The Trump administration is continuing to push for public schools to reopen in the fall despite concerns from educators and public health officials. On Wednesday, President Trump lashed out at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying the CDC’s guidelines on safely reopening schools was “very tough and expensive.” Hours later, the CDC announced it would revise its guidelines, which call for staggered scheduling, new seating arrangements to encourage social distancing, the use of face coverings and the closing of communal spaces. Trump also threatened to cut off funding for schools that do not reopen.
On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced New York students will receive a mix of in-person and remote learning in the fall. Students will attend classes in person between one and three days a week. Meanwhile, Harvard and MIT have sued the Trump administration over its plan to strip international students of their visas if their schools switch to online-only courses.
In California, a seventh prisoner has died at San Quentin State Prison from complications related to the coronavirus. More than 1,300 prisoners have tested positive for the virus so far, making it one of the largest hot spots in the country. Meanwhile, in Arizona, at least 240 immigrants have tested positive at the privately owned Eloy Detention Center. Nearly half of the center’s staff have also tested positive. NBC reports the staff shortage has resulted in immigrants being detained in their cells for up to 24 hours at a time without access to showers, laundry and other necessities. The jail is owned by CoreCivic.
In international news, the African CDC is reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases have jumped 24% this week. South Africa has been hardest hit — the death toll there has topped 3,500. In Australia, the country’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has reentered lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus cases. Residents have been told to stay home for the next six weeks.
In Brazil, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has tested positive for COVID-19, has vetoed parts of a new law designed to help Indigenous communities amid the pandemic. In Bolivia, work crews have been digging mass graves for COVID-19 victims in Cochabamba, after a local cemetery stopped accepting victims of the disease. A surge in coronavirus cases has also overwhelmed hospitals in El Alto and La Paz. This is Mary Ticona, a nurse who joined a protest of healthcare workers demanding personal protective equipment and coronavirus tests.
Mary Ticona: “We collapsed about two months ago. We are attending to our people as we can, in stretchers, wheelchairs, however we can attend to them. We have collapsed.”
Oxfam is warning that 122 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation this year due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The global charity says this could result in 12,000 people dying per day by the end of the year due to COVID-19-linked hunger. Oxfam America President Abby Maxman said, ”COVID-19 is the last straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, climate change, inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers.”
In the United States, the Supreme Court voted 7 to 2 Wednesday to uphold Trump administration rules allowing employers with religious or moral objections to deny workers access to free birth control coverage. The ruling hollows out a birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act that requires most private health insurance plans to cover birth control without a copay. According to government estimates, up to 126,000 people could immediately lose access to no-cost contraception.
Also on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that civil rights laws barring workplace discrimination do not apply to most teachers at religious elementary schools. The ruling carves out a major exception to U.S. fair employment laws.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court revealed this week that Chief Justice John Roberts suffered a fall at a country club in Maryland on June 21 and was hospitalized after hitting his head. Roberts received stitches and was released the next day. He has previously suffered seizures on at least two occasions.
In Texas, condemned prisoner Billy Joe Wardlow was pronounced dead at 6:52 p.m. local time Wednesday, 24 minutes after prison officials strapped him to a gurney and injected him with a massive dose of the sedative pentobarbital. It was Texas’s first execution since the start of the pandemic. Wardlow’s killing came hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused his petition for a stay of execution. Wardlow was convicted of capital murder after a botched robbery in 1993, when he was just 18 years old. His lawyers argued he was too young to receive the death penalty.
The owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline threatened Wednesday to keep the pipeline open despite a court order for the pipeline to be shut down and emptied of all oil in the next 30 days, pending an environmental review. The company, Energy Transfer, told Bloomberg News, “We are not shutting in the line.” The company went on to accuse the federal judge of exceeding his authority, claiming he “does not have the jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline or stop the flow of crude oil.” The company later said it had no intention of defying the order. Energy Transfer is owned by Dallas billionaire Kelcy Warren, who hosted a fundraiser for President Trump last month.
President Trump welcomed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the White House on Wednesday for a ceremony marking the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau skipped the event, citing scheduling conflicts and health concerns.
President López Obrador’s White House visit came days after Mexican labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas was released from jail, following her arrest for allegedly inciting riots in support of striking maquiladora workers. She’s been ordered to remain at her home address in the state of Chihuahua for the next two-and-a-half years and will be barred from traveling to the border state of Tamaulipas, where she led labor campaigns that won historic wage gains for workers. Prieto Terrazas called the travel ban unconstitutional in a video posted after her release.
Susana Prieto Terrazas: “There appears to be a criminal association, not only to discredit me, as they have tried for years with lies, but to disarticulate me, to disarm me, to end me, to annihilate me, to take my life, because if the head of the workers’ movement in northern Mexico is dead, the rage is over.”
A United Nations investigator on Wednesday called the U.S. drone strike on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in January “unlawful and arbitrary under international law” and a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. President Trump authorized Soleimani’s assassination at the Baghdad International Airport on January 3, sparking mass protests across Iraq and bringing the U.S. to the brink of war with Iran.
In Minnesota, transcripts of police bodycam footage made public Wednesday show George Floyd pleaded for his life repeatedly as officers pinned him to the ground on a South Minneapolis street corner in May. The transcripts reveal Floyd said “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times as officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. At one point, Floyd said, “You’re going to kill me, man,” to which officer Chauvin replied, “Then stop talking, stop yelling. It takes heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.” Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, and three other officers face charges of aiding and abetting murder.
In Los Angeles, results from an independent autopsy show 18-year-old security guard Andrés Guardado was shot five times in the back by an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy last month, in a police killing that’s sparked mass protests. Guardado’s family commissioned the autopsy after the Sheriff’s Office placed a so-called security hold on the L.A. County coroner’s official report on the June 18 police killing.
In California, two Bay Area residents will be charged with hate crimes after they painted over a Black Lives Matter mural commissioned by the city of Martinez. Video of the Fourth of July incident shows a white woman using a bucket of black paint and a roller to cover two of the mural’s large yellow letters reading “Black Lives Matter.” A white man wearing a red Trump campaign T-shirt and hat looks on, shouting abuse at onlookers.
David Nelson: “This is racism, is what it is. That’s what it is. There is no oppression. There is no racism. It’s a leftist lie.”
Nicole Anderson: “Keep this [bleep] in [bleep] New York! This is not happening in my town!”
If convicted on hate crimes charges, the vandals, Nicole Anderson and David Nelson, could face up to a year in jail. Meanwhile, authorities are investigating who painted the words “White Lives Matter” on a Martinez street three days after the first incident.
In Jackson, Mississippi, officials have approved plans to remove a monument to the city’s namesake Andrew Jackson from outside City Hall. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a statement, “When I took office I found out the name Jackson means 'God has shown favor.' So, we want to reclaim the name of our city for that meaning and divorce it from the legacy of a brutal owner of enslaved people who was instrumental in initiating the Trail of Tears against Indigenous people.” City officials are considering replacing the Andrew Jackson statue with a monument to Medgar Evers, the civil rights leader who was assassinated by a white supremacist in Jackson 57 years ago.
In media news, Fox News host Tucker Carlson is under fire over racist attacks on Senator Tammy Duckworth and Congressmember Ilhan Omar, using language that echoes a popular white nationalist slogan. During a segment Tuesday attacking the two women lawmakers of color over their alleged lack of patriotism, Carlson’s producers broadcast a graphic reading “We have to fight to preserve our nation & heritage.” Critics have compared that to an infamous “14-word” slogan frequently used by white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Army National Guard veteran who lost both her legs in 2004 after the helicopter she was piloting was shot down by Iraqi fighters. She tweeted, “Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?”
Carlson joined prominent Republicans this week in attacking Congressmember Omar, who is Somali American, after she called for the “dismantling” of systems of oppression in the United States.
Rep. Ilhan Omar: “As long as our economy and political systems prioritize profit without considering who is profiting, who is being shut out, we will perpetuate this inequality. So we cannot stop at criminal justice system. We must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression wherever we find it.”
Following those remarks, Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Congressmember Omar and Democrats of seeking to “tear down” America. Omar responded, “It is telling that a black woman discussing systematic oppression is so triggering to the right.”
In a victory for animal rights campaigners and environmentalists, a federal appeals court has upheld Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park. The ruling comes three years after the Trump administration rolled back protections which would have allowed trophy hunters to resume killing the bears.