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HeadlinesMay 06, 2020

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White House to Wind Down Coronavirus Task Force Even as U.S. Cases Surge

May 06, 2020

The White House said Tuesday it may wind down its coronavirus task force by the end of the month — even as a draft government report projected COVID-19 cases in the United States are expected to double by August, with more than 3,000 deaths per day. The announcement came as the official U.S. coronavirus death toll passed 71,000 — more than a quarter of all reported deaths from the disease worldwide. New data show that once the New York City metropolitan region is factored out, the U.S. coronavirus infection rate continues to climb. Despite the grim figures, President Trump said Tuesday he’s ready to move the U.S. to the next phase of its recovery.

President Donald Trump: “Thanks to the profound commitment of our citizens, we’ve flattened the curve, and countless American lives have been saved. Our country is now in the next stage of the battle: a very safe, phased and gradual reopening. It’s a reopening of our country. Who would have ever thought we were going to be saying that? A reopening. Reopening.”

Trump made the remarks during a trip to Arizona, where he toured a Honeywell aerospace plant that’s now producing N95 face masks. Trump wore safety glasses but no mask during the tour, ignoring a sign in the factory ordering everyone inside to wear a facial covering. As a Honeywell executive showed President Trump N95 masks, loudspeakers blared a cover of the song “Live and Let Die” by the band Guns N’ Roses.

Tony Stallings: “This is the material that traps the particulates… “ [music blaring]

Trump Meets Tribal Leaders, Promising to Distribute Long-Delayed Coronavirus Relief Funds

May 06, 2020

President Trump wore no mask during a roundtable discussion Tuesday with Native American leaders. At the meeting, Trump promised to send a half-billion dollars to the Navajo Nation, which has been devastated by COVID-19. More than a month after Trump signed the CARES Act into law, tribes still hadn’t received some $8 billion in promised relief funds. The Treasury Department said Tuesday it had begun dispersing $4.8 billion of those funds.

Ousted Scientist’s Whistleblower Complaint Cites “Political Connections and Cronyism”

May 06, 2020

Top government vaccine specialist Dr. Rick Bright filed a whistleblower complaint Tuesday with the Office of Special Counsel, saying he was forced from his job after he resisted the Trump administration’s promotion of untested treatments for COVID-19. Dr. Rick Bright directed the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, until he was abruptly removed from his post last month and reassigned to the National Institutes of Health. In his scathing 89-page complaint, Dr. Bright says he was pressured to sign off on untested treatments for COVID-19 — like the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which was aggressively promoted by President Trump as a panacea for the disease despite no evidence of its efficacy and serious, sometimes life-threatening side effects. Dr. Bright spoke to reporters in a teleconference Tuesday.

Rick Bright: “Time after time, I was pressured to ignore or dismiss expert and scientific recommendations, and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections. In other words, I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions, over the opinions of the best scientists we have in government.”

Dr. Bright also says he repeatedly and urgently demanded action in January to address the looming pandemic — including a critical shortage of personal protective equipment for doctors, like N95 face masks — but was ignored.

Trump Lashes Out Against “Mourning in America” Advertisement

May 06, 2020

President Trump is lashing out against a new advertisement by a Republican-led group called the Lincoln Project calling out his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. The one-minute ad is titled “Mourning in America,” a spin on President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign slogan.

Lincoln Project ad: “There’s mourning in America. And under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country is weaker and sicker and poorer. And now Americans are asking, 'If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?'”

In a series of angry tweets posted just after midnight Tuesday morning, Trump attacked the makers of the ad, singling out George Conway, longtime Trump critic and husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Trump tweeted, “I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface, but it must have been really bad.”

Researchers Say Coronavirus May Have Mutated in Europe to Become More Contagious

May 06, 2020

A new study finds the novel coronavirus that emerged in China mutated in Europe in February to become more contagious, speeding its spread around the globe. The report from the Los Alamos National Laboratory also warns the mutated strain could leave people vulnerable to a second infection of COVID-19. The finding has not been peer-reviewed, and the director the National Institutes of Health urged caution, saying the study draws sweeping conclusions about the virus that might not hold up to further scrutiny. The authors of the study said they released their findings early so that people working on vaccines could see their results.

Amazon Worker Dies of COVID-19; Wisconsin Supreme Court May Revoke Remain-at-Home Order

May 06, 2020

Here in New York, an employee at a massive Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island has died of COVID-19. It’s the same warehouse where employee Chris Smalls was fired in late March after he led a wildcat strike of Amazon workers demanding safety and sanitation measures.

In Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case seeking to end limits on public gatherings and business activities during the pandemic. The Wisconsin court’s conservative majority appeared to agree with Republican state lawmakers who argue Wisconsin’s health secretary exceeded her authority by issuing remain-at-home orders.

Michigan Security Guard Shot After Enforcing Mask Policy

May 06, 2020

In Flint, Michigan, prosecutors have charged three people in the shooting death of a security guard who reportedly told a customer to wear a face mask, as required by law. Forty-three-year-old Calvin Munerlyn was shot in the head Friday after a verbal altercation in which he demanded shoppers at a Family Dollar store cover their faces to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In Colorado, the FBI says it arrested a 53-year-old anti-lockdown protester after finding four pipe bombs in his home. Before his arrest, Bradley Bunn was spotted carrying firearms at the Colorado state Capitol in Denver as he ignored social distancing guidelines to join protests against remain-at-home orders.

As Meatpackers Fall Ill from COVID-19, Wendy’s Faces Hamburger Shortage

May 06, 2020

In Missouri, 422 workers at a Triumph Foods pork plant have tested positive for the coronavirus — but all of them were asymptomatic, according to state health officials. Meanwhile, the Smithfield Foods South Dakota pork plant partially resumed operations Monday without testing all of its returning workers. The Sioux Falls plant was forced to shut down last month after at least 1,000 workers tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two people died.

On Tuesday, Wendy’s said it was running out of meat for hamburgers at hundreds of its restaurants around the U.S. And grocers, including Costco and Kroger, have begun limiting the amount of meat customers can buy amid mounting shortages.

Senators Return to Capitol Hill Despite COVID-19 Concerns

May 06, 2020

In Washington, D.C., senators have returned to work despite concerns of an outbreak on Capitol Hill that has prompted the House of Representatives to extend its recess. Over the weekend, the Capitol’s attending physician warned there aren’t enough COVID-19 tests available to screen all 100 U.S. senators — let alone a small army of workers and support staff accompanying their return to the Capitol.

Republicans Set to Confirm John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence

May 06, 2020

The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee appears set to support Texas Congressmember John Ratcliffe to be the next director of national intelligence. Ratcliffe, who is a close ally of President Trump, was first considered for the job last year but withdrew from consideration due to bipartisan concerns over his lack of qualifications. Senate Democrats blasted Ratcliffe’s nomination. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said, “He has little experience in intelligence, and already had to withdraw his nomination once after lying about his résumé. The pandemic has shown how putting unqualified loyalists in critical jobs leads to disaster.”

Federal Judge Allows ICE to Transfer Jailed Migrants Despite Spread of Coronavirus

May 06, 2020

In immigration news, a federal judge in Miami is allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, to transfer prisoners to other immigration jails across the U.S., rather than releasing them to reduce overcrowding at three ICE jails in South Florida. Immigrant rights advocates have continuously urged officials to suspend transfers, which have been linked to spreading COVID-19 from one ICE jail to another.

U.S.-Owned Factories in Mexico Reopen Despite Spread of Coronavirus

May 06, 2020

In Mexico, tens of thousands of factory workers in the northern border state of Baja California are being forced to return to work after the local government reclassified maquiladoras as “essential.” Workers say the U.S.-owned factories are failing to provide them personal protective equipment, triggering massive coronavirus outbreaks.

Hundreds of People Imprisoned in El Salvador Quarantine Centers Demand Release

May 06, 2020

In El Salvador, hundreds of people detained in government facilities, allegedly aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, held a protest Monday demanding to be freed and be given the results of their COVID-19 tests. At least 300 people have been held in two centers in the capital San Salvador for over a month as the Salvadoran government has been apprehending residents accused of violating the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown.

Philippines Broadcaster Forced Off Air After Criticism by President Duterte

May 06, 2020

In the Philippines, the country’s largest television network has been forced off air after congressional allies of President Rodrigo Duterte refused to renew its 25-year contract. ABS-CBN has done groundbreaking reporting on Duterte’s brutal “war on drugs” — that’s killed thousands of people in the Philippines — and is the first major broadcaster to shut down as part of Duterte’s ongoing attacks on news outlets that are critical of his government. This is longtime news anchor Noli de Castro, signing off for the last time Tuesday night.

Noli de Castro: “Fellowmen and family, we have been together for many decades. We owe you a debt of gratitude for accepting us into your homes every night. We have become a big part of your lives. We were there with you in times of calamities and hardship. It is an honor for us to have served as the bearers of stories and your watchdog of those in power. It is also an honor to have served you, our fellow countrymen. Although our franchise was not renewed and we were ordered to stop broadcasting, we promise you that we will not keep silent in the face of this attack on our democracy and on freedom of the press.”

Climate Study Projects 3 Billion Will Suffer from Extreme Heat by 2070

May 06, 2020

In climate news, a new study warns that by 2070, up to 3 billion people could be experiencing “nearly unlivable” levels of heat, unless global greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly reined in. The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as new data showed last month tied for the warmest April on record worldwide. In another record, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels topped 418 parts per million this week.

Shocking Video Shows White Men Chasing and Killing Black Jogger in Georgia

May 06, 2020

In Georgia, disturbing video has emerged showing two white men shooting dead an unarmed 25-year-old African American man named Ahmaud Arbery in February while he was jogging. The video shows Arbery running down a narrow road in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was confronted by the armed men — a former police officer, Gregory McMichael, and his son Travis. Travis was waiting for him in the road with a shotgun while his father stood in the back of the pickup truck with a revolver. After a brief confrontation, Arbery was shot at three times.

The video appeared to have been taken by a third person who was following Arbery. Brunswick police have reportedly had a copy of the shocking video since February, but no charges have been filed against the McMichaels, who claimed they chased Arbery because he looked like a burglary suspect. On Tuesday, a local prosecutor announced he would bring the case to a grand jury.

The Arbery family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, said Tuesday, “The series of events captured in this video confirm what all the evidence indicated prior to its release — Ahmaud Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification. This is murder.”

Federal Judge Orders New York to Restore Presidential Primary Vote

May 06, 2020

In election news, a federal judge has ordered the New York State Board of Elections to restore the Democratic presidential primary, which had been canceled. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. The Board of Elections says it plans to appeal the ruling.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Hospitalized with Gallbladder Condition

May 06, 2020

The Supreme Court heard arguments over the telephone Tuesday in a case to determine the constitutionality of a 2003 law that forces overseas affiliates of U.S.-based nonprofit groups to denounce prostitution in order to be eligible for federal funding to fight the AIDS epidemic. Aid groups have long said the law hampers the ability of their overseas affiliates from providing advice to sex workers about the risks of HIV infection.

In other Supreme Court news, 87-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was back in the hospital on Tuesday for nonsurgical treatment for a gallbladder condition. She is still planning to take part in today’s telephone oral arguments in a case about the Affordable Care Act and birth control.

Activists Remember Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Despite Lockdowns

May 06, 2020

Indigenous activists and allies on Tuesday commemorated the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls from home, as the pandemic put a hold on their emblematic public rallies and vigils. The annual event is aimed at protesting the high levels of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in the U.S., Canada and around the globe, and honoring the thousands of lives lost. The day of awareness and action comes as domestic violence shelters in the Navajo Nation say pandemic lockdowns have led to an increase in domestic violence calls.

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