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HeadlinesAugust 18, 2020

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Virtual DNC Kicks Off with Calls for Unity, Speeches by Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders

Aug 18, 2020

Former first lady Michelle Obama and former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders headlined the opening night of a virtual Democratic National Convention on Monday. Throughout the evening, President Trump was denounced by both Democrats and some former Republican officials, including former Ohio Governor John Kasich. Michelle Obama urged the nation to vote for Joe Biden.

Michelle Obama: “So, if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will, if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran against Biden in the primaries, warned that Trump is leading the nation toward authoritarianism.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “We’re facing the worst public health crisis in a hundred years and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. We are confronting systemic racism and the enormous threat to our planet of climate change. And in the midst of all of this, we have a president who is not only incapable of addressing these crises, but is leading us down the path of authoritarianism.”

The Republican National Convention will take place next week. Trump says he will give his nomination acceptance speech live from the White House, which some charge is a violation of the Hatch Act.

UNC Switches to Remote Classes After 177 Students Contract COVID-19

Aug 18, 2020

A surge in coronavirus cases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has forced the school to switch entirely to remote learning, after 177 students tested positive for COVID-19 during the first week of in-person classes. The student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, ran an editorial titled ”UNC Has a Cluster–F*** on Its Hands.”
At Georgia Tech, dozens of students staged a “die-in” on the first day of classes to protest the school’s coronavirus safety standards.

Meanwhile, on Monday, top White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Deborah Birx said she wished the U.S. had instituted a stricter lockdown earlier this year.

Dr. Deborah Birx: “I wish that when we went into lockdown, we looked like Italy. But when Italy locked down, I mean, people weren’t allowed out of their houses, and they couldn’t come out but once every two weeks to buy groceries for one hour, and they had to have a certificate that said they were allowed. Americans don’t react well to that kind of prohibition.”

Meanwhile, data show that the number of Black and Latinx participants in coronavirus vaccine trials is very low, even though Black and Latinx communities are disproportionately hit by the virus. Researchers say this disparity could delay the development of a vaccine.

Indigenous Groups in Brazil Protest Gov’t Inaction on Coronavirus; South Korea Outbreak Grows

Aug 18, 2020

In international news, another 684 people have died in Brazil from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to nearly 109,000 — the second highest in the world after the United States. On Monday, dozens of Indigenous protesters blocked a major highway in the Amazon to push the Brazilian government to do more to protect Indigenous communities during the pandemic.

South Korea is facing its worst COVID-19 outbreak in five months. More than 400 cases have been linked to a church run by a conservative pastor who tested positive just days after he took part in an anti-government protest in Seoul.

Meanwhile, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Masbate province in central Philippines earlier today, killing at least one person, caused significant damage to a coronavirus quarantine center. The Philippines, which has the highest caseload in Southeast Asia with nearly 170,000 cases, is easing a second lockdown on its capital Manila starting this week.

Postmaster General Agrees to Testify as Fears Mount over USPS Changes That Could Threaten Election

Aug 18, 2020

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has agreed to testify before Congress next week amid the uproar over changes at the U.S. Postal Service that Democrats say are designed to interfere with the November election by making it harder to vote by mail. Louis DeJoy is a major Trump donor. House Democrats are planning to return to Capitol Hill on Saturday to vote on legislation blocking the recent changes. Over a dozen states are now expected to sue the Trump administration, and California Congressmember Ted Lieu is calling on the FBI to launch an investigation.

Special Tribunal Delivers Verdict over 2005 Killing of Ex-Lebanese PM Rafik al-Hariri

Aug 18, 2020

In the Netherlands, a U.N.-backed court is handing down its long-awaited ruling over the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Four men have been on trial for the truck bomb assassination, which had been attributed to Hezbollah, though it has denied involvement.

Judge David Re: “The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri and some of his political allies; however, there was no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder, and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement in it.”

The verdict was originally scheduled for earlier this month but was postponed due to the catastrophic explosion at the Port of Beirut on August 4.

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Mapuche Protesters Demand Hunger-Striking Leader Be Released

Aug 18, 2020

In Chile, protests continue in solidarity with Celestino Córdova, an Indigenous Mapuche spiritual leader who has been on a hunger strike for over 100 days demanding he be transferred from prison to house arrest due to the coronavirus pandemic. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights recently sent an investigative unit to the region of Araucanía to visit Córdova, who is currently hospitalized in critical condition. He is serving an 18-year sentence for his alleged role in the arson death of two landowners in 2013, but his defenders say the charges are politically motivated.

Spanish Royal Family Confirms Exiled Former King Juan Carlos Is in UAE

Aug 18, 2020

In Spain, the royal family confirmed Monday former King Juan Carlos has been living in the United Arab Emirates since August 3. His whereabouts were unknown to the public since going into exile earlier this month amid a growing corruption scandal around his involvement with a Saudi rail contract, for which he reportedly received $100 million. Juan Carlos abdicated the throne in 2014 amid another corruption scandal. He is the father of the current king, Felipe.

Trump Admin Finalized Plan to Open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for Oil Drilling

Aug 18, 2020

The Trump administration finalized plans Monday to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s last pristine wilderness regions, to oil and fracked gas drilling. The Arctic refuge is rich in biodiversity and has been home to Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The move will allow oil and gas rights to be auctioned off across more than a million-and-a-half acres of the Arctic refuge coastal plains. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist who has been accused of ethics violations and making policy decisions that directly benefited former clients.

Death Valley Hits 130 Degrees, Possibly the Highest Temperature Ever Recorded

Aug 18, 2020

In California, the thermometer in Death Valley hit 130 degrees Sunday, which may be the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Scientists are working to confirm the reading, but say that the increase in record-breaking temperatures around the world is due to global heating. This comes as California is battling 30 wildfires amid a record-breaking heat wave.

Greenland’s Ice Sheet Has Shrunk Past the Point of Return

Aug 18, 2020

Scientists have found Greenland’s ice sheet has shrunk past the point of return, even if global efforts are enacted to slow down the climate catastrophe. The melting of Greenland’s ice is steadily pushing sea levels higher, as records show the Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the world. One of the authors of the recent study in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment said, “Greenland is going to be the canary in the coal mine, and the canary is already pretty much dead at this point.”

Ex-DHS Chief of Staff Under Trump Endorses Joe Biden for President

Aug 18, 2020

The former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security under President Trump has publicly endorsed Joe Biden as president. In a video for Republican Voters Against Trump, Miles Taylor said Trump wanted to exploit DHS to fuel his own agenda.

Miles Taylor: “The things he wanted to do not only were impossible, but, in many cases, illegal. He didn’t want us to tell him it was illegal anymore, because he knew that there were — and these were his words — he knew that he had 'magical authorities.' He was one of the most unfocused and undisciplined senior executives I’ve ever encountered.”

New Bodycam Video Shows Officer Pushing Back Concerned Onlookers During Killing of George Floyd

Aug 18, 2020

In Minnesota, newly released video sheds light on the events leading up to George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. The body camera footage shows then-officer Tou Thao confronting a crowd of bystanders that grew increasingly vocal and angry as they watched officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. Officer Thao ignored the protests of onlookers and repeatedly forced them back onto the sidewalk.

Tou Thao: “Back off!”

Bystander 1: “He’s not responsive right now!”

Bystander 2: “Does he have a pulse?”

Tou Thao: “Get off the street before you get arrested!”

Bystander 2: “I’m a firefighter for Minneapolis.”

Bystander 1: “He’s not responsive right now!”

Tou Thao: “OK, so you wouldn’t know. Get off the street!”

Bystander 2: “No, I do know.”

Tou Thao: “OK.”

Bystander 1: “He’s not responsive right now! He’s not responsive right now, bro!”

Bystander 2: “Does he have a pulse?”

Bystander 1: “No, bro, look at him! He’s not responsive right now, bro!”

Thao and two other officers face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, carried out by Derek Chauvin.

Louisiana Man Sentenced to Life for Stealing Hedge Clippers to Get New Hearing

Aug 18, 2020

In Louisiana, a parole board has set an October hearing for Fair Wayne Bryant, a 62-year-old Black man who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1997 theft of hedge clippers. Earlier this month, five white members of Louisiana’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence, saying it was permitted by a Louisiana “habitual offender law.” In a scathing dissent, the court’s only Black member, Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, blasted mandatory minimum sentences under the law as a “modern manifestation” of segregationist legislation passed after the Civil War.

Black Man from NC Proves Death Sentence Was Racially Motivated, Has Life Sentence Reinstated

Aug 18, 2020

In North Carolina, the state Supreme Court has reinstated a life sentence for Marcus Robinson, a 47-year-old Black man who had been sentenced to death for a 1994 murder. Robinson successfully employed North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act to show race was a significant factor in his death sentence.

Austin City Council Redirects Police Funds to Abortion Access Services

Aug 18, 2020

In Texas, the Austin City Council is redirecting $250,000 from its police department to support a program offering logistical services for abortion access.

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