In a major reversal, President Trump has canceled the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville due to a surge in coronavirus cases in Florida.
President Donald Trump: “The timing for this event is not right. It’s just not right with what’s happened recently — the flare-up in Florida — to have a big convention. It’s not the right time.”
Last month, Trump moved much of the convention to Jacksonville from Charlotte after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper rejected requests from the president and the RNC to be able to hold a full convention without social distancing or face coverings. Trump canceled the Jacksonville RNC on the same day Florida reported more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases and a record 173 deaths, including a 9-year-old girl.
Despite canceling the convention due to the dangers of the coronavirus, President Trump has called again for schools to fully reopen in the fall. But at least one school that will not be doing that is St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Maryland, where Trump’s son Barron attends classes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines Thursday emphasizing the importance for schools to reopen, saying children face social, emotional and mental risks if kept at home. The CDC guidelines make no reference to the risks teachers and staff will face if schools reopen during a pandemic. Nationwide, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has topped 4 million as the number of cases has doubled over the past six weeks. Another 1,000 deaths were reported on Thursday, bringing the U.S. death toll to over 144,000.
In international news, South Africa has closed its schools for a second a time as coronavirus cases top 40,000. More than 6,000 people have died — the highest total in Africa. On Thursday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa: “The next few weeks will put our resources and resolve to the test as never before, and I call on all South Africans to remain strong.”
Another 1.4 million people filed for unemployment last week. It marks the 18th week in a row that more than a million people filed jobless claims in a single week. For the past four months, unemployed workers have received an extra $600 in weekly benefits, but that program is about to expire. Meanwhile, a four-month moratorium on evictions under the CARES Act expires today. Princeton University’s Eviction Lab predicts as many as 28 million people could be evicted in the coming months.
In immigration news, two whistleblowers at an ICE prison in Louisiana have revealed officers have knowingly deported immigrants who had temperatures as high as 103 degrees and likely had COVID-19, by deceptively covering up their symptoms. Under ICE policy, immigrants with temperatures above 99 degrees cannot be deported. But one of the whistleblowers says staff was instructed to blast an air conditioner to “freeze them out” so sick immigrants could pass the temperature check in order to be deported. The U.S. continued to deport thousands of people despite their symptoms, contributing to a rapid spread of COVID-19 in Central America and Haiti. The whistleblowers work at the privately run Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana, where at least 69 individuals have tested positive. Two guards have died. Mother Jones reports the whistleblowers also allege LaSalle Corrections, the private prison company that runs Richwood, prohibited staff from wearing personal protective equipment, forced guards who likely had COVID-19 to work while awaiting for their test results, and regularly exposed healthy prisoners to people who had been exposed.
Two filmmakers who embedded with ICE for over two years say the agency threatened to censor parts of their documentary series and aggressively fought to delay its release until after the 2020 election. The filmmakers captured ICE agents lying to immigrants to be let into their homes, officers illegally picking the lock of an apartment building during a raid, and agents mocking immigrants after they were apprehended. The docuseries, “Immigration Nation,” is set to be released on Netflix next month.
Protests are continuing in Portland, Oregon, against racism, as well as the deployment of federal officers to the city. On Thursday, a federal judge issued a restraining order barring federal agents from using force against journalists and legal observers. Meanwhile, the inspector general of the Justice Department has announced he will investigate the actions of federal forces in Portland, as well as in Washington, D.C.
In news from Capitol Hill, 37 Democrats joined Republicans to pass a $740 billion military spending package — a $2 billion increase from last year. President Trump had threatened to veto the bill because it includes an amendment to rename military bases named after Confederate generals, but the legislation was passed by a veto-proof majority. Thursday’s vote came a day after a majority of Democrats rejected a proposal to cut the Pentagon’s budget by 10%.
Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday took to the U.S. House floor to respond to Republican Congressmember Ted Yoho after he called her a “f—ing bitch” on the steps of the Capitol earlier this week.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting a violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that.”
China has ordered the United States to shut its consulate in Chengdu as tensions continue to grow between the two superpowers. The New York Times described the Chengdu consulate as the most valuable U.S. diplomatic outpost for gathering information on Tibet, as well as Xinjiang, where China has detained Uyghur Muslims in large internment camps. Earlier this week, the Trump administration ordered the closing of China’s Consulate in Houston. Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry is accusing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “launching a new crusade against China.” During an address outside the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, Pompeo called on other nations to join the United States to fight the “new tyranny” in China.
More than 20 former presidents and high-level government officials in Latin America have denounced Ecuador for barring the political party of former leftist President Rafael Correa from next year’s election. In an open letter, former Brazilian Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff and others warn that the move calls into question the legitimacy of the election.
A federal judge has ordered President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen to be released from prison into home confinement, after concluding the government was trying to retaliate against him for planning to write a book about Trump. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Cohen, said his imprisonment was a “brazen assault on the First Amendment and the rule of law.”
The Sierra Club has apologized for the racist views held by the conservationist John Muir, who founded the organization in 1892 and has been called “the father of our national parks.” Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune wrote this week, “As defenders of Black life pull down Confederate monuments across the country, we must also take this moment to reexamine our past and our substantial role in perpetuating white supremacy. It’s time to take down some of our own monuments.”
Planned Parenthood of Greater New York has announced that it is removing Margaret Sanger’s name from its Manhattan Health Center because of her “harmful connections to the eugenics movement.” Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States in 1916 and later founded the organization that would become Planned Parenthood.
Memorials for the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis will be held over the next week. He will lie in state at the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery and the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. An unprecedented public viewing will also take place outside on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. This weekend, a military honor guard will accompany his body for a final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he was almost beaten to death in 1965 while marching for voting rights. There is a growing movement to rename the bridge after Lewis. Edmund Pettus was a Confederate officer, U.S. senator and a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. Meanwhile, in Virginia, the Fairfax County School Board has voted to change the name of a local high school from Robert E. Lee to John R. Lewis.
In sports news, the NFL’s Washington franchise has announced it will be temporarily known as the “Washington Football Team” during the 2020 season. Last week, the franchise retired its old name — the R-word — after years of protests from Indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians baseball team has announced it will consult with Native Americans as it considers changing the team’s name.
Major League Baseball began a shortened season on Thursday with a game between the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees. Prior to the game, every player and coach paid tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement by taking a knee and holding a long black ribbon. The initials BLM were also stamped on the pitcher’s mound. Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the first pitch. This comes weeks after the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season, which began with players taking a knee during the national anthem.