On Thursday, Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp dropped a lawsuit seeking to revoke a citywide mask mandate imposed by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Kemp’s office said the governor would instead issue a new executive order allowing private businesses to opt out of mask mandates. On Tuesday, Georgia recorded 137 coronavirus deaths, its highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic, and Georgia continues to confirm thousands of new cases each day.
In Delaware, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Thursday called for a nationwide mask mandate. Biden’s call came as Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said U.S. residents must adopt public health measures or face the “worst fall” for public health in U.S. history.
Dr. Robert Redfield: “Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and be smart about crowds. You do those four things, it will bring this outbreak down. But if we don’t do that, as I said last April, this could be the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.”
Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached an agreement to fully normalize relations after years of secretly working together on countering Iran and other issues. Under the deal, Israel has agreed to temporarily suspend plans to annex parts of the West Bank — a move that appeared to have already been on hold due to international condemnation. The UAE is the first Gulf Arab country to normalize relations with Israel and just the third country in the Arab world to do so, after Egypt and Jordan. The Palestinian Authority rejected and denounced the trilateral deal and recalled its ambassador to the UAE. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted Israel may still annex the West Bank. After headlines, we’ll get the latest with professor Rashid Khalidi.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks and warplanes attacked Palestinian neighborhoods overnight for the fourth time this week. Israel said the raids were retaliation for incendiary balloons launched by Hamas. One Israeli missile struck a United Nations elementary school in the crowded al-Shati refugee camp but failed to explode, prompting an evacuation. This is 12-year-old student Lianne Al-Musawabi.
Lianne Al-Musawabi: “I was shocked. I went home and told my mother what happened, and I was crying, 'Why are they hitting the school?'”
President Trump admitted Thursday he’s working to undermine the U.S. Postal Service in order to make it harder to vote by mail in November’s election. In an interview with the Fox Business channel, Trump said Republicans rejected a new coronavirus stimulus bill over Democrats’ demands for $3.6 billion in aid to states to bolster election security and $25 billion to support the Postal Service.
President Donald Trump: “Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Despite Trump’s attacks, the president and first lady both requested mail-in ballots for Tuesday’s primary election in Florida, according to Palm Beach County records.
In Oregon, the U.S. Postal Service confirmed Thursday that it has removed dozens of public mailboxes from the streets of Portland and Eugene, after photos went viral showing USPS workers lifting several of the signature blue boxes onto trucks. A spokesperson for USPS claimed the removals were due to a decrease in the volume of mail sent during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday declined to overrule a Rhode Island court order that will make it easier to vote by mail in November. The lower court’s ruling overturned a requirement — backed by state Republicans and the Republican National Committee — that Rhode Islanders must fill out mail-in ballots in the presence of two witnesses or a notary public.
President Trump on Thursday questioned whether Kamala Harris is eligible to become vice president, after a Trump campaign official retweeted a column by a right-wing legal scholar arguing she’s ineligible to run because both her parents were immigrants to the United States. This is Trump speaking at a White House press briefing Thursday.
President Donald Trump: “So, I just heard that. I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements.”
In fact, Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California, in 1964 and is a U.S. citizen eligible to run for vice president. Trump’s remarks have been compared to his past support for “birtherism” — a racist and discredited conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
During Thursday’s press conference, President Trump refused to answer when asked if he regretted all the lies he’s made to the American public. This is Trump being questioned by HuffPost senior White House correspondent S.V. Dáte.
S.V. Dáte: “Mr. President, after three-and-a-half years, do you regret at all all the lying you’ve done to the American people, on everything?”
President Donald Trump: “All the what?”
S.V. Dáte: “All the lying, all the dishonesties.”
President Donald Trump: “That who has done?”
S.V. Dáte: “You have done.”
President Donald Trump: “Uh.”
S.V. Dáte: “Tens of thousands.”
President Donald Trump: “Yeah, go ahead. Please. Please.”
Dáte tweeted he had waited to ask that question for years. A Washington Post tally finds Trump has made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims since taking office.
President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has confirmed that he and Ivanka Trump recently met in Colorado with hip-hop star Kanye West, who has launched a longshot run for president. Speculation is growing that Kanye West’s campaign is part of a coordinated Republican effort to siphon votes from Joe Biden and help Trump win reelection. The New York Times reports Republican lawyers have assisted West in getting on the ballot in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin. West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, recently revealed he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She said, “Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand.”
Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government has released the first 80 of 400 Taliban prisoners, clearing the way for the resumption of peace talks aimed at ending nearly two decades of conflict. Afghan leaders say a new round of peace negotiations with the Taliban could begin in Qatar as early as August 20.
The Trump administration has halted all private charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba, effective October 13. The ban on charter flights comes less than a year after the State Department canceled all direct flights to Cuba, except to Havana, and placed an annual limit on the number of those flights.
In Colombia, five Black teenagers were found brutally tortured and murdered this week in the city of Cali. The teens had reportedly left their homes on Tuesday morning to fly kites. Their bodies were discovered that night. Community members recently led a protest denouncing racism and violence inflicted by the Colombian state, and demanding justice for the murdered teens and other Afro-Colombian people who’ve been killed.
In Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, military police on Thursday set fire to an encampment of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement, destroying a school and evicting 450 families from their homes. Video from Thursday’s eviction shows a tense standoff between members of the movement, known as MST, and police in riot gear. MST members first occupied the land in 1998 and built a successful cooperative growing coffee and other crops. The police raid came despite a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic.
In Bend, Oregon, hundreds of protesters surrounded two buses for over 10 hours Wednesday as they tried to block agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement from apprehending two immigrants who had been taken into custody early in the morning. The protesters refused to budge until U.S. Border Patrol agents used pepper spray to clear the nonviolent action around midnight, taking the two men into ICE custody. The men had reportedly lived in Oregon for over a decade.
The Department of Homeland Security repeatedly ignored warnings by federal scientists and wildlife experts about the threat President Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall poses to rare and endangered species across the Southwest. That’s according to documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups. Wildlife experts at the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona have fought for months to save scarce water springs crucial to the protection of multiple endangered fish and other species. DHS continues to pump millions of gallons of groundwater for wall construction in the dry desert.
In related news, the La Posta Band of Diegueno Mission Indians have sued the Trump administration, seeking to block the construction of the border wall near San Diego, California, as tribal members say it’s desecrating sacred burial sites.
In education news, the Justice Department is accusing Yale University of violating federal civil rights law by discriminating against Asian American and white applicants. This comes after a two-year investigation into the Ivy League school, fueled by President Trump’s opposition to affirmative action policies aimed at boosting admissions for underrepresented communities, particularly Black, Brown and Latinx students.
In Kentucky, Attorney General Daniel Cameron met with Breonna Taylor’s family for the first time Wednesday — over 150 days after Louisville police fatally shot the 26-year-old EMT in her own home in March. The attorney general reportedly offered his condolences to the family, while the agents involved in Taylor’s killing have not been charged. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said Thursday he expects a decision in Taylor’s case will be made before the Kentucky Derby is held on September 5.
The University of California, Santa Cruz, has agreed to reinstate 41 graduate student workers who had been fired in March as they carried a months-long wildcat strike demanding a cost-of-living adjustment. The university is also granting the 41 student workers an additional quarter of funding and a guarantee of employment for the upcoming academic year.