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HeadlinesAugust 20, 2020

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Kamala Harris Accepts Democratic Party’s Nomination for Vice President

Aug 20, 2020

Senator Kamala Harris has accepted the Democratic vice-presidential nomination, becoming the first woman of color to run on a major party presidential ticket. Harris is the daughter of immigrants, an Indian mother and a Jamaican father. She accepted the nomination on the third day of the virtual Democratic National Convention, on an evening filled with the voices of women speaking about gun violence, immigration, climate change, domestic violence and more. Former President Barack Obama spoke just before Harris accepted the nomination, warning President Trump poses a grave threat to American democracy.

Barack Obama: “This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down, if that’s what it takes for them to win.”

Hundreds of Wildfires Choke California, as Coronavirus Sidelines Prisoner Firefighters

Aug 20, 2020

In California, hundreds of wildfires triggered by lightning strikes have exploded in size, fanned by gusty winds and record-high temperatures driven by the climate crisis. Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency and mobilized the National Guard.

Gov. Gavin Newsom: “We are experiencing fires, the likes of which we haven’t seen in many, many years — the totality, when you consider 367 active fires that we are aware of all across the state of California.”

Thick smoke from the fires has blanketed parts of Northern California, including the Bay Area, where fires have consumed over 124,000 acres and are threatening tens of thousands of structures. Air quality in parts of the region on Wednesday registered as the worst in the world, with residents urged to remain inside with their windows and doors closed.

Meanwhile, California’s reliance on prison labor has led to a shortage of fire crews. Prison officials have placed 12 of California’s 43 prisoner fire camps on lockdown due to a massive outbreak of COVID-19 at a Northern California prison that serves as a training center for prisoners — who are paid just $1 an hour to fight blazes. Click here to see our special on the prisoner fire camps.

U.S. Records Nearly 1,300 New Coronavirus Deaths as PPE Shortages Persist

Aug 20, 2020

The United States recorded nearly 1,300 new coronavirus deaths and 43,000 new cases on Wednesday, with Georgia, Florida and Texas leading the U.S. in per capita infections. The official U.S. death toll stands at over 173,000. Six months into the U.S. epidemic, healthcare workers report they’re continuing to struggle to obtain personal protective equipment, as churches, schools and businesses drive demand for limited supplies of N95 respirator masks and other safety gear.

NYC Teachers’ Union Threatens Strike If Schools Reopen Without Safety Measures

Aug 20, 2020

In New York City, the head of the teachers’ union said Wednesday that members are ready to call in sick or go out on strike if schools reopen for in-person classes before teachers feel safe. Michael Mulgrew is president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Michael Mulgrew: “The minute we feel that the mayor is trying to force people into a situation that is unsafe, we go. We go to court. We go to job action. That’s where we go.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio fired back, warning the teachers’ union against any labor actions that aren’t allowed under its collective bargaining agreement with the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Look, any — any union leader who talks about doing something illegal should really think twice about what he’s saying.”

Mayor de Blasio has yet to commit to a schedule for the fall school year but has strongly suggested he’s prepared to order some classrooms to reopen on September 10 under a “blended” model that combines in-person and distance learning.

New Zealand Deploys Troops to Enforce Quarantine; Zambian Vice President Positive for Coronavirus

Aug 20, 2020

New Zealand has deployed 500 additional soldiers to patrol quarantine hotels, after at least 75 people became infected with the coronavirus in the capital Auckland during the nation’s first outbreak in more than 100 days.

Zambia’s 79-year-old vice president tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday and went into self-isolation. At least 15 Zambian lawmakers have contracted the coronavirus, and two of them died of COVID-19.

Emails Reveal Swedish Epidemiologist Urged Coronavirus Spread to Attain Herd Immunity

Aug 20, 2020

In Europe, Spain, France and Croatia have recorded their highest rates of infection since ending strict lockdowns earlier this year. Meanwhile, in Sweden, health officials recorded the nation’s highest six-month death toll in over 150 years during the first half of 2020. This week journalists obtained emails showing Sweden’s top epidemiologist pushed to keep schools open so that children would spread COVID-19 and push the population toward “herd immunity.” He also asked a colleague whether a higher death rate among seniors might be acceptable.

Iran’s Official COVID-19 Death Toll Passes 20,000 as Trump Pushes for New Sanctions

Aug 20, 2020

In Iran, the official death toll from COVID-19 passed the 20,000 mark, even as education officials planned to administer university entrance exams to over 1 million students. Iran’s surging cases came as President Trump threatened to use a procedural maneuver to reimpose United Nations sanctions against Iran, something that European powers insist the U.S. doesn’t have the authority to do.

European Union Readies Sanctions Against Belarus as Authoritarian Ruler Digs In

Aug 20, 2020

In Belarus, mass protests are continuing more than a week after longtime authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of a controversial presidential election. On Wednesday, the European Union rejected the election results, and the EU is expected to soon impose sanctions on individuals connected to the election and the repression of protesters. This is Charles Michel, the president of the European Council.

Charles Michel: “Our message is very clear: Stop the violence. And we don’t accept the impunity.”

Russian Opposition Activist Alexei Navalny Falls into Coma After Apparent Poisoning

Aug 20, 2020

In Russia, opposition activist Alexei Navalny fell ill and collapsed during a flight from Siberia to Moscow, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where he was rushed to a hospital and placed on a ventilator. A doctor said the 44-year-old Kremlin critic remains in serious condition. Passengers say Navalny became violently ill after he was photographed drinking tea at an airport cafe shortly before boarding the flight, raising the prospect that he was poisoned.

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Israel Assaults Gaza Strip for Ninth Consecutive Night as Palestinians Protest Israel-UAE Deal

Aug 20, 2020

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks shelled Hamas positions overnight in a ninth consecutive night of violence, as Palestinians continued to launch incendiary balloons into Israeli territory. In the occupied West Bank, thousands of Palestinians rallied Wednesday to protest Israel’s agreement normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates, in a deal brokered by the Trump administration. At least three Palestinians were wounded as Israeli troops fired tear gas.

Biden Campaign Attacks Palestinian American Activist Linda Sarsour over Israel Boycott

Aug 20, 2020

Joe Biden’s campaign has disavowed Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour, after she appeared at the Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly side event to the Democratic National Convention. On Tuesday, the Biden campaign attacked Sarsour over her support for the BDS movement, which seeks to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and its illegal occupation of the West Bank. Campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates told CNN, “Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”

On Wednesday, the DNC aired a video titled “America Rising: Women’s Suffrage to Women’s March” featuring footage of the movement that Linda Sarsour co-founded. She tweeted in response, “When the DNC uses footage of my labor at the Women’s March to make themselves seem relevant while throwing my communities under the bus. You can’t make this up.”

Meanwhile, Ady Barkan, the American Israeli lawyer with terminal ALS who was a featured speaker at the DNC on Tuesday, called the Biden campaign’s attack a “vile and dishonest statement.” Barkan tweeted, “Linda is a fierce advocate for justice and freedom, and a leading antiracist and organizer against antisemitism. The Biden campaign must retract and apologize.”

President Trump Embraces Supporters of Far-Right QAnon Conspiracy Theory

Aug 20, 2020

President Trump has openly embraced supporters of the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, describing them as “people that love our country.” He also refused to question the central plank of the conspiracy theory when questioned by a reporter.

Reporter: “At the crux of the theory is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind?”

President Donald Trump: “Well, I haven’t — I haven’t heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? I mean, you know, if I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it.”

Facebook Bans Anti-Fascist and Anarchist Groups Along with QAnon Conspiracy Pages

Aug 20, 2020

Facebook has removed nearly 800 QAnon groups as part of a broader purge. Facebook also removed several prominent anti-fascist and anarchist pages, including ones connected to the sites CrimethInc.com and ItsGoingDown.org, which criticized the purge, saying, “Suppressing the voices of those who seek to protect their communities from institutional and white supremacist violence is an intentional decision to normalize violence as long as the ones employing it hold institutional power.”

Supreme Court to Hear Trump Admin Challenge to Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10

Aug 20, 2020

The Supreme Court said Wednesday it will hear the Trump administration’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act on November 10 — exactly one week after the presidential election. The Justice Department is continuing its case to have the Obama-era healthcare law struck down as unconstitutional, even as an estimated 27 million Americans lost their employer-based health insurance during the coronavirus crisis. A ruling is expected some time next spring.

Cincinnati Reds Broadcaster Suspended over Anti-Gay Slur

Aug 20, 2020

In Ohio, the Cincinnati Reds Major League Baseball team has suspended veteran broadcaster Thom Brennaman after he was caught on a hot mic making an anti-gay slur. Brennaman’s comment on Fox Sports Ohio came after a commercial break during a doubleheader Wednesday between the Reds and the Kansas City Royals. Later in the broadcast, Brennaman issued this apology before handing over his duties to another play-by-play announcer.

Thom Brennaman: “I made a comment earlier tonight that I guess went out over the air that I am deeply ashamed of.”

In a statement, Cincinnati’s baseball team said, “The Reds organization is devastated by the horrific, homophobic remark.”

Michigan Agrees to Pay $600 Million to Flint Water Crisis Victims

Aug 20, 2020

The state of Michigan has reportedly reached a deal to pay out about $600 million to victims of the water crisis in Flint. The crisis began in 2014 when Flint’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by then-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, switched the source of the city’s drinking water in order to save money. The move has been linked to at least 12 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, as well as widespread lead poisoning in residents, including children. Tens of thousands of Flint residents are expected to be eligible to receive money from the settlement.

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