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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative April 2020 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this.

 

April 30

Public Health Top Headlines

Virus Victims, Responses

Pandemic Politics

U.S. 2020 Elections

Sex Claim Against Biden

World News

U.S. Non-Profits, Media

 

Public Health Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, 3.8 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week as pandemic extends its grip, Rachel Siegel us labor department logoand Andrew Van Dam​, April 30, 2020. The latest claims bring the total number to roughly 30 million in six weeks. The outbreak and subsequent recession have wiped away all jobs created since the 2008 financial crisis.

• Republican-led states signal they could strip workers’ unemployment benefits if they don’t return to work
• Joblessness is rising far more slowly in Europe than in U.S., new figures show

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Hopes rise for experimental drug therapy for covid-19, Anne Gearan, Christopher Rowland and Laurie McGinley, April 30, 2020. On a day when the number of U.S. deaths in the pandemic passed 60,000, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert said results from an early trial involving remdesivir were an encouraging sign.

• Gilead drug improves recovery time of patients in NIH trial
• Southern governors who initially downplayed threat ease into reopening of their states

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2U.S. deaths from covid-19 passed 60,000 on Wednesday, a figure President Trump had once projected would be the upper limit, as hopes rose for a drug treatment that the top U.S. infectious-disease expert said has shown a clear benefit in an early trial.

Trump welcomed the promising early signs that an experimental antiviral drug, remdesivir, can be effective in speeding the recovery time for covid-19 patients.

anthony fauci Custom“The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” Anthony S. Fauci, right, said alongside Trump at the White House on Wednesday. “That is really quite important.”

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci leads, is overseeing a study of more than 1,000 patients in the United States and around the world.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs, Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Goldman, April 30, 2020. Some analysts worry that the pressure from senior officials could distort assessments about the virus and be used as a weapon in a battle with China.

President Donald Trump officialSenior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as President Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.

Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China over a disease that has infected more than three million people across the globe.

Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.

Mr. Trump’s aides and Republicans in Congress have sought to blame China for the pandemic in part to deflect criticism of the administration’s mismanagement of the crisis in the United States, which now has more coronavirus cases than any country. More than one million Americans have been infected, and more than 60,000 have died.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former C.I.A. director and the administration’s most vocal hard-liner on China, has taken the lead in pushing American intelligence agencies for more information, according to current and former officials.

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Studies leave question of ‘airborne’ coronavirus transmission unanswered, Joel Achenbach and Carolyn Y. Johnson, April 30, 2020 (print ed). A growing number of studies, including one published this week in the journal Nature, have found evidence that the coronavirus can remain suspended in the air in aerosol particles. That raises anew the question of whether and to what extent the virus can be transmitted as an aerosol — although the evidence is far from conclusive and no such infections have been documented.

The consensus so far is that the virus, although very contagious, spreads through respiratory droplets generated when people breathe, speak or cough and doesn’t infect people through particles that can linger in the air for hours, in the way that measles and some other viral diseases can.

But the research is fueling a scientific debate over one of the most basic questions about the novel coronavirus — how it spreads — and doing so at a time of high anxiety and rattled nerves. Outbreaks linked to crowded indoor environments such as prisons, meatpacking plants, a cramped call center and a restaurant may serve as warnings about the perils of reopening.

washington post logoWashington Post, City and state layoffs begin, threatening health, education, safety and sanitation, Tony Romm, April 30, 2020 (print ed.). Local governments have started laying off or furloughing thousands of workers. The numbers are likely to grow in the absence of federal aid. Millions of municipal workers could find themselves out of a job or without pay, according to local leaders, who say programs would fall into disarray unless Washington intervenes.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 80 percent of hospitalized covid-19 patients in Georgia were African American, study finds, Rachel Weiner, April 30, 2020 (print ed). As Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R),left, moves to reopen more businesses, a new brian kemp Customstudy underscores the disproportionate toll the virus has taken on the state’s African American population.

Surveying eight Georgia ­hospitals, researchers found that in a sample of 305 covid-19 patients, 247 were black — more than 80 percent and more than they expected.

“It is important to continue ongoing efforts to understand the reasons for these racial disparities, including the role of socioeconomic and occupational factors in transmission,” the researchers wrote. “Public officials should consider racial differences among patients affected by COVID-19 when planning prevention activities.”

cdc logo CustomWhile limited by time and geography, the results of the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Wednesday echo research showing black Americans are more likely to be infected and die of covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes.

Kemp pushed forward in recent days with a reopening of businesses across the state, a decision made without input from state and local health officials. Many black leaders have criticized that decision, saying their communities will suffer the most if covid-19 cases spike and the virus overwhelms state resources.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Georgia Went First. And It Screwed Up, Keren Landman (Dr. Landman is a specialist in infectious diseases), April 30, 2020. Here’s what other states can learn from our inept reopening.

Last week was a bad one for Georgia, and an especially bad one for our governor, Brian Kemp. On April 20, he announced that he would allow Georgia’s tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons and other “high touch” businesses to reopen as early as April 24, ahead of even President Trump’s ambitious plans. In the days since, the state has reverberated with political turmoil. Even the president rebuked Mr. Kemp for moving too fast.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Crisis appears to hit professional and public-sector jobs once considered safe, Andrew Van Dam​, April 30, 2020. The pandemic’s assault on U.S. jobs has entered a frightening new stage, one that could signal a deeper recession and a longer recovery.

ny times logoNew York Times, Food Lines a Mile Long in America’s Second-Wealthiest State, Tracey Tully, Photographs by Bryan Anselm, April 30, 2020. Pushed to the edge of hunger, many unemployed New Jersey residents are asking for help for the first time.

Jean Wickham’s two sons are in college. Her husband has worked at the same New Jersey casino for 36 years.

She recently felt secure enough to trade her full-time casino job for two part-time gigs that came with an expectation of bigger tips.

Then the coronavirus shut down every casino in Atlantic City and instantly put more than 26,000 people out of work — 10 percent of the county’s population.

“I’ve worked since I was 14 years old,” said Ms. Wickham, 55, a card dealer. “We’ve never had to rely on anyone else.”

Until now.

The Wickhams’ minivan was one of thousands of vehicles that snaked as far as the eye could see one morning last week in Egg Harbor, N.J., 10 miles west of Atlantic City. The promise of fresh produce and a 30-pound box of canned food, pasta and rice from a food bank drew so many cars that traffic was snarled for nearly a mile in three directions, leading to five accidents, the police said.

“I’m just afraid I’m going to lose my house,” said Ms. Wickham, who lives in Egg Harbor. “I feel like a failure right now.”

In more than 40 percent of households in New Jersey, at least one person is out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic, a Monmouth University poll released on Monday found.

Pandemic Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump and Kushner Engage in Revisionist History in Boasting of Success, Peter Baker, April 30, 2020 (print ed.). “We did all the right moves,” the president said Wednesday. “The federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story,” said his son-in-law.President Trump has framed the political narrative on his own terms. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, presented a similarly revisionist account Wednesday.

djt smiling fileThe total number of coronavirus cases in the United States exceeded one million. The American death toll surpassed that of the Vietnam War. And the economy was reported to have shrunk by nearly 5 percent. But the White House on Wednesday declared its response to the crisis “a great success story.”

As states begin to lift quarantines, President Trump is trying to recast the story of the pandemic from that of an administration slow to see and address the threat to one that responded with decisive action that saved lives. Recognizing that the crisis jeopardizes his chances of re-election, he and his allies want to convince his supporters that the cascade of criticism is unwarranted.

rnc logo“We think we really have crossed a big boundary and much better days are ahead,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday at a televised meeting at the White House with business leaders. The session was intended to highlight what the president hopes will be the resumption of a healthier economy only hours after the release of the most cataclysmic economic numbers of the past decade.

“I often say I see the light at the end of the tunnel very strongly,” Mr. Trump said.

The president waxed at length about restoring life to the United States as if the crisis were nearly over. He disclosed that he plans to fly to Arizona next week and soon after that to Ohio, his first trips out of the White House since early March other than a short visit to Norfolk, Va., to see off a Navy hospital ship dispatched to hard-hit New York. He talked wistfully of going to football games and resuming his campaign rallies. “I’d like to get out,” he said.

In the revised history of the pandemic that Mr. Trump and his team offered, his actions were not belated and inadequate, but bold and effective. “We did all the right moves,” Mr. Trump said. “If we didn’t do what we did, you would have had a million people die, maybe more, maybe two million people die.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: This just keeps getting stupider, Bill Palmer, April 30, 2020. This can’t be real, can it? More Americans bill palmerhave died this month than died in the Vietnam War, all because the President of the United States is the world’s most inept weirdo of a villain. Those of us who are still alive are hunkered down in our houses, wondering how we’re even supposed to keep getting food. And all the insane President can do is stay up all night hurling juvenile slurs at the people who are talking about his worsening scandals.

This sounds like a really bad rejected script for a movie that no one would ever have gone to see – or at least no one would have stayed much past the opening credits.

Donald Trump is not a remotely bill palmer report logo headerbelievable character. What kind of villain wastes his time attacking Brian Williams for having a big forehead? Brian Williams? Come on. Brian Williams is like Wendy’s. He’s fine. Sometimes quite enjoyable. Definitely not high stakes enough for the President of the United States to be rage tweeting about.

Yet here we are. The majority of Americans want this clown gone, right now, today. Yet we keep learning the hard way that our Constitution, the document we all grew up worshipping, was written by well intentioned people who had no idea what they were doing – and then we spent two hundred and some years failing to fix most of what’s wrong with it.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe’s Strong Labor Laws Aren’t a Guarantee for Lower-Wage Workers, Jack Ewing and Geneva Abdul, April 30, 2020 (print ed.). Some European companies seem to be targeting workers who are easiest to fire or have the least bargaining power.

WrenKitchens, which describes itself as Britain’s largest kitchen retailer, fired hundreds of employees in March, including many trainees and recent hires, saying their performance was not up to par. Had WrenKitchens furloughed the workers instead of firing them, the British government would have covered 80 percent of their pay.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The post-pandemic end of traditional diplomacy, Wayne Madsen, April 30, 2020. The Covid-19 wayne madesen report logopandemic will radically alter the world of modern diplomacy. With countries evacuating their diplomatic staff from various world capitals, there may be little appetite to re-establish large diplomatic presences around the world.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Aides present Trump with grim internal polling showing a loss to Biden, Josh Dawsey, April 30, 2020 (print ed.). Advisers showed the data to the president in hopes of curtailing his reliance on contentious daily coronavirus briefings.

djt hands up mouth open CustomPresident Trump’s advisers presented him with the results of internal polling last week that showed him falling behind former vice president Joe Biden in key swing states in the presidential race, part of an effort by aides to curtail Trump’s freewheeling daily briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, according to three people with knowledge of the conversations.

The president spoke with campaign manager Brad Parscale, White House senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, among other officials, in calls and meetings last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to the three people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal discussions.

joe biden 2020 button CustomOne call on Wednesday — with Parscale patched in from his home in Florida and McDaniel from hers in Michigan — was designed to present grim polling data to the president to encourage him to reduce the frequency of coronavirus briefings or to stop taking questions, after seeing his numbers slip for several weeks, officials said.

Trump resisted the pleas, saying people “love” the briefings and think he is “fighting for them,” a person with knowledge of the Wednesday conversation said. Trump has long been distrustful of polling data presented to him when the numbers are negative, aides say.

The two polls given to Trump — one from the Republican National Committee and another from the Trump campaign — both showed Trump trailing Biden in swing states, officials said. His political team has grown more concerned in recent weeks, as the briefings became more combative while the economy cratered and coronavirus deaths continued to rise.

djt 2020 hat Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump makes his case for reelection with promises of a swift return to normalcy — that experts warn is far off, Toluse Olorunnipa, April 30, 2020. As economists, health experts and political strategists warn that this crisis is likely to linger longer and have a more severe impact than anything in recent memory, the president is essentially pinning his reelection on proving them wrong.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is Justin Amash a Threat to Biden or to Trump? Liz Mair (Republican strategist), April 30, 2020. justin amashDemocrats shouldn’t freak out just yet. It’s just as likely that in November he could hurt the president.

When Representative Justin Amash, right, a Republican-turned-independent from Michigan, started a presidential exploratory committee on Tuesday, he caused immediate head-exploding from partisans on both sides. Mr. Amash, 40, intends to seek the Libertarian Party nomination.

Forces opposed to Donald Trump on both the left and the right worry he will help the president win re-election by pulling away votes that would otherwise go to Joe Biden.

Undoubtedly, too, some backers of Mr. Trump worry that voters who do not like the president but dislike Democrats more will be tempted to back a third-party candidate and deprive Mr. Trump of votes they sees as rightfully his.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe truth will likely prove rather different. Mr. Amash’s move should not have surprised anyone (or caused any heads to explode), and it is also far from clear, if history is any guide, that he will hurt Mr. Biden more than Mr. Trump. What libertarians like me hope is that he enables a growing number of Americans to register their dissatisfaction with the major parties and their policy agendas.

Mr. Amash was elected to Congress in 2010 in the Tea Party wave. He has always been more of a libertarian than a conservative or a Republican. It’s just that the Republican Party of 2010 was a decent fit for many libertarian-minded Americans; Mr. Trump’s version is not.

The Libertarian Party’s nominee will almost certainly be on the ballot in all 50 states, as was the case in 2016. The party’s nominee that year, former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, took 3.3 percent of the presidential vote, winning 9.3 percent in his home state, 5.2 percent in Colorado and about 4 percent in Arizona, all states that both parties see as in play or want to put in play.

Sex Claim Against Biden

tara reade screenshot via the hill Custom

Tara Reade (screenshot via The Hill newspaper).

washington post logoWashington Post, Former neighbor of Joe Biden accuser confirms she was told of an incident in the 1990s, Amber Phillips and Matt Viser, April 30, 2020 (print ed.). The former vice president’s campaign has denied that he sexually assaulted Tara Reade, a then-Senate aide, and Biden has not commented on her accusation.

The former Senate aide who accused Joe Biden of sexual assault shared details of the alleged incident in a conversation in the mid-1990s, her former neighbor confirmed Wednesday.

Lynda LaCasse told The Washington Post in a text message that while she lived near Tara Reade in 1995 and 1996, Reade told her that “Joe Biden sexually assaulted her.”

  • Washington Post, Opinion: The new Tara Reade revelations make it imperative that Biden address the allegations, Ruth Marcus, April 30, 2020 (print ed.).

Daily Kos, Opinion: Biden Accuser Reade's Allegations Match Scene from Dead Father's Novel, DoctorWho, April 30, 2020. Yes, that’s right. In just another twist from the You-Can’t-Make-This-Sh*t-Up, 2020 Edition, late last night it was discovered that Tara Reade’s late father, Robert Moulton, wrote a novel in 2010 1998. Moulton’s obituary can be found here:

Robert Moulton, sports writer for the Wausau Daily Herald during the 1960s, died at his home in Newhall, California, on February 29, 2016, at age eighty after several months of declining health. He is survived by his children, Kimberly, Diane, Collin Reade and Tara.

The novel, ‘Loss,’ listed on Amazon and Google Books, contains a scene, which bears uncanny similarity to her allegation against Joe Biden:

“After several weeks of flirting with him she spent the night in his room on Bleeker Street next door to the Russian strip joint...” — actually I will stop there as the scene gets pretty adult and would not be appropriate for a diary IMO. You can see the highlighted text at this twitter thread for more info.

Major media has practically run away from giving these allegations air time and it’s clear why: every time someone does some digging, her story falls apart. Nevertheless toxic elements in our party have continued to try and breathe life into this disaster of a story.

Following the same pattern as the ‘mental decline’ narrative which went from ‘Biden has dementia’, to ‘well maybe not dementia but he’s old/frail/something’s not right’, to ‘people are talking about it, so maybe there’s something there,’ to ‘it may not be true but he should just address it,’ the Reade narrative is playing out just the same way.

It’s like a 12-step program for disinformation, the goal being to keep the narrative in the ether as long as possible even if it’s just to create doubt. Even if under the guise of being pro-active.

But just like the mental decline narrative, the Reade story has failed. Instead it’s backfiring on the few who are trying to give it new life. Like a hand grenade being desperately lobbied across the field and blowing up as the needle’s pulled every time. But this isn’t backfiring on Trump and the Republicans. It’s backfiring on *us*. It’s undermining our credibility on the left since ‘the calls are coming from inside the house’. The overwhelming memes and social media posts I see are from those purporting to be left.

It’s just another message to the base of our party that the lessons of 2016 were not learned.

Reade pilfered her dead father’s work for her allegations against a presidential candidate. That’s about as low as one can get IMO. There’s nothing for Biden or anyone to address, except Reade. Her 15 minutes are done.

Those of us who feel compelled to hand wring over this trainwreck should ignore the toxic, dare I say infectious, fumes on social media. Learn the lessons of 2016. The overwhelming majority of America is focused on who can best lead us to a life free of fearing our next day may be our last, not a Ryan Murphy-esque political intrigue best left for a Netflix binge with box wine.

Edit: Off to bed, so won’t reply for some time. Be safe everyone. Practice Social (Media) Distancing.

Edit Part II: So your arms are crossed and you’re looking over glasses professorially and going ‘well that’s not much to go on, hrmm.’ Then feel free to check out Ian’s diary with the legal/prosecutorial takedown in USAToday. That’s the thing with this fiasco, there are so many angles you can dismantle depending on your evidence-based bias you can have a field day. There’s Russia/Putin, there’s legal/prosecutorial claim, there’s this dead father, um, situation, there’s the, um, horse vet thing… take your pick.

usa today logoUSA Today, Opinion: Why I'm skeptical about Reade's sexual assault claim against Biden: Ex-prosecutor, Michael J. Stern, April 30, 2020 (print ed.). If we must blindly accept every allegation of sexual assault, the #MeToo movement is just a hit squad. And it's too important to be no more than that.

During 28 years as a state and federal prosecutor, I prosecuted a lot of sexual assault cases. The vast majority came early in my career, when I was a young attorney at a prosecutor’s office outside Detroit.

A year ago, Tara Reade accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching her shoulder and neck in a way that made her uncomfortable, when she worked for him as a staff assistant in 1993. Then last month, Reade told an interviewer that Biden stuck his hand under her skirt and forcibly penetrated her with his fingers. Biden denies the allegation.

When women make allegations of sexual assault, my default response is to believe them. But as the news media have investigated Reade’s allegations, I’ve become increasingly skeptical. Here are some of the reasons why:

► Delayed reporting … twice. Reade waited 27 years to publicly report her allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her. I understand that victims of sexual assault often do not come forward immediately because recounting the most violent and degrading experience of their lives, to a bunch of strangers, is the proverbial insult to injury. That so many women were willing to wait in my dreary government office, as I ran to the restroom to pull myself together after listening to their stories, is a testament to their fortitude.

Even so, it is reasonable to consider a 27-year reporting delay when assessing the believability of any criminal allegation. More significant perhaps, is Reade’s decision to sit down with a newspaper last year and accuse Biden of touching her in a sexual way that made her uncomfortable — but neglect to mention her claim that he forcibly penetrated her with his fingers.

As a lawyer and victims’ rights advocate, Reade was better equipped than most to appreciate that dramatic changes in sexual assault allegations severely undercut an accuser’s credibility — especially when the change is from an uncomfortable shoulder touch to vaginal penetration.

► Implausible explanation for changing story. When Reade went public with her sexual assault allegation in March, she said she wanted to do it in an interview with The Union newspaper in California last April. She said the reporter’s tone made her feel uncomfortable and "I just really got shut down” and didn't tell the whole story.

It is hard to believe a reporter would discourage this kind of scoop. Regardless, it's also hard to accept that it took Reade 12 months to find another reporter eager to break that bombshell story. This unlikely explanation damages her credibility.

► People who contradict Reade’s claim. After the alleged assault, Reade said she complained about Biden's harassment to Marianne Baker, Biden’s executive assistant, as well as to top aides Dennis Toner and Ted Kaufman. All three Biden staffers recently told The New York Times that she made no complaint to them.

And they did not offer the standard, noncommittal “I don’t remember any such complaint.” The denials were firm. “She did not come to me. If she had, I would have remembered her,” Kaufman said. Toner made a similar statement. And from Baker: “I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct (by Biden), period." Baker said such a complaint, had Reade made it, "would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on March 12, 2020.

► Missing formal complaint. Reade told The Times she filed a written complaint against Biden with the Senate personnel office. But The Times could not find any complaint. When The Times asked Reade for a copy of the complaint, she said she did not have it. Yet she maintained and provided a copy of her 1993 Senate employment records.

It is odd that Reade kept a copy of her employment records but did not keep a copy of a complaint documenting criminal conduct by a man whose improprieties changed “the trajectory” of her life. It’s equally odd The Times was unable to find a copy of the alleged Senate complaint.

► Memory lapse. Reade has said that she cannot remember the date, time or exact location of the alleged assault, except that it occurred in a “semiprivate” area in corridors connecting Senate buildings. After I left the Justice Department, I was appointed by the federal court in Los Angeles to represent indigent defendants. The first thing that comes to mind from my defense attorney perspective is that Reade’s amnesia about specifics makes it impossible for Biden to go through records and prove he could not have committed the assault, because he was somewhere else at the time.

For instance, if Reade alleged Biden assaulted her on the afternoon of June 3, 1993, Biden might be able to prove he was on the Senate floor or at the dentist. Her memory lapses could easily be perceived as bulletproofing a false allegation.

► The lie about losing her job. Reade told The Union that Biden wanted her to serve drinks at an event. After she refused, "she felt pushed out and left Biden's employ," the newspaper said last April. But Reade claimed this month in her Times interview that after she filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate personnel office, she faced retaliation and was fired by Biden’s chief of staff.

Leaving a job after refusing to serve drinks at a Biden fundraiser is vastly different than being fired as retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate. The disparity raises questions about Reade’s credibility and account of events.

► Compliments for Biden. In the 1990s, Biden worked to pass the Violence Against Women Act. In 2017, on multiple occasions, Reade retweeted or “liked” praise for Biden and his work combating sexual assault. In the same year, Reade tweeted other compliments of Biden, including: “My old boss speaks truth. Listen.” It is bizarre that Reade would publicly laud Biden for combating the very thing she would later accuse him of doing to her.

► Rejecting Biden, embracing Sanders. By this January, Reade was all in for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Her unwavering support was accompanied by an unbridled attack on Biden. In an article on Medium, Reade referred to Biden as “the blue version of Trump.” Reade also pushed a Sanders/Elizabeth Warren ticket, while complaining that the Democratic National Committee was trying to “shove” Biden “down Democrat voters throats.”

Despite her effusive 2017 praise for Biden’s efforts on behalf of women, after pledging her support to Sanders, Reade turned on Biden and contradicted all she said before. She claimed that her decision to publicly accuse Biden of inappropriately touching her was due to “the hypocrisy that Biden is supposed to be the champion of women’s rights.”

► Love of Russia and Putin. During 2017 when Reade was praising Biden, she was condemning Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s efforts to hijack American democracy in the 2016 election. This changed in November 2018, when Reade trashed the United States as a country of “hypocrisy and imperialism” and “not a democracy at all but a corporate autocracy.”

Reade’s distaste for America closely tracked her new infatuation with Russia and Putin. She referred to Putin as a “genius” with an athletic prowess that “is intoxicating to American women.” Then there’s this gem: “President Putin has an alluring combination of strength with gentleness. His sensuous image projects his love for life, the embodiment of grace while facing adversity.”

In March 2019, Reade essentially dismissed the idea of Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election as hype. She said she loved Russia and her Russian relatives — and "like most women across the world, I like President Putin … a lot, his shirt on or shirt off.”

Pivoting again this month, Reade said that she “did not support Putin, and that her comments were pulled out of context from a novel she was writing,” according to The Times. The quotations above, however, are from political opinion pieces she published, and she did not offer any other "context" to The Times.

Reade's writings shed light on her political alliance with Sanders, who has a long history of ties to Russia and whose stump speech is focused largely on his position that American inequality is due to a corporate autocracy. But at a very minimum, Reade's wild shifts in political ideology and her sexual infatuation with a brutal dictator of a foreign adversary raise questions about her emotional stability.

► Suspect timing. For 27 years, Reade did not publicly accuse Biden of sexually assaulting her. But then Biden's string of March primary victories threw Sanders off his seemingly unstoppable path to the Democratic nomination. On March 25, as Sanders was pondering his political future, Reade finally went public with her claim. The confluence of Reade’s support of Sanders, distaste for the traditional American democracy epitomized by Biden, and the timing of her allegation should give pause to even the most strident Biden critics.

► The Larry King call. Last week, new "evidence" surfaced: a recorded call by an anonymous woman to CNN's "Larry King Live" show in 1993. Reade says the caller was her mother, who's now deceased. Assuming Reade is correct, her mother said: "I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him."

As a prosecutor, this would not make me happy. Given that the call was anonymous, Reade’s mother should have felt comfortable relaying the worst version of events. When trying to obtain someone’s assistance, people typically do not downplay the seriousness of an incident. They exaggerate it. That Reade’s mother said nothing about her daughter being sexually assaulted would lead many reasonable people to conclude that sexual assault was not the problem that prompted the call to King.

The "out of respect" explanation sounds more like an office squabble with staff that resulted in leaving the job. Indeed, in last year's interview with The Washington Post, Reade laid the blame on Biden’s staff for “bullying” her. She also said, “I want to emphasize: It’s not him. It’s the people around him.”

► Statements to others. Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, told The Post recently that he remembers Reade telling him Biden inappropriately touched her neck and shoulders. He said nothing about a sexual assault until a few days later, when he texted The Post that he remembered Reade saying Biden put his hand "under her clothes.”

That Reade’s brother neglected to remember the most important part of her allegation initially could lead people to believe he recounted his Post interview to Reade, was told he left out the most important part, and texted it to The Post to avoid a discussion about why he failed to mention it in the first place.

In interviews with The Times, one friend of Reade’s said Reade told her she was sexually assaulted by Biden. Another friend said Reade told her that Biden touched her inappropriately. Both friends insisted that The Times maintain their anonymity.

On Monday, Business Insider published an interview with a friend of Reade’s who said that in 1995 or 1996, Reade told her she was assaulted by Biden. Insider called this friend, Lynda LaCasse, the “first person to independently corroborate, in detail and on the record, that Reade had told others about her assault allegations contemporaneously.”

But Reade alleged she was assaulted in 1993. Telling a friend two or three years later is not contemporaneous. Legal references to a contemporaneous recounting typically refer to hours or days — the point being that facts are still fresh in a person's mind and the statement is more likely to be accurate.

The Insider also quoted a colleague of Reade’s in the mid-1990s, Lorraine Sanchez, who said Reade told her she had been sexually harassed by a former boss. Reade did not mention Biden by name and did not provide details of the alleged harassment.

In prior interviews, Reade gave what appeared be an exhaustive list of people she told of the alleged assault. Neither of the women who talked to Business Insider were on that list.

The problem with statements from friends is that the information they recount is only as good as the information given to them. Let’s say Reade left her job because she was angry about being asked to serve drinks or because she was fired for a legitimate reason. If she tried to save face by telling friends that she left because she was sexually assaulted, that’s all her friends would know and all they could repeat.

Prior statements made by a sexual assault victim can carry some weight, but only if the accuser is credible. In Reade’s case, the statements coming from her friends are only of value if people believe Reade can be relied on to tell the truth, regardless of the light in which it paints her.

► Lack of other sexual assault allegations. Last year, several women claimed that Biden made them uncomfortable with things like a shoulder touch or a hug. (I wrote a column critical of one such allegation by Lucy Flores.) The Times and Post found no allegation of sexual assault against Biden except Reade's.

It is possible that in his 77 years, Biden committed one sexual assault and it was against Reade. But in my experience, men who commit a sexual assault are accused more than once ... like Donald Trump, who has had more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault leveled against him and who was recorded bragging about grabbing women’s genitalia.

► What remains. There are no third-party eyewitnesses or videos to support Tara Reade’s allegation that she was assaulted by Joe Biden. No one but Reade and Biden know whether an assault occurred. This is typical of sexual assault allegations. Jurors, in this case the voting public, have to consider the facts and circumstances to assess whether Reade’s allegation is credible. To do that, they have to determine whether Reade herself is believable.

I’ve dreaded writing this piece because I do not want it to be used as a guidebook to dismantling legitimate allegations of sexual assault. But not every claim of sexual assault is legitimate. During almost three decades as a prosecutor, I can remember dismissing two cases because I felt the defendant had not committed the charged crime. One of those cases was a rape charge.

The facts of that case made me question the credibility of the woman who claimed she was raped. In the end, she acknowledged that she fabricated the allegation after her boyfriend caught her with a man with whom she was having an affair.

I know that “Believe Women” is the mantra of the new decade. It is a response to a century of ignoring and excusing men’s sexual assaults against women. But men and women alike should not be forced to blindly accept every allegation of sexual assault for fear of being labeled a misogynist or enabler.

We can support the #MeToo movement and not support allegations of sexual assault that do not ring true. If these two positions cannot coexist, the movement is no more than a hit squad. That’s not how I see the #MeToo movement. It’s too important, for too many victims of sexual assault and their allies, to be no more than that.

Michael J. Stern, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, was a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles.

U.S. Non-Profits, Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Critic’s Notebook: This is how bad things are for museums -- They now have a green light to sell off their art, Sebastian Smee, April 30, 2020. In an unprecedented move, museum association relaxes guidelines, giving financial flexibility in uncertain times.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes completely berserk about Brian Williams of all people, Bill Palmer, April 30, 2020.  Donald Trump is having a really agitated night tonight, to say the least. Roger Stone is set to report to prison tomorrow, and bill palmer report logo headerTrump has to make the no-win decision of pardoning Stone and handing the Democrats an easy talking point for the election, or not pardoning Stone and running the risk that Stone finally unearths all that dirt he’s been collecting on Trump.

We’ve already seen Donald Trump post numerous increasingly bizarre right wing conspiracy theory articles about how traitor and confessed felon Michael Flynn is somehow an innocent victim in all this. This has led to questions about whether Trump might be planning to pardon Michael Flynn and Roger Stone both tonight. In any case, Trump is now ranting about Brian Williams of all people.

Trump just tweeted “Lyin’ Brian Williams of MSDNC, a Concast Scam Company, wouldn’t know the truth if it was nailed to his wooden forehead.” Yeah, we’re not even sure to start with that. The “Concast” joke never will be clever no matter how many times Trump uses it, and “MSDNC” sounds like Trump got confused while trying to order a McDLT. Trump isn’t exactly having a fun night.

April 29

Public Health Top Headlines

Inside DC

Virus Victims, Relief

World News

 

Public Health Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: U.S. Economy Shrank at Fastest Rate in a Decade, With Worse to Come, Staff reports, April 29, 2020. The U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter, the biggest contraction since the 2008 financial crisis.

Things will get much worse. Widespread layoffs and business closings didn’t happen until late March, or the very end of the last quarter, in most of the country. Economists expect figures from the current quarter, which will capture the shutdown’s impact more fully, to show that G.D.P. contracted at an annual rate of 30 percent or more.

Officially, more than 53,000 people died in the U.S., according to The Times’s count, but death rates suggest the true toll is higher.

Louisiana’s governor planned to press President Trump on testing after he extended the hard-hit state’s stay-at-home order. Here’s the latest:

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci called one study of an experimental virus drug, remdesivir, “very optimistic,” even as another study found no benefit to severely ill patients.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: The U.S. surpasses 1 million known coronavirus cases, Staff reports, April 29, 2020 (print ed.). Trump Seeks to Reopen Meat Plants; School officials balk at calls for returning to classrooms this spring. The number of known U.S. cases passed 1 million. Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic without a face mask.

The United States on Tuesday surpassed one million known coronavirus cases, showing how an outbreak that began with a small trickle of cases in January has exploded into a national crisis.

The bleak milestone was yet another sign of how the virus has upended life in America, taking lives, destroying families, spreading through meat plants, prisons and nursing homes, forcing businesses and schools to close, and causing more than 26 million people to lose their jobs in the past five weeks.

At the White House, Mr. Trump was asked Tuesday about his remark in February that the number of cases in the United States would go down to “close to zero.” He responded, “It will go down to zero, ultimately,” and described the high number of confirmed cases as a result of increased testing.

The true number of infections is much higher. The one million figure does not include untold thousands of Americans who contracted the virus but were not tested, either because they did not show symptoms or because of a persistent national testing shortage.

Some disease researchers have estimated that the true number of infections may be about 10 times the known number, and preliminary testing of how many people have antibodies to the virus seems to support that view.

But as the country’s death toll, now more than 50,000, continues to grow and as the economic fallout continues to mount, the benchmark of one million cases helped show the human suffering.

Here’s what you need to know:

• A mask for thee, but not for me: Pence declines a face covering at the Mayo Clinic.
• Many U.S. citizens married to undocumented immigrants are ineligible for federal relief funds.
• Ready to shop? A big mall operator is planning to reopen shopping centers.
• Administration officials tell a House committee that the country still lacks supplies to fight the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live U.S. Virus Updates: U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, the biggest decline since the Great Recession, Heather Long, April 29, 2020. The worst is yet to come, many analysts say. The second quarter is likely to show a decline of 30 percent -- or more. Boeing to slash more than 10,000 jobs as losses from pandemic, 737 Max grounding continue to pile up.

djt council to reopen america fox

washington post logoWashington Post, Push to reopen economy runs up against wary workers and consumers, David J. Lynch and Abha Bhattarai, April 29, 2020. Preparations in several states collided with the reality that persuading employees and shoppers to resume their roles powering the U.S. economy may prove difficult.

Plans for a swift reopening of malls, factories and other businesses accelerated Tuesday, but they quickly collided with the reality that persuading workers and consumers to overlook their coronavirus fears and resume their roles in powering the U.S. economy may prove difficult.

President Trump on Tuesday evening issued an executive order that gives the federal government broad powers to ensure that meat and poultry processing plants remain open during the pandemic. The move, designed to avert widespread food shortages, came after the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence had plunged to its lowest mark in six years.

In the absence of a federal mandate, states are adopting varying approaches to the speed and pace of their commercial revivals. During a White House meeting with Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he would make an announcement Wednesday on his state’s reopening plans.

washington post logoWashington Post, City and state layoffs begin, threatening health, education, safety and sanitation, Tony Romm, April 29, 2020. Local governments have started laying off or furloughing thousands of workers. The numbers are likely to grow in the absence of federal aid. Millions of municipal workers could find themselves out of a job or without pay, according to local leaders, who say programs would fall into disarray unless Washington intervenes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Trump and His Team Covered Up the Coronavirus in Five Days, Ryan Goodman and Danielle Schulkin (Ryan Goodman, editor in chief of Just Security, is a professor at New York University School of Law, where Danielle Schulkin is a third-year student), just security logoApril 29, 2020 (print ed.). The president and senior officials manipulated Americans and played down the severity of the pandemic.

The strongest critics of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic point to its flat-footedness and the consequences of time lost.

But the full account looks worse. Over the last five days of February, President Trump and senior officials did something more sinister: They engaged in a cover-up.

A look at this window of time gives insight into how several members of the president’s team were willing to manipulate Americans even when so many lives were at stake.

The recent reports that the president wanted to fire the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s top expert on viral respiratory diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, during this period helps put the pieces of the puzzle together.

What was her offense to the president?

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)In a conference call with reporters on the final Tuesday of the month, Dr. Messonnier spoke frankly. “We want to make sure the American public is prepared,” she said, then put it in personal terms by saying what she told her children that morning: “We as a family ought to be preparing for significant disruption to our lives.”

At the time, senior officials knew the coronavirus was an extreme threat to Americans. Thanks to information streaming in from U.S. intelligence agencies for months, officials reportedly believed that a “cataclysmic” disease could infect 100 million Americans and discussed lockdown plans. The warnings were given to Mr. Trump in his daily brief by the intelligence community; in calls from Alex Azar, the secretary of health; and in memos from his economic adviser Peter Navarro.

The same day that Dr. Messonnier spoke, the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence raised the warning level inside the government to WATCHCON1, concluding that the coronavirus was imminently likely to develop into a full-blown pandemic.

But the White House did not want the American public to know.

The president’s stated concerns were specific. He didn’t want to upset the markets or China during trade talks, and it appears he may have also simply been in denial, counting on his personal hunches and luck.

ny times logoNew York Times, Letter to the Editor on 'Grim Milestones': U.S. Deaths in the Pandemic and in Vietnam, April 29, 2020 (print ed.).

To the Editor:

In the next day or two, we will encounter a terrible coincidence. The American death toll from Covid-19 will surpass the total number of Americans killed in Vietnam, officially listed as 58,220. This Thursday also marks the 45th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the ignominious end to our war in Vietnam. I remember that day since I was a New York Times correspondent in Saigon at the time and was evacuated by helicopter.

It now seems likely that these two great tragedies will be linked by something fundamental about presidential leadership. The historical record shows that Lyndon Johnson decided to commit U.S. forces in Vietnam even though he had been warned that the war was not winnable, and Richard Nixon continued the bombing there despite similar advice against it.

Donald Trump ignored warnings from his own intelligence agencies about the coronavirus months ago and did little to prepare the country.

Johnson and Nixon both tried to overpower facts by bending them to their will. Now Donald Trump has chosen to go down the same fateful road with oddly synchronous numbers of deaths so far.

Fox Butterfield
Portland, Ore.

The writer was a Times correspondent in Saigon from 1971 to 1973 and again in 1975. He was also a member of the paper’s team that wrote “The Pentagon Papers” series.

washington post logoWashington Post, $500 billion bailout plan for large companies has no requirements to preserve jobs or limit executive pay, Jeff Stein and Peter Whoriskey, April 29, 2020 (print ed.). The Federal Reserve’s coronavirus aid program lacks restrictions Congress placed on companies seeking financial help under other programs.

federal reserve system CustomA Federal Reserve program expected to begin within weeks will provide hundreds of billions in emergency aid to large American corporations without requiring them to save jobs or limit payments to executives and shareholders.

Under the program, the central bank will buy up to $500 billion in bonds issued by large companies. The companies will use the influx of cash as a financial lifeline but are required to pay it back with interest.

Unlike other portions of the relief for American business, however, this aid will be exempt from rules passed by Congress *requiring recipients to limit dividends, executive compensation and stock buybacks and does not direct the companies to maintain certain employment levels.

Critics say the program could allow large companies that take the federal help to reward shareholders and executives without saving any jobs. The program was set up jointly by the Federal Reserve and the Department of Treasury.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some businesses won’t return funds despite pressure from Trump administration, Jeanne Whalen, Aaron Gregg and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, April 29, 2020 (print ed.). Resistance comes days after the Small Business Administration said publicly traded companies weren’t the intended targets of Paycheck Protection Program.

djt march 2020 Custom

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court takes up Trump border wall and Donald McGahn subpoena cases, Ann E. Marimow and Spencer S. Hsu, April 29, 2020 (print ed.). Throughout a three-hour teleconference, judges raised concerns about cutting off the courts to Congress to check presidential power as the full D.C. appeals court considered the separation-of-powers disputes between House Democrats and the president.

A federal appeals court in Washington expressed skepticism Tuesday about the Trump administration’s claim that Congress can never go to court to enforce its oversight and spending powers in a pair of historic disputes between House Democrats and the president.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was considering two separation-of-powers cases over a House subpoena for former White House counsel Donald McGahn and its power to limit federal government spending on the president’s signature southern border wall project.

Throughout the three-hour teleconference argument, judges raised concerns about whether cutting off the courts to Congress would remove any incentive for future presidents to cooperate or negotiate with lawmakers trying to check executive power.

Justice Department attorney Hashim Mooppan urged the judges to stay out of “this political tug-of-war” that he said “risks damaging public confidence in the impartiality” of the court. A decision in the House’s favor, he said, would open the floodgates, allowing lawmakers to “come in and sue every time the executive branch exceeded its authority.”

Several judges suggested there were no limits to the Trump administration’s argument. If a president abused his powers, Judge Judith W. Rogers asked, does the Justice Department’s position mean “there’s nothing that can be done until the next presidential election other than revolution?”

House General Counsel Douglas Letter asked the judges not to “close the courtroom doors” to lawmakers who are trying to preserve their constitutional oversight and spending authority and to “help prevent the executive from becoming a monarch.”

Underscoring the significance of the cases, the court was sitting with a complement of nine judges instead of the usual three-judge panel. The consolidated arguments were held by teleconference as the court’s doors have been largely closed to the public since mid-March because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The full appeals court agreed last month to reconsider the dismissal of the two lawsuits brought by House Democrats, marking a temporary victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The decisions will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court.

djt doesnt listen

Meme of Donald Trump (not published by New York Times)

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump’s Response to Virus Reflects a Long Disregard for Science, Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, April 29, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump, critics say, has diminished the conclusions of scientists in formulating policy.

At a March visit with doctors and researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health agency at the heart of the fight against the coronavirus, President Trump spoke words of praise for the scientific acumen in the building — particularly his own.

“Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability,” Mr. Trump said.

It was a striking boast, even amid a grave health crisis in which Mr. Trump has repeatedly contradicted medical experts in favor of his own judgment. But a disregard for scientific advice has been a defining characteristic of Mr. Trump’s administration.

As the nation confronts one of its worst public health disasters in generations, a moment that demands a leader willing to marshal the full might of the American scientific establishment, the White House is occupied by a president whose administration, critics say, has diminished the conclusions of scientists in formulating policy, who personally harbors a suspicion of expert knowledge, and who often puts his political instincts ahead of the facts.

“Donald Trump is the most anti-science and anti-environment president we’ve ever had,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. The president’s actions, he said, have eroded one of the United States’s most enviable assets: the government’s deep scientific expertise, built over decades. “It’s extraordinarily crazy and reckless,” he said.

 Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Baseless allegations against Biden have roots in an early family tragedy, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, April 29, 2020. Dubious allegations of sexual assault brought against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by an individual with a jaded background named Tara wayne madesen report logoReade appear to be part of a longstanding Republican dirty tricks operation aimed at the former vice president and Delaware senator.

Reade, who has claimed a sexual attraction to Russian President Vladimir Putin, alleges that Biden penetrated her with his finger in 1993, while she worked as an aide to then-Senator Biden. She also alleges that she was fired by Biden for refusing to serve drinks at a reception, one routine task, among many others, often expected of congressional staffers.

The appearance of Reade on the scene after Biden announced his presidential candidacy last year fits a pattern of other dirty political tricks that have the trademark signature of convicted Trump friend and associate Roger Stone. In 1972, Stone worked in the Richard Nixon presidential campaign as one of Donald Segretti's political tricks operatives and was active in trying to tarnish Democratic candidates Edmund Muskie and Hubert Humphrey. Stone's operations were exposed by investigative journalist Jack Anderson.

Virus Victims, Relief

 ny times logoNew York Times, De Blasio Breaks Up Rabbi’s Funeral and Lashes Out Over Social Distancing, Liam Stack, April 29, 2020. After overseeing the dispersal of hundreds of Hasidic mourners in Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the gathering “absolutely unacceptable.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio lashed out at Hasidic residents of the Williamsburg section in Brooklyn late Tuesday night after personally overseeing the dispersal of a crowd of hundreds of mourners who had gathered for the funeral of a rabbi who died of the coronavirus.

bill de blasio 11 2 2013In a series of posts on Twitter, Mr. de Blasio denounced the gathering, which the police broke up, and warned “the Jewish community, and all communities” that any violation of the social-distancing guidelines in place to stop the spread of the virus could lead to a summons or an arrest.

“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” the mayor said in one post. “When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”

The authorities have dispersed several well-attended religious gatherings since restrictions on such events were enacted in the face of the outbreak. The events that were broken up included weddings and funerals in New York neighborhoods with large Jewish populations.

But the episode on Tuesday, which, according to Yeshiva World, involved the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, appeared to be the first time the mayor had directly participated in a dispersal.

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” Mr. de Blasio said in another post. “I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Who’s Profiting From the Coronavirus Crisis? William D. Cohan (former investment banker and the author of four books about Wall Street), April 29, 2020. Amid an economic catastrophe, a few billionaires are still winning.

ny times logoNew York Times, Boeing, Expecting a Long Slump, Will Cut 16,000 Jobs, Niraj Chokshi, April 29, 2020. The company, which saw sales plunge in the first quarter, said air travel might not recover for years.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Brazil’s supreme court authorizes investigation of Bolsonaro, Marina Lopes, April 29, 2020 (print ed.). 2020. Before resigning last week, Justice Minister Sérgio Moro accused the president of firing the country’s top police chief in an effort to hamper police investigations into his supporters and gain access to classified information.

Jair Bolsonaro brazilThe 60-day investigation, approved Monday by Supreme Federal Court Justice José Celso de Mello Filho, plunges Brazil into a new political crisis as the country struggles to contain Latin America’s largest coronavirus outbreak.

Brazil’s popular justice minister, Sérgio Moro, resigned last week after saying Jair Bolsonaro, right, had fired the country’s top police commander to hinder investigations of his supporters and gain access to classified information.

“The president emphasized to me, explicitly, more than once, that he wanted someone who was a personal contact, whom he could call, from whom he could get information, intelligence reports,” Moro said.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Pandemic Shakes France’s Faith in a Cornerstone: Strong Central Government, Norimitsu Onishi and Constant Méheut, April 29, 2020. Local governments are challenging the primacy of the centralized state after it allowed supplies of virus-fighting masks and test kits to be depleted.

While France’s vaunted health care system has staved off disaster, France has suffered the world’s fourth-biggest death toll — now at 23,660 official deaths, behind the United States, Italy and Spain — a consequence, critics say, of the central government’s failure to anticipate the onslaught of the contagion.

That failure and a critical shortage of masks and testing kits — also resulting from gaps in state policies — led to the virus’s rapid early spread, prompting France to impose one of the word’s strictest nationwide lockdowns, now in its seventh week.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced a tentative plan on Monday to gradually reopen the country starting on May 11. Schools and businesses would start reopening, though not restaurants or cafes. He urged companies to keep their employees working at home. And he promised that masks and testing would be made sufficiently available.

But it was not clear that those steps would halt what polls show is declining confidence in the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Roger Stone WikiLeaks conspiracy just took a remarkably ugly turn involving Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2020. Roger Stone is scheduled to report to prison in just a few days, unless Donald Trump is stupid enough to pardon him first, which would hand the Democrats a compelling talking point in the 2020 election about how Trump is a criminal. Even as we wait to see what Trump does, the whole thing just got a lot more complicated.

bill palmer report logo headerIt was always fairly clear that Robert Mueller was only able to charge Roger Stone for a fraction of his crimes, before Bill Barr managed to shut Mueller down. Accordingly, multiple major news outlets went to court to obtain the search warrants in the Stone case, and today they succeeded. Sure enough, there was a whole lot more going on with Stone than what he was charged with.

The search warrants reveal that Roger Stone and Julian Assange were communicating in 2017, after the election. Stone assured Assange that if he was pursued by Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, Stone would “bring down the entire house of cards” by taking it to the “highest level of government.” Stone is clearly referring to his closest friend Donald Trump; the only question is whether Stone really was communicating with Trump about this, or if Stone was bluffing.

Either way, these warrants reveal that Roger Stone isn’t just some guy who lied under oath and then tried to intimidate the witnesses against him. He’s a guy who was conspiring with an international cyberterrorist against the United States. This makes it a lot harder for Donald Trump to sell the notion of pardoning Stone, because the blowback would be tremendous.

On the other hand, if Roger Stone has dirt tying Donald Trump to Julian Assange, then Trump has to worry about Stone leaking it if Trump doesn’t pardon him. Trump is now in a rather complicated no-win situation, with just days to decide whether to pardon Stone or let him report to prison. These search warrants also make clear that Attorney General Bill Barr committed felony obstruction of justice when he forced Mueller off the job before Stone could be charged with the rest of his crimes. Barr is going to end up needing a pardon of his own, or he’ll end up in prison as well.

April 28

Public Health Top Headlines

U.S. 2020 Elections 2020

More On Assault Claim Against Biden

Inside DC

Virus Victims

U.S. Media News

U.S. Pandemic Politics

World News

 

Public Health Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: The U.S. surpasses 1 million known coronavirus cases, Staff reports, April 28, 2020. Trump Seeks to Reopen Meat Plants; School officials balk at calls for returning to classrooms this spring. The number of known U.S. cases passed 1 million. Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic without a face mask.

The United States on Tuesday surpassed one million known coronavirus cases, showing how an outbreak that began with a small trickle of cases in January has exploded into a national crisis.

The bleak milestone was yet another sign of how the virus has upended life in America, taking lives, destroying families, spreading through meat plants, prisons and nursing homes, forcing businesses and schools to close, and causing more than 26 million people to lose their jobs in the past five weeks.

At the White House, Mr. Trump was asked Tuesday about his remark in February that the number of cases in the United States would go down to “close to zero.” He responded, “It will go down to zero, ultimately,” and described the high number of confirmed cases as a result of increased testing.

The true number of infections is much higher. The one million figure does not include untold thousands of Americans who contracted the virus but were not tested, either because they did not show symptoms or because of a persistent national testing shortage.

Some disease researchers have estimated that the true number of infections may be about 10 times the known number, and preliminary testing of how many people have antibodies to the virus seems to support that view.

But as the country’s death toll, now more than 50,000, continues to grow and as the economic fallout continues to mount, the benchmark of one million cases helped show the human suffering.

Here’s what you need to know:

• A mask for thee, but not for me: Pence declines a face covering at the Mayo Clinic.
• Many U.S. citizens married to undocumented immigrants are ineligible for federal relief funds.
• Ready to shop? A big mall operator is planning to reopen shopping centers.
• Administration officials tell a House committee that the country still lacks supplies to fight the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 1 million; House leaders abandon plans to return to Washington next week, Staff reports, April 28, 2020. Trump says he will sign executive order to address ‘liability problems’ in food supply chain; Scientists know ways to help stop viruses from spreading on airplanes. They’re too late for this pandemic.

U.S. House logoThe U.S. and its territories have surpassed 1 million coronavirus cases, according to figures compiled by The Post. The count represents nearly one-third of the world’s reported covid-19 cases and includes more than 57,000 deaths since February, though experts call those numbers an underestimation.

Leaders of the Democratic-controlled House abandoned plans to return to Washington next week, less than 24 hours after members were told to prepare to meet, while the Republican-led Senate reiterated plans to return.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Patients with certain cancers are nearly three times more likely to die of covid-19 than non-cancer patients, according to a new study.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added six new symptoms, including sore throat and loss of sense of smell, suggesting that health experts are learning more about how the virus affects patients.
  • New Zealand’s month-long lockdown ended Tuesday, after officials said they had almost entirely eradicated the coronavirus. Russia extended its nonworking period until May 11 and announced a record 6,411 new cases Tuesday.
  • Britain’s health authority warned physicians about an apparent rise in the number of children with “a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care” that may be related to covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, $500 billion bailout plan for large companies has no requirements to preserve jobs or limit executive pay, Jeff Stein and Peter Whoriskey, April 28, 2020. The Federal Reserve’s coronavirus aid program lacks restrictions Congress placed on companies seeking financial help under other programs.

federal reserve system CustomA Federal Reserve program expected to begin within weeks will provide hundreds of billions in emergency aid to large American corporations without requiring them to save jobs or limit payments to executives and shareholders.

Under the program, the central bank will buy up to $500 billion in bonds issued by large companies. The companies will use the influx of cash as a financial lifeline but are required to pay it back with interest.

Unlike other portions of the relief for American business, however, this aid will be exempt from rules passed by Congress requiring recipients to limit dividends, executive compensation and stock buybacks and does not direct the companies to maintain certain employment levels.

Critics say the program could allow large companies that take the federal help to reward shareholders and executives without saving any jobs. The program was set up jointly by the Federal Reserve and the Department of Treasury.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some businesses won’t return funds despite pressure from Trump administration, Jeanne Whalen, Aaron Gregg and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, April 28, 2020. Resistance comes days after the Small Business Administration said publicly traded companies weren’t the intended targets of Paycheck Protection Program.

djt march 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump puts partisan spin on state aid, Democrats and some in GOP warn of financial calamity, Toluse Olorunnipa, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has pushed the idea that a federal aid package would largely benefit fiscally irresponsible states run by Democrats. It’s the latest attempt by the president to cast a partisan frame around a crisis that has ravaged much of the country with little regard for political affiliation.

washington post logoWashington Post, President’s intelligence briefing book repeatedly cited virus threat in January and February, Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). The daily report traced the virus’s spread around the globe and made clear that China was suppressing information. But the alarms appear to have failed to register with President Trump, who routinely skips reading the briefing.

U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in CIA LogoJanuary and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats.

For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.

But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus U.S. Updates: U.S. deaths soared in early weeks of pandemic, exceeding number attributed to covid-19, Emma covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Brown, Andrew Ba Tran, Beth Reinhard and Monica Ulmanu, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). An analysis of federal data for the first time estimates excess deaths -- the number beyond what would normally be expected -- during that period.

In the early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, the United States recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths, nearly two times as many as were publicly attributed to covid-19 at the time, according to an analysis of federal data conducted for The Washington Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health.

The excess deaths — the number beyond what would normally be expected for that time of year — occurred during March and through April 4, a time when 8,128 coronavirus deaths were reported.

The excess deaths are not necessarily attributable directly to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. They could include people who died because of the epidemic but not from the disease, such as those who were afraid to seek medical treatment for unrelated illnesses, as well as some number of deaths that are part of the ordinary variation in the death rate. The count is also affected by increases or decreases in other categories of deaths, such as suicides, homicides and motor vehicle accidents.

But in any pandemic, higher-than-normal mortality is a starting point for scientists seeking to understand the full impact of the disease.

The Yale analysis for the first time estimates excess deaths, both nationally and in each state, in those five weeks. Relying on data that the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released Friday, the analysis paints a picture of unusually high mortality that will come into sharper view as more data becomes available.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Barr memo threatening lawsuits against coronavirus restrictions is a warning shot, James Hohmann, April 28, 2020. Conflicts over reopening are increasingly headed to the courts.

william barr new oAttorney General Bill Barr, right, directed all 93 U.S. attorneys on Monday to “be on the lookout for state and local directives” that curtail individual rights in the name of containing the novel coronavirus.

“Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks,” Barr wrote in a two-page memo, “and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public. But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”

President Trump has put the onus on governors to decide when to ease stay-at-home orders and reopen their states. While somewhat erratic and contradictory vis-a-vis Georgia’s policy to start reopening last week, Trump has made increasingly clear in public and private – including a conference call on Monday – that he wants the nation’s governors to open sooner than later.

Virus Victims

ny times logoNew York Times, Top E.R. Doctor Who Treated Virus Patients Dies by Suicide, Ali Watkins, Michael Rothfeld, William K. Rashbaum and Brian M. Rosenthal, April 28, 2020 (print ed.).  “She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” said the father of Dr. Lorna M. Breen, who worked at a Manhattan hospital.

A top emergency room doctor at a Manhattan hospital that treated many coronavirus patients died by suicide on Sunday, her father and the police said.

Dr. Lorna M. Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died in Charlottesville, Va., where she was staying with family, her father said in an interview.

Tyler Hawn, a spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, said in an email that officers on Sunday responded to a call seeking medical assistance.

“The victim was taken to U.V.A. Hospital for treatment, but later succumbed to self-inflicted injuries,” Mr. Hawn said. Dr. Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said she had described devastating scenes of the toll the coronavirus took on patients.

Public Health Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid pressure for national testing strategy, White House puts states in charge, Mike DeBonis, Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump announced a “blueprint” for increasing testing capacity that leaves the onus on states to develop their own plans and rapid-response programs. The federal role would include “strategic direction and technical assistance,” according to a document.

Election 2020

joe biden bernie sanders palmer headshots

washington post logoWashington Post, New York state cancels its June 23 primary, angering Sanders camp, Sean Sullivan, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). Although Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has suspended his campaign, he has expressed a desire to remain on ballots to continue amassing delegates to gain influence.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign excoriated New York election officials Monday for canceling the state’s Democratic presidential primary, opening a new rift in a party trying to mend its divisions following a competitive fight for the nomination.

Although Sanders (I-Vt.) has suspended his campaign and endorsed former vice president Joe Biden, he has expressed a desire to remain on ballots in states with upcoming nominating contests. He hopes to continue amassing delegates to the party’s national convention to gain influence over the platform and other decisions.

That plan received a blow when Democratic commissioners on the state Board of Elections opted to remove Sanders from the New York ballot, thereby scrapping the June 23 primary. Senior Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver responded with a scathing statement on behalf of the senator’s campaign, calling the decision a “blow to American democracy” that should be rectified by the Democratic National Committee.

“Just last week Vice President Biden warned the American people that President Trump could use the current crisis as an excuse to postpone the November election,” Weaver said in the statement, which Sanders promoted on Twitter. “Well, he now has a precedent thanks to New York state.”

Not so, an elections expert said. “This is a totally separate matter,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, a nonprofit group that advocates for eased ballot access. “You’re comparing apples to oranges.”

Albert noted that Congress determines the timing of federal elections and that the president does not have the power to change that.

Weaver suggested that instead of terminating the primary, New York should have changed it to an entirely vote-by-mail system to alleviate safety concerns about voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio holds congressional, presidential primary Tuesday after postponing voting due to coronavirus, Felicia Sonmez and David Weigel, April 28, 2020. After the March 17 election was called off, most Ohioans are voting by mail as the state is under a stay-at-home order.

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump has played the media like a puppet. We’re getting better — but history will not judge us kindly, Margaret Sullivan, right, April 28, 2020. The media has failed America by never figuring out how to cover a president who busts all our norms.

SaraCarter.com, Howard Stern: Trump Supporters Should All ‘Take Disinfectant and Drop Dead,’ Staff Writer, April 28, 2020. “I would love it if Donald would get on TV and take an injection of Clorox and let’s see if his theory works,” Howard Stern said on his show on Monday according to the NY Daily News.

“Hold a big rally, say f—k this coronavirus, with all of his followers, and let them hug each other and kiss each other and have a big rally.”

When Robin Quivers suggested, “A big cocktail of disinfectant,” Stern replied “Yeah…and all take disinfectant and all drop dead.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Can the Trump Campaign Rewrite the Story of the Trump Presidency? Robert Draper, April 28, 2020. Brad Parscale, President Trump’s campaign manager, sees a path to victory through discounted Facebook ads and keeping Mr. Trump on TV.

djt maga hat“Right now, if it’s Trump versus Biden, we destroy them,” he predicted. “It’s like we’re rolling in tanks and they’re playing with pellet guns.”

A Kansas-bred college-basketball player turned San Antonio-based web designer who improbably ascended to his job as, in Trump’s words, “the world’s tallest campaign manager” (6-foot-8), he and his boss seem like a match conceived in Hollywood.

Parscale often wears pricey three-piece tailored suits, which, combined with his thinning crest of spiked hair and tufted beard, give him the appearance of a roadie for a metal band coming correct for his grandmother’s funeral.

More On Assault Claim Against Biden

tara reade screenshot via the hill Custom

Tara Reade (screenshot via The Hill newspaper).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies highlight new claims regarding allegations against Biden, Matt Viser, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). A former neighbor and a former work colleague are reported to have corroborated claims of harassment and assault by a former Senate aide to Joe Biden.

Some allies of President Trump pointed Monday to new claims by a woman who said she was told about sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden decades ago, renewing attention to questions about the past behavior of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Apparent corroboration surfaced this week for elements of two accusations made by Biden’s former Senate aide Tara Reade, one involving harassment and the second a sexual assault. Biden has not commented on the allegations, but his campaign has denied them and pointed to his record on women’s rights and promotion of women in his offices.

Lynda LaCasse, who was one of Reade’s neighbors in California, where Reade moved after working for Biden, said in an interview with Business Insider published Monday that Reade told her in the mid-1990s that Biden had “put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her.”

Lorraine Sanchez, a former colleague of Reade’s in the office of a California state senator, also told the news outlet that Reade told her in the mid-1990s that she “had been sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in DC and as a result of her voicing her concerns to her supervisors, she was let go, fired.” Sanchez did not recall whether Reade mentioned Biden specifically, or whether she provided further details about the allegation.

In recent days, a 1993 call into Larry King’s CNN talk show also surfaced. In it, a woman whom Reade identified as her ­now-deceased mother called to report unspecified “problems” her daughter was having with her employer, whom she called “a prominent senator.” The caller said her daughter did not want to go public with her account “out of respect for” the unnamed senator.

Neither LaCasse nor Sanchez responded to messages left by The Washington Post on Monday. Reade made the harassment accusation last year, and she recently offered details of what she said was a sexual assault in a hallway somewhere on Capitol Hill.

The allegations have percolated for weeks, a period in which Biden has become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Three of Reade’s supervisors from the time, to whom Reade says she complained about Biden’s behavior, have said they don’t remember Reade or any complaints from her.

Biden’s campaign declined to comment on the new reports, pointing to previous statements from deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield, who said that while women’s accounts of wrongdoing should be examined, the one from Reade “absolutely did not happen.”

As part of an in-depth examination published two weeks ago, Reade had told The Post that she described the alleged assault soon afterward to a friend, to her brother and to her mother.

Her friend corroborated Reade’s account of their conversation but declined to be named. Her brother, Collin Moulton, told The Post that she told him in 1993 that Biden had behaved inappropriately by touching her neck and shoulders. He said in a later text message to The Post that he recalled her telling him that Biden had put his hand “under her clothes.”

Biden has done several interviews since the assault allegations emerged but has yet to be asked about them. It has, however, been a topic for other top Democrats, including some of his potential running mates.

“I think this case has been investigated,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said on MSNBC, pointing to her own work to make it easier to bring such cases forward. “I know the vice president as a major leader on domestic abuse. I worked with him on that.”

gretchen whitmer CustomMichigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), right, who has said she was sexually assaulted while in college, was asked on NPR if she was concerned about the allegations.

“Well, I think women should be able to tell their stories. I think that it is important that these allegations are vetted, from the media to beyond. And I think that, you know, it is something that no one takes lightly,” Whitmer said. “But it is also something that is, you know, personal. And so it’s hard to give you greater insight than that, not knowing more about the situation.”

Trump has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault. He has denied all of the allegations. His son Donald Trump Jr. has repeatedly tweeted about the accusations against Biden in recent days. On Monday afternoon, he retweeted the Business Insider story.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that the allegations against Biden deserve to be scrutinized as much as those against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who during his nomination hearings was accused of a past assault.

Scammer's Nightmare, Opinion with documents: Tara Reade: Legacy of Lies (Part One Background), Hedgehog200 and friends, April 29, 2020. Tara Reade AKA Alexandra Tara McCabe, Tara Reade Moulton, Alexandra Reade among other aliases has a long history. There is a legacy of lies that she tara reade youngertells regarding her past. Then there is the unvarnished truth regarding this woman who cons, scams and steals from people. Tara Reade (shown in a youthful file photo) has been a flimflammer almost her entire adult life.

Where to start with this huge volume of information is the dilemna we have to consider.

Another consideration was what to put in and what to leave out for the potential well being of people who know her. We have decided to post all of the material we have obtained in what will be a three-part account.

So let's begin at the beginning. Tara Reade was born Tara Reade Moulton on February 26, 1964. Her father was Robert Moulton and her stepmother Sally Ann Moulton. Her mother's name is Jeanette Altimus.

...

Tara Reade (Alexandra McCabe) uses [in a Tweet shown in the article] that she is poor, a survivor of domestic violence and a single mother who put herself through college as an excuse for everything she's done. It appears to us she didn't put herself through school, banks did and she did not pay them.

She owned pets but did not care for them herself she manipulated a friend into doing so. Then for the rest of the vets on her bankruptcy pages she did not pay them. She was a single mother caring for a young daughter who owed restaurants, housing, food markets and she did not pay them.

We all know single mothers. Do they all lie, cheat and steal? Con people? We think not. Most in fact are honest, hardworking women looking to do the best that they can in life. To rise above their circumstances with honor and dignity. Not by swindling, defrauding and grifting money from their friends, neighbors, landlords, local pizza places and food stores.

But Tara Reade is not those women. She is a con artist whose accounts concerning any subject can not be believed. Ms. Reade should be given no credence in anything she claims. What is revealed here is a life long pattern of dishonest, potentially illegal activity. Still, there is some left out and more yet to come, This is only the beginning of Tara Reade's story. Next we will directly address her false accusations against VP Joe Biden. There are many revelations yet to divulge. To be continued.....

**This will be a three part series of articles. This first one is background, The second part will directly address the false accusations against VP Biden with all inconsistencies and documents posted. Part Three will be an expose on the reporters involved in pushing this story and the truth concerning their motivations.

U.S. Court, Trump Finances

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court casts some doubt on whether it should settle Trump’s fight with Congress over his finances, Robert Barnes, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). The order for additional briefing raised at least the possibility that the justices were looking for a way to avoid deciding the merits of the politically volatile case.

Pandemic Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump will order meat plants to stay open, even as many become hot spots, Taylor Telford and Kimberly Kindy, April 28, 2020. The president will use the Defense Production Act to head off growing disruptions in the nation’s food supply chain, a person familiar with the matter said.

In one month, the meat industry’s supply chain broke. Here’s what you need to know.

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday mandating that meat production plants remain open to head off a food supply shortage, according to one person familiar with the coming action, despite mounting reports of plant worker deaths due to covid-19.

Trump will invoke the Defense Production Act under the order, which will classify the meat plants as essential infrastructure that must remain open, said the person, who was not authorized to disclose details of the order. The government will provide additional protective gear for employees as well as guidance, according to the person. Trump is expected to sign the order, first reported by Bloomberg, as early as today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Antibody tests support what’s been obvious: Covid-19 is much more lethal than the flu, Joel Achenbach, April 28, 2020. New data suggest that coronavirus infections greatly outnumber confirmed cases — potentially by a factor of 10 or more.

Results from coronavirus antibody tests have started to trickle in, and they bolster the consensus among disease experts that the virus is significantly more lethal than seasonal flu and has seeded the most disruptive pandemic in the last century.

“I think it is the worst pandemic since 1918,” said Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center, alluding to the “Great Influenza” pandemic that claimed an estimated 675,000 lives in the United States.

The new serological data, which is provisional, suggests that coronavirus infections greatly outnumber confirmed covid-19 cases, potentially by a factor of 10 or more. Many people experience mild symptoms or none at all, and never get the standard diagnostic test with a swab up the nose, so they’re missed in the official covid-19 case counts.

washington post logoWashington Post, House drops plans to return to D.C., citing virus risk, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, April 28, 2020. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), below left, said the Senate will reconvene to confirm judicial nominees and to start a new coronavirus relief bill.

mitch mcconnellHouse leaders abruptly dropped plans Tuesday to bring lawmakers back to Washington for legislative work next week, citing warnings from the congressional physician about the continued spread of the coronavirus in the District of Columbia and its suburbs.

With proposed changes allowing for more significant remote work options on hold due to a partisan uproar, the decision means the House will remain largely sidelined while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brings his chamber into session next week to process President Trump’s judicial nominees and start work on a new coronavirus relief bill.

The House decision, announced by Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) on a Tuesday morning call with reporters, came less than a day after he told lawmakers to prepare to return to Washington on May 4. That decision prompted pushback from some Democrats, who saw it as an imprudent risk, especially with no new legislation ready for action.

nancy pelosi djt 2 olderHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday she had “no choice” but to heed warnings from Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician of Congress, that bringing the chamber back for routine work after more than six weeks of limited operation would place lawmakers and support staff at risk.

The decision stands in stark contrast to other organs of the federal government, including the White House and the Supreme Court, which have adapted their core functions to the new normal of a pandemic. The court will hear oral arguments by teleconference for the first time in its history on May 4.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N., Arab powers fear wider war in Yemen, Sudarsan Raghavan, April 28, 2020 (print ed.). A declaration of self-rule by the most influential Yemeni southern separatist group has heightened fears for an escalation of tensions just as the United Nations is seeking a cease-fire to slow the spread of coronavirus.

April 27

Public Health Top Headlines

 Virus Victims, Solutions

Inside DC

Pandemic Politics

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

World News

U.S.  Law, Courts

Media News

 

Public Health Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus U.S. Updates: U.S. deaths soared in early weeks of pandemic, exceeding number attributed to covid-19, Emma covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Brown, Andrew Ba Tran, Beth Reinhard and Monica Ulmanu, April 27, 2020.  An analysis of federal data for the first time estimates excess deaths -- the number beyond what would normally be expected -- during that period.

In the early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, the United States recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths, nearly two times as many as were publicly attributed to covid-19 at the time, according to an analysis of federal data conducted for The Washington Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health.

The excess deaths — the number beyond what would normally be expected for that time of year — occurred during March and through April 4, a time when 8,128 coronavirus deaths were reported.

The excess deaths are not necessarily attributable directly to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. They could include people who died because of the epidemic but not from the disease, such as those who were afraid to seek medical treatment for unrelated illnesses, as well as some number of deaths that are part of the ordinary variation in the death rate. The count is also affected by increases or decreases in other categories of deaths, such as suicides, homicides and motor vehicle accidents.

But in any pandemic, higher-than-normal mortality is a starting point for scientists seeking to understand the full impact of the disease.

The Yale analysis for the first time estimates excess deaths, both nationally and in each state, in those five weeks. Relying on data that the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released Friday, the analysis paints a picture of unusually high mortality that will come into sharper view as more data becomes available.

washington post logoWashington Post, Virus Global Updates: Italy to ease the West’s longest virus lockdown, Staff reports, April 27, 2020. Tech giants gain power and profits as the global economy suffers; Trump questions bailing out ‘poorly run states’ led by Democrats.

washington post logoDonald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Washington Post, 13 hours of Trump: The president fills briefings with attacks and boasts, but little empathy, Philip Bump and Ashley Parker, April 27, 2020 (print ed.). A Post analysis reveals a president using the White House lectern to vent and rage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Many are still waiting for their $1,200 checks. Here are key dates for the next set of payments, Michelle Singletary, April 27, 2020. Tens of millions are worried about when they’ll get their money — including many seniors barely surviving on Social Security.

Social Security recipients may start seeing payments by April 29. SSI and Veterans Affairs benefit recipients who don’t file a tax return and have dependent children need to act by May 5 to claim the $500-per-child stimulus payment.

Under the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or Cares Act, passed last month, the Treasury will eventually send out 150 million stimulus payments to eligible Americans.

On Friday, the Treasury Department and the IRS reported that 88.1 million payments worth nearly $158 billion had been issued in the program’s first three weeks. That’s no small feat. Yet it’s little consolation for the tens of millions worried about when they’ll get their money.

Because agencies keep separate systems, it took some effort to figure out how to automatically send payments to people receiving certain federal benefits, such as Social Security.

Virus Victims, Solutions

ny times logoNew York Times, Closed Hospitals Leave Rural Patients ‘Stranded’ as Virus Spreads, Sarah Kliff, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Nicholas Kulish, April 27, 2020 (print ed.). A for-profit company bought three struggling hospitals in West Virginia and Ohio. Doctors were fired, and supplies ran low. Then the doors shut for good.

Michael Nuzum had spent weeks fighting coronavirus-like symptoms — a wracking cough, terrible chills, an exhausting fever — before collapsing at his home in rural West Virginia.

Mr. Nuzum, a 54-year-old animal control worker, was already in cardiac arrest when the emergency workers arrived on April 3. That left them with a difficult decision: Should they transport their patient to the nearest hospital, 30 minutes away?

Fairmont was one of three hospitals that have shut down in this corner of rural West Virginia and Ohio since September. They delivered hundreds of babies each year, treated car crash and gunshot victims, repaired hearts and knees and offered addiction treatment and psychiatric care.

They had been acquired by a for-profit company, Alecto Healthcare Services, beginning in 2014. Employees expected the new ownership to put the institutions on solid footing after years of financial struggle. Instead, decisions made by Alecto wound up undercutting patient care and undermining the hospitals’ finances, according to more than two dozen interviews with doctors, nurses, other staff members, government officials and patients, as well as a review of court records.

Doctors were fired to save on salaries; many patients followed them elsewhere. Medical supplies ran short. Vendors went unpaid. Finally, one after another, the three hospitals ceased operating. At the request of the governor, the West Virginia attorney general’s office is investigating the company’s decision to close them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Antibody Tests Help End the Coronavirus Pandemic? Apoorva Mandavilli, April 27, 2020 (print ed.). The tests are not reliable enough to guide policy on lockdowns and reopenings, experts said. But they can help model the spread of the virus.

A survey of New Yorkers last week found that one in five city residents carried antibodies to the new coronavirus — and in that, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo saw good news.

If so many had been infected and survived, he reasoned, the virus may be far less deadly than previously thought. But many scientists took a darker view, seeing instead a vast pool of people who are still very vulnerable to infection.

Like the leaders of many states, Mr. Cuomo has been hoping that the results of large-scale antibody testing may guide decisions about when and how to reopen the economy and reintegrate society.

Few scientists ever imagined that these tests would become an instrument of public policy — and many are uncomfortable with the idea. Antibody tests, which show who has been infected, are often inaccurate, recent research suggests, and it is not clear whether a positive result actually signals immunity to the coronavirus.

world health organization logo CustomOn Friday, the World Health Organization warned against relying on these tests for policy decisions. While countries such as Italy have even floated the idea of “immunity passports” for people who test positive, W.H.O. officials noted that it is not known to what extent people carrying antibodies are immune to the virus.

(The W.H.O. on Saturday backed off an earlier assertion that people with antibodies may not be immune at all.)

But widespread testing has started nonetheless, and important decisions are likely to flow from the results.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 50,000 Americans have died. This is how they lived — and what was lost: Visual Story, Staff reports, Updated April 27, 2020. An eerily empty landscape, as seen from above.

washington post logoWashington Post, Reopening of America accelerates as states prepare to relax restrictions, Griff Witte, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Andrea Eger, April 27, 2020 (print ed.). Governors are preparing to lift restrictions as the calendar turns to May — and crossing their fingers that the novel coronavirus doesn’t come roaring back.

The easing will not be universal and is cleaved largely along party lines, with some Republican governors moving to reopen key sectors and Democrats moving more slowly. In states such as New York, where covid-19 has exacted its heaviest toll, there is no letup to the rules in sight. Even in places where restrictions are being relaxed, governors have emphasized the need to proceed cautiously, lest they unleash a second wave.

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid-19 is ravaging one of the country’s wealthiest black counties, Rachel Chason, Ovetta Wiggins and John D. Harden, April 27, 2020. Prince George’s, one of the nation’s wealthiest majority-black counties, has reported the most coronavirus infections and some of the highest death tolls in the Washington region.

In the hardest-hit neighborhoods, African American and Latino residents make up more than 70 percent of households. The grim statistics mirror data showing black Americans are more likely than white Americans to be infected with the novel coronavirus and more likely to die of it.

Officials say the pandemic has hit the county of 900,000 especially hard because many residents are front-line workers exposed daily to the virus, and Prince Georgians disproportionately suffer from underlying health conditions that make the virus more deadly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia pastor died of coronavirus after Facebook post doubting its threat, Peter Jamison, April 27, 2020. Landon Spradlin went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans to save souls. He never made it home.

Every day Landon Spradlin was growing weaker, and now, on the morning when he would leave New Orleans for the last time, the 66-year-old preacher and blues guitarist was unable to load his bags into the white Ford F-250 that was supposed to carry him home.

Ric Lyons, a fellow musician who for weeks had played and prayed with Spradlin amid the Mardi Gras crowds thronging Jackson Square, packed the truck. Spradlin’s wife, Jean, settled in the driver’s seat. Spradlin eased into the cab beside her. Racked by fits of coughing, the ordinarily talkative street minister said little as the Ford rolled east on the Twin Span Bridge across the wide, bright expanse of Lake Pontchartrain.

The world had changed since the Spradlins crossed the same bridge weeks earlier to begin their annual New Orleans street ministry. The couple from rural Gretna, Va., had arrived Feb. 18, several days before President Trump declared on Twitter that the novel coronavirus was “very much under control in the USA.” They left on March 16, the same day the president would recommend that Americans stop gathering in groups of more than 10.

New cases of covid-19, the deadly disease once confined to central China, were emerging rapidly across the United States. Cities and states were beginning to lock down. After a teeming Mardi Gras, New Orleans had canceled its similarly boisterous St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The French Quarter was all but empty.

And the Spradlins were sick.

A new malady had emerged as his Mardi Gras ministry ended last month. But not everyone acknowledged its threat. Three days before leaving, Landon — an avid Trump supporter — posted a meme on his Facebook page about the coronavirus, which at the time had killed about 40 people in the United States. The media, it warned, was trying to “manipulate your life” by creating “mass hysteria.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say, Robert McCartney, April 27, 2020. The White House and Senate Republicans said they feared states and localities would move more slowly to reopen their economies if they received federal assistance.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would rather see states declare bankruptcy than give them federal aid to deal with the economic collapse triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s a recipe for turning a potentially short recession into a prolonged depression, according to officials and analysts.

The question of whether Congress and the White House should provide relief funding to state and local governments — as the feds have done already for private business — is about to reach a showdown in Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump says the Postal Service loses money on every e-commerce package it delivers. Does it really? Glenn Kessler, April 27, 2020. The president contends that the Postal Service is being taken to the cleaners by companies like Amazon. But the Postal Service says revenue far exceeds costs.

President Trump is threatening to veto financial aid for the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service unless it hikes the price it charges for delivering packages — which he said should be quadrupled.

us mail logoNote that he mentioned Amazon by the name. The Washington Post, of course, is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon. The president is often displeased by reporting in The Post, which he occasionally labels the “Amazon Washington Post” even though The Post is not part of Amazon. Bezos has owned The Post since 2013 as a personal investment via Nash Holdings LLC.

Be that as it may, it’s certainly worth fact-checking whether the Postal Service loses money delivering packages for e-commerce merchants, as Trump claims.
The Postal Service is losing money overall, primarily because the rise of email has sharply cut flat-mail volume, and because Congress requires it to prepay pension and health benefits. One problem is the USPS must charge the same price for first-class mail delivery anywhere in the country, no matter how remote.

But the USPS consistently says package delivery is a bright spot in its revenue picture, increasing every year.

 Pandemic Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Hobbled House majority frets about its effectiveness amid pandemic, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, April 27, 2020 (print ed.). Amid the biggest national crisis in generations, the one branch of government where Democrats hold power has sidelined itself.

House Democrats have blasted President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as inept and dangerous. Party leaders insisted on the creation of a special committee to root out abuse in the nearly $3 trillion of federal aid flowing to shuttered businesses and unemployed workers. U.S. House logoAnd they have called for a robust national strategy for mass testing and tracing of the illness that has claimed more than 53,000 U.S. lives.

Yet amid the biggest national crisis in generations, the one branch of government where Democrats hold power has largely sidelined itself, struggling so far to adopt remote voting, Zoom video hearings or any of the other alternative methods that have become standard for most workplaces in the age of covid-19.

No administration official has appeared at a congressional hearing in over a month. Committees have been unable to meet in democratic donkey logoperson to debate and advance bills. There is no firm date for when the new oversight panel will start its work.

“I haven’t had a classified briefing in over six weeks,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which needs to reauthorize the annual policy bill for the military. Crow said he has yet to get committee leaders to agree with his proposal to “open a nationwide infrastructure” for classified briefings for members of Congress, by using the secure rooms in regional FBI offices and military bases across the nation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: For Trump, Lying Is a Super Power, Charles M. Blow, right, April 27, 2020. He will use deception to keep his bungled charles blow customresponse to Covid-19 from ruining his re-election chances.

The coronavirus has completely reshaped the coming election. The economy is in dire straits. Trump’s polls have taken a dip. People are anxious and afraid. The outlook isn’t good … at the moment.

But I would caution all those who take this fear as encouragement that Trump is weakened and vulnerable: Trump is not George W. Bush. This is not the Republican Party of 2006. This is not a cultural environment in which social media is in its infancy.

Trump, as a person and politician, is riddled with flaws. But he also has an ignominious super power: He is completely unencumbered by the truth, the need to tell it or accept it. He will do and say anything that he believes will help him. He has no greater guiding principles. He is not bound by ethics or morals. His only alliances are to those who would support and further his devotion to self-promotion.

I don’t look back to the 2008 campaign for parallels, but to the 2016 one.

When the “Access Hollywood” tape, on which Trump bragged about groping and sexually assaulting women, came out, Republicans were worried. They began to openly reject him. Some called for him to drop out of the race.

Trump will fight with everything he has to the bitter end to stay in power. He will never admit any fault. He will lie and lie and lie and lie some more. And the people who support him will stick with him every step of the way.

Joe Biden even believes Trump will try to alter the election calendar, saying, “Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.”

I put nothing past Trump, absolutely nothing! And neither should you. Be prepared for Trump to do anything and everything to win re-election in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi endorses Biden, calling him the ‘personification of hope and courage,’ Michael Scherer, April 27, 2020. Citing Joe Biden’s legislative accomplishments and governing experience, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the latest senior Democrat to join the presumptive nominee.

U.S.  Law, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court dismisses anticipated New York gun rights case because the law in question has been rescinded, Robert Barnes, April 27, 2020. Three conservative justices said the court was “manipulated” to keep from clarifying the Second Amendment issue.

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a major gun rights case from New York because the law in question has been rescinded, disappointing supreme court CustomSecond Amendment activists and several conservative justices, who said the court had been manipulated.

The decision dismissing the case was unsigned, but three justices filed a dissent.

“By incorrectly dismissing this case as moot, the court permits our docket to be manipulated in a way that should not be countenanced,” wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch.

The controversy involves now-rescinded restrictions unique to New York City about whether citizens who have a license to keep a gun in their homes may transport them to firing ranges outside the city or to a second home in the state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court rules for insurance companies in Obamacare lawsuit seeking billions, Robert Barnes, April 27, 2020. The government must make good on its promise in the Affordable Care Act to subsidize insurance companies for offering low-premium policies to at-risk customers, even though the price tag could be up to $12 billion, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Congress has balked at making the payments to insurance companies, but the court decided 8 to 1 that refusing to pay was not an option.

The decision reflects “a principle as old as the nation itself: The government should honor its obligations,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was the lone dissenter, saying that the court should not provide a “bailout” for the companies who decided to participate in the ACA’s “risk corridor” program, which has since ended.

The case had marked the Supreme Court’s fifth look at President Barack Obama’s signature domestic success. Unlike others — and another one that the court will hear in the fall — it did not challenge the law’s underpinnings.

World News

wayne madsen screen shotStrategic Culture Foundation, Opinion on Post-Corona World: Recrimination and Defederation, Wayne Madsen, right, April 27, 2020. There are growing signs that the coronavirus pandemic will radically alter the geo-political map of the world. The governors, prime ministers, premiers, chief ministers, and strategic culture logoadministrators of sub-national governments have been almost unanimous in decrying the lack of support from central governments during the current Covid-19 crisis.

Not least among these have been the governors of the American states of New York, Michigan, Washington, and other states and U.S. territories.

Welcome to the international empire of “Pandemia.” This unstructured alliance of disbelievers in public health, skeptics of scientific proof, practitioners of fascist ideology, and bloviators about any subject minus the ones at hand have ensured that a deadly pandemic became an international scourge.

Rather than pooling the resources of their nations with those of others, these cartoonish politicians decided to, at first, discount the threat; then, manipulate the numbers of infected persons in their countries; followed by hoarding precious medical supplies and resources and, in the case of Donald Trump, tighten sanctions on nations trying to deal with the virus at home and abroad.

Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba discovered that the United States, far from being generous during a global health crisis, would use sanctions to jair bolsonaro brazilncrease the pandemic’s death count in the sanctions-targeted nations.

In two federal republics, the United States and Brazil, led by two extreme-rightwing Presidents, Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, right,respectively, the central governments demonstrated an initial and continued failure to take Covid-19 seriously. By waiting until the pandemic was already weighing heavily on state governments, the two presidents, rather than taking strong federal action, decided to engage in a ridiculous blame game in both shedding off federal responsibility and forcing state governors into roles best suited to the national governments.

jared kushner head shotWhen Trump appointed his New York/New Jersey “kosher nostra”-mobbed up son-in-law, Jared Kushner, left, to chair a “shadow” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) task force charged with building up a national stockpile of ventilators, personal protection equipment (PPE), and Covid-19 test kits, Kushner publicly stated at a White House press briefing that the federal medical stockpile was not meant for the states, even though the United States solely consists of states.

Who would ultimately receive the federal stockpile over which Kushner maintained his control? Kushner granted himself sole authority to distribute the equipment and supplies.

To where? Israel, where the prime minister was a personal friend of Kushner and his family? The New York/New Jersey regional black market, where Baruch Feldheim, Yuriy Borukhov, Maisey Khovasov, and Michael Borukhov were arrested for hoarding masks and other medical supplies and gouging buyers? These are the types of criminals Trump and Kushner have been dealing with throughout their entire lives.

As if they were dealing with organized crime syndicates, governors were alerted to numerous attempts by FEMA and Kushner, using Gestapo-like tactics, to intercept PPEs pre-ordered by the states.

william barr new oColorado’s Democratic Governor, Jared Polis, revealed that FEMA “swept up” 500 ventilators that were already purchased by the state of Colorado. Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker decried the Kushner team’s confiscation of three million masks ordered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Acting entirely outside of their scope and doing the bidding of Trump “capo” and Attorney General William Barr, right, authorized the FBI to question the chief physician at Baystate Health in Massachusetts about the purpose of two semi-trucks, disguised as food-service vehicles, hauling badly-needed PPEs to Massachusetts hospitals.

Even after the FBI stood down, FEMA attempted to seize the equipment. Similar FEMA seizures and attempted seizures were reported from Florida, California, Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, and Texas.

World News: UK Justice?

ray mcgovern hsPopular Resistance via OpEdNews, Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray Indicted, Ray McGovern, right, April 27, 2020. Charged With Contempt Of Court.

Background: Alex Salmond, a friend of former U.K. Ambassador Craig Murray, was First Minister of Scotland and leader of the pro-Independence Scottish National Party. When the party narrowly lost the independence referendum in 2014, Salmond stepped down and his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, became, and remains, First Minister.

Salmond was thought to be considering a political comeback. Then came several sexual allegations against him, which Amb. Murray publicly craig murray uk ambassadordescribed as false. Murray, left, uses the word "fit-up," British slang meaning to incriminate someone on false charges.

Alex Salmond was tried and a majority female jury found him innocent of all charges. Murray believes that Sturgeon and associates are determined that nobody should find out what really happened.

There has been a media campaign implying Salmond is really guilty. Murray reports that there has also been a police campaign of intimidation against anyone, even ordinary folk making a Facebook post, who implies the charges were contrived. The chief prosecutor and his key staff are all Sturgeon appointees, as is the police chief.

The following are excerpts from a Craig Murray blog posted Friday:

"... I know of four pro-[Scottish] Independence folk who were last week phoned or visited by Police Scotland and threatened with contempt of court proceedings over social media postings they had made weeks back on the Alex Salmond case.

Then on Monday, a Scottish journalist I know had his home raided by five policemen, who confiscated (and still have) all his computers and phones. They said they were from the 'Alex Salmond team' and investigating his postings on the Alex Salmond case. He has not to date been charged, and his lawyer is advising him at present to say nothing, so I am not revealing his name.

"On Thursday two plain clothes police arrived and handed me the indictment. Shortly thereafter, an email arrived from The Times newspaper, saying that the Crown Office had 'confirmed' that I had been charged with contempt of court. In the case of my friend whose house was raided, he was contacted by the Daily Record just before the raid even happened!

"I am charged with contempt of court and the hearing is on 7 July at the High Court in Edinburgh. The contempt charge falls in two categories: i) Material published before the trial liable to prejudice a jury. ii) Material published which could assist 'jigsaw identification' of the failed accusers.

"[T]his is a blatant, one-sided political persecution. That much is entirely plain. I have therefore decided, in the interests of open justice, to publish [a link to the indictment is embedded in the Murray's blog item] the entire indictment against me (with a single sentence redacted where I think the prosecution were excessively indiscreet). Neither the indictment nor the covering letter is marked confidential or not for publication. It is, so far as I know, a public document. ...

"The state believes it has finally discovered a way to put me in prison without the inconvenient hurdle of a jury of my peers. Contempt of Court is just decided by a judge. It is extraordinary that you can go to jail for a substantial two years with no jury protection and no test of 'beyond reasonable doubt'; and on the whim of a judge defending what he may view as the dignity of his own office. This really is the epitome of bad law. To use it against freedom of speech is disgusting. ...

"I am charged specifically with saying that the Alex Salmond case was a fit-up and a conspiracy in which the Crown Office was implicated. So I thought I would say it again now: 'The Alex Salmond case was a fit-up and a conspiracy in which the Crown Office was implicated, foiled by the jury. If Scotland is the kind of country where you go to jail for saying that, let me get my toothbrush.'"

Media News

diamond and silk cropped

Daily Beast, Fox News Cuts Ties With Diamond & Silk, Unofficial Trump ‘Advisers’ Who Spread Bonkers Coronavirus Claims, Lachlan Cartwright and daily beast logoJustin Baragona, April 27, 2020. The MAGA superstars lost their Fox gig after pushing absolutely wild conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fox News has cut ties with MAGA vlogging superstars Diamond & Silk, who had contributed original content to the network’s streaming service Fox Nation since shortly after its late 2018 launch.

The sudden split comes after the Trump-boosting siblings have come under fire for promoting conspiracy theories and disinformation about the coronavirus. “After what they’ve said and tweeted you won’t be seeing them on Fox Nation or Fox News anytime soon,” a source with knowledge of the matter told The Daily Beast.

After rising to prominence during the 2016 election, Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson leveraged their newfound celebrity into regular sycophantic appearances on Fox News, resulting in President Donald Trump raving about their performances, featuring them at rallies, and treating them as “senior advisers.”

fox news logo SmallThe social-media personalities were eventually tapped to provide weekly videos for Fox Nation after it launched as a subscription-based online video network. Their episodes, essentially 5-7 minute distillations of their freeform live-streams, appeared like clockwork on the streaming service until earlier this month.

No new episodes of their online program have been uploaded since April 7, as CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy first noted over the weekend. Prior to this month, the duo never missed a week posting episodes since December 2018.

A spokesperson for Fox News did not respond to a request for comment. Diamond & Silk also did not reply when emailed by The Daily Beast.

The sisters’ Fox guest spots have also dried up recently. According to a search of TVEyes, a cable-news monitoring system, Diamond & Silk haven’t appeared on the network since a March 6 interview on Fox & Friends and a March 7 hit on the now-defunct Fox Business Network show trish regan fox Customhosted by Trish Regan, who was also ditched by Fox after her own comments calling the pandemic an “impeachment scam.”

Diamond & Silk have used their heavy social-media presence to be at the forefront of right-wing misinformation about the COVID-19 outbreak. For instance, during their March 30 livestream, the duo claimed that the number of American coronavirus deaths has been inflated to make Trump look bad.

“What I need to know is how many people have passed away in New York, and what I need to know is: Who has the bodies?” Diamond asked. “I need for somebody that does investigative work to call the morgues. To call the funeral homes. We need to know, because I don't trust anything else that comes out of his mouth now... Something's not right here. Something is off here.”

She added: “Is this being deliberately spread? Look, I’m not being a conspiracy theorist, this is real, but I’m asking my own questions. What the hell is going on?"

Silk, meanwhile, baselessly asserted that the disease was “man-made” and “engineered,” wondering aloud if there was a “little deep-state action going on behind the scenes.” She also questioned whether the World Health Organization had a “switch” to “turn this virus on and off?”

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Analysis: A cult within a cult: Falun Gong and the Trump administration, Wayne Madsen, April 27, 2020. Falun Gong, the Central wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallIntelligence Agency-linked Chinese cult, which is banned in China, has achieved overarching influence in the Donald Trump White House, State Department, and among Republican Party stalwarts harboring ambitions for national office. The cult's newspaper, The Epoch Times, enjoys access to White House press conferences and is currently engaged in a campaign to cast blame on China for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), as well as former Trump ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, have swallowed Falun Gong's bait by accusing China of manufacturing the Covid-19 virus as a bio-weapon at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Falun Gong has also enticed Trump personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani into making the false claim epoch timesthat President Barack Obama funded virus research at the Wuhan laboratory in 2017, even though Trump was president during the time frame. Giuliani tweeted: "Why did the US (NIH) in 2017 give $3.7m to the Wuhan Lab in China?"

In fact, the National Institutes of Health grants to an NGO that was conducting virus research at the Wuhan laboratory were approved by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2016, with $700,000 of the funds being granted by the Trump administration in 2017. Falun Gong is not the only cult in which Giuliani is heavily involved, the other being the Iranian exile group Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), which is a terrorist group based in Albania that is trying to overthrow the Iranian government.

The Epoch Media Group, the Falun Gong media operation, has spent millions of dollars on social media campaigns, including setting up fake accounts, that have promoted Trump and proffered conspiracy theories against presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

April 26

Public Health Top Headlines

World News

 Virus Victims, Solutions

 Pandemic Politics

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Public Health Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: Summer Is Coming. Some States Are Reopening. Can We Keep Our Distance? Staff reports, April 26, 2020. Nevada is one especially thorny example because of its dependence on tourism. But everywhere, faster and more widespread testing will be vital. Several African-American leaders in Georgia criticized a partial reopening in that state.

Nevada’s economy has been one of the fastest growing in the country. Then, practically overnight, the glittering Las Vegas Strip shut down, throwing thousands of waitresses, bartenders, hotel cleaners and casino workers out of work, often without severance or benefits, and leaving the most bustling and storied stretch of the state’s economy boarded up and empty.

As the bottom fell out of the American economy, few places have been hit harder than Las Vegas, where a full third of the economy is in the leisure and hospitality industry, more than in any other major metropolitan area in the country. Most of these jobs cannot be done from home.

Nearly 350,000 people in Nevada have filed for unemployment since the crisis began, the highest number in the history of the state. Las Vegas-carolyn goodman los vegas Custombased economic research firm Applied Analysis estimates the city’s current jobless rate is about 25 percent — nearly double the rate during the Great Recession — and rising.

The dependence on tourism and hospitality means that, as governors and mayors across the country wrestle with the question of when to reopen their economies, Las Vegas faces particular pressure. Mayor Carolyn Goodman, left, argued last week that casinos should reopen and allow people to get sick. But Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, said the state was “clearly not ready to open.”

ny times logoNew York Times, More On U.S. Live Updates: U.S. Can Expect Social Distancing to Last for Months, Birx Says, Staff reports, April 26, 2020. Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator, (shown in a file photo, seemed to try to avoid contradicting the White House’s messages about the pandemic in a televised interview today.

deborah birx profile palmer CustomBut many governors are weighing steps to reopen their states, and taking to the Sunday shows to articulate their viewpoints. Here’s the latest.

The governor of Colorado says that if policymakers fail to adjust social distancing carefully to keep the virus at bay while reopening the economy, then “the stay-at-home was for nothing.”

Democrats say the next stimulus bill must include help for states and cities.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘For black folks, it’s like a set up: Are you trying to kill us?’ Reis Thebault, Andrew Ba Tran and Vanessa Williams, April 26, 2020. Fear and mistrust in rural Georgia as Gov. Kemp urges the state to re-open. Residents fear Georgia's reopening will lead to a spike new infections, particularly in a region where the population is majority black and struggles with a severe lack of health care.

brian kemp CustomWhen Gov. Brian Kemp (R), right, announced he was lifting restrictions on businesses, some residents in this region felt cast off, like the state was telling them to fend for themselves once again.

“To open up businesses where it’s impossible to practice social distancing — hair salons, nail salons, theaters — people are like, what? You want to put everybody in a closed room, and that’s supposed to be okay?” said Demetrius Young, a city commissioner in Albany, the center of the state’s epidemic. “For black folks, it’s like a set up: Are you trying to kill us?”

Without a widespread testing infrastructure and local health departments able to do meticulous contact tracing, Young said, his region will continue to suffer. Georgia ranks 40th in tests per resident, well behind states that have pledged to maintain their shelter-in-place orders, according to an analysis of COVID Tracking Project data. Some models say the state has not yet reached its peak number of daily deaths, suggesting the worst is still to come.

Of the 20 counties in the nation with the most deaths per capita from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, five are in southwest Georgia, including Early, where Means lives. In the state’s hardest-hit places, African Americans make up most of the population, and about 30 percent of residents live in poverty. They’ve struggled for years with a severe lack of access to health care. Some counties have no doctors, no hospitals and a high percentage of uninsured residents. The facilities and physicians already were stretched thin.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s latest coronavirus stunt is unconscionable, Bill Palmer, right, April 26, 2020. Donald Trump is guilty of so many kinds bill palmerof atrocities, it’s difficult to keep track of them all, let alone quantify them. The two common themes about his darkest of stunts is that they’re all about him, and that he doesn’t care who gets hurt or killed in the process.

The coronavirus crisis in the United States is entirely due to the dishonesty and negligence of Donald Trump. Legal experts are already saying he’s committed negligent homicide against the Americans who have died. Lately he’s been trying to drive the death toll higher in a general sense by urging the nation to reopen before it’s safe to do so. Now he’s pulling one specific stunt that should get him arrested on the spot.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump has decided that he’s going to give the commencement address at the West Point graduation ceremony – in the middle of a pandemic. He’s aiming to force the graduates to travel from their homes back to the academy, just for an in-person graduation ceremony, just so he can give the speech. How risky is this? The New York Times says that waivers will need to be involved, because the military has already banned all personnel from travel.

This is sick beyond words. Donald Trump will be putting these kids’ lives at risk just so he can stroke his own ego. Regardless of whatever social distancing measures might be taken in a gathering this large, the coronavirus will spread among the cadets in attendance. Many will get sick, and statistically speaking, some will die. Trump is trying to pull this stunt with the military because it’s the one entity that can’t legally say no to him. After Trump loses the election, he needs to be placed on military trial for this stunt.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Testing Remains Scarce as Governors Weigh Reopening States, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Farah Stockman and Sharon LaFraniere, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). Many states still struggle to test symptomatic or high-risk individuals. Few have the resources to also test the general population, which many experts recommend.

The Trump administration has resisted a full-scale national mobilization, instead leaving production bottlenecks and shortages largely to market forces.

About a week after the first report of a Covid-19 case at a meatpacking plant in southwest Kansas in early April, the state’s governor, Laura Kelly, issued a pointed warning to President Trump: Without test kits to separate the well from the sick, a fast-moving outbreak could idle facilities that produce roughly one-quarter of the nation’s meat supply.

Within three days, 80 blue-and-white boxes of test kits and testing machines arrived, and two Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas National Guard whisked them to the afflicted region. As the test results came in last week, the costs of the delay became clear: 250 workers in six plants were already infected.

In Albany, Ga., a hot spot for the disease, a hospital finally figured out a way to run its own coronavirus tests, rather than relying on limited state capacity or outsourcing the work to slow-moving private labs. But it still struggles to run as many tests as it would like because of a shortage of components.

In Ohio, a research institution in Columbus is teaming up with a plastics company to churn out nasal swabs on 3-D printers for use in the state. But when Mysheika W. Roberts, the city’s health commissioner, offered test kits to local health centers, she learned they lacked the protective gear they needed to put them to use.

As governors decide about opening their economies, they continue to be hampered by a shortage of testing capacity, leaving them without the information that public health experts say is needed to track outbreaks and contain them. And while the United States has made strides over the past month in expanding testing, its capacity is nowhere near the level Mr. Trump suggests it is.

There are numerous reasons. It has proved hard to increase production of reagents — sensitive chemical ingredients that detect whether the coronavirus is present — partly because of federal regulations intended to ensure safety and partly because manufacturers, who usually produce them in small batches, have been reluctant to invest in new capacity without assurance that the surge in demand will be sustained.

Some physical components of test kits, like nasal swabs, are largely imported and hard to come by amid global shortages. Health care workers still lack the protective gear they need to administer tests on a wide-scale basis. Labs have been slow to add people and equipment to process the swelling numbers of tests.

On top of all that, the administration has resisted a full-scale national mobilization, instead intervening to allocate scarce equipment on an ad hoc basis and leaving production bottlenecks and shortages largely to market forces. Governors, public health officials and hospital executives say they are still operating in a kind of Wild West economy that has left them scrambling — and competing with one another — to procure the equipment and other materials they need.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion / Parody: Trump is exhibiting all the symptoms of a hydroxychloroquine overdose, Dana Milbank, right, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). My study hasn’t dana milbank Custombeen peer reviewed yet, but my evidence — based on a hunch that originated in my gut — is very strong: President Trump has overdosed on hydroxychloroquine.

Trump, who claims a “natural instinct for science" not from formal training but because his late uncle was a scientist, once used this innate ability to determine that climate change was a hoax and that windmills cause cancer.

More recently he mobilized the U.S. government to make sure thousands of covid-19 patients were treated with the antimalarial clorox graphic Customhydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin — because Trump’s instinct told him the drug cocktail would be a “phenomenal” “game changer.”

Sadly, evidence from all over suggests that the drugs cause heart problems and worsen death rates.

No matter! The stable genius dropped his hydroxychloroquine hypothesis faster than you can say “snake oil” and is now touting a new miracle cure for the virus: injecting the lungs with bleach (graphic at right), alcohol or other common disinfectants, possibly along with massive doses of heat and ultraviolet light.

djt smiling fileNoting that disinfectants kill the virus “in a minute” on inanimate surfaces, Trump asked: “Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside? Or almost a cleaning? … It would be interesting to check that.”

Government scientists dutifully promised to investigate the boss’s lung-bleaching idea.

As it happens, I, too, have a natural instinct for science (my brother is a urologist) and I have used it to conclude that hydroxychloroquine abuse has caused Trump and some top aides and allies to suffer a condition we experts refer to as acute nuttiness.

First, it is scientifically obvious from Trump’s enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine that he has been using it himself. While taking the drugs, he has not succumbed to coronavirus. He has concluded, therefore, based on his study population (N=1), that the drugs prevent coronavirus 100 percent of the time.

World News

ny times logoChina FlagNew York Times, Live Global Updates: China Claims Wuhan Has No Hospitalized Coronavirus Patients, Staff reports, April 26, 2020.  The original epicenter of the pandemic, the city of Wuhan is showing signs of recovery, with no new cases and zero hospitalizations, Chinese officials said.

  • Two mink farms in the Netherlands are quarantined after the animals were found to have the coronavirus.
  • boris johnson tiePrime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, right, will return to work on Monday after being treated for the coronavirus. Hong Kong has its first sizable antigovernment protest amid the pandemic.
  • asked Hong Kong crowds resume antigovernment protests amid the outbreak.
  • Children in Spain go outside for the first time in weeks as the country’s lockdown begins to ease.

Virus Victims, Solutions

ny times logoNew York Times, Live NY Updates: All pharmacies in New York will be able to test for Covid-19, Governor Cuomo says, Staff reports, April 26, 2020. New Yorkers anxious to learn if they have the coronavirus will soon be able to get tested at any local pharmacy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Saturday.

Mr. Cuomo, right, said he was signing an executive order authorizing all of the state’s roughly 5,000 pharmacies to conduct coronavirus tests as a part of an effort to reach a larger number of people.

andrew cuomo“If your local drugstore can now become a collection site, people can go to their local drugstore,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Since we now have more collection sites, more testing capacity, we can open up the eligibility for those tests.”

He also said the state would expand testing criteria to include all first responders, health care workers and essential employees, allowing those individuals to be tested even if they do not have symptoms.

Getting access to a coronavirus test has been a source of anxiety for thousands of New Yorkers since the highly contagious virus upended life in New York, where more than 16,000 people have died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Some larger pharmacy chains were already offering tests, Mr. Cuomo said, but his order would permit many smaller ones to administer tests, as well.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 50,000 Americans have died. This is how they lived — and what was lost: Visual Story, Staff reports, Updated April 26, 2020. An eerily empty landscape, as seen from above.

U.S. Media / Politics News

Palmer Report, Opinion: Everyone piles on as illiterate Donald Trump goes berserk about “Noble Prizes,” Bill Palmer, April 26, 2020. Donald Trump is having a bad day today. He’s screwed up his press briefings so badly, he’s had to stop holding them. He hasn’t been able to golf or hold rallies for some donald trump twittertime now. He’s stuck home alone, with a pathetic existence and a failing presidency, and nothing left but his infamous Twitter account. You can guess how this went. Also, he’s illiterate and he’s an idiot, which doesn’t help his cause.

bill palmer report logo headerIt was bad enough that Trump had just finished posting an illiterate rant about a “hamberger” before deleting it. He then decided to tackle the trickier topic of Pulitzer Prizes, which he now thinks are Nobel Prizes. Or as Trump thinks they’re called, “Noble Prizes.” Trump tweeted this:

"When will all of the “reporters” who have received Noble Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia, only to have been proven totally wrong (and, in fact, it was the other side who committed the crimes), be turning back their cherished “Nobles” so that they can be given to the REAL REPORTERS & JOURNALISTS who got it right. I can give the Committee a very comprehensive list. When will the Noble Committee DEMAND the Prizes back, especially since they were gotten under fraud? The reporters and Lamestream Media knew the truth all along Lawsuits should be brought against all, including the Fake News Organizations, to rectify this terrible injustice. For all of the great lawyers out there, do we have any takers? When will the Noble Committee Act? Better be fast!"

Not only is Trump threatening retaliation against the reporters who won the Nobel Prizes, he also appears to be threatening the Nobel Committee. Wait til he finds out there are five separate Nobel Committees.

Also, wait til he finds out it’s not a “Noble Prize.” He’s going to be really upset when he finds out journalists win the Pulitzer Prize, not the Nobel Prize or the Noble Prize. This guy is totally, totally losing it – and the day is barely half over.

Pandemic Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, White House officials weigh replacement of HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey, April 26, 2020. Frustrations have grown over his handling of the coronavirus crisis earlier this year, as well as of his removal last week of a top vaccine official in his agency, which created an uproar.

White House officials are discussing whether to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, as frustrations have grown over his handling of the coronavirus crisis earlier this year, as well as of his removal last week of a top vaccine official in his agency, which created an uproar.

alex azar o cropped CustomSeveral top White House aides are discussing Azar’s removal and have mused over possible replacements, but President Trump has not weighed in, said five people familiar with the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

It remains unclear whether the president will want to replace his top health official amid a pandemic, because it could signal more chaos and turmoil in the administration’s response, which has come under repeated fire. More than 53,000 Americans have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and more than 900,000 U.S. cases have been reported as of Sunday.

Over the past several weeks, Azar has rarely appeared at the daily White House coronavirus news briefings and has been largely sidelined from Mike Pencethe response. He oversaw that effort until Feb. 26, when he was replaced by Vice President Pence, right, amid anger over the continued lack of coronavirus testing and conflicting messages from health officials about the threat of the virus.

His agency, however, is still responsible for crucial aspects of the pandemic response, such as leading the search for treatments and vaccines and distributing $100 billion worth of relief to hospitals that was allocated by Congress.

 

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jonathan swan twitterAxios Sneak Peek, White House to shift to economic message, Jonathan Swan, right, April 26, 2020. The White House plans to shift its coronavirus messaging toward boosting the economy and highlighting "success stories" of businesses, reducing its public emphasis on health statistics, according to two officials familiar with the planning.

Driving the news: The Coronavirus Task Force — and the doctors who've become household names, Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci — "will continue but take a back seat to the forward-looking, 'what's next' message," a White House official told Axios.

• President Trump is expected to make fewer, shorter appearances at press conferences, as we reported on Friday.
• Nothing's ever set with Trump, and these decisions will be made day by day. But on Saturday, for the first day in weeks, the White House didn't hold a press briefing and the president made no public appearances.

What we're hearing: "Expect to see a pivot from the White House in the days ahead, focusing on the economy and a more hopeful, forward-looking message," one of these officials said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expands battle with World Health Organization far beyond aid suspension, John Hudson, Josh Dawsey and Souad Mekhennet​, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). The president's aides are working behind the scenes to sideline the WHO on several new fronts as they seek to shift blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the world body, U.S. and foreign officials involved in the discussions said.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: The White House attempts to humiliate CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Erik Wemple, April 25, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, WHO warns against antibody immunity ‘passports’ as confirmed coronavirus cases surpass 900,000 in U.S., Karla Adam, Marisa Iati, Kim Bellware, Meryl Kornfield and Miriam Berger, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). The World Health Organization on Saturday warned governments against issuing “immunity passports,” saying that there was not enough evidence that a person who has recovered from covid-19 is immune from a second infection.

world health organization logo CustomThis comes as the known coronavirus death toll in the United States surpassed, with more than 900,000 confirmed cases, though the true figure is unknown.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Physicians report that young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying of strokes.
  • More health-care workers have been infected by the coronavirus in Spain than anywhere else in the world, according to a new report.
  • Georgia has become a flash point in the battle over whether it is time to remove the shutdown orders that have kept much of the country indoors.
  • White House officials are debating a “liability shield” that would prevent businesses from being sued by customers who contract the coronavirus.
  • President Trump claimed Friday that he was speaking sarcastically when suggesting disinfectants might be used inside the human body.
  • Oregon health officials said the state’s aggressive social distancing measures may have prevented more than 70,000 coronavirus infections since early March.

ny times logoNew York Times, Reopening Has Begun. No One Is Sure What Happens Next, Ben Casselman, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). The heated debate over when to restart the U.S. economy has obscured an issue that could prove just as thorny: How to do it. The economy is a complex web of supply chains whose dynamics don’t necessarily align neatly with epidemiologists’ recommendations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Reopening of America accelerates as states prepare to relax restrictions, Griff Witte, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Andrea Eger, April 26, 2020.  Governors are preparing to lift restrictions as the calendar turns to May — and crossing their fingers that the novel coronavirus doesn’t come roaring back.

The easing will not be universal and is cleaved largely along party lines, with some Republican governors moving to reopen key sectors and Democrats moving more slowly. In states such as New York, where covid-19 has exacted its heaviest toll, there is no letup to the rules in sight. Even in places where restrictions are being relaxed, governors have emphasized the need to proceed cautiously, lest they unleash a second wave.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden just beat Donald Trump at his own game, Bill Palmer, April 26, 2020. Donald Trump ran a highly ineffective 2016 campaign, visited the wrong states, chose messages that failed to expand his base, and was on track to lose badly before he was accidentally bailed out by Comey’s last minute letter. So let’s not make the mistake of thinking that Trump knows what he’s doing in 2020, or that his favorite tactics are in any way effective.

bill palmer report logo headerTo that end, Donald Trump still insists on putting himself at the center of political attention, whether it be positive or negative attention. Part of this is because his malignant narcissism means he’s clinically addicted to seeking attention. Part of it is because he seems to actually believe that whoever gets the most “likes” on Twitter will win the election.

That brings us to Joe Biden’s tweet from Friday:

joe biden oJoe Biden

@JoeBiden

I can’t believe I have to say this, but please don’t drink bleach.
1.61M
2:25 PM - Apr 24, 2020.

That’s right, Joe Biden’s tweet making fun of Donald Trump’s idiocy already has 1.5 million likes in just two days. We’re still digging, but we haven’t been able to find a single Trump tweet that’s ever gotten this many likes.

In fact Biden’s tweet is on track to become one of the most-liked tweets in history. Again, tweets and likes don’t win elections. Voter registration and voter turnout do. But Biden is now beating Trump at his own game. :

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U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

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ny times logoNew York Times, Nervous Republicans See Trump Sinking, and Taking the Senate With Him, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). Ominous new polls and the president’s erratic briefings have the G.O.P. worried about a Democratic takeover in November.

rnc logoPresident Trump’s erratic handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the worsening economy and a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the Senate if Mr. Trump does not put the nation on a radically improved course.

The scale of the G.O.P.’s challenge has crystallized in the last week. With 26 million Americans now having filed for unemployment benefits, Mr. Trump’s standing in states that he carried in 2016 looks increasingly wobbly: New surveys show him trailing significantly in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, and he is even narrowly behind in must-win Florida.

republican elephant logoDemocrats raised substantially more money than Republicans did in the first quarter in the most pivotal congressional races, according to recent campaign finance reports. And while Mr. Trump is well ahead in money compared with the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democratic donors are only beginning to focus on the general election, and several super PACs plan to spend heavily on behalf of him and the party.

Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Trump’s single best advantage as an incumbent — his access to the bully pulpit — has effectively become a platform for self-sabotage.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Coronavirus and the Price of Trump’s Delusions, Michelle Goldberg, right, April 26, 2020. A cult of personality is no match for a pandemic.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that a second wave of coronavirus infections this coming winter “will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” because it will coincide with flu season. He also called the protests against stay-at-home orders “not helpful.”

Donald Trump was apparently not pleased, tweeting that Redfield was “totally misquoted by Fake News @CNN.” On Wednesday evening, after another rant about fake news, Trump brought Redfield onstage at his daily press briefing, where Redfield had the unenviable task of trying to explain his remarks, which he acknowledged were quoted accurately, without contradicting the president. The fall and winter might be “more difficult and potentially more complicated” due to the confluence of coronavirus and influenza, Redfield said, but that didn’t mean the second wave would be “worse.”

Trump, meanwhile, spoke of the crisis in the past tense, as something America is now emerging from, suggesting that all the country will face in the future is “some embers of corona.” The day before, the country had recorded around 2,200 deaths, making it one of the deadliest days of the pandemic in the United States.

Over the last three and a half years, Americans have had to accustom themselves to a relentless, numbing barrage of lies from the federal government. In one sector after another, we’ve seen experts systemically purged and replaced with toadying apparatchiks. The few professionals who’ve kept their jobs have often had to engage in degrading acts of public obeisance more common to autocracies. Public policy has zigzagged according to presidential whim. Empirical reality has been subsumed to Trump’s cult of personality.

But as long as the economy was decent and many of the crises Trump created were far away, the immediate costs of Trump’s narcissistic governance have been, for most citizens, more psychic than material. That changed with the coronavirus. Today the lies are no longer about the size of the audience at Trump’s inauguration, the fruits of sucking up to North Korea or the findings of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. Now the bill for a president with a tyrant’s contempt for truth and competence has come due.

April 25

Pandemic Politics

Virus Victims

2020 U.S. Elections

World News 

Trump Watch

Pandemic Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Dire Warnings and Aggressive Pushback as Trump Promotes Sham Cures, Katie Rogers, Christine Hauser, Alan Yuhas and Maggie Haberman, Updated April 25, 2020. Responding to the criticism from public health officials around the country, the president said he was playing a trick on reporters.

In Maryland, so many callers flooded a health hotline with questions that the state’s Emergency Management Agency had to issue a warning that “under no circumstances” should any disinfectant be taken to treat the coronavirus. In Washington State, officials urged people not to consume laundry detergent capsules. Across the country on Friday, health professionals sounded the alarm.

Injecting bleach or highly concentrated rubbing alcohol “causes massive organ damage and the blood cells in the body to basically burst,” Dr. Diane P. Calello, the medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, said in an interview. “It can definitely be a fatal event.”

Even the makers of Clorox and Lysol pleaded with Americans not to inject or ingest their products.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomThe frantic reaction was prompted by President Trump’s suggestion on Thursday at a White House briefing that an “injection inside” the human body with a disinfectant like bleach or isopropyl alcohol could help combat the virus.

“And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute,” Mr. Trump said after a presentation from William N. Bryan, an acting under secretary for science at the Department of Homeland Security, detailed the virus’s possible susceptibility to bleach and alcohol.

“One minute,” the president said. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.”

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, right, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was sitting to the side in the White House briefing room, blinking deborah birx profile palmer Customhard and looking at the floor as he spoke. Later, Mr. Trump asked her if she knew about “the heat and the light” as a potential cure.

“Not as a treatment,” Dr. Birx said, adding, “I haven’t seen heat or light —” before the president cut her off.

Mr. Trump’s remarks caused an immediate uproar, and the White House spent much of Friday trying to walk them back. Also Friday, the Food and Drug Administration warned that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, two drugs that the president has repeatedly recommended in treating the coronavirus, can cause dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm in coronavirus patients and has resulted in some deaths.

The F.D.A. said the drugs should be used only in clinical trials or hospitals where patients can be closely monitored for heart problems.

“Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines,” Kayleigh McEnany, the new White House press secretary, said in a statement criticizing the coverage of Thursday night’s briefing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants, Allyson Chiu, Katie Shepherd and Brittany Shammas, April 25, 2020 (print ed.). After a presentation Thursday that touched on the disinfectants that can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air, President Trump pondered whether those chemicals could be used to fight the virus inside the human body.

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

The question, which Trump offered unprompted, immediately spurred doctors, lawmakers and the makers of Lysol to respond with incredulity and warnings against injecting or otherwise ingesting disinfectants, which are highly toxic.

“My concern is that people will die. People will think this is a good idea,” Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told The Washington Post. “This is not willy-nilly, off-the-cuff, maybe-this-will-work advice. This is dangerous.”

washington post logoWashington Post, WHO warns against antibody immunity ‘passports’ as confirmed coronavirus cases surpass 900,000 in U.S., Karla Adam, Marisa Iati, Kim Bellware, Meryl Kornfield and Miriam Berger, April 25, 2020. The World Health Organization on Saturday warned governments against issuing “immunity passports,” saying that there was not enough evidence that a person who has recovered from covid-19 is immune from a second infection.

world health organization logo CustomThis comes as the known coronavirus death toll in the United States surpassed, with more than 900,000 confirmed cases, though the true figure is unknown.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Physicians report that young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying of strokes.
  • More health-care workers have been infected by the coronavirus in Spain than anywhere else in the world, according to a new report.
  • Georgia has become a flash point in the battle over whether it is time to remove the shutdown orders that have kept much of the country indoors.
  • White House officials are debating a “liability shield” that would prevent businesses from being sued by customers who contract the coronavirus.
  • President Trump claimed Friday that he was speaking sarcastically when suggesting disinfectants might be used inside the human body.
  • Oregon health officials said the state’s aggressive social distancing measures may have prevented more than 70,000 coronavirus infections since early March.

ny times logoNew York Times, Reopening Has Begun. No One Is Sure What Happens Next, Ben Casselman, April 25, 2020. The heated debate over when to restart the U.S. economy has obscured an issue that could prove just as thorny: How to do it. The economy is a complex web of supply chains whose dynamics don’t necessarily align neatly with epidemiologists’ recommendations.

washington post logous mail logoWashington Post, Trump says he will block aid for U.S. Postal Service if it doesn’t hike prices immediately, Lisa Rein and Jacob Bogage​, April 25, 2020 (print ed.). The president said the cash-strapped postal agency should quadruple its prices, threatening, “I’m not signing anything.”

ny times logoNew York Times, NY Live Updates: N.Y.: Deaths Fall to 422, Lowest One-Day Figure Since April 1, Staff reports, April 25, 2020. The number of coronavirus patients in hospitals in New York State is down almost 25 percent since last week.

Governor Cuomo raised the ante on Friday in his attacks on Senator Mitch McConnell’s comments that states facing gaping budget deficits should declare bankruptcy rather than receive more federal aid.

andrew cuomoMr. Cuomo, right, said that states could not legally declare bankruptcy, and he dared Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, to pass legislation letting them do so.

“Your suggestion, Senator McConnell? Pass the law. I dare you,” Mr. Cuomo said. “You want to send a signal to the markets that this nation is in real trouble? You want to send an international message that the economy is in turmoil? Do that.”

New York is projecting a $61 billion drop in tax revenue over four years because of the coronavirus, Mr. Cuomo said, and he has stressed that only an infusion of federal money could get the state back on its feet.

On Wednesday, Mr. McConnell had said that Senate Republicans were disinclined to offer additional assistance to local governments and that he favored “allowing states to use the bankruptcy route.” His office amplified the message in a news release under the heading “Stopping Blue State Bailouts.”

That evening, Mr. Cuomo called the bankruptcy comment “one of the saddest, really dumb comments of all time.”

On Thursday, he called Mr. McConnell “the grim reaper,” and added: “Think of what he is saying: People died. 15,000 people died in New York, but they were predominantly Democrats, so why should we help them?”

On Friday, Mr. Cuomo called Mr. McConnell’s bluff: “If you believe what you said, and you have the courage of conviction because you’re a man of your word, pass that bill if you weren’t just playing politics,” he said. “We’ll see how long it takes him to do it.”

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Washington Post, N.J. decries limitations on federal aid to states as national anger over budget woes grows, Tony Romm, April 25, 2020 (print ed.). One of the hardest hit states in the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey, may have no choice but to return some of its much-needed federal aid because of heavy restrictions recently imposed by the Trump administration, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

Congress last month authorized $150 billion to help local governments pay down the fast-growing costs of a global health emergency that has already killed tens of thousands of people nationwide. But the money allotted to New Jersey has been so tightly administered by the Treasury Department that Murphy (D), below left, said his state might not be able to use all of it, even though local leaders find themselves in dire financial straits.

philip murphy“I was assured this funding would be able to be used flexibly by states, filling holes we now must deal with,” he said during his daily news conference. “Those assurances apparently were empty.”

As a result, Murphy said, the Treasury Department’s policy “renders much of this funding literally unusable.” He predicted that without changes, the state might have to “return a good chunk of it to the federal government.”

Murphy’s criticism was the latest public complaint about the Trump administration’s implementation of coronavirus emergency funding programs. The Treasury Department already had to make adjustments to a small-business bailout program and acknowledged glitches in the way it has sent payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans. Federal assistance for state unemployment programs, meanwhile, also has been delayed because of a surge in applications from hard-hit states.

The rebuke from Murphy reflects the intensifying standoff between state governors and federal officials over Washington’s responsibilities as the coronavirus unleashes economic havoc nationwide. A bipartisan group of governors has asked Congress for $500 billion to shore up their budgets, warning of steep spending cuts that could make the economic downturn even worse. Democrats share their concerns, but Republican lawmakers so far have balked at this figure, and no local aid is included in the latest coronavirus aid package adopted by Congress.
Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey, one of the hardest-hit states in the pandemic, may have no choice but to return some of its much-needed federal aid because of heavy restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why Donald Trump suddenly went soft on China, Bill Palmer, April 25, 2020. For awhile there, Donald Trump was trying to gain the cheapest of political points by referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus.” It was a blatant attempt at scapegoating Chinese-Americans and Asian-Americans over the virus, in the hope of stirring up xenophobia within his racist base, thus distracting them from his own failures.

bill palmer report logo headerThen a couple weeks ago Trump suddenly stopped calling it the “Chinese Virus” and instead delivered a monologue about how Asian-Americans shouldn’t be blamed for this. This was a good development, of course. But as Palmer Report pointed out at the time, a bad person like Trump only does something like that when he has ulterior motives. Now we’re getting some answers.

Trump owes hundreds of millions of dollars to a Chinese government-controlled bank, and he’s scheduled to have to make a huge payment on that loan soon, according to an eye opening new report from Politico. Based on the fact that six of Trump’s top revenue-producing properties are currently shut down in the pandemic, and the recent reporting that he’s already reduced to begging Deutsche Bank to push back his payments, it’s more clear than ever that Trump has no cash on hand.

No wonder Donald Trump suddenly went soft on China. President Xi must have reminded him that China owns him, and that it can seize control of his buildings if he loses the election and can’t pay up. Again, it’s a good thing that Trump has stopped calling it the “Chinese Virus.” But it’s disturbing to think that Trump only stopped using that racist term because China reminded him that it literally owns him.

Virus Victims

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Live Reports: Young people with coronavirus are dying of strokes; U.S. coronavirus toll tops 50,000, Staff Reports, Updated April 25, 2020. / Young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying from strokes, physicians report. Doctors say some of the patients didn’t even know they were infected. Once thought to be a pathogen that primarily attacks the lungs, the coronavirus has turned out to be a much more formidable foe — impacting nearly every major organ system in the body.

The known coronavirus death toll in the United States has surpassed 50,000, though the true figure is unknown. Experts have called the soaring U.S. toll an “underestimation” because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts only fatalities in which the virus is confirmed in a laboratory test and state health officials have divergent methods for counting covid-19 victims.

Here are some significant developments:

  • President Trump claimed Friday that he was speaking sarcastically when suggested disinfectants might be used inside the human body. The federal government scrambled Friday to stave off a potential wave of public health emergencies sparked by President Trump’s dangerous suggestion.
  • House Democrats plan to act swiftly with the next coronavirus relief package, but President Trump has been unclear about his priorities, creating an uncertain path forward.
  • Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office delivered a grim forecast of the economic trauma that could last into next year.

washington post logoWashington Post, AutoNation, a retailer worth billions, says it received nearly $80 million in SBA funds, Jonathan O'Connell, April 25, 2020 (print ed.). Employees speak out, saying the company took ‘an obscene amount,’ and the board votes to return funds to the government.

AutoNation, a national network of auto sellers, received more than $77 million in federal small-business funds despite being a company worth billions that employed more than 26,000 people before the pandemic.

sba logo new Custom CustomIn response to questions from The Washington Post, AutoNation Executive Vice President Marc Cannon said that the company’s board voted Thursday to return the funds even though the company had acquired them under the rules created by Congress and intended to use the money only to pay employees.

Documents show the company may have received even more money, a total of $95 million, spread across dozens of locations, an amount that would be more than triple the amount any company is known to have received through the fund. AutoNation disputes the $95 million figure.

washington post logoWashington Post, Church donations have plunged as services have gone online. Some congregations won’t survive, Michelle Boorstein, April 25, 2020 (print ed.). Pastor J. Artie Stuckey has cut or eliminated every staff salary at his small Mississippi church. He’s nervously watching the payments for the building where Restoration Baptist meets. He reminds his congregation to keep tithing, but he knows many of them — the barber, the electrician, the musician — have also seen their finances rocked by the pandemic shutdown.

Stuckey, a 42-year-old who sold cars until ministry called him 15 years ago, is sympathetic to being cash-strapped. Restoration wasn’t in great financial shape even before the virus wiped out more than 50 percent of its weekly offerings.

But now the 65-member evangelical church outside Jackson is in survival mode. Which, to Stuckey, feels like a test of faith.

“I made a commitment to God, to my people. We’ve been teaching and preaching faith. Anyone can be a leader, but if you’re a faith leader, what do we do?” he asked. “Do we fold, or do we become a living example of what we’ve preached for so many years?”

The novel coronavirus is pressing painfully on the soft underbelly of U.S. houses of worship: their finances. About a third of all congregations have no savings, according to the 2018-2019 National Congregations Study. Just 20 percent streamed their services, and 48 percent were able to accept donations electronically, the study found, making it more challenging to serve the faithful and gather their donations during the virus shutdown.

The blow has been hardest on the nation’s many small congregations (about half of U.S. congregations are the size of Stuckey’s or smaller). Some experts think the coronavirus could reshape the country’s religious landscape and wipe out many small houses of worship. These are places where members typically go to seek guidance and comfort, but members are now finding closed buildings and desperate pleas for funds.

Miami Herald, As meat plants close, at least 100 USDA inspectors test positive for coronavirus, Brooke Wolford, April 25, 2020 (print ed.). Meat processing plants across the U.S. are closing shop as workers fall ill with the coronavirus, and now the Department of Agriculture has revealed that 100 of its own meat inspectors have tested positive for COVID-19.

At least 100 of 6,500 USDA inspectors have been infected with the coronavirus, according to Bloomberg. They work for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) division of the agency, according to the outlet. One inspector died from the coronavirus back in March after visiting meat-processing plants, according to Politico.

The USDA has been criticized for asking inspectors to provide their own protective gear, according to Politico. Additionally, critics say the agency is loosening regulations on inspections, EcoWatch, an environmental news agency, reported.

“I would give them an ‘F’,” Paula Schelling, acting president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 45, a union that represents USDA inspectors, told Politico. She and other union leaders told the USDA “it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when this would all blow up in these food plants. There is no protective equipment, there is no social distancing. Now we are at the when.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid coronavirus pandemic, federal inmates get mixed signals about home-confinement releases, Neena Satija and
Matt Zapotosky, April 25, 2020 (print ed). The early release of about 200 federal inmates to home confinement amid the coronavirus pandemic abruptly stalled earlier this week as the Bureau of Prisons and the Justice Department issued shifting, contradictory guidelines, interviews and documents show.

Some inmates already in prerelease quarantine were returned to cells as a result, surprising families who had been contacted about the steps needed for their return. The Justice Department now says the inmates will indeed be released, though others like them might face a harder time going forward.

william barr new oAttorney General William P. Barr, right, in late March ordered the Bureau of Prisons to allow more inmates to finish their sentences at home as a way to help address coronavirus challenges in close quarters. But weeks after his statement, the department reset, then reset again, the bar prisoners must reach to be considered for release to home detention.

The flip-flopping at the federal level since early April stems from the question of whether prisoners must have served at least half of their sentences to be considered for early release to home detention: First they needed to have met that mark, then they didn’t, then the requirement was apparently reinstated, inmates were told earlier this week.

Then, on Wednesday, a new Bureau of Prisons memo indicated that prisoners who had not hit the halfway point were still eligible. In addition, a Justice Department spokesman said the agency now would try to expedite the cases of the inmates who had been caught in limbo amid the back-and-forth changes, moving them to the front of the line for home confinement.

The handling of early federal releases contrasts sharply with some local and state actions that have released thousands of inmates deemed to be the most vulnerable or the least dangerous amid escalating outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Two dozen federal inmates have died of covid-19 since March and more than 600 inmates and 350 staffers have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Bureau of Prisons, which houses about 174,000 inmates across the federal prison system.

Inside the deadliest federal prison, the seeping coronavirus creates fear and danger

The bureau’s website says it has sent more than 1,500 inmates home early since March 26 at Barr’s direction, adding that “this is a tremendous lift that was accomplished through the marshaling of all of BOP’s resources.”

It is not clear where those inmates were transferred from, how they were determined to be eligible or whether some already might have been scheduled for home confinement anyway. The agency declined to provide more details.

2020 U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Leads Trump in Key States. But Hillary Clinton Led by More, Giovanni Russonello, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). While polling shows joe biden oJoe Biden narrowly ahead in states like Michigan, things looked rosier for Hillary Clinton in many swing states at this point in 2016.

Some Americans have lost faith in President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, but the country’s deeply entrenched partisan divide has prevented the president from losing more than a few percentage points on his overall approval rating.

Besides, the Electoral College has a meaningful Republican tilt, and those who turn out to vote tend to be slightly more conservative than the general population. Add to that Republicans’ efforts to limit access to voting among predominantly Democratic populations, and Mr. Trump might well become the first president in history to win two full terms without once winning a plurality of the popular vote.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Global Live Updates: India Eases Lockdowns Outside Hot Spots, Staff reports, April 25, 2020. The global death toll from the india flag mapcoronavirus is approaching 200,000. Nearly 60 new infections were found among crew members of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown last month to contain the coronavirus, most businesses shuttered across the country, except for those selling food, medicine and other essential items.

In an announcement on Friday night, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said it would allow shops in rural areas to reopen, except liquor stores and those in malls or other large complexes.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Italy, Stay-at-Home Orders Could Make Home a Dangerous Place, Jason Horowitz and Emma Bubola, April 25, 2020 (print ed.). Isolation measures helped Italy control the coronavirus, but it has also made homes “the biggest reservoir of infections,” in the words of one expert.

The predicament of home infections is emerging not just in Italy but in hot spots across the globe, in Queens and the Paris suburbs, as well as the working-class neighborhoods of Rome and Milan. It is also a problem that local officials and epidemiologists say is getting too little attention, particularly as the government has announced tentative steps toward reopening in early May.

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expands battle with World Health Organization far beyond aid suspension, John Hudson, Josh Dawsey and Souad Mekhennet​, April 25, 2020. The president's aides are working behind the scenes to sideline the WHO on several new fronts as they seek to shift blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the world body, U.S. and foreign officials involved in the discussions said.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: The White House attempts to humiliate CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Erik Wemple, April 25, 2020.

djt march 2020 Custom

Salon, Psychologist John Gartner: Trump is a "sexual sadist" who is "actively engaging in sabotage," Chauncey DeVega, April 25, 2020. Leading psychotherapist and author on Trump's worsening sadistic "addiction" to causing harm, pain and death.

As of Friday, the coronavirus pandemic has killed at least 50,000 people in the United States. That number is likely to be an undercount, and it's possible we will never have a true reckoning.

At almost every juncture, Donald Trump has made decisions about the coronavirus pandemic that have led to more death. His behavior is that of a person who has no care or concern for the health, safety and welfare of the American people. Nothing could epitomize that more perfectly than his grotesque suggestion this week that "injecting" disinfectants or household cleaning products might kill the coronavirus. This would seem comical, and entirely unbelievable, if it had not actually happened.

In 2016 the Obama administration told then President-elect Trump and his advisers of the high likelihood that a pandemic would strike the nation and advised the incoming administration to take appropriate steps to reduce its impact. Obama officials also left their Trump counterparts a step-by-step guide on how to respond to a pandemic. Trump and his inner circle ignored that guidance.

Last November, the U.S. military warned Donald Trump that the country was likely to be afflicted with a devastating pandemic originating in China.

In January 2020, the Trump administration was told by its own experts that the coronavirus would spread beyond China and become a global pandemic. Again, Trump chose inaction.

Trump has deprived Democratic-led regions of the country from receiving needed medical supplies. He also waited months to begin using the Defense Appropriation Act to compel American companies to produce more ventilators, masks and other emergency equipment.

Late last year, Americans working with the World Health Organization began to warn Trump and his administration about the coronavirus pandemic. These doctors and other medical professionals were ignored.

In these examples and many others, Trump and his inner circle ignored or purged experts and other truth-tellers, and lied about, misrepresented, deflected or denied the dire threat to the American people posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Considered in total, Trump and his regime have shown themselves to be incompetent, callous, malevolent and deeply cruel in their response to the coronavirus crisis (as well as to a plethora of other issues).

But to merely document the Trump regime's deadly failures in response to the coronavirus pandemic is to ignore the most important question: What were Trump and his advisers' underlying motivations?

This forensic question must be answered if we are ever to have a full accounting of the coronavirus, and see justice done for the sick, the dead and the dying as well as the damage done to the broader American community.

Media critic (and former Salon writer) Eric Boehlert summarizes the importance of determining Donald Trump's motives this way:

As I stressed last week, the media's preferred storyline that suggests Trump is simply incompetent doesn't add up because Trump has made the wrong decision every single time in terms of how crises like this are supposed to be dealt with. (i.e. Be consistent, transparent, factual, and credible.) It's increasingly not believable for the press to suggest Trump has been distracted or inept during this crisis, in part because of the level of White House uselessness has become so staggering.

Maybe Trump's vengeful. Maybe he wants to wreck the economy to create investment opportunities? He's under the thumb of a foreign entity? He wants to cause panic and cancel the November elections? He's a fatalist? Who knows. And honestly, the specific "why" isn't what matters now. What matters is asking the difficult questions and pondering what the Trump presidency is truly about, no matter what lurks in the shadows….

Now the press needs to shift some of its focus and ask the truly alarming questions about Trump and his motives. Because we still don't know why he essentially ordered the federal government to stand down for the virus invasion.

Psychologist and psychotherapist John Gartner, contributor to the bestselling book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" and co-founder of the Duty to WARN PAC, has an answer: Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist. Our president's mental pathologies inexorably compel him to hurt and kill large numbers of people — including his own supporters.

Dr. Gartner taught for many years at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, and has private therapeutic practices in Baltimore and New York, specializing in the treatment of borderline personality disorders. In our most recent conversation, he explains that sadism and violence are central to Trump's malignant narcissism and his decision-making about the coronavirus pandemic. Gartner also warns that Donald Trump is an abuser locked into a deeply dysfunctional relationship with the American people and that, like other sadists, Trump enjoys causing harm and suffering.

Ultimately, Gartner concludes that Donald Trump is engaging in "democidal behavior" and cautions that the tens of thousands of dead (so far) from the coronavirus pandemic are not simply collateral damage from Trump's policies, but rather the logical outcome of Trump's apparent mental pathologies and the poor decisions that flow from them.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Told you Donald Trump’s HHS Secretary Alex Azar was a goner, Bill Palmer, April 25, 2020. When Donald Trump decided roughly a week ago to install his own loyalist puppet as the new HHS Secretary, Palmer Report spelled out that this was clearly the first step in laying alex azar o cropped Customthe groundwork for pushing Azar out as a scapegoat. Once the average American had no doubt that Trump’s response to the coronavirus was disastrous, he was going to need to blame one of his own people.

Now that Trump’s own performance during his press briefings has bottomed out in calamitous fashion, he and his regime are leaking that Alex Azar, right, is indeed on the verge of being fired. CNN says that Trump hasn’t made up his mind for sure yet.

bill palmer report logo headerBut Trump has clearly signed off on leaking this story, which means he definitely wants to oust Azar, and he’s probably trying to work up the nerve to do it. Trump has been extraordinarily wishy washy when it comes to deciding whether to pull the trigger on these things.

The timing can’t be ignored. Donald Trump tweeted this evening that he’s giving up doing press briefings, blaming the media in the process. He was harming himself with these bumbling briefings. But now that he’s supposedly not going to be doing them anymore, he’ll have no real way to try to influence the media narrative.

If Trump goes through with firing Azar this weekend, he just might be able to get the media to focus on Azar’s failings instead of his own. Of course there are documents that prove Azar tried to warn Trump about the coronavirus crisis early on, and that Trump refused to listen, so this probably won’t go well for Trump either way.

April 24

us mail logoTrump Scandal

Public Health Top Headlines

Pandemic Politics

Virus Victims

2020 U.S. Elections

World News 

 

Trump Scandal

Vanity Fair, Investigation: “Really Want to Flood NY and NJ”: Internal Documents Reveal Team Trump’s Chloroquine Master Plan, Katherine Eban, April 24, 2020. Forget testing, ventilators, and PPE. Donald Trump’s big plan to beat COVID-19 involved distributing millions of doses of an unproven drug. Behind the scenes, senior administration officials pushed hard to bend the rules and back up his boasts.

On the afternoon of Saturday, April 4, President Trump stood at the White House podium and escalated his marketing blitz on behalf of hydroxychloroquine, hyping the old malaria drug’s alleged promise in treating COVID-19, as well as his administration’s success in acquiring huge amounts of it.

“We have millions and millions of doses of it—29 million to be exact,” he said, as the official tally of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. topped 260,000 and governors across the country pleaded for federal support to acquire tests, ventilators, and protective gear for health care workers. “We’re just hearing really positive stories, and we’re continuing to collect the data.” That evening, according to emails obtained by Vanity Fair, Trump’s political appointees would ramp up the pressure on career health officials to make good on the president’s extravagant promises, despite clear warnings from federal clinicians about the risks and unproven benefits of chloroquine-based treatments for COVID-19.

Vanity Fair has assembled this account based on documents and interviews provided by multiple federal officials with knowledge of internal Trump administration proceedings.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump’s hydroxychloroquine scandal just took a much uglier turn, Bill Palmer, April 24, 2020. Donald Trump is now telling people to ingest disinfectants and inject sunlight into their veins as a miracle cure for coronavirus. But before Trump was pushing these insane and potentially fatal treatments, he was dishonestly insisting that a dangerous malaria and lupus drug called hydroxychloroquine was a risk-free coronavirus miracle cure.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump stopped promoting hydroxychloroquine right around the time a government study revealed that coronavirus patients who took the drug actually had a sharply higher chance of dying. All along we all knew that Trump was pushing the drug for some corrupt reason. Now we’re learning about just how dark and ugly Trump’s scheme was, and just how many people would have died if it had gone into action.

Even as Donald Trump was on stage making false claims about hydroxychloroquine, the Trump regime was hatching up a plan to “flood” New York and New Jersey with as many as 29 million doses of the drug. This is according to a lengthy and stunning new expose from Vanity Fair, which includes internal emails showing that various Trump officials were complicit in this scheme to poison millions of people with a harmful drug.

Earlier this month the New York Times revealed that Donald Trump has three family trusts that own stock in the largest manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine, and that some of his cronies have even bigger financial connections to the drug. This scandal isn’t going away. Considering the scientific evidence that says hydroxychloroquine kills coronavirus patients rather than saving them, this is some kind of unraveling mass murder plot.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Enough! Wayne Madsen, left, April 24, 2020. Lost in the constant din and cacophony of the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalldiversionary noise from the White House, which is constantly eaten up by the corporate news media, was a dire warning from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.

us mail logoDuring an online campaign fundraiser on April 23, Biden said he foresaw Trump unconstitutionally postponing the November 3 election in a gambit to remain in office. Biden said, “Mark my words, I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held.”

Biden coupled his warning about an attempted Trump constitutional coup with an observation that Trump is trying to eliminate the U.S. Postal Service in order to “do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote” by mail.

The Hill, Pelosi: November elections 'must' go on as scheduled, Cristina Marcos, April 24, 2020. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that Democrats "must" ensure that President Trump doesn't try to delay the Nov. 3 elections, a day after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued a similar warning.

"I know there's a danger and people are scared, but we must and we will," Pelosi said of holding the elections as scheduled during an interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" when asked about the possibility of an attempt to delay the elections if there is a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Pelosi said that she hoped that any attempt to move back the elections would be a bridge too far even for Republicans.

"[Trump] has done a lot to undermine who we are as America, but the fact is, we cannot allow him to do that to our democracy. That will not happen. And God willing, maybe some Republicans might even stand up for our country, our Constitution and our democracy, as well. I think they will," Pelosi said.

Trump's campaign slammed Biden after the former vice president predicted during an online fundraiser on Thursday that Trump would try to push back the elections and that there would again be electoral interference from Russia.

“Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden said, adding that doing so is "the only way [Trump] thinks he can possibly win.”

Biden called for ensuring that there are alternatives to in-person voting to guarantee that elections could still go forward if the pandemic remains a threat in the fall.

“We have to figure out how we are going to conduct a full and fair and safe election in November and no one should have to risk their lives to cast a ballot,” Biden said.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh called Biden's comments “the incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality."

Public Health Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. death toll surpasses 51,000, figures compiled by The Post show soaring toll, Brittany Shammas, April 24, 2020. The coronavirus’s U.S. death toll surged past 51,000 on Friday, marking another grim milestone in the pandemic that has upended life around the globe. Three months after the nation’s first confirmed case, the highly contagious virus has killed at an alarming rate: Just 10 days ago, the number of recorded deaths stood at 25,000.

djt smiling fileExperts have warned that the number of reported fatalities likely underestimates the true toll of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Amid a national debate over how to count the dead, methods have varied widely from state to state. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially included only those who tested positive for the virus, even with strict limitations on testing.

The Washington Post has been analyzing data from state health agencies to track every known death in the country. Of the confirmed fatalities, a near-majority have been in New York. But while the state has started to see a decrease in its confirmed daily death counts, other parts of the country are beginning to see a surge.

Even as governors in multiple states eased stay-at-home orders and took other steps to restart their stymied economies, the disease’s rapid spread in both urban and rural areas had led to more than 28,000 deaths outside the epicenter of New York. The second-highest death toll is in New Jersey, followed by Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois.

djt i dont take responsibility at all

washington post logoWashington Post, House approves $484 billion in aid for hospitals, small business, testing, Erica Werner, April 24, 2020 (print ed.).  Even as the legislation heads to President Trump, lawmakers from both parties are already talking about additional large spending bills. But it could covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2take several weeks as they argue about what to do next.

The House overwhelmingly passed a $484 billion spending package Thursday as the unemployment crisis deepened, a stark illustration of how policymakers continue trying to rescue an unraveling economy amid growing despair.

The legislation, approved 388-5, would restart a small-business loan program that was swamped by demand and allocate more money for health-care providers and virus testing. The vote was historic, as many lawmakers wore masks on the House floor, some even speaking through face coverings as they delivered impassioned remarks. 

djt nancy pelosi Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Risky Strategy Has Produced Wins for Democrats, Carl Hulse, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). Another struggle looms as Senator Mitch McConnell threatens a go-slow approach on the next round of economic stimulus, including aid to states.

In January 2018, Senate Democrats took a politically risky stand, shutting down the government to insist on protections for hundreds of democratic donkey logothousands of undocumented immigrants. Gleeful Republicans saw the obstruction strategy as a huge blunder and pounded the Democrats, who caved after only a few days of sharp attacks and cut a deal to reopen.

Times — and circumstances — have changed.

Democrats have now blocked two consecutive coronavirus rescue packages pushed by Republicans and withstood withering criticism to win us senate logoconcessions — and hundreds of billions of dollars — they said were vital, including in the bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday and is slated to clear the House on Thursday. At nearly $500 billion, the latest measure ended up being almost twice the size and much broader in scope than the original bill Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, tried to ram through two weeks earlier without negotiations.

It was a potentially dangerous strategy for Democrats, particularly in an election year, that left them open to accusations from President Trump and congressional Republicans that they were denying desperately needed money at a crucial moment for businesses trying to survive in the face of the pandemic. It may have also reduced their leverage in the next fight over a much larger stimulus measure that is likely to top $1 trillion.

But their willingness to take on those risks reflects Democrats’ confidence that the terrain of the current debate — a public health crisis and economic disaster that will require the broadest government relief effort since the post-World War II era — plays to their core strengths as a party. It is also based in part on their belief that Mr. Trump, whose re-election hopes are likely to rise or fall based on the public perception of his administration’s response to the pandemic, has a strong incentive to compromise with them.

Covid-19 Global Totals, 192,125 deaths worldwide (nearly 50,000 in United States, Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, April 24, 2020 (11 a.m. EST). Total confirmed cases by country: 870,000 United States; 220,000 Spain; 2.7 million worldwide.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hidden Outbreaks Spread Far Earlier Than Americans Knew, Estimates Say, Benedict Carey and James Glanz, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle had undetected outbreaks long before testing showed a major problem, according to a model.

USTR seal Custom 2By the time New York City confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on March 1, thousands of infections were already silently spreading through the city, a hidden explosion of a disease that many still viewed as a remote threat as the city awaited the first signs of spring.

Hidden outbreaks were also spreading almost completely undetected in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle, long before testing showed that each city had a major problem, according to a model of the spread of the disease by researchers at Northeastern University who shared their results with The New York Times.

Even in early February — while the world focused on China — the virus was not only likely to be spreading in multiple American cities, but also seeding blooms of infection elsewhere in the United States, the researchers found.

Pandemic Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: McConnell to Every State: Drop Dead, Paul Krugman, right, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). Blocking federal aid is vile, but paul krugmanit’s also hypocritical. We have the resources to ensure that every American has enough to eat, that people don’t lose health insurance, that they don’t lose their homes because they can’t pay rent or mortgage fees. There’s also no reason we should see punishing cuts in essential public services.

Unfortunately, it’s looking increasingly likely that tens of millions of Americans will in fact suffer extreme hardship and that there will be devastating cuts in services. Why? The answer mainly boils down to two words: Mitch McConnell.

mitch mcconnellOn Wednesday, McConnell, left, the Senate majority leader, declared that he is opposed to any further federal aid to beleaguered state and local governments, and suggested that states declare bankruptcy instead. Lest anyone accuse McConnell of being even slightly nonpartisan, his office distributed two memos referring to proposals for state aid as “blue state bailouts.”

A number of governors have already denounced McConnell’s position as stupid, which it is. But it’s also vile and hypocritical.

At one level, it’s really something to see a man who helped ram through a giant tax cut for corporations — which they mainly used to buy back their own stock — now pretend to be deeply concerned about borrowing money to help states facing a fiscal crisis that isn’t their fault.

At another level, it’s also really something to see McConnell, whose state is heavily subsidized by the federal government, give lectures on self-reliance to states like New York that pay much more in federal taxes than they get back.

We’re not talking about small numbers here. According to estimates by the Rockefeller Institute, from 2015 to 2018 Kentucky — which pays relatively little in federal taxes, because it’s fairly poor, but gets major benefits from programs like Medicare and Social Security — received net transfers from Washington averaging more than $33,000 per person. That was 18.6 percent of the state’s G.D.P.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: F.D.A. Issues Warning on Drugs Trump Praised; Georgia Begins to Reopen, Staff reports, April 24, 2020. Two fda logoanti-malarial drugs can cause dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm in coronavirus patients, the agency warned.

Georgia, against the advice of public health experts and the White House, will reopen some nonessential businesses today; In the past month, Congress has approved $2.7 million in relief. But the latest measure contained no money for state governments. Follow our updates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants, Allyson Chiu, Katie Shepherd and Brittany Shammas, April 24, 2020.After a presentation Thursday that touched on the disinfectants that can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air, President Trump pondered whether those chemicals could be used to fight the virus inside the human body.

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

The question, which Trump offered unprompted, immediately spurred doctors, lawmakers and the makers of Lysol to respond with incredulity and warnings against injecting or otherwise ingesting disinfectants, which are highly toxic.

“My concern is that people will die. People will think this is a good idea,” Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told The Washington Post. “This is not willy-nilly, off-the-cuff, maybe-this-will-work advice. This is dangerous.”

Raw Story via Salon, WATCH: Dr. Birx appears horrified as Trump suggests disinfectant injections could cure coronavirus, Bob Brigham, April 24, 2020. President Donald Trump wondered aloud whether injecting disinfectants into human beings could kill COVID-19. See this.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just cut and ran, Bill Palmer, April 24, 2020. When Donald Trump announced he was holding yet another press briefing today, it raised the question of what he would do when he was inevitably asked about his “disinfectant” controversy. After all, he told everyone yesterday that they should consider ingesting products like Lysol or bleach, which would kill a person. Now we have our answer.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump’s press briefing today consisted of him talking for a minute or two, Mike Pence talking about testing for several minutes, an expert speaking briefly, and then… suddenly it was over. The whole thing ended before the reporters could ask Trump or anyone else in the room any questions.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Trump cut and ran today, as the very first question would have been about bleach and Lysol, and there’s no possible way an increasingly addled Trump could have answered it satisfactorily. By doing this, Trump and his handlers ensured that he didn’t do anything to make the “disinfectant” mess even worse. But it also ensures that the disinfectant thing will be the dominant story heading into the weekend. As always, Trump is a coward.

washington post logoWashington Post, Governors blindside front-line staff with abrupt reopening proposals, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rachel Weiner, April 24, 2020. In Georgia, Utah and Tennessee — among the states moving fastest to jump-start idle economies — plans are proceeding without full brian kemp Customapproval of medical and emergency response officials closest to the ground level.

Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, announced he would let tattoo parlors, hair salons and bowling alleys reopen without receiving guidance from the panel of doctors tapped to advise him and without giving advance notice to regional health departments responsible for carrying out his orders, according to physicians and state officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.J. decries limitations on federal aid to states as national anger over budget woes grows, Tony Romm, April 24, 2020. One of the hardest hit states in the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey, may have no choice but to return some of its much-needed federal aid because of heavy restrictions recently imposed by the Trump administration, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

Congress last month authorized $150 billion to help local governments pay down the fast-growing costs of a global health emergency that has already killed tens of thousands of people nationwide. But the money allotted to New Jersey has been so tightly administered by the Treasury Department that Murphy (D), below left, said his state might not be able to use all of it, even though local leaders find themselves in dire financial straits.

philip murphy“I was assured this funding would be able to be used flexibly by states, filling holes we now must deal with,” he said during his daily news conference. “Those assurances apparently were empty.”

As a result, Murphy said, the Treasury Department’s policy “renders much of this funding literally unusable.” He predicted that without changes, the state might have to “return a good chunk of it to the federal government.”

Murphy’s criticism was the latest public complaint about the Trump administration’s implementation of coronavirus emergency funding programs. The Treasury Department already had to make adjustments to a small-business bailout program and acknowledged glitches in the way it has sent payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans. Federal assistance for state unemployment programs, meanwhile, also has been delayed because of a surge in applications from hard-hit states.

The rebuke from Murphy reflects the intensifying standoff between state governors and federal officials over Washington’s responsibilities as the coronavirus unleashes economic havoc nationwide. A bipartisan group of governors has asked Congress for $500 billion to shore up their budgets, warning of steep spending cuts that could make the economic downturn even worse. Democrats share their concerns, but Republican lawmakers so far have balked at this figure, and no local aid is included in the latest coronavirus aid package adopted by Congress.
Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey, one of the hardest-hit states in the pandemic, may have no choice but to return some of its much-needed federal aid because of heavy restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, As protesters swarm state capitols, much of the fury comes from politicians who work in them, Griff Witte, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). With hundreds arrayed before him, standing shoulder to shoulder, the retired Army colonel vented his fury from the steps of Pennsylvania’s capitol building.

The governor’s orders to shut down businesses in the face of a pandemic, he railed to a crowd of protesters this week, amounted to “tyranny.” He had battled overseas to defend freedom. Now, with the governor telling healthy people like him to stay home — “What the heck is going on here? I’m not sick!” — the fight had come to America’s shores.

“It’s time to rise up!” he exhorted as the crowd roared.

Then Doug Mastriano walked inside the soaring, green-domed home of the Pennsylvania legislature and began his day job: as a Republican state senator.

With a backlash against coronavirus restrictions generating demonstrations at state capitol buildings nationwide, organizers have framed the protests as organic and grass-roots.

But some of the biggest cheerleaders for an end to the mandatory social distancing that experts say is necessary to bend the novel coronavirus curve are lawmakers working from within. Taking cues from President Trump, they are using their platforms to encourage citizens to “liberate” their states from restrictions that have caused widespread economic misery.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Florida Is a Terrible State to Be an Unemployed Person,’ Patricia Mazzei and Sabrina Tavernise, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). Florida has emerged as one of the slowest states in the nation to process an avalanche of unemployment claims since the virus hit.

After Ernst Virgile lost his job at the Fort Lauderdale airport, he sat up late at the computer in his living room night after night, trying to apply for unemployment, refreshing his browser again and again while his wife was sleeping.

He worried about their three children, and about making payments on the car and the house he and his wife, who also lost her job at the airport on the same day, worked so hard to buy in 2018. He sometimes got in the car and drove around by himself to be able to worry without having to hide it.

On April 3, after more than a week of trying, Mr. Virgile, 37, was finally able to get his claim lodged in Florida’s overwhelmed system. But he has yet to see a penny of unemployment compensation.

“My job is to not let them see,” he said of his children. “I have to stay strong. But I need to pay the water and electric. What am I going to do? We don’t have anything saved.”

Many states are scrambling to process an avalanche of jobless claims, struggling with overloaded websites and phones that don’t answer. But Florida has emerged as one of the slowest in the nation.

Hundreds of thousands of workers — many from Florida’s once-booming service industry — have been waiting for weeks for a check. It has taken some as long as that to file. As the website became unusable under the weight of the traffic, the state agreed this month to accept paper applications, a tacit acknowledgment that the system was all but broken. Florida’s breakdown became a national symbol of distress, when footage of a snaking line for those applications outside the public library in Hialeah, a blue-collar city outside Miami, went viral online.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Amid Signs the Virus Came Earlier, Americans Ask: Did I Have It? Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Thomas Fuller, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). People are wondering about earlier ailments. Doctors are thinking back to unexplained cases. Medical examiners are looking for possible misdiagnosed deaths.

The revelation this week that a death in the United States in early February was the result of the coronavirus has significantly altered the understanding of how early the virus may have been circulating in this country. Researchers now believe that hidden outbreaks were creeping through cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle and Boston in January and February, earlier than previously known.

The new timeline has lent credence to a question on the minds of many Americans: Did I already have the coronavirus?

The retroactive search is happening on many levels. People who had suffered dreadful bouts with flulike illnesses are now wondering whether it had been the coronavirus. Doctors are thinking back to unexplained cases. Medical examiners are poring over their records looking for possible misdiagnosed deaths. And local politicians are demanding investigations.

Brian Gustafson, a coroner in Rock Island County, Ill., said he had no capability to perform post-mortem coronavirus tests, but firmly believed that coronavirus deaths and illnesses were missed across the country during weeks, early this year, when the authorities believed the virus was mainly overseas.

Included in Mr. Gustafson’s suspicions of an undercount: himself. He is convinced that he had the coronavirus in January, when he was so crushingly tired and feverish, he could scarcely summon the strength to walk to the bathroom from his bed.

Virus Victims

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: No One Deserves to Die of Covid-19 in Jail, Editorial Board, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). But more than 100 inmates already have.

On March 28, Patrick Jones became the first inmate in a federal prison known to have died of Covid-19. He was a worker at a prison textile factory at the Oakdale Federal Correctional Complex in Louisiana, where he was serving time for a nonviolent drug offense. By the third week of April, seven more inmates at Oakdale had died. Meanwhile, prison factories around the country have stayed open, subjecting inmates who work there to packed conditions even as the virus spreads.

Social distancing in prisons is nearly impossible. The size of the inmate population in federal prisons exceeds their rated capacity by 12 to 19 percent, according to a report this year from the Justice Department.

No one deserves to die of Covid-19 in prison or jail. But more than 100 inmates already have, and thousands more could if prisons and elected officials do not take steps to protect the incarcerated now. A report from the American Civil Liberties Union predicted that an explosion of cases in jails could cause the total death count in the United States to double.

Two weeks ago, Cook County Jail in Chicago was the nation’s top hot spot for coronavirus cases, according to The Times. More than 230 inmates and 115 staff members had tested positive, even as the majority of inmates had not been tested. This week, the Marion Correctional Institution in Ohio became the largest reported source of virus infections. There, 2,011 inmates, about 80 percent of the prison’s population, have tested positive. In addition, 154 members of the 350-person staff tested positive. In total, at least 2,400 inmates in Ohio’s prison system have tested positive. Ten have died in Ohio’s Pickaway Correctional Institution, which houses minimum- and medium-security inmates.

Infection hot spots appearing in prisons is not a fait accompli. The spread of the virus can be curbed if prisons send home eligible inmates. The federal government and 49 states already recognize some form of compassionate release for the elderly and very ill. If ever there were a time to show compassion to vulnerable, nonviolent inmates, it is now. Parole boards in states with indeterminate sentencing also have the power to assess the list of inmates set to be paroled in the next six months and to consider releasing many of them as soon as possible.

Some states have already taken action to free inmates. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington this week commuted the sentences of 293 inmates whose release was set to come within 60 days. In Washington, another 600 inmates are reportedly being considered for a “rapid re-entry program” that would allow freed inmates to re-enter the community with electronic monitoring. Governors across the country should evaluate ways to use their clemency powers to save lives.

Releasing these prisoners during this crisis is not just an act of mercy to protect prisoners’ health, and the health of the prison staff. Fewer sick inmates means less strain on the already burdened prison hospital system. The system was ill equipped to provide proper care to the elderly and sick even before this crisis. A 2016 report from the Department of Justice found that 17 percent of medical positions in prison hospitals were unfilled, and that 12 Bureau of Prisons facilities were so understaffed that they were at “crisis level.” Releasing high-risk inmates will free up limited resources within the prison health care system to better treat those who remain.

A 2016 study from the Brennan Center for Justice found that there was no compelling public safety reason to incarcerate 39 percent of the inmates in state and federal prisons, about 576,000 people. Elderly Americans are especially unlikely to commit further crimes once released. The United States Sentencing Commission found in 2017 that offenders over the age of 65 had just a 13.4 percent chance of being rearrested in an eight-year period after release, compared to a 67.6 percent chance for those under age 21. The report concluded that “recidivism measured by rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration declined as age increased.” There are more than 10,000 people over the age of 61 in federal prison. Many elderly inmates have been in prison for decades after receiving long sentences in the tough-on-crime 1990s. Many would be good candidates for compassionate release now.

The Independent, 'A phantom plague': America's Bible Belt played down the pandemic and even cashed in. Now dozens of pastors are dead, Alex Woodward, April 24, 2020. Right to worship emerges as battleground in looming culture war as many congregations hit hard by coronavirus

Dozens of pastors across the Bible Belt have succumbed to coronavirus after churches and televangelists played down the pandemic and actively encouraged churchgoers to flout self-distancing guidelines.

As many as 30 church leaders from the nation's largest African American Pentecostal denomination have now been confirmed to have died in the outbreak, as members defied public health warnings to avoid large gatherings to prevent transmitting the virus.

Deaths across the US in areas where the Church of God in Christ has a presence have reportedly stemmed from funerals and other meetings among clergy and other church staff held during the pandemic.

The tragedy among one of the largest black Pentecostal groups follows a message of defiance from many American churches, particularly conservative Christian groups, to ignore state and local government mandates against group gatherings, with police increasingly called in to enforce the bans and hold preachers accountable.

The virus has had a wildly disproportionate impact among black congregations, many of which have relied on group worship.

Yet despite the climbing death toll, many US church leaders throughout the Bible Belt have not only continued to hold services but have urged worshippers to continue paying tithes — including recent stimulus checks — to support their mission.

Bishop Gerald Glenn, founder and leader since 1995 of the New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, was the first black chaplain of the town's police. He had vowed to continue preaching "unless I'm in jail or the hospital" before his death from coronavirus earlier this month.

The bishop told his congregation that he believes "God is larger than this dreaded virus" just days before Virginia Governor Ralph Northam urged people to avoid "nonessential" group gatherings.

During a 15 March service, which nearly 200 people attended, the bishop said: "I'm glad to be in the Lord's house. It didn't have to be this way. The government could have said we couldn't gather at all. Just imagine if the government had the authority to say, you and me, we can't go to church. Aren't you glad you were free to get up and come?"

Most congregations are following stay-at-home guidelines, according to recent polling that found that nearly 90 per cent of congregations have closed their churches and been encouraged to worship at home.

washington post logoWashington Post, A 100-year-old WWII veteran dies of the coronavirus a century after the flu pandemic killed his twin, Meagan Flynn, April 24, 2020. Before Philip Kahn died of coronavirus on April 17 at 100 years old, he kept thinking about his twin brother, Samuel.

When he told his life story to his grandchildren, friends and neighbors, it always began with Samuel, and now it seemed to be ending that way, too.

The twins were born into a world still torn by the flu pandemic in December 1919, in New York. Samuel died of influenza just weeks later. Philip survived.

His life would be shaped by so many historic events in which he participated in the years to come — flying planes in World War II, helping to build the World Trade Center — but this loss always seemed to haunt him just as badly as what he saw on Iwo Jima, his grandson said.

“It was always the first thing he brought up before he got into World War II stories, before he got into World Trade Center stories. It was always this,” his grandson, Warren Zysman, who is also a twin, told The Washington Post late Thursday. “He really didn’t know his twin brother, but it was something that really weighed very heavily on him psychologically — he held this void, this twin brother he never got to experience growing up with.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Jobless Numbers Are ‘Eye-Watering’ but Understate the Crisis, Patricia Cohen, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). With 4.4 million added last week, the five-week total passed 26 million. The struggle by states to field claims has hampered economic recovery.

The weekly tally for new filers dropped from the previous week. Still, as Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, said, “At all levels, it’s eye-watering numbers.” Nearly one in six American workers has lost a job in recent weeks.

As large as the latest figures from the Labor Department are, they still don’t capture the full extent of the layoffs because of continuing lags in processing claims.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sample Tests Suggest 1 in 5 New Yorkers May Have Had Virus, J. David Goodman, Michael Rothfeld and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). The antibody testing result, though preliminary, indicates wider exposure than known. Accurate testing is crucial to determine when to reopen the economy.

One of every five New York City residents tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus, according to preliminary test results described by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday, suggesting the virus had spread far more widely than known.

The results also provided the tantalizing prospect that many New Yorkers who never knew they had been infected — possibly as many as 2.7 million, the governor said — had already encountered the virus, and survived. Mr. Cuomo also suggested the death rate was far lower than believed.

The reliability of some early antibody tests to hit the market has been widely questioned, with some — made in China without Food and Drug Administration approval — found by health officials to be deeply flawed. Researchers across New York have worked in recent weeks to develop and validate their own, with federal approval.

Accurate antibody testing is seen as a critical tool to help determine when and how to begin restarting the economy. State officials said their test could help send people back to work.

2020 U.S. Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s strength with older voters could threaten Trump’s electoral path in 2020, Toluse Olorunnipa, April 24, 2020 (print ed.). While it’s unclear if the former vice president’s polling strength with seniors will carry over into November, the shifts are enough to reshape the dynamics of a close race.

A string of recent polls shows troubling signs for President Trump with older voters, a group central to his reelection effort that appears to be drifting away from him amid a pandemic that has been especially deadly for senior citizens.

joe biden oFormer vice president Joe Biden, right, whose support from older voters helped him lead the primaries, appears to be carrying over some of that appeal into the general election. With Trump’s approval ratings sagging over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, Biden’s campaign is attempting to capitalize with a group that has traditionally leaned Republican.

In Florida, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Biden leading Trump by a 10-point margin, 52 to 42, among voters 65 and older — the latest poll showing Trump losing ground with seniors in key battlegrounds. In 2016, exit polls showed Trump winning seniors in Florida by 17 points over Hillary Clinton, a crucial margin in a state where older voters make up a large percentage of the voting population.

“We know that Americans over the age of 50 make up the majority of voters — and as a result, they’re a deciding factor in our elections,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, said in an interview. “They aren’t a monolith as a voting bloc, but one thing is clear: They do plan to vote.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Leaders Want a Black Woman as Joe Biden’s Running Mate. But Who? Astead W. Herndon, April 24, 2020. Those close to Mr. Biden have pushed him to select a black woman to fuel black voter enthusiasm.

No two presidential cycles are completely analogous, but as former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. begins his search for a running mate, Mrs. Clinton’s loss and the weaker-than-expected black turnout in 2016 are on the minds of top Democrats. Mr. Biden has already committed to selecting a woman, and he and his allies have repeatedly mentioned two black women as possibilities — Senator Kamala Harris of California and Stacey Abrams, the party’s 2018 nominee for governor of Georgia — as well as several white women, particularly Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

Pressure has been growing on Mr. Biden to choose a black woman to inspire black turnout this fall and not take it for granted. The Rev. Al Sharpton, for instance, who speaks to Mr. Biden regularly, is to announce his support for Ms. Abrams as vice president as soon as next week, according to those familiar with his plans.

Yet Mr. Biden is facing other factors and pressures as well. He has said he wants someone who is prepared to step into the vice presidency immediately, a nod to the value he puts on government and leadership experience. He would be the oldest president ever, 78 on Inauguration Day, and is looking for a partner and, possibly, a potential successor. With the country deep into the coronavirus pandemic, voters will also assess whether his running mate appears capable of handling the worst national crisis since World War II.

Ms. Harris, who has statewide and national experience, is seen in the Biden camp as a more likely pick than Ms. Abrams, who was a state legislative leader for a decade before losing her bid for governor. Still, some Democrats believe that choosing a hands-on governor or veteran senator is a better fit for the crisis than Ms. Harris, who was attorney general of California and has been in the Senate for three years.

Mr. Biden’s selection has also become a vehicle for a broader debate among Democrats about the best strategy to win back the White House. While candidates like Ms. Harris or Ms. Abrams could energize core Democratic constituencies such as black voters or younger voters, as well as women, Ms. Whitmer and Ms. Klobuchar could be a geographic plus, considering they hail from the Upper Midwest region important to the Electoral College.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has encouraged allies to float names of House members like Representatives Val Demings of Florida and Marcia Fudge of Ohio, according to people familiar with those conversations, in part to reward members of her caucus with a higher profile.

Georgia politicians like Atlanta’s former mayor Kasim Reed and its current mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who endorsed Mr. Biden early and is a top surrogate, are former political rivals of Ms. Abrams.

Political Wire, Opinion: Stacy Abrams Not a Likely Pick for Biden, Taegan Goddard, April 24, 2020. The Atlantic: “Biden’s campaign confirmed that he called Abrams, but didn’t say more. According to several people familiar with the campaign’s running-mate selection process, Abrams is not currently a likely choice.”

joe biden bernie sanders palmer headshots

FiveThirtyEight, Analysis: Sanders Could Lose A Third Of His Delegates, Making For A Messy Convention, Josh Putnam, Apr. 24, 2020. Primary season began back on Feb. 3 in Iowa with a competitive, multicandidate race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and some reasonable chance that the process would end with tense delegate counting at the national convention in Milwaukee. However, after a string of primary losses in March and April, Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign and former Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive Democratic nominee.

But that doesn’t mean that delegate counting is over. There are still 24 delayed and reconfigured contests with a combined 1,555 delegates at stake. Sure, Biden has already amassed 1,293 delegates1 and is very likely to exceed the 1,991 pledged delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. But just how many delegates Sanders can rack up matters, because that will impact the concessions he and his campaign can win from Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

dnc square logoAny leverage Sanders has in that back and forth with Biden and the DNC hinges on three main factors. And two could work against the Vermont senator in any talks with the Biden team.

First, Sanders stands to lose a significant number of delegates headed into the convention. According to the DNC’s 2020 delegate selection rules, any candidate who is no longer running loses the statewide delegates2 they have won and those delegates are then reallocated to candidates still in the race. (That has not necessarily been how the DNC has interpreted this rule previously, but it is how the DNC has signaled that it will use it in 2020.) Second, if Sanders fails to clear the 25 percent delegate threshold required to secure representatives on convention committees, it’ll be harder to integrate his policies into the official DNC platform.

Sanders still doesn’t have 20 percent of all pledged delegates, but 25 percent is within his reach should he continue to clear the 15 percent threshold to qualify for delegates in the remaining contests. And if Alaska is any indication, then Sanders will be in decent shape to get there. Biden took eight delegates in the Last Frontier to Sanders’s seven. But that effort takes a hit if the Vermont senator loses more than a third of the delegates he has won to date. That would leave Sanders with just 12 percent of pledged delegates.

Here’s the thing, though: The delegate math may not actually matter all that much. The Biden campaign seems keen to avoid the mistakes of 2016. They have already moved toward Sanders’s position on a number of issues, like expanding Medicare and student loan forgiveness programs, and have even floated letting Sanders keep his statewide delegates, rather than have them reallocated to Biden.

Party unity — or at least the appearance of it — is at a premium for Democrats, and the Sanders campaign knows this. It’s this third factor that Sanders’s leverage hinges on, and arguably, it’s the one that could work best to his advantage.

Media Matters, Advocacy: Right-wing media struggle to respond to Trump's remarks about a "disinfectant" and an "injection," Bobby Lewis, April 24, media matters logo2020. Introduction by John Whitehouse: This week: This is (still) as serious as it gets. Lives are on the line with how this coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is covered. It's clear that right-wing media are not just failing this test, but failing it badly.

During a coronavirus press conference, President Donald Trump suggested that injecting disinfectant into people could be a potential treatment for COVID-19. This is false; disinfectants are not meant to be consumed by humans in any way, and Trump arguably clarified later that he wasn’t talking about a physical injection. The initial comment prompted outcry from medical experts and media figures, and the disinfectant brand Lysol issued a statement warning against internal use of its products. While some in right-wing media admitted that Trump said what he said, others tried to downplay or justify the president’s displayed ignorance.

fox news logo SmallA few conservative outlets, such as the Washington Examiner and the Daily Caller (which called it a “hypothetical”) admitted that Trump did in fact suggest injecting disinfectant to fight coronavirus. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy admitted on-air that Trump suggested using something poisonous inside the body and that people should not do it.

Many others defended Trump. An article on Fox News' website suggested that Trump was taken out of context. Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Wire, and Breitbart took a similar deny-everything approach.

djt profile balding big head palmerOn his radio show, MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt attacked the media for “abusing ... Trump’s comments on ultraviolet light” because “he didn’t say what they say he said.” Hewitt also promised to never buy Lysol products again, due to the company’s statement against internal use of its products.

Others just outright defended Trump. The following was written by David Brody, a right-wing journalist who has been a frequent guest on Meet the Press in recent years.

A Fox News host said that it was "hilarious" that people were talking about an "offhand comment" from Trump.

After many of these right-wing outlets said that Trump never said anything like this, Trump himself came out and and admitted he did say that, but he was being sarcastic. That's just another obvious lie for these outlets to defend. The whole sordid affair raises questions about why these briefings were aired live by all networks anyway. It may be a moot question since Trump is reportedly planning to scale them back.
Fox's promotion of protests against social distancing mirrors its tea party support

Despite the warnings of medical experts, Fox News has aggressively promoted right-wing demonstrations calling for the removal of social distancing mandates. Fox’s promotion of these protests mimic their efforts promoting the tea party in the build up to the 2010 midterm elections. Some coverage of the protests even resemble shot by shot remakes of its tea party promotion.

In 2009, the network’s parent company handed over more than $2 million to GOP-linked political groups. Fox’s support of the tea party movement was a key moment in the network’s transition from a right-wing news outlet to a GOP political organization. That year Fox personalities heavily promoted tea party demonstrations, encouraged viewers to attend protests, thanked tea party activists for their work, and even participated in more than a dozen events themselves.

Now, more than a decade later, Fox is running the same playbook. As it did with the tea party, the network isn’t simply covering the protests as newsworthy events, it is actively encouraging its audience to support and attend the events. From April 13 to April 20, Fox ran 91 segments on the protests and spent 6 hours covering the story.

World News

Salon via Posthaven, Opinion: Did this virus come from a lab? Maybe not — but it exposes the threat of a biowarfare arms race, Sam Husseini, April 24, 2020. There is no scientific finding that the novel coronavirus was bioengineered, but its origins are not entirely clear. Deadly pathogens discovered in the wild can be studied in secret in labs — and sometimes made more dangerous. That possibility, and other plausible scenarios, have been incorrectly dismissed in remarks by some scientists and government officials, and in the coverage of most major media outlets.

Regardless of the cause of the current pandemic, these biowarfare/biodefense labs need far more scrutiny. The call to shut them down by Boyle and others needs to be clearly heard — and light must be shone on precisely what research is being conducted.

The secrecy of these labs may prevent us ever knowing with certainty the origins of the current pandemic. It could have been a lab release, presumably accidental, or it could have been a "zoonotic," or animal-to-human, infection.

What we do know is this lab work comes with real dangers. One might make a comparison to climate change: We cannot attribute an individual hurricane to man-made climate disruption, yet science tells us that human activity makes stronger hurricanes more likely. That brings us back to the imperative to cease the kinds of activities that produce such dangers in the first place.

If that doesn't happen, the people of the planet will be at the mercy of the machinations and mistakes of state actors who are playing with fire for their geopolitical interests.

April 23

Public Health Top Headlines

Pandemic Politics

2020 U.S. Elections

'Crisis' Seen In SCOTUS Ruling

Virus Financial Relief / Oversight

Virus Patient Care, Testing

Climate Change U.S. Heat Wave?

World News

U.S. Courts, Prisons

 

Public Health Top Headlinesdjt march 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, 4.4 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, as economic pain continued across the United States, Rachel covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Siegel and Andrew Van Dam, April 23, 2020. White House and Congress have tried to arrest the downturn, but the coronavirus pandemic keeps pushing Americans out of the labor force.

More than 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the Labor Department, a signal that the tidal wave of job losses continues to grow.

The new total comes on top of 22 million Americans who had sought benefits in previous weeks, overwhelming state processing systems. There is no precedent for the velocity of job losses since March. Economists estimate the national unemployment rate sits somewhere between 15 and 20 percent, much higher than during the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009. The unemployment rate at the peak of the Great Depression was around 25 percent.

Pollack said many businesses quickly “cut to the bone” when they realized how the pandemic would gut sales. Now, many of the new layoffs stem from businesses, news organizations and tech companies that weren’t directly affected by people staying home, but are suffering the consequences of vanishing ad revenue and paid subscriptions.

“We see declines across every major industry and state, although the declines hit industries at different times,” Pollak said.

us labor department logoMeanwhile, consumer spending, the engine behind the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, has evaporated. If they’re still operating, offices are working with skeleton staffs and staring down months of dismal revenue.

Funding for small businesses in the federal government’s stimulus package quickly dried up in the face of overwhelming demand, pushing the Senate to expand funding by $310 billion on Tuesday. The bill directed an additional $60 billion to a separate small-business emergency grant and loan program. The House is slated to vote on the measure Thursday afternoon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Under Trump, scientists can speak if they mostly toe the line, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lena H. Sun, April 23, 2020 (print ed.). The president has a tenuous relationship with his own administration’s scientific and public health experts.

robert redfieldRobert Redfield, right, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a candid warning Tuesday in a Washington Post interview: A simultaneous flu and coronavirus outbreak next fall and winter “will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” adding that calls and protests to “liberate” states from stay-at-home orders — as cdc logo CustomPresident Trump has tweeted — were “not helpful.”

The next morning, Trump cracked down with a Twitter edict: Redfield had been totally misquoted in a cable news story summarizing the interview, he claimed, and would be putting out a statement shortly.

By Wednesday evening, Redfield appeared at the daily White House briefing — saying he had been accurately quoted after all, while also trying to soften his words as the president glowered next to him.

 washington post logoWashington Post, 49,801 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S., Joe Fox, Brittany Renee Mayes, Kevin Schaul and Leslie Shapiro, April 23, 2020 (data as of 9:09 p.m.). At least 867,000 cases have been reported.

The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has killed at least 49,000 people in the United States. The country’s earliest covid-19 fatality was thought to be a 58-year-old man near Seattle, whose death was announced Feb. 29.

But on April 22, officials in California announced that tissue from two people who had died in early and mid-February in Santa Clara County had tested positive, signaling that the virus may have spread in the country weeks earlier than was previously thought.

As the death toll rose through March and April and U.S. testing lagged, criteria for reporting deaths changed in some states and cities. Even now, jurisdictions continue to fine-tune their counting and reporting procedures, so numbers in this piece may fluctuate as local authorities classify and reclassify cases.

Reuters, Special Report: Former Labradoodle breeder was tapped to lead U.S. pandemic task force, Aram Roston and Marisa Taylor, updated April 23, 2020. On January 21, the day the first U.S. case of coronavirus was reported, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appeared on Fox News to report the latest on the disease as it ravaged China.

alex azar o cropped CustomAlex Azar, right, a 52-year-old lawyer and former drug industry executive, assured Americans the U.S. government was prepared.

“We developed a diagnostic test at the CDC, so we can confirm if somebody has this,” Azar said. “We will be spreading that diagnostic around the country so that we are able to do rapid testing on site.”

While coronavirus in Wuhan, China, was “potentially serious,” Azar assured viewers in America, it “was one for which we have a playbook.”

HHSAzar’s initial comments misfired on two fronts. Like many U.S. officials, from President Donald Trump on down, he underestimated the pandemic’s severity. He also overestimated his agency’s preparedness.

As is now widely known, two agencies Azar oversaw as HHS secretary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, wouldn’t come up with viable tests for five and half weeks, even as other countries and the World Health Organization had already prepared their own.

Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.”

Azar’s optimistic public pronouncement and choice of an inexperienced manager are emblematic of his agency’s oft-troubled response to the crisis. His HHS is a behemoth department, overseeing almost every federal public health agency in the country, with a $1.3 trillion budget that exceeds the gross national product of most countries.

Azar and his top deputies oversaw health agencies that were slow to alert the public to the magnitude of the crisis, to produce a test to tell patients if they were sick, and to provide protective masks to hospitals even as physicians pleaded for them.

cdc logo CustomThe first test created by the CDC, meant to be used by other labs, was plagued by a glitch that rendered it useless and wasn’t fixed for weeks. It wasn’t until March that tests by other labs went into production. The lack of tests “limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff,” the HHS Inspector General said in a report this month. The equipment shortage “put staff and patients at risk.”

A promised virus surveillance program failed to take root, despite assurances Azar gave to Congress. Rather than share information, three current and three former government officials told Reuters, Azar and top staff sidelined key agencies that could have played a higher-profile role in addressing the pandemic. “It was a mess,” said a White House official who worked with HHS.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes berserk as his press briefing completely falls apart, Bill Palmer, April 23, 2020. Donald Trump wants you to know that there’s a way to inject sunlight into the body so it’ll kill coronavirus. That was his overriding message during his press briefing today. Unfortunately for Trump, even his own experts weren’t willing to side with him on this bizarre nonsense.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen a reporter asked the Homeland Security expert if sunlight could really be injected into the body, he said no. When a reporter asked Dr. Birx if she knew what on earth Trump was talking about, even she wouldn’t touch it. The whole thing just kept getting stupider. By the time Trump got hit with a question he didn’t like, he blurted out “CNN is fake news. Don’t talk to me.” Not long after that, he left the stage.

Trump also suggested ingesting disinfectant directly into the body as a coronavirus miracle cure. To be clear, not only will this not help you, it could kill you. Disinfectants such as hand sanitizer and isopropyl alcohol are poisonous if ingested. In fact, 99% isopropyl alcohol is so dangerous, you can burn your skin just by touching it. Trump continues to offer phony medical advice that can prove fatal if you listen to him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Startling discovery rewrites timeline of virus’s spread in the U.S., Staff reports, April 23, 2020. House to Vote on $484 Billion Relief.

Weeks before there was evidence that the coronavirus was spreading in U.S. communities, Patricia Dowd, a 57-year-old auditor at a Silicon Valley semiconductor manufacturer, developed flulike symptoms and abruptly died in her San Jose kitchen, prompting a search for what had killed her. Flu tests were negative. The coroner was baffled. It appeared that she had suffered a massive h eart attack.

American FlagBut tissue samples from Ms. Dowd, who died on Feb. 6, have now shown that she was infected with the coronavirus — a startling discovery that has rewritten the timeline of the virus’s early spread in the United States and suggested that the optimistic assumptions that drove federal policies over the early weeks of the outbreak were misplaced.

The unexpected new finding makes clear that the virus was circulating in the Bay Area of California as early as January, even before the federal government began restricting travel from China on Feb. 2. It also raises new questions about where else the virus might have been spreading undetected.

With little local testing throughout February — in part because of botched testing kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with strict guidelines that limited who could get tested — officials were not aware of the virus transmitting locally in the country until Feb. 26, in Solano County, Calif.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump signs order pausing immigration for 60 days, with broad exceptions, Nick Miroff, Maria Sacchetti and Arelis R. Hernández, April 23, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday restricting certain categories of immigrants from ICE logoentering the United States for 60 days as the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic, but the measure contains broad exceptions and is more limited than the sweeping closure he proclaimed on Twitter earlier in the week.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomThe order, which takes effect Thursday, will not apply to immigrants who already are living and working in the United States and are seeking to become legal permanent residents.

Medical professionals, farmworkers and others who enter on temporary “nonimmigrant” visas are unaffected, and the suspension also exempts the spouses and underage children of U.S. citizens, among other carve-outs.

  • Washington Post, Live Updates: Pressure mounts for inquiry into outbreak’s origins; U.S. braces for more gloomy jobless numbers, Surgeon general says he understands why Americans were ‘confused’ on masks, Staff reports, April 23, 2020.

Pandemic Politics

Daily Kos, Analysis: Those Claiming Dems “Folded” on Coronavirus Response Bill Are Wrong – And Hurt the Progressive Cause, RB Creamer,
Community, April 23, 2020.

Several commentators have recently argued that Democrats “folded” in the negotiations that resulted in the current Coronavirus relief expansion. These commentators are not only wrong, but they do a major disservice to the Progressive cause.

There are many critical items that are not included in the bill that was passed Tuesday by the Senate and will be considered by the House today. Among others, these include:

  • Expanded food support (expansion of SNAP);
  • Money for cash-strapped state and local governments;
  • Rental and mortgage assistance;
  • Help for the unemployed who lose health insurance when they are laid off;
  • Funds to rescue the critical postal system;
  • Meaningful expansion of the availability of mail ballots for elections;
  • Protection from drug companies that profiteer off the pandemic;
  • Expansion of paid family leave;
  • Protections for immigrants.

The entire Democratic Caucus in both the House and Senate agree that these are critical proposals. These measures have not been passed for one reason: The Republicans who control the Senate and the White House oppose them.

So why didn’t House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stand fast and refuse to bring the current bill to the floor unless all of these be included in the measure?

Those who argue that Speaker Pelosi should simply have used her “leverage” to demand all of these proposals in this bill ignore key facts:

1). Most importantly, increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that gives forgivable grants to small businesses if they keep their employees on payroll, is not something Democrats “gave” to the Republicans. It is something that Democrats themselves desperately wanted to pass. They want it because it would benefit millions of ordinary workers and small businesses who are being devastated through no fault of their own, by the Coronavirus Pandemic – and President Trump’s failure to prepare to combat it. Democratic Representatives are being inundated by calls from desperate employees and small businesses who need the help NOW.

Democrats did demand – and get -- a variety of measures in this extension that the Republicans opposed. These included the assurance that a portion of the extension was available to mom and pop businesses who could not get it under the original program; federal funds for more coronavirus testing – without which the economy can never reopen; and aide to hospitals and other health care providers.

But many of the Democrats other demands are much harder to extract from intractable Republicans. Had they insisted on their inclusion, it would have delayed passage of this funding extension for weeks. Remember that Democrats control only one-third of the decision-making process – the House. The GOP still controls the Senate and the White House.

Democrats wanted the extension at least as much as Republicans – that’s why delaying everything would be like putting a gun to your head and then threatening to shoot yourself if someone does not agree to your demands.

Pelosi elected to take the extension and other provisions and bank them – and then move on to make war on the other more difficult, but very popular, measures on the Democratic list.

That’s not “folding.” That’s smart.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Who’s Behind the ‘Reopen’ Protests? Lisa Graves (Ms. Graves is the executive director of True North Research and curator of KochDocs), April 23, 2020 (print ed.). They are anything but spontaneous.

I first became aware of the political influence of Charles and David Koch in 2009 when I started looking into who was behind the protests at health care town halls.

The Tea Party, formed after America elected its first black president, used a series of health care town halls to spur angry Republicans to oppose the Affordable Care Act as a socialist takeover of American medicine. Little matter that it was modeled on a plan devised by Mitt Romney, a Republican, when he was the governor of Massachusetts.

donald trump money palmer report CustomSuch false claims about the act have not aged well, as millions of Americans now depend on the law for health care coverage as the coronavirus contagion sweeps across the nation. And yet a Tea Party co-founder, Mark Meckler, is using the same tactics and same phony claims to stir his followers to protest against governors seeking to mitigate the Covid-19 death toll by closing businesses and banning public gatherings.

That public anger is both real and manufactured. The same was true in 2009, when the Koch fortune fueled the Tea Party’s attacks on the Obama administration’s health care law.

Still, the legend that the Tea Party was a spontaneous uprising took hold and continues to be peddled. As we face Tea Party 2.0, let’s not be fooled again.

The protests playing out now have the same feel as the Tea Party protests aided by Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity and others a decade ago — and with good reason: Early evidence suggests they are not organic but a brush fire being stoked by some of the same people and money that built the Tea Party.

Look no further than the first protest organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund — whose chairman manages the vast financial investments of Dick and Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary — to see that the campaign to “open” America flows from the superrich and their front groups.

Stephen Moore — a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Koch ally and a Trump adviser — admitted as much in a video I obtained comparing these new protesters to Rosa Parks, as first reported in The Times.

Mr. Moore, who is now leading an enterprise to end the virus precautions called Save Our Country, which includes the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, boasted that he has been working behind the scenes with a conservative donor who agreed to cover bail and legal fees for demonstrators who get arrested for defying Wisconsin’s virus protective measures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sample Tests Suggest 1 in 5 New Yorkers May Have Had Virus, J. David Goodman, Michael Rothfeld and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, April 23, 2020. The antibody testing result, though preliminary, indicates wider exposure than known. Accurate testing is crucial to determine when to reopen the economy.

One of every five New York City residents tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus, according to preliminary test results described by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday, suggesting the virus had spread far more widely than known.

The results also provided the tantalizing prospect that many New Yorkers who never knew they had been infected — possibly as many as 2.7 million, the governor said — had already encountered the virus, and survived. Mr. Cuomo also suggested the death rate was far lower than believed.

The reliability of some early antibody tests to hit the market has been widely questioned, with some — made in China without Food and Drug Administration approval — found by health officials to be deeply flawed. Researchers across New York have worked in recent weeks to develop and validate their own, with federal approval.

Accurate antibody testing is seen as a critical tool to help determine when and how to begin restarting the economy. State officials said their test could help send people back to work.

 civilian conservation corps fort dix nj ap date unknown Custom

Men of the Civilian Conservation Corps, created to help young people during the Great Depression, enter a tent to receive canteens after getting their uniforms at Camp Dix, N.J., date unknown. (AP)

washington post logoWashington Post, Young people are being left out of coronavirus economic relief efforts. That could be a big problem, Jacqueline Alemany and Brent Griffiths, April 23, 2020. During the despair of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established ambitious federally funded jobs programs directly aimed at buoying young people.

Now, in the midst of the historic novel coronavirus pandemic, there’s a growing consensus among lawmakers and policy wonks that young millennials and their Generation Z counterparts need the same kind of aggressive government boost. But historians doubt any government intervention of the kind that helped lift a generation of young people out of poverty in the 1930s would be workable today.

us labor department logoConspicuously left out of the $2 trillion stimulus package, most high school seniors and many college students are not eligible for broad financial assistance from the government to help them dig out of the pandemic’s economic hole.

Those over 16 and college students were barred from receiving stimulus checks provided either to their parents on their behalf, or to them directly if their parents claim them as dependents. Young people also lack access to broader economic benefits, like relief from student loan debt from private lenders, frequently health-care benefits and unemployment insurance for those who have yet to enter the job market.

“I think we forget how vulnerable young folks are,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) in an interview.

Khanna called for any new stimulus package to include additional relief for student debt, stimulus money for high school and college students, and the creation of a federal program to give young people not bound for college the opportunity to earn a free, post-high-school educational certificate.

“Their needs might not be as visible or immediate as someone who has a business they’ve spent 25 years building or people literally having trouble putting food on the table. But we can’t have another generation lost in terms of accessing the American Dream,” Khanna added.

“When you see the 2008 financial crisis, now compounded by this current crisis — you run the risk of having a generation or possibly two that feel the American Dream is slipping away from that and that’s something we have to address.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Criticizes Georgia Governor for Decision to Reopen State, Rick Rojas, April 23, 2020 (print ed.). “I think it’s too soon,” djt hands up mouth open Customsaid President Trump, questioning Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, who had said some businesses could resume on Friday.

President Trump on Wednesday criticized the decision of a political ally, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, to allow many businesses to reopen this brian kemp Customweek, saying the move was premature given the number of coronavirus cases in the state.

“I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he is doing,” Mr. Trump said at a White House briefing. “I think it’s too soon.”

Mr. Kemp, a Republican, announced on Monday that he had cleared the way for what he described as a measured process meant to bolster the economy, as Georgia, like the rest of the nation, grapples with the devastation brought by the pandemic.

Yet the decision was immediately assailed, as public health experts, the mayors of Georgia’s largest cities and others warned that it stood to have perilous consequences.

washington post logoWashington Post, States rushing to reopen are probably making a deadly mistake, experts warn, William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Joel Achenbach, April 23, 2020 (print ed.). An easing of restrictions will feed new targets to the coronavirus and increase chances of new surges in infections, math models show.

cdc logo CustomBy the end of the week, residents in Georgia will be able to get their hair permed and nails done. By Monday, they will be cleared for action flicks at the cineplex and burgers at their favorite greasy spoon.

And it will almost certainly lead to more novel coronavirus infections and deaths.

republican elephant logoAs several states — including South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida — rush to reopen businesses, the sudden relaxation of restrictions will supply new targets for the coronavirus that has kept the United States largely closed down, according to experts, math models and the basic rules that govern infectious diseases.

“The math is unfortunately pretty simple. It’s not a matter of whether infections will increase but by how much,” said Jeffrey Shaman, a leading epidemiologist at Columbia University.

Closing America was hard. But it came with one simple instruction: Everyone stay at home.

deborah birx profile palmer Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like I was right about Dr. Birx, Bill Palmer, April 23, 2020. Last night I wrote that Dr. Deborah Birx had jumped the shark when she publicly signed off on Georgia’s decision to reopen businesses like hair salons and tattoo parlors, simply suggesting that they somehow social distance from customers, which we all know is impossible. I was far from the only person who felt that Birx burned up what was left of her credibility in that moment. I also wrote this:

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s worth noting that the next day, Donald Trump did suddenly announce that he was personally opposed to Kemp’s moves. Someone clearly got to Trump behind the scenes. So in Dr. Birx’s potential defense, it’s possible that she’s the one who cornered him on this and got him to change his mind. But we don’t know if this is the case. All we know is that Dr. Birx is resorting to giving dangerously bad answers on stage, so she can keep appearing on stage. It’s not okay.

Sure enough, someone leaked to CNN today that it was indeed Dr. Birx who convinced Donald Trump to change his mind on the Georgia thing. It’s fairly obvious that Birx herself is the source for this story, as she must have sensed that her credibility with the public was shot, and she’s trying to repair the damage. In any case, it’s notable that while Birx has no remaining credibility with the public, she does appear to have Trump’s ear. That’s not exactly comforting.

ny times logoNew York Times, McConnell Says States Should Consider Bankruptcy, Carl Hulse, April 23, 2020 (print ed.). Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, rebuffed calls for aid, drawing a strong rebuke from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Senator Mitch McConnell took a hard line on Wednesday against giving cash-short states more federal aid in future emergency pandemic relief legislation, saying that those suffering steep shortfalls amid the coronavirus crisis should instead consider bankruptcy.

mitch mcconnell“I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” Mr. McConnell, left, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said in an interview with the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”

Mr. McConnell’s comments were an explicit rejection of a top priority of Democrats who have pushed to spend tens of billions of dollars to help states. His staff members highlighted their partisan cast in a news release circulated a short time later, in which his statement appeared under the heading “Stopping Blue State Bailouts.” The phrase suggested that the top Senate Republican was singling out for scorn some of the andrew cuomohardest-hit, heavily Democratic states such as California, Illinois and New York.

The remarks drew a caustic reaction from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right, of New York, who called the bankruptcy suggestion “one of the saddest, really dumb comments of all time.”

“OK, let’s have all the states declare bankruptcy — that’s the way to bring the national economy back,” he said.

2020 U.S. Elections

joe biden meagan mccain Custom

Washington Examiner, McCain family to support Biden in 2020 race in bid to defeat Trump, Joseph Simonson and Naomi Lim, April 23, 2019. The late Sen. John McCain's family plans to support former Vice President Joe Biden's White House bid, backing the Democrat not only in his party's crowded primary race but also in a general election matchup with President Trump, the Washington Examiner has learned.

john mccain 2009 wIn an extraordinary snub to Trump, who derided McCain's Vietnam War service and mocked him even after his death last August at age 81, the McCain family is preparing to break with the Republican Party. McCain, right, represented the party in Congress for 35 years and was chosen as its presidential nominee in 2008, losing to Barack Obama.

Sources close to both Biden's presidential campaign and the McCains said that at some point during the White House race, McCain's widow Cindy, 64, and daughter Meghan, 34, a host on "The View" (where Biden is shown with her in a file screenshot) will offer their public support in the hope of removing Trump from office in 2020.

[Related: Meghan McCain rips Trump: Your ‘pathetic’ life is spent ‘obsessing over great men you could never live up to’]

A former McCain campaign official with close ties to the family said support for Biden was a given, but they needed to calculate how they could best help the former vice president. Both Cindy and Meghan McCain remain Republicans, and one consideration is whether endorsing Biden in the Democratic primary could do him more harm than good. "It's undeniable that Joe Biden and the McCain family have a very close, personal relationship. It's about what's good for him [Biden]."

Another McCain family source said there had been discussions with the Bidens about his 2020 run, which is expected to be announced on Thursday. "They talk regularly and have been supportive of his run," the source said. "The question is going to be timing and coordinating with the Biden campaign. There are a lot of moving parts there and [Biden's campaign is] not necessarily organized. I wouldn't expect a formal family endorsement because some of McCain's family is still in the military, but I do expect Cindy to speak out at some point."

The source said they expected Meghan McCain to speak out in favor of Biden should he get the nomination, but a Cindy McCain endorsement could come sooner.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s strength with older voters could threaten Trump’s electoral path in 2020, Toluse Olorunnipa, April 23, 2020. While it’s unclear if the former vice president’s polling strength with seniors will carry over into November, the shifts are enough to reshape the dynamics of a close race.

A string of recent polls shows troubling signs for President Trump with older voters, a group central to his reelection effort that appears to be drifting away from him amid a pandemic that has been especially deadly for senior citizens.

joe biden oFormer vice president Joe Biden, right, whose support from older voters helped him lead the primaries, appears to be carrying over some of that appeal into the general election. With Trump’s approval ratings sagging over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, Biden’s campaign is attempting to capitalize with a group that has traditionally leaned Republican.

In Florida, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Biden leading Trump by a 10-point margin, 52 to 42, among voters 65 and older — the latest poll showing Trump losing ground with seniors in key battlegrounds. In 2016, exit polls showed Trump winning seniors in Florida by 17 points over Hillary Clinton, a crucial margin in a state where older voters make up a large percentage of the voting population.

“We know that Americans over the age of 50 make up the majority of voters — and as a result, they’re a deciding factor in our elections,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, said in an interview. “They aren’t a monolith as a voting bloc, but one thing is clear: They do plan to vote.”

Virus Financial Relief / Oversight

ny times logoNew York Times, The $600 Unemployment Booster Shot, State by State, Benedict Carey and James Glanz, Staff report, April 23, 2020. People on unemployment in most states normally receive, on average, less than half their weekly salaries. Now many are poised to receive more than they would have normally earned in their jobs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Midwestern Factory Towns Are Becoming New Virus Hot Spots, Dionne Searcey, April 23, 2020 (print ed.). Cases are leveling off in some coastal cities, but outbreaks are mounting in processing plants and factories in Midwestern towns.

Across the country, some big cities on the coasts are starting to experience a leveling off of Covid-19 cases, but a staggering number of small Midwestern towns anchored by meatpacking plants and other factories are finding themselves as new hot spots of the virus.

The new cases are worrying because they come as many officials are contemplating reopening the nation’s businesses. The outbreaks now are raising the prospect of new spread in less populous communities in the middle of the country and complicating these company towns’ debates over when to restart public life.

washington post logoWashington Post, New SBA guidelines ask big companies to consider returning coronavirus loans, Jonathan O'Connell and Aaron Gregg, April 23, 2020. An earlier program didn’t prohibit valuable companies with access to other capital from receiving loans. New rules suggest they should return the money by May 7.

With Congress preparing to approve more than $300 billion in new funding for a small-business loan program, the Small Business Administration issued new guidance Thursday that suggested dozens of publicly held companies that previously received loans under the sba logo new Custom Customprogram should return the funds by May 7.

The SBA’s original $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program contained a vague requirement that businesses certify that “current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary.” The new guidance is more explicit and said companies that had other sources of cash probably would not qualify.

“All borrowers must assess their economic need for a PPP loan under the standard established by the CARES Act and the PPP regulations at the time of the loan application,” the guidance states. “Borrowers still must certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Farmers dump unused food as needy families go hungry. The government hopes to fix that, Laura Reiley, Photos by Melina Mara, April 23, 2020. Breakdowns in distribution have led to a disconnect between where food is produced and the food banks and low-income areas that need it.

Farmers in the upper Midwest euthanize their baby pigs because the slaughterhouses are backing up or closing, while dairy owners in the region dump thousands of gallons of milk a day. In Salinas, Calif., rows of ripe iceberg, romaine and red-leaf lettuce shrivel in the spring sun, waiting to be plowed back into the earth.

Drone footage shows a 1.5-mile-long line of cars waiting their turn at a drive-through food bank in Miami. In Dallas, schools serve well north of 500,000 meals on each service day, cars rolling slowly past stations of ice chests and insulated bags as food service employees, volunteers and substitute teachers hand milk and meal packets through the windows.

Across the country, an unprecedented disconnect is emerging between where food is produced and the food banks and low-income neighborhoods that desperately need it. American farmers, ranchers, other food producers and poverty advocates have been asking the federal government to help overcome breakdowns in a food distribution system that have led to producers dumping food while Americans go hungry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration considers using loan to change Postal Service, Jacob Bogage and Lisa Rein, April 23, 2020. President Trump has railed for years against what he sees as mismanagement of the agency, which he argues has been exploited by sites such as Amazon.

postal service old logoThe Treasury Department is considering taking unprecedented control over key operations of the U.S. Postal Service by imposing tough terms on an emergency coronavirus loan from Congress, which would fulfill President Trump’s longtime goal of changing how the service does business, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Officials working under Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who must approve the $10 billion loan, have told senior officials at the USPS in recent weeks that he could use the loan as leverage to give the administration influence over how much the agency charges for delivering packages and how it manages its finances, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are preliminary.

jeffrey bezos washington postTrump has railed for years against what he sees as mismanagement at the Postal Service, which he argues has been exploited by e-commerce sites such as Amazon, and has sought to change how much the agency charges for the delivery of packages. (Amazon’s founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos,left, owns The Washington Post.)

Under the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus relief passed last month, the Treasury was authorized to loan $10 billion to the USPS, which says it may not be able to make payroll and continue mail service uninterrupted past September. Mnuchin rejected a bipartisan Senate proposal to give the Postal Service a bailout amid the negotiations over that legislation, a senior Trump administration official and a congressional official previously told The Post.

The borrowing terms have only been discussed among both agencies’ leadership and have not been made public because the Postal Service hasn’t officially requested the loan, the two people familiar with the matter said. Mnuchin could still decide not to pursue tough terms as the September deadline nears. The Postal Service would not have to use the entire $10 billion loan at one time, but amazon logo smallcould borrow up to that amount at any given time.

In discussions with senior USPS personnel, Treasury officials have said they are interested in raising rates on the Postal Service’s lucrative package business, its sole area of profitability in recent years. Treasury also could review all large postal contracts with package companies to push for greater margins on deliveries.

Treasury officials have said they may press the agency to demand tougher concessions from its powerful postal unions — among the public-sector unions that still retain significant leverage in negotiations with the government.

The officials have also said Mnuchin wants the authority to review hiring decisions at the agency’s senior levels, including the selection of the next postmaster general, a decision that until now has been left to the Postal Service’s five-member board of governors.

irs logoUSPS spokesman David Partenheimer confirmed in an email that the agency and Treasury have begun “preliminary discussions” over the loan, but that the Treasury had not yet asked “to impose any of those conditions on that borrowing authority.” He declined to say whether these or any other terms were under discussion.

A Treasury spokesman said the department began preliminary discussions on the terms of the loan, but cautioned it was too early to comment on those conversations.

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

The Postal Service has repeatedly drawn on an open $15 billion line of credit Congress authorized nearly 30 years ago, as the agency’s finances have been squeezed by the demise of the traditional mail business and rising pension costs. That loan comes without any terms and low interest rates. USPS has paid down the debt in recent years, but has never fully paid off the loan. On April 1, the Postal Service borrowed another $3 billion to help weather the pandemic, bringing the agency up to $14.4 billion from that line of credit.

Usually, the agency’s business decisions are made by its board of governors, who are appointed by the president, and an independent entity called the Postal Regulatory Commission, which ensures that the Postal Service charges rates for its services that cover its costs.

If Mnuchin were to gain greater control through the new loan, a slew of Postal Service management decisions, including the terms of major contracts and collective bargaining strategy, could require Treasury’s approval. Hiring and firing of senior executives could be required to be run by Treasury, the two people familiar with the matter said.

Trump has taken aim at the Postal Service since early in his tenure, initially urging the agency to double the rates it charges Amazon and other firms for delivery.

The Postal Service is projecting a $13 billion shortfall this year because of the pandemic, with mail volume down about 30 percent since the virus forced businesses to scale back advertisements, catalogues and other mail. A jump in package deliveries to homebound customers has not fully compensated for those losses.

Democrats say Mnuchin will be making a mistake if he tries to impose stringent terms on the new loan.

“If Mnuchin wants to play this kind of game with the Postal Service, I think it is time for the Postal Service to tell him they’re not going to agree to unacceptable conditions, and that means Mnuchin will have on his hands the disruption of services this fall,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who chairs the House subcommittee in charge of postal oversight. “I think it’s time to stare him down and this White House down, and for Congress to decide [if we are] going to stand with the Postal Service as we know it.

“This is an essential service and it needs to be treated as such. My hope would be that the Postal will stare him down. If they don’t, it’s tantamount to handing over day-to-day management to the Treasury Department.”

Virus Patient Care, Testing

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccine Rates Drop Dangerously as Parents Avoid Doctor’s Visits, Jan Hoffman, April 23, 2020. Afraid of Covid-19, parents are postponing well-child checkups, including shots, putting children at risk. Immunizations are dropping at a dangerous rate, putting millions of children at risk for measles, whooping cough and other life-threatening illnesses.

washington post logoWashington Post, In New York’s largest hospital system, 88 percent of patients on ventilators didn’t make it, Ariana Eunjung Cha, April 23, 2020 (print ed.). The analysis is the largest and most comprehensive look at outcomes in the United States to be published so far.

Throughout March, as the pandemic gained momentum in the United States, much of the preparations focused on the breathing machines that were supposed to save everyone’s lives.

New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and President Trump sparred over how many ventilators the state was short. DIYers brainstormed modifications to treat more patients. And ethicists agonized over how to allocate them fairly if we run out.

Now five weeks into the crisis, a paper published in the journal JAMA about New York State’s largest health system suggests a reality that like so much else about the novel coronavirus, confounds our early expectations.

Researchers found that 20 percent of all those hospitalized died — a finding that’s similar to the percentage who perish in normal times among those who are admitted for respiratory distress.

But the numbers diverge more for the critically ill put on ventilators. Eighty-eight percent of the 320 covid-19 patients on ventilators who were tracked in the study died. That compares with the roughly 80 percent of patients who died on ventilators before the pandemic, according to previous studies — and with the roughly 50 percent death rate some critical care doctors had optimistically hoped when the first cases were diagnosed.

'Crisis' Seen In SCOTUS Ruling

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Precedent Overturned Reveals a Supreme Court in Crisis, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her linda greenhouse cover just a journalistmemoir), April 23, 2020. Separate opinions in a case show nine justices pursuing agendas far removed from the dispute at hand.

The country wasn’t exactly holding its breath for the Supreme Court’s decision this week that the Constitution requires juror unanimity for a felony conviction in state court. The case promised little change. Unanimity has long been understood as constitutionally required in federal court as a matter of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

The only outlier among the states was Oregon. Louisiana, where the case originated in an appeal brought by a man convicted of murder in 2016 by a 10-to-2 vote, changed its rule two years later to require unanimity going forward. Six Supreme Court justices agreed this week that contrary to the outcome of a 1972 case, there is not one rule for the federal courts and another for the states: Conviction only by a unanimous jury verdict is now the rule for both.

That sounds almost too straightforward to be very interesting. Even people with more than a passing interest in the Supreme Court may well have thought, “Well, then that’s that,” before moving on to other cases, other concerns.

supreme court CustomThat would have been a mistake. This decision, Ramos v. Louisiana, is in fact one of the most fascinating Supreme Court products I’ve seen in a long time, and one of the most revealing. Below the surface of its 6-to-3 outcome lies a maelstrom of clashing agendas having little to do with the question ostensibly at hand and a great deal to do with the court’s future. Peek under the hood and see a Supreme Court in crisis.

Consider that it took nearly seven months from the argument last October for the justices to come up with something they were willing to send out into the world: five separate opinions, a total of 83 pages, to answer the straightforward question presented by Evangelisto Ramos’s petition: “Whether the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict.” (“Incorporates” refers to the ongoing process of applying the guarantees of the Bill of Rights — which by their terms apply only to Congress — to the states.)

Simple as that question appeared to be, this case meant trouble at the court from the start. The decision to grant review in the first place was a disputed one, or so we can infer from the fact that the justices considered Mr. Ramos’s petition at eight of their closed-door conferences, beginning in October 2018, before finally granting it in March of last year. Petitions are usually granted after one or two conferences, so such prolonged consideration indicates some kind of internal struggle as proponents search for the necessary four votes.

That there was a struggle was hardly surprising, because the grant of review marked a sharp and unexplained break with the recent past.

Climate Change U.S. Heat Wave?

washington post logoWashington Post, Relentless record heat roasts south Florida while most of the Gulf Coast also is cooking, Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow, April 23, 2020 (print ed.). Both the extent and intensity of the warmth is unprecedented in many areas.

From South Texas to South Florida, all along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, temperatures in the spring frequently have leaped ahead to summer-like levels. South Florida, in particular, has turned downright hot, obliterating long-standing records.

On Monday, Miami experienced its hottest April day recorded, soaring to 97 degrees.

Meteorologists say the steamy weather is linked to abnormally warm temperatures in the adjacent waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and a persistent high pressure zone heating the air.

But both the extent and intensity of the warmth is unprecedented in many areas and would likely not be happening without the influence of human-induced climate change.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Limits on testing in Brazil are hiding the true dimensions of Latin America’s largest outbreak, Terrence McCoy and Heloísa Traiano, April 23, 2020. Atop a shaded hill at the edge of São Paulo, the gravedigger thinks he knows the truth. No matter how bad it appears in Brazil — the country hit hardest by the coronavirus in the Southern Hemisphere — the reality is significantly worse.

Manoel Norberto Pereira watched another body being wheeled in, accompanied by what has by now become a familiar set of details. Sex: brazil flag wavingFemale. Age: 77 years. Cause of death: Insufficient respiration.

Every day brings more. The cemetery now receives around 50 bodies every day — double the average in normal times. Many are marked as confirmed cases of covid-19, the disease the virus causes. But many more say only unidentified respiratory ailment. To Pereira, they’re the unseen toll of the coronavirus in Brazil, which has officially infected 45,000 people and killed 2,900 — but unofficially many times more than that.

Imprecise and insufficient testing is a global problem, but in Brazil, it’s on an entirely different scale. Latin America’s largest country is testing people at a rate far lower than any other nation with at least 40,000 cases. It tests 12 times fewer people than Iran. Thirty-two times fewer than the United States. Hospitalized patients aren’t being tested. Some medical professionals aren’t being tested. People are dying in their homes jair bolsonaro brazilwithout being tested.

The undercount has undercut pleas for social isolation and empowered skeptics such as Jair Bolsonaro, right. Brazil’s president dismisses the pandemic as a “fantasy” driven by “a little flu.” Bolsonaro said this month that the numbers “looked like the virus is starting to leave.” Then, last week, he fired his health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who had repeatedly and publicly contradicted the president on the severity of the crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Sadness’ and Disbelief From a World Missing American Leadership, Katrin Bennhold, April 23, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic is shaking bedrock assumptions about U.S. exceptionalism. As images of America’s overwhelmed hospital wards and snaking jobless lines have flickered across the world, people on the European side of the Atlantic are looking at the richest and most powerful nation in the world with disbelief.

“When people see these pictures of New York City they say, ‘How can this happen? How is this possible?’” said Henrik Enderlein, president of the Berlin-based Hertie School, a university focused on public policy. “We are all stunned. Look at the jobless lines. Twenty-two million,” he added.

“I feel a desperate sadness,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European history at Oxford University and a lifelong and ardent Atlanticist.

The pandemic sweeping the globe has done more than take lives and livelihoods from New Delhi to New York. It is shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism — the special role the United States played for decades after World War II as the reach of its values and power made it a global leader and example to the world.

  • New York Times, Pandemic Quiets Protest Movements Around the World, April 23, 2020. Millions of protesters have been forced or have chosen to stay at home, and organizers wonder when, if and how they will be able to resume.

U.S. Courts, Prisons

Palmer Report, Opinion: Help! My son is locked in a coronavirus-infected Texas prison, Wrenda Waters, April 23, 2020. Wrenda Waters is a Palmer Report researcher. She’s written this article about her son.

My son is isolated and incommunicado in a medically-risky environment, locked-up at SAFPF (Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility) in TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) at Jester1 in Richmond, Texas. SAFPF is intensive treatment, in a prison setting. Except for one essential component, there is no treatment available when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. That employee worked in the kitchen alongside my son, approximately a foot of distance between them.

This is the 5th employee at Jester1 who has tested positive for COVID-19. The first occurrence was a counselor prior to pandemic precautions. No treatment was offered at that time. Inmates were out of isolation briefly and are now in medical isolation, again.

No treatment, no phone calls, no going to the cafeteria. Three sack meals a day, consisting of PB&J, raisins and an occasional boiled egg are delivered to their unit. This is unhealthy for loved ones recovering from this disease. There are 323 men at Jester1, with beds 3 feet apart and no ability for outdoor sunshine. We won’t know if they are sick unless they transfer to a hospital, with symptoms of fever and inability to breathe. We won’t know how they’re doing. Who can maintain good mental health in these conditions?

Several weeks ago, Travis County released 1,000 pretrial inmates from jail, due to fears of COVID-19 inundating the crowded system. The same humanitarian principle of releasing non-violent people, from incarceration made deadly by the pandemic, should apply to my son and no doubt numerous others. We’ve been contacting lawyers, putting calls into various organizations, writing emails and reaching out to anyone who might help. His wife has written Governor Abbott only to receive automated responses.

Recently my son decided to file habeas corpus with the Court, as a last resort for release due to COVID-19. We cannot help to effectuate papers with telecommunication completely cut off. He should be released immediately. It is cruel and unusual punishment to place a person who is in custody of Texas, especially as a guest of SAFPF, at highly increased risk of death.

He’s been a model inmate, attending treatment incarceration as a revised term of Travis County Probation. He was placed on county probation for possession, no history of violence, then subsequently admitted to relapse and so was chosen as a permissible candidate for diversion from serving prison time. He agreed to participate in SAFPF offered by Travis County as a 6 month program and housed by TDCJ. While waiting for treatment to begin, upon arrival at Jester1 we learned he was transferred to a 9 month program, he has concluded nearly 6 months. With risk of Coronavirus in confinement, he needs to come home.

April 22

Public Health Top Headlines

Trump Watch

Virus Victims

Virus Testing, Self-Protection

2020 U.S. Politics / Elections

Media News

World NewsBenjamin Netanyahu smile Twitter

U.S. Courts, Business News

#MeToo, Deceit Allegations

 

Public Health Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating, Lena H. Sun, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). The nation’s top public health official warned that a second wave of the novel coronavirus would probably coincide with the start of flu season and could overwhelm the health system.

Even as states move ahead with plans to reopen their economies, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned cdc logo CustomTuesday that a second wave of the novel coronavirus will be far more dire because it is likely to coincide with the start of flu season.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Washington Post. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”

“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said.

Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unimaginable strain on the health-care system, he said. The first wave of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already killed more than 42,000 people across the country. It has overwhelmed hospitals and revealed gaping shortages in test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s latest press briefing is already a flaming dumpster fire from hell, Bill Palmer, April 22, 2020. More intent on robert redfieldlosing the 2020 election than ever, Donald Trump decided to open his press briefing today with one of the most ridiculous sequences in presidential history.

Yesterday the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, right, said that the second coronavirus wave in the fall could be worse than the current one. So Trump forced Redfield to get on stage today and pretend he didn’t say what he’d just said.

bill palmer report logo headerThe kicker is that, after Redfield finished groveling for his job, a reporter read Redfield’s quote back to him and asked him if it was correct. Redfield then said yes. When Trump insisted that it was the headline that was inaccurate, a reporter pointed out why, only for Trump to complain that “you weren’t called on.”

At that point Dr. Birx, who has already largely ruined her own reputation, jumped in and delivered a bunch of gibberish aimed at leaving everyone too confused to understand what was going on. But there was no mistaking what happened: Donald Trump forced the CDC Director to lie about his own words in order to keep his job. This kind of stupid crap is why Trump is so far behind in the polls.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Virus Vaccine Chief Ousted: Says He Questioned a Drug Trump Praised, Staff report, April 22, 2020. The doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said on Wednesday that he was removed from his post after he pressed for a rigorous vetting of a coronavirus treatment embraced by President Trump. The doctor said that science, not “politics and cronyism,” must lead the way.

rick brightDr. Rick Bright, right, was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

Instead, he was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health. “I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said HHS Logoin a statement to The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman.

“I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way,” he said.

Asked at his daily briefing if Dr. Bright had been forced out, Mr. Trump said, “Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t; I don’t know who he is.”

A spokeswoman for Alex Azar, below right, the health and human services secretary, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The medical publication Stat reported on Tuesday that Dr. Bright had clashed with Bob Kadlec, the assistant health secretary for alex azar o cropped Custompreparedness and response.

Dr. Bright, who noted that his entire career had been spent in vaccine development both in and outside of government, has led BARDA since 2016.

In the statement, he said: “My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this — to confront and defeat a deadly virus that threatens Americans and people around the globe. To this point, I have led the government’s efforts to invest in the best science available to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other headlines: The first known U.S. death from the illness came in early February in California. Trump signed an executive order imposing a 60-day halt in issuing green cards. President Trump said he told Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia that he disagreed “strongly” with the governor’s decision to allow barbershops, nail salons and other businesses in the state to reopen.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Anti-malarial drug Trump touted is linked to higher rates of death in VA coronavirus patients, study says, Christopher Rowland, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). Patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic combination received no benefit in rates of death or in use of a ventilator.

An anti-malarial drug President Trump has aggressively promoted to treat covid-19 had no benefit and was linked to higher rates of death for Veterans Affairs patients hospitalized with the novel coronavirus, according to a study, raising further questions about the safety and efficacy of a treatment that has seen widespread use in the pandemic.

djt smiling fileThe study by VA and academic researchers analyzed outcomes of 368 male patients nationwide, with 97 receiving hydroxychloroquine, 113 receiving hydroxychloroquine in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin, and 158 not receiving any hydroxychloroquine.

Rates of death in the groups treated with the drugs were worse than those who did not receive the drugs, the study found. Rates of patients on ventilators were roughly equal, with no benefit demonstrated by the drugs.

More than 27 percent of patients treated with hydroxychloroquine died, and 22 percent of those treated with the combination therapy died, compared with an 11.4 percent death rate in those not treated with the drugs, the study said. The results were from an observational study of outcomes and were not part of a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial, which is the gold standard for testing drugs.

The study was published on the site medrxiv.org, which is a clearinghouse for academic studies on the coronavirus that have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in academic journals.

“An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone,” wrote the authors, who are affiliated with the University of Virginia, the University of South Carolina, and the VA system in Columbia, S.C. “These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Las Vegas mayor wants to reopen casinos, letting the number of infections determine which businesses close, Teo Armus, Antonia Noori Farzan, Rick Noack, Jennifer Hassan, James McAuley, John Wagner, Lateshia Beachum and Brittany Shammas, April 22, 2020. States could double testing this week with at-home kits, FDA commissioner says.

At least two people who died in California’s Silicon Valley in February had contracted the novel coronavirus, suggesting it was spreading — and killing — in the United States weeks earlier than previously thought. That revelation came as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that a second wave of U.S. infections could be even more devastating than the first.

More than 800,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States, with nearly 45,000 reported deaths. Worldwide, more than 2.5 million infections and 175,000 deaths have been reported.

Here are some significant developments:

  • "Our Country is starting to OPEN FOR BUSINESS again,” President Trump tweeted Wednesday. Several states, including Georgia and South Carolina, are slowly beginning to ease restrictions and closures, although some health experts and local lawmakers have cautioned that it may be too early to do so safely.
  • A $484 billion deal to replenish a small-business loan program passed the Senate and is expected to be approved by the House on Thursday. The bill, which Trump intends to sign, also increases funding for hospitals and covid-19 testing, but some Democrats worry that it does not go far enough.
  • Missouri’s attorney general sued the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China over the coronavirus pandemic. In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman called the lawsuit “very absurd,” and experts in international law said they doubt it stands a chance.
  • As administration officials work out the logistics and legal implications of suspending immigration to the United States, Trump said he will sign his executive order on Wednesday.
  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in unveiled a $32.4 billion relief package for hard-hit businesses and is pushing for a New Deal-style program to put people to work on national infrastructure projects.
  • A new study shows that hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug aggressively touted by Trump, offered no benefit for treating covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and was linked to higher death rates among Veterans Affairs patients.

usa today logoUSA Today via Des Moines Register, Coronavirus at meat packing plants worse than first thought, USA TODAY investigation finds, Kyle Bagenstose, Sky Chadde and Matt Wynn, April 22, 2020. A rash of coronavirus outbreaks at dozens of meat packing plants across the nation is far more extensive than previously thought, according to an exclusive review of cases by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

And it could get worse. More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest, based on the media outlets’ analysis of slaughterhouse locations and county-level COVID-19 infection rates.

These facilities represent more than 1 in 3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants. Rates of infection around these plants are higher than those of 75% of other U.S. counties, the analysis found.

And while experts say the industry has thus far maintained sufficient production despite infections in at least 2,200 workers at 48 plants, there are fears that the number of cases could continue to rise and that meat packing plants will become the next disaster zones.

"Initially our concern was long-term care facilities," said Gary Anthone, Nebraska's chief medical officer, in a Facebook Live video on Sunday. “If there's one thing that might keep me up at night, it's the meat processing plants and the manufacturing plants."

As companies scramble to contain the outbreaks by closing more than a dozen U.S. plants so far — including a Smithfield pork plant in South Dakota that handles 5% of U.S. pork production — the crisis has raised the specter of mass meat shortages.

But experts say there's little risk of a dwindling protein supply because, given the choice between worker safety and keeping meat on grocery shelves, the nation’s slaughterhouses will choose to produce food.

“If this goes on for a long time, there is a reality of a shortage,” said Joshua Specht, an assistant professor of history at the University of Notre Dame who studies the meat industry. “The politics of this could play out that they reopen at enormous risks to workers, rather than face an actual shortage… I wouldn’t bet against that.”

huff post logoHuffPost, Commentary: I’m A Doctor In A COVID-19 Unit. Here’s One Vital Step I Wish Everyone Would Take, Asha Shajahan, M.D., April 22, 2020. “While we are social distancing in our homes, it’s time to have that conversation that most of us have avoided ― or didn’t even know we needed to have.”

Earlier this week, a 30-year-old patient with COVID-19 passed away on a ventilator. He hadn’t laid out his end-of-life wishes ― what in the medical field are called advance directives. His father, devastated after seeing the numbers related to his condition, didn’t want any further treatment that would prolong the inevitable. His mother wanted to try everything that could possibly be done to save him. If the patient himself had been able to speak, he might have expressed what his wishes were and saved his family a heartbreaking conflict.

But he hadn’t planned to die.

This tragic situation is all too common, a result of families failing to discuss emergencies and end-of-life wishes ahead of time. It’s especially stressful to make this kind of decision when the stakes are high, as they often are now amid the coronavirus pandemic. This is why it’s important to understand end-of-life treatment options and to make choices before a crisis occurs. Nobody wants to imagine the worst, but the worst is a callous reality.

Out of the 55 patients on my COVID-19 unit in metro Detroit, only one had an advance care planning document. That patient was nonverbal after having a stroke at the age of 54. I phoned his sister, his designated legal guardian, and she read his advance care plan to me. “Doctor, tell him I love him,” she said. It was comforting to know that this patient had a designated advocate.

When I asked another patient about her advance directive, she laughed nervously and asked, “Is this a bad omen?” She was on four liters of oxygen, breathing heavily, but stable. She thought the conversation was taking place because she wasn’t going to make it.

Another gentleman told me, “I’m 62 years old and I have a lot more living to do!” His eyes were glassed over from his high fever and his hands clutched his chest as he tried not to cough. He was afraid that his age would prevent him from obtaining lifesaving measures, especially as some have suggested that older people are less worthy of being saved or even should be willing to die to preserve the American economy.

During my last several night shifts, I continued talking to patients about advance directives. “Do you want to be resuscitated including being on a ventilator, having electric shock applied to your chest and chest compressions that can break your ribs?” I asked. “Would you want a feeding tube?” “If you were unable to make medical decisions, who do you want to make those decisions for you?”

huff post logoHuffPost, Chris Cuomo’s Son Mario Suffering From Coronavirus, Mom Cristina Reveals, Jenna Amatulli, April 22, 2020. Mario Cuomo, son of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and Cristina Cuomo, has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. On Wednesday, Cristina Cuomo shared a heartfelt Instagram post dedicated to the 14-year-old and his recovery from the virus.

“After 10 days of ups and downs, feeling good one-day and terrible the next, I am now working hard to get my son, Mario, through the virus,” she wrote.

“My heart hurts more than my head over his infection. This virus does not discriminate. While kids are more resilient, they can suffer same severity of symptoms,” the caption continued.

washington post logoWashington Post, First U.S. virus deaths earlier than previously thought, Allyson Chiu and Teo Armus, April 22, 2020. Autopsies showed that at least two people who died in early and mid-February had contracted the coronavirus, health officials in California said, signaling that the virus may have spread and claimed lives in the United States weeks earlier than officials had thought.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: A Drastic Move to Seal the Country Off From the World, Katie Rogers, Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Updated April 21, 2020. It was not immediately clear what legal basis President Trump would use to justify shutting down most immigration.

The president portrayed the measure, his most wide-ranging attempt yet to seal off the country from the world, as a bid to save Americans’ jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: 28,000 Missing Deaths: Tracking the True Toll of the Coronavirus Crisis, Jin Wu and Allison McCann, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). At least 28,000 more people have died during the coronavirus pandemic over the last month than the official Covid-19 death counts report, a review of mortality data in 11 countries shows — providing a clearer, if still incomplete, picture of the toll of the crisis.

In the last month, far more people died in these countries than in previous years, The New York Times found. The totals include deaths from Covid-19 as well as those from other causes, likely including people who could not be treated as hospitals became overwhelmed.

These numbers undermine the notion that many people who have died from the virus may soon have died anyway. In Paris, more than twice the usual number of people have died each day, far more than the peak of a bad flu season. In New York City, the number is now four times the normal amount.

washington post logoUSTR seal Custom 2Washington Post, White House prepares to slash regulations as part of coronavirus economic recovery plan, Jeff Stein and Robert Costa, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). Senior administration officials are planning an effort to relax rules on small businesses by the end of April or in early May as part of President Trump’s push to “reopen” the economy, two people familiar with internal planning said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Most rate Trump’s outbreak response negatively, expect crowds will be unsafe until summer, poll finds, Scott Clement and Dan Balz, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds most Americans expect no immediate easing of the health risks associated with the pandemic, despite calls by President Trump and others to begin reopening the economy quickly.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Las Vegas Mayor Goodman is trying to commit homicide. Lock her up! Bill Palmer, April 22, 2020. The Mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, shown above in a file photo, is on CNN right now, arguing that the hotels and casinos in her city must immediately reopen, and who cares if people die from coronavirus in the process. This comes after the Governors of states like Georgia and Florida are prematurely reopening some businesses.

bill palmer report logo headerThere need to be severe criminal penalties for public officials who prematurely reopen things. Multiple legal experts have spelled out that the law defines this behavior as negligent homicide. These public officials will be guilty of thousands of felony homicide counts, and they should never leave prison for the rest of their lives.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Mutineers, Raise Your Hands, Gail Collins, April 22, 2020. Almost every movie reminds Trump of … something it’s not. “Tell the Democrat Governors that ‘Mutiny On The Bounty’ was one of my all time favorite movies,” Trump tweeted recently. “A good old fashioned mutiny every now and then is an exciting and invigorating thing to watch, especially when the mutineers need so much from the Captain. Too easy!”

Now “Mutiny” is the story of sailors who rise up against a cruel, greedy and possibly crazy Captain Bligh, setting him adrift on a rowboat. A little weird that our commander in chief would be so enraptured. But so very Trumpian that he appeared to have no clue Bligh was the villain.

Remember Kristi Noem in South Dakota? She spurned the stay-at-home drill as an exercise in “herd mentality.” (Nobody knows herds like South Dakota.) When employees at a pork-processing plant came down with the coronavirus, the governor preferred to talk about how she’d been working with Jared Kushner — Jared! — on a plan to test the power of Trump’s favorite corona-cure, hydroxychloroquine. (“It’s an exciting day.”)

Since then, hydroxychloroquine’s been flunking its tests and even Trump no longer talks about it. South Dakota, meanwhile, now has 1,858 coronavirus cases.

Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, is trying to drop as many constraints as possible, even as the state’s list of coronavirus victims ratcheted up to 20,000, with 838 deaths. Kemp only started shelter-in-place earlier this month — at which point he also confided that he’d had no idea people who don’t look sick could still be spreading the virus.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not qualified! Any more than Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to teach cinematic history.

Thanks to Kemp, on Friday Georgia will become open for businesses like gyms, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys. Even Trump doesn’t think it’s a good idea. And nobody can possibly discuss this without asking what convinced Kemp his state was in desperate need of access to tattoo artists.

  • New York Times, The Cold Calculations America’s Leaders Will Have to Make to Reopen, April 22, 2020. With no vaccine or cure, politicians at all levels will have to decide how many deaths would be acceptable to restore a shattered economy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Banks Gave Richest Clients ‘Concierge Treatment’ for Loans, Emily Flitter and Stacy Cowley, April 22, 2020. Some businesses seeking coronavirus loans got to avoid flaky online portals or backed-up queues. Many other small businesses couldn’t get their loan requests submitted before the money dried up.

Some businesses seeking coronavirus aid avoided application hurdles. Many others couldn’t get their requests submitted before the money dried up.

The federal government’s $349 billion aid program for small businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic was advertised as first-come, first-served. As many business owners found out, it was anything but.

That’s because some of the nation’s biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and U.S. Bank, prioritized the applications of their wealthiest clients before turning to other loan seekers, according to half a dozen bank employees and financial industry executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the banks’ operations.

Customers of Citi’s private bank, where the minimum account size is $25 million, didn’t have to use an online portal to apply for a loan; they could simply submit paperwork to their banker, who would put in an application on their behalf. At Chase, the nation’s largest bank, nearly all private and commercial banking clients who applied for a small-business loan got one, whereas only one out of every 15 retail banking customers who sought loans was successful. Some banks provided highly personalized, so-called concierge service to their richest clients by enlisting representatives to walk them through every step and submit their paperwork.

The two-tiered system paid off for well-to-do customers: By the time the Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money last week, many top clients of national and regional banks had already had their loans approved.

Other business owners were left empty-handed, and many had struggled from the start. At Chase, a portal accepting preliminary requests to apply was only sporadically accessible on April 3, the first day of the program. The best that customers could hope for was a call back from a Chase representative — days later — to proceed with the next steps.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Bezos Takes Back the Wheel at Amazon, Karen Weise, April 22, 2020. The chief executive, who had distanced himself from day-to-day management, is closely involved in the company’s response to the pandemic.

At the end of February, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, were in France discussing climate change with President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace and celebrating atop the Eiffel Tower with the designer Diane von Furstenberg. Days jeffrey bezos washington postlater, paparazzi spotted the couple grabbing dinner at Carbone in New York.

By late March, he had decamped to his ranch in West Texas, focusing on Amazon as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States.

After years of working almost exclusively on long-term projects and pushing day-to-day management to his deputies, Mr. Bezos, 56, has turned back to the here-and-now problems facing Amazon, the company said, as the giant retailer grapples with a surge of demand, labor unrest and supply chain challenges brought on by the coronavirus.

amazon logo smallHe is holding daily calls to help make decisions about inventory and testing, as well as how and when — down to the minute — Amazon responds to public criticism. He has talked to government officials. And in April, for the first time in years, he made a publicized visit to one of Amazon’s warehouses.

“For now, my own time and thinking continues to be focused on Covid-19 and how Amazon can help while we’re in the middle of it,” Mr. Bezos wrote to shareholders last week.

Mr. Bezos’ daily oversight hasn’t led to perfectly smooth sailing. Amazon has struggled to respond quickly to the growing number of coronavirus cases in its work force, and it has been slammed with orders from consumers.

But Amazon is one of the few companies that have benefited financially from the crisis. Because of all the customer demand, shares of the company have hit record highs. That has made Mr. Bezos, the wealthiest man in the world, $25 billion richer since early March.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Stars Touted a Malaria Drug, Until They Didn’t, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 22, 2020. Laura Ingraham called hydroxychloroquine “a game changer.” But after a month of coverage, she stopped discussing the drug on the air.

For a month’s stretch, the Fox News star Laura Ingraham relentlessly promoted the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to her nearly four million nightly viewers.

The drug was “a game changer” in the fight against the coronavirus, the conservative anchor declared. She booked recovered patients to describe their “miracle turnaround” — “like Lazarus, up from the grave,” as Ms. Ingraham put it. Anyone who questioned the drug’s efficacy fox news logo Smallwas, she said, “in total denial.”

“I love everybody, love the medical profession,” the host said on April 3, after listing off public health experts who questioned the cure. “But they sean hannity white housewant a double-blind controlled study on whether the sky is blue.”

But as of Wednesday last week, Ms. Ingraham was no longer talking about hydroxychloroquine, and she hasn’t brought it up on her show since.

Her fellow Fox News prime-time stars, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, have also cut back on referring to the drug. In fact, since April 13, hydroxychloroquine has been mentioned about a dozen times on Fox News, compared with more than 100 times in the four previous weeks, according to a review of network transcripts.

Consequences of Sound (CoS), Seth MacFarlane Calls Out Oprah for Popularizing “Dubious Characters” Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, Ben Kaye, April 22, 2020. The celebrity doctors have been spouting off misinformation about the coronavirus and its possible treatments.

Over the last few weeks, celebrity doctors Phil McGraw (a psychologist), right, and Mehmet Oz (a cardiothoracic surgeon), below left, have been spouting off misinformation about the coronavirus and its possible treatments.

Besides the fact that neither are actually trained in epidemiology, a common phil mcgraw 2013factor between the two TV docs is how they got their start: as guests on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show. That’s a connection Seth MacFarlane has recently taken issue with, mehmet ozcalling on Oprah to “correct” the record on the pair of medical hosts.

The Family Guy creator’s first remarks came from a tweet in which he shared a Los Angeles Times article detailing Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil’s controversial COVID-19 remarks. “Oprah has done some wonderfully altruistic things with her career, but the use of her platform to amplify the voices of dubious characters rather than legitimate scientists has been a disservice,” MacFarlane wrote. “I hope she will lend her own powerful voice to correct it.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Rupert Murdoch, his son Lachlan Murdoch and other Fox executives will take pay cuts, Edmund Lee, April 22, 2020. Rupert fox news logo SmallMurdoch’s Fox Corporation, the owner of Fox News and the Fox television network, announced pay cuts to its executive ranks that will affect 700 employees as it worked to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone The Fox Corporation chief executive Lachlan Murdoch, the elder son of Rupert, made the announcement in a memo sent to the company’s 7,700 workers on Wednesday.

“While we don’t know exactly when we will return to normal and full operations across the company, we have decided to take several new actions to ensure that we remain strong and are well-positioned when this crisis recedes,” Lachlan Murdoch said.

He and the family patriarch will forgo their entire salaries through September, though most of their compensation comes from stock awards and bonuses. Rupert Murdoch, shown at left in a photo by David Shankbone, makes $5 million in salary but his compensation tops $29 million with incentives and stock. Lachlan Murdoch makes $3 million in salary, with an additional $20 million coming from stocks and bonuses.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Chinese Agents Helped Spread Messages Sowing Panic in U.S., Officials Say, Edward Wong, Matthew Rosenberg and Julian E. Barnes, April 22, 2020. U.S. officials were alarmed by fake text messages and social media posts. Experts are seeing a convergence with Russian tactics.

The alarming messages came fast and furious in mid-March, popping up on the cellphone screens and social media feeds of millions of Americans grappling with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spread the word, the messages said: The Trump administration was about to lock down the entire country.

“They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, which cited a source in the Department of Homeland Security. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”

The messages became so widespread over 48 hours that the White House’s National Security Council issued an announcement via Twitter that they were “FAKE.”

Since that wave of panic, United States intelligence agencies have assessed that Chinese operatives helped push the messages across platforms, according to six American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to publicly discuss intelligence matters. The amplification techniques are alarming to officials because the disinformation showed up as texts on many Americans’ cellphones, a tactic that several of the officials said they had not seen before.

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican-Led Review Backs Intelligence Findings on Russian Interference, Nicholas Fandos and Julian E. Barnes, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). A new Senate report undercuts claims by President Trump that officials examining Russia’s 2016 election meddling were biased against him.

American intelligence officials’ determination that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to assist Donald J. Trump’s candidacy was fundamentally sound and untainted by politics, according to a key Republican-led Senate review released on Tuesday. The findings undercut longstanding allegations by Mr. Trump and his allies that the officials were biased against him.

us senate logoThe Senate Intelligence Committee, which conducted the three-year study, had already given the work of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. an interim stamp of approval, but the 158-page report on Tuesday presented new detail about the government’s attempts in 2016 and 2017 to make sense of Russia’s attacks. Much of the report’s contents about the so-called Intelligence Community Assessment were considered highly sensitive and blacked out by the Trump administration.

“The I.C.A. reflects strong tradecraft, sound analytical reasoning and proper justification of disagreement in the one analytical line where it occurred,” said Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the panel’s chairman. “The committee found no reason to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusions.”

Russian FlagThe endorsement by Mr. Burr’s committee comes at a key moment for the intelligence agencies. The Trump administration has stepped up its scrutiny of both the agencies’ examination of Russian interference in 2016 and the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation around the same time. Mr. Trump’s conservative allies have long painted the bureau’s inquiry as hopelessly tainted by politics even as independent reviews debunked the notion of an anti-Trump plot.

Tthe reception for the findings was muted. When the inquiry began in early 2017, it was one of the most closely followed in the history of Congress, casting a cloud over Mr. Trump’s presidency that could not be dismissed as merely partisan. But with the investigation into the same topic by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, long since put to rest; an impeachment fight over a largely unrelated matter behind the country; and a pandemic currently reshaping every aspect of life, the Russia inquiry has now largely become an afterthought for most Americans.

The Justice Department is examining whether the C.I.A. or other intelligence agencies overstated President Vladimir V. Putin’s support of the Trump campaign, as part of an inquiry being led by John H. Durham, a federal prosecutor. Many Republicans believe that the intelligence agencies overstated Russia’s support for Mr. Trump and argue that Moscow was trying to sow chaos in the United States, not support any one candidate.

CIA LogoMr. Durham has been interviewing intelligence analysts about the central conclusion of that 2017 report, examining whether Obama-era intelligence officials hid evidence or manipulated analysis about Moscow’s covert operation. Critics of the assessment have focused on the fact that the National Security Agency had a lower level of confidence than the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. on the conclusion that Mr. Putin supported Mr. Trump’s election.

But the Senate report, from a committee led by Republicans, could shore up the intelligence agencies’ conclusions.

“In all the interviews of those who drafted and prepared the I.C.A., the committee heard consistently that analysts were under no politically motivated pressure to reach specific conclusions,” the report said. “All analysts expressed that they were free to debate, object to content and assess confidence levels, as is normal and proper for the analytic process.”

The committee found that the differing confidence levels among the intelligence agencies were “justified and properly represented.” The report said that both John O. Brennan, then the director of the C.I.A., and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, then the director of the National Security Agency, both “independently expressed to the committee that they reached the final wording openly and with sufficient exchanges of views.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump (the Company) Asks Trump (the Administration) for Hotel Relief, Ben Protess, Steve Eder and David Enrich, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s signature Washington hotel wants a break on the terms of its lease. His administration is the landlord.

The president’s family business pays at least $3 million a year to the federal government for the lease on its D.C. hotel, which is all but empty because of the virus. The next monthly payment is coming due.

President Trump’s signature hotel in the nation’s capital wants a break on the terms of its lease. The landlord determining the fate of the request is Mr. Trump’s own administration.

Trump International Hotel, just a few blocks from the White House, had been a favored gathering place for lobbyists, foreign dignitaries and others hoping to score points with the president. But like most hotels, it is now nearly empty and looking to cut costs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks, the president’s family business has inquired about changing its lease payments, according to people familiar with the matter, which the federal government has reported amount to nearly $268,000 per month.

The Trump Organization owns and operates the luxury hotel, but it is in a federally owned building on Pennsylvania Avenue. As part of its deal to open the 263-room hotel, the company signed a 60-year lease in 2013 that requires the monthly payments to the General Services Administration.

The Trump Organization is current on its rent, according to Eric Trump, the president’s son. But he confirmed that the company had opened a conversation about possible changes to the terms of the lease, which could include adjustments to future monthly payments.

Virus Victims

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi postpones plans for historic change in House voting after Republicans object, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, April 22, 2020. The House will instead move forward on a resolution creating a special committee to conduct oversight of federal relief money.

Pelosi’s decision, described by two Democratic aides familiar with the call Wednesday, comes as GOP lawmakers in both the House and Senate have increasingly called for Congress to return to Washington and begin plotting a return to business as usual — echoing calls from conservative activists and some Republican governors who have advocated loosening the stay-at-home guidelines supported by public health officials.

mitch mcconnellThe Republican lawmakers include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who said in several interviews Tuesday that he would not push another coronavirus-related emergency relief bill until Congress was back in session. And in a radio interview Wednesday, McConnell, right, signaled he was ready to reconvene the full Senate early next month despite the stay-at-home order now in effect in Washington through May 15.

Pelosi said on the call with Democratic leaders that the House would instead move forward this week on a resolution creating a previously announced special committee to conduct oversight of the trillions of taxpayer dollars in federal coronavirus relief money handed out by Congress over the past two months.

Republicans have opposed that committee, which is to be led by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), calling it duplicative of existing oversight mechanisms. But Democrats have argued that the scale of the federal spending requires a variety of watchdogs — particularly in light of President Trump’s efforts to undermine oversight provisions included in the Cares Act, the $2 trillion centerpiece rescue bill passed last month.

washington post logoWashingtgon Post, A mysterious blood-clotting complication is killing coronavirus patients, Ariana Eunjung Cha, April 22, 2020. Once thought a relatively straightforward respiratory virus, covid-19 is proving to be much more frightening.

Craig Coopersmith was up early that morning as usual and typed his daily inquiry into his phone. “Good morning, Team Covid,” he wrote, asking for updates from the ICU team leaders working across 10 hospitals in the Emory University health system in Atlanta.

One doctor replied that one of his patients had a strange blood problem. Despite receiving anticoagulants, the patient was still developing clots in various parts of his body. A second said she’d seen something similar. And a third. Soon, every person on the text chat had reported the same thing.

“That’s when we knew we had a huge problem,” said Coopersmith, a critical-care surgeon. As he checked with his counterparts at other medical centers, he became increasingly alarmed: “It was in as many as 20, 30 or 40 percent of their patients.”

One month ago, as the country went into lockdown to prepare for the first wave of coronavirus cases, many doctors felt confident that they knew what they were dealing with. Based on early reports, covid-19 appeared to be a standard variety respiratory virus, albeit a very contagious and lethal one with no vaccine and no treatment. But they’ve since become increasingly convinced that covid-19 attacks not only the lungs, but also the kidneys, heart, intestines, liver and brain.

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Republican governors turn their constituents into lab rats, Dana Milbank, right, April 22, 2020. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is proposing to offer a new nonstop service to the Great Beyond: He has a bold plan to turn his state into the place to die.

Kemp, a Republican and an ally of President Trump, just called for the reopening within days of his state’s gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body-art studios, barbers, nail salons, cosmetologists, aestheticians, beauty schools, massage therapists, theaters, private social clubs and dine-in restaurants.

brian kemp CustomHe’s doing this even though the state ranks near last in testing, even though it’s not clear that covid-19 cases are declining there, and even knowing “we’re probably going to have to see our cases continue to go up,” as Kemp himself said.

Public health experts fear coronavirus will burn through Georgia like nothing has since William Tecumseh Sherman. But Kemp, shown at left, is making a big gamble that his constituents wouldn’t want to swab places with anyone, and that tourists will be dying to get to Georgia in any class of travel — economy, economy plus or intensive care — as the Peachtree State remakes itself as the Petri State.

It has been 88 years since Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis developed the idea of states serving as “laboratories of democracy.” But even that great thinker probably couldn’t have imagined states serving as actual laboratories, experimenting with the spread of infectious diseases in their populations. Now several Republican governors, with Trump’s encouragement, are racing to reopen during the pandemic, using their constituents as lab rats to see what happens when you relax virus containment.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Bronx, long a symbol of American poverty, is now New York City’s coronavirus capital, Richard Morgan, April 22, 2020. Amid this unfolding public health crisis, New York City has been distilled to its essential workforce. The Bronx, predominantly, is where they live, each day cramming into buses and subway trains that take them into Manhattan.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2As the city rallies around a mantra of “New York Tough,” the marginalized here — among them city transit staff, garbage collectors and health-care workers — know that New Yorkers are not truly all in this together. There are now more coronavirus infections here per capita than in any of the city’s other boroughs, according to health department data.

The Bronx is not just the poorest borough in the city. The 15th District, or NY-15, its chief congressional district, is the poorest in the nation. Of all the unsettling data points to have surfaced during the pandemic, one is front of mind among many of the 1.5 million people who live here: Of New York state’s 62 counties, the Bronx ranks dead last by most every measure.

NY-15 has a median income of $30,483, and the state’s worst rates for asthma, diabetes, hypertension and obesity, putting residents at a disproportionately high risk of death should they develop covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Even before the crisis, life expectancy here was 75 years old, 10 years lower than that of the most affluent pockets of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pandemic’s Costs Stagger the Nursing Home Industry, Matthew Goldstein, Robert Gebeloff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). Even before the coronavirus swept through care facilities, many were struggling with thin profit margins. Now they could be wiped out.

Nursing homes care for about 1.5 million people in the United States, and 70 percent of the 15,400 facilities are run for profit. While the financial picture for the industry, which also includes homes run by government agencies and nonprofits, was hardly rosy before the virus struck, it was especially precarious for many for-profit nursing homes.

Reimbursements from government programs like Medicaid are a main source of revenue for nursing homes, but operators have long complained those payments have not kept pace with the cost of care.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Death of the Department Store: ‘Very Few Are Likely to Survive,’ Sapna Maheshwari and Vanessa Friedman, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). Shuttered flagships. Empty malls. Canceled orders. Risks of bankruptcy. The coronavirus has hit the behemoths of the retail world.

American department stores, once all-powerful shopping meccas that anchored malls and Main Streets across the country, have been dealt macy logoblow after blow in the past decade. J.C. Penney and Sears were upended by hedge funds. Macy’s has been closing stores and cutting corporate staff. Barneys New York filed for bankruptcy last year.

But nothing compares to the shock the weakened industry has taken from the coronavirus pandemic. The sales of clothing and accessories fell by more than half in March, a trend that is expected to only get worse in April. The entire executive team at Lord & Taylor was let go this month. Nordstrom has canceled orders and put off paying its vendors. The Neiman Marcus Group, the most glittering of the American department store chains, is expected to declare bankruptcy in the coming days, the first major retailer felled during the current crisis.

It is not likely to be the last.

Virus Testing, Self-Protection

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Testing in Puerto Rico Lags Behind Everywhere Else in U.S., Patricia Mazzei, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). A strict lockdown has required much sacrifice from Puerto Ricans, whose patience with the slow pace of testing is running out.

Puerto Rico has performed an average of 15 tests a day for every 100,000 people, more than 10 times less comprehensive than the testing effort in New York.

Hobbled by government scandal and dysfunction at the start of the pandemic, Puerto Rico has done tests to diagnose the coronavirus at a far lower rate than anywhere else in the United States, a situation that public health experts fear could leave the island uniquely vulnerable once it attempts to reopen.

democratic donkey logoPuerto Rico has performed an average of 15 coronavirus tests a day for every 100,000 people, according to the Covid Tracking Project, a rate lower than any state and far less comprehensive than the testing effort in New York.

More than in other places where testing has been insufficient, experts say that the huge lag has left Puerto Rico blind to where it lies on its infection curve.

The lack of data makes it difficult to know when to ease Puerto Rico’s lockdown, one of the strictest in the country, which has kept hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients but has also required much sacrifice from Puerto Ricans enduring the 14th year of an economic recession. Already this year they survived a flurry of earthquakes that left some people effectively homeless for months.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: It Is Not 'Authoritarian' To Support Quarantine Measures - It Just Makes Sense, b, April 22, 2020. Yesterday James Corbett of The Corbett Report interviewed Kit Knightly of Off-Guardian about the corona crisis.

At 18:30 minutes Corbett finds it "disturbing" that some of the blogs who usually criticize governments, like Moon of Alabama, support the measures governments have taken to lower the speed of the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Corbett then highlights a discussion on Twitter between me and the Off-Guardian account.

2020 U.S. Politics / Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden to name selection panel for running mate by May 1, Annie Linskey, April 22, 2020. The presumptive Democratic nominee has said that he would name a woman to be his running mate.

joe biden oBiden, right, who is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, also listed qualities he is looking for in a running mate, utterances that are closely watched by allies of the contenders. “The first, the most important quality is someone who — if I walked away immediately from the office for whatever reason — that they can be president,” Biden said. He added that he wants the public to be able to see his pick as “capable of being president of the United States tomorrow.”

  • Washington Post, Analysis: The big picture from new campaign fundraising reports, April 22, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 25,000 email addresses and passwords allegedly from NIH, WHO, Gates Foundation and others are dumped online, Souad Mekhennet and Craig Timberg, April 22, 2020. Who posted them is unknown, but they immediately became fodder for right-wing activists attacking the organizations

world health organization logo CustomUnknown activists have posted nearly 25,000 email addresses and passwords allegedly belonging to the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the Gates Foundation and other groups working to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism and terrorist groups.

While SITE was unable to verify whether the email addresses and passwords were authentic, the group said the information was released Sunday and Monday and almost immediately used to foment attempts at hacking and harassment by far-right extremists. An Australian cybersecurity expert, Robert Potter, said he was able to verify that the WHO email addresses and passwords were real.

The lists, whose origins are unclear, appear to have first been posted to 4chan, a message board notorious for its hateful and extreme political commentary, and later to Pastebin, a text storage site, to Twitter and to far-right extremist channels on Telegram, a messaging app.

“Neo-Nazis and white supremacists capitalized on the lists and published them aggressively across their venues,” said Rita Katz, SITE’s executive director. “Using the data, far-right extremists were calling for a harassment campaign while sharing conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic. The distribution of these alleged email credentials were just another part of a months-long initiative across the far right to weaponize the covid-19 pandemic.”

The report by SITE, based in Bethesda, Md., said the largest group of alleged emails and passwords was from the NIH, with 9,938 found on lists posted online. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had the second-highest number, with 6,857. The World Bank had 5,120. The list of WHO addresses and passwords totaled 2,732.

washington post logoWashington Post, Matt Drudge draws Trump’s ire, setting off a potentially substantial split between the conservative media power player and the president, Paul Farhi, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s on-again, off-again relationship with one of the most powerful figures in conservative media appears to be off again.

matt drudgeFor reasons not entirely clear, Trump washed his hands of Matt Drudge, the digital news kingmaker, in a weekend tweet, saying he “gave up” on Drudge “long ago.”

The proximate cause of Trump’s disappointment with Drudge, right — or more directly, his influential Drudge Report news site — was his promotion of a report stating that the number of deaths in the U.S. had set a single day record. It carried an all-caps headline: “NO PEAK YET.” Trump framed his exasperation by retweeting a conservative writer who had called out Drudge’s headline as “sensationalistic & misleading.”

The president, who regards any hint of negative news as a personal betrayal, was clearly upset that Drudge had featured a story that undermines Trump’s repeated claims that the crisis is subsiding.

Atlantic Journal-Constitution, Georgia Democratic lawmaker resigns amid backlash after Trump endorsement, Maya T. Prabhu, April 22, 2020. A little more than a week after endorsing Republican President Donald Trump for re-election, Democratic state Rep. Vernon Jones announced Wednesday that he would not complete his term — triggering a special election.

“Turn the lights off, I have left the plantation,” the controversial ex-DeKalb County CEO said in a statement.

Jones said he was not switching political parties but would work for Trump’s re-election.

“I don’t plan to leave the Democratic Party because somebody’s got to be in there to hold them accountable — hold them accountable to how they are treating black people (and) root out the bigotry,” Jones said on “The Rashad Richey Morning Show” shortly after announcing his resignation.

After a fiery and, at times, combative discussion, Jones ended the radio interview early, prompting Richey to say: “Hang up on this clown, please.”

What exactly happens next for his district, House District 91, is unclear. Jones was expected to formally submit his resignation Wednesday, as well as his withdrawal as a candidate from the June primary.

Jones was preparing for a Democratic primary rematch against Rhonda Taylor, a legal services staffer from Conyers, whom he defeated in 2016. There is no Republican on the ballot, making Taylor the presumptive representative in January.

“I think he made the right decision,” Taylor said of Jones’ resignation. “We appreciate his service and wish him luck in whatever endeavor he embarks upon next.”

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Israeli leaders agree to form unity government, with Netanyahu remaining prime minister for now, Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). Breaking a year-long deadlock, challenger Benny Gantz agreed to take helm in October 2021.

Israel's rival political leaders broke the country's unprecedented political impasse Monday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz announced a deal to join forces and form an emergency unity government.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterUnder the terms of the agreement, Netanyahu, right, would remain prime minister for the next 18 months with Gantz, below at left, then succeeding him.

The agreement, following weeks of tense negotiations and brinkmanship, comes as Israel confronts a burgeoning outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Gantz, who had spent a year battling to unseat the prime minister, cited the public health crisis for his willingness to serve with Netanyahu, whom he had repeatedly called "unfit to lead."

benny grantz cropped flickr as israel defense forces chief of staffjpg SmallThe deal represents a triumph for Netanyahu, who has pushed relentlessly to extend his record run at the top of Israeli politics. Critics have bemoaned and observers marveled that Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has once again outrun the political obituaries written for him after his party and its allies failed to regain their majority in three straight national elections and he was indicted on corruption charges along the way.

“King Bibi,” as his unshakable base of supporters calls him, still faces trial on multiple counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His trial, initially scheduled for March, was put on hold when the covid-19 outbreak shut down most of Israel’s courts. Netanyahu, who unsuccessfully sought parliamentary immunity earlier this year, is widely expected to use his office to further delay prosecution or to seek some form of official protection.

robert redfieldWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Analysis: Don't get excited yet about pandemic re-openings, Wayne Madsen, April 22, 2020. With reports that Covid-19 has mutated into at least 30 new strains and that the world can expect a second, more deadly, second-wave of the virus in the mid-to-late autumn, not every government has yet sounded the "all clear" klaxon.

The apprehension about Covid-19 not disappearing anytime soon was heightened by the dire prediction of Dr. Robert Redfield, right, the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

today news africa CustomToday News Africa, Joint statement by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on COVID-19, Simon Ateba, April 22, 2020. COVID-19 has rapidly progressed to become a global pandemic, causing unprecedented, far-reaching impact on the health, social and economic well-being of communities around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO) are committed to responding effectively to the situation.

today news africa CustomToday News Africa, Human Rights Watch confirms President Uhuru Kenyatta police force killed several people during COVID-19 curfew in Kenya, Simon Ateba, April 22, 2020. Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday it had confirmed that at least six people died from police violence during the first 10 days of Kenya’s dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on March 27, 2020, to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump instructs the Navy to ‘shoot down and destroy’ Iranian gunboats that ‘harass’ U.S. ships, John Wagner, Dan Lamothe and Carol Morello, April 22, 2020. The president tweeted about his order a week after the U.S. military described a provocative encounter in the Persian Gulf.

It was the president’s most direct threat of military action against Iran since the two nations came close to war in January, when Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general and Iran retaliated with attacks that harmed U.S. forces.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Court Suspends Sentence For Former Trump Aide Rick Gates, citing virus, Spencer S. Hsu, April 22, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge Tuesday suspended former deputy Trump campaign chairman Rick Gates’s 45-day intermittent prison sentence because of the coronavirus pandemic, pending further court order.

On Sunday, Gates’s attorney requested his client be permitted to serve the rest of his sentence under home confinement, without making public how many days Gates had already served. Gates was sentenced in December after cooperating in former special counsel Robert S. rick gates cropped aug 2018Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

U.S. prosecutors did not oppose his request.

In a brief court order Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington agreed only that the 45 days he was sentenced to serve over three years, including potentially over weekends, be “suspended indefinitely, pending further order of the Court.”

Jackson also ordered that probation officials report Gates’s compliance to date by May 5, including how many weekend days he has spent in confinement and the number of hours of community service he has performed.

Gates, 47, left, had argued that the health threat posed by the pandemic and related government restrictions marked a change in circumstance for the father of four from Richmond, whose wife has cancer.

“The massive societal disruptions caused by this pandemic are tragic, and the burdens they have placed on Mr. Gates and his family warrant a modification of the condition on his probation,” Gates attorney Thomas Green wrote in a four-page filing. “Mr. Gates must now provide additional care for his family for the foreseeable future while his wife continues her treatment for and recovery from cancer.”

#MeToo, Deceit Allegations

“Look, this isn’t about protecting women. This isn’t about the #metoo movement. This isn’t about Joe Biden. This is about truth. Tara Reade stole from me. She lied to me. She stole from my organization. She manipulated me and she duped me. I want that to be shared because it’s important information. And I have documentation, images and emails to prove it.”

Lynn Hummer, Founder/President of Pregnant Mare Rescue and self-proclaimed ‘feminist’

Medium, Biden Accuser, Tara Reade, Allegedly Stole from Non-Profit Organization, Brian & Eddie Krassenstein, right, April 22, 2020. Interview with the brian and eddie krassenstein twitterowner of a Watsonville, California-based non-profit horse rescue exposes allegations of theft and deceit on the part of Tara Reade.

Since Alexandra Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden have come to light, careful examination of her account unveils more questions than answers.

Three weeks ago, we reported on the many contradictions in Reade’s account, as well as the extreme changes in her attitude toward the former vice president. She has evolved from a woman who repeatedly praised Joe Biden for work he’s done to tara reade joe biden Customhelp end sexual assault in America, in 2017, to someone who now says Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993.

Now we’ve obtained new information concerning Tara Reade’s character, from a non-profit organization based in Watsonville, California, called Pregnant Mare Rescue (PMR). Lynn Hummer, Founder/President of the highly-rated horse sanctuary that’s committed to rescuing pregnant mares and orphan foals from abuse, tells us that Tara Reade (McCabe) volunteered at her rescue for a couple of years (from 2014–2016).

During this time, Hummer alleges that Reade “stole from her nonprofit, lied, and created stories to obtain sympathy and money.”

We’ve also obtained receipts and emails that back up many of Hummer’s claims.

According to Hummer, Tara Reade has a history of manipulation and deceit. Whether it was asking to hide her car on the ranch in order to avoid repossession, or if it was asking the organization to waive adoption fees for a horse, there was always some sort of manipulation going on.

While Hummer views most of these actions by Reade as just annoyances, there were instances where it went beyond annoying, and became, in Hummer’s view, “illegal” activity.

April 21

Public Health Top Headlines

ICE logo

Trump Watch

Virus Victims

2020 U.S. Politics / Elections

Media News

 

Public Health Top Stories

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Says He Will Temporarily Halt Immigration to U.S., Staff reports, updated April 21, 2020. Ban on New Green Cards and Work Visas Said to Be Coming.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump said that he would close the U.S. to people trying to move to the country to live and work, which he claimed would protect American workers.

In recent weeks, immigration advocates have said that the Trump administration was using the pandemic to further hard-line immigration policies.

djt maga hat

President Trump said on Monday that he intended to close the United States to people trying to immigrate into the country to live and work, a drastic move that he said would protect American workers from foreign competition once the nation’s economy began to recover from the shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, “I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has said health concerns justified moving swiftly to bar asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants from entering the country, alarming immigration advocates who have said that Mr. Trump and his advisers were using a global pandemic to further hard-line immigration policies.

But the president’s late-night announcement on Monday signals his most wide-ranging attempt yet to seal the country off from the rest of the world. A formal order temporarily barring the provision of new green cards and work visas could come as early as the next few days, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Under such an executive order, the Trump administration would no longer approve any applications from foreigners to live and work in the United States for an undetermined period of time, effectively shutting down the legal immigration system in the same way the president has long advocated closing the borders to illegal immigration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: 28,000 Missing Deaths: Tracking the True Toll of the Coronavirus Crisis, Jin Wu and Allison McCann, April 21, 2020. At least 28,000 more people have died during the coronavirus pandemic over the last month than the official Covid-19 death counts report, a review of mortality data in 11 countries shows — providing a clearer, if still incomplete, picture of the toll of the crisis.

In the last month, far more people died in these countries than in previous years, The New York Times found. The totals include deaths from Covid-19 as well as those from other causes, likely including people who could not be treated as hospitals became overwhelmed.

These numbers undermine the notion that many people who have died from the virus may soon have died anyway. In Paris, more than twice the usual number of people have died each day, far more than the peak of a bad flu season. In New York City, the number is now four times the normal amount.

washington post logoWashington Post, Most rate Trump’s outbreak response negatively, expect crowds will be unsafe until summer, poll finds, Scott Clement and Dan Balz, April 21, 2020. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds most Americans expect no immediate easing of the health risks associated with the pandemic, despite calls by President Trump and others to begin reopening the economy quickly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: States begin to lift coronavirus restrictions; Trump will temporarily suspend immigration as global infections near 2.5 million, Staff reports, April 21, 2020. Newsom xpresses empathy for California protesters but says he doesn’t see ‘normalcy’ anytime soon.

donald trump twitterPresident Trump said he will sign an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States, citing “the attack from the Invisible Enemy” and “the need to protect” American jobs. Such a ban would be unprecedented in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, as some European and Asian nations loosen coronavirus lockdowns and gradually reopen businesses, the Republican governors of Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee said they will scale back restrictions in their states. The announcements came amid a deepening national debate over potentially exacerbating a public health crisis to revive the shattered economy.

 gretchen whitmer o horizontal Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Have Made Gut-Wrenching Choices to Keep People Safe, Gretchen Whitmer (Gretchen Whitmer, above, a Democrat, is the governor of Michigan), April 21, 2020. The actions Republican and Democratic governors have taken have been done to protect families from the spread of the coronavirus.

Americans everywhere are eager to get back to “normal.” Trust me, we governors are, too.

But we need to get this right. That’s why I’m partnering with Govs. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tim Walz of Minnesota, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Andy Beshear of Kentucky on a plan to reopen the economy across the Great Lakes region. Similar efforts are being led by governors on the West and East Coasts.

Here in the Great Lakes region, we have called upon experts in health care, business, labor and education to work on a data-driven approach to re-engaging our states in a responsible manner. Re-engaging our economies will be based on facts, science and mitigating risk to public health. Moving too soon or too fast could very likely lead to a second wave of Covid-19. This would be catastrophic for our families, our health care systems and our businesses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, Congress try to work through last-minute snags in deal for more small-business money, Erica Werner, April 21, 2020. If an agreement is reached, the nearly $500 billion measure would become the fourth virus-related bill rushed through Congress in just two months at a total price tag of almost $3 trillion.

washington post logoron desantis oWashington Post, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis looks to open the state to business again, Lori Rozsa, April 20, 2020.  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is in a hurry to open the state for business and gave a specially appointed committee five days to come up with ways to do it.

DeSantis on Monday announced a “Re-Open Florida Task Force” as a stay-at-home order due to the novel coronavirus is set to expire. The task force’s members include executives at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios — two of the state’s largest employers — as well as other corporate executives and elected leaders.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House, GOP face heat after hotel and restaurant chains helped run small business program dry, Jonathan O'Connell, April 21, 2020 (print ed.). The federal government gave national hotel and restaurant chains millions of dollars in grants before the $349 billion program ran out of money Thursday, leading to a backlash that prompted one company to give the money back and a Republican senator to say that “millions of dollars are being wasted.”

Thousands of traditional small businesses were unable to get funding from the program before it ran dry. As Congress and the White House near a deal to add an additional $310 billion to the program, some are calling for additional oversight and rule changes to prevent bigger chains from accepting any more money.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a chain that has 150 locations and is valued at $250 million, reported receiving $20 million in funding from the small business portion of the economic stimulus legislation called the Paycheck Protection Program. The Potbelly chain of sandwich shops, which has more than 400 locations and a value of $89 million, reported receiving $10 million last week.

republican elephant logoShake Shack, a $1.6 billion burger-and-fries chain based in New York City, received $10 million. After complaints from small business advocates after the fund went dry, company founder Danny Meyer and chief executive Randy Garutti announced Sunday evening that they would return the money.

They said they had no idea that the program would run out of money so quickly and that they understood the uproar.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has tried to defend the program in recent days, wrote on Twitter that he was “glad to see” Shake Shack return the money.

In all, more than 70 publicly traded companies have reported receiving money from the program, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) criticized the program, saying that “companies that are not being harmed at all by the coronavirus crisis have the ability to receive taxpayer-funded loans that can be forgiven.”

JPMorgan explained that larger companies may have been served more quickly because its commercial banking unit, which serves larger clients, was able to complete "most of the applications it received” while many more applications poured in from traditional small businesses.

 djt virus news conference nyt photo Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s testing czar was forced out of job developing vaccine projects in 2015, Michael Kranish, April 21, 2020 (print ed.).  A performance evaluation at Texas A&M in 2015 said he was “more interested in promoting yourself” than the health science center where he worked.

Brett Giroir, right, the federal official overseeing coronavirus testing efforts, says that his experience working on vaccine development projects at Texas A&M University helped prepare him for this historic moment. He once said that his vaccine effort was so vital that “the fate of 50 brett giroir Custommillion people will rely on us getting this done.”

But after eight years of work on several vaccine projects, Giroir was told in 2015 he had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired. His annual performance evaluation at Texas A&M, the local newspaper reported, said he was “more interested in promoting yourself” than the health science center where he worked. He got low marks on being a “team player.”

Now President Trump has given Giroir the crucial task of ending the massive shortfall of tests for the novel coronavirus. Some governors have blasted the lack of federal help on testing, which they say is necessary to enact Trump’s plan for reopening the economy.

  • Washington Post, U.S. stocks tumble amid steep drop in oil prices, Jacob Bogage and Thomas Heath, April 20, 2020. The three major U.S. indexes flashed red following a two-week rally, as U.S. crude prices hit 20-year lows on falling energy use and storage capacity issues.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fear is driving Trump’s invented and exaggerated popularity rankings, Philip Bump, April 21, 2020. On Tuesday, the president offered two metrics to demonstrate his popularity. Neither matched reality.

It’s just so obvious.

In a pair of tweets Tuesday morning, offered alongside complaints about a TV show being mean to him and the “fake news” more generally, President Trump tried to assure the world that he is both popular and an irresistible lure for the American public.

First, Trump boasted about the ratings for his daily White House briefings … briefings ostensibly focused on how his administration was combating a viral pandemic that has killed more than 42,000 Americans. Then, he touted his record approval ratings from Republicans.

washington post logoWashington Post, With focus on testing, Maryland buys 500,000 coronavirus test kits from South Korea, Fenit Nirappil, Erin Cox and Gregory S. Schneider, April 21, 2020 (print ed.). The Washington Post is providing this story for free so that all readers have access to this important information about the coronavirus. For more free stories, sign up for our daily Coronavirus Updates newsletter.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that Maryland has purchased 500,000 tests from South Korea, saying the Trump administration “made it clear over and over again” that states “have to go out and do it ourselves.”

Testing shortages have stymied the pandemic response across the country, sparking friction between the White House and governors. Over the weekend, Hogan disputed President Trump’s assertion that states already had enough tests, calling the White House messaging “just absolutely false.”

The dispute escalated during the president’s televised briefing Monday evening, when Trump said Hogan “didn’t understand” his state’s testing capacity, despite efforts by the federal government to provide lists of labs where additional testing could be done.

Hogan, asked about that issue, had told reporters most of the Maryland labs identified by the White House were at federal installations such as the National Institutes of Health and Fort Detrick, and some had not been helpful in assisting with testing.

  • Washington Post, Pastor facing arrest warrant for allegedly backing his church bus toward a protester over coronavirus, April 21, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Once more, Nancy Pelosi makes a deal — and her point, Jennifer Rubin, April 21, 2020. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stood firm in demanding that the fourth covid-19 relief bill include money for health-care workers and for states and localities, Republicans howled. How dare she hold up money to small business! She’s on the wrong side of public opinion.

Well, as we have seen so many times before, Pelosi — in tandem with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — found a way to make a deal with the only semi-competent negotiator in the administration, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The $25 billion for testing includes $11B for the states specifically. Moreover, “Schumer said they’d gotten a commitment from the White House that cities and states could use $150 billion allocated in the earlier $2 trillion Cares Act to offset some of the lost revenue in their budgets. That money was initially designed to address each state’s coronavirus response.”

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fear is driving Trump’s invented and exaggerated popularity rankings, Philip Bump, April 21, 2020. On Tuesday, the president offered two metrics to demonstrate his popularity. Neither matched reality.

It’s just so obvious.

In a pair of tweets Tuesday morning, offered alongside complaints about a TV show being mean to him and the “fake news” more generally, President Trump tried to assure the world that he is both popular and an irresistible lure for the American public.

First, Trump boasted about the ratings for his daily White House briefings … briefings ostensibly focused on how his administration was combating a viral pandemic that has killed more than 42,000 Americans. Then, he touted his record approval ratings from Republicans.

ivanka eric don jr trump Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes off the rails, begins hurling weird insults at his own kids, Bill Palmer, April 21, 2020. Donald Trump’s daily “coronavirus crisis press briefings” are really just meandering monologues from a half senile crime boss who’s trying to delusionally convince himself that it’s not all slipping away from him. His numbers are down, his reelection bid is collapsing, and yet he’s so far gone from reality, he’s up there babbling completely incoherently.

bill palmer report logo headerTake today’s briefing, for instance. When he was asked a question about his own hotels and resorts needing a bailout, he launchd into a long story about his properties, before insisting that he’s not even running them anymore; his kids are. Then he said he’s pretty sure that his kids are running the properties more poorly than he ran them. Wait, what?

First of all, everyone knows that Donald Trump is only pretending not to be involved in his businesses. The guy is a criminal. But from a psychological perspective, the man is up there publicly belittling and taunting his own kids for supposedly being inferior businesspeople – and we all know he doesn’t mean it some kind of harmless way.

This is supposed to be a press briefing about a deadly pandemic that’s killed tens of thousands of Americans this month. Yet the President of the United States is up there hurling weird insults at his own family for no apparent reason, beyond the fact that he’s a deranged psychopath. Get this guy off the stage.

2020 U.S. Politics / Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Joe Biden Starts General Election Nearly $187 Million Behind Trump, Shane Goldmacher, April 21, 2020. New fund-raising figures show how far behind Mr. Biden is compared to the president and Republican Party.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Democratic Party could raise almost $1 million every single day between now and November, and he would still barely catch up to what President Trump and the Republican Party had in the bank at the start of April — let alone what Mr. Trump will have by Election Day.

joe biden 2020 button CustomNew fund-raising figures released late Monday show the depth of the financial hole in which Mr. Biden finds himself at the start of the general election campaign: The presumptive Democratic nominee and his party are nearly $187 million behind the Republican National Committee and Mr. Trump, who has spent the last three years stockpiling his huge war chest.

The sheer size of Mr. Trump’s early advantage creates a unique set of financial and political pressures for Mr. Biden. He must find ways to both expand his appeal to small online contributors and attract huge seven- and eight-figure checks to the outside super PACs supporting him — all while sheltered in his Delaware home because of the coronavirus.

To lure the money that he will need to compete effectively in battleground states, Mr. Biden will have to navigate a series of consequential political decisions, refining his message, honing his policy agenda and selecting his running mate. But Democratic strategists say he has at least one point in his favor: He has wrapped up the nomination and started uniting the party relatively early in 2020, giving focus to the party activists and leading financial patrons who are singularly obsessed with defeating Mr. Trump.

Virus Victims

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, ‘You’re On Your Own,’ Editorial Board, April 21, 2020 (print ed.). Essential Workers Are Being Told, Workplace safety is now a matter of public health.

Shelter-in-place orders are an effective means to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, yet millions of Americans have no choice but to leave home to go to work every day. Deemed essential for their jobs in manufacturing, grocery stores, pharmacies, warehouses, retailing and restaurants, they face daily risks by working alongside colleagues and customers who may be carriers of the coronavirus.

At grocery stores and sprawling warehouses, workers say not enough is being done to protect them from exposure. Walmart employees, for instance, say they lack sufficient sanitizing supplies and protective gear and are forced to congregate in spaces that put them well within a six-foot radius of co-workers. At meat processing plants, where production lines often require working shoulder to shoulder, the risks are particularly acute. And mass-transit workers say they haven’t been provided masks or personal cleaning supplies.

When their shifts end, they go home to their families, putting more people at risk.

Weeks into the pandemic, it’s apparent that not nearly enough is being done to protect these front-line workers, even as their continued labor ensures that a semblance of normality endures for their fellow Americans.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: The Right Sends In the Quacks, Paul Krugman, right, April 21, 2020 (print ed.). Covid-19 highlights the conservative reliance on fake experts.

Why is there such a close alliance between modern conservatism and quackery? One answer is that a political movement that djt i want you to die Customdemands absolute loyalty considers quacks more reliable than genuine experts, even if those experts currently support the movement’s policies.

As I’ve noted in the past, there are quite a few serious economists who also happen to be conservative, but they have been largely frozen out by the G.O.P. Why? Because serious economists might turn out to have principles, rejecting outlandish policy claims or changing their views in the face of evidence. And we can’t have that.

Finally, there has historically been a strong association between right-wing extremism and grifting, including snake-oil and get-rich-quick schemes. Alex Jones may attract an audience by peddling conspiracy theories, but he makes money by selling nutritional supplements, which he is now claiming offer protection against the coronavirus.

All of these factors making modern conservatism a happy hunting ground for fake experts have reached a kind of apotheosis under Donald Trump, a grifter president whose whole political strategy is based on catering to white male grievance, and who both disdains expertise and always values loyalty above competence. And one result is the wildly premature push to reopen the economy.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Plague on a Biblical Scale’: Hasidic Families Hit Hard by Virus, Liam Stack, April 21, 2020. Neighborhoods in Brooklyn with large Hasidic populations have some of New York City’s highest levels of positive Covid-19 test results. In the New York area, the epidemic has killed influential religious leaders and torn through large, tight-knit families.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Small-Business Aid Program Has Been a Fiasco, Tim Wu, April 21, 2020. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. What your average neighborhood preschool needs now is $35,000 or so.

But though 74 percent of the approved loans as of April 16 have been for $150,000 or less, 45 percent of the $349 billion in small-business sba logo new Custom Customrelief has gone to loans over $1 million, and nearly 70 percent has gone to loans over $350,000. The widely reported fact that Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a big chain, got $20 million in forgivable loans is a symbol of what has gone wrong, for that money could have saved a lot of preschools. According to data self-reported by small businesses, 92 percent of applicants have gotten nothing at all.

When the federal aid package for small businesses known as the Paycheck Protection Program was announced last month, it seemed to offer a lifeline for modest enterprises in dire need of help because of the coronavirus crisis. Passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress, the program offered $349 billion in forgivable loans — essentially bridge loans — to provide the liquidity needed until the economy recovers. Unlike big-industry bailouts, which generate both moral hazard and public anger, the plan held out the attractive promise of providing relief for the smallest shops on Main Street.

But despite good intentions, the program has been a fiasco. It has replicated much of the existing unfairness of the United States economy and has created more resentment than relief. Intended to help the small businesses that give the country much of its character and livelihood, it has helped, more than anyone wants to admit, big chains and medium-size enterprises.

2020 U.S. Politics / Elections

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: A Biden Presidency Could Be Better Than Progressives Think, Michelle Goldberg, right, April 21, 2020 (print ed.). Campaign promises matter, and his platform shows a distinct leftward drift.

The anticlimactic end of the Democratic primary has left many progressives depressed, if not despairing. Instead of a fresh face or a revolutionary, the party has chosen a man who seems to embody the status quo, at least as it existed before Donald Trump. Yet should Biden become president, progressives have the opportunity to make generational gains.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Abortion, Guns and Church Closings Made Coronavirus a Culture War, Jeremy Peters, April 21, 2020 (print ed.). Flattening the curve is now one of the most contentious issues in politics.

The new patchwork of state and local policies designed to flatten the spread of the coronavirus is inflaming old passions over some of the most contentious issues in politics. Guns, abortion, voting rights and religious expression — concerns that would seem to have little to do with a virus djt maga hatthat has sickened millions of Americans and killed more than 37,000 — have emerged as fault lines in the debate over how government is responding to the crisis.

President Trump does on occasion speak about the importance of social distancing, as he did on Monday, but he is also encouraging discontent, seeing it as a source of raw emotion he can tap as protesters across the country wave “Trump 2020” flags and demand that the country reopen.

With messages last week to his Twitter followers to “LIBERATE” states where residents are now under orders to limit their movement — specifically, Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia, all led by Democratic governors — he is feeding what conservatives described as a rising sense of restlessness on the right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Infection That’s Silently Killing Coronavirus Patients, Richard Levitan (Dr. Levitan is an emergency doctor), April 21, 2020 (print ed.). This is what I learned during 10 days of treating Covid pneumonia at Bellevue Hospital.

I have been practicing emergency medicine for 30 years. In 1994 I invented an imaging system for teaching intubation, the procedure of inserting breathing tubes. This led me to perform research into this procedure, and subsequently teach airway procedure courses to physicians worldwide for the last two decades.

So at the end of March, as a crush of Covid-19 patients began overwhelming hospitals in New York City, I volunteered to spend 10 days at Bellevue, helping at the hospital where I trained. Over those days, I realized that we are not detecting the deadly pneumonia the virus causes early enough and that we could be doing more to keep patients off ventilators — and alive.

And here is what really surprised us: These patients did not report any sensation of breathing problems, even though their chest X-rays showed diffuse pneumonia and their oxygen was below normal. How could this be?

We are just beginning to recognize that Covid pneumonia initially causes a form of oxygen deprivation we call “silent hypoxia” — “silent” because of its insidious, hard-to-detect nature.

Covid-19 overwhelmingly kills through the lungs. And because so many patients are not going to the hospital until their pneumonia is already well advanced, many wind up on ventilators, causing shortages of the machines. And once on ventilators, many die.

There is a way we could identify more patients who have Covid pneumonia sooner and treat them more effectively — and it would not require waiting for a coronavirus test at a hospital or doctor’s office. It requires detecting silent hypoxia early through a common medical device that can be purchased without a prescription at most pharmacies: a pulse oximeter.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just went completely off a cliff, Bill Palmer, April 21, 2020. Donald Trump reached a new low, even for him, yesterday when he was asked a question about how he’s negligently gotten Americans killed and he responded with “A lot of people love me.” As Trump’s psychological collapse continues to worsen, he’s more intent than ever at showing us just how far gone he is.

bill palmer report logo headerThis morning Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Hillary Clinton is a “witch.” Yep, he’s that far gone. He also announced that “I’m really good.” Then he said this: “Watched the first 5 minutes of poorly rated Morning Psycho on MSDNC just to see if he is as ‘nuts’ as people are saying. He’s worse. Such hatred and contempt! I used to do his show all the time before the 2016 election, then cut him off. Wasn’t worth the effort, his mind is shot!”

These aren’t the words or thoughts of a mentally competent person. Donald Trump has now fully let go of whatever tentative strands of psychological coherence he might have been tenuously holding onto. Maybe his sinking election prospects have broken him. Perhaps he’s finally been pushed fully over the edge by the prospect of losing Kim Jong Un, his only friend in the world. You’d have to ask Trump what’s pushed him so far over the edge today. But he’s too far gone to give you a coherent answer on that.

Media News

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s idiot press secretary Kayleigh McEnany would like to have this tweet back, Bill Palmer, April 21, 2020. On Monday evening, Donald Trump’s new White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany attacked a reporter on Twitter for daring to refer to Donald Trump as “Trump.”

bill palmer report logo headerMcEnany (above) tweeted, “To you, he’s not Trump, he’s PRESIDENT Trump!” This prompted all kinds of backlash against McEnany for her clueless arrogance. It also prompted some digging.

Various people managed to dig up this tweet that Kayleigh McEnany posted back in 2012:

Obama filling out his "presidential bracket" now on ESPN. Don't you have better things to do son? Like.. oh, I don't know.. govern.

— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) March 15, 2012

That’s right, she wasn’t using the “President” honorific back when Barack Obama was President. For that matter she referred to Obama as “son” – which feels an awful lot like a thinly veiled racist remark.

kim jong podium un

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: U.S. Media Fall For Kim Jong Un Rumor From U.S. Government-Financed Propaganda Outlet, b, April 21, 2020. U.S. media went crazy today over a rumors from South Korea which said that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (above) was near to death:

CNN Breaking News @cnnbrk - 1:49 UTC · Apr 21, 2020
US is monitoring intelligence that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in grave danger after surgery, according to a US official.

The New York Times @nytimes - 4:00 UTC · Apr 21, 2020
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is receiving treatment after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure earlier this month, a South Korean media report said, amid speculation over Kim’s health following his absence from a key anniversary event.

What the CNN, NBC News and the NY Times did not say that the 'South Korean media report' over grave illness of Kim Jong Un, on which their reporting was based, came from the Daily NK website and was itself based on a single anonymous source allegedly from North Korea.

The DailyNK has since published a correction. It now says that Kim might have had a heart problem but is recovering well. The NBC News correspondent Katy Tur deleted her tweet out of a laughable 'abundance of caution.'

When they published the sensational claims none of the western reports mentioned that the DailyNK is not a regular news outlet. It is a website in Seoul which is run by defectors from North Korea. It has for years been financed by the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy which is a CIA offshot. From the NED's 2018 grant report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gravely ill? Not true, says South Korea, David Nakamura, Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim, April 21, 2020. South Korean officials said there was no evidence of unusual activity in the secretive state, after unconfirmed reports that Kim’s health was failing.

Media Matters, Commentary: Despite rules about misinformation, a YouTube video calling coronavirus a “false flag” related to 5G racked up millions of views, Alex Kaplan, April 20, 2020. An April 16 YouTube video suggesting the novel coronavirus is a “false flag” to force “mandatory vaccines” and microchips on people has quickly racked up millions of views despite the platform’s pledge to crack down on COVID-19 misinformation. The video also claims that both Bill Gates and 5G cell phone towers are somehow involved.

youtube logo CustomLast month, as the pandemic began to spread throughout the United States, YouTube wrote that it had “worked to prevent misinformation associated with the spread of the virus” and would “quickly remove videos that violate our policies when they are flagged, including those that discourage people from seeking medical treatment or claim harmful substances have health benefits.” YouTube has also pledged to crack down on some specific false conspiracy theories, such as that 5G is connected to the virus, which YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki mentioned in a CNN interview aired on April 19.

But on the evening of April 16, The Next News Network, a conspiracy theory YouTube channel with a history of pushing false and dubious claims, uploaded a video titled “EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Rashid Buttar BLASTS Gates, Fauci, EXPOSES Fake Pandemic Numbers As Economy Collapses.”

The video features Dr. Rashid Buttar, who HuffPost noted is “a widely discredited osteopath” and has been using social media to spread falsehoods about the virus. In just four days, the video has already racked up more than 4.3 million views and more than 930,000 Facebook engagements, and the numbers continue to climb.

Toward the start of the video, host Gary Franchi described other videos Buttar has made, saying he has showed that there’s “fraud ... being perpetuated across the world by the World Health Organization, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], Bill Gates, the deep state, the mainstream media,” and there’s “hysteria being perpetuated to scare the world population based on false data.”

Buttar proceeded to push multiple falsehoods and conspiracy theories throughout the video.

cdc logo CustomHe pushed the absurdly false claim that “nobody has yet demonstrated a single death from the actual virus” and also falsely said that “the number of deaths are still less than the seasonal flu.” Additionally, Buttar claimed the death count was being inflated, although experts agree the death total is likely being undercounted, and he claimed that there was fake activity at hospitals. Buttar also said “studies clearly show that if you've had a flu shot you're going to test positive for COVID-19,” which is another falsehood that has spread over social media.

Later in the video, Buttar accused White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci of being a “criminal” who’s committed “traitorous” activity and dubiously suggested that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine had “at least 99% efficacy” in treating COVID-19, claiming that “they've shown hundreds and hundreds of patients have treated, nobody's died.”

Buttar suggested the pandemic was a “false flag event to then mandate mandatory vaccines” and that people who refuse will be “considered as dissidents” and “shot in the head” or “quarantined in some kind of a concentration camp.” He also suggested that “5G towers” and “chemtrails” were related to the virus, and that increasing vaccines and 5G would cause people to become even more sick.

Buttar also referenced a false social media conspiracy theory involving Bill Gates to claim that future vaccinations will be monitored by putting “more RF chips in us to see who has had the vaccine” as part of “a cycle that they’re going to keep on going over and over again until they’ve got everybody digitized and they have RF chips in everybody.” He also called the CDC’s 6-foot social distancing recommendation “absolute garbage” and a ruse to “decide who … should be available to talk and work and who should be used as a dissident or classified as a dissident and made quiet.”

Buttar later expanded on his Gates conspiracy theory, accusing him of having a “depopulation agenda,” and claimed that hundreds of millions of people will be harmed by vaccines, but “they're going to blame it on the COVID-19.” He added that “anybody who says that vaccines are necessary, they either are completely 100% ignorant or they have a suspect agenda.” (Buttar also compared his Gates-microchip conspiracy theory to what happened in the Holocaust and then promoted a video about vaccines and eugenics from conspiracy theory outlet Infowars.)

Protocol, EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg is leaving his position, Issie Lapowsky, April 21, 2020. EPIC's staff told the board that Marc Rotenberg came to work and held meetings after his doctor directed him to take a test that later came back positive.

The executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center is leaving the organization, the chair of EPIC's board said in a statement Tuesday. The news comes after members of EPIC's staff told the board that their boss, Marc Rotenberg, came to work and held meetings after his doctor directed him to take a COVID-19 test that later came back positive. The allegations were first reported by Protocol last week.

In a statement posted to EPIC's website, board chair Anita Allen wrote that "the time has come for new leadership at EPIC."

"Marc has contributed tremendously as a scholar and advocate to a powerful global movement in support of privacy, freedom of expression and democratic values," Allen wrote. "He has helped shape EPIC's values-driven policy and advocacy related to the internet, artificial intelligence and government surveillance." Rotenberg has recently been an outspoken critic of invasive surveillance efforts to address the spread of COVID-19.

EPIC's general counsel, Alan Butler, was named interim executive director while the organization looks for a permanent replacement. Neither Allen nor Rotenberg immediately responded to requests for comment.

Last week, Protocol reported on the staff's concerns, citing interviews with several current and former employees, as well as internal documents and Rotenberg's own letter to the staff. According to the letter, Rotenberg's doctor instructed him to take a COVID-19 test on March 6, just before Rotenberg was set to take off on a flight to Miami for the weekend. Rotenberg, who said he had not been symptomatic, continued on his trip and took the test when he returned to Washington, D.C., the following Monday.

Rotenberg went to work that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning, leaving the office as soon as he received a call telling him his test came back positive. But he didn't inform his employees of any of this until that Thursday, a day after EPIC's D.C.-based staff got a call from the public health authority informing them they were exposed to someone with the virus. Rotenberg later said in his letter that he had followed protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On March 20, EPIC employees wrote to the board, asking its members to take action.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: When Trump next goes off on a reporter, the right thing to do is nothing, Matt Bai, April 21, 2020. One of the main themes of Trump’s presidency is that the media has aligned itself with the Democratic resistance. As a result, the public can’t believe anything it reads or watches about him in any venue other than Fox News — and sometimes not even that — because it’s all fake and designed to destroy him.

I get that we’re outraged by this behavior — and by “we,” I mean my colleagues in the media. I get that it’s not the kind of conduct one would have seen from any other president, and that it makes for compelling footage and something to rant about on cable TV. It happens over and over — to NBC’s Peter Alexander, to PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor, to ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

April 20

Public Health Top Stories

2020 U.S. Politics / Elections

Media News

Virus Victims, Responders, Oversight

World News

Law, Courts, Crime

More U.S. Media News


Public Health Top Stories

  • Confirmed Cases:   2.4 million (U.S. 766,000)
  • Confirmed Deaths: 168,500 (U.S. 42,043)
  • U.S. Tests:              3.9 million

Source: Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE), COVID-19 Dashboard, April 20, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump administration, Karen world health organization logo CustomDeYoung, Lena H. Sun and Emily Rauhala, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). The presence of U.S. scientists in Geneva undercuts president’s argument that the WHO failed to communicate with Washington.

More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to U.S. and international officials.

cdc logo CustomA number of CDC staffers are regularly detailed to work at WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded, the officials said.

The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts President Trump’s charge that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States.

National Public Radio (NPR) / WOSU 89.7 FM, 73% Of Inmates At An Ohio Prison Test Positive For Coronavirus, Bill Chappell, April 20, 2020. A state prison has become a hot spot of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ohio, with at least 1,828 confirmed cases among inmates — accounting for the majority of cases in Marion County, which leads Ohio in the reported infections. Ohio officials say an aggressive testing program is responsible for the large number.

The large cluster of cases was found through mass testing of everyone at the Marion Correctional Institution; 109 staff members were also positive. No COVID-19 deaths have been reported at the prison.

"Because we are testing everyone — including those who are not showing symptoms — we are getting positive test results on individuals who otherwise would have never been tested because they were asymptomatic," the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction says.

There are currently 2,400 coronavirus cases among inmates in Ohio's state prisons, along with 244 staff members. The numbers could rise this week: A prison in Pickaway County began mass testing on Sunday.

With Ohio reporting some 12,919 coronavirus cases as of Monday, the prison system now accounts for more than 20% of the state's cases.

william barr new oNo other state has reported as many cases of COVID-19 behind bars as Ohio, in large part because no other state has tested as many inmates as Ohio.

"They are pulling off mass testing of their entire population inclusive of staff which is something that no other state is doing," says Jennifer Clayton, head of health services for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

Texas, California, Florida and Georgia all have larger prison populations than Ohio — but those states all report significantly fewer coronavirus cases.

Michigan, which has one of the largest outbreaks in the country with more than 30,000 confirmed cases, reports 572 of 889 inmates tested were found to have the coronavirus. More than 200 staff members are also infected.

New York state, whose nearly 250,000 cases account for roughly a third of all U.S. cases, reports just over 1,000 coronavirus cases in its prison system — and most of those infections (794) are among staff. New York says it tests inmates only after they show symptoms and have a medical evaluation.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently recommended early release for about 300 of the 49,000 inmates who are in Ohio's prison system – far short of the thousands of people the state's American Civil Liberties Union chapter said should be released.

"This is devastating and terrifying, but it was not inevitable," ACLU Ohio Advocacy Counsel Claire Chevrier said via Twitter. She added, "This was a policy choice."

As he gave an update on COVID-19 in his state Monday, DeWine said, "We're looking at more prisoners who can be released." He added that Ohio isn't planning for "a wholesale release where every one in a certain category gets out of prison."

With dozens of staff testing positive for the virus at the Marion and Pickaway prisons, members of the Ohio National Guard are being deployed to bolster operations.

Axios, Ohio prison is largest known source of coronavirus infections in U.S., Fadel Allassan, April 20, 2020. A state prison in Marion, Ohio, is now the United States' largest known source of COVID-19 infections, according to a New York Times database.

Why it matters: With poor sanitary conditions and close quarters for inmates, U.S. prison and detention systems are dangerously susceptible to the coronavirus. Prisons around the country have become vectors for infection, prompting authorities to either release inmates or take other steps to mitigate the spread of the virus.

The big picture: 1,937 people, or nearly three-quarters of the prison's population, have been infected at the Marion Correctional Institute. 1 in 5 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio can now be traced back to the state's prison system, according to the Times.

Chicago's Cook County jail had previously been the largest single source of cases in the U.S. The Marion prison now has more known cases than a meatpacking plant in South Dakota and an aircraft carrier docked in Guam.

djt 2020 hat Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s push for more small-business money hits snag amid fight over virus testing, Erica Werner, April 20, 2020. Amid an outcry over test availability, Democrats are pushing for a “comprehensive national testing strategy,” while the Trump administration is seeking a state-driven approach.

The White House and Congress on Monday tried to design another giant bailout package aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic’s economic and health fallout, scrambling to resolve last-minute snags over loan access and testing.

If a deal is reached, the nearly $500 billion measure would become the fourth virus-related bill rushed through Congress in just two months at a total price tag of almost $3 trillion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told lawmakers on a conference call Monday evening that she expected an agreement to be clinched within hours, according to two people on the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe it.

The negotiators’ urgency shows how worried Republicans and Democrats are about the deteriorating economy, which has seen massive job losses and led to the closure of many American firms. But they are also dealing with growing political pressures amid bipartisan outrage about how some of the bailout programs have been handled so far, particularly the uneven distribution of loans to small businesses.

The new package would amount to roughly $470 billion in new spending, with $370 billion directed to small businesses, $75 billion going to hospitals, and $25 billion set aside for testing.

President Trump hailed the emerging deal at his daily coronavirus briefing Monday evening, calling it “a great plan” and saying he hoped for a Senate vote on Tuesday.

Democrats were pushing for a “comprehensive national testing strategy,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a tweet. The Democrats were seeking “free testing for all, and expanding reporting and contact tracing,” Schumer said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Congress Nears Deal for Small Business Aid; States Plead for Testing, Staff reports, April 20, 2020. Governors covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2demanded wider coronavirus screening before opening their economies, but shortages of supplies and diagnostic kits persisted.

Congress neared a $450 billion deal. Governors demanded wider screening, but shortages of supplies and diagnostic kits U.S. House logopersisted. Officials warned people not to run the course for the Boston Marathon, once planned for today.

New York will begin testing people for coronavirus antibodies today, a step that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said is key to guiding plans to eventually reopen the state.

Congress neared a $450 billion deal to aid taxpayers and small businesses. President Trump encouraged Americans protesting social restrictions. Here’s the latest.

2020 U.S. Politics / Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Head of Government, Leans Into Antigovernment Message, Maggie Haberman, April 20, 2020. With his poll numbers fading after a rally-around-the-leader bump, the president is stoking protests against stay-at-home orders.

First he was the self-described “wartime president.” Then he trumpeted the “total” authority of the federal government. But in the past few days, President Trump has nurtured protests against state-issued stay-at-home orders aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus.

djt hands up mouth open CustomHurtling from one position to another is consistent with Mr. Trump’s approach to the presidency over the past three years. Even when external pressures and stresses appear to change the dynamics that the country is facing, Mr. Trump remains unbowed, altering his approach for a day or two, only to return to nursing grievances.

Not even the president’s re-election campaign can harness him: His team is often reactive to his moods and whims, trying but not always succeeding in steering him in a particular direction. Now, with Mr. Trump’s poll numbers falling after a rally-around-the-leader bump, he is road-testing a new turn on a familiar theme — veering into messages aimed at appealing to Americans whose lives have been disrupted by the legally enforceable stay-at-home orders.

djt maga hatWhether his latest theme will be effective for him is an open question: In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday, just 36 percent of voters said they generally trusted what Mr. Trump says about the coronavirus.

But the president, who ran as an insurgent in 2016, is most comfortable raging against the machine of government, even when he is the one running the country. And while the coronavirus is in every state in the union, it is heavily affecting minority and low-income communities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden scores endorsement from big-spending green group, Dino Grandoni, April 20, 2020. The former vice president suggested he’s open to expanding his climate plan to win over environmentalists who backed his 2020 rivals.

joe biden 2020 button CustomThe political arm of the League of Conservation Voters, a Washington-based green group that has spent tens of millions of dollars in recent election cycles to help elect Democrats to office, announced Monday that it is backing the presumptive Democratic nominee in what looks to be a tough fight against President Trump.

Drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions “is going to take leadership,” said Carol Browner, the chair of LCV’s board of directors. “And I have every confidence that the vice president will provide that.”

Associated Press via USA Today, Biden wins mail-in Wyoming Democratic presidential caucus after two week postponement, ap logoStaff report, April 20, 2020. Joe Biden has won Wyoming’s Democratic presidential caucus, which had been postponed for two weeks and scaled back to just mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic, state party officials said Sunday.

bernie sanders 2020 button croppedThe results come less than two weeks after Bernie Sanders dropped out and endorsed Biden, who is the only candidate still actively seeking the Democratic nomination. Voting began when it was still a two-candidate race.

Biden beat Sanders 72% to 28%. A total of 15,428 votes were cast. Biden gets 12 delegates and Sanders gets two.

dnc square logoParty rules make Sanders ineligible to win delegates based on the statewide vote. He is, however, still eligible to win delegates based on vote totals in individual congressional districts – Wyoming has one at-large district – which is why the Associated Press allocated two delegates to the Vermont senator.

Biden led Sanders in the delegate count 1,305 to 939. The Biden and Sanders campaigns are in talks over allowing Sanders to keep some of his statewide delegates. The race for the nomination may be moot, but Sanders still wants as many delegates as possible to help shape the party’s platform.

Media News  deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings! Charles M. Blow, right, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). The media is allowing disinformation to charles blow customappear as news.

Around this time four years ago, the media world was all abuzz over an analysis by mediaQuant, a company that tracks what is known as “earned media” coverage of political candidates. Earned media is free media. The firm computed that Donald Trump had “earned” a whopping $2 billion of coverage, dwarfing the value earned by all other candidates, Republican and Democrat, even as he had only purchased about $10 million of paid advertising.

Simply put, the media was complicit in Trump’s rise. Trump was macabre theater, a man self-immolating in real time, one who was destined to lose, but who could provide entertainment, content and yes, profits while he lasted. The Hollywood Reporter in February of 2016 quoted CBS’s C.E.O. as saying, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” because as The Reporter put it, “He likes the ad money Trump and his competitors are bringing to the network.”

I fear that history is repeating itself.

For over a month now, the White House has been holding its daily coronavirus briefings, and most networks, cable news channels and major news websites have been carrying all or parts of them live, as millions of people, trapped inside and anxious, have tuned in.

The briefings are marked by Trump’s own misinformation, deceptions, rage, blaming and boasting. He takes no responsibility at all for his abysmal handling of the crisis, while each day he seems to find another person to blame, like a child frantically flinging spaghetti at a wall to see which one sticks.

He delivers his disinformation flanked by scientists and officials, whose presence only serves to convey credibility to propagandistic performances that have simply become a replacement for his political rallies.

We are in the middle of a pandemic, but we are also in the middle of a presidential campaign, and I shudder to think how much “earned media” the media is simply shoveling Trump’s way by airing these briefings, which can last up to two hours a day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz aren’t coronavirus experts. So why are they talking about it on TV news? Paul Farhi and Elahe Izad, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). Some cable networks’ willingness to let pundits opine on topics beyond their expertise draws pushback as the celebrity doctors tackle covid-19, lockdowns and other life-and-death matters.

phil mcgraw 2013Dr. Phil had much to say about the coronavirus lockdown the other night on Fox News.

“Look, the fact of the matter is we have people dying — 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes,” the talk-show host, shown right in 2013, said Thursday, “but we don’t shut the country down for that. But yet we’re doing it for this?”

Social media quickly erupted with fury and derision as viewers pointed out the hopeless apples-to-orangeness of his argument: Cars and tobacco aren’t exactly communicable diseases; and both, in fact, have inspired extensive government regulations to limit injuries and death. (The TV shrink was also widely mocked for making a comparison to swimming-pool deaths using a bogus statistic inflated by a factor of nearly 100.)

But the interview raised deeper concerns: Why was Dr. Phil — not a medical doctor but a clinical psychologist with no special knowledge about the politics, science or economics of the shutdown — on a TV news channel talking about the topic in the first place?

mehmet ozIn recent TV appearances to discuss the pandemic, fellow celebrity doctors Drew Pinsky and Mehmet Oz,left, have offered commentary based on a loose or seemingly wobbly understanding of the crisis — arguably doing more to undermine public understanding than enhance it.

All three have since walked back their statements. Pinsky apologized for last month dismissing the coronavirus as no more serious than influenza; Oz said Thursday he “misspoke” this week when he casually urged reopening schools at a “cost [of] 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality.” And on Friday, McGraw acknowledged that he had used an inflated number of drowning deaths and that his comparisons to smoking and driving weren’t quite on point, either. “Yes, I know that those are not contagious. So, probably bad examples.”

Virus Victims, Responders, Oversight

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Delusional’: Governors Reject Pence’s Claim on Virus Testing, Rick Rojas, April 20, 2020 (print ed.).Governors facing growing pressure to revive economies decimated by the coronavirus said on Sunday that a shortage of tests was among the most significant hurdles in the way of lifting restrictions in their states.

ralph northam file headshot“We are fighting a biological war,” Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia said on “State of the Union” on CNN. “We have been asked as governors to fight that war without the supplies we need.”

In interviews on Sunday morning talk shows, Mr. Northam was among the governors who said they needed the swabs and reagents required Mike Pencefor the test, and urged federal officials to help them get those supplies.

The governors bristled at claims from the Trump administration that the supply of tests was adequate. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Vice President Mike Pence said “there is a sufficient capacity of testing across the country today for any state in America” to go to the first of three phases that the administration says are needed for the country to emerge from the coronavirus shutdown.

ny times logoNew York Times, 70 Died at a Nursing Home as Body Bags Piled Up. This Is What Went Wrong,Tracey Tully, Brian M. Rosenthal, Matthew Goldstein and Robert Gebeloff, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). The sprawling New Jersey nursing home, which was chronically short of staff and protective equipment, quickly fell prey to the coronavirus.

When the coronavirus outbreak hit one of the largest and most troubled nursing homes in the Northeast, coughing and feverish residents were segregated into a wing known as South 2. The sick quickly filled the beds there, so another wing, West 3, was also turned into a quarantine ward.

But the virus kept finding frail and older residents, and one culprit became clear: The workers themselves were likely spreading it as they moved between rooms and floors, outfitted with little or no protective equipment.

The nursing home, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center II in Andover, N.J., which has 543 beds, was chronically short of staff and masks, and over the last two years it had received poor grades from federal and state inspectors. Residents were crowded three to a room, and as the outbreak worsened, so did sanitary conditions. Spilled food littered the floors.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Devastates Detroit Police, John Eligon and Neil MacFarquhar, April 20, 2020. From the Chief on Down, The Detroit force has reeled as hundreds of officers have been infected or quarantined, and an initial drop in crime suddenly reversed with a spate of shootings.

The coronavirus has cut a devastating path through the Detroit Police Department, making it one of the hardest-hit law enforcement agencies in the country. The head of the homicide department died.

So did a 911 operator and a volunteer police chaplain. As recently as Thursday, nine people from the department remained hospitalized, fighting to survive.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Ten years after Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Trump administration weakens regulations, Steven Mufson, April 20, 2020. For all the advances in shale oil technology, the United States and other countries remain heavily dependent on deepwater drilling.

bp logo CustomFor all the advances in shale oil technology, the United States and other countries remain heavily dependent on deepwater drilling, a daunting engineering challenge in seas so deep that even military submarines cannot venture there. U.S. oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is greater than ever before, just under 2 million barrels a day in January, up a third over the 1.5 million barrels a day in the month the Deepwater Horizon caught fire, toppled over and sank to the ocean floor.

Today, BP and Royal Dutch Shell remain the biggest oil producers in the Gulf of Mexico.

washington post logoWashington Post, Stirrings of unrest around the world could portend turmoil as economies collapse, Liz Sly, April 20, 2020 (print ed.).  As more than half the people in the world hunker down under some form of enforced confinement, stirrings of political and social unrest are pointing to a new, potentially turbulent phase in the global effort to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

Already, protests spurred by the collapse of economic activity have erupted in scattered locations around the world. Tens of thousands of migrant laborers stranded without work or a way home staged demonstrations last week in the Indian city of Mumbai, crowding together in defiance of social distancing rules.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 16 people dead in Nova Scotia shooting — Canada’s deadliest in history, Amanda Coletta, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). canadian flagAt least 16 people were killed in a shooting rampage and manhunt in rural Nova Scotia, police said Sunday, the deadliest such attack in Canadian history.

The victims of the attack in the Portapique area of Nova Scotia included a 23-year member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Police said the suspect also is dead. They said that the investigation involved victims at “multiple crime scenes” and that they could not yet give a precise number of fatalities.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion / Analysis: Is William Barr a remnant KGB sleeper agent? Wayne Madsen, April 20, 2020. In the 1970s, the Soviet intelligence service, the KGB, operated an extremely aggressive intelligence gathering and recruitment effort in New York City.

wayne madesen report logoIn 1973-74, one subject of interest to the KGB resident agency in New York may have been Donald Barr, the quirky former Office of Strategic Services (OSS) officer during World War II and the headmaster of the exclusive private Dalton School....

Today, William Barr's only real accomplishments as Attorney General have been to stifle his department's and the FBI's and CIA's investigation of foreign intelligence interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, permitting Jeffrey Epstein to be put in a position where he could be "suicided," ensuring that Epstein's underage victims cannot receive damages from the Justice Department for their rights as sex trafficking victims being violated, and other outrages.

Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court says state juries must be unanimous to convict for serious crimes, Robert Barnes, April 20, 2020. The Supreme Court on Monday ruled 6 to 3 that state court juries must be unanimous to convict a defendant of a serious crime, a decision that scrambled the court’s usual ideological lineups and prompted soul-searching among some justices about when to overturn precedent.

Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that do not require unanimity for major crimes, and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said each state’s decision was rooted in discrimination. Although unanimity is not mentioned in the Constitution’s guarantee of an unbiased trial, he wrote, it is clear what is required.

More U.S. Media News

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Pro-gun activists use Facebook to promote protests of orders to remain at home, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm​, April 20, 2020 (print ed.).​ Three far-right provocateurs are behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine demonstrations, offering the latest evidence that some seemingly organic protests are engineered by a network of conservative activists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: With no good answer for lost month of virus preparation, Trump snaps at another female reporter, Amber Phillips, CBS News logoApril 20, 2020 (print ed.). When President Trump was asked at Sunday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing why he didn’t warn Americans in February that the virus was spreading and implement social distancing earlier, Trump’s response was to go back to late January, when he issued the travel restrictions on Chinese people coming to the United States.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoIn other words: More than two months into this crisis, Trump doesn’t have an answer for why he didn’t do more in this crucial window to prepare the country for the coronavirus.

On Sunday, Trump got defensive when a reporter asked him why his administration had not done more to prepare. He told CBS’s Weijia Jiang to “lower her voice” and to take it “nice and easy.”

April 19

Public Health Top Stories

Virus Victims, Responders, Oversight

World News

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

Media / Politics

True Crime

 

Public Health Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. live updates: Governors in U.S. Hot Spots Plead for More Testing, Staff reports, April 19, 2020. New York and New Jersey, epicenters of the outbreak in the United States, say they can’t reopen their economies without wider tests for the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Some may have to die to save the economy? How about offering testing and basic protections? Sally Jenkins, April 19, 2020 (print ed.). It’s a false moral equation and a false choice. And the people putting it forward smack of panic.

CNN, US coronavirus death toll tops 40,000, Helen Regan, Jenni Marsh, Laura Smith-Spark, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, April 19, 2020. Covid-19 has infected more than 2.3 million people and killed at least 163,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Virus Toll: 39,095 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S., Joe Fox, Brittany Renee Mayes, Kevin Schaul and Leslie Shapiro, April 19, 2020 (10:39 a.m.). At least 735,000 cases have been reported in the United States.

 virus fox rallies to reopen economy april 18 may 2 Custom 2

Media Matters, Commentary: Fox News promotes protests against social distancing, Matt Gertz, April 19, 2020 (first published April 16). Introduction by John Whitehead: This is (still) as serious as it gets. Lives are on the line with how this coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is covered. It's clear that fox news logo Smallright-wing media are not just failing this test, but failing it badly.

Over the last few days, Fox News has enthusiastically promoted protests against social distancing orders. Hosts and other network figures have promoted and encouraged viewers to join in.

On Saturday, Fox aired the above map of planned protests. The entire affair is very similar to how the network promoted Tea Party protests in 2009. In fact, the map (shown below) was even similar.

tea party rallies 2009 fox Custom 2

There's substantial evidence that some of these protests are astro-turfed. But even taking into account that some people really do feel this way, the fact is that polls show that the vast majority of Americans are more worried about governments opening things too quickly.

As Media Matters president Angelo Carusone told Vox, Fox News and right-wing media didn't create these protests, but they are legitimizing them, whitewashing extremist ties, and bringing them to a larger audience, both in terms of pushing people to participate and pushing other media outlets to cover them. The goal is to change public opinion about the pandemic.

The difference this time is that this is about science, not politics. And these protests -- and those like Fox that promote them -- only help spread the virus.

Fox News triggered Trump's all-caps endorsement of protests against his own guidelines for re-opening the economy

djt maga hatPresident Donald Trump endorsed conservative protests against social distancing measures in three states immediately after Fox News aired a segment on the efforts. Trump, who was apparently watching the segment, responded to it in real-time by expressing support for the protests, sending multiple tweets saying, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!,” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!,” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”

Earlier this week, Fox hosts cheered on protests by conservative activists against Michigan’s stay-at-home order. As Matt Gertz noted at the time: “If Trump sees Fox’s protest coverage and endorses the effort, social distancing will become even more politically polarized. The hard-won progress in the fight against the virus could evaporate in an instant, leaving behind a shattered economy and an influx of COVID-19 deaths.”

This is not hyperbole. We've already seen data indicate that there may be a surge in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin after Republicans and the Supreme Court forced that state's voters to go to the polls.

donald mcneil rachel maddow march 12 2020 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus in America: What the Next Year (or Two) May Look Like, Donald G. McNeil Jr. (shown at right in a file photo early in the crisis), April 19, 2020 (print ed.). The virus is spreading from big cities to suburbs, and has begun encroaching on the nation’s rural regions. It is not clear where the crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts shared their thoughts on the future.

The coronavirus is spreading from America’s biggest cities to its suburbs, and has begun encroaching on the nation’s rural regions. The virus is believed to have infected millions of citizens and has killed more than 34,000.

Yet President Trump this week proposed guidelines for reopening the economy and suggested that a swath of the United States would soon resume something resembling normalcy. For weeks now, the administration’s view of the crisis and our future has been rosier than that of its own medical advisers, and of scientists generally.

In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. When can we emerge from our homes? How long, realistically, before we have a treatment or vaccine? How will we keep the virus at bay?

Some felt that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might well produce advances to ease the burdens. The path forward depends on factors that are certainly difficult but doable, they said: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread testing and surveillance, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine.

Still, it was impossible to avoid gloomy forecasts for the next year. The scenario that Mr. Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said.

  • Washington Post, Governors plead for help with tests, contradicting Trump’s claims that they are widely available, Shane Harris, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis, April 19, 2020. Hours earlier, governors from both parties complained equipment was in short supply.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, As U.S. nears 750,000 confirmed cases, conservatives protest coronavirus restrictions, Staff reports, April 19, 2020. Pence says Trump’s ‘LIBERATE’ tweets were meant to encourage governors to ‘safely and responsibly’ reopen states.

  • Pelosi: State protests of stay-at-home orders are a ‘distraction’
  • Pope Francis says ‘selfish indifference’ in pandemic response would be worse than virus itself
  • Boris Johnson missed five initial emergency meetings about coronavirus, reports say

washington post logoWashington Post, Record government, corporate debt could lead to ‘tipping point’ after pandemic, David J. Lynch, April 19, 2020 (print ed.).
The federal government is on its way this year to spending $4 trillion more than it collects in revenue, analysts say. The reliance on so much debt will leave scars after the pandemic passes, economists say, making it difficult for policymakers to withdraw support and leaving the economy more vulnerable than before this crisis began.

Virus Victims, Responders, Oversight

usa today logoUSA Today, 'We hear you, Dad': A daughter stays on the phone for hours and hours as her father dies alone from coronavirus, Trevor Hughes, April 19, 2020. Abby Adair Reinhard pressed her iPhone tighter to her ear, straining to hear the soft rhythm of her father's breath. Five miles away, in a hospital bed in Rochester, New York, her father lay dying.

Don Adair, 76, was a father of four and a grandfather of five. A retired attorney who doted on his family, he'd traveled with them to Europe, sat on the floor to open Christmas presents, grinned wide at their graduations and bounced them on his knee.

Now, he lay alone in a bed, isolated from other patients at Highland Hospital. He'd fallen at home a few days earlier, and hospital staffers were helping him fight a minor infection.

Not a problem, Reinhard thought at first. Her dad, her rock, never got sick.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kidneys Failing in Large Percentage of Sickest Virus Patients, Reed Abelson, Sheri Fink, Nicholas Kulish and Katie Thomas, updated April 19, 2020 (print ed.). The unexpected surge in kidney failures is leading to critical shortages of machines, supplies and staff required for emergency dialysis.

For weeks, U.S. government officials and hospital executives have warned of a looming shortage of ventilators as the coronavirus pandemic descended.

But now, doctors are sounding an alarm about an unexpected and perhaps overlooked crisis: a surge in Covid-19 patients with kidney failure that is leading to shortages of machines, supplies and staff required for emergency dialysis.

Newsday, Opinion: An early casualty of the coronavirus pandemic has been the loss of easy access to public information, Miranda S. Spivack, Updated April 19, 2020. In Hawaii, Gov. David Ige suspended the open meetings and open records laws. In California, numerous governments and public agencies, including San Francisco, announced suspension or substantial delays in providing public records.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)In Ohio, the state labor department stopped issuing daily unemployment figures. In the District of Columbia, the city council approved a measure that allows agencies to suspend fulfilling public information requests during “days of a Covid-19 closure.”

“Many state agencies are releasing data on Twitter,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, an open-government advocacy group. “That’s better than nothing, but it means there is a ton of data being released in a very disjointed way.”

The picture is even bleaker at the federal level. The FBI quickly shut down its record division and refused to accept any electronic request for records, insisting instead on paper inquiries.The White House ordered that high-level meetings about the coronavirus be classified. The Army stopped providing data on soldiers who are infected with the virus, saying the information could fall into the hands of the nation’s enemies.

Federal officials have declined to identify nursing homes where residents are ill from the virus. The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that President Donald Trump signed into law on March 27 includes a provision that exempts the Federal Reserve from holding public meetings, a remarkable development because the agency will play a key role in shepherding the federal monetary response to the pandemic — and will be able to do so away from the public.

It is obvious that some delays and detours are necessary as governments adjust to the new normal and step up their public health response. But the virus in the United States also should be an opportunity for governments to rethink how they maintain — and yes — enhance the ability of the public to track government actions and data whenever possible in real time. Daily briefings are good, but there is so much more that governments can do to keep the public informed, especially during a public health crisis of this magnitude.

World News

ny times logoUN logoNew York Times, Global live updates: Dozens Test Positive in Afghan Presidential Palace, Staff reports, April 19, 2020. The Afghan president is isolating after at least 40 staff members tested positive. About 100,000 people attended a funeral in Bangladesh, defying a shutdown.

A plane with 84 tons of urgently needed protective medical gear that was to arrive from Turkey in Britain on Sunday was delayed, the U.K. government says.

Orthodox Christians around the world celebrated a locked-down Easter Sunday, but some defied the restrictions.

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

gretchen whitmer o horizontal Custom
washington post logoWashington Post, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is a rising star for Democrats and a target for Republicans, Matt Viser and Josh Dawsey, April 19, 2020 (print ed.). The pandemic has put a national spotlight on the first-term governor (shown above), who is on Joe Biden’s list of possible running mates.

Whitmer’s role takes on added significance as the 2020 presidential race heats up. Michigan is a crucial battleground state, won in a tight race by Trump four years ago. Winning back the Rust Belt — and the working-class whites who live there — has been central to Biden’s pitch for the presidency, and Whitmer won the governor’s race by nearly 10 points in 2018.

Since the pandemic hit the United States hard two months ago, Whitmer has been on the front lines. Detroit quickly became an epicenter of the outbreak, and Michigan has the country’s third-most cases of the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden wins Wyoming Democratic primary, Felicia Sonmez and David Weigel, April 19, 2020. The former vice president won 10 of Wyoming’s pledged Democratic National Convention delegates and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) claimed four in the contest that was conducted entirely by mail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign decides to focus on Biden rather than try to promote his pandemic response, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Annie Linskey and Toluse Olorunnipa, April 19, 2020. Both Democrats and Republicans shifted their strategies after polling showed declining approval ratings for President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

joe biden 2020 button CustomPresident Trump’s campaign is preparing to launch a broad effort aimed at linking Joe Biden to China, after concluding that it would be more politically effective than defending or promoting Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision by top campaign advisers, which has met pushback from some White House officials and donors, reflects polling showing a declining approval rating for Trump among key groups and growing openness to supporting Biden in recent weeks, according to officials familiar with the data who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

democratic donkey logoThe shift represents a remarkable acknowledgment by aides to a self-described “wartime president,” leading during what might have been a rally-around-the-flag moment, to ­effectively decide it is better to go on the attack than focus on his own achievements. Campaign polling found more than three-quarters of voters blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak, underscoring the potential benefits of tying the presumptive Democratic nominee to ­Beijing.

The planned China push, which has already been embraced by pro-Trump outside groups, comes as both the Trump and Biden campaigns have been anxiously recalibrating their plans in response to the most catastrophic economic and health crisis in the United States in generations. The two title contenders for the 2020 elections are finally set, but neither campaign, with their mismatched strengths and weaknesses, knows what the election arena will look like.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is walking into a trap, Shirley Kennedy, April 19, 2020. Donald Trump knows the only way he can win Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)reelection is by stoking the fires under his racist followers and sewing discord among Democratic voters. He is busy doing both things, though the latter may not be as successful as he thinks. Politico writer David Siders believes that the unity of the Democratic party will be a big problem for him. Trump, who listens to no one and nothing, is walking into his own trap.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump claims that the Democratic party “stole” the election from Bernie Sanders. This is such a tired, old talking point, but Trump is trying to use it to his advantage.

At the same time, the Democratic party is uniting its base. The more that Biden embraces Warren’s and Sanders’ platforms, the more these talking points will not be viable. Instead of accepting his fate and moving on, Trump hopes to take the rest of us with him to hell. He’s going to have a very difficult time doing that.

Siders points out several issues that stand between “president” Trump and reelection. First, he must successfully divide the Democratic party, which he obviously has no idea how to do.

Second, Trump barely “won” the White House to begin with, capturing only 46% of the vote. He continues to poll below 50% — even during what should have been a “rally around the flag” moment — and no one is clamoring to get behind him after the way he has botched the coronavirus response. Most important, Trump is an insufferable, egotistical, narcissistic asshole. None of that is going to change, especially in the eyes of independents, a group Trump desperately needs to win. Trump’s campaign doesn’t get it and continues with their “divide and conquer” strategy.

washington post logoWashington Post, #FloridaMorons trends after people flock to reopened Florida beaches, Meryl Kornfield and Samantha Pell, April 19, 2020 bette midler florida beaches occupy democrats(print ed.). Aerial snapshots of people flocking to a reopened beach in Jacksonville, Fla., made waves on the Internet on Saturday. (Singer Bette Midler launched meme at right.)

Local news aired photos and videos of Florida’s shoreline dotted with people, closer than six feet apart, spurring #FloridaMorons to trend on Twitter after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), left, gave the go-ahead for local beachfront governments ron desantis oto decide whether to reopen their beaches during a news briefing Friday.

Duval and St. Johns counties have reopened their beaches, while Miami-Dade County officials said they are considering following suit.

On the same day that Florida reported 58 deaths from the coronavirus — its highest daily toll since the pandemic began — DeSantis told reporters that it’s essential that Floridians get exercise outdoors.

 Media / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Coronavirus Story Isn’t About the President, Ben Smith, April 19, 2020. Trump has begun his corona campaign. We don’t have to play along, our columnist writes.

Did you hear? The president said some things today. Mean things! About someone I know … I can’t quite remember the details, or whether it was today or yesterday, or what day of the week it is, anyway.

President Trump has figured out the answer to one of the less important questions of 2020: How do you run a presidential campaign amid a pandemic? He can’t hold rallies, he can’t kiss babies, he can’t shake hands, not that he likes doing that anyway. And he can’t talk about anything else.

What Mr. Trump can do, it turns out, is host rolling, raucous, two-plus-hour daily television variety shows to keep his connection with the faithful and, incidentally, to variously entertain and appall the rest of the homebound American public. He can rally gun owners in Virginia as well as angry suburbanites in Michigan. He can attack the news media to make sure it’s paying attention.

This is it — the corona campaign. The most effective form of direct presidential communication since Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats. Mr. Trump wanted to start a radio show, my colleague Elaina Plott reported, but really, television was the medium that made him and the one he knows and loves. Get used to it, because given its power, he’s not going to stop in November, win or lose. He’ll most likely broadcast on his favorite medium until the day he dies.

So how do we, citizens and — to stick to my particular beat here at The Times — journalists, handle this?

rfk jr gage skidmore CustomOpEdNews, Opinion: Flu Misinformation and Coronavirus Fears: Robert Kennedy Jr's Letter to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore photo), April 19, 2020.

Dear Sanjay,

Last week, your CNN producer, Matthew Reynard, notified me that CNN is featuring me in a documentary about "vaccine misinformation." As usual, Mr. Reynard did not point out a single factual assertion by me that was incorrect (I carefully source all of my statements about vaccines to government databases or peer-reviewed publications). CNN uses the term "vaccine misinformation" as a euphemism for any statement that departs from the Government / Pharma orthodoxy that all vaccines are safe, necessary, and effective for all people.

I respectfully point out that CNN and particularly you, Sanjay, are today among the most prolific broadcasters of 'vaccine misinformation.' I have always admired you, Sanjay. Your obvious talents aside, you seem to be genuinely compassionate and to value integrity. Earlier in your career, you showed a courageous willingness to challenge Big Pharma's vaccine orthodoxies.

CNN's recent special, "Pandemic," was a showcase of erroneous assertions about the flu vaccine. Since I don't like to think that you deliberately mislead the public, particularly about critical public health choices I have taken the time to point out some of your most frequent errors.

I hope you will take time to read this. This critique has special relevance during the current coronavirus crisis, not to mention its important implications for the roles of government and press in a democracy. CNN and other media outlets treat CDC, NIH, and WHO pronouncements as infallible truths.

In fact, regulatory capture has made these agencies subsidiaries of Big Pharma, and the lies that CDC has been telling us about flu are now muddying the debate over coronavirus. Furthermore, of the mere 257 cases that could reasonably be blamed on the flu in CDC's mortality data, only 7 percent were laboratory confirmed cases of influenza.

True Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, True Crime: A 425-Pound Tiger Living in a Harlem Apartment? Yes, It Happened, Corey Kilgannon, updated April 19, 2020. Before “Tiger King,” there was New York’s infamous Tiger Man. After the police shot him with a tranquilizer dart, Ming the tiger lunged at the window.

So, did Tiger Man enjoy “Tiger King?”

“I was turned off by it,” said Antoine Yates, who became known as New York City’s Tiger Man long before the wild popularity of Netflix’s documentary mini-series. “It just shows how ignorant these so-called exotic animal lovers can be.”

Mr. Yates also got momentarily famous for keeping a full-grown tiger, this one named Ming. But rather than the more rural settings favored by Joe Exotic and the show’s other big-cat enthusiasts, he kept Ming in his Harlem apartment, for more than two years.

In 2001, Mr. Yates, then a 31-year-old construction worker, brought the 8-week-old cub to his sprawling home in a Harlem housing project.

Ming quickly went from bottle feeding to consuming 20 pounds of chicken thighs a day, which Mr. Yates would heft home each morning from a local supermarket. And in less than three years, the Siberian-Bengal mix grew into a 425-pound behemoth.

The authorities eventually discovered Ming in 2003. They subdued and removed him, along with a five-foot-long alligator named Al that Mr. Yates kept in a fiberglass tank in the apartment.

April 18

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World News

Virus Victims

Potential Cures, Predictions

U.S. 2020 Politics

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ny times logoNew York Times, Stoking Angry Fervor, Trump Plays to His Base on State Restrictions, Michael D. Shear and Sarah Mervosh, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). In a series of all-caps tweets, the president departed from his more bipartisan tone of Thursday, echoing conservative pundits and conspiracy theorists.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2President Trump on Friday openly encouraged right-wing protests of social distancing restrictions in states with stay-at-home orders, a day after announcing guidelines for how the nation’s governors should carry out an orderly reopening of their communities on their own timetables.

donald trump twitterIn a series of all-caps tweets that started two minutes after a Fox News report on the protesters, the president declared, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” — two states whose Democratic governors have imposed strict social distancing restrictions.

He also lashed out at Virginia, where the state’s Democratic governor and legislature have pushed for strict gun control measures, saying: “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

His stark departure from the more bipartisan tone of his announcement on Thursday night suggested Mr. Trump was ceding any semblance of national leadership on the pandemic, and choosing instead to divide the country by playing to his political base.

Echoed across the internet and on cable television by conservative pundits and ultraright conspiracy theorists, his tweets were a remarkable example of a president egging on demonstrators and helping to stoke an angry fervor that in its anti-government rhetoric was eerily reminiscent of the birth of the Tea Party movement a decade ago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: Texas Protests to Demand a Reopening, Staff reports, April 18, 2020. More than 150,000 people have now died of the virus worldwide, according to official tallies.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Texans to join nationwide protests even as their governor lifts restrictions.

• Trump administration presses ahead with deportations, including children and the sick.

• New Yorkers settle in behind a new accessory: mandatory masks.

• Testing needs to triple for the U.S. to reopen safely, researchers say.

• Judges are delaying executions because of virus fears.

• Boeing and other manufacturers say they will restart assembly lines.

• The how, when, what and why on masks.

Protesters in Texas are preparing to converge on the steps of the Capitol building in Austin on Saturday and call for the reopening of the state and the country.

The gathering, effectively a rejection of social distancing restrictions and an embrace of President Trump’s tacit approval, is expected to be the latest in a wave of similar protests this week across the country, including in California, Michigan, North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.

Already, governors in a handful of states have begun to outline their plans to ease restrictions, in some cases naming an eclectic set of businesses — dog groomers, golf courses and farmers’ markets among them — they will allow to reopen.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat, and Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, both said they hoped to reopen the economy by May 1. Thousands of people had gathered at the State Capitol in Michigan, and at least 100 in Ohio, to urge governors to ease restrictions.

In Austin on Saturday, the “You Can’t Close America” rally on the steps of the Capitol will be a public act of defiance of orders imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, putting it in line with a simmering ideological movement on the right resisting government mandates over the virus.

The Hill, Coronavirus Report, April 18, 2020 (16:36 min. video). The Hill’s Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons talks with former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) about his take on the government and private sector response to COVID-19 and his efforts to push a Manhattan Project approach to fighting viral pandemics which he has been warning the nation would strike more than a decade and a half ago.

The Hill has been running a daily CORONAVIRUS REPORT that I have had the pleasure of editing. If you'd like to sign up FOR THE DAILY REPORT, here is THE LINK.

But I wanted to bring your attention to a significant interview I had today with former Senate Majority Leader BILL FRIST, a heart and lung transplant surgeon who has been worried about viruses and pandemics before he came to the Senate -- because these "crafty viruses," as he calls them, were killing his patients.

My request to interview him was inspired both by his health policy deep dive podcast SECOND OPINION and by this eerily prescient speech at the National Press Club in 2005 that sounds like he could have given in December 2019. Gave me the chills listening. So spot on -- what was that Arthur Clarke tagline? The Man Who Saw the Future? You can read the same speech here in an article titled "A Storm for Which We Were Unprepared."

The Frist interview is important. He admonishes Washington's leaders today for not funding science in the way they should, for not understanding that we must work with the World Health Organization, for not committing themselves to a far more substantial coronavirus testing regime, and not realizing that the only real way to protect mankind from this virus and those headed our way in the future is to fund a massive Manhattan Project style effort to create both a vaccine and a fast action research and response platform that can move in months rather than years to stop the devastating viruses like COVID-19.

I hope you find this interview, just 15 minutes long, valuable, sobering, enlightening.

There are others that you can check out including ones with former Trump Homeland Security Advisor TOM BOSSERT, former Baltimore Health Commissioner LEANA WEN, American Public Health Association Executive Director GEORGES BENJAMIN, former GSK Global Vaccines President LUC DEBRUYNE, former George W. Bush Global AIDS czar MARK DYBUL, Miami Mayor FRANCIS X. SUAREZ, US Representative DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI), International Rescue Committee CEO and former British Foreign Minister DAVID MILIBAND.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump foments resistance to Democratic-imposed shutdowns, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Toluse Olorunnipa and Seung Min Kim, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). GOP governors may be the president’s biggest obstacle in his push for a quick reopening of parts of the country where the outbreak has been more limited.

President Trump on Friday amplified his call to reopen the country, suggesting citizens should “liberate” themselves even as governors and local officials in areas he said were ready to return to normal expressed concern about moving too soon.

Republican governors have been slow to embrace Trump’s call to lift statewide stay-at-home orders in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic that is killing thousands of Americans. And Democratic governors have increasingly denounced what they describe as a lack of federal leadership in a response effort plagued by shortfalls in testing and equipment.

On Friday, Texas announced a plan for loosening restrictions on economic activity. But the proposal by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) made few immediate changes to the stay-at-home order and left many decisions for the end of the month after consultations with a new “strike force” of business leaders and medical professionals.

Trump on Friday took aim at Democratic-led states, tweeting about a need to “LIBERATE” places such as Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia while seeming to side with protesters there who are rebelling against restrictions that match the Trump administration’s own social-distancing recommendations. Conservative groups have bolstered the protests, lending support and guidance in an effort to create a nationwide movement in favor of restarting economic activity on a broad basis despite the health concerns.

The effort by Trump and some of his allies to portray a country split between a few hard-hit hot spots and a much larger expanse of America ready to quickly get back to work is at odds with hesitancy among state and local leaders about lifting the restrictions before the coronavirus crisis is more firmly under control.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid the push to reopen, states and businesses plead for more federal testing help, Steven Mufson, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Juliet Eilperin, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). Officials are warning the Trump administration that they can’t safely reopen the U.S. economy without radically increasing the number of available tests, and that won’t happen without greater federal coordination.

With the number of the covid-19 tests hovering at an average of 146,000 a day, businesses leaders and state officials are warning the Trump administration that they cannot safely reopen the economy without radically increasing the number of available tests — perhaps into the millions a day — and that won’t happen without a greater coordinating role by the federal government.

Though the capacity of private business to produce those volumes remains unclear, state leaders and health experts say that the administration should move with a greater sense of urgency and could do several relatively easy things to speed the production and distribution of tests.

On Friday, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry said there were still critical supply chain issues that stand in the way of ramping up testing, including a lack of protective equipment for technicians who run the tests, and a shortage of swabs and reagents — chemical solutions required to run the tests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Testing Must Triple Before the U.S. Can Reopen, Experts Say, Keith Collins, April 18, 2020 (print ed.).  As some governors consider easing social distancing restrictions, new estimates by researchers at Harvard University suggest that the United States cannot safely reopen unless it conducts more than three times the number of coronavirus tests it is currently administering over the next month.

As some governors look to ease coronavirus restrictions, public health experts say the country needs at least half a million tests per day.

An average of 146,000 people per day have been tested for the coronavirus nationally so far this month, according to the COVID Tracking Project, which on Friday reported 3.6 million total tests across the country. To reopen the United States by mid-May, the number of daily tests performed between now and then should be 500,000 to 700,000, according to the Harvard estimates.

That level of testing is necessary to identify the majority of people who are infected and isolate them from people who are healthy, according to the researchers. About 20 percent of those tested so far were positive for the virus, a rate that the researchers say is too high.

“If you have a very high positive rate, it means that there are probably a good number of people out there who have the disease who you haven’t tested,” said Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “You want to drive the positive rate down, because the fundamental element of keeping our economy open is making sure you’re identifying as many infected people as possible and isolating them.

New York Post, Jacksonville beach packed as Florida coronavirus cases hit record, Sara Dorn, April 18, 2020. Floridians didn’t waste any time getting back to the sun and surf when beaches and parks were reopened in Jacksonville — the same day the state clocked a record number of coronavirus cases.

Crowds were seen cheering and rushing the beach as police removed the barriers around 5 p.m. Friday, CNN reported. Aerial photos show hundreds of people packing the sand to swim, stroll, surf and fish. Many were without masks.

“We all live on it, so it has been torture looking at it and not being able to be out here,” one beachgoer told CNN.

Jacksonville opened beaches from 6-11 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. daily, with some restrictions including no sunbathing or lounging in chairs or on blankets.

“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Mayor Lenny Curry reportedly said.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Global death toll surpasses 150,000; U.S. governors set timelines to end stay-at-home orders, Derek Hawkins, Timothy Bella, Kareem Fahim, Karla Adam, and Gerry Shih, April 18, 2020. As the worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus surpassed 150,000 on Friday, several U.S. governors have taken steps to gradually reopen their states, and even announced dates for easing certain restrictions.

It came as President Trump seemingly took the side of protesters in multiple states who are rally against the safety measures intended to stop the coronavirus spread. Here are some significant developments:

  • A federal judge ruled Friday that the state of Tennessee can’t block abortions under a temporary ban on nonessential medical procedures.
  • Concerns are rising in China over a potential new wave of covid-19 infections in a far northeastern province.
  • Singapore, once considered an early success story in the battle against the virus, reported a new daily record of infections.
  • Ventilators are in desperately short supply in Africa.
  • Hundreds of nursing homes in areas with outbreaks have repeatedly violated infection control rules, a Washington Post analysis found.
  • Many migrants on a deportation flight from the United States this week contracted the novel coronavirus, and that at least 12 had tested positive so far.

washington post logoWashington Post, Europe thinks it is past the peak of the first wave of the coronavirus, William Booth, Chico Harlan, James McAuley, Loveday european union logo rectangleMorris and Michael Birnbaum, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). All across Europe, the numbers are coming down.

In Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Britain, public health officials — their faces often drained by exhaustion — are now expressing cautious optimism that the first wave of Europe’s devastating pandemic is ending.

From Ireland to Greece, officials are seeing hopeful signs that coronavirus infections are peaking and have begun to plateau or recede, pointing to intensive care beds that are slowly opening up and a daily reduction in the number of new hospitalizations.

Virus Victims

washington post logoWashington Post, Stimulus checks, other relief hindered by 1960s technology, rocky rollout, Heather Long, Jeff Stein, Lisa Rein and Tony Romm, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). On Friday, Trump hailed the ‘incredible success’ of getting out payments, but millions are still awaiting stimulus checks, unemployment aid and small-business loans. The Trump administration’s promise of swift and effective action is colliding with a federal and state apparatus ill-equipped to deliver so much money so fast. 

donald trump money palmer report CustomThe national effort to get coronavirus relief money to Americans is at risk of being overwhelmed by the worst economic downturn in 80 years, as understaffed and underfunded agencies struggle to deliver funds.

sba logo new Custom CustomThree weeks after Congress passed a $2 trillion package to lessen the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of households and small businesses are still waiting to receive all the help promised under the legislation, according to government data and firsthand accounts.

The bulk of the challenges have occurred with three initiatives designed to get cash to struggling Americans: $1,200 per adult relief payments that launched this week, $349 billion in Small Business Administration loans, and $260 billion in unemployment benefits for the more than 22 million people — and growing — out of work.

  • FAQ on stimulus check glitches: Why you’re having trouble and what you can do
  • A guide to personal finance during the pandemic

ny times logoNew York Times, Nursing Homes: ‘They’re Death Pits’: Virus Claims at Least 7,000 in U.S. Nursing Homes, Farah Stockman, Matt Richtel, Danielle Ivory and Mitch Smith, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). About a fifth of U.S. virus deaths are linked to nursing facilities, and more than 36,000 residents and employees have contracted the virus.

The first warning of the devastation that the coronavirus could wreak inside American nursing homes came in late February, when residents of a facility in suburban Seattle perished, one by one, as families waited helplessly outside.

In the ensuing six weeks, large and shockingly lethal outbreaks have continued to ravage nursing homes across the nation, undeterred by urgent new safety requirements. Now a nationwide tally by The New York Times has found the number of people living in or connected to nursing homes who have died of the coronavirus to be at least 7,000, far higher than previously known.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why We Don’t Know the True Death Rate for Covid-19, Amy Harmon, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). Determining what percentage of those infected by the coronavirus will die is a key question, but an elusive one during the pandemic.

Coroners in some parts of the country are overwhelmed. Funeral homes in coronavirus hot spots can barely keep up. Newspaper obituary pages in hard-hit areas go on and on. Covid-19 is on track to kill far more people in the United States this year than the seasonal flu.

But determining just how deadly the new coronavirus will be is a key question facing epidemiologists, who expect resurgent waves of infection that could last into 2022.

As the virus spread across the world in late February and March, the projection circulated by infectious disease experts of how many infected people would die seemed plenty dire: around 1 percent, or 10 times the rate of a typical flu.

But according to various unofficial Covid-19 trackers that calculate the death rate by dividing total deaths by the number of known cases, about 6.4 percent of people infected with the virus have now died worldwide.

In Italy, the death rate stands at about 13 percent, and in the United States, around 4.3 percent, according to the latest figures on known cases and deaths. Even in South Korea, where widespread testing helped contain the outbreak, 2 percent of people who tested positive for the virus have died, recent data shows.

These supposed death rates also appear to vary widely by geography: Germany’s fatality rate appears to be roughly one-tenth of Italy’s, and Los Angeles’s about half of New York’s. Among U.S. states, Michigan, at around 7 percent, is at the high end, while Wyoming, which reported its first two deaths this week, has one of the lowest death rates, at about 0.7 percent.

Virology experts say there is no evidence that any strain of the virus, officially known as SARS-CoV-2, has mutated to become more severe in some parts of the world than others, raising the question of why there appears to be so much variance from country to country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Contamination at CDC lab delayed virus tests’ rollout, David Willman, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). The failure by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quickly produce a test kit for detecting the novel coronavirus was triggered by a glaring scientific breakdown at the CDC’s central laboratory complex in Atlanta, according to scientists with knowledge of the matter and a determination by federal regulators.

cdc logo CustomThe CDC facilities that assembled the kits violated sound manufacturing practices, resulting in contamination of one of the three test components used in the highly sensitive detection process, the scientists said.

The cross contamination most likely occurred because chemical mixtures were assembled into the kits within a lab space that was also handling synthetic coronavirus material. The scientists also said the proximity deviated from accepted procedures and jeopardized testing for the virus.

The Washington Post separately confirmed that Food and Drug Administration officials concluded that the CDC violated its own laboratory standards in making the kits. The substandard practices exposed the kits to contamination.

The troubled segment of the test was not critical to detecting the novel coronavirus, experts said. But after the difficulty emerged, CDC officials took more than a month to remove the unnecessary step from the kits, exacerbating nationwide delays in testing, according to an examination of federal documents and interviews with more than 30 present and former federal scientists and others familiar with the events. Many of them spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

This account confirms for the first time the contamination’s role in undermining the test and the CDC’s failure to meets its lab standards.

The development and rollout of the original kits are subjects of an investigation led by the Department of Health and Human Services, federal officials said.

The CDC — America’s premier institution for combating the spread of catastrophic disease — declined to make available for interviews those involved in the test design or manufacturing. A spokesman, Benjamin N. Haynes, provided a statement Friday that acknowledged substandard “quality control” in its manufacturing of the test kits.

Those efforts “were not sufficient in this circumstance,” the statement said. The agency also said it has “implemented enhanced quality control to address the issue.”

The CDC facilities that assembled the kits violated sound manufacturing practices, resulting in contamination of one of the three test components used in the highly sensitive detection process, the scientists said.

The cross contamination most likely occurred because chemical mixtures were assembled into the kits within a lab space that was also handling synthetic coronavirus material. The scientists also said the proximity deviated from accepted procedures and jeopardized testing for the virus.

The Washington Post separately confirmed that Food and Drug Administration officials concluded that the CDC violated its own laboratory standards in making the kits. The substandard practices exposed the kits to contamination.

The troubled segment of the test was not critical to detecting the novel coronavirus, experts said. But after the difficulty emerged, CDC officials took more than a month to remove the unnecessary step from the kits, exacerbating nationwide delays in testing, according to an examination of federal documents and interviews with more than 30 present and former federal scientists and others familiar with the events. Many of them spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

This account confirms for the first time the contamination’s role in undermining the test and the CDC’s failure to meets its lab standards.

The development and rollout of the original kits are subjects of an investigation led by the Department of Health and Human Services, federal officials said.

The CDC — America’s premier institution for combating the spread of catastrophic disease — declined to make available for interviews those involved in the test design or manufacturing. A spokesman, Benjamin N. Haynes, provided a statement Friday that acknowledged substandard “quality control” in its manufacturing of the test kits.

Those efforts “were not sufficient in this circumstance,” the statement said. The agency also said it has “implemented enhanced quality control to address the issue.”

The troubled segment of the test being developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not critical to detecting the novel coronavirus and led to weeks of delay, according to scientists with knowledge of the matter. The CDC facilities that assembled the kits violated sound manufacturing practices, the scientists said.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. manufacturers sent millions of dollars of face masks, other equipment to China early this year, Juliet Eilperin, Jeff Stein, Desmond Butler and Tom Hamburger, April 17, 2020. The shipments of protective medical equipment, done with encouragement from the federal government, underscored the Trump administration’s failure to recognize and prepare for the growing pandemic threat.

Wired, An Oral History of the Pandemic Warnings Trump Ignored, Garrett M. Graff, April 17, 2020. The president says “nobody ever expected a thing like this,” but dire predictions have been heaped on leaders for decades.

It’s a familiar litany by now: As Covid-19 spread, ravaged lives, and upended the global economy over the past two months, President Donald Trump first downplayed the virus—assuring Americans that it was going to go away — then chalked it all up as a complete surprise. On January 22, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it was all business as usual. He promised CNBC’s Joe Kernan there were no worries about a pandemic: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

A month later, Trump’s message was the same. “It’s going to disappear,” Trump said of the coronavirus on February 27. “One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” Then, as it became clear the virus wasn’t going away, Trump has instead tried to avoid blame, arguing that the novel coronavirus pandemic is a black swan, an unimaginable, surprise, out-of-left-field event. “This was unexpected,” he said on March 10. “It hit the world.” On March 16 Trump said, “This came up — it came up so suddenly. Look, he was surprised; we were all surprised.” And on March 24, he told a Fox News town hall, “Nobody ever expected a thing like this.”

Except it was expected. Over the past quarter century, warnings have been clear and consistent from both US government leaders, scientists, and global health officials: A pandemic was coming — and whenever it arrived, it would be catastrophic to the global economy. In recent years red alerts have come almost monthly — sometimes weekly — and all three of Trump’s predecessors have dedicated significant personal time and public attention to the pandemic threat.

The most recent warning, a bipartisan report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cochaired by former US senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, and Julie Gerberding, George W. Bush’s one-time director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was published on November 18, 2019 — one day after we now know that the first case of the novel coronavirus that would be later be named SARS-CoV-2 appeared in China's Hubei Province. That report’s number-one recommendation was to undo the Trump administration’s cuts to pandemic planning: “Restore health security leadership at the White House National Security Council.”

A careful review of past reports, books, planning documents, Congressional hearings, op-eds, speeches, and public testimonies make clear that all the problems of the current Covid-19 crisis were foreseen over the past 15 years, as officials and leaders like Bill Gates warned in increasingly dire terms about the government’s lack of sufficient preparation.

Palmer Report, A doomsday of our very own making, Robert Harrington, April 18, 2020. As political philosophies of government go, democracy, however flawed, is my favorite. Its weakness, that it can be and occasionally is manipulated by the power elite, cannot be disputed. Imperfect though it may be, on balance it beats all other forms of government.

But when it comes to scientific knowledge I am most emphatically not a democrat. Science, in my view, belongs to kings. Scientific facts are not up for vote. Scientific truth does not serve the common will. “My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge” is not a permissible credo in the world of science. I am an unapologetic scientific elitist.

bill palmer report logo headerMany people don’t understand this point of view. Permit me to make an analogy. Whether you’re a cab driver, a checkout clerk in a grocery store, a deliverer of packages — noble and essential trades all, and particularly courageous in these troubled times — you understand what it feels like for someone to come along and tell you your business. When some snide observer sidles up to you and tells you what you’re doing “wrong” and why, you are justified in feeling the familiar frustration of being condescended to. Hours turning into days turning into years of doing the same job has given you superlative insights and a legitimate expertise for your work, and that work cannot easily be understood by the casual observer, no matter how “clever” that observer might be.

Imagine, then, what it must be like for scientists. These are men and women who have labored for decades acquiring a very arcane, highly specialized, enormously difficult body of knowledge that they diligently apply to their work on a daily basis, forty, fifty, sixty hours a week — for years.

Then along comes someone who doesn’t know anything at all about what scientists do, doesn’t even understand the language scientists speak nor the methods they use, and insists they are wrong. Not only do they insist they are wrong, they arrogantly demand they receive equal time and equal respect for their ignorance. They dismiss out of hand what the scientist says, and assert their personal point of view with a misplaced confidence that can only be described as unmitigated hubris.

A Facebook commenter recently began a sentence with the words, “I don’t care what the scientists say.” That the speaker was talking to a scientist when he wrote that and that his rhetorical overture went unchallenged is a testament to how inured even scientists have become to this kind of pandemic ignorance. If the speaker doesn’t care what scientists say, what is he basing his opinion on? His personal “expert” opinion? The opinion of politicians? The opinion of religious leaders? His “gut” instinct?

Carl Sagan said, “I try not to think with my gut. If I’m serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble.” He concludes by saying, “Really, it’s okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.” In other words, we don’t have to jump to unwarranted conclusions based on our gut. We don’t need to “get off the fence” and assert our opinions. It’s okay to wait for more evidence. A bad theory is worse than no theory at all. And yes, the preponderance of scientific opinion doesn’t just count for something, it counts for a lot. Scientists are not always right, but they are right more often than anyone else when it comes to matters of science.

So when scientists tell me that coronavirus wasn’t deliberately engineered in a lab, and they offer evidence that I can easily understand why this is so, I accept what they tell me. I am not a biologist nor an epidemiologist, who am I to dispute them? More to the point, I do not have any reason to dispute what they say. Even more to the point still, I’m not going to assert that they are wrong and insist, without evidence, that everyone who doesn’t believe what I say and disbelieves what they say is stupid.

Before I go on, I want to make one thing clear. The possibility that coronavirus could have evolved at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and been accidentally released from there is being legitimately looked at. That is not the same thing as the Bond Villain-variety notion that it was deliberately created as a bioweapon and is being used by some dark force in the world to disrupt the world economy. There is absolutely no evidence of that, and there is very strong forensic evidence that not only is that not the case, it is highly unlikely. As I pointed out in a previous article, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 defies all computer models. Based on computer models, no one could have predicted that it would have had any significant harmful effect on humans. That it does has completely surprised everyone.

Also, I’m not going to go into the absurd-on-its-face idiocy that coronavirus is a byproduct of 5G technology. There are some conspiracy theories that are so risible — like the Alex Jones stuff of, say, 9/11 “Trutherism,” or the moon hoax theory, or flat-earthers — as to be beneath contempt, and do not even merit a response. Such lunacies are so silly they haven’t even risen to the dignity of mere error.

We ought to see clearly by now how dangerous it is when we let bad theories govern us. Because the president of the United States is stupid and given to believing stupid theories, tens of thousands of Americans have died, and hundreds of thousands more will probably die before this awful pandemic is done with us. That is the direct consequence of belief in bad theories. That is also the direct consequence of having to endure nine more months of the presidency of this child-raping murderer. America had the chance to boot him out of office in January and the Republicans blew it.

New York Post, Jacksonville beach packed as Florida coronavirus cases hit record, Sara Dorn, April 18, 2020. Floridians didn’t waste any time getting back to the sun and surf when beaches and parks were reopened in Jacksonville — the same day the state clocked a record number of coronavirus cases.

Crowds were seen cheering and rushing the beach as police removed the barriers around 5 p.m. Friday, CNN reported. Aerial photos show hundreds of people packing the sand to swim, stroll, surf and fish. Many were without masks.

“We all live on it, so it has been torture looking at it and not being able to be out here,” one beachgoer told CNN.

Jacksonville opened beaches from 6-11 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. daily, with some restrictions including no sunbathing or lounging in chairs or on blankets.

“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Mayor Lenny Curry reportedly said.

Curry made the call after Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light for some municipalities to begin reopening beaches.

Police were seen warning people who didn’t adhere to the no-sunbathing rule, according to photos posted to social media, while a flyover sign warned people: “Do your part. Stay 6 feet apart. Help keep beaches open.”

Florida announced 1,400 new cases Friday, the highest 24-hour toll since the pandemic began.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump’s stooge Lindsey Graham suddenly has a big problem, Bill Palmer, April 18, 2020. Lindsey Graham has attached himself at the hip to Donald Trump with a uniquely unhinged and fanatical fervor that we haven’t seen in American politics since Lindsey Graham attached himself at the hip to the late John McCain. As Graham continues to unravel, and Trump continues to see his approval rating drop, the question has been whether Graham will pay the price accordingly.

bill palmer report logo headerEven though Lindsey Graham represents the traditionally deep red state of South Carolina, these are not normal times. Graham, right, is up for reelection, and scattered polling suggests that his Democratic opponent Jaime Harrison is only a few points behind. Considering Graham’s built-in name recognition, it’s not a good sign for a high profile incumbent to barely be Lindsey Grahamahead at this point in the race. Now Graham is getting worse news.

In a sign of just how fed up people are with Lindsey Graham and his puppet master Donald Trump, disclosures show that Jaime Harrison significantly out-fundraised Graham in the month of March. When you consider the fact that Graham has nearly thirty years of political connections to tap into, and the fact that Graham is generally for sale to the highest bidder, it’s all the more remarkable that an upstart candidate like Harrison is out-fundraising him.

Jaime Harrison tweeted this in response to the news: “This is the first time Lindsey Graham has been outraised in two decades. Thanks to all of you, he’s in for the fight of his political career. Let’s get this done, South Carolina!”

U.S. 2020 Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he’s already choosing a presidential transition team, Sean Sullivan, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). The presumptive Democratic nominee is considering elevating to the Cabinet-level offices on climate change and global health security.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said Thursday that he has started assembling a presidential transition team and is considering whether to elevate an official tasked with addressing pandemics to his Cabinet.

joe biden 2020 button CustomSpeaking at a virtual fundraiser, Biden said the process has been underway for several weeks. The former vice president effectively clinched the nomination just last week, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suspended his campaign.

Discussions are underway about the prospect of elevating some White House offices to Cabinet-level positions, Biden said. Among those that will be under consideration for the Cabinet: The Office of Science and Technology Policy; the global health security pandemic office; and a separate climate change operation that “goes beyond the EPA,” he said.

Biden’s campaign has focused heavily on the pandemic in recent weeks, as he has been forced by coronavirus restrictions to live-stream events from his Delaware home, where he installed a video studio in his basement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans should worry about the Senate, Jennifer Rubin, April 17, 2020. The numbers do not look promising for jennifer rubin new headshotRepublicans to retain their Senate majority. In key states, Republicans incumbents’ approval has tumbled and Democratic challengers have out-fundraised them.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), below left, whose pusillanimity has become comic (e.g., she finds President Trump’s conduct during the pandemic “very uneven”), now has an approval rating of 37 percent with a disapproval rating of 52 percent. (Compare that to Susan Collinsthe 60-percent approval for Maine’s Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.)

Meanwhile, “Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon raised $7.1 million during the first quarter of 2020, surpassing Collins after the incumbent had already set a record for the most fundraising during a Maine campaign.” Gideon has raised a total of $14.8 million; Collins, $13.2 million (although Collins has a million more in cash on hand.)

Arizona is becoming a disaster zone for Republicans. In the most recent poll, Democrat Mark Kelly (husband of gun safety activist Gabrielle Giffords and a former astronaut) leads appointed incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally by nine points. He leads in the RealClearPolitics averages by eight points. Political scientist Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball now rates the race as “leans Democrat.”

thom tillisNorth Carolina has also turned dicey for Republicans. Incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, right, is in a statistical dead heat in the RCP averages with Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham. One poll has Tillis’s approval rating at a dreadful 26 percent. Cunningham also had a massive fundraising haul in the first quarter, raising $4.4 million. Sabato rates this race as a toss-up.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is the underdog in a race against former Democratic governor John Hickenlooper, with most analysts suggesting the race favors Hickenlooper. Gardner has more cash on hand, but Hickenlooper substantially out-raised him in the first quarter ($4.1 million vs. $2.5 million).

Should Democrats win all four seats but lose Alabama, the Senate would stand at 50-50, with the party that wins the White House able to cast the deciding votes via the vice president. However, the problems do not stop with these four races for Republicans.

Democrats are outpacing Republican incumbents in Kentucky ($12.9 million vs. $7.5 million) and South Carolina ($7.4 million vs. $5.7 million). (Sen. Lindsey Graham is at left.)

Even in Kansas, “Barbara Bollier — a Democratic state senator running for the seat that will be vacated by the retiring Republican senator, Pat Roberts — drew more than $2.3 million in the first three months of the year, compared with the roughly $240,000 received by her likely Republican opponent, Kris Kobach.” Democratic polling outfit Public Policy Polling had Bollier leading Kobach by 2 points in its poll this week. (Kobach, you will recall, was sanctioned by a court for misconduct in his voting fraud escapades and lost the governor’s race in 2018.) In Montana, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock remains the underdog to defeat incumbent Sen. Steve Daines (R), but there too Bullock has out-raised ($3.3 million) the incumbent ($1.2 million).

Democrats almost certainly won’t win all these races. But with so many races in play and Democrats raising money like gangbusters, their chances of netting enough seats to gain the majority increase substantially. By contrast, there is no Democratic-held seat other than Alabama that is remotely in play. Given Democrats’ fundraising success, Republicans will need to spend money in lots of places and eventually need to decide which candidates to cut off so as to minimize their losses.

We should keep in mind that we are more than six months from Election Day and that Trump will handily win some red states (e.g., Montana and Kansas), making it harder for down-ticket Democrats. Nevertheless, at this stage, the smart money would be on Democrats at least getting a 50-50 draw.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Trump administration is muzzling government scientists. It’s essential to let them speak candidly to the press margaret sullivan 2015 photoagain, Margaret Sullivan, April 17, 2020. Kathryn Foxhall remembers a time when reporters could call up any doctor or researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and ask them questions on the record. A journalist might even get them to open up for a “background” interview, offering candid information on the condition the expert’s name would not be used.

“There was the official story and then there was everything else,” the former editor of the Nation’s Health, an industry publication, told me. “We took this for granted.”

Foxhall watched with dismay as that openness disintegrated radically over the past two decades. Federal agencies, including the CDC, began to require media inquiries to go through a public information officer. Direct contact was minimized and tightly monitored. Interviews might take place with a public-relations “minder” present.

When the coronavirus pandemic arrived, the situation got much worse.

world health organization logo CustomSuddenly, the filter between journalists and experts became even more opaque — and much more politicized. Who got to speak publicly, including to the news media, was controlled by Vice President Pence’s office after he was put in charge of the administration’s pandemic response.

The new restrictions are dangerous, said Anna Diakun, staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which this month sued the CDC for the release of records about White House and CDC policies that may keep the agency’s employees from speaking to the press and public.

“The White House is promoting inaccurate and misleading claims about the pandemic, even as it is restricting CDC employees from speaking to the press and the public,” she said.

She told me what’s happening amounts to a “gag order” on the very experts that the public needs to hear from directly. And it may be a violation of constitutionally protected free speech.

While conflicting information about the pandemic has made expert opinion especially crucial right now, the underlying free-speech issue has been building for a long time.

“This problem predates President Trump and the epidemic by 20 years,” Foxhall said. And she’s been battling it for years, working with the Society of Professional Journalists to survey journalists about the restrictive practices they have grown accustomed to — and, in her view, have failed to fight back against strongly enough.

Journalists work around these constraints instead of challenging them, she believes, and it’s the public that loses out because the press can no longer get the full picture of what’s happening inside federal agencies.

I talked about the broader free-speech issues with Frank LoMonte, media law professor and director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. Like Foxhall, LoMonte believes these times demand more pushback against free-speech restrictions.

“There’s a widespread misperception that you check all your free-speech rights at the door when you take a job,” LoMonte said, talking about government workers as well as those employed by private corporations. But the courts have said that’s not true: Citizens often have the right to speak out, particularly about working conditions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz aren’t coronavirus experts. So why are they talking about it on TV news? Paul Farhi and Elahe Izad, April 18, 2020 (print ed.). Some cable networks’ willingness to let pundits opine on topics beyond their expertise draws pushback as the celebrity doctors tackle covid-19, lockdowns and other life-and-death matters.

Dr. Phil had much to say about the coronavirus lockdown the other night on Fox News.

“Look, the fact of the matter is we have people dying — 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes,” the talk-show host said Thursday, “but we don’t shut the country down for that. But yet we’re doing it for this?”

Social media quickly erupted with fury and derision as viewers pointed out the hopeless apples-to-orangeness of his argument: Cars and tobacco aren’t exactly communicable diseases; and both, in fact, have inspired extensive government regulations to limit injuries and death. (The TV shrink was also widely mocked for making a comparison to swimming-pool deaths using a bogus statistic inflated by a factor of nearly 100.)

But the interview raised deeper concerns: Why was Dr. Phil — not a medical doctor but a clinical psychologist with no special knowledge about the politics, science or economics of the shutdown — on a TV news channel talking about the topic in the first place?

9-11 Attack Research

ae 911 freefall correction request graphic Custom

Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth (AE911Truth) "Free Fall" radio show: Request for Correction: What It Means and How NIST Might Respond, ae for 9 11 truth logoAn Interview with Mick Harrison and Ted Walter, April 18, 2020. On this week’s episode of "9/11 Free Fall," attorney Mick Harrison and AE911Truth Director of Strategy Ted Walter join host Andy Steele for an in-depth discussion of the request for correction submitted to NIST earlier this week regarding the agency's 2008 report on the destruction of World Trade Center Building 7.

The 100-page request for correction, which is signed by ten 9/11 family members, 88 architects and structural engineers, and AE911Truth, represents the most serious challenge to date against NIST's World Trade Center investigation.

9/11 Free Fall recently moved from an hour-long to a half-hour format. We hope you’ll be able to tune in for this episode or read the full interview.

April 17

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Public Health Top Headlines

Rallying The Base?

Virus Victims

Potential Cures, Predictions

china flag SmallWorld News

U.S. 2020 Politics

Pandemic Politics / Media

U.S. Courts, Law

9/11 Attack Research

 

Public Health Top Stories

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Axios, Ingredients for mayhem — Trump fuels protests, Mike Allen, April 17, 2020. Trump accelerates the unrest. Today President Trump began fueling reopening protests in some blue states.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Why it matters: Governors have in place strong public health restrictions and are likely to want to continue to hold the line for some time to come. This was a position Trump publicly supported as recently as yesterday.

Michigan in particular has a bad coronavirus outbreak, with a lockdown from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that's among the most severe nationwide. The ingredients for mayhem, via Axios' Jonathan Swan:

• Deepening economic desperation: 22 million have filed for jobless benefits, with a second wave of layoffs already underway. More help appears to be coming for small businesses, but Congress is still haggling.

• Conservative TV and talk radio influencers encouraging protests: "People instinctively know now that however bad this is, it isn't as bad as they all told us," Rush Limbaugh told listeners yesterday.

• Early signs of big conservative donor money getting behind the protests: In Michigan, one protest was planned by the political adviser to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, WashPost reports.

• Police departments are stressed: Hundreds of police officers have been quarantined for coronavirus exposure, with some dying. Multiple departments nationwide have reported issues getting PPE.

Between the lines: As we reported in yesterday's PM, public support is strongly on the side of social distancing.

• 66% of Americans are concerned state governments will lift restrictions too quickly.
• 73% say the worst is yet to come from the outbreak.

The bottom line: It surely can't be helping individuals and businesses to have the yo-yo effect created by federal and state officials openly arguing about timelines that involve life and death.

washington post logogretchen whitmer CustomWashington Post, Live Updates: ‘Better to be six feet apart right now than six feet under,’ Michigan governor says; Texas announces dates for relaxing some restrictions, Staff reports, April 17, 2020. In National Army Day parade, Iran pays tribute to those fighting coronavirus. Taylor Swift cancels all her 2020 shows. Death rates in many states will likely peak after May 1, new model says.

djt i dont take responsibility at all

New Yorker, Analysis: Trump’s Pandemic Plan: “Absolute Authority,” No Responsibility, Susan B. Glasser, April 17, 2020. The novel coronavirus New Yorker logobrings out the same old, same old President.

"This might seem a head-spinning reversal. But it is classic Trump. His two most memorable lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, proclaiming “absolute authority” and “no responsibility at all,” are wildly contradictory, and yet also completely consistent with his approach to governing. The novel coronavirus is truly a new type of American crisis, but it has been met by the same old, same old from America’s President: unhinged press conferences and unfounded conspiracy theories; lies, attacks, and bizarre non sequiturs; and abrupt, seemingly incomprehensible policy shifts from a leader who has no problem changing course at the expense of his own credibility."

"Trump started the week by declaring, at his Monday press conference, “The President of the United States calls the shots.” In a rambling, outrage-filled performance that began with what appeared to be a Trump campaign ad featuring his Fox News confidant Sean Hannity and ended with his sweeping assertion of executive power, Trump claimed that he had the total authority to override governors and singlehandedly determine whether, when, and how each state would reopen its economy."

"Even in making the most sweeping claim of his Presidency, to have “absolute power” over the states in the pandemic, Trump on Monday was not so much making a novel assertion as reverting to one of his favorite rhetorical devices."

"From the start of his Presidency, Trump has claimed the “absolute right” to do an astonishing array of things. Indeed, the list of those previously undeclared and previously unknown Presidential rights and authorities is so long and disparate that the only thing they seem to have in common is the fact that Trump has claimed to have them. In just the past few months, the President has asserted the “absolute right” to fire the intelligence-community inspector general, whose handing of a whistle-blower complaint eventually triggered Trump’s impeachment, as well as the “absolute right” to interfere in the federal sentencing process of his friend Roger Stone. Last winter, he asserted the “absolute right” to ask “Other Countries” to investigate corruption, which is the President’s description of his interactions with Ukraine that led to his impeachment."

"Many of Trump’s claims to “absolute” power, however, have proved to be exactly the sort of bluster that accompanied
his overblown rhetoric this week: he wants to be seen as all-powerful in the fight against the pandemic, but without actually exercising the powers he purports to have.

This, also, is vintage Trump. He has, after all, previously asserted the “absolute right” to order American businesses out of China, to eliminate the Constitution’s guarantee of birthright citizenship, and to shut down the U.S.’s entire southern border without ever actually doing any of those things.

Trump repeatedly said he had the “absolute right” to fire the special counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf, although he never did so. He also said that, had the Mueller investigation worked out differently, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” He has not done that yet, either.

Just this week, Trump asserted his power to unilaterally adjourn Congress, a power which has never before been exercised by any President. Has there ever been another President to articulate a view of the Constitution as sweeping as the one that Trump asserts?

“I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President,” Trump famously said last summer.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. deaths reported per day: 34,000, Staff reports, April 17, 2020. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has killed at least 34,180 people in the United States since Feb. 29, when a 58-year-old man near Seattle became the first announced U.S. death. Tens of thousands have since died of the disease, and criteria for reporting deaths has been changing rapidly among states and cities.

The death toll from covid-19 began to rise steadily in early March. By April 13, the virus had killed in every state. Because testing was slow to begin in the United States, health officials agree that the number of reported cases is much lower than the actual number of people who have the disease, and even the count of deaths is probably low because of differences in reporting by overwhelmed local jurisdictions.

New York City, for instance, recently announced it was reclassifying more than 3,700 deaths that were suspected of having covid-19 but never tested. New York state reports confirmed deaths. The official death count is almost certainly an undercount, many researchers say.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Well that escalated quickly, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2020. When the week began, Donald Trump was insisting that he had absolute constitutional authority to force the governors to reopen their states in the middle of a pandemic. Of course he has no such ability, and this remark was met with equal parts condemnation and derisive laughter. Now that Trump has been denied his King-like fantasy, he’s escalating things in a new direction.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump is now posting tweets urging his supporters to “liberate” certain states that are controlled by Democratic governors. In one of these tweets he specifically referenced the Second Amendment, leaving no doubt that he’s specifically calling for domestic terrorist attacks against these governors.

Like every desperate thing Trump is trying these days, this isn’t going to magically work, of course. Some ragtag band of idiots with shotguns won’t be able to overthrow a state government. That’s not what this is about. It’s just that Trump is escalating his insanity by the day. He’s gone from threatening to invoke a part of the Constitution that doesn’t exist, to threatening to have elected leaders in the United States violently overthrown.

washington post logoWashington Post, As testing outcry mounts, Trump yields to states in guidelines for slow reopening, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb, April 17, 2020 (print ed.). Administration officials said that although the federal government will try to facilitate access to tests, states and localities will be responsible for developing and administering their own testing programs.

President Trump released federal guidelines Thursday night for a slow and staggered return to normal in places with minimal cases of the novel coronavirus, moving to try to resume economic activity even amid an outcry from political and health leaders about the nation’s testing capacity.

Despite Trump’s desire for a May 1 reopening, his plan does not contain a date for implementation and is a vague set of recommendations for djt hands up mouth open Customa three-phased reopening of businesses, schools and other gathering places in jurisdictions that satisfy broad criteria on symptoms, cases and hospital loads.

The plan effectively reverses Trump’s claim earlier this week that he had “total authority” to declare the nation reopened. The federal guidelines shift accountability to governors and mayors, placing the onus on them to make decisions for their own states and localities based on their own assessments of the coronavirus’s spread and risk of resurgence.

  • Washington Post, ‘Call your own shots’: Trump leaves reopening states up to their governors, April 17, 2020.

Rallying The Base?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just figured out he’s going to lose. Now what? Bill Palmer, April 17, 2020. At no point during Donald Trump’s presidency has he had an approval rating that was anywhere even close to what would be required to get reelected. He’s spent the past three years trying every antic he can think of, in the name of boosting his approval rating. None of it has helped him one bit.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump has always been on track to lose in 2020. And if he loses, he’ll go to prison, with New York State and the Feds fighting over who gets to handcuff him first. From the minute Trump took office, the reality is that his life was very probably over. The only thing he’s still had going for him is the same hope that any losing candidate has of things turning around before the election.

I’ve long wondered – and feared – what would happen if Trump ever reached a point where he concluded that his odds of reelection were slipping away and weren’t going to bounce back. Imagine a madman on the run who knows his odds of escape are small. Now imagine that madman finally realizes there’s no escape and it’s over for him.

This isn’t some dark science fiction movie, so Trump isn’t going to pull out a magic wand and magically save himself when he realizes he’s toast. Instead he’s going to start self destructing in front of our eyes, because he no longer has any hope to keep him even slightly in check, and in fact he has nothing to lose.

I would argue that Donald Trump’s “liberate” tweets today – direct calls on his part for his most deranged of supporters to violently overthrow the Democratic governors in three states – are a sign that he’s concluded he’s going to lose. So now he’s just going to cause as much trouble as possible.

Virus Victims

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Americans Who Straggled in Good Times, and Now Struggle in a Crisis, Patricia Cohen, April 17, 2020 (print ed.). The pandemic has shown how close to the edge many Americans were living, with pay and benefits eroding even as corporate profits surged.

An indelible image from the Great Depression features a well-dressed family seated with their dog in a comfy car, smiling down from an oversize billboard on weary souls standing in line at a relief agency. “World’s highest standard of living,” the billboard boasts, followed by a tagline: “There’s no way like the American Way.”

The economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has suddenly hurled the country back to that dislocating moment captured in 1937 by the photographer Margaret Bourke-White (Time-Life Photo via Getty Images).

In the updated 2020 version, lines of cars stretch for miles to pick up groceries from a food pantry; jobless workers spend days trying to file for unemployment benefits; renters and homeowners plead with landlords and mortgage bankers for extensions; and outside hospitals, ill patients line up overnight to wait for virus testing.

In an economy that has been hailed for its record-shattering successes, the most basic necessities — food, shelter and medical care — are all suddenly at risk.

The latest crisis has played out in sobering economic data and bleak headlines — most recently on Thursday, when the Labor Department said 5.2 million workers filed last week for unemployment benefits.

That brought the four-week total to 22 million, roughly the net number of jobs created in a nine-and-a-half-year stretch that ended with the pandemic’s arrival.

Certainly, the outbreak and attempts to curb it have created new hardships. But perhaps more significantly, the crisis has revealed profound, longstanding vulnerabilities in the economic system.

“We built an economy with no shock absorbers,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-winning economist. “We made a system that looked like it was maximizing profits but had higher risks and lower resiliency.”

Well before the coronavirus established a foothold, the American economy had been playing out on a split screen.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Dow-at-30,000 Dream Hurt America, Roger Cohen, April 17, 2020. Trump is Mark Twain’s king, the great American con man. It’s the money. With President Trump, that never changes. The Dow at 30,000 was his obsession. Get to that number and the November election was a lock. Maybe even win with 400 Electoral College votes. A landslide!

The index came close. It was at its high of 29,551 on Feb. 12, more than three weeks after President Xi Jinping of China, his disastrous delaying tactics exhausted, warned that the coronavirus outbreak “must be taken seriously.” A Nasdaq record high followed on Feb. 19, almost three weeks after the World Health Organization declared a “global health emergency.”

“We have it totally under control.” That was Trump’s message at the time. Jared Kushner, Trump’s de facto campaign manager, liked that. So did Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary. Don’t spook the markets! Champagne on ice! Trump’s path to re-election involved getting enough Americans to say, I can’t stand this guy but, hell, I’m making money.

This sordid calculation meant the opportunity to avert the Covid-19 disaster was lost. Warnings were ignored. Chaos prevailed, starting at the top with a president who can no more think through a process than feel empathy.

Effective testing was not developed. Medical supplies, masks and protective suits were not procured. As my colleagues have reported, Trump was furious in late February when a blunt warning from a senior health official contributed to a market dive.

“One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear,” Trump said of the virus on Feb. 27.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Those We’ve Lost, Staff report, with photos, updated April 15, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has taken an incalculable death toll. This series is designed to put names and faces to the numbers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Obesity Linked to Severe Coronavirus Disease, Especially for Younger Patients, Roni Caryn Rabin, April 17, 2020 (print ed.). Young adults with obesity are more likely to be hospitalized, even if they have no other health problems, studies show.

Obesity may be one of the most important predictors of severe coronavirus illness, new studies say. It’s an alarming finding for the United States, which has one of the highest obesity rates in the world.

American FlagThough people with obesity frequently have other medical problems, the new studies point to the condition in and of itself as the most significant risk factor, after only older age, for being hospitalized with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Young adults with obesity appear to be at particular risk, studies show.

The research is preliminary, and not peer reviewed, but it buttresses anecdotal reports from doctors who say they have been struck by how many seriously ill younger patients of theirs with obesity are otherwise healthy.

No one knows why obesity makes Covid-19 worse, but hypotheses abound.

Some coronavirus patients with obesity may already have compromised respiratory function that preceded the infection. Abdominal obesity, more prominent in men, can cause compression of the diaphragm, lungs and chest capacity. Obesity is known to cause chronic, low-grade inflammation and an increase in circulating, pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may play a role in the worst Covid-19 outcomes.

Some 42 percent of American adults — nearly 80 million people — live with obesity. That is a prevalence rate far exceeding those of other countries hit hard by the coronavirus, like China and Italy.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Economy Shrinks, Ending a Nearly Half-Century of Growth, Keith Bradsher, updated April 17, 2020. The contraction comes at a time when the rest of the world needs an economic boost, underscoring how momentous the task of reviving the global economy will be.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought China’s extraordinary, nearly half-century-long run of growth to an end — a stark reminder of the enormous task ahead for world leaders trying to restart the global economy.

china flag SmallChinese officials on Friday said that the world’s second-largest economy shrank 6.8 percent in the first three months of the year compared with a year ago, ending a streak of untrammeled growth that survived the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the SARS epidemic and even the global financial crisis. The data reflects China’s drastic efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, which included shutting down most factories and offices in January and February as the outbreak sickened tens of thousands of people.

The stark numbers make clear how monumental the challenge of getting the global economy back on its feet will be. Since it emerged from abject poverty and isolation more than 40 years ago, China has become perhaps the world’s single most important growth engine, one that lifted fortunes during previous times of trouble, like the financial crisis.

Now China is trying to restart its vast, $14 trillion economy, an effort that could give the rest of the world a much-needed shot in the arm. The coronavirus’s spread to the United States and Europe, which froze the economies there, has led to forecasts that the world’s output could shrink far more this year than it did even during the financial crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Smugglers sawed into Trump’s border wall 18 times in one month in San Diego area, records show, Nick Miroff, April 17, 2020. Records The Post obtained via the Freedom of Information Act show numerous breaches of a barrier President Trump has characterized as impermeable.

The breaches and attempted breaches were made between Sept. 27 and Oct. 27, according to CBP records, with five of the incidents occurring on a single day, Oct. 10. The agency withheld information about the specific locations of the incidents, citing law enforcement sensitivities. The agency said the average cost to repair the damage was $620 per incident.

Potential Virus Cures, Predictions

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. stocks soar after drug trial shows promise, Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath​, April 17, 2020. The Dow jumped 600 points at the open as investors seized on early reports that the antiviral medicine remdesivir was effective in a small trial with covid-19 patients with severe symptoms.

Stocks flashed green around the world as investors clung to early reports that an antiviral medicine appeared to successfully treat severe symptoms for coronavirus patients.

The Dow Jones industrial average initially surged 600 points at Friday’s open but pared its gains to about 390 points, or 1.7 percent, by late morning. The Standard & Poor’s 500 jumped 1.5 percent and Nasdaq composite climbed 0.85 percent.

U.S. markets appeared headed toward their second straight week of gains, bouncing back from March lows that ended the 10-year bull market. The rally came a day after dismal economic numbers showed the United States had erased all job gains of the past decade due to the pandemic, which continues to force tens of millions of Americans to stay home and disrupt entire industries.

On Thursday, STAT news reported that severely ill coronavirus patients were responding well to remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug, at a Chicago hospital. The trial involved only 125 people and the preliminary results were not peer reviewed, but it was welcome news for investors looking for light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and the economic recovery that will come with it. Gilead shares spiked nearly 8 percent after the open.

washington post logoWashington Post, Here are the drugs that could treat the virus. Don’t expect a magic bullet, Christopher Rowland, April 17, 2020 (print ed.). With vaccines at least a year away, governments, companies and independent labs are testing myriad drugs in an urgent quest for a treatment to offer people with life-threatening symptoms a better chance for survival.

The roster of potential therapies includes new antivirals, older antivirals designed to fight HIV, anti-inflammatory drugs used for rheumatoid arthritis, stem cell therapies that could harness the immune system, antiparasitic drugs that treat malaria and head lice, and even treatments for erectile dysfunction.

None of them so far has offered the magic bullet the world is seeking, and expectations need to be tempered, according to specialists.

“It’s hard to speculate whether one is going to be a breakthrough. Very few treatments in medicine end up being breakthrough treatments. They provide incremental benefit over standard of care,” said James Cutrell, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who surveyed the landscape of possible coronavirus treatments for a paper published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump’s false claim that the WHO said the coronavirus was ‘not communicable,’ Glenn Kessler, April 17, 2020. The president’s announcement that he would suspend payments to the World Health Organization in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic contained a number of false or misleading claims.

He faulted the WHO for believing that China was doing a good job and praising its transparency — when he had done the same thing at the time. He claimed the WHO “fought” his decision to impose some restrictions on travel from China, but WHO officials said nothing publicly; opposition to travel restrictions has been a consistent WHO policy.

U.S. 2020 Politics

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Tara Reade, Joe Biden and the limitations of journalism, Monica Hesse, April 17, 2020 (print ed.). Reporters can’t always clear away the fog. Being a journalist reporting on sexual assault allegations is a delicate, humbling, horrifying task, which feels worse than any other task except for the alternative: not reporting on the allegations — allowing an accuser’s pursuit of justice or an accused’s pursuit of exoneration to wither in your voicemail.

This week, The Washington Post and the New York Times both published lengthy investigations into a sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden — an account that had previously been reported via the Intercept and on a podcast, and which the Biden campaign denies.

Tara Reade (shown above), who worked in Biden’s Senate office in 1992 and 1993, last year came forward to say that Biden had touched her neck and shoulders when she was in his employ. She has now expanded that account with a more serious charge:

Reporters didn’t have access to the full police report; it’s not public. And, unlike the legal system, reporters don’t have the power to subpoena witnesses and compel truthful testimony; key players can decline to comment at any moment. And news outlets can’t sentence individuals to prison, and they cannot know, with 100 percent certainty, exactly what happened on congressional grounds or at parties or in basements or with powerful celebrities 20 or 30 years ago.

The profession has limitations, memory has limitations, people have limitations.

I know all of this, and yet, even as I read the account I found myself thinking the same things I thought during Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s hearings or while reading accounts of a molestation accusation against Woody Allen or with any number of other accusations regarding long-ago events: Solve this. Show us the smoking gun, or the indisputable security-camera footage, or the telltale lie. Produce an old roommate, an old diary. Eliminate all doubt, so we don’t have to live with it.

Voters stand in a long line in the pouring rain outside Marshall High School in Milwaukee, WI, on April 7, 2020. Poll workers passed out garbage bags for people to use for protection from the storm. Photo: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)  

 Voters stand in a long line in the pouring rain outside Marshall High School in Milwaukee, WI, on April 7, 2020. Poll workers passed out garbage bags for people to use for protection from the storm. Photo credit: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Badger State Shame: What Actually Happened in Wisconsin, Jeff Schechtman, April 17, 2020.  While some people are happy with the outcome of Wisconsin’s primary, the ongoing litigation is a reminder that what happened there on April 7 is an omen of bad things to come as the coronavirus pandemic meets electoral politics.

In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, we listen to a conversation between Emily Levy, founder and director of the nonprofit election integrity project Scrutineers.org, and Summer Murshid, a lawyer and election integrity activist who works on the ground in Wisconsin.

Pandemic Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, How governments in U.S. and worldwide are using people’s phones in attempt to fight virus, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Drew Harwell and Tony Romm, April 17, 2020. Data long considered personal and sensitive is now being used to track the coronavirus's spread. But it's unclear that such data will help in the absence of traditional contact tracing methods.

  • Washington Post, , Laura Reiley, April 17, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill Gates, at Odds With Trump on Virus, Becomes a Right-Wing Target, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Davey Alba and Marc Tracy, April 17, 2020. The  Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist has been attacked with falsehoods that he created the coronavirus and wants to profit from it.

In a 2015 speech, Bill Gates warned that the greatest risk to humanity was not nuclear war but an infectious virus that could threaten the lives of millions of people.

bill gatesThat speech has resurfaced in recent weeks with 25 million new views on YouTube — but not in the way that Mr. Gates probably intended. Anti-vaccinators, members of the conspiracy group QAnon and right-wing pundits have instead seized on the video as evidence that one of the world’s richest men planned to use a pandemic to wrest control of the global health system.

Mr. Gates, 64, the Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist, has now become the star of an explosion of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus outbreak. In posts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, he is being falsely portrayed as the creator of Covid-19, as a profiteer from a virus vaccine, and as part of a dastardly plot to use the illness to cull or surveil the global population.

The wild claims have gained traction with conservative pundits like Laura Ingraham and anti-vaccinators such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as Mr. Gates has emerged as a vocal counterweight to President Trump on the coronavirus. For weeks, Mr. Gates has appeared on TV, on op-ed pages and in Reddit forums calling for stay-at-home policies, expanded testing and vaccine development. And without naming Mr. Trump, he has criticized the president’s policies, including this week’s move to cut funding to the World Health Organization.

Misinformation about Mr. Gates is now the most widespread of all coronavirus falsehoods tracked by Zignal Labs, a media analysis company. The misinformation includes more than 16,000 posts on Facebook this year about Mr. Gates and the virus that were liked and commented on nearly 900,000 times, according to a New York Times analysis. On YouTube, the 10 most popular videos spreading lies about Mr. Gates posted in March and April were viewed almost five million times.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The hoax industry and its main hucksters, Wayne Madsen, April 17, 2020. Currently, Trump's team of wayne madesen report logomisfits, freaks, and racists are targeting the governors and legislatures of several states over the imposition of coronavirus stay-at-home and closure orders.

The medium that created Trump as a virtual political cartoon character, television, is now providing him and his supporters with phony advice and encouragement from a group of phony doctors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fauci dismisses dodgy premises in Laura Ingraham interview, Aaron Blake, April 17, 2020. April 17, 2020. The Fox News host’s interview with Dr. Phil is getting a lot of attention, but it might have been her interview with an actual medical doctor, Anthony S. Fauci, that best spotlighted conservative media’s suspect coverage of the coronavirus.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s interview with Dr. Phil is getting all the attention this morning. But it might have been her interview Thursday with an actual medical doctor, Anthony S. Fauci, that best spotlighted conservative media’s odd, speculative and suspect coverage of the coronavirus.

Ingraham has been one of the leading conservative skeptics of health officials’ response to the virus. She has repeatedly attacked the models used to project death tolls and argued that those officials have oversold the threat and ruined the economy by hijacking public policy.

So welcoming Fauci to her show would have seemed a good opportunity to press perhaps the most preeminent figure on these issues. For Ingraham, though, it didn’t turn out so well.

Perhaps the most glaring problem with her interview with Fauci is that she didn’t even bring up the models that she has repeatedly attacked and offered as evidence of an overzealous response. Nor did she reiterate her past suggestions that Fauci has inappropriately taken over the decision-making process in the federal government.

At one point, she questioned the idea of not fully returning to business as usual until we have a vaccine.

“Dr. Fauci, on the question of a vaccine: We don’t have a vaccine for SARS,” she said, adding: “We don’t have a vaccine for HIV. And life did go on, right?”

Fauci rejected the comparison.

“Well, no, but Laura, this is different,” he said. “HIV/AIDS is entirely different. We don’t have a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, but we have spectacularly effective treatment. People who invariably would have died years ago right now are leading essentially normal lives. SARS is a different story. SARS disappeared.”

U.S. Courts, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen’s attorney says Trump’s ex-lawyer allowed to leave prison due to pandemic, Matt Zapotosky, April 17, 2020. michael cohen ap file croppedA lawyer for Michael Cohen, right, President Trump’s former personal attorney, said Thursday that he had been informed by Cohen’s family that Cohen will be released to home confinement as part of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ push to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Roger Adler, a lawyer for Cohen, said that he had filed paperwork with prison officials seeking “compassionate release” for Cohen during the global health pandemic because Cohen had “an underlying medical condition that he has been hospitalized for.”

He said it was his “understanding from speaking with a family member” that the request had been granted, and that Cohen will soon be moved to home confinement.

9/11 Attack Research

Dr. Leroy Hulsey trailer thumb headshot Custom

Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth (AE911Truth), Commentary: A Teaser for the Much-Anticipated Building 7 Documentary, Staff report, April 17, ae for 9 11 truth logo2020. We at Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth are thrilled to release a short teaser for our upcoming documentary on Building 7 and the University of Alaska Fairbanks study led by Dr. Leroy Hulsey, shown above.

We’ve got to bring this film to millions, so please share the teaser widely and stay tuned for updates on our forthcoming release of the film!

April 16

Public Health Top Stories

U.S. Pandemic Politics / Relief / Oversight

Virus Victims

2020 U.S. Elections, Politics

U.S. Courts, Politics

Climate Change / U.S. Drought

World News

U.S. Media News 

 

Public Health Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. now has 22 million unemployed as economy sinks toward Depression-like scenario, Heather Long, April 16, 2020. us labor department logoLast week, 5.2 million people filed unemployment claims, bringing the total to 22 million in the four weeks since President Trump declared a national emergency.

Last week, 5.2 million people filed unemployment insurance claims, the Labor Department reported Thursday, making it one of the biggest spikes ever, although a smaller figure than the 6.6 million people who applied the week before and the record 6.9 million people who applied the week that ended on March 28.

The United States has not seen this level of job loss since the Great Depression, and the government is struggling to respond fast enough to the deadly coronavirus health crisis and the economic crisis triggered by shutting down so American Flagmany businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

A growing number of economists warn that recovering from the “Great Lockdown” is going to take a long time, and millions of Americans are likely to remain out of a job through the end of the year. Even after parts of the economy reopen, unless there is widespread testing or a vaccine, people are going to remain fearful of venturing out again to restaurants or offices, many experts say.

In addition to health concerns, Americans typically slash their spending when they see widespread job losses and pay cuts among their friends and family members, another issue likely to prevent a rapid recovery.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Is Not Testing Enough to Lift Stay-at-Home Orders, Officials Say, Abby Goodnough, Katie Thomas and Sheila covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Kaplan, April 16, 2020 (print ed.).  From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, lapses by the federal government have compromised efforts to detect the pathogen.

As President Trump pushes to reopen the economy, most of the country is not conducting nearly enough testing to track the path and penetration of the coronavirus in a way that would allow Americans to safely return to work, public health officials us navyand political leaders say.

Although capacity has improved in recent weeks, supply shortages remain crippling, and many regions are still restricting tests to people andrew cuomowho meet specific criteria. Antibody tests, which reveal whether someone has ever been infected with the coronavirus, are just starting to be rolled out, and most have not been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration.

Concerns intensified on Wednesday as Senate Democrats released a $30 billion plan for building up what they called “fast, free testing in every community,” saying they would push to include it in the next pandemic relief package. Business leaders, who participated in the first conference call of Mr. Trump’s advisory council on restarting the economy, warned that it would not rebound until people felt safe to re-emerge, which would require more screening.

And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right, of New York reiterated his call for federal assistance to ramp up testing, both for the virus and for antibodies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Weighs Push to Track Virus as Part of Reopening Plan, Staff reports, April 16, 2020. President Trump is expected to announce that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hire hundreds of people to perform contact tracing.

djt mike pence white house briefing unsourced Custom CustomIt also cites the president’s harassment of media companies — he has threatened regulatory action against corporate owners — and his reelection campaign’s recent lawsuits against The Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN for opinion columns it disputed.

A history of the Trump War on Media — the obsession not even coronavirus could stop

The document is based on interviews with nearly 40 journalists, press freedom advocates, academics, media lawyers, and current and former administration officials, including Michael Dubke, who served briefly as Trump’s White House communications director.

Dubke, who largely defended Trump’s approach to the news media in the report, nevertheless endorsed its conclusion that Trump has emboldened foreign leaders to crack down on their own news media. “What concerns me is that authoritarian leaders who had already placed restrictions on their press are using President Trump’s words to justify what they are doing,” he is quoted in the report as saying. “It’s convenient for them to do so.”

djt council to reopen america fox

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s ‘Opening Our Country Council’ Runs Into Its Own Opening Problems, Annie Karni, Kate Kelly and David Gelles, updated April 16, 2020. The president conducted calls with his new industry groups. But some participants had no notice they would be included, and others could not join.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Some business leaders had no idea they were included until they heard that their names had been read in the Rose Garden on Tuesday night by President Trump. Some of those who had agreed to help said they received little information on what, exactly, they were signing up for. And others who were willing to connect with the White House could not participate in hastily organized conference calls on Wednesday because of scheduling conflicts and technical difficulties.

In short, the rollout of what the president referred to last week as his “Opening Our Country Council” was as confusing as the process of getting there. Instead of a formal council, what Mr. Trump announced on Tuesday was a watered-down version that included 17 separate industry groups, including hospitality, banking, energy and “thought leaders.” And on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers received emails inviting them to join another task force.

The president participated in four calls with those groups during the day at the same time White House officials were playing down their significance, claiming that the creation of a “task force” was never planned, despite the president’s mention of it last week.

They said that there was no date for an in-person meeting planned, and that the goal was simply to begin, via conference calls, a dialogue about the economy after the pandemic recedes. The only task force that existed, they insisted, was the coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence.

The confusion was the latest example of the difficulty the administration has encountered in its attempts to enlist support from the private sector to bolster the president’s claim that he has the power to reopen the economy, even as governors have made it clear that they will make those decisions themselves.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Weighs Push to Track Virus as Part of Reopening Plan, Staff reports, April 16, 2020. President Trump is expected to announce that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hire hundreds of people to perform contact tracing.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House of Representatives could soon change its rules to allow for an alternative to in-person voting as Congress remains in an extended recess because of the pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Trump is expected to call for more contact tracing as he seeks to reopen the country.

• House Democrats consider remote voting as Congress remains in an extended recess.

• The $349 billion lending program for small businesses has run out of funds.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Call your own shots’: Trump’s guidelines for reopening states will leave it up to governors, Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim and Felicia Sonmez, April 16, 2020. The guidance lists a set of criteria — such as testing and hospital capacity — for state leaders to use in making their decisions.

The White House released new guidance late Thursday afternoon for states to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the decisions up to governors to make on a statewide or county-by-county level.

The guidance, which will be formally announced during a 6 p.m. news conference, doesn’t lay out a specific timeline for relaxing social distancing restrictions. It lists a set of criteria — such as testing and hospital capacity — for state leaders to use in making their decisions.

On a conference call earlier Thursday, Trump told governors, “You’re going to call your own shots,” according to a recording of the call obtained by The Washington Post. But he emphasized that the federal government will support the states.

Trump told the governors they had “leeway” on testing, without getting into details.

U.S. Pandemic Politics / Relief / Oversight

ny times logosba logo new Custom CustomNew York Times, Small-Business Aid Funds Running Dry as Program Fails to Reach Hardest Hit, Jim Tankersley, Emily Cochrane and Emily Flitter, April 16, 2020 (print ed.). Lawmakers remain at odds on how to replenish a lending program meant to help companies and workers weather the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 2,400 U.S. coronavirus deaths reported Wednesday, Antonia Noori Farzan, Rick Noack, Brittany Shammas, Michael Brice-Saddler, Teo Armus, John Wagner, Meryl Kornfield and Miriam Berger, April 16, 2020. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 2 million worldwide on Wednesday, though experts say the virus has in all likelihood infected far more people.

The outbreak has spread across all continents except Antarctica, with a known death toll of 120,000 people. Nearly a quarter of the global deaths have been reported in the United States, including more than 2,400 on Wednesday alone as leaders in Washington and around the country grapple with how to safely lift restrictions.

Here are some significant developments:

  • At Wednesday’s White House coronavirus briefing, President Trump threatened to shut down both chambers of Congress to allow him to fill vacancies in his administration without Senate approval.
  • The director of the World Health Organization said he is “reviewing the impact on our work of any withdrawal of U.S. funding” after Trump said he intends to halt payments to the U.N. agency. Close U.S. allies said they disagreed with the move and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Trump’s decision is “dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged.”

washington post logoWashington Post, With roughly a quarter of the population out of work, virus unleashes economic havoc in Michigan, Tony Romm, April 16, 2020. More than a quarter of the state's workforce is now trying to obtain unemployment aid, state officials said this week, offering a once-unfathomable illustration of the economic carnage wrought by the coronavirus.

More than a decade ago, the Great Recession ravaged manufacturing and imperiled cities here from Saginaw to Detroit, leaving people homeless, jobless, hungry, and in some cases, struggling to get aid. Recovery came slowly, and unequally, as many state programs were slashed and some factory jobs never returned at all.

Now, state and local leaders find themselves grappling with a more dire threat: a global health emergency in which Michigan has emerged as a major national hot spot. In response, government officials here are bracing for yet another economic crisis, this time perhaps on the magnitude of the Great Depression.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chanting ‘lock her up,’ Michigan protesters waving Trump flags mass against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s restrictions, Meagan Flynn, April 16, 2020. If all roads in Michigan lead to the state capitol, conservative protesters on Wednesday made sure they were closed.

djt maga hatFor miles, thousands of drivers clogged the streets to demand Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) ease restrictions and allow them to go back to work. They drowned downtown Lansing, Mich., in a cacophony of honking. They blared patriotic songs from car radios, waving all sorts of flags from the windows — President Trump flags, American flags and the occasional Confederate flag.

But in the massive demonstration against Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order — which they have argued is excessive and beyond her authority — the pleas from organizers that protesters to stay in their vehicles went unheeded. Many got out of their cars and crashed the front lawn of the capitol building, with some chanting, “Lock her up!” and “We will not comply!”

Roll Call, Congressional task force to advise White House on post-pandemic economy has wide swath of party rosters, Katherine Tully-McManus, April 16, 2020. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has joined a task force to provide counsel to President Donald Trump and the White House on when to loosen public health restrictions and how to get the economy moving after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump and some of his allies have pushed for a faster lifting of restrictions, stressing that the economic ramifications of job losses and business closures could be worse than the loss of lives from the coronavirus. Public health officials have urged a more gradual approach to loosening social distancing guidelines and sending people back to work, school and daily life. They see a dramatic expansion of testing for the virus as a prerequisite to reopening businesses.

The White House dubbed the 97 lawmakers who make up the task force the “Opening Up America Again Congressional Group,” which includes more than enough senators to end debate on a bill and excludes just one Senate Republican, Utah’s Mitt Romney.

The group includes familiar Trump allies such as Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Lee Zeldin of New York, along with members of House GOP leadership, including Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise and Liz Cheney.

Not in the mix are the Democratic leaders of key House committees such as Appropriations, Financial Services, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means, but the top Republicans on those panels are included. Just 35 senators didn’t make the White House list, including the ranking Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Finance; and Small Business committees.

One top Democrat who did make the task force, Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner, said in a statement that his highest priority would be “to ensure the federal government’s efforts to reopen our economy are bipartisan, data-driven, and based on the expertise of public health professionals.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Banks Keep Customers’ Stimulus Checks if Accounts Are Overdrawn, Emily Flitter and Alan Rappeport, April 16, 2020. Financial institutions can use the government deposits to make up for recipients’ negative balances.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Global Live Updates: Nationalism flares in China as the outbreak recedes, Staff reports, April 16, 2020. Spain's counting of the dead has become bitterly political. Singapore reports a sharp increase in new infections, many of them among migrant laborers. Britain is expected to extend its lockdown by three weeks. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan extended emergency measures from seven prefectures to the entire nation until May 6.

With confirmed cases of the coronavirus surpassing two million worldwide, the divisions in approach in fighting the outbreak and outcomes between those countries past the peak and those in the throes of a crisis are increasingly laid bare.

China FlagAs China, once the center of the epidemic, moves beyond its peak, its success is giving rise to a blend of patriotism, nationalism and xenophobia not seen in decades.

In some countries believed to have brought their outbreaks under control, a second wave has emerged. Singapore, long held up as a model of effective containment strategy, announced on Wednesday evening a record jump in coronavirus cases, with most of the 447 new infections in crowded dormitories for migrant laborers.

Singapore has been lauded for its rigorous contact-tracing program, which identified clusters of local transmission, but the coronavirus spread quickly through crammed residences shared by migrant workers.

Japan said on Thursday that it would move the entire country to an emergency footing as it seeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus before a weeklong national holiday. Experts had warned that the holiday could become an opportunity for the virus to spread to previously unaffected areas and overwhelm the nation’s medical system.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: It’s the End of the World Economy as We Know It, Neil Irwin, April 16, 2020. Experts suggest there will be “a rethink of how much any country wants to be reliant on any other country.”

ny times logoNew York Times, W.H.O., Now Trump’s Scapegoat, Warned About Coronavirus Early and Often, Richard Pérez-Peña and Donald G. McNeil Jr., April 16, 2020. The World Health Organization acted more forcefully than many governments. But President Trump has decided to cut off funding to the organization.

world health organization logo CustomOn Jan. 22, two days after Chinese officials first acknowledged the serious threat posed by the new virus ravaging the city of Wuhan, the chief of the World Health Organization held the first of what would be months of almost daily media briefings, sounding the alarm, telling the world to take the outbreak seriously.

But with its officials divided, the W.H.O., still seeing no evidence of sustained spread of the virus outside of China, declined the next day to declare a global public health emergency. A week later, the organization reversed course and Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)made the declaration.

Those early days of the epidemic illustrated the strengths and weaknesses of the W.H.O., an arm of the United Nations that is now under fire by President Trump, who on Tuesday ordered a cutoff of American funding to the organization.

With limited, constantly shifting information to go on, the W.H.O. showed an early, consistent determination to treat the new contagion like the threat it would become, and to persuade others to do the same. At the same time, the organization repeatedly praised China, acting and speaking with a political caution born of being an arm of the United Nations, with few resources of its own, unable to do its work without international cooperation.

Mr. Trump, deflecting criticism that his own handling of the crisis left the United States unprepared, accused the W.H.O. of mismanaging it, called the organization “very China-centric” and said it had “pushed China’s misinformation.”

But a close look at the record shows that the W.H.O. acted with greater foresight and speed than many national governments, and more than it had shown in previous epidemics. And while it made mistakes, there is little evidence that the W.H.O. is responsible for the disasters that have unfolded in Europe and then the United States.

Virus Victims

washington post logoWashington Post, Grocery delivery was supposed to be the ultimate pandemic lifeline. But it’s falling short, Abha Bhattarai, April 15, 2020 (print ed.). Consumers are reporting weeks-long waits on Instacart, Shipt and other leading platforms as demand far outpaces the supply of available workers and groceries.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, The Coronavirus’s Lost Generation of Students, Editorial Board, April 16, 2020. America’s schoolchildren will need help catching up. The learning setbacks that schoolchildren commonly experience over a summer vacation can easily wipe out one or two months of academic growth. The learning losses that are likely to result from more than 50 million children in the United States being shut out of school for weeks or months because of the coronavirus pandemic could well be catastrophic by comparison.

Consider an alarming new study from the Northwest Evaluation Association, or NWEA, a nonprofit organization that works with school districts to measure student performance. The study projects that students who lack steady instruction during the coronavirus school shutdown might retain only 70 percent of their annual reading gains as compared to a normal year.

Projections for the so-called Covid slide in math look even bleaker. Depending on grade level, researchers say, students could lose between half and all of the achievement growth one would expect in a normal academic year.

These setbacks would be particularly disastrous for fifth graders, who need to be tooling up for the more complex tasks that will come their way in the upper grades. In addition, this grim scenario will surely yield worse outcomes for students whose families are grappling with hunger, unemployment or homelessness.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Gloomy Prediction on How Much Poverty Could Rise, Jason DeParle, April 16, 2020. Researchers suggest the poverty rate in the U.S. may reach the highest levels in half a century, hitting African-Americans and children hardest.

The pandemic crippling the American economy portends a sharp increase in poverty, to a level that could exceed that of the Great Recession and that may even reach a high for the half-century in which there is comparable data, according to researchers at Columbia University.

The coming wave of hardship is likely to widen racial disparities, with poverty projected to rise twice as much among blacks as among whites. Poverty is also likely to rise disproportionately among children, a special concern because brain science shows that early deprivation can leave lifelong scars. Children raised in poverty on average have worse adult health, lower earnings and higher incarceration rates.

If quarterly unemployment hits 30 percent — as the president of one Federal Reserve Bank predicts — 15.4 percent of Americans will fall into poverty for the year, the Columbia researchers found, even in the unlikely event the economy instantly recovers. That level of poverty would exceed the peak of the Great Recession and add nearly 10 million people to the ranks of the poor.

Reuters, U.N. warns economic downturn could kill hundreds of thousands of children in 2020, Michelle Nichols, April 16, 2020.  Hundreds of thousands of children could die this year due to the global economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and tens of millions more could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis, the United Nations warned on Thursday.

The world body also said in a risk report that nearly 369 million children across 143 countries who normally rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition have now been forced to look elsewhere.

“We must act now on each of these threats to our children,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “Leaders must do everything in their power to cushion the impact of the pandemic. What started as a public health emergency has snowballed into a formidable test for the global promise to leave no one behind.”

The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. So far it has infected more than 2 million people - killing some 138,000 - in 213 countries and territories, according to a Reuters tally.

Compared with adults, children infected with the coronavirus are less likely to have symptoms and more likely to have a mild illness, U.S. and Chinese studies have found.

But the U.N. report warned that “economic hardship experienced by families as a result of the global economic downturn could result in an hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020, reversing the last 2 to 3 years of progress in reducing infant mortality within a single year.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump denied he wanted his name on stimulus checks. Here’s how it happened, Toluse Olorunnipa and Lisa Rein, April 16, 2020 (print ed.). The effort to put Trump’s name on millions of “Economic Impact Payment” checks began shortly after the president signed bipartisan $2 trillion stimulus legislation.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Anonymous Tip, 17 Bodies Are Found at Nursing Home Hit by Virus, Tracey Tully, updated April 16, 2020. There have been 68 recent deaths of residents and nurses from the facility in a small New Jersey town.

The 17 were among 68 recent deaths linked to the long-term care facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, including two nurses, officials said. Of those who died, 26 people had tested positive for the virus.

For the others, the cause of death is unknown.

Of the patients who remain at the homes, housed in two buildings, 76 have tested positive for the virus; 41 staff members, including an administrator, are sick with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to county health records shared on Wednesday with a federal official.

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Forces a ‘Wartime’ Budget on N.Y.C., With $2 Billion in Cuts, Jeffery C. Mays, April 16, 2020. With the city projecting a $7.4 billion loss in tax revenue, Mayor Bill de Blasio said municipal services that “can’t be a priority” are being slashed.

bill de blasio 11 2 2013With the coronavirus pandemic ravaging New York’s economy, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that the city will be forced to slash more than $2 billion in municipal services over the next year.

All aspects of New York City life will be affected: Public pools will be closed; sanitation pickups will be reduced. Fewer police traffic agents will be deployed at intersections; overnight service on the Staten Island Ferry will be reduced.

The cuts were part of a gloomy $89.3 billion executive budget that reflects the way that New York City has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak has killed more than 10,000 city residents, shuttered thousands of businesses, emptied the city’s once bustling hotels and darkened the lights on Broadway.

It has also cost hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers their jobs and will deprive the city of $7.4 billion in tax revenue in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

“Things we would love to focus on in peacetime, we don’t get to focus on in wartime,” Mr. de Blasio said at his daily briefing. “And this is in effect wartime.”

The budget, which still requires City Council approval, is $3.5 billion less than the one the city approved last year and $6 billion less than the preliminary plan the mayor introduced in January. The Council could restore some of the services the mayor is proposing be cut.

2020 U.S. Elections, Politics

democratic 11 presidential candidates

Palmer Report, Opinion: This says it all, Bill Palmer, April 16, 2020. Joe Biden has now been the 2020 Democratic nominee for about a week. One could make the case that he’s had the best first week that any modern presidential nominee has ever had. He’s been endorsed by President bill palmer report logo headerObama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren this week. He’s polling ahead of incumbent Donald Trump in every swing state.

joe biden djt CustomThis photo (above) says it all:

What’s significant about this photo? Every single person in it has now endorsed Joe Biden. No one expected Sanders to endorse Biden this early.

No one expected Tulsi Gabbard to endorse Biden, period, but she has. Biden has pulled his party together in remarkably swift fashion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden Is Losing the Internet. Does That Matter? Kevin Roose, April 16, 2020. The pandemic has forced Joe Biden into an all-digital campaign, and he’s struggling to break through, our technology columnist writes.

Joe Biden is very famous, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at his YouTube channel.

Mr. Biden has just 32,000 subscribers on the influential video platform, a pittance compared with some of his rivals in the Democratic joe biden 2020 button Customprimary race and roughly 300,000 fewer than President Trump. The videos that Mr. Biden posts — these days, mostly repurposed campaign ads and TV-style interviews filmed from the makeshift studio in his basement — rarely crack 10,000 views. And the virtual crickets that greet many of his appearances have become a source of worry for some Democrats, who see his sluggish performance online as a bad omen for his electoral chances in November.

“This video is 2 days old and it’s sitting at 20,000 views,” one commenter wrote under a recent video of Mr. Biden’s. “This is a guy that is supposed to beat Trump?”

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn a normal election year, a former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee would have no trouble filling an arena. But the coronavirus has forced Mr. Biden to abandon in-person gatherings and adapt to an all-digital campaign strategy — a daunting pivot even in the best of times, but one made even harder by the need to compete for attention amid a pandemic and a once-in-a-generation economic collapse.

The shift has been clumsy for Mr. Biden, an old-school retail politician who relishes face-to-face interactions. He lacks the social media firepower of Mr. Trump, whose 106 million combined followers on Facebook and Twitter dwarf Mr. Biden’s 6.7 million, and whose White House coronavirus briefings have allowed him to commandeer the news cycle. Mr. Biden’s first virtual town hall last month was marred by technical problems, and some of his other digital experiments — like a soporific campaign podcast, “Here’s the Deal,” which did not rank among the top 100 podcasts on Apple Podcasts as of this week — have not gone as well as hoped.

Climate Change / U.S. Drought

washington post logoWashington Post, The western U.S. is locked in the grips of the first human-caused megadrought, study finds, Andrew Freedman and Darryl Fears, April 16, 2020. Only one drought in the past 1,200 years comes close to the ongoing, global warming-driven event.

A vast region of the western United States, extending from California, Arizona and New Mexico north to Oregon and Idaho, is in the grips of the first climate change-induced megadrought observed in the past 1,200 years, a study shows. The finding means the phenomenon is no longer a threat for millions to worry about in the future, but is already here.

The megadrought has emerged while thirsty, expanding cities are on a collision course with the water demands of farmers and with environmental interests, posing nightmare scenarios for water managers in fast-growing states.

A megadrought is broadly defined as a severe drought that occurs across a broad region for a long duration, typically multiple decades.

Unlike historical megadroughts triggered by natural climate cycles, emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have contributed to the current one, the study finds. Warming temperatures and increasing evaporation, along with earlier spring snowmelt, have pushed the Southwest into its second-worst drought in more than a millennium of observations.

U.S. Courts, Politics

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washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone retrial request denied as judge rejects claims jury forewoman was biased, Matt Zapotosky and Spencer S. Hsu, April 16, 2020. A federal judge on Thursday rejected Roger Stone’s demand for a new trial, ruling that the jury forewoman in Stone’s trial was not substantially biased against President Trump’s longtime political confidant.

The longtime confidante of President Trump had argued his convictions should be tossed because a juror was biased against him.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson decided that while the juror might have had strong opinions, she did not lie, nor did she have a view on Stone.

The ruling came after Trump issued public statements stoking controversy over Stone’s case by attacking the integrity of the judge, jurors, federal prosecutors and the judicial system. The attacks were punctuated by the president’s blasting of the forewoman and Jackson as biased before and during a hearing earlier this year — despite warnings by Attorney General William P. Barr to stop tweeting about Justice Department criminal cases.

“There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case,” Trump tweeted during the hearing in which federal prosecutors were defending the jury verdict. “Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of ‘Trump’ and Stone (shown above). She was totally biased, as is the judge. Roger wasn’t even working on my campaign. Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!”

Trump again attacks Roger Stone juror, questions judge’s integrity in tweet while hearing is underway.

A jury convicted Stone in November of lying during testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017 to conceal his central role in the Trump campaign’s efforts to learn about Democratic computer files hacked by Russia and made public by WikiLeaks to damage Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

More World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel’s factions fail again to form government, raising possibility of fourth election, Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash, April 16, 2020. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival, Benny Gantz, have been struggling for weeks to agree on a power-sharing deal in which they would take turns in the prime minister’s office.

Israel FlagIsrael ran into another wall — actually, the same wall — in its quest to break a year-long political impasse early Thursday when another deadline passed without the country's main rival factions able to strike a deal and form a government.

The two sides, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Army chief Benny Gantz, were still talking when midnight came and went, marking the end of Gantz’s official window to assemble a ruling coalition. The rivals, spurred by the coronavirus crisis, have been struggling for weeks to agree on a power-sharing arrangement in which they would take turns in the prime minister’s office.

Hours later, Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin snubbed both politicians by refusing to give Gantz more time or passing the charge to Netanyahu. Instead, Rivlin tossed the mandate to the parliament, giving any member of the 120-seat Knesset 21 days to find the 61 votes needed to take power.

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, New study says Trump has ‘dangerously undermined truth’ with attacks on news media, Paul Farhi, April 16, 2020. The report from the Committee to Protect Journalists catalogues President Trump’s anti-press actions.

A new research report from a leading journalism organization says President Trump’s attacks on the news media have endangered American democracy and imperiled press freedom in other countries.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomThe report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) catalogues a lengthy list of Trump’s anti-press behaviors, from repeatedly tarring credible reporting with charges of “fake news,” to trying to bar reporters from the White House, to scrubbing or withholding information from government websites.

Trump’s attacks on the news media have “dangerously undermined truth and consensus in a deeply divided country” at a time when the nation faces the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus, concludes CPJ, a New York-based organization that monitors press issues around the world.

Its report, titled “The Trump Administration and the Media,” documents such Trump administration practices as using U.S. Customs and Border Protection to question journalists and search their electronic devices at border crossings; Trump’s calls for boycotts of news organizations and for changes in libel laws to punish reporting he doesn’t like; the ending of formal White House press briefings for more than a year; and Trump’s repeated lies to discredit accurate reporting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Michael Savage Is Blasting Hannity and the Right-Wing Media on the Virus, Jeremy W. Peters, April 16, 2020. The conservative radio host is still loyal to President Trump but says right-wing media got it all wrong by doubting the severity of the coronavirus early on.

michael savage white house 2018 CustomThere are a lot of people who are ruining the country right now, according to Michael Savage (shown in 2018 at the White House). Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Liberal mayors in big cities like San Francisco. Undocumented immigrants. Homeless people.

But for the past two months, listeners to Mr. Savage’s conservative radio show have heard him howl with unabated contempt about another menace: “The pimps” in the right-wing media “who tell you what you want to hear.” They are “intellectual dwarfs” and “science illiterates,” he says, who spent weeks downplaying the threat from the coronavirus epidemic and accusing President Trump’s opponents of exaggerating it to hurt him politically.

On Mr. Savage’s broadcast, which has one of the largest audiences in talk radio with 7.5 million listeners each week, the virus has never been a hoax or a bad case of the sniffles. He has lectured his fans on the research in detail: How it is transmitted; which treatments are proving effective; and the difference between morbidity and mortality rates.

With no small amount of self-satisfaction, Mr. Savage reminds people of his credentials — a Ph.D. and training in epidemiology — and of the fact that he was one of the few voices in conservative media who had warned them all along.

Much of the time, Mr. Savage still sounds like any other right-wing shock jock — making fun of Nancy Pelosi and doubting the validity of the #MeToo movement. But on the subject of the coronavirus, Mr. Savage has become one of the loudest voices of dissent on the right.

His views are a striking departure from the accepted version of events among Mr. Trump’s loyalists in the media, who have made a concerted effort to deny that they downplayed the epidemic. Mr. Savage has attacked the credibility of the conservative media, accused its biggest stars of being too rote and unthinking in their defense of the president, and demanded that they be held accountable for misleading millions of Americans.

MSNBC host Chris Cuomo, recuperating at home from COVID-19, and his wife, Cristina Greeven Cuomo

MSNBC host Chris Cuomo, recuperating at home from COVID-19, and his wife, Cristina Greeven Cuomo

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘It just breaks my heart’: Chris Cuomo says his wife, Cristina, has coronavirus, too, Timothy Bella, April 16, 2020. When Chris Cuomo announced he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the high fever, chills, shortness of breath and hallucinations of his late father weren’t what immediately worried the CNN anchor. What did concern him, he said, was passing the virus to his family.

“I just hope I didn’t give it to the kids and Cristina,” Cuomo, 49, wrote in his March 31 tweet announcing his diagnosis. “That would make me feel worse than this illness!”

On Wednesday night, Cuomo, broadcasting again from his home’s basement, where he remains quarantined, said that his worst fear had become a reality: His wife, Cristina, had tested positive for the coronavirus.

#MeToo Biden Claim

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Assessing Tara Reade’s allegations, Ruth Marcus, April 16, 2020 (print ed.). What to make of former Joe Biden staffer Tara Reade’s allegations that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee sexually assaulted her in 1993? This is a difficult and important question — not least for those who were persuaded by Christine Blasey Ford’s assertion that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were high school students in the 1980s.

Indeed, it’s a difficult and important question for me, as someone who not only expressed alarm about Ford’s allegations at the time but also wrote a book that concluded she was telling the truth, and that the flawed, rushed investigation meant Kavanaugh’s tenure “will forever have an asterisk attached.”

This column represents a good-faith effort to grapple with the seriousness of, and flaws in, the Reade allegations. My conclusion is that while Ford’s allegations are on balance stronger, those who took Ford’s complaints seriously cannot simply dismiss Reade’s claims out of hand. I don’t think what Reade claimed happened, yet the evidence is murky.

More U.S. Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic lawsuit challenging deadline for Arizona absentee ballots cites Supreme Court ruling on Wisconsin primary, Elise Viebeck, April 16, 2020.  A leading elections lawyer said the Wisconsin decision bolsters the case against rules that absentee ballots be returned — rather than postmarked — on or by Election Day.

A Democratic lawsuit challenging Arizona’s absentee ballot deadline is citing the Supreme Court’s recent ruling about the Wisconsin primary to support its case, arguing that the decision to allow absentee ballots to count in Wisconsin if they were postmarked on or by Election Day should also apply in Arizona.

In a supplemental memo filed Tuesday in federal court, lawyers for a trio of plaintiffs argued that the high court’s ruling bolsters their complaint that requiring absentee ballots to be returned — rather than postmarked — on or by Election Day leads to the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters when their overdue ballots are rejected.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday of last week that absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s primary had to be postmarked by April 7, the date of election, but could be counted as long as they were received by April 13. Typically, absentee ballots in Wisconsin must be received on or by Election Day to count, making the decision a victory for Democrats as they seek to ease voting restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marc Elias, a Democratic elections lawyer involved in both cases, said precedent may be helpful in the legal push against Arizona’s deadline, which has emerged as the first test of whether lower courts will follow the Supreme Court’s lead. The original suit was filed in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How far can Joe Biden go to appeal to former Sanders supporters and Democrats on the left? Eugene Scott, April 16, 2020. Biden is working to gain the support of those on the left, but without alienating centrists and independents.

When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed former vice president Joe Biden on Monday, some Sanders supporters made it clear that the lawmaker’s endorsement was his alone.

His former national press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, took to social media to share that she was not among those who worked on the Sanders campaign who would work to help Biden defeat President Trump in November.

Listening to some Sanders voters respond to their preferred candidate’s defeat shows that Gray is not an outlier. If Biden wants to win more solid support from Sanders’s wing on the left, he may have to adopt more of their positions.

Though most Sanders supporters voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 after she became the Democratic nominee, some — as many as 12 percent, according to a Harvard study — backed Trump.

April 15

Public Health Top Headlines

More World News

U.S. Pandemic Politics / Relief / Oversight

U.S. Political / Election Headlines

U.S. Pandemic Victims

 

Public Health Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Worldwide confirmed cases surpass 2 million, Alex Horton, Miriam Berger, Adam Taylor, Siobhán O'Grady, John Wagner covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2and Brittany Shammas, April 15, 2020. The virus destroys lungs, but doctors are also finding its damage in kidneys and hearts.

Worldwide confirmed coronavirus cases passed 2 million on Wednesday, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University, though experts caution that the virus has all likelihood infected far more people. The virus has reached all continents except Antarctica and officially killed more than 120,000 people, including more than 26,000 in the United States. Updated: 32,000 U.S. deaths.

Officials in the United States and abroad said they disagreed with President Trump’s announcement on Tuesday that he intends to halt payments to the World Health Organization after he accused the U.N. agency of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday said the decision is “dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged.”

Here are some significant developments:

A federal emergency loan program intended to get money swiftly into the hands of American small businesses has all but collapsed under an unprecedented crush of applications and a shortage of funds.

The head of Spain’s Emergency Health Response credited social distancing, personal hygiene and the WHO’s declaration of a pandemic as keys to how his country has dramatically reduced the spread of the virus.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Criticized for His Pandemic Response, Trump Tries to Shift Blame, Michael D. Shear and Donald G. McNeil Jr., April 15, 2020 (print ed.). Mr. Trump said he would stop financing the W.H.O. because it “pushed Chinese misinformation.” But he himself had praised China’s actions.

For weeks, President Trump has faced relentless criticism for having overseen a slow and ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic, failing to quickly embrace public health measures that could have prevented the disease from spreading.

Recent polls show that more Americans disapprove of Mr. Trump’s handling of the virus than approve.

world health organization logo CustomSo on Tuesday, the president tried to shift the blame elsewhere, ordering his administration to halt funding for the World Health Organization and claiming the organization made a series of devastating mistakes as it sought to battle the virus. He said his administration would conduct a review into whether the W.H.O. was responsible for “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread.

“So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” the president told reporters during a White House briefing.

In effect, Mr. Trump was accusing the world’s leading health organization of making all of the mistakes that he has made since the virus first emerged in China and then spread rapidly. As of Tuesday, there had been about two million cases of the virus worldwide, and nearly 125,000 deaths. In the United States, there have been over 600,000 cases and 25,000 deaths from the virus.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Orders Residents to Wear Masks in Public, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Maria Cramer, April 15, 2020. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all New Yorkers must wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible, including on public transport, in stores and on crowded sidewalks.

andrew cuomoImposing a stricter measure to control the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right, said on Wednesday that he would start requiring people in New York to wear masks or face coverings in public whenever social distancing was not possible.

The order will take effect on Saturday and will apply to people who cannot keep six feet away from others in public settings, such as on a bus or subway, a crowded sidewalk or inside a grocery store.

“Stopping the spread is everything,” Mr. Cuomo said during his daily briefing in Albany. “How can you not wear a mask when you’re going to come close to a person?”

The new requirements are bound to make face coverings an inescapable and perhaps jarring sight in New York City for the foreseeable future. They could also introduce a level of mutual obligation and civic duty about wearing masks in public that is more firmly established in Asia than in the West.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens to adjourn Congress to get his nominees through, Colby Itkowitz and Erica Werner, April 15, 2020. President Trump threatened to shut down both chambers of Congress to allow him to fill vacancies in his administration without Senate approval.

He spent several minutes of his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday blaming Senate Democrats for blocking his nominations, even U.S. House logothough most of the vacancies in the federal government are because Trump hasn’t selected anyone to fill them. Several of his nominees haven’t been given a confirmation hearing yet in the Republican-led Senate.

Trump cited a never-exercised power the Constitution grants the president to adjourn Congress if leaders of the House and Senate can’t agree on whether to adjourn. The Senate often recesses but stays open in a “pro forma” session, which thwarts Trump’s ability to make recess appointments that bypass the regular confirmation process.

“The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It is a scam. What they do, it’s a scam and everybody knows it,” Trump said.

ny times logogerman flagNew York Times, Global Live Updates: World leaders denounce Trump’s cuts to W.H.O. funding, Staff reports, April 15, 2020. 

• Germany heads toward steep recession, as Merkel and governors consider next steps.
• South Korea voters head to the polls wearing face masks and standing three feet apart.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Live Updates: Retail Sales in U.S. Show Steepest Drop on Record, Staff report, April 15, 2020. Grocery stores and pharmacies may have seen surging demand, but many businesses closed and consumers cut their spending. President Trump’s decision to halt W.H.O. funding was condemned. Universities are anticipating a big drop in enrollment.

Retail sales plunged in March as businesses shuttered from coast to coast and wary shoppers restricted their spending, a drop that was by far the largest in the nearly three decades the government has tracked the data.

Total sales, which include retail purchases in stores and online as well as auto and gasoline sales and money spent at bars and restaurants, fell 8.7 percent from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The situation has almost certainly worsened since then. Most states didn’t shut down nonessential businesses until late March or early April.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. has thrown more than $6 trillion at the coronavirus crisis. That number could grow, Andrew Van Dam, April 15, 2020. In late February, the Trump administration said it planned to spend $2.5 billion to fight the coronavirus.

A month and a half later, President Trump signed off on spending almost a thousand times as much — $2.35 trillion. And that amount doesn’t include the Federal Reserve’s efforts, which are harder to measure but seem likely to blow past the $4 trillion mark.

The dual rescues, each historic in its own way, put the country on track to eclipse World War II-era highs in the national debt and the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.

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washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. discouraged mask use for public, White House raced to secure face coverings for senior staff, Carol D. Leonnig, Elizabeth Dwoskin and John Hudson, National Security Council officials worried there were not enough masks on the White House complex, so they turned to a foreign government for help.

In mid-March, a National Security Council team rushed to address what they saw as a threat to the U.S. government’s ability to function amid the advancing pandemic: a lack of masks to protect enough staff on the White House complex.

Alarmed by the small cache and the growing signs of an acute shortage of protective gear in the United States, a senior NSC official turned to a foreign government for help, according to people familiar with the situation.

The effort resulted in a donation of hundreds of thousands of surgical masks from Taiwan, which had plentiful domestic production and had sharply curtailed the spread of the coronavirus on the island.

The bulk of Taiwan’s goodwill shipment went to the Strategic National Stockpile, but 3,600 masks were set aside for White House staff and officials, administration officials said.

More World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Bill Gates calls WHO funding cut during pandemic ‘as dangerous as it sounds,’ Timothy Bella, April 15, 2020. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them," Gates tweeted early Wednesday.

bill gatesMicrosoft co-founder Bill Gates criticized President Trump’s decision to suspend funding to the World Health Organization as “dangerous,” saying the payments should continue particularly during the global coronavirus pandemic.

world health organization logo Custom“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” Gates, left, tweeted early Wednesday. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.”

The United States, the organization’s largest donor, has committed to provide the WHO with $893 million during its current two-year funding period, a State Department spokesperson told The Washington Post.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the family’s giant philanthropy, is the next biggest donor to WHO after the U.S., accounting for close to 10 percent of the United Nations agency’s funding.

washington post logoWashington Post, As nations turn inward, global institutions founded decades ago flail on the sidelines, Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly, April 15, 2020. As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world, institutions founded decades ago to organize and manage coherent responses to global crises seem to be flailing on the sidelines.

Individual nations have turned inward, competing for resources and hurling blame at each other for allowing the virus to spread. Some are hoarding vital medical supplies and restricting exports, while others are suffering acute shortages. Countries have set their own guidelines for behavior and determined their own travel restrictions without consulting neighbors or the wider international community.

UN logoThe U.N. Security Council, the world’s premier international decision-making forum, has been paralyzed by disputes among its leading members. “A signal of unity and resolve from the council would count for a lot at this anxious time,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres pleaded to little avail last week. “This is the fight of a generation — and a raison d’être of the United Nations itself.”

The question is not only whether the world order has stumbled but what direction it will take when the current crisis is over. Will there be a new appreciation of its importance, and a determination to make it work better? Or will pre-virus trends accelerate toward tighter borders, less cooperation and a tilt toward nationalism?

While no one knows the answer, many believe they know whom to blame for the global failure.

U.S. Pandemic Politics / Relief / Oversight

washington post logoWashington Post, In unprecedented move, Treasury orders Trump’s name printed on stimulus checks, Lisa Rein, April 15, 2020 (print ed.).  The department’s decision could slow the checks’ delivery by a few days, senior IRS officials said.

djt smiling fileThe Treasury Department has ordered President Trump’s name printed on stimulus checks the Internal Revenue Service is rushing to send to tens of millions of Americans, a process that could slow their delivery by a few days, senior IRS officials said.

The unprecedented decision, finalized late Monday, means that when recipients open the $1,200 paper checks the irs logoIRS is scheduled to begin sending to 70 million Americans in coming days, “President Donald J. Trump” will appear on the left side of the payment.

It will be the first time a president’s name appears on an IRS disbursement, whether a routine refund or one of the handful of checks the government has issued to taxpayers in recent decades either to stimulate a down economy or share the dividends of a strong one.

Treasury officials disputed that the checks would be delayed.

  • Washington Post, Perspective: The $1,200 stimulus checks are on their way. Here’s how to spend yours, April 15, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s purge of inspectors general is a crisis. Alarm bells should be going off everywhere, Andrew Bakaj, John Tye and Mark Zaid, April 15, 2020 (print ed.). Alarm bells should be going off everywhere.

We learned last week that Trump reportedly plans to install up to seven inspectors general as part of a wider “purge” within the federal government. And during a recent covid-19 briefing, Trump questioned the independence and neutrality of the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general concerning an investigation touching upon whether hospitals have adequate testing and supplies to michael atkinson oprotect their staffs and to treat patients. The report’s findings apparently did not align with the White House’s messaging.

In early April, Trump fired the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, right, in retaliation for following the law — specifically his involvement in the whistleblower complaint that led to the president’s impeachment. Two of us (Bakaj and Zaid) represented the intelligence community whistleblower, and the third (Tye) raised funds to provide legal and security services for that person, so we have a profound understanding of Atkinson’s competence and independence in that matter.

glenn fine officialNext, the president removed Glenn Fine, left, as acting inspector general of the Defense Department, thereby requiring him to step down as chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a position for which he was selected by his peers.

It is time for Congress to intervene. Eight senators sent a bipartisan letter last week requesting that the president “provide more detailed reasoning for the removal of Inspector General Atkinson.” It is a start, but it’s not enough.

The authors, who assisted the anonymous intelligence community whistleblower on the Ukraine matter, are affiliated with Whistleblower Aid, which provides pro bono legal representation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Small-business program intended for quick grants is running weeks behind, Aaron Gregg, Jeanne Whalen and Erica Werner, April 15, 2020. The Small Business Administration doesn't have the staff or funds to meet its pledge to provide money within three days of an application.

sba logo new Custom CustomAn emergency loan program intended to get money swiftly into the hands of small businesses has all but collapsed under an unprecedented crush of applications and a shortage of funds, overwhelming agency officials and prompting urgent calls for action on Capitol Hill.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, or EIDL, a long-standing program run by the Small Business Administration (SBA), is separate from the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses that is the subject of a political fight on Capitol Hill.

The federal government normally doles out EIDL loans to small businesses hurt by tornadoes and wildfires. On March 12, the SBA expanded the program to help entrepreneurs hurt by the coronavirus, offering low-interest loans of up to $2 million.

The EIDL program received resources from Congress’s $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package at the end of March, including $10 billion to offer grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses within three days of applying for a loan. The grants are intended to serve as a bridge for small businesses to cover rent and other expenses while they wait for the larger loans to be approved.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tax change in coronavirus package overwhelmingly benefits millionaires, congressional body finds, Jeff Stein, April 15, 2020 (print ed.). The provision, included by Senate Republicans, would cost taxpayers approximately $90 billion in 2020.

us senate logoMore than 80 percent of the benefits of a tax change tucked into the coronavirus relief package Congress passed last month will go to those who earn more than $1 million annually, according to a report by a nonpartisan congressional body expected to be released Tuesday.

The provision, inserted into the legislation by Senate Republicans, temporarily suspends a limitation on how much owners of businesses formed as “pass-through” entities can deduct against their nonbusiness income, such as capital gains, to reduce their tax liability. The limitation was created as part of the 2017 Republican tax law to offset other tax cuts to firms in that legislation.

Suspending the limitation will cost taxpayers about $90 billion in 2020 alone, part of a set of tax changes that will add close to $170 billion to the national deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the nonpartisan congressional body.

The Guardian, Millionaires to reap 80% of benefit from tax change in US coronavirus stimulus, Amanda Holpuch, April 15, 2020.

• Nation’s wealthiest to avoid $82bn of tax liability
• Hedge-fund investors and real estate owners to benefit most

Millionaires and billionaires are set to reap more than 80% of the benefits from a change to the tax law Republicans put in the coronavirus economic relief package, according to a non-partisan congressional committee.

Steve Rosenthal, a tax expert at the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan thinktank, told the Washington Post hedge-fund investors and owners of real estate would benefit most from the change.

In a letter last week, senator Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, and representative Lloyd Doggett, of Texas, said they were specifically seeking information about whether any people in the Trump administration who were involved with developing the changes would also benefit from the provisions.

 After the analysis was published, Whitehouse called for this provision to be repealed.

“It’s a scandal for Republicans to loot American taxpayers in the midst of an economic and human tragedy,” Whitehouse said in a statement. “This analysis shows that while Democrats fought for unemployment insurance and small business relief, a top priority of President Trump and his allies in Congress was another massive tax cut for the wealthy.”

 djt council to reopen america fox

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants to declare U.S. open by May 1 — but the reality will be much slower, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker, April 15, 2020 (print ed.). The president said he plans to ask the governors of all 50 states later this week to implement “a very powerful reopening plan” in their states at whatever time they deem appropriate.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s “Ivanka and Jared” council just went up in flames, Bill Palmer, April 15, 2020. Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force has been an utter failure, because Trump has insisted on doing stupid things instead of listening to the experts on it, and titular task force head Mike Pence has been siding with Trump over the experts. Earlier this week Trump proposed launching a new task force to try to distract from the failure of the existing task force.

bill palmer report logo headerUnfortunately for Donald Trump, the announcement of the new “Council to Reopen America” didn’t go over particularly well. The proposed members included his daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his idiot Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, his half-dead Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and some other hilariously unqualified people.

After the overwhelmingly negative reaction, there were scattered media reports yesterday that the council might be revamped to focus on church leaders instead, which made just as little sense; why would churches be making decisions about when the country reopens?

But this evening MSNBC is reporting that the “Ivanka and Jared” council is now being scrapped entirely. So this goes down as yet another ugly Trump threat that never even got off the ground, because we loudly laughed at him for even suggesting it, instead of cowering to him and assuming that he was going to get away with it.

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump and Kushner could reap a pandemic windfall, Dana Milbank, right, April 15, 2020 (print ed.). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have insisted that Congress spend another $250 billion on small businesses devastated by the pandemic, but they refuse to “renegotiate unrelated programs” from last month’s emergency coronavirus bill.

What are they afraid of?

Well, maybe it’s this: As the dust settles on the $2.2 trillion legislation, it has become clear that one of its largest provisions, a $170 billion tax giveaway, appears to be tailor-made for the benefit of wealthy real estate investors such as President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is running one of Trump’s coronavirus task forces.

The giveaway, primarily to real estate investors and hedge funds, is larger than the total amount in the legislation for hospitals ($100 billion) and for relief for all state and local governments ($150 billion). Worse, the bonanza for these millionaires and billionaires has little to do with the coronavirus: It lets them offset losses not just from 2020 but from 2018 and 2019, before the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s ugly new blame-shifting scam spotlights his own failures, Greg Sargent, April 15, 2020 (print ed.).  President Trump is spinning his new decision to suspend funding to the World Health Organization as an act of decisive leadership — one that showcases his devotion to effective crisis management, to gathering good empirical information, and to holding people accountable for leadership failures that had catastrophic human consequences.

In just about every conceivable way, this is the opposite of the truth.

donald trump money palmer report CustomIn making this new move, Trump is inviting us to review the basic timeline of events. And it demonstrates that the WHO, for all its initial failures, was still far ahead of Trump in embracing the need for a comprehensive response to coronavirus.

The timeline also once again illustrates Trump’s epic failures in that regard, and reveals the degree to which Trump is now relying on transparently ridiculous scapegoating to erase his own central role in this catastrophe.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: A D.C. public defender describes terrible conditions at the city’s jail, Radley Balko, April 15, 2020 (print ed.). 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We’ve never backed a Democrat for president. But Trump must be defeated, George T. Conway III, Reed Galen, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson (Advisory board members of the Lincoln Project), April 15, 2020. We are in extraordinary times, and we have chosen to put country over party — and former vice president Joe Biden is the candidate who we believe will do the same.

We’ve seen the damage three years of corruption and cultish amateurism can do. This country cannot afford to be torn apart for sport and profit for another term, as Trump will surely do. If Biden takes office next January, he won’t need on-the-job training.

Palmer Report, Opinion: GOP panics as Donald Trump circles the drain, James Sullivan, April 15, 2020. As the coronavirus epidemic worsens djt hands up mouth open Customand Donald Trump is proclaiming powers he doesn’t actually have, it’s forcing state governors to set up their own plans for re-opening the country.

For a dire situation like this, the Republicans in Congress have a plan too. They certainly need one, after Trump’s denial of reality and delayed response have proven to be a disaster. Their response to the crisis is to blame China for everything and hope the average bill palmer report logo headerAmerican gets the message somewhere down the line. There’s been a reason all along that we’ve seen buffoons like Sen. Tom Cotton insist on calling it the “China virus” – and right-wing pundits who have insisted on saying worse, which may be responsible for the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Since March, polls have shown a double digit drop in support for how Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus, so Republicans like Rep. Jim Banks have decided that the real problem is Americans need someone else to blame for everything gone wrong. He said this, of republican elephant logocourse, on a podcast with notorious white supremacist Steve Bannon:

“Whether it’s the financial losses, unemployment, or small family-owned businesses that are losing everything that they have … They’re either going to blame the CCP [Communist Party of China] or they’re going to blame President Trump as the left wants them to blame … So, my encouragement to President Trump and his advisers is to go down every path that we can to draw attention to the CCP’s negligence, hold them accountable.”

washington post logothom tillisWashington Post, Tillis declines to say whether Burr should step down as Senate Intelligence chairman, Paul Kane and Felicia Sonmez, April 15, 2020. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) declined to say Wednesday whether his North Carolina colleague, Sen. Richard Burr (R), should stay on as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying only that the decision is up to GOP leadership.

Tillis, right, who is up for reelection in November, made the remark in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, richard burr o Smallwho also writes an opinion column for The Washington Post.

Burr, left, has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks for stock trades he made as the United States braced for the coronavirus pandemic. The Justice Department is investigating the trades, and Burr has faced calls from some corners to resign.

In Wednesday’s radio interview, Hewitt raised the topic and said that he believes Burr “ought to step down as chairman of the Intel Committee.”

Washington Post, Other selected U.S. political opinion columns:

  • Barack Obama reminds us how normal presidents sound, Jennifer Rubin
  • Trump simply doesn’t understand his job, George T. Conway III

U.S. 2020 Politics, Elections

barack Obama Biden New High res

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Accelerate the Endgame’: Obama’s Role in Wrapping Up the Primary, Glenn Thrush, April 15, 2020 (print ed.). Barack Obama will endorse Joe Biden today after months of public neutrality. But behind the scenes, he’s played a major role in wrapping up the race.

Over the past year, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former President Barack Obama practiced a political distancing of sorts, with Mr. Obama maintaining a posture of public neutrality in the Democratic primaries, offering counsel to any candidate who called (most did), and Mr. Biden saying he wanted to win on his own.

us senate logoBut with calibrated stealth, Mr. Obama has been considerably more engaged in the campaign’s denouement than has been previously revealed.

For months, he had kept in close contact with senior party officials, in hopes of preventing a repeat of the protracted and nasty 2016 primary race.

Then, in the weeks after it became clear that Mr. Biden was the party’s near-certain nominee, Mr. Obama — telling a friend he needed to “accelerate the endgame” — had at least four long conversations with his former vice president’s remaining rival, Senator Bernie Sanders. Mr. Obama’s efforts to ease the senator out of the race played a significant role in his decision to end his bid and, on Monday, endorse Mr. Biden, according to people close to the Vermont independent.

ny times logoelizabeth warren o purpleNew York Times, Elizabeth Warren Endorses Joe Biden: ‘When You Disagree, He’ll Listen, Maggie Astor and Shane Goldmacher, April 15, 2020. Senator Elizabeth Warren, right, said she would support former Vice President Joe Biden, following moves by Senator Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday, the latest in a string of prominent endorsements for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Her announcement follows Senator Bernie Sanders’s on Monday and former President Barack Obama’s on Tuesday. Ms. Warren’s support had been a foregone conclusion for a while, but she left the timing of her announcement up to Mr. Biden’s team, according to people familiar with the matter. There was no holdup or demand for concessions, these people said.

The series of endorsements has been a carefully choreographed show of force, reminiscent of the one-two-three punch of support Mr. Biden received from Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke before Super Tuesday. It is also a show of unity designed to quash the narrative of a fractured Democratic Party.

Two swing-state senators, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Gary Peters of Michigan, also formally backed Mr. Biden on Wednesday, as did Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama.

“In this moment of crisis, it’s more important than ever that the next president restores Americans’ faith in good, effective government,” Ms. Warren said in her endorsement video. “Joe Biden has spent nearly his entire life in public service. He knows that a government run with integrity, competence and heart will save lives and save livelihoods. And we can’t afford to let Donald Trump continue to endanger the lives and livelihoods of every American.”

Since Ms. Warren ended her own campaign, she and Mr. Biden have spoken multiple times about policy issues, including Mr. Biden’s plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. At the staff level, Ms. Warren’s chief campaign strategist, Joe Rospars, and Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Mr. Biden, have been engaged in talks bridging the two camps.

FiveThirtyEight, Analysis: What Happens If A Presidential Nominee Can No Longer Run For Office? Geoffrey Skelley, Apr. 15, 2020.  President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are well on their way to facing off in November, but this hasn’t stopped the new coronavirus from casting a pall of uncertainty over the campaign.

If something were to happen to the presumptive nominee before the convention, the parties have a plan — they’d proceed as normal and use the convention to pick the nominee. And if something happened after the convention but before the election, there’s a plan for that, too — national party committees would step in. After the election, though, things get murkier, as it’s uncertain how the result would work out in the Electoral College.

Richard Pildes, a constitutional law professor at the New York University School of Law, stressed, that even under normal circumstances, the Democratic delegates are technically free “on the first ballot to vote their conscience.” As for the GOP convention rules, Pildes told me they specifically bind the delegates, and as Trump is the only candidate who will really have delegates, the party might need to issue an “interpretation” of the rules or even vote to change them to deal with this unforeseen situation.

Brown and Pildes said it wouldn’t necessarily prevent a drawn-out convention battle, but if Biden had picked a running mate, that might go a long way in limiting the intraparty fighting because Democrats would already have someone to rally around rather than being split among a host of alternatives. On the other hand, Vice President Pence would automatically ascend to the presidency should something happen to Trump, giving the Republicans a pretty straightforward pick if disaster struck before their August convention.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Right Way to Vote This November, Amy Klobuchar (Democratic senator from Minnesota and a former presidential candidate), April 15, 2020 (print ed.). In Milwaukee, which has the largest minority population in the state, the number of open polling places was shrunk to five from 180, as poll workers dropped out. In Green Bay, the number plunged to two from 31. Needless to say, the lines were hours long. Voters wore homemade face masks to protect themselves from contracting the coronavirus — if they were willing to risk voting at all.

And if you think there ought to be a better way, you’re not alone. I know of one person who, with an election approaching in his newly adopted state, simply requested an absentee ballot from the comfort of his own home — so he could vote safely and easily by mail.

His name? Donald Trump. His address? 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for all Americans.

I’m lead sponsor on a bill, with Senator Ron Wyden, that would require every state to allow its citizens to vote easily by mail. We are asking Congress to help states ramp this up in a big way, with funding for everything from workers to envelopes to postage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A caravan of angry Michiganders exposes the complicated politics of the virus shutdown, Philip Bump, April 15, 2020. What’s being protested is what President Trump himself has advocated at the state level: efforts to reduce interactions and, therefore, limit the spread of the virus.

As I write, streets in Michigan’s capital of Lansing are crowded with cars and pickup trucks. It’s a protest for the coronavirus era, with attendees encouraged to stay in their vehicles, expressing their displeasure with the state’s stay-at-home order by their presence and no small amount of horn-honking.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the focus of the protest, not everyone is adhering to that rule. Video from the scene shows people milling around the cars, many of them sporting signs and flags supporting President Trump.

Trump himself has attacked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), who approved the state’s stay-at-home order March 23. After Whitmer criticized the federal response to the pandemic, Trump tweeted that “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her head,” “doesn’t have a clue” and “Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude.”

The irony, of course, is that what’s being protested is, in broad strokes, what Trump himself has advocated at the state level: efforts to reduce interactions and, therefore, limit the spread of the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chaotic search for treatments reveals another shortcoming in pandemic preparation, Carolyn Y. Johnson, April 15, 2020. Researchers describe a lack of a centralized national strategy, overlapping efforts and no standards for what data to collect or how to share it to get to answers faster.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is cornered, Bill Palmer, April 15, 2020. On Tuesday, Donald Trump threatened to leave his own press conference because he didn’t like a reporter’s question, and he assured that reporter that all the other reporters would blame him for it. After not one reporter showed any interest in trying to get Trump not to leave, he acted like the whole thing never happened and began taking more questions.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump threatened to take his ball and go home, only to learn that no one cared. So he just stood there, de-balled. You don’t throw down the gauntlet like that and then not follow through with it. Did this guy learn nothing in business school? Oh that’s right, he did learn nothing in business school. It’s why he’s gone bankrupt so many times.

Donald Trump is cornered right now in a number of ways. Deadly and worsening scandal he can’t figure out how to make go away. Approval rating too low to have a path to reelection. Criminal charges in New York State awaiting him if he loses. But standing there in that press conference on Tuesday, threatening to leave as a way of trying to get reporters to beg him to stay, and then staying after no one asked him to stay, Trump managed to corner himself.

U.S. Pandemic Victims

washington post logoWashington Post, They recovered: How it feels to be alive on the other side of the pandemic, Karen Heller, April 15, 2020. People who have recovered feel lucky, relieved, perplexed and altered, and they share an urgency to help. Some feel like superheroes. Others worry the healthy will avoid them for fear of risking infection.

The first nine days were bearable. Mild cough, scratchy throat, lower back pain. Jill Baren, a triathlete, ascribed the last symptom to overdoing exercise.

The next eight days? Horrific. Severe fevers, chest pain, cramps, fatigue, diarrhea and dehydration that sent her to the hospital.

“The way people looked at me in the ER, the look in people’s eyes, I’ve never seen that,” says Baren, 59, of Bryn Mawr, Pa. “They looked at me like I could die.”

These people knew her well. Baren, president of the American Board of Emergency Medicine, was lying in the Philadelphia emergency room where she works as a physician.

Last week, fully recovered, Baren returned to caring for patients. “It feels empowering to have been through this,” she says. “I’m in a position to help in a way that other people are not. I don’t have to live in dire fear if a droplet goes through my protective clothing,” she says. “I can reassure people, tell my story.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus destroys lungs. But doctors are finding its damage in kidneys, hearts and elsewhere, Lenny Bernstein, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Sarah Kaplan and Laurie McGinley, April 15, 2020. A small but growing body of evidence suggests the virus invades other organs and tissues, causing heart arrhythmias, blood clots and renal failure.

The new coronavirus kills by inflaming and clogging the tiny air sacs in the lungs, choking off the body’s oxygen supply until it shuts down the organs essential for life.

But clinicians around the world are seeing evidence that suggests the virus also may be causing heart inflammation, acute kidney disease, neurological malfunction, blood clots, intestinal damage and liver problems. That development has complicated treatment for the most severe cases of covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, and makes the course of recovery less certain, they said.

The prevalence of these effects is too great to attribute them solely to the “cytokine storm,” a powerful immune-system response that attacks the body, causing severe damage, doctors and researchers said.

Almost half the people hospitalized because of covid-19 have blood or protein in their urine, indicating early damage to their kidneys, said Alan Kliger, a Yale University School of Medicine nephrologist who co-chairs a task force assisting dialysis patients who have covid-19.

Nurses without normal protective gear use

Nurses without normal protective gear use "Hefty" bags at Mt. Sinai Hospital In New York City

New York Times, NY Live Updates: The virus has cost N.Y.C. between $5 billion and $10 billion, the mayor said.

• ‘We will not allow any New Yorker to go hungry’: N.Y.C. will spend $170 million on emergency meals.
• Trump eases war of words with governors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 6 zombie claims about the coronavirus that just won’t go away, Aaron Blake, April 15, 2020. The outbreak of a pandemic is when the accuracy of information is as important as it ever will be. Yet more than two months into it, misinformation and dubious claims continue to penetrate — many of them thanks to President Trump and some of his allies on Fox News.

Below is a rundown of these persistent claims, along with the facts.

1. The persistent flu comparison.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Navies dead in the water amid pandemic, Wayne Madsen, (left, author of 18 books and a former U.S. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallNavy intelligence officer), April 15, 2020. From Guam, where the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is in port with nearly 600 of its crew of over 4000 testing positive for Covid-19, one dead, and another in an intensive care unit to the us navyFrench aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, on which at least 50 of its crew were diagnosed with Covid-19, the navies of the world are at a virtual standstill.

The Trump administration's inept mishandling of the Roosevelt's Covid-19 situation has had a deleterious effect on the morale of Navy crews around the world.

  • New York Times, After Coronavirus, Colleges Worry: Will Students Come Back? April 15, 2020. The pandemic has cost universities millions of dollars. As they consider remote classes into the fall, they’re worried about losing students, too.

April 14

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Public Health Top Headlines

U.S. Political / Election Headlines

Pandemic Politics / Oversight

U.S. Pandemic Victims

Pandemic, Jobs Solutions

World News

 

Public Health Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Halts U.S. Funding of World Health Organization, Staff reports, April 14, 2020. New York deaths spike as the state releases a revised count, and California explores steps toward reopening. The Treasury Department says it has reached a deal on an airline bailout.

Right Now: President Trump backed away from his statements that he had “total” authority to open states and pledged to work with governors instead.

A day after President Trump claimed that he had “total” authority to reopen the American economy himself — a position that was widely challenged by legal scholars and governors from both parties — the president said on Tuesday that he would work with the states.

world health organization logo CustomAfter groups of governors on the East and West Coasts announced Monday that they planned to work together in regional groups to decide when and how to reopen business, Mr. Trump invoked the film “Mutiny on the Bounty” in a Twitter post, likening the governors to mutineers who took over a ship from a captain they believed was abusing his crew.

Trump halts World Health Organization funding. President Trump, who has been under criticism for his handling of the response to the coronavirus and has seen his poll numbers drop, on Tuesday blamed the World Health Organization for what he called its failures in the crisis and said he planned to halt American funding of the organization.

The announcement came as Mr. Trump continued to be angered by criticism of his response to the pandemic, which has been assailed as too slow and ineffective, failing to quickly embrace public health measures that could have contained the virus.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, Live Updates: U.S. death toll at 29,000, Teo Armus, Antonia Noori Farzan, Jennifer Hassan, Rick Noack, John Wagner, Kim Bellware, Brittany Shammas and Katie Mettler, April 14, 2020. Cuomo compares Trump briefing to a ‘comedy skit’ as he takes on a more combative tone; Global economy will shrink 3 percent in 2020, worst contraction since the Great Depression, IMF says.

As world leaders consider how to safely lift pandemic restrictions to restart a crashing global economy, President Trump incorrectly claimed that he is the final arbiter on when the United States will reopen. “The authority is total,” Trump said during a sometimes hostile news conference — a comment that astounded legal scholars.

States have the ultimate say over the decision, and Tuesday morning New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said there would be a “constitutional crisis” if Trump tried to exert federal power over the states. “If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it,” Cuomo said on CNN. Nearly 600,000 people have been infected by the virus in the United States, where the confirmed death toll is nearing 25,000.

Here are some significant developments:

Global finance ministers backed debt relief for the world’s poorest nations as part of a coordinated response to the deepening global recession.

  • More than 2,100 U.S. cities are now bracing for budget shortfalls, with many planning cuts and layoffs, according to a new survey.
  • India extended the world’s largest lockdown until May 3, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the nation that the measures were helping to save lives.
  • In France, President Emmanuel Macron said a nationwide lockdown will remain in place until May 11, at which point restrictions will be partially lifted.
  • Florida’s surgeon general said social distancing should continue until a vaccine has been developed, which could take a year or more.
  • China reported 89 new cases, a slight drop, as the country continued to focus on restricting travel near the border with Russia.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Global Economy Faces Worst Slump Since Great Depression, I.M.F. Says, Staff reports, April 14, 2020. Global growth will contract by 3 percent in 2020, a far more severe drop than the last recession, the International Monetary Fund projected. A rift between the White House and states is threatening a cohesive response to the virus crisis.

The International Monetary Fund issued a stark warning about economic damage from the coronavirus, saying on Tuesday that the global economy faces its worst downturn since the Great Depression as shuttered factories, quarantines and national lockdowns cause economic output around the world to collapse.

The grim forecast underscored the magnitude of the economic shock that the pandemic has inflicted on both advanced and developing economies and the daunting task that policymakers face in containing the fallout. With countries already hoarding medical supplies and international travel curtailed, the I.M.F. warned that the crisis threatens to reverse decades of gains from globalization.

In its World Economic Outlook, the I.M.F. projected that global growth will contract by 3 percent in 2020, an extraordinary reversal from earlier this year, when the fund forecast that the world economy would outpace 2019 and grow by 3.3 percent.

This year’s fall in output would be far more severe than the last recession, when the world economy contracted by less than 1 percent between 2008 and 2009. A 3 percent decline in global output would be the worst since the Great Depression, the I.M.F. said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Reopening economy by May 1 may be unrealistic, say experts, including some in administration, Felicia Sonmez, Taylor Telford and Elise Viebeck, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). The comments by officials came as the number of confirmed U.S. cases stood at more than 550,000 and the number of deaths passed 22,000.

National Public Radio (NPR) via South Dakota Public Radio, Despite Outbreak, South Dakota Governor Hesitant To Issue Stay-At-Home Order, Lee Strubinger, April 14, 2020. Despite pleas from cities across the state, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, right, a Republican, has held out on issuing a kristi noemstatewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

An outbreak of COVID-19 at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, S.D., has infected nearly 450 [updated to 644 later on April 15] workers and caused the number of cases in the city to grow so quickly that the mayor, Paul TenHaken, calls it an explosion. "The window of time for mitigation is certainly dwindling right now."

Smithfield Foods is shutting its doors indefinitely, and TenHaken is asking for a shelter-in-place order from the state. By law, it would take Sioux Falls a week to enact an ordinance on its own, but he says the city is pursuing that if all else fails.

"Our time to act on this is right now," he says.

But Noem — an ally of President Trump — has been hesitant to issue a shelter-in-place or statewide stay-at-home order. Instead, she says she's taking a "targeted" approach.

"I've been very clear about the fact that I don't think decisions for Sioux Falls are the same decisions that are correct and right for a town like Faith, South Dakota, or Lemmon, South Dakota," Noem says.

Neil Pinnow is the mayor of Lemmon, a small city that borders North Dakota on the western side of the state. He says its nearest hospital is 25 miles away and serves small communities in both North Dakota and South Dakota.

"They get 50 people that are hospitalized with this, they're going to be full," Pinnow says. "The doctors and nurses over there are going to be overrun. Then what are you going to do?"

And if that hospital is overrun, Pinnow says, the next closest one is 140 miles away in Bismarck, N.D.

Pinnow is trying to make decisions without a lot of direction from the state or the Department of Health, and he says more guidance and help would be "appreciated."

So far, Noem has put out an executive order that says people "shall" follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She says that this guidance directs businesses how to operate if they want to keep their doors open.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Challenges Governors’ Authority to Reopen Country, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Amid criticism of his initial response to the pandemic and a move by governors to work together on reopening economies, President Trump lashed out. He insisted he had the power to overrule governors who have issued stay-at-home orders, saying, “When someone is president of the United States, the authority is total.” States on both coasts are starting to debate how and when to reopen. The closure of a major meat processing plant could affect the nation’s food supply.

President Trump on Monday sought to defend himself against criticism of his slow initial response to the pandemic, using a White House briefing to show a campaign-style video reel of cable hits of reporters and Democratic governors complimenting his decision to institute travel restrictions on China, and of other experts playing down the threat of the coronavirus.

“I did a ban on China — you think that was easy?” Mr. Trump said, lashing out at news reporters who raised questions about what steps the administration took in February to slow the spread of the virus.

He defended his response broadly, claiming that, “everything we did was right.”

The combative presentation came just after Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious diseases specialist, walked back remarks that had been interpreted as critical of Mr. Trump. Dr. Fauci said he had been responding to a “hypothetical question” when he said over the weekend that more lives could have been saved had the government moved earlier to shut down schools, businesses and other gatherings.

Dr. Fauci’s original comments, in an interview on CNN, were seen by some as a veiled criticism of Mr. Trump. On Sunday night the president retweeted a message that said “Time to #FireFauci,” leading the White House to issue a statement on Monday saying that the president had no intention of dismissing him.

Dr. Fauci moved on Monday night to clean up the controversy. “There were interpretations of that response to a hypothetical question,” he said, adding that he wanted to clarify what he meant.

Dr. Fauci said that mitigation policies such as limiting large gatherings and encouraging social distancing save lives, and that they can save more lives the earlier they are put into place. He added that Mr. Trump had taken his advice when he and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, recommended that he issue guidelines asking Americans to stay home.

The unusual White House statement was issued to allay concerns that Mr. Trump might seek to sideline the veteran scientist at the very moment when the president is trying to craft a plan to reopen the country amid the ongoing pandemic, which has killed more than 22,000 Americans.

anthony fauci graphic Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump retweets call to fire Fauci after virus expert says earlier measures ‘could have saved lives,’ Katie Shepherd, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Right-wing commentators rebuked the infectious disease expert after his criticism. President Trump retweeted a call to fire his top infectious disease specialist Anthony S. Fauci, shown above in a CNN graphic, on Sunday evening, amid mounting criticism of the federal response to USTR seal Custom 2the coronavirus pandemic.

The call, with the hashtag “FireFauci” came from a former Republican congressional candidate, DeAnna Lorraine, who amassed 1.8 percent of the vote in an open primary challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this year.

It followed an interview with National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Fauci on CNN’s “State of the Union, in which he said a stronger early response by the administration to the outbreak “could have saved lives,” but also characterized the decision to implement social distancing guidelines as “complicated.”

“Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don’t think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor,” Fauci said on CNN Sunday. “It’s very complicated.”

djt mistake refusal cnn april 13 2020 Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just screwed up and produced a smoking gun against himself, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2020. When Donald Trump used his “coronavirus press briefing” to air a lengthy and dishonestly edited video aimed at making it look like he responded proactively to the coronavirus threat, it set off a number of alarms.

For starters, it was a de facto campaign TV ad. It was also a violation of the Hatch Act. But upon closer inspection, the video actually made the case against Trump.

bill palmer report logo header Trump’s video conveniently skipped over the entire month of February, because he spent February playing golf, and holding rallies, richard nixon desk archivesand calling the coronavirus a hoax, and lying about how many cases there were in the United States. When CBS correspondent Paula Reid pointed this out to Trump, he flew off the handle, because he knew he’d been busted.

In his Watergate tapes, Richard Nixon, left, had eighteen missing minutes. In his own coronavirus response propaganda video, Donald Trump had roughly twenty-nine missing days. This video is the smoking gun that proves Trump negligently caused this crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Outbreak at Virginia Nursing Home Spirals Out of Control as 45 Die, Danielle Ivory, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Mitch Smith, April 14, 2020. The coronavirus outbreak in Richmond has become the deadliest linked so far to a U.S. long-term care facility.

Even before a single resident tested positive for the coronavirus at a nursing home in Richmond, Va., staff members were worried. Triple rooms were not uncommon. Supplies were hard to come by. And there were not enough nurses for all the aging patients inside.

All that made the home, the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, an ideal place for the virus to spread, which it quickly did, with catastrophic results.

At first, only two out of about 160 residents were sick with the virus. One was sharing a room with a woman in her 80s; she contracted the virus, too, and later died.

Now, about a month later, at least 45 residents of the nursing home have died after falling ill with the virus, the highest known death toll at a long-term care facility in the United States, according to an analysis of case data by The New York Times.

The facility has struggled to stop the outbreak, which has killed more than a quarter of its residents and infected about 80 percent of them, in part because of what staff members described as crowded conditions and a lack of resources.

“That’s what a virus wants,” said Dr. Jim Wright, the facility’s medical director. “A number of people with multiple illnesses, living very closely. Viruses love that.”

The Times has identified more than 2,500 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the United States with coronavirus cases. More than 21,000 residents and staff members at those facilities have contracted the virus, and more than 3,800 have died.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-president Barack Obama announces support for Joe Biden, his former vice president, Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer, April 14, 2020. Former president Barack Obama endorsed Joe Biden on Tuesday, calling on Americans to unite in a“great awakening” in November and offering the presumptive presidential nominee a boost as he seeks to coalesce support in the Democratic Party.

In a 12-minute video posted online that served as part endorsement and part political blueprint, Obama said Biden “has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery.”

joe biden bernie sanders palmer headshots

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Bernie Sanders endorses Joe Biden, Felicia Sonmez, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who ended his presidential bid Wednesday, said on a live stream hosted by former vice president Joe Biden that he was endorsing Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

“Joe, I know that there is an enormous responsibility on your shoulders right now, and it is imperative that all of us work together,” Sanders said on the livestream. Biden responded: “Your endorsement means a great deal. It means a great deal to me.”

Breaking: With 95% of the vote reported Monday in last Tuesday's election in Wisconsin, Biden was leading Sanders 63 to 31 % in voting, with a margin so far of 58-13 among the state's 84 delegates.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bernie Sanders has a stern message for any of his supporters who don’t want to get behind Joe Biden, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2020.  Bernie Sanders formally and enthusiastically endorsed Joe Biden for President yesterday, and plenty of his supporters have made clear across social media that they’re planning to vote for Biden. But some of Bernie’s supporters have twisted themselves into a bizarre pseudo-logic where they decide they respect Bernie so much, they can’t abide by his wishes.

bill palmer report logo headerThis is of course idiotic. It’s also incredibly reckless, selfish, and immature, considering that failing to vote for Joe Biden means you’re supporting Donald Trump by default. That’s not just our view. Bernie Sanders is now telling the AP that it’s unacceptable for his supporters not to get behind Biden.

Bernie said this to the AP today: “I believe that it’s irresponsible for anybody to say, ‘Well, I disagree with Joe Biden — I disagree with Joe Biden! — and therefore I’m not going to be involved.’”

That says it all. Donald Trump is in the midst of negligently murdering thousands of Americans per day. Americans don’t have time for anyone to sit around and say “Joe Biden still has to earn my vote.” That’s a mindset for narcissists, sociopaths, and children. This pandemic is a time for adults. Bernie Sanders is acting like one. He’s demanding that his supporters do the same. Most of them will. Those who don’t will have blood on their hands.

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Incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly and Dane County (whose county seat is the state capital of Madison) Judge Jill Karofsky, above, are competing in an ostensibly non-partisan but intensely political race on Tuesday, April 7 for a 10-year-term on the court. The two are in a run-off from a February  primary in which Kelly won 50 % of the vote and Karofsky 37%.

washington post logo Washington Post, Liberal challenger defeats conservative incumbent in Wisconsin Supreme Court race, Amy Gardner and David Weigel, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). A liberal challenger defeated the conservative incumbent for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a key race at the heart of Democratic accusations that Republicans risked voters’ health and safety by going forward with last week’s elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.

wisconsin map with largest cities CustomJill Karofsky beat Daniel Kelly, whom then-Gov. Scott Walker (R) appointed to the state’s high court in 2016. Trump endorsed Kelly and on Election Day urged Wisconsin voters “to get out and vote NOW” for the justice.

Gov. Tony Evers (D), state health officials and local election officials had urged the Republican-led state legislature to postpone the election, but lawmakers refused, citing the risk of confusion and widespread vacancies in thousands of municipal seats on the ballot with terms due to expire in April.

Democrats accused Republicans of trying to take advantage of the likely low turnout resulting from fear of infection and closed polling locations.

The election featured snaking lines in Milwaukee and Green Bay, the result of mass cancellations by poll workers and the closure of polling locations. In Milwaukee, election officials opened just five voting locations, instead of the typical 180.

jill karofsky Custom“Tonight, not just Jill Karofsky but democracy prevailed over a politically cynical strategy to weaponize the coronavirus pandemic as a tool of voter suppression,” said Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Republicans entered the election with a 5-2 majority on the state Supreme Court, meaning that a Democratic victory still leaves liberals in the minority until 2023, the next time a conservative justice will face voters.

But an ongoing legal battle over a voter roll purge raised the stakes of this year’s election, with implications for November. Kelly recused himself, and conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn sided with voting-rights groups to halt the purge. That left the court deadlocked 3-3, and gave Democrats a shot at stopping the purge, one of their top priorities ahead of the 2020 election.

Former vice president Joe Biden also beat Sanders in the Wisconsin Democratic primary. Sanders dropped out of the race the day after the Wisconsin vote and endorsed Biden earlier Monday.

In 2016, Sanders decisively won the Wisconsin primary, carrying seven of the state’s eight congressional districts. He also scored an upset victory in Michigan and landslide win in Minnesota’s caucuses.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi, Schumer say they won’t budge on funding demands, Erica Werner, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). But Mnuchin says the Democrats’ demands should wait for a later funding bill, wants more money for small business loans now.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Monday that they won’t agree to the Trump administration’s insistence on more money for small business loans unless their demands are met for additional funding for hospitals, state and local governments and food stamp recipients.

steven mnuchin wBut Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, said the Democrats’ demands should wait for another day, while the small business program needs more money now.

“We’ve committed to small businesses. We should top up that program now,” Mnuchin said at a briefing of the White House coronavirus task force. “I know the Democrats want to talk about more money for hospitals and states. Right now, we’re just sending the money out to the hospitals and states. They haven’t come close to using that money.”

Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer (D-N.Y.) also rejected suggestions from President Trump that the country could reopen quickly, saying “there is still not enough testing available to realistically allow that to happen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court blocks Texas ban on medical abortions during pandemic, Katie Shepherd,  April 14, 2020. Under the Fifth Circuit’s latest order, medical abortions may continue but surgical abortions will still be limited.

U.S. Pandemic Politics / Oversight

The American Prospect, Investigation: Your Coronavirus Check Is Coming. Your Bank Can Grab It, David Dayen, right, April 14, 2020. Regulators have given banks david dayen Customhe green light to use stimulus funds to pay off debts that individuals owe them.

This week, the $1,200 CARES Act payments Congress approved in response to the coronavirus crisis will begin to appear in Americans’ bank accounts. The funds will be wired to eligible recipients who previously authorized the IRS to post their refunds (or Social Security payments) through direct deposit. This will speed relief far more quickly than having the IRS mail a check, which could take up to five months.

But the money may not make it into the hands of those who need it to pay bills, buy food, or just survive amid mass unemployment and widespread suffering. Individuals might first have to fend off their own bank, which has just been given the power to seize the $1,200 payment and use it to pay off outstanding debt.

Congress did not exempt CARES Act payments from private debt collection, and the Treasury Department has been reluctant to exempt them through its rulemaking authority. This means that individuals could see their payments transferred from their hands into the hands of their creditors, potentially leaving them with nothing.

Banks would be first in line to grab the payments to offset a delinquent loan or past-due fees. Even if the individual thinks their account with that bank is closed, if the payments post there, the bank could conceivably use them to cover old debts.

The Treasury Department effectively blessed this activity on a webinar with banking officials last week. In audio obtained by the Prospect, Ronda Kent, chief disbursing officer with Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, can be heard explaining that banks had posed questions to her about “whether these payments could be subject to collection from the bank to which the money is deposited, if the payee owes an outstanding loan or other payments to the bank.”

She responded — twice — that “there’s nothing in the law that precludes that action,” while counseling that the banks’ compliance officers should consult with their legal offices about what policies their banks will implement. “You will want to know for your bank what your bank has decided to do,” Kent said.

An official at a financial institution who was on the call and wishes to remain anonymous said that Kent’s comments, translated from regulator-ese, mean: “We don’t want to say anything explicitly and are telling you to make a business decision.” In other words, the statement was a green light for banks to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to collect prior debt.

“At a time when people are desperate to buy food, the idea that anybody would grab [the $1,200 payments], let alone the banks they trust with their money, is appalling,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director with the National Consumer Law Center.

washington post logoWashington Post, Governors form groups to explore lifting restrictions; Trump says he alone will decide, Tim Craig and Brady Dennis, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). The president claimed “total” authority to decide when to reopen the economy, but governors on both coasts formed groups to plan for easing their states back toward normalcy.

  • Washington Post, Trump says his ‘authority is total.’ Constitutional experts have ‘no idea’ where he got that, April 14, 2020.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis of The Me President: Trump uses briefing to focus on himself, Ashley Parker, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Monday’s news conference offered a stark portrait of a president who seemed unable to grasp the magnitude of the crisis.

1100 Pennsylvania, Nonprofit pushing for free enterprise to pay the president’s business via $250 and up luncheon honoring prominent Trump supporter and donor, Zach Everson, April 14, 2020. A conservative pro-business nonprofit that’s pushing the federal government to approve hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus and has members vying for federal bailout funds has booked the president’s D.C. hotel for a pricey lunch and VIP reception in September.

This transaction demonstrates what many would think of as a textbook example of what’s wrong with President Donald J. Trump’s businesses interest — namely that a nonprofit trying to influence the government on multiple fronts can spend thousands at a property the U.S. president owns and can profit from.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Unhinged Donald Trump throws a tantrum and threatens to storm out of his own press briefing, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2020. Perhaps sensing that his odds of surviving this are shrinking by the hour, Donald Trump is now in the midst of his most unhinged press conference to date. He’s rambling so incoherently and belligerently, no one has any idea what he’s talking about. And he’s now threatening to storm out of his own press briefing, bill palmer report logo headerbecause he doesn’t like how it’s going.

White House correspondent Brian Karem asked Donald Trump a question about the insufficient coronavirus testing in the United States. brian karem twitterTrump tried to generically blame the governors. But Karem, right, wouldn’t let Trump get away with the non-answer, and kept seeking to follow up. Trump began hurling insults at Karem, before ultimately threatening to walk out.

That’s right, Trump said this: “Keep talking and I’ll leave, and you can have it out with the rest of these people.” Trump literally threatened to bail on his own press conference because a reporter tried to ask him a followup question. Trump is that far gone.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s propaganda-laden, off-the-rails coronavirus briefing, Aaron Blake, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Near the start of his daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, President Trump made a statement that betrayed, better than just about anything, how he views the purpose of such briefings.

Before playing a campaign-style video intended to show his decisive action on the virus and to accuse his critics of being the actual culprits on downplaying the threat, Trump cued it up by talking about what he wanted to do after it played.

“Most importantly,” he said, “we’re going to get back on to the reason we’re here, which is the success we’re having.”

Trump’s self-promotion, falsehoods and use of dodgy medical advice in these coronavirus briefings have led to a dialogue about whether networks should carry them live. And on Monday, he seemed to be daring all of them to stop, turning the whole thing into a spectacle of government-produced propaganda and even more personal score-settling and grievances.

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Palmer Report, Editorial note: It’s about time! Bill Palmer, right, April 14, 2020. At one point during Donald Trump’s press briefing yesterday, after his behavior had bill palmertaken a turn for the indescribable, CNN put a chyron (above) across the bottom of the screen that said “TRUMP MELTS DOWN.” It was a perfectly accurate and factual description of what was going on. It’s about time.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen I first started referring to Donald Trump’s behavior as “meltdowns,” I took a ton of heat for it. Various mainstream media outlets and pundits told me I was being hyperbolic, sensationalistic, and unprofessional. Meanwhile they were doing their best to understate and normalize his behavior by framing his rubber room-level antics as somehow merely being “untraditional” or “out of the box.”

Now, three years too late, the media is finally reporting on Donald Trump using accurate words that properly reflect his behavior. I’m not bitter that some of the same mainstream pundits who gave me grief for using words like “meltdown” are now using it themselves. I do resent that if the media had been doing its job properly these past few years, Trump would probably have been ousted by now. But better late than never.

My goal from the start has been to nudge the mainstream media toward being more honest and accurate. The media has a bad habit of using painfully understated headlines and descriptors that have falsely painted Donald Trump as merely behaving in unusual fashion, when by any objective measure he’s behaving as an unhinged and deranged lunatic. We’re getting closer. I’ll keep pushing until the mainstream media is willing to fully tell the public just how objectionable Trump’s behavior is without sugarcoating it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses, Josh Rogin, April 14, 2020. Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats. The cables have fueled discussions inside the U.S. government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus — even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge.

In January 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing took the unusual step of repeatedly sending U.S. science diplomats to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had in 2015 become China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety (known as BSL-4). WIV issued a news release in English about the last of these visits, which occurred on March 27, 2018. The U.S. delegation was led by Jamison Fouss, the consul general in Wuhan, and Rick Switzer, the embassy’s counselor of environment, science, technology and health. Last week, WIV erased that statement from its website, though it remains archived on the Internet.

washington post logoWashington Post, 80 million people to receive stimulus payments by Wednesday, Mnuchin says, Heather Long, April 14, 2020. Those who do not get the $1,200 check — the centerpiece of the U.S. government’s economic relief package — can look on IRS.gov later this week for the status of their payment.

The U.S. government has started sending $1,200 checks to Americans to help ease the financial pain caused by shutting down the economy to fight the deadly coronavirus. By Wednesday, 80 million people are expected to receive a direct deposit in their bank account, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The checks are the centerpiece of the U.S. government’s economic relief package, and many Americans have taken to social media to celebrate the arrival of the money by posting photos of the money hitting their bank account. Singles earning up to $75,000 a year receive a payment of $1,200. Married couples earning up to $150,000 a year receive a payment of $2,400. Parents receive an additional $500 for each child under 17.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s hydroxychloroquine scam just took a major hit, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2020. Even as scientists continue to yield inconclusive and in some instances disappointing results in their testing of hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment, Donald Trump continues to falsely tout the dangerous drug as a harmless miracle cure.

bill palmer report logo headerWhatever scientists end up concluding is the real story is with regard to hydroxychloroquine and coronavirus, Donald Trump is running a scam by falsely portraying it as being harmless. Considering the personal investments that Trump, his advisers, and his political allies have in hydroxychloroquine manufacturers, it’s clear that this is a for-profit scam. That scam just took a pair of blows.

First comes the news from the Washington Post that the CIA has privately warned its employees that taking hydroxychloroquine can be fatal, and advising them not to take it unless a doctor specifically tells them to. This means Trump’s own CIA is now proactively trying to protect its employees against Trump’s potentially deadly scam.

Not everyone reads what the Washington Post is reporting about the CIA. But plenty of mainstream Americans watch and trust the morning network TV shows, and they trust a public figure like Rita Wilson. She and her husband Tom Hanks have recovered from coronavirus, and now she’s revealed on CBS This Morning that when she was given hydroxychloroquine, her side effects were “extreme.” The more people who hear this, the more people will realize that Trump is lying when he says the drug comes with no risks.

U.S. Pandemic Victims

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘This Is Going to Kill Small-Town America,’ David Gelles, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Once the coronavirus reached rural Bristol, N.H., the effect on the local economy was devastating. The coronavirus itself was slow to arrive in Bristol, a lakeside town of 3,300 people. The economic destruction came swiftly.

By the end of March, with just a few local cases confirmed, gift shops, yoga studios and restaurants had all shut their doors. Hundreds lost jobs, contributing to a record surge in national unemployment claims.

But at least the Freudenberg factory was running at full strength. The factory, which employs 350 people and makes bonded piston seals and other components for carmakers around the world, has an outsize impact on Bristol’s economy. “Freudenberg is our lifeblood,” Nik Coates, the town administrator, said in an interview on April 2. “If that plant was ever to close or significantly reduce operations, that would put us in a world of hurt.”

As the coronavirus upends economic life around the world, small towns like Bristol are particularly vulnerable. Freudenberg is its lone large employer. There are just a few national chains — a Dunkin’, a Rite Aid and a Dollar General. And many of the small locally owned businesses depend on seasonal residents, who flock to Newfound Lake during the summer, doubling the town’s population for a few months.

On April 3, the bad news started to spread around town. Freudenberg announced it was firing more than 100 people, shutting down its manufacturing of bonded piston seals and looking for additional buyouts. With car sales around the world essentially halted, automakers were suspending operations, and suppliers like Freudenberg were suddenly without revenue to pay workers in places like Bristol.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hospitals Are Inundated. Foreign-Born Health Workers Are Blocked From Helping, Miriam Jordan and Annie Correal, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). Nurses and doctors are ensnared by red tape and visa rules that prevent them from working in U.S. hospitals, where they are needed to respond to the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It’s a Time Bomb’: 23 Die as Virus Hits Packed Homeless Shelters, Nikita Stewart, April 14, 2020 (print ed.). The virus is spreading where social distancing is nearly impossible. But there’s no staying at home when you do not have one.

Roy Coleman, a 69-year-old living in a homeless shelter on Wards Island, was taken away by ambulance after showing symptoms of Covid-19. The other shelter residents were relieved — until Mr. Coleman was allowed to return last week after testing positive at Harlem Hospital.

At another shelter, Alphonso Syville, 45, said that as much as he tried, he could not block out the incessant coughing that he heard from a man a few feet away.

At Delta Manor, a shelter in the Bronx, Christian Cascone recalled how a roommate confronted another resident who had poor hygiene and would not wash his hands. The resident “said something like, ‘Well, if God chooses for me to die, I’ll die,’” said Mr. Cascone, 37.

“My roommate said, ‘Well, the good Lord also wants the rest of us to be healthy, too,’” he said.

While much of New York City is staying inside, a crisis has taken hold among a population for whom social distancing is nearly impossible: the more than 17,000 men and women, many of them already in poor health, who sleep in roughly 100 group or “congregate” shelters for single adults. Most live in dormitories that are fertile fields for the virus, with beds close enough for people sleeping in them to hold hands.

Pandemic, Jobs Solutions

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: America Can Afford a World-Class Health System. Why Don’t We Have One? Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Professors Case and Deaton are the authors of Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism), April 14, 2020. Our system takes from the poor and working class to generate wealth for the already wealthy.

In March, Congress passed a coronavirus bill including $3.1