HeadlinesSeptember 23, 2020

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U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 200,000, On Track to Double by Year’s End

Sep 23, 2020

The official United States death toll from COVID-19 has passed 200,000 — by far the highest in the world — as University of Washington researchers warned the U.S. is on track to double that toll by year’s end. In the past 24 hours alone, the U.S. reported nearly a thousand new deaths and over 37,000 new cases — with Minnesota, Montana, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming reporting record levels of infections over the past week.

On Tuesday, the COVID-19 Memorial Project placed 20,000 flags across the National Mall, each one symbolizing 10 U.S. residents who have died of the disease since the first recorded U.S. death in February. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at a memorial for the dead.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “This was preventable — not all of it, but much of it. And what could be lost in the future is preventable, too, if we embrace science, science instead of politics.”

FDA Reportedly Planning Stricter Guidelines for Release of COVID-19 Vaccine

Sep 23, 2020

The New York Times reports the Food and Drug Administration is planning to issue stricter guidelines on any emergency use authorization of a coronavirus vaccine — even as President Trump promises a vaccine will be available as early as next month. The FDA’s emerging guidelines would affirm the warnings of researchers, who say they can’t guarantee the safety or efficacy of any of the vaccines currently in clinical trials in such a short period of time.

Pentagon Spent $1 Billion of Coronavirus Funds on Military Supplies

Sep 23, 2020

The Washington Post reports that Pentagon officials spent most of a $1 billion coronavirus relief fund on jet engine parts, spy satellites, drones, body armor and dress uniforms for troops. The money was allocated by Congress under the CARES Act and was meant to combat the pandemic. This comes as hospitals around the U.S. continue to report severe shortages of N95 masks and other medical supplies.

Trump Says Coronavirus “Affects Virtually Nobody” as U.S. Death Toll Tops 200,000

Sep 23, 2020

Meanwhile, President Trump continues to hold campaign rallies with his supporters packed shoulder to shoulder with few of them wearing masks. On Monday, as the death toll approached 200,000 with nearly 7 million U.S. infections, Trump told a crowd in Ohio that COVID-19 only impacts “elderly people with heart problems and other problems.”

President Donald Trump: “But it affects virtually nobody. It’s a — it’s an amazing thing. By the way, open your schools. Everybody, open your school.”

At least six teachers have died of coronavirus infections since the start of the new school year, with the independent COVID Monitor group recording more than 21,000 cases linked to K-12 schools since the start of fall classes. On Tuesday, the Miami-Dade County school district said students will be able to choose next month whether to return to their classrooms for in-person instruction.

U.N. Secretary-General Warns of New Cold War as Trump Attacks China over Coronavirus

Sep 23, 2020

Here in New York, the United Nations General Assembly got underway Tuesday with world leaders and most U.N. ambassadors participating remotely due to the pandemic. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned against a “new cold war” between the U.S. and China.

Secretary-General António Guterres: “Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture, each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities. A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geostrategic and military divide, and we must avoid these at all costs.”

President Trump also addressed the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, criticizing China during a pretaped seven-minute address — the shortest ever given by a U.S. president.

President Donald Trump: “We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping also spoke and vowed to make China carbon neutral by 2060 with carbon emissions peaking within 10 years. Xi called on nations to “achieve a green recovery of the world economy in the post-COVID era.”

Sen. Mitt Romney Backs Rapid Vote on Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee

Sep 23, 2020

Utah Republican senator Mitt Romney said Tuesday he will support a floor vote for President Trump’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week at the age of 87.

Sen. Mitt Romney: “My liberal friends have, over many decades, gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court. And that’s not written in the stars.”

Romney’s announcement means Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the support of 51 Republican senators — enough to rapidly push forward with a vote on Justice Ginsburg’s replacement.

There are just 41 days remaining before the November election. In 2016, McConnell refused to hold confirmation hearings for President Obama’s pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died nearly nine months before the election. At the time, McConnell said, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice.”

Officer Involved in Breonna Taylor’s Killing Defends Actions, Calls Protesters “Thugs”

Sep 23, 2020

Louisville, Kentucky, remains in a state of emergency as the city prepares for a grand jury decision in the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Police fatally shot the 26-year-old Black emergency room technician in her own home on March 13. Ahead of the announcement, the Louisville Police Department announced it is conducting an internal review of six officers involved in the shooting and raid.

One of the officers being investigated, Sergeant Jon Mattingly, has defended his actions. In an email to 1,000 other officers, Mattingly wrote, “Regardless of the outcome today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night.” In the email, he also called protesters “thugs,” saying, “This is not an us against society, but it is good versus evil.”

Federal Agents Tapped Cellphones of Portland Protesters

Sep 23, 2020

The Nation magazine is reporting federal officials with the Justice Department and Homeland Security have intercepted the phone communications of protesters in Portland. The Nation reports the surveillance involved cellphone cloning, where the government steals a phone’s unique identifiers and copies them to another device in order to intercept the communications received by the original device. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has called for a full investigation. He wrote on Twitter, “The Trump admin has treated the people of Portland like enemy combatants. These tactics—like cell phone cloning to spy on protestors—are unacceptable in America.”

President Trump Dodges Question About Poisoning of Kremlin Critic Alexei Navalny

Sep 23, 2020

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been released from a German hospital, where he was treated for suspected poisoning after he became violently ill aboard a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August. Ahead of his release, Navalny published a photo of himself looking gaunt but walking without assistance. Doctors say it’s too early to tell if the longtime critic of Vladimir Putin will make a complete recovery. German scientists say they discovered traces of the banned nerve agent Novichok on a water bottle used by Navalny shortly before he fell ill.

In Washington, a reporter asked President Trump Tuesday about Navalny’s poisoning.

Reporter: “Who do you think poisoned Alexei Navalny in Russia?”

President Donald Trump: “Uhhhh, we’ll talk about that at another time.”

Belarusian Leader Sworn In at Secret Ceremony as Protests Continue Against His Rule

Sep 23, 2020

In Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko was abruptly sworn in at a secret ceremony today amid ongoing anti-government protests demanding that the longtime authoritarian leader resign. The opposition denounced the ceremony as illegitimate, following Lukashenko’s landslide win in last month’s election, which critics say was rigged.

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Jailed Transgender Woman Dies After Describing Horrid Conditions in Ohio Prison

Sep 23, 2020

In Cleveland, Ohio, a 28-year-old transgender woman, who died in her cell at Cuyahoga County Jail last month, left a hidden letter denouncing the jail’s horrid conditions. The letter was found by her mother after picking up her daughter’s belongings. In the letter, Lea Daye wrote prisoners were served food that was cold, smelled bad and tasted like cleaning chemicals. Daye said the jail also failed to provide cleaning supplies and that the conditions had only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports her mother says Daye was being held in an area of the jail reserved for men. Questions remain on what caused her death.

For-Profit ICE Jail Will No Longer Send Women to Doctor Accused of Forced Sterilizations

Sep 23, 2020

In immigration news, women imprisoned at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia are no longer being sent to the physician accused of administering hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures without consent. An attorney working on the investigation said Tuesday Dr. Mahendra Amin saw at least 60 women imprisoned at Irwin, which is privately run. Whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at Irwin, labeled Amin “the uterus collector.”

Mexico Demands U.S. Investigation into Alleged Forced Hysterectomies at ICE Jail

Sep 23, 2020

Mexico’s government is demanding U.S. authorities address allegations of forced sterilizations at Irwin, where at least six Mexican women may have had unwanted hysterectomies. This is Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard speaking Tuesday.

Marcelo Ebrard: “It is something that is unacceptable, and we reject it beforehand. Even in the United States there is a reaction from important groups which we have been in contact with. This has to be cleared up. If it is confirmed, it will be a major issue and not only punished, but also other measures would be taken.”

California Prisoner Firefighter Transferred to ICE Custody

Sep 23, 2020

In California, immigration rights advocates continue to denounce Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders to transfer people from state prisons to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This comes as The Guardian reports 41-year-old Kao Saelee, who fought wildfires as an incarcerated firefighter in 2018 and 2019, was transferred to ICE custody last month, the day of his prison release. After 22 years behind bars for a robbery he committed as a teen, Saelee was sent to an immigration prison in Louisiana and is now facing deportation to Laos, the country his family fled when he was just 2 years old.

Census Watchdog Says Order to Cut Short Data Collection Came from Outside Bureau

Sep 23, 2020

New questions are being raised over why the Census Bureau cut short its data collection for the census by a month. A new report by the Commerce Department’s internal watchdog reveals the decision did not come from the director of the Census Bureau. In a report, the watchdog stated, “The schedule change was not the Bureau’s decision … Senior officials at the Bureau, including the Director, did not know who ultimately made the decision to accelerate the Census schedule.” The watchdog report also reveals there is a consensus within the bureau that shortening the length of the data collection will “negatively impact the accuracy” of the census.

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Kamala Harris Urges Black Michiganders to Vote as Joe Biden Declares “I Am Not a Socialist”

Sep 23, 2020

In campaign news, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris traveled to the battleground state of Michigan Tuesday, where she appealed to Black voters to help defeat Donald Trump in November. This is Senator Harris speaking at an event in Detroit.

Sen. Kamala Harris: “Why do you think they are trying to suppress and to make it difficult or to confuse Black people around voting? And the answer is simple: because they know when we vote, things change.”

Meanwhile, Joe Biden beat back a reporter’s suggestion he would pursue a socialist agenda if elected president, taking a swipe at Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Biden was speaking to a local TV reporter in northeastern Wisconsin.

Joe Biden: “I beat the socialist. That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination. Do I look like a socialist? Look at my career, my whole career. I am not a socialist.”

On Tuesday, Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Republican senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, announced she will endorse Joe Biden for president.

William LeCroy Becomes Sixth Federal Prisoner Put to Death Under Trump

Sep 23, 2020

In Terre Haute, Indiana, federal prison officials strapped condemned prisoner William LeCroy to a gurney Tuesday evening and injected him with a single dose of the drug pentobarbital. Witnesses to the execution report LeCroy’s eyelids grew heavy and his midsection heaved uncontrollably for several minutes before his lips turned blue and he fell still. LeCroy was pronounced dead just after 9 p.m. local time. It was the sixth federal execution since the Trump administration ended a 17-year hiatus on federal death sentences. On Thursday, Christopher Vialva is scheduled to become the seventh federal prisoner to die by lethal injection this year.

University of California Admitted White, Wealthy Students Over More Qualified Applicants

Sep 23, 2020

A new audit reveals the University of California admitted at least 64 wealthy, mostly white students as “favors to donors, family and friends” over the past six academic years. The audit looked into admissions policies starting in 2013 at four UC campuses, including UC Berkeley, where 42 applicants who were children of staff and major donors were admitted over other more qualified students. At other campuses, applicants were falsely designated as student-athlete recruits even as they had “little or no athletic skill.” The California state auditor says the admission of at least 400 other students was also “questionable.”

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