President Trump has announced he is sending a “surge” of federal officers into Chicago, Albuquerque and other large Democrat-run cities, claiming it is needed to combat a rise in crime.
President Donald Trump: “I am announcing that the Department of Justice will immediately surge federal law enforcement to the city of Chicago. The FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service and Homeland Security will together be sending hundreds of skilled law enforcement officers to Chicago to help drive down violent crime.”
Trump’s announcement came as he faces increasing criticism for deploying paramilitary-style units to Portland, Oregon, where unidentified federal officers have attacked antiracist protesters and even snatched activists off the streets in unmarked vans. The Portland City Council has voted to end cooperation between local police and federal law enforcement. On Wednesday night, federal forces fired tear gas at protesters once again. Among those hit was Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Service and the city of Portland for attacking medics while they cared for injured protesters.
For a second day in a row, the United States reported more than 1,100 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. The New York Times reports nearly 60,000 people are now hospitalized for COVID-19 across the country, nearly eclipsing the number of hospitalizations during the peak of the pandemic in April. California set new single-day records on Wednesday for cases and hospitalizations. The U.S. death toll has now topped 143,000, with the total number of confirmed cases approaching 4 million. The governors of Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio all announced new orders requiring residents to wear masks in public. Meanwhile, a number of large businesses, including Costco, Walmart, Winn-Dixie and Whole Foods, are now requiring customers to wear masks. On Wednesday, the Trump administration awarded a $2 billion contract with Pfizer and a German partner to make 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine that is still being tested.
President Trump held another televised coronavirus briefing Wednesday, where he falsely claimed that children do not transmit the virus. Trump conducted the briefing alone. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was not invited to the briefing — but he will make a public appearance later today. Fauci will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals opening game. Major League Baseball is beginning a shortened season today. Games will be played in empty ballparks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to unveil a new $1 trillion COVID-19 relief package today. The deal includes a new round of stimulus checks, $16 billion in new funding for COVID-19 testing and $70 billion for K-12 schools. Under the deal, the Trump administration will also spend $9 billion already allocated for testing that has not been used yet despite widespread testing shortages in many states. It remains unclear if Republican lawmakers will support extending a program that has given unemployed workers an extra $600 in weekly jobless benefits.
The number of global COVID-19 cases has now topped 15 million. On Wednesday, Brazil set a new single-day record with nearly 68,000 new cases and almost 1,300 deaths. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has extended his two-week quarantine after testing positive again for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, one of Brazil’s most influential Indigenous leaders, Aritana Yawalapiti, is in an intensive care unit being treated for COVID-19. In South Africa, nearly 600 died from the virus on Wednesday — a new single-day high. India also set a new record with nearly 46,000 new cases over the past 24 hours. The overall death toll in India is now approaching 30,000. In Guatemala, public health officials are reporting COVID-19 is spreading inside one of the nation’s largest public hospitals as overcrowding is causing non-COVID patients to come into contact with infected patients.
In Israel, 34 people were arrested earlier this week during ongoing protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and corruption. This comes as the United Nations warns Israel’s threat to annex parts of the West Bank has hindered Palestinian efforts to control the pandemic. The U.N. special envoy made the remarks a day after Israeli authorities demolished a coronavirus testing center in the city of Hebron.
In immigration news, a federal judge on Wednesday denied pleas to release immigrant families imprisoned at three Immigration and Customs Enforcement “family detention centers” in Texas and Pennsylvania, despite concerns over rising coronavirus infections. This comes as a separate federal judge has given ICE until July 27 to release children from these facilities, prompting fears that families will once again be separated.
The Associated Press reports the Trump administration has been detaining immigrant children and toddlers as young as 1 year old in hotels, sometimes for weeks at a time, and then deporting them. Immigrant rights attorneys say this violates federal anti-human-trafficking laws that demand unaccompanied immigrant children be sent to government shelters or placed with sponsors. A private contractor working with ICE has reportedly been taking children to three Hampton Inn & Suites hotels in Arizona and at the Texas-Mexico border. The hotels have reportedly been used at least 200 times.
In Canada, a federal court has ruled that an asylum agreement with the United States is invalid, saying the U.S. violates the human rights of refugees. The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. was established in 2004, and it required refugees to seek asylum in the first safe country they reached in their journey. Refugees arriving to the U.S.-Canada border were often turned away and forced to go back to the U.S. to apply for asylum there. Attorneys and refugees seeking refuge in Canada have long argued the U.S. is no longer safe for asylum seekers.
In more immigration news, state senators in New York have passed the Protect Our Courts Act. The bill aims to bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from making arrests inside courthouses without a judicial warrant.
On Capitol Hill, the Democratic-led House passed the NO BAN Act on Wednesday. The legislation, authored by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, aims to reverse all versions of President Trump’s travel bans that target many predominantly Muslim countries.
The House approved a bill to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. Seventy-two Republicans joined Democrats to approve the measure.
The House passed a bipartisan measure to allocate $900 million a year to acquire and preserve more land for public use, and to spend $9.5 billion on the U.S. national parks over the next five years. The National Wildlife Federation described the Great American Outdoors Act as the most significant investment in conservation in decades.
In the Senate, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy has introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill to restore the landmark Voting Rights Act. The House has already approved similar legislation.
In Afghanistan, local authorities are reporting 45 people were killed — including at least eight civilians — in a series of airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan. The strikes reportedly targeted Taliban fighters.
Charles Evers, the brother of Medgar Evers, has died at the age of 97. In 1963, Charles Evers became the Mississippi field director of the NAACP, taking the post held by his brother, who was assassinated by a white supremacist. In 1969, Charles Evers was elected mayor of Fayette, becoming the first African American mayor in Mississippi since Reconstruction.
The South African anti-apartheid activist Andrew Mlangeni has died at the age of 95. In 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison alongside Nelson Mandela and six others during the infamous Rivonia Trial. He served 26 years in prison, much of it at Robben Island. In 2013, he spoke at Mandela’s funeral.
Andrew Mlangeni: “Madiba’s greatness as a leader stems from his humility and an engraved belief in the persuasion and respect for collective leadership. He believed in sharing insights, and listening to and learning from others.”