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HeadlinesJuly 31, 2020

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U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Top 1,000 for Fourth Consecutive Day

Jul 31, 2020

The daily U.S. death toll from COVID-19 continues to climb, with over 1,000 deaths reported nationwide Thursday for the fourth day in a row. Florida recorded a new record death toll for the third straight day, with 253 new fatalities. Even as the outbreak flared to a new record high, officials in Miami-Dade County suspended all drive-thru and walk-in COVID-19 testing until next Tuesday, as Tropical Storm Isaias strengthened into a hurricane over the Caribbean and barreled toward southern Florida.

COVID-19 is now on track to become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. this year, after heart disease and cancer. In Chicago, 28-year-old COVID-19 survivor Mayra Ramirez spoke to reporters Thursday after recovering from a double-lung transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. 

Mayra Ramirez: “I think that I definitely have a purpose, and if that purpose is just simply telling my story to raise awareness for people to stay safe and take this condition seriously.”

U.S. Economy Recorded Worst Quarterly Drop on Record as Coronavirus Spread

Jul 31, 2020

The U.S. economy suffered the largest three-month collapse in its history during the second quarter of 2020, with the coronavirus crisis causing the equivalent of a 33% drop in annual economic output. The grim report from the Commerce Department came as lawmakers failed to agree to a new round of coronavirus stimulus spending. Enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 a week have now ended, as has a four-month federal moratorium on evictions.

New Orleans Protesters Block Eviction Court Proceedings as Rent Comes Due

Jul 31, 2020

As rent comes due, housing activists across the country are demanding local protections against evictions during the pandemic. In New Orleans, members of the Renters Rights Assembly on Thursday surrounded a courthouse that handles evictions, chaining themselves together under a banner reading “Evictions = Death,” and blocking several landlords from entering the building. A similar action in Missouri Thursday also brought proceedings to a halt at a Kansas City eviction court.

Brazil’s First Lady Tests Positive for COVID-19 as Deaths Top 91,000

Jul 31, 2020

In Brazil, first lady Michelle Bolsonaro has tested positive for COVID-19, days after her husband, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, said he had recovered from the disease. Brazil has recorded more than 91,000 coronavirus deaths, second only to the United States.

Coronavirus Cases Spike in European Countries That Lifted Lockdowns

Jul 31, 2020

Spain recorded its biggest jump in daily coronavirus cases since ending a three-month lockdown in June. Polish officials have imposed new restrictions on foreign travelers after Poland saw its biggest single-day spike in infections. Several French cities have announced new public health measures amid a new surge in coronavirus infections. Meanwhile, in Greece, Doctors Without Borders says it was forced by local officials to close a COVID-19 center on the island of Lesbos — where more than 15,000 refugees are living in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions.

Donald Trump Suggests Election Delay, Sparking Bipartisan Outrage

Jul 31, 2020

In the United States, President Trump is facing bipartisan outrage after suggesting delaying the November election. Trump floated the idea Thursday morning at a time when nearly all polls project he will lose against Joe Biden in November. Trump tweeted, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

Voting experts say there is no evidence to back up Trump’s claim. Five states already conduct voting almost entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. The president also does not have the constitutional power to postpone an election — only Congress does. However, during a congressional hearing on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed the Justice Department can make that determination. Pompeo was questioned by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine. 

Sen. Tim Kaine “Can a president delay a presidential election?”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “Senator, the — and the Department of Justice, others will make that legal determination. We all should want — I know you do, too, Senator Kaine — want to make sure we have an election that everyone is confident in, that’s not only fully free, but validated.”

Sen. Tim Kaine: “Are you indifferent to the date of the election?”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “It should happen lawfully.”

Sen. Tim Kaine: “Right.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “Yeah.”

Even many Trump supporters have condemned the president’s call to delay the election. Steven Calabresi of the archconservative Federalist Society wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “This latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.”

U.S. Postal Delays Spark Fears over Mail-In Ballots in November Election

Jul 31, 2020

The attack on mail-in voting comes at a time when the Trump administration is facing accusations it is sabotaging the Postal Service under new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former Trump fundraiser. Since DeJoy took office, he has instituted a number of cost-cutting measures that have slowed down the delivery of mail. The Washington Post reports there is now a days-long backlog of mail across the country.

Civil Rights Icon and Georgia Congressmember John Lewis Laid to Rest

Jul 31, 2020

In Georgia, family members, lawmakers and dignitaries gathered to honor the life of civil rights legend and Congressman John Lewis, who represented Atlanta for more than three decades and became known as the conscience of Congress. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke, and Barack Obama delivered the eulogy. President Donald Trump was notably absent. After headlines, we’ll play excerpts from John Lewis’s funeral service for the rest of the hour.

Herman Cain, Co-Chair of Black Voices for Trump, Dies of COVID-19 

Jul 31, 2020

Herman Cain, the former Republican presidential candidate and co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, has died at the age of 74 after a month-long battle with COVID-19. Cain’s last public appearance came on June 20, when he tweeted a photo of himself at a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cain wore no mask at the event, which featured thousands of people packed tightly together. He tested positive for the coronavirus 11 days after Trump’s rally, where campaign officials discouraged mask use and were filmed removing social distancing stickers inside the arena.

Cain was the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and a cancer survivor. In 2012, he was briefly the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, but later withdrew from that year’s race after three women accused him of sexual harassment.

Baghdad Posts Record 125-Degree High as Middle East Swelters

Jul 31, 2020

In climate news, a record-shattering heat wave has settled over the Middle East, with temperatures soaring across Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Baghdad recorded a high of more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday — the highest temperature ever recorded in Iraq’s capital city.

Meanwhile, a months-long Arctic heat wave in Siberia has spread to Norway and northern Canada, melting permafrost, sparking wildfires and bringing Arctic sea ice extent to a historic low.

Nearly One-Third of Bangladesh Under Water Amid Torrential Monsoon Rains 

Jul 31, 2020

In Bangladesh, scores of people are dead, nearly a million homes flooded and almost 5 million people displaced, after torrential monsoon rains left nearly a third of the country under water. New research published in Scientific Reports finds coastal flooding exacerbated by the climate crisis may damage assets worth up to $14.2 trillion by the end of the century.

Palestinian Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Leader Arrested in Occupied West Bank

Jul 31, 2020

In news from the occupied West Bank, the general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) National Committee was detained Thursday after Israel forces raided his home in Ramallah at 3 a.m. Mahmoud Nawajaa was handcuffed and blindfolded in front of his wife and three young children. BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti said the arrest is part of an Israeli campaign to “terrorize Palestinian BDS activists and their families.”

Homeland Security Dept. Gathered Intelligence on Journalists Covering Oregon Protests

Jul 31, 2020

The Washington Post has revealed the Department of Homeland Security has compiled intelligence reports on two American journalists who published leaked unclassified documents related to the agency’s tactics to repress protesters in Portland. The targeted journalists were Mike Baker of The New York Times and Benjamin Wittes of the blog Lawfare.

ICE “Citizens Academy” Flooded with Fake Applications Amid Fears of Vigilantism

Jul 31, 2020

In Chicago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is being flooded by fake applications for the agency’s so-called Citizens Academy, a six-week program where ICE plans to teach attendees “defensive tactics” and “firearms familiarization” to arrest undocumented people. The protest was organized by the Jewish organization Never Again Action. Immigration activists have been sounding the alarm over the initiative, which ICE hopes to expand nationwide. This is Liz Castillo, an organizer with Detention Watch Network.  

Liz Castillo: “At best, this school will serve as yet another mechanism for the Chicago ICE field office to attempt to cover the harm it perpetuates every day. At its worst, this program, which includes training in defensive tactics, firearms familiarization and targeted arrests, carries with it a lot of potential to foment racial profiling and violent vigilantism towards Black people and other people of color.”

Border Patrol Raids No More Deaths Humanitarian Camp in Arizona

Jul 31, 2020

In Arivaca, Arizona, Border Patrol agents raided a humanitarian aid camp run by the group No More Deaths on Thursday. One person was detained. The camp, located some 10 miles from the border with Mexico, is used to provide water, food and medical attention to refugees crossing into the U.S. through the Sonoran Desert, where temperatures continue to rise above 100 degrees. The raid came one day after No More Deaths published documents revealing the Border Patrol Union, a pro-Trump and anti-immigrant extremist group, had instigated a June 2017 raid of the same camp, calling in support from BORTAC, Border Patrol’s special operations unit — the same unit that was recently deployed to Portland to suppress protesters.

Jeffrey Epstein Victim: Ghislaine Maxwell “Trained Me as a Sex Slave”

Jul 31, 2020

A New York judge has unsealed 2,000 documents from a 2015 civil lawsuit filed against Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who is accused of luring girls to be sexually abused by convicted predator and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. In the documents, one victim, Virginia Giuffre, says, “Ghislaine Maxwell brought me into the sex-trafficking industry. She’s the one who abused me on a regular basis. She’s the one that procured me, told me what to do, trained me as a sex slave, abused me physically, abused me mentally.” Maxwell was arrested earlier this month. Epstein died in prison last year.

Jailed Saudi Feminist Activist Marks Birthday in Prison

Jul 31, 2020

Washington, D.C., human rights groups held a drive-thru birthday celebration outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia Thursday in honor of political prisoner and women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul. She was arrested in May 2018 after leading a movement to lift a ban on female drivers and to overhaul the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia. Ahead of Thursday’s protest, al-Hathloul’s sister Lina published this message.

Lina al-Hathloul: “Hi, everyone. My name is Lina. I’m Loujain al-Hathloul’s sister. Loujain is a Saudi activist who’s been in prison for more than two years now. And worse than this, she has not given any sign for almost two months. She’s going to spend her 31st birthday in prison. And so, Loujain, wherever you are, I wish you a happy birthday. I wish you freedom. I love you. And I won’t let you down, I promise.”

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