What could help the Filipinos right now is aid for their under-resourced healthcare system and for programs to assist poor people to survive during the current lockdown, not an arms sale.” This comes as Duterte has put the military in charge of the country’s COVID-19 response. In early April, Duterte ordered troops to “shoot dead” anyone violating quarantine.

Trailblazing AIDS Activist Larry Kramer Dies at 84

May 28, 2020

The legendary AIDS activist and playwright Larry Kramer has died at the age of 84. In 1981, he helped found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the country’s first AIDS organization. Six years later, he helped form ACT UP — the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. The direct action group invaded the offices of drug companies and scientific labs, stormed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, covered the home of Senator Jesse Helms in a giant condom, and conducted many die-ins at the FDA — all in an attempt to force the country to address the AIDS epidemic. Larry Kramer also wrote many plays, including “The Normal Heart.” Last year he addressed the Queer Liberation March in New York City.

Larry Kramer: “Everyone gay I’ve known has been affected by this plague of AIDS. As it has since its beginning, this has continued to be my motivation for everything I’ve done. It’s been a fight I’ve been proud of fighting.”

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