The White House scuttled a plan to distribute 650 million cloth face masks to every residence in the United States during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic — that’s according to The Washington Post, which reports Vice President Pence and other officials rejected the proposal because “receiving masks might create concern or panic.” A draft press release about the plan from the U.S. Postal Service reads, “The first shipments are expected to reach U.S. households as early as April xx” — with the date left incomplete. One study by the Center for Economic Policy Research found widespread mask use across the United States would have saved 40,000 lives in the months of April and May alone.
In the United States, the Department of Labor is reporting another 860,000 workers filed for new unemployment benefits last week. Since the pandemic began, around 60 million jobless claims have been filed — a new record.
Meanwhile, the total net worth of the nation’s billionaires has soared by nearly $850 billion since mid-March — a 29% increase. That’s according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies.
This comes as a new poll conducted by NPR and researchers at Harvard finds economic fallout from the pandemic has hit communities of color the hardest. The study found 72% of Latinx households, 60% of Black households and 55% of Native American households have reported “serious financial problems” this year, with trouble paying for food, housing and debt.
A federal judge in Washington state has temporarily blocked the U.S. Postal Service from new operational changes that have slowed down mail delivery ahead of the election. Judge Stanley Bastian accused President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy of being “involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service.” He also said the changes created a “substantial possibility many voters will be disenfranchised.”
On Thursday, Trump continued to cast doubt on mail-in voting. In a tweet, he wrote, “the Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED, which is what some want.” Twitter flagged Trump’s tweet and provided information about how voting by mail is safe and legal.
In Bolivia, self-proclaimed interim President Jeanine Áñez has suspended her campaign in an attempt to unify conservative votes against the MAS party, formerly led by ousted longtime President Evo Morales. This comes less than a year after the extremist right-wing leader rose to power following a military coup against Morales. Áñez’s reign has been marked by skyrocketing military and police repression and violence against Indigenous communities and supporters of Morales. The presidential election is scheduled for October 18.
A warning to our audience: The following headline contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault. Another woman has stepped forward to accuse Donald Trump of unwanted sexual contact. Amy Dorris says Trump cornered her and assaulted her at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 1997. She spoke with The Guardian in an interview published Thursday.
Amy Dorris: “He just grabbed me. And he just shoved his tongue down my throat, and I was pushing him off. And then that’s when his grip became tighter. And his hands were kind of like very gropey and all over, you know, my butt, my breasts, my back, like everything. But he was just like — his grip was hard. You know, you couldn’t pull away. I was pushing his tongue out of my mouth with my teeth. It was pretty traumatic.”
Dorris joins at least 25 other women who have accused Trump of some form of sexual misconduct, with over a dozen claiming sexual assault. In 2005, Trump was caught on a hot mic, recorded by the show “Access Hollywood,” boasting about sexually assaulting women.
Donald Trump: “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
In Florida, a lawsuit involving 15 prisoners alleges rampant sexual violence from guards at Federal Correctional Complex Coleman, one of the largest federal prisons in the country. The women say the abuse lasted for years, dating back to 2012, and that they were threatened by guards with being transferred to prisons with worse conditions if they spoke out or didn’t comply. At least six of the accused officers have admitted in government court filings to engaging in sexual misconduct at the prison. None of the guards have been prosecuted. Instead, they were allowed to resign or retire, and some still receive benefits. One of the accused guards worked at the facility until 2019.
A new report by immigration rights advocates highlights an alarming pattern of human rights violations against pregnant and postpartum asylum seekers in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection during the pandemic. Some of the accounts include a Guatemalan asylum seeker who was forced to give birth next to a trash can while still wearing pants and a pregnant Honduran asylum seeker who was expelled to Mexico while she was having contractions. This follows shocking reports that a doctor at an ICE jail in Georgia has been performing hysterectomies on immigrant women without their consent.
The House of Representatives has passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, requiring U.S. employers to make reasonable accommodations to people who are pregnant. Over 100 Republicans joined majority Democrats in Thursday’s roll call. Labor rights advocates are demanding Republicans take up the bill in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains focused on pushing through Trump’s judicial nominees — eight of whom have been confirmed this week to lifetime appointments on the federal bench.
A warning to viewers: The following story contains disturbing images of police violence. In Utah, a Salt Lake City police officer has been charged with felony aggravated assault after body camera footage showed him ordering a police dog to attack a Black man who was on his knees with his hands in the air. Prosecutors say 36-year-old Jeffery Ryans was not resisting arrest and posed no threat to officers before the April assault, which left Ryans with severe nerve and tendon damage to his leg. If convicted, officer Nickolas Pearce faces up to 15 years in prison.
President Trump lashed out Thursday at educators who teach about the United States’ history of slavery and racism, announcing a so-called patriotic education plan to combat what he called “toxic propaganda” in schools. Trump was speaking at the National Archives Museum in Washington.
President Donald Trump: “The left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.”
Trump was referencing Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” In response, the Zinn Education Project tweeted, “So what explains the rebellions in 1676, 1680, 1786, 1831, 1859, & more by Native Americans, enslaved Africans, coal miners, & more? #HowardZinn wasn’t alive then.”
Trump also called the teaching of critical race theory a “form of child abuse” and lashed out at the 1619 Project, the Pulitzer Prize-winning series which reexamines the legacy of slavery. On Twitter, 1619 creator Nicole Hannah-Jones pointed out, “The White House Conference on American History has not a single Black historian on it. Strange.” We will hear the late historian Howard Zinn in his own words later in the program.
Two more federal executions are scheduled for next week at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. One of the prisoners, Christopher Vialva, is being put to death for a crime he committed when he was 19 years old. This is Vialva in his own words in a rare video from death row.
Christopher Vialva: “People are not being informed about the racial disparity on federal death row. Black people are only 13% of this country’s population, yet we are almost half the population of federal death row. … Now I’m making my plea to the American public to rethink the federal death penalty. The Democratic Party claims they want to abolish the death penalty, yet no politicians have said anything about federal death row. Public figures, lawyers and abolitionists are nowhere to be found in the national media on the subject of capital punishment, yet men are being paraded to the federal death house right now.”