The United States reported more than 1,100 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the U.S. is on track to record its 200,000th death from COVID-19 by the fourth week of September. Public health officials say the true U.S. death toll likely passed that grim milestone weeks ago.
The Daily Beast reports the University of Alabama ordered faculty members to remain silent about students who test positive for the virus, arguing that alerting their classmates would violate federal privacy laws. In an email, the professors were admonished, “Do not tell the rest of the class,” with the word “not” underlined.
In Louisiana, at least six people were killed after Hurricane Laura came ashore Thursday as one of the strongest recorded storms ever to hit the United States. The Category 4 hurricane failed to produce the massive storm surge feared by forecasters, but brought fierce winds of up to 150 miles per hour that overturned vehicles, ripped the roofs off houses and shattered the glass windows of a 22-story office tower. The storm triggered a massive fire at a chemical plant near Lake Charles that sent plumes of black smoke and poisonous chlorine gas billowing across Interstate 10. Local residents who hadn’t already evacuated were ordered to shelter in place with their windows and doors closed.
Hurricane Laura toppled a century-old monument to a Confederate soldier on the lawn of a courthouse in Lake Charles. Just two weeks ago, local officials voted to keep the statue in place amid nationwide protests demanding the removal of monuments to slavery and racism.
In Wisconsin, the father of Jacob Blake said Thursday his son is being handcuffed to a hospital bed in Milwaukee, where he remains paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot seven times in the back on Sunday by a Kenosha police officer. Jacob Blake Sr. said it remains unclear what charges — if any — his son faces. Jacob Blake is African American; the white officer who shot him, Rusten Sheskey, has been placed on administrative leave and has not been fired or charged with a crime. Protesters marched through Kenosha for a fifth straight night Thursday to demand Sheskey’s arrest, as Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said Alabama, Arizona and Michigan were sending more National Guard troops to patrol the streets.
Kenosha County prosecutors on Thursday brought six charges against Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old militia member who was filmed killing two people and injuring a third with an AR-15 assault rifle during protests in Kenosha on Tuesday. If convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, Rittenhouse faces up to life in prison.
The American Civil Liberties Union is demanding the immediate resignation of Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis, who on Wednesday blamed curfew violators and not militia members for Tuesday’s deadly violence. The ACLU is also demanding Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth step down, as video resurfaced of racist remarks he made in 2018. During a news conference that year, Beth described Black people accused of shoplifting and crashing a stolen car as “garbage people that fill our communities that are a cancer to our society.”
Sheriff David Beth: “Let’s put them in jail. Let’s stop them from truly — at least some of these males, going out and getting 10 other women pregnant and having small children. Let’s put them away. … We put them away for the rest of their lives so that the rest of us can be better.”
In a statement, the ACLU said the actions of the sheriff and police chief “uphold and defend white supremacy, while demonizing people who were murdered for exercising their First Amendment rights and speaking out against police violence.”
In North Carolina, Ronnie Long, an African American who spent 44 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, walked out of the Albemarle Correctional Institute Thursday a free man. In 1976, Long was convicted of rape by an all-white jury and sentenced to 80 years in prison. In 2015, his lawyers learned that investigators had withheld exculpatory evidence proving his innocence, while witnesses for the state committed perjury at his trial. It would take several more years and a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Long to win his freedom.
Professional athletes continued work stoppages Thursday to protest police violence and racial injustice. At the start of a Mets-Marlins baseball game in New York, both teams walked onto the field and stood silently for 42 seconds in honor of the first African American player in the Major Leagues, Jackie Robinson. Then they walked off the field, refusing to play, leaving a Black Lives Matter T-shirt draped over home plate. In total, seven Major League Baseball games were postponed Thursday. The NBA, WNBA and the National Hockey League also postponed games, and nine NFL teams canceled practices, amid player protests.
In Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of protesters from across the country are expected to march to the Lincoln Memorial today joining ongoing demands for criminal justice reform and outcry against police brutality and racial violence. Participants will include the Reverend Al Sharpton and the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor. Today marks 57 years since Martin Luther King Jr. gave his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the anniversary of the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was lynched by a white mob on August 28, 1955. Meanwhile, the Movement for Black Lives is hosting the Black National Convention tonight, a virtual event showcasing the power and resistance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Labor Department reports another 1 million U.S. workers filed initial unemployment claims over the last week — the 23rd straight week in a row that jobless claims shattered their pre-pandemic record. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 stock market index closed at an all-time record high on Thursday. And Forbes reports that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has become the first person ever to amass a $200 billion fortune.
In Japan, Shinzo Abe said Friday he is resigning as prime minister due to poor health. Over nearly eight years in office, Abe remained pro-nuclear, despite the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami. Throughout his career, Abe tried unsuccessfully to do away with Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, which renounces war and bars Japan from using — or threatening to use — military force.
In Coolidge, Arizona, members of several Indigenous communities, including the Tohono O’odham Nation, on Wednesday temporarily blocked access to a site where 30-foot steel barriers are assembled for use in the construction of Trump’s border wall.
Protesters: “No border! No wall! No border! No wall! No border! No wall!”
The tribal members were nonviolently protesting the ongoing desecration of sacred sites on ancestral Indigenous land by construction crews building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The New York Times reports top officials with the Department of Homeland Security in 2018 suggested deploying to the U.S.-Mexico border a so-called heat ray designed by the military to make people’s skin feel as if it’s burning when they are within range of the weapon’s invisible beams. The disturbing suggestion reportedly came two weeks before the 2018 midterm election as President Trump pushed for extreme action to stop a caravan of thousands of refugees, mostly from Central America, from coming to the U.S.
Refugee rights groups have filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights demanding the agency investigate violent and discriminatory practices against Black refugees imprisoned at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in Louisiana. Forty-eight Cameroonian refugees held at the jail have launched another hunger strike protesting their indefinite detention, inhumane conditions during the pandemic and racist treatment by prison staff. They’ve been reportedly retaliated against with solitary confinement after demanding that their asylum claims be heard. This is video testimony of the Cameroonian hunger strikers published online in June.
Asylum Seeker 1: “But the judge keeps saying that we are criminals. He doesn’t believe what we are saying.”
Asylum Seeker 2: “So we are pleading with the people outside, all the NGOs, all the NGOs, Southern Poverty [Law Center], the congresspeople, please, the United States as a whole. We beg you people to help us in here. Help us in here. We are dying. We are dying, for real.”
In Texas, the body of a missing soldier stationed at the Fort Hood Army base was found Tuesday night hanging from a tree some 30 miles from the base. Twenty-three-year-old Elder Fernandes went missing last week. He had recently reported being sexually abused at the base and was working with an investigation unit. Last month, the remains of 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén were also discovered near the base after she was bludgeoned to death and disappeared in April by a soldier Guillén had accused of sexually harassing her. Fernandes is the 13th Fort Hood soldier to have disappeared or been killed this year.
A federal execution planned for Friday is back on, after a federal appeals court overruled a lower court ruling that the federal government failed to obtain a legally required prescription for the lethal injection drug pentobarbital. On Wednesday, the only Native American on federal death row, 38-year-old Lezmond Mitchell, was put to death using the same drug, over the objections of the Navajo Nation. Barring another intervention by the courts, Keith Dwayne Nelson will be put to death this evening at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.