The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has directed all 50 states and five large cities to make preparations to distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine as soon as late October. In a letter to the nation’s governors, CDC Director Robert Redfield urged states to waive any requirements that would prevent vaccine distribution centers from becoming fully operational by November 1. The government has hired the private company McKesson Corporation to distribute a vaccine once it is approved. There is growing concern that the Trump administration might give emergency approval to a vaccine before clinical tests are completed in an attempt to boost the president’s reelection chances. Public health officials have warned that rushing an unproven vaccine could pose health dangers and inflame anti-vaccination sentiment. This all comes as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 approaches 186,000.
COVID-19 cases are surging in the Midwest. More than 260 cases across nine states have been linked to a recent motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. One biker has died. This comes as Iowa now has the highest COVID-19 rate per capita in the country. The number of new cases in Iowa has soared by 90% over the past two weeks. Meanwhile, Iowa Senator Jodi Ernst has become the latest Republican to embrace a conspiracy theory that far fewer people are dying from COVID-19. She also suggested doctors may be misclassifying COVID cases in order to make more money.
President Trump is escalating his war on the World Health Organization. The State Department has announced it is redirecting $62 million owed to the WHO this year. In addition, the U.S. is withdrawing government employees who advise the WHO. Trump has already announced the U.S. will leave the agency, but that will not officially happen until next year. This all comes as the WHO is working with over 170 nations to develop a coronavirus vaccine, but the U.S. has refused to join the global effort.
The U.S. has imposed sanctions on the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and another top ICC official. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move Wednesday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “In June, the Trump administration authorized the imposition of economic sanctions against foreign persons directly engaged in ICC efforts to investigate U.S. or allied personnel, and those who materially assisted in those — in that effort. Today we take the next step, because the ICC continues to target Americans, sadly.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly attacked the ICC for investigating war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as Israeli crimes in the Occupied Territories. Human rights and legal groups criticized the Trump administration’s move. Katherine Gallagher is a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She represents victims of both U.S. and Israeli war crimes.
Katherine Gallagher: “The sanctions announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the ICC, constitutes a frontal attack on the rule of law. … This action shows that the Trump administration is happy to stand with dictators and war criminals rather than with victims of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is heading to Kenosha, Wisconsin, today to meet with the family of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was left paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police last month. Trump visited Kenosha on Tuesday but never said Blake’s name. Meanwhile, President Trump campaign’s press secretary appeared to justify the recent fatal shooting of two protesters in Kenosha by a 17-year-old Trump-supporting vigilante. Hogan Gidley appeared on CNN.
Hogan Gidley: “The problem is, so many Democrat governors, so many Democrat mayors have now said, ’Don’t do your job. Stand down. Let these riots, let these looters continue to criminalize our communities.’ And the president doesn’t want that. He wants them to be able to stand up. But it does make sense, just logically, if you don’t allow police to do their job, then the American people have to defend themselves some way.”
President Trump has ordered federal officials to find ways to cut billions of dollars in federal funding to Democratic-run cities that have moved to reduce funding for the police. In a memo released on Wednesday, Trump said, “It is imperative that the Federal Government review the use of Federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America’s cities.” The memo lists several cities, including Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Washington; and New York. It also directs the Justice Department to compile a list of what it calls “anarchist jurisdictions.” The Mayor’s Office in New York decried Trump’s move, saying, “This is a racist campaign stunt out of the Oval Office to attack millions of people of color.”
Shocking new details have emerged about the police killing of a Black man named Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, in March. Video released by his family shows Prude died from asphyxiation after officers handcuffed him, put a hood over his head and then pushed his face into the freezing cold ground for two minutes while kneeling on his back. Prude was naked and unarmed. He died seven days later. The police encounter began when Prude’s brother called 911 asking for help because his brother was acting strangely. On Wednesday, three Black Lives Matter activists were arrested during a protest. Prude’s family is calling for the firing of the officers involved and the defunding of the Rochester Police Department.
In news from California, a police officer in San Leandro has been charged with felony manslaughter after shooting dead a 33-year-old Black man named Steven Taylor inside a Walmart on April 18. Within a span of 40 seconds, officer Jason Fletcher entered the Walmart, shot Taylor with a Taser and then shot him in the chest with his gun. In a statement, the Alameda County district attorney stated, “Mr. Taylor posed no threat of imminent deadly force or serious bodily injury to defendant Fletcher or anyone else in the store.” Police were first called to the Walmart because Taylor was trying to leave the store with a tent and a bat. His family said he was homeless at the time.
The family of a Salvadoran American teenager shot dead in June has sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department over his killing. Eighteen-year-old Andres Guardado died after being shot in the back five times. Guardado was working as a security guard at an auto body shop in Gardena when two officers approached him. One of his co-workers says Guardado became scared and started running away after an officer drew a gun. A whistleblower within the Sheriff’s Department says the deputy who shot Guardado was a prospective member of a violent police gang within the department known as the Executioners. The whistleblower, Art Gonzalez, said earlier this summer, “Members become inked as 'Executioners' after executing members of the public, or otherwise committing acts of violence in furtherance of the gang.”
President Trump has suggested people in North Carolina break the law by voting twice in the upcoming presidential election — once by mail and then again in person — to test the election system.
President Donald Trump: “Let them send it in, and let them go vote. And if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote. So that’s the way it is. And that’s what they should do.”
Under federal law, voting twice is illegal. In North Carolina, it is also illegal to induce someone to vote twice. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have sued the state of Montana to block an expansion of mail-in voting.
In other election news, Lara Trump, the president’s senior campaign adviser and daughter-in-law, campaigned in Florida on Wednesday with Laura Loomer, a far-right congressional candidate and conspiracy theorist. Loomer is a self-described “proud Islamophobe” who has called Muslims “savages” and Islam a “cancer.” She once cheered on the death of migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Loomer has been banned from Facebook and Twitter for promoting hate on the platforms. Loomer is the Republican nominee in Florida’s 21st Congressional District, which includes Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private club.
A federal appeals court has ruled that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records was illegal. The program was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Snowden tweeted on Wednesday, “The ruling of the court demolishes the longest-held defenses of mass surveillance. After taking into account the best of the government’s evidence, the court found the program unlawful and ineffective, establishing the government’s public claims of 'necessity' were deceitful.”
In France, the trial has begun of over a dozen people accused of being accomplices in a series of attacks that killed 17 people in and around Paris over three days in January 2015. The attacks began when two French Algerian brothers stormed the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 people at the paper. On the following day, another gunman killed four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket. All three of the main suspects were killed. Charlie Hebdo was targeted because of its history of printing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Ahead of the trial, the newspaper reprinted a number of the cartoons.
Forty-four members of Congress, as well as Amnesty International and other groups, are urging the Trump administration to block the imminent deportation of a Ugandan pastor, saying he will likely be killed if sent back home. Pastor Steven Tendo fled Uganda and sought asylum in the United States in 2018 after being tortured and arrested dozens of times in Uganda for supporting political prisoners and voting rights. During one torture session, two of his fingers were cut off. Tendo has been jailed for over 18 months while seeking asylum in the United States.
In Oklahoma, a 105-year-old woman is leading a lawsuit demanding reparations for one of the worst massacres of African Americans in U.S. history. In June 1921, a white mob burned to the ground Tulsa’s affluent African American neighborhood of Greenwood, known as Black Wall Street, killing at least 300 residents. Lessie Benningfield Randle is one of two known living survivors of the massacre. The lawsuit says the aftermath of the massacre is still felt by the community as racial inequality in Tulsa can be traced back to the massacre, nearly a century later.