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HeadlinesMay 07, 2020

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U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 73,400 as 41 States Begin Reopening

May 07, 2020

The U.S. coronavirus death toll continues to climb, even as 41 states have announced plans to partially reopen their economies. Officially, more than 73,000 U.S. residents have died of COVID-19 — more than a quarter of the global toll — though many researchers believe the true figure is likely tens of thousands of deaths higher. This week, a University of Washington study predicted more than 130,000 U.S. residents will die of COVID-19 by the end of the summer as states loosen stay-at-home and social distancing rules. In Texas, leaked audio of a conference call reveals Republican Governor Greg Abbott knew his plan to reopen Texas’s economy would result in more coronavirus infections and deaths.

White House Shelves Guidelines on Reopening, as Experts Warn U.S. Failing to Stem COVID-19 Deaths

May 07, 2020

The Associated Press reports a 17-page report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offering step-by-step advice to local leaders on when and how to reopen public places has been shelved, with one CDC official saying the document “would never see the light of day.” On Capitol Hill, the House Appropriations Committee heard testimony Wednesday from two medical experts who said not a single state or territory in the United States has met all of the White House’s own criteria for safely reopening. Dr. Caitlin Rivers, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said states lack adequate diagnostic testing and the capacity to carry out contact tracing. And she warned that many of the states that are reopening have rising rates of coronavirus infections.

Caitlin Rivers: “It’s clear to me that we are in a critical moment of this fight. We risk complacency in accepting the preventable deaths of 2,000 Americans each day. We risk complacency in accepting that our healthcare workers do not have what they need to do their jobs safely. And we risk complacency in recognizing that without continued vigilance, we will again create the conditions that led to us being the worst-affected country in the world.”

Not testifying Wednesday was Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease scientist on the coronavirus task force, who was barred by the White House from appearing before the House Appropriations Committee.

Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. Children Going Hungry as Unemployment Surges to Great Depression Levels

May 07, 2020

A new report finds the U.S. private sector lost more than 20 million jobs in April as coronavirus lockdowns came into effect — by far the worst one-month surge in job losses ever recorded. The U.S. unemployment rate is now at levels not seen since the Great Depression. This morning, the Labor Department reported another 3.2 million U.S. workers filed unemployment claims in the week ending May 2. Meanwhile, an alarming new report by the Brookings Institution finds nearly 20% of U.S. children ages 12 and under are going without enough food during the coronavirus crisis. And The Washington Post reports not all U.S. residents are impacted equally: A poll found that 20% of Latinx workers and 16% of African Americans report being laid off or furloughed, compared with 11% of whites.

State Budget Cuts Loom as Trump Rails Against “Blue State Bailouts”

May 07, 2020

In Ohio, Republican Governor Mike DeWine said Tuesday he’s cutting $775 million from the state budget over the next two months. The austerity includes $210 million in cuts to Medicaid and nearly half a billion dollars in cuts to education. Governor DeWine said he won’t tap the state’s $2.7 billion “rainy day fund.”

Gov. Mike DeWine: “We’ve received a lot of questions: Are you going to pull down the 'rainy day fund'? And the answer is, yes, we will. We’re just not going to do it in the next two months.”

Governor DeWine’s budget cuts came as President Trump said congressional proposals to fund state governments during the pandemic were unfair to Republicans because “all the states that need help — they’re run by Democrats in every case.” He made the remark Tuesday from Arizona, a state whose Republican-led government projects a budget shortfall of as much as $1.6 billion by the end of the fiscal year.

United Nations Seeks $6.7 Billion for Coronavirus Aid to Poor Countries

May 07, 2020

The United Nations said Wednesday it needs billions of dollars in additional funding for humanitarian aid, as the pandemic sends food prices soaring even as millions of workers have lost their jobs. The U.N.’s humanitarian affairs office says only about half of the $2 billion in emergency funding it requested in March has arrived — although the office now says it needs nearly $7 billion to help the most vulnerable countries. Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization warned Wednesday that governments that lift remain-at-home orders too quickly run the risk of new waves of coronavirus infections and deaths. This is Dr. Tedros Adhanom.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully and in a phased approach.”

EU Warns Pandemic Economic Recession Will Be Worst in History

May 07, 2020

In Brussels, European Union leaders warn the 27-nation bloc is facing the worst recession in its history, with forecasters projecting a 7.4% drop in economic output. The dire news came as Germany began a phased reopening of its economy, with schools, day care centers and some restaurants set to reopen with social distancing rules in effect. In Italy, COVID-19 deaths have hit a nearly two-month low, while France is set to end its lockdown on May 11.

Closing Ceremony of Spanish Coronavirus Field Hospital Marred by Tightly Packed Crowds

May 07, 2020

The Spanish government has announced an investigation into whether the closing ceremony of Spain’s largest field hospital during the coronavirus crisis, which took place May 1, violated Spain’s emergency decree and social distancing rules. Over 1,000 people crowded into the closing ceremony of the IFEMA field hospital, set up in a vast convention center that played host last December to a United Nations climate summit. Images of the event show people packed together, not observing the two-meter social distancing rule.

Venezuelan TV Airs Video of Arrested U.S. Mercenary Confessing to Attempted Coup

May 07, 2020

Venezuelan state television has aired video of a captured U.S. mercenary who was arrested after taking part in a failed attempt to topple Nicolás Maduro’s government. The coup attempt occurred on Sunday when 10 armed men landed in a boat near Caracas. Venezuelan authorities killed eight of the men. Two men, both Americans, were captured. In the video, Luke Denman said he was working for a Florida-based private security firm called Silvercorp USA, run by a former Green Beret, and for Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-backed Venezuela opposition leader.

Luke Denman: “My responsibilities to Silvercorp are written in a contract, or described in a contract, signed by Jordan Goudreau, Juan Rendón and Juan Guaidó.”

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Trump Vetoes Senate Resolution Limiting President’s Military Power to Attack Iran

May 07, 2020

President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed a bipartisan Senate resolution aimed at limiting the president’s authority to attack Iran without congressional approval. It is the seventh time Trump has used his veto power since taking office. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine had introduced the measure after Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in January.

Trump Gets in Heated Exchange with Nurse Denouncing Shortage of PPE for Hospital Workers

May 07, 2020

President Trump got into a testy exchange Wednesday during an Oval Office meeting with medical workers marking National Nurses Day. Sophia Adams, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, told President Trump she’d been forced to use a single N95 mask for weeks due to a shortage of personal protective equipment at her New Orleans hospital.

Sophia Adams: “So, PPE has been sporadic, but it’s been manageable. And we do what we have to do. We’re nurses, and we learn to adapt and do whatever – the best thing that we can do for our patients to get the job done and get the care provided.”

President Donald Trump: “Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people.”

Sophia Adams: “Oh, no. I agree, Mr. President.”

President Donald Trump: “Because I’ve heard the opposite.”

At least 27 U.S. medical workers have died of COVID-19 amid critical shortages in PPE. National Nurses United has been demanding for weeks that President Trump use his authority under the Defense Production Act to speed production of N95 masks and other desperately needed safety equipment.

Black Michigan Lawmaker Escorted by Armed Volunteers After Anti-Lockdown Protests

May 07, 2020

In Michigan, three African Americans carrying large rifles escorted state Representative Sarah Anthony, who’s also African American, into the state Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday. Michigan state law allows people to carry firearms inside the Capitol building, though it bans protesters from carrying signs. Last week, a large crowd of heavily armed white protesters swarmed into the building and tried to take the Senate floor. On Tuesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer condemned the protesters, saying some of them carried nooses, Confederate flags and swastikas.

Beloved Colorado Pastor Released from VA Hospital After Long Battle with COVID-19

May 07, 2020

In Colorado, medical workers celebrated at a VA hospital in Aurora Wednesday as COVID-19 patient Reverend Terrance Hughes was released. The 56-year-old leader of Denver’s civil rights community was the Aurora VA’s first coronavirus patient, admitted on March 9. He spent seven weeks on a ventilator and at one point fell into a coma, before his recovery.

Top Republican Fundraiser & Trump Ally Named Postmaster General

May 07, 2020

A top Republican fundraiser and longtime ally of President Trump has been tapped to head the U.S. Postal Service. Louis DeJoy will serve as postmaster general at a time when the nation’s mail service is facing steep losses in revenue. The Post Office, which has come under attack by President Trump, recently warned it may not survive through summer without major federal assistance.

Brother-in-Law of Sen. Richard Burr Also Dumped Stocks Ahead of Coronavirus Market Crash

May 07, 2020

ProPublica reports that on the same day that Republican Senator Richard Burr sold off much of his stock holdings ahead of a coronavirus-fueled market crash, Burr’s brother-in-law also dumped significant stock holdings. Gerald Fauth sold as much as $280,000 worth of shares on February 13 — one week before the stock market began plummeting. As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr had access to privileged information about the severity of the emerging pandemic.

Salvadoran Immigrant Is First Person to Die of COVID-19 in ICE Custody

May 07, 2020

In immigration news, a 57-year-old man from El Salvador is the first person to die of COVID-19 while in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia came from El Salvador with his family in the 1980s during the country’s U.S.-backed civil war. He was the youngest of five siblings and the only one who hadn’t been able to obtain permanent residency. Escobar Mejia had been detained at the for-profit Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego since January. At the time of his passing, he had been in the hospital on a ventilator for over a week. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, as of Tuesday afternoon, over 200 people in custody at Otay Mesa have tested positive for COVID-19 — as the facility has the largest coronavirus outbreak of any ICE jail in the U.S. This is asylum seeker Oscar Nevarez Diaz, who’s jailed at Otay Mesa.

Oscar Nevarez Diaz: “Like, he was so sick, and he kept complaining about it. He wouldn’t come out of the room. And the only thing that they would do when he complained, they would take him to sick call, and the only thing they would give him is pain medication or a cold medicine. They don’t care here. They don’t care about us human beings. They don’t even see us as human beings. They see us — since we’re immigrants, we’re less than human to these people. They don’t care about us at all. We’re fleeing our home country because we’re afraid for our lives. We come here as a safe haven, and now we’re put in a situation where our lives are in more danger than they were back in our home country even.”

Anger Mounts over Killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Black Jogger Shot to Death by 2 White Men in GA

May 07, 2020

Nationwide condemnation is growing over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old African American man who was shot dead while jogging by two white men in Brunswick, Georgia, in February. Shocking video emerged this week showing the two armed men waiting to attack Arbery while he ran down a narrow road. The men have been identified as former police officer Gregory McMichael and his son Travis. A friend of theirs filmed the video showing the ambush and killing of Artery. Basketball superstar LeBron James tweeted, “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemned the killing, writing on Twitter, “The video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood. My heart goes out to his family, who deserve justice and deserve it now. It is time for a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his murder.” There have been no arrests so far in the case, which is now going to a grand jury.

Viral Video Shows LAPD Officer Violently Punching a Man Arrested for Trespassing

May 07, 2020

Cellphone footage has emerged of a Los Angeles Police Department officer repeatedly punching a man being arrested in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights in late April. The video shows the man with his back toward the officers, standing near a fence with his hands behind his back, when one of the officers begins punching him behind the head and body, hitting him over a dozen times while yelling profanities. The man then tries to take a few steps away from the officer as the officer walks toward him again, punching him several more times. The man doesn’t fight back. The police officer has since been ordered to stay home pending an internal investigation. He has been identified as a 20-year LAPD veteran named Frank Hernandez. The Los Angeles Times reports Hernandez has been involved in three on-duty shootings during his career. In 2010, Hernandez shot dead a 37-year-old Guatemalan immigrant named Manuel Jamines, sparking protests.

Chemical Gas Leak in India Kills at Least 9, Hundreds Others Hospitalized

May 07, 2020

In India, at least nine people have died, including two children, and hundreds of others are hospitalized, after a gas leak from a chemical factory in the southeastern region of the country. The styrene leak came from a plastic plant owned by South Korea’s LG Corporation and was attributed by Indian police to two massive tanks left unattended since late March amid the coronavirus lockdown. It was the worst mass poisoning in India since 1984, when a gas leak from a pesticide plant in the city of Bhopal killed an estimated 20,000 people.

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New Campus Sexual Assault Rules Bolster Protection for Accused Students

May 07, 2020

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday unveiled new sexual assault policies for college and school campuses that weaken the rights of sexual violence survivors while bolstering protections for people accused of sexual harassment or assault. The new rules — set to take effect in August — also reduce the legal liabilities against colleges and schools, and narrow the scope of which cases schools and colleges are required to investigate. Advocacy groups supporting survivors of sexual violence have vowed to fight the new policies. Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, denounced the rules, saying, “This is all part of this administration’s ongoing attempts to undermine the civil rights of students. All students deserve an educational environment free from sex discrimination and violence.”

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