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Updated: 39 sec ago

COVID-19 news: 6.65 million new jobless claims; FEMA orders 100,000 body bags for pandemic victims

1 hour 20 min ago

Multiple media outlets are now examining Donald Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner's role in (continuing) botched White House pandemic response efforts after a Vanity Fair article reported Kushner to be a major force behind the White House refusal to provide requested ventilators to New York.

“I have all this data about ICU capacity. I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators,” Vanity Fair quotes Kushner as saying.

New York is predicting it will have insufficient numbers of the lifesaving equipment in coming weeks, as a surge of new patients overwhelms hospitals; there is no word on whether Kushner is still standing by his own "data."

In today's other major pandemic news:

Categories: Politics

Review: Christian nationalism's insidious hold on America is not an overnight phenomenon

1 hour 45 min ago

The unwavering devotion of pious, church-going fundamentalist Christians to President Donald Trump—undoubtedly the most impious, worldly, and sin-drenched president in American history—is an ongoing source of astonishment. How exactly did this happen?

In her new book The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Christian Nationalism (Bloomsbury, 342 pp.), Katherine Stewart does her best to explain the mystifying relationship between the religious right—the same faction that relentlessly pursued Bill Clinton for his philandering in the 1990s—and the serial adulterer (not to mention profane hatemonger) who occupies the Oval Office. Eventually, it comes down to one word: authoritarianism.

Categories: Politics

Trump Navy Secretary relieves captain from duty after plea for COVID assistance leaked to press

4 hours 57 sec ago

In yet another display of apparent cowardice and cronyism, Trump acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly has received the captain of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt from duty after a four-page letter by the captain to Navy officials was leaked to the press.

 In the letter, Capt. Brett Crozier begged his Navy superiors to set up quarantine space in Guam after  widespread COVID-19 infections as over 100 members of the over 4,000 person crew tested positive. The Navy indeed took action after his letter was received, with roughly 3,700 sailors either already put ashore or expected to be in coming days.

The official rationale for Crozier’s removal, according to NBC News sources, is “a loss of trust and confidence”—presumably meaning highest-level superiors were humiliated by the leak of a letter in which the captain begged them at length to protect his ship and crew. It also cast still more doubt on the competence of the Commander in Chief and his topmost officials, who presumably could have taken action before Crozier was reduced to sending his letter—but did not.

For the Navy, it also presents another stark comparison. Ask for your superiors to take action to save the lives of your sailors: Be removed from duty. Commit war crimes: Receive a Donald Trump pardon, and be feted as a hero by Trump’s supporters.

Categories: Politics

Florida man Matt Gaetz says the Democratic Party wants vote by mail so Joe Biden can win

5 hours 25 min ago

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is a sorry sack of week-old guano. The majority of his political career seems to consist of narcissistic, frequently racist, half-provocative, all-show-and-no-substance publicity stunts. The most realistic thing to happen to Rep. Gaetz in the past decade or so is he’s been able to skirt being punished substantially by our justice system, mostly because he’s a rich kid with good political connections to a corrupt Republican apparatus. Laura Ingraham is what happens when the troll under the bridge steals your soul in exchange for a bag of cheese doodles. So it is no surprise that when Rep. Matt Gaetz goes on Ingraham’s Fox News performance art piece of a show, the results are a special kind of fascism.

Ingraham decided to have Gaetz on her show to give his hot take on how the Democratic Party is using the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching public health concerns to push vote-by-mail legislation for all 50 states. Figuring out a safe way for Americans to continue to participate in our democracy while protecting Americans from spreading the deadly virus sounds like corruption to Ingraham and Rep. Gaetz because … well … people might actually vote!

Categories: Politics

Trump supposedly laments not being able to help undocumented workers as he also exploits them

6 hours 37 min ago

Impeached President Donald Trump faked some concern when a reporter pressed him during the White House’s propaganda briefing on Wednesday about the cruel exclusion of undocumented immigrants from stimulus aid, despite paying billions in taxes annually. Trump said, “What are you going to do? It's a tough thing … it's a very sad question, I must be honest with you.”

But reverting back to his true form, Trump told undocumented families to blame themselves, saying “they came in illegally,” and that “we have a lot of people who are citizens of our country that won’t be able to have jobs.” But who has neglected to sufficiently act in the face of this pandemic? Trump. And who has not only exploited undocumented workers at his businesses, but also lied about not being able to find U.S.-born workers in order to hire more foreign workers? You guessed it.

Categories: Politics

Texas racist says coronavirus fears made him stab an Asian American family as they grocery shopped

6 hours 46 min ago

An incident used as an example in a report detailing the rise of xenophobia and crimes against Asian Americans as the novel coronavirus spreads across the country is being investigated as a possible hate crime. A report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has prompted law enforcement to warn individuals of an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, ABC News reported. The analysis report details an incident in Midland, Texas, in which a Texas man allegedly tried to kill an Asian American family at a Sam’s Club because of fear of the novel coronavirus.

The incident took place on March 14, when 19-year-old Sam’s Club employee Jose Gomez allegedly stabbed three Asian American family members, including a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old. His coworker, Zach Owen, intervened and was injured in the process of saving the family’s lives, police said. Gomez “indicated that he stabbed the family because he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus,” the FBI said in its report. In total, Gomez faces three counts of attempted capital murder, and one count of aggravated assault; he could also face hate crime charges, the FBI told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.

Categories: Politics

Seniors won't have to file tax returns for stimulus check, but some disabled and veterans will

6 hours 54 min ago

The Treasury Department has partially reversed their initial decision to throw up unnecessary bureaucratic hoops for seniors obtaining the $1,200 one-time stimulus payment. Originally the administration was going to require them, as well as disabled people on Supplemental Security Income and veterans receiving pensions, to file tax returns in order to get the check. They've relented following mass outrage, at least for seniors. But not for SSI recipients and veterans, unless they also receive Social Security.

"This is entirely unacceptable," Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, said in a statement Thursday. "Our government has the tools to send these groups, who are among the poorest and most vulnerable in America, their benefits automatically. It must reverse this part of its misguided policy, as well, and prioritize these payments, too." Rep. Jan Schakowsky and her fellow House Democrats agree. They are calling on the Treasury to "IMMEDIATELY ensure all older Americans, can automatically get the stimulus checks they need to survive the #COVID19 crisis."

Sign the petition: Stimulus checks must not leave out disabled people and veterans.

Categories: Politics

Security is heightened around Dr. Anthony Fauci after he becomes newest target of conservative ire

7 hours 27 min ago

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the United States’ most visible expert during the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the few (only?) voices during Donald Trump's now-daily briefings to continue to provide no-nonsense, factual information about the virus' spread—even when that information contradicted Trump's own pronouncements.

The Washington Post is reporting that Fauci is now facing "growing threats to his personal safety," and that the Department of Health and Human Services is now increasing security around Dr. Fauci in response.

Categories: Politics

A fevered surge in gun sales fueled by coronavirus fears outpaces all previous spikes

7 hours 35 min ago

Toilet paper and hand sanitizer may have been on most panicked shoppers’ minds in March when the novel coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States. But as bare as those shelves might be, they have nothing on guns.

Doubtless inspired by the apocalyptic view of vacant streets across the nation, Americans rushed out to buy guns at an astonishing rate: Some 1.9 million guns were sold in March, trailing only the mad rush after the Sandy Hook shooting in January 2013 for sales in a single month.

Categories: Politics

Appeals court gives Texas green light on banning abortion as nonessential during COVID-19 fight

7 hours 47 min ago

Right-wingers want gun stores open and abortion clinics closed during the novel coronavirus disaster. As my colleague Aysha Qamar reported earlier this week, the forced birthers in charge of numerous state governments see the crisis as an opportunity to undermine women’s reproductive rights, a crusade they’ve been on since 15 minutes after Roe v. Wade was decided nearly half a century ago. They know enacting policies that shutter abortion clinics even temporarily guarantees that one or more of them will never open again. Closing clinics in the face of a national emergency adds a twisted patriotism to the moral high ground the forced birthers like to claim they stand on. These opportunists say the federal guidelines calling for canceling all “non-essential surgeries and procedures” until further notice excludes abortions from being performed. 

Postponing nonessential procedures makes sense if we’re talking facelifts, cataract removals, cochlear implants, or gastric bypass surgery. Delaying a few weeks or few months does not prevent the patient from getting those operations after the guidelines are lifted. An abortion delayed on the other hand—especially in states with strict gestational age limits on the procedure—means no abortion at all. Which is, of course, exactly what forced birthers want.

Categories: Politics

COVID-19 threatens to rip apart Southern states in a way that isn't happening anywhere else

7 hours 50 min ago

On Wednesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp finally issued a stay-at-home order for his state after resisting it for weeks. Kemp’s stated reason was one part amusing, three parts terrifying: he claimed that he had just learned that some people with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, a fact that has been clear since January. Meanwhile, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has still not provided any statewide guidance, leaving such decisions to cities and counties. The same thing applies in Alabama, where Republican Gov. Kay Ivey sniffed that her state is “not California” and declared that she’s not ready to take an action that might hurt the economy. In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has left even state legislators and Republican officials frustrated by his unwillingness to do more than issue recommendations without any force of law. And Arkansas now enjoys a position that may be unique in the nation: Not only has Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to set any level of suppression across the state, but there are also no city or county stay-at-home orders. Arkansas is open for business. And virus transmission.

But it’s not just the failure of red-state Republicans that is putting the Southern states in the crosshairs for the next wave of novel coronavirus infections. Everything from Fox News to Walmart is aligned against these states … and it’s all going to bring a horrific cost.

Categories: Politics

'I Love Rock 'n' Roll' songwriter dies of COVID-19. His widow's story is heartbreaking

8 hours 20 min ago

Alan Merrill, who wrote the Joan Jett anthem “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” died Sunday morning of COVID-19. His wife Joanna posted the following nightmarish account on her stepdaughter Laura Merrill’s Facebook page and encouraged people to share it, so that they could understand just how horrible this thing is. She wanted as many people as possible to see it, so I am reprinting it here.  

Categories: Politics

Georgia Republican says widespread vote by mail would be 'extremely devastating to Republicans'

8 hours 35 min ago

Georgia isn’t delaying its May 19 primary at this time, but the secretary of state’s office is mailing out absentee ballot applications to every one of the state’s 6.9 million registered voters. That has some Republican lawmakers very unhappy. 

State House Speaker David Ralston was absolutely blunt about his objection. “This will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia,” he said in an interview. “Every registered voter is going to get one of these. … This will certainly drive up turnout.”

Categories: Politics

Pelosi creating special committee to make sure Trump doesn't screw up coronavirus response

8 hours 46 min ago

Saying "we need transparency and accountability," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she is creating a special House committee, overseen by Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, "to examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus and ensure the taxpayers dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent." The committee “will root out waste, fraud and abuse; it will protect against price-gauging, profiteering and political favoritism," Pelosi told reporters during a press call.

That's in direct response to Trump’s signing statement on the latest coronavirus stimulus bill in which he declared his intent to override the safeguards Congress put in to prevent, well, "price-gauging, profiteering and political favoritism" from the administration. But there's also the question of the sheer incompetence of Trump and his whole team to consider. It's a humongous job getting $2 trillion (and counting) in programs implemented quickly and efficiently, even if the administration doing it is a normal one that actually cares about governing. This one is not normal.

Categories: Politics

From PPE to hospital laundry, COVID-19 outbreak exposes America’s dependence on incarcerated labor

8 hours 58 min ago

Rapid response efforts to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus are revealing deeply embedded structural inefficiencies within countless institutions in American society—the criminal legal system being no different.    

Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s new hand sanitizer would be manufactured by incarcerated laborers at New York’s Great Meadow Correctional Facility. The announcement made visible just one of the ways prison labor is typically used to address the needs of the public, and drew outrage both within New York and nationally. More often, though, labor performed by incarcerated laborers goes unnoticed and unreported, even as it supplies goods and services critical to the operation of our society, from license plates to laundry.

Categories: Politics

Fox News host sits in silence as infectious disease specialist exposes Trump’s coronavirus failure

9 hours 1 min ago

Fox News consumers were treated to a rare moment of truth Wednesday evening when Dr. Rishi Desai, chief medical officer at Osmosis, came on the air. Dr. Desai ostensibly was on to discuss the potential merits of a nationwide shutdown of activities in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, aka the coronavirus. Host Martha MacCallum introduced him to her Fox viewership as an infectious disease specialist with years of service at the Centers for Disease Control, and as someone who researched outbreaks to protect Americans from—outbreaks like, say, COVID-19.

Dr. Desai supports a much more enforced stay-at-home national quarantine, and when asked about our wobbly economy, explained that he thought Fox News viewers could draw some inspiration from the reality that if the entire country stayed in their homes for the next two weeks, we would most likely begin to see the number of new cases of COVID-19 begin to fall. The level of relief the collective American psyche would feel from this might very well help to stabilize the panicked markets the president is so much more worried about.

The conversation then turned to the next incredibly important tool needed to contain the outbreak in our country: testing.

Categories: Politics

Democratic National Convention delayed until mid-August due to coronavirus concerns

9 hours 17 min ago

The Hill is now reporting that in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Democratic National Convention originally scheduled to take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in mid-July will now be moved to Aug. 17, and that front-running presidential candidate Joe Biden "pushed" for the move.

Categories: Politics

Jared Kushner rebrands himself as Mr. Coronavirus, and is working to privatize public health

9 hours 44 min ago

Having fulfilled his previous goal of bringing peace to the Middle East (that happened, right?), Jared Kushner is now Mr. Coronavirus, and Politico is On It with the requisite puff piece. The thing about yet another Jared Kushner puff piece, though, is that we’ve learned to read between the lines.

Kushner is Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and his overarching plan is to privatize the federal coronavirus response as much as possible. So he’s assembled “a kitchen cabinet of outside experts including his former roommate and a suite of McKinsey consultants.” In other words: people who think that they’re the smartest people in the room, so their lack of expertise is meaningless.

Categories: Politics

Pandemic be damned, Secret Service just signed a new golf cart rental contract with Trump's VA club

10 hours 3 min ago

During the months of January, February, and into March, President Donald Trump spent many of his weekends golfing at his favorite golf clubs, all of which he happens to own. Even on March 7, as COVID-19 was beginning to sweep through New York City’s metro area with a population of more than 18,000,000 residents, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was issuing a state of emergency, Donald Trump was still golfing. Even worse, he was attending a 51st birthday party for his son’s girlfriend alongside his bestie, Lindsey Graham. The party took place at Mar-a-Lago and the $50,000 tab for the party was reportedly paid for by Trump campaign donors. The grift never ends. 

Now we know Donald Trump had been briefed for weeks or even months on the projected loss of life in the U.S. due to COVID-19. Top Army brass warned the White House on Feb. 3 that their analysis showed a loss of life between 80,000 to 150,000. And Donald Trump still golfed. 

Categories: Politics

Senate Democrats call for provision barring DHS from using funds to detain DACA or TPS beneficiaries

10 hours 20 min ago

Nearly 20 senators led by Dick Durbin of Illinois and Jacky Rosen of Nevada are calling on top Senate committees to pass language that would block the Department of Homeland Security from using federal funds to detain and deport roughly 1 million immigrants that are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs, both of which have been relentlessly attacked by the Trump administration. 

“DACA and TPS recipients have built their lives in the United States, some for more than two decades, and they do not deserve to be forced to live in fear of detention and deportation,” the 19 senators tell the Senate Committee on Appropriations and Subcommittee on Homeland Security. “In light of the clear evidence that the Trump administration is preparing to deport Dreamers and TPS recipients, we request that you include an unequivocal prohibition on any appropriated funds being used to deport them.”

Categories: Politics