In Lebanon, the death toll from Tuesday’s massive explosion at the Port of Beirut has risen to 137, with dozens still missing and over 5,000 injured. The explosion completely leveled Lebanon’s largest grain silo, leaving the country with less than a month’s reserve of grain. Beirut’s city governor says up to 300,000 people lost their homes to the explosion, compounding a humanitarian crisis that followed economic collapse and a surge of coronavirus cases across Lebanon.
Officials say the blast was triggered by over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port. The highly explosive industrial fertilizer was reportedly seized from a Russian-leased cargo ship bound for Mozambique in 2013 but never properly secured. The Lebanese government says it has placed several port officials under house arrest. Public outrage at government officials is exploding across Lebanon with the hashtag “#HangUpTheNooses” trending on social media.
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has surpassed 158,000. Over 1,200 new deaths were reported on Wednesday, including 225 in Florida, where the number of cases has surpassed a half-million.
California recorded another 135 deaths as the state’s death toll approaches 10,000. On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti threatened to start shutting off water and electricity to properties hosting large parties, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced the city is setting up checkpoints targeting visitors from COVID-19 hot spots.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “We will have checkpoints at key entry points to the city. Travelers coming in from those states will be given information about the quarantine. They will be reminded that it is required, not optional.”
Facebook has removed a video posted to Donald Trump’s personal account, saying it violated a policy against harmful COVID-19 misinformation. Twitter has also banned the video, which featured clips from a Fox News segment Wednesday in which Trump urged schools to reopen, falsely claiming children are “almost immune from this disease.”
Nearly a quarter-million U.S. children have tested positive for the coronavirus, with hundreds suffering from multisystem inflammatory syndrome. At least six U.S. children have died of COVID-19. In Mississippi, 116 students have been sent home to quarantine after six students and one staff member tested positive in a newly reopened school in the city of Corinth.
Researchers warn that for many children there may be lasting consequences from the novel coronavirus, including lung damage and neurological side effects. This comes as a large contact tracing study in South Korea found children and teens between the ages of 10 and 19 are more likely to spread the coronavirus than young children or adults.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, has revealed he now needs security due to threats against him and his family.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Getting death threats for me and my family, and harassing my daughters, to the point where I have to get security, is just — I mean, it’s amazing. I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that people who object to things that are pure public health principles are so set against it and don’t like what you and I say, namely in the word of science, that they actually threaten you. I mean, that, to me, is just strange.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Kodak after a surge in the company’s stock just days before the Trump administration gave the company a $765 million loan under the Defense Production Act. The news led to Kodak’s stock value soaring by 1,000%. Kodak’s CEO was issued 1.75 million stock options a day before the announcement. The loan was given to help Kodak start making prescription drugs — something it has never done before.
The New York Times is reporting Deutsche Bank has handed over detailed financial statements from Donald Trump and his company after being subpoenaed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as part of a criminal investigation. Last week, prosecutors filed court documents suggesting they were investigating the Trump Organization for bank and insurance fraud. The Times reports Deutsche Bank has lent Trump and his company more than $2 billion over the past two decades. Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced she will make a “major national announcement” this morning. It is unclear what the announcement will be about.
At the State Department, acting Inspector General Stephen Akard resigned abruptly on Wednesday — less than three months after his predecessor was fired by President Trump. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave this brief explanation for Akard’s sudden departure:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “He left to go back home. This happens. I don’t have anything more to add to that.”
In May, President Trump fired the State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, who was probing whether Secretary Pompeo used a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife, including walking his dog and taking care of his dry cleaning. Pompeo was also under scrutiny for using an emergency declaration to bypass Congress in fast-tracking over $8 billion worth of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden is set to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination from his home state of Delaware on August 20, after the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday announced plans to move its proceedings entirely online to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, President Trump said Wednesday he may hold his acceptance speech for the Republican Party’s nomination on the South Lawn of the White House. Asked by reporters about the plan, Senate Republican Whip John Thune replied, “Is that even legal?” Thune cited the federal Hatch Act, which bars partisan political activity by federal employees in places where they discharge their official duties. Trump later told reporters the Hatch Act does not apply to the president.
In more campaign news, Congressmember Rashida Tlaib has defeated Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in Michigan’s Democratic primary held on Tuesday. In 2018, Tlaib became the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress.
Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds on Wednesday restored the voting rights of tens of thousands of formerly incarcerated people with felony convictions, with exceptions for people convicted of murder and other violent crimes. Iowa is the latest U.S. state to overturn felony disenfranchisement laws. Florida voters approved a ballot measure in 2018 restoring voting rights for an estimated 1.4 million ex-prisoners convicted of felonies, but a bill signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis last year requires them to pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote. The requirement has drawn comparisons to the poll taxes of the Jim Crow South.
In Minnesota, Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman on Wednesday declined to press charges against Minneapolis police officers who shot and killed an autistic man in a mental health crisis inside the home of his grandparents as they looked on.
On August 31 of last year, the grandfather of 21-year-old Kobe Dimock-Heisler called 911 to report his grandson threatened him with a small knife. When police arrived at the home, family members told the officers they were no longer needed because the situation had calmed down. Four officers entered the home anyway, and after an altercation, two of the officers fired three rounds each at Dimock-Heisler, killing him.
On Wednesday, Amity Dimock-Heisler condemned the DA’s decision not to bring charges against the officers who killed her son.
Amity Dimock-Heisler: “You can’t deescalate an already deescalated situation. The call had been reversed. They should not have come. They made the decision to come and do whatever they do, which was deescalate the situation, and then ended up putting my son down like an animal. There’s more I want to say, but I can’t.”
As negotiators in Washington continue to debate renewing expanded unemployment benefits during the pandemic, Florida is facing criticism for making it too hard for residents to apply for unemployment. On Wednesday, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis admitted the system was designed like that on purpose.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: “Having studied how it was internally constructed, I think the goal was — for whoever designed it, was, let’s put as many kind of pointless roadblocks along the way, so people just say, 'Oh, the hell with it. I'm not going to do that.’”
The daughter of Congressmember Louie Gohmert is speaking out about her father’s battle with COVID-19. The Texas Republican tested positive for the coronavirus last week, after he consistently refused to wear a mask in the U.S. Capitol, forcing several congressional colleagues to self-quarantine — including 72-year-old Arizona Democrat Raúl Grijalva, who later tested positive.
Caroline Gohmert tweeted a statement reading, “My father ignored medical expertise and now he has COVID. This has been a heartbreaking battle because I love my dad and don’t want him to die. Please listen to medical experts. It’s not worth following a president who has no remorse for leading his followers to an early grave.”
Meanwhile, the 15-year-old daughter of senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway has reemerged on social media. In July, 15-year-old Claudia Conway posted a TikTok video with the caption, “last video cuz my parents are making me delete all social media.” She has since reemerged online, making videos in support of Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights and mocking President Trump.
In Hiroshima, Japan, a temple bell tolled at 8:15 am today to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear attack by the United States.
Meanwhile U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has partnered with China to build a secret nuclear facility to extract uranium yellowcake from uranium ore. Such a move would represent a major step by Saudi Arabia toward the construction of a nuclear weapon.
In Turkey, thousands of women rallied in cities nationwide Wednesday demanding the government cancel plans to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a landmark treaty aimed at preventing violence against women. According to the organization We Will Stop Femicides Platform, at least 474 women were murdered across Turkey last year, most of them by family members or intimate partners. This is lawyer and activist Gulsah Kaya speaking at a protest in Istanbul.
Gulsah Kaya: “The lives of women are already under threat in this country, and revoking the Istanbul Convention would enact a slaughter against all women. That’s why we are here today. Although the government says they will delay discussions for revoking the accord, we are here today asking them to take this topic off the table completely.”
Daisy Coleman, a high school sexual assault survivor who was featured in the documentary “Audrie & Daisy,” has died at the age of 23 by suicide. She was raped at 14 by a 17-year-old high school football player with political connections while another student took videos.
Charges were initially brought and dropped against the boys accused of assaulting Daisy and videotaping it. When Daisy’s mother, Melinda, began to raise questions, she lost her job. The family’s house in Maryville, Missouri, mysteriously burned to the ground. Daisy says she was suspended from the cheerleading squad and incessantly bullied. She was hounded on social media, called a skank and a liar, and urged to kill herself, which she tried to do multiple times.
Daisy Coleman would go on to become an advocate for sexual assault victims. In 2016, Democracy Now! interviewed her at the Sundance Film Festival.
Daisy Coleman: “I almost believe that this whole situation did strip me of being, you know, human and what I used to be. But I believe that as it stripped me of everything that I used to be, I was able to start from a new building block and build on to someone else. And I think that really shaped who I am today. And I feel like — you know, I think I’m a force to be reckoned with, with Maryville now. I don’t think they’re going to be getting away with everything that they do now.”
On Wednesday, Daisy’s mother wrote, “She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair. My baby girl is gone.” Click here to see our full interview with Daisy and her mother.