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HeadlinesAugust 17, 2020

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Pelosi Calls House Back from Recess as Outrage Mounts over Turmoil at USPS

Aug 17, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called lawmakers back from summer recess for an urgent vote this week to stop changes at the U.S. Postal Service that could interfere with the upcoming election. On Thursday, President Trump admitted he’s working to undermine the USPS in order to make it harder to vote by mail in November by pushing Republicans to reject a new coronavirus stimulus bill over Democrats’ demands for funding to bolster election security and $25 billion to support the Postal Service. Democrats are demanding Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a major Trump donor — and other top officials testify before Congress. The internal USPS watchdog is reviewing recent policy changes and DeJoy’s compliance with ethics rules, CNN reported Friday. DeJoy and his wife hold as much as $75 million in assets in competitors or contractors of the Postal Service. And attorneys general from at least six states are considering lawsuits against the Trump administration to prevent it from reducing mail service in the run-up to the elections.

As postal union members and Democratic lawmakers are sounding the alarm over delays in mail and other disruptions, the USPS said Friday it would stop removing mailboxes in the run-up to the election, though reports emerged this weekend of boxes being removed around New York and New Jersey. Last week, the Postal Service sent letters to 46 states and Washington, D.C., warning all mail-in ballots may not get delivered on time. Meanwhile, Vice News reported internal documents show the USPS introduced plans in May to take hundreds of letter-sorting machines out of service.

On Saturday morning, protesters staged a noisy “wake-up call” demonstration outside DeJoy’s Washington, D.C., home, chanting and banging pots and pans.

Helen: “This is openly, blatantly attempting to steal an election. OK? We are going to be voting by mail in such high numbers this year. It’s a safe way to vote. People don’t want to go to the polls in a pandemic. And Donald Trump and Louis DeJoy are saying you can’t vote by mail.”

Protests also took place Sunday outside the Greensboro, North Carolina, residence of Louis DeJoy.

AZ Teachers Halt School Reopening; COVID-19 Data Shows Devastating Effect on Latinx, Black People

Aug 17, 2020

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has topped 170,000. Public health officials are expressing alarm as the number of daily COVID-19 tests across the country has dropped 17% since mid-July, making it harder for states to track the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control is warning infection rates are “steadily increasing” in children. This comes as millions of students prepare to return to school. In Arizona, one school district outside of Phoenix has canceled classes for a week after teachers threatened to stage a sickout.

New data is coming to light about how the pandemic is disproportionately impacting people of color. According to the CDC, 14,000 pregnant people have tested positive since January. Nearly half of them have been Latinx. A new study by the University of Pennsylvania found Black and Latina women are five times more likely to be infected than white women.

Meanwhile, Time magazine reports ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is still detaining 120 children despite a court order to release them due to COVID-19 concerns.

New Zealand Postpones Election Amid COVID-19 Spike; Virus Compounds Disaster in Lebanon

Aug 17, 2020

The global coronavirus death toll has topped 775,000. New Zealand has postponed its upcoming election by a month following a new outbreak of nearly 70 cases. This comes after New Zealand went more than 100 days without any new infections.

In India, the death toll has topped 50,000, the world’s fourth highest, behind the U.S., Brazil and Mexico.

Lebanon’s health minister is calling for the country to be shut down for two weeks due to a spike in new cases. This comes less than two weeks after a massive explosion in Beirut killed over 200, injured thousands and left 300,000 homeless. Over the weekend, protests continued in Beirut calling for the resignation of Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Mass Protests Continue in Belarus Amid Reports of Torture in Jails

Aug 17, 2020

In Belarus, an estimated 200,000 people took to the streets of Minsk Sunday as protests continue one week after longtime authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of the presidential election with 80% of the vote. The European Union is considering imposing further sanctions on Belarus, and Amnesty International said jailed protesters likely suffered “widespread torture.” At least two people have died during protests. Workers across a range of industries, including state-run factories, have joined the protest movement by going on strike.

Student Protests in Thailand Swell, Demanding Democratic Reforms

Aug 17, 2020

In Thailand, student-led, anti-government protests continue, with over 10,000 people taking to the streets Sunday, the largest demonstration since the 2014 coup put a military junta in power. Protesters are calling for a new constitution, democratic reforms and constraints on the power of the monarchy.

Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree: “They are not happy with the dictatorship government over the past six years. They have been harassing the people who came out to call for their rights. They failed in shoring up the economy. They couldn’t even manage the relief packages for the people during the COVID-19 crisis.”

16 People Killed After Car Bomb Blast at Hotel in Somalia

Aug 17, 2020

In Somalia, at least 16 people were killed, including government officials, after al-Shabab militants detonated a car bomb outside a hotel and seized hostages in the capital Mogadishu Sunday. Over 200 people were rescued after a four-hour confrontation between Somali special forces and al-Shabab.

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At Least 6 People Killed as Protests Intensify in Ivory Coast

Aug 17, 2020

In Ivory Coast, at least six people have been killed and more than 100 were wounded in recent days as protests intensify against President Alassane Ouattara’s announcement last week that he would run for a third term in upcoming October elections. Police have reportedly used tear gas and shot at protesters. Opponents say Ouattara’s bid for reelection is a violation of the constitutional two-term limit.

Trump Vows to Reinstate U.N. Sanctions Against Iran

Aug 17, 2020

President Trump says he will unilaterally reinstate international sanctions on Tehran, after the U.N. Security Council rejected a U.S. resolution to extend the embargo on Iran. Trump plans to claim the U.S. is still technically a “participant” in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — even though Trump himself withdrew from it — and can therefore order an extension of sanctions if Iran violates the deal. Iran called the U.N. vote a humiliating defeat, and European countries expressed doubt as to whether Trump can unilaterally force such measures.

Lawyers Say Guards at Immigration Jail “Systematically” Sexually Assaulted Prisoners

Aug 17, 2020

In immigration news, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune report guards at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail in El Paso, Texas, systematically sexually assaulted and harassed at least three prisoners. A 32-year-old Salvadoran woman who was recently released from the ICE facility brought the accusations to light and told her attorneys she feared for other prisoners still in custody. The assaults would allegedly take place in areas that were not recorded by surveillance cameras. Another woman who came forward, a 35-year-old mother from Mexico, faces deportation this week as attorneys demand a criminal investigation.

Top Homeland Security Officials Were Invalidly Appointed, Says Congressional Watchdog

Aug 17, 2020

The Government Accountability Office said Friday the top two officials at the Department of Homeland Security are not legally allowed to serve in their roles within the agency. According to the watchdog, Chad Wolf, acting secretary of DHS, and Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary, were not installed according to the proper order of succession. Democrats have called on them to resign.

Last week, the ACLU called for dismantling DHS by breaking it up into smaller federal agencies. Immigration activists say the agency should be fully abolished.

Far-Right Protesters Attack Antiracist Protesters in Georgia, Michigan and Oregon

Aug 17, 2020

Antiracist protesters were violently confronted by right-wing groups in several cities over the weekend. In Georgia, a pro-Confederacy rally drew armed, far-right militia members to the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial in Stone Mountain Park Saturday. They attacked anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter protesters with pepper spray as the counterprotesters chanted “Go home, racists!”

Meanwhile, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, members of the far-right hate group the Proud Boys started attacking counterprotesters who showed up at their rally. The Proud Boys waved American and Trump flags, and shouted racist slogans. Samuel Robinson, a local Black reporter from MLive, was arrested and briefly detained while covering the protest, despite identifying himself as a member of the press.

In Portland, Oregon, right-wing extremists and members of the “alt-right” group Patriot Prayer organized a small rally, where they shot pellets from paintball guns and pepper spray against counterprotesters.

Three Officers in Jackson, MS Charged with Murdering Black Man

Aug 17, 2020

In Jackson, Mississippi, prosecutors have charged three police officers with murdering a Black man outside his own home more than a year and a half ago. A grand jury indictment filed Friday alleges that in January 2019 the three officers pulled 62-year-old George Robinson from his car, threw him headfirst into the pavement and then beat and kicked him in the head and chest. A coroner’s report found Robinson suffered broken ribs and a bleeding brain caused by blunt force trauma to the head.

White Georgia State Trooper Charged with Murdering Black Motorist

Aug 17, 2020

In Georgia, state investigators have filed murder and assault charges against a white police officer who fatally shot a 60-year-old Black man during a traffic stop north of Savannah earlier this month. The indictment alleges 27-year-old highway patrol officer Jacob Gordon Thompson tried to stop Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis over a burned-out tail light and gave chase on a dirt road when Lewis tried to drive away. After forcing Lewis’s car into a ditch, officer Thompson allegedly drew his gun and fired a single shot into Lewis’s head almost immediately after exiting his patrol car.

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Lose Primary Bids

Aug 17, 2020

In election news, in Puerto Rico, Governor Wanda Vázquez on Sunday conceded the gubernatorial primary race for her party to Pedro Pierluisi. Pierluisi represented Puerto Rico from 2009 to 2017 in Congress. He said achieving statehood would be his top priority if he wins in November’s general election. Meanwhile, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz lost her bid to represent the Popular Democratic Party, which will be represented by Carlos Delgado in the general election.

2 Million Californians Lose Power as Heat Wave Sparks Rolling Blackouts

Aug 17, 2020

In California, around 2 million residents had their power shut off Friday in the state’s first rolling blackouts since 2001. An unrelenting heat wave has engulfed the region and is expected to last halfway through this week, as the coronavirus outbreak introduces yet new challenges for Californians seeking to escape the heat in cooling centers or other public places.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, hundreds of thousands remain without electricity after a deadly inland hurricane ravaged the state last Monday, leveling homes and devastating millions of acres of farmland.

Robert Trump, Younger Brother of President Donald Trump, Dies at 71

Aug 17, 2020

Robert Trump, President Trump’s younger brother, died on Saturday at age 71. He had been sick for several months. President Trump visited his brother at a New York hospital the day before he died. Robert Trump served as an executive vice president of the Trump Organization. In June, he sued his niece Mary Trump in an attempt to stop the publication of her tell-all book about Donald Trump and the Trump family.

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