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HeadlinesAugust 21, 2020

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Joe Biden Accepts Presidential Nomination, Pledging End to “Season of Darkness”

Aug 21, 2020

Joe Biden has accepted the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Speaking in his home state of Delaware on the last night of an unprecedented virtual Democratic National Convention, the former vice president urged the United States to “overcome this season of darkness” as the country faces four simultaneous crises: the COVID pandemic, the worst economic crisis since the Depression, climate change and systemic racism.

Joe Biden: “May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight, as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation. And this is a battle we will win, and we’ll do it together, I promise you. Thank you. And may God bless you, and may God protect our troops.”

Meanwhile, 70 Republican national security officials have endorsed Joe Biden — including former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, who served as U.S. ambassador to Honduras, which was the staging ground for the U.S.-backed Contras in Nicaragua.

CDC Director: Up to 60 Million U.S. Residents Were Infected with Coronavirus

Aug 21, 2020

The U.S. once again recorded more than 1,000 daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday. The United States still leads the world in both deaths — officially more than 174,000 — and confirmed cases — with more than 5.5 million. But public health officials say the true toll is far higher. On Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield estimated as much as 18% of the U.S. population has already been infected with the coronavirus.

Dr. Robert Redfield: “I think if you’re going to do a crude estimate, somewhere between 30 and 60 million people, but let’s let the data come out and see what it shows.”

White House Declares Teachers “Essential Workers” as Unions Threaten Strikes over Coronavirus

Aug 21, 2020

The White House says it will designate teachers as “essential workers” exempt from quarantine requirements if they’re exposed to COVID-19. This is White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaking on Fox News.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: “We believe teachers are essential workers. The media never stopped working during this pandemic. Our meatpackers didn’t stop working during this pandemic. Our law enforcement didn’t stop working during this pandemic. Nor should our teachers, because America’s children must come first.”

In July, the American Federation of Teachers said its 1.7 million members stood ready to strike, if necessary, to protect teachers, school staffers and children from unsafe workplaces.

Stock Markets Surge Even as 1.1 Million U.S. Workers File New Unemployment Claims

Aug 21, 2020

The Labor Department reports 1.1 million U.S. workers filed initial unemployment claims over the last week — up from 970,000 the previous week. Meanwhile, stock prices continue to soar on Wall Street. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq stock indexes both hit record highs this week. On Wednesday, Apple became the first U.S. company to be valued at $2 trillion.

Protesters Call on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to #MakeBillionairesPay

Aug 21, 2020

In New York, protesters with the Make Billionaires Pay campaign are demanding Governor Andrew Cuomo support a tax on the wealthy rather than cut funding to life-saving services. This is housing activist Felix Guzman speaking outside the Governor’s Mansion this week.

Felix Guzman: “I know firsthand what this means. Less services will mean the difference between life and death for some. Without housing and services, people will die. People will die. We don’t have to wait for the federal government to send money and support our state. We know what the government can do right now. Right now he could tax the rich, stop cuts to life-saving services, and save lives.”

According to Citizen Action New York, some 2 million state residents are struggling to meet basic food, housing and healthcare needs, while New York’s 118 billionaires increased their net worth by $77 billion during the pandemic.

Postmaster General to Face Congressional Grilling over “Sabotage” of Postal Service

Aug 21, 2020

A group of 90 House Democrats are calling for the immediate removal of Louis DeJoy as postmaster general, accusing him of sabotaging the Postal Service ahead of the election. Their call comes as DeJoy prepares for two days of scheduled testimony before Congress.

Across the country USPS workers are reporting long delays processing and delivering mail. At one Los Angeles facility, the L.A. Times reported that rodents and insects were swarming parcels of rotten fruit and meat, with baby chicks left dead inside of boxes.

In Texas, Congressmember Joaquin Castro confirmed Wednesday that postal leaders in Washington ordered the removal of six mail sorting machines from a processing plant in San Antonio. A union leader said mail handlers were instructed to cart away tens of thousands of pieces of mail ahead of Castro’s tour of the facility to hide evidence of a backlog.

This comes as emails obtained by Vice show USPS Director of Maintenance Operations Kevin Couch ordered postal managers around the U.S. “not to reconnect / reinstall machines that have previously been disconnected without approval from HQ Maintenance.” Scores of the machines have been removed and broken down into parts nationwide.

Massive California Wildfires Leave 5 Dead, 700,000 Acres Burned

Aug 21, 2020

In California, at least five people have died as the state battles more than two dozen major fires amid a record-breaking heat wave and an unprecedented number of lightning strikes. Authorities say nearly 700,000 acres have burned. Tens of thousands of homes are threatened. The University of California at Santa Cruz has been forced to evacuate. During the Democratic National Convention, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, “If you are in denial about climate change, come to California.” On Thursday, President Trump threatened to withhold emergency aid for California while blaming the state for causing the fires by not properly raking leaves from the forest — a theory disputed by many forestry experts.

In more climate news, the National Hurricane Center says not one, but two hurricanes could make landfall along the Gulf Coast next week nearly simultaneously, as the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season keeps up its record-shattering pace.

Steve Bannon Arrested, Charged with Pocketing Private Border Wall Funds

Aug 21, 2020

President Trump’s former campaign manager and chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested Thursday, accused of defrauding donors to an anti-immigrant nonprofit called We Build the Wall. Bannon was taken by U.S. postal police aboard a Chinese billionaire’s $28 million yacht anchored off the coast of Connecticut. An indictment unsealed by the Southern District of New York alleges Bannon and three others at the nonprofit siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations into their own pockets to support their lavish lifestyles. The funds were supposed to go toward privately funded sections of a barrier wall to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border. Bannon pleaded not guilty at a Thursday arraignment in Manhattan and was released after posting $5 million bond.

At the White House, President Trump rejected the idea that he’s surrounded by a “culture of lawlessness.” Trump was questioned by NBC’s Geoff Bennett.

Geoff Bennett: “It’s not just Steve Bannon. It’s Roger Stone. It’s Michael Flynn. It’s Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen. What’s that say about your judgment, that these are the kind of people who you are affiliated with” —

President Donald Trump: “Well, I have no idea” —

Geoff Bennett: — “and the culture of lawlessness” —

President Donald Trump: “Yeah, yeah.”

Geoff Bennett: — “around people who were involved in the leadership of your 2016 campaign?”

President Donald Trump: “Well, there was great lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally.”

Federal Judge Rules NY Prosecutors Can Subpoena Trump’s Tax Records

Aug 21, 2020

Here in New York, a federal judge ruled Thursday that a Manhattan prosecutor can subpoena Donald Trump’s tax records, rejecting the president’s claim that the request amounted to unlawful “harassment.” District Attorney Cy Vance is seeking eight years of Trump’s tax records as part of an investigation into hush-money payments doled out by Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen ahead of the 2016 election.

Iraq Is “Open for American Business,” Says Iraqi PM in Meeting with Trump

Aug 21, 2020

President Trump welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to the White House Thursday for negotiations over the fate of 5,200 active-duty U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. Speaking to reporters after an Oval Office meeting, the prime minister said Iraq’s vast oil fields were open to American oil companies and investors.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi: “Iraq is open for American business and investment, and for a better future for Iraq and Iraqi people.”

The Energy Department reported this week several U.S. companies, including Honeywell and GE, signed oil contracts worth up to $8 billion with Iraq.

Prominent Iraqi Women’s Rights Activist Reham Yacoub Gunned Down in Basra

Aug 21, 2020

In Iraq, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire on a car in the southern city of Basra Wednesday, killing women’s rights activist Reham Yacoub and injuring two of her companions. It was the third such assassination in Basra in just the last week and came a day after Prime Minister al-Kadhimi fired Basra’s security commander, promising to investigate politically motivated murders.

Israeli Military Attacks Gaza for 10th Consecutive Day

Aug 21, 2020

In the Gaza Strip, massive explosions tore through the city of Khan Younis overnight, as Israel’s military launched attacks for a 10th consecutive day. The Israeli airstrikes came as Palestinians launched rockets and incendiary balloons into southern Israel. Meanwhile, Gaza officials are warning of disruptions at hospitals and other critical facilities after Israel cut fuel supplies to Gaza’s only power plant, leaving residents with just a few hours of electricity per day.

Newly Released Bodycam Footage Shows Two Deaths at Hands of Phoenix Police

Aug 21, 2020

In Arizona, body-camera and surveillance footage released Tuesday show Phoenix police officers held a man on the hot asphalt for nearly six minutes before he died in the back of a police car earlier this month. Twenty-eight-year-old Ramon Timothy Lopez was apprehended on August 4, chased and tackled to the ground by one of the officers. Two others later arrived on the scene. After pressing him into the scorching hot pavement for six minutes, Lopez was lifted and placed in the back of a police car, where he was later found unresponsive. Photographs revealed his skin was covered in burns.

In related news, the family of Muhammad Muhaymin Jr., a Black Muslim man who was killed by Phoenix police in 2017, is renewing calls for justice after recently released video footage shows Muhaymin screaming “I can’t breathe” and calling “Please Allah” before he died. Footage shows the 43-year-old was held down by at least four Phoenix police officers for nearly eight minutes; one of the officers is seen pressing his knee into Muhaymin’s neck. The family has since filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit.

Portland’s Nightly Anti-Police-Brutality Protests Continue to Face Police Violence

Aug 21, 2020

In Portland, Oregon, mass protests against police brutality and racial violence are nearing 90 days straight. This comes as police continue to violently repress protesters. Footage from earlier this week shows Portland police firing tear gas and explosive crowd control munitions to disperse crowds. On Tuesday, Portland police declared a riot amid ongoing protests — at least the third riot declaration within a week.

Black Lives Matter Groups Protest New York Police Union’s Endorsement of Trump

Aug 21, 2020

In New York, Black Lives Matter groups led a march Wednesday protesting the New York Police Department union’s recent endorsement of President Trump in November’s election. Over 50 protesters marched toward the home of NYPD union president Pat Lynch but were met by a police barricade. Lynch is a fierce opponent of police reform.

This comes as more than 323,000 misconduct accusations against current and former NYPD officers were published in an online database Thursday. The complaints were made public by the New York Civil Liberties Union following the recent repeal of a state law that kept them secret for decades. Less than 3% of the accusations resulted in a penalty for police officers, including 12 who were fired.

Uber, Lyft Win Temporary Stay of Order to Reclassify Contract Drivers as Employees

Aug 21, 2020

In labor news, a California appeals judge has temporarily blocked an order from earlier this month that mandated Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as employees and not independent contractors. The order came after Lyft had announced it would be suspending its services in California starting today.

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