👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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🔥 Daily Damage Report.
🌍 Global: Total confirmed cases ~3,725,000; Total deaths: ~261,000; Total recoveries: ~1,227,000. (Johns Hopkins University)
🇺🇸 U.S.: Total confirmed cases ~1,217,000; Total deaths: ~72,200; Total recoveries: ~190,000
💰 Markets: Dow 📉; S&P 500 📉; Nasdaq 📈
Experts warn that Trump’s push to reopen the country risks a “death sentence” for many Americans. Trump has praised governors of states that have started to loosen restrictions on social distancing and business activity, even though he admitted that people will suffer as a result. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” Trump said on Tuesday. “But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.” (The Guardian)
The World Health Organization warned world leaders that there can be “no going back to business as usual” following the coronavirus pandemic. “The only way to control and suppress this virus, this COVID-19, is to actually find [cases], quarantine those contacts, isolate the cases and it will be brought under control,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s lead scientist on Covid-19, said during a press conference. (CNBC)
1/ Trump contradicted his plan to shut down the coronavirus task force, vowing that the group would “continue on indefinitely” because of “how popular the task force is.” In a series of tweets, Trump said that the task force will be “very focused” on “SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN,” as well as on the development of a coronavirus vaccine. He added that he would be announcing “two or three new members to the task force” soon. Trump’s change of plans come a day after he told reporters during a visit to a mask factory in Phoenix that he would wind down the task force. (Politico / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian / Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC)
2/ On the same day Trump praised himself for solving “every problem” and taking care of “all of the things,” members of his own administration privately warned that states were still experiencing shortages of masks, gowns, and other medical gear. A May 1 recording of an interagency conference call between FEMA and HHS officials began with the director of the CDC’s influenza division saying: “The numbers of deaths definitely will be high.” Other officials discussed their ongoing struggle to keep up with requests from governors for more medical equipment and PPE. Meanwhile, Trump was telling the public that the federal government had “loaded up hospitals with things to take care of people” and “We’ve ensured a ventilator for every patient who needs one. The testing and the masks and all of the things, we’ve solved every problem. We solved it quickly.” (Politico)
- The governor of Texas: “every scientific and medical report shows” reopening states leads to an increase in coronavirus cases in those states. Gov. Greg Abbott told state lawmakers during a private phone call that “the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening […] it actually will lead to an increase and spread.” He added: “The more that you have people out there, the greater the possibility is for transmission. So, the goal never has been to get transmission down to zero. It never can be.” A spokesperson confirmed the audio from the call was authentic. (Daily Beast / Quorum Report / San Antonio Current)
3/ Trump complained to advisers about how coronavirus deaths are calculated, suggesting the real numbers are actually lower. While there is no evidence that the death rate has been exaggerated, and experts believe coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are being undercounted, one senior administration official said he expects Trump to publicly questioning the death toll as it closes in on his prediction that “We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people.” (Axios)
4/ The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We don’t know” where the coronavirus began, but “the weight of evidence is that it was natural and not man-made” and “that it was probably not intentional[ly]” released from a Chinese lab. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, insisted that “there is significant evidence that this came from the laboratory,” but conceded that “We don’t have certainty […] We’re all trying to figure out the right answer.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. intelligence community, and the “Five Eyes” international intelligence alliance have all said that the coronavirus “was not manmade or genetically modified,” suggesting that it “evolved in nature,” and likely originated in a Chinese wet market as a result of “natural human and animal interaction.” (The Hill / Politico / CNN)
📌 Day 1197: The Trump administration pressured U.S. intelligence agencies to provide evidence supporting White House claims that the coronavirus outbreak originated in state-run laboratory accident in China. Trump – without offering any evidence – said he had reason to believe that the outbreak originated from a lab in China, saying “we should have the answer to that in the not-so-distant future.” The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, however, reported that intelligence agencies concur “with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.” The White House, meanwhile, have been exploring retaliatory measures against China, including suing for compensation, which would involve stripping China of “sovereign immunity” or cancelling debt obligations to China. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNBC / ABC News / The Guardian / Associated Press / Politico / Axios)
📌 Day 1202: Dr. Anthony Fauci, contradicting both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said the best scientific evidence shows that the coronavirus did not originate in a Chinese laboratory. “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now,” Fauci said, the scientific evidence “is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated.” Fauci added that he doesn’t subscribe to the theory that someone found the virus in the wild, brought it into a lab, and then allowed it to escape and spread to the rest of the world, saying “Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” (National Geographic)
5/ The Trump administration will urge the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, despite Attorney General William Barr warning Trump officials about the political ramifications of undermining the health care safety net during the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration position backs a lawsuit filed by a group of Republican states seeking to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act after Congress eliminated the tax penalty for not having health insurance. (Politico / CNN)
6/ Betsy DeVos released finalized guidelines for how universities and K-12 schools should handle complaints of sexual assault and misconduct. The new federal rules provide new protections for the accused, including the presumption that they are innocent throughout the disciplinary process and the right to be provided all evidence collected against them. Students can also cross-examine their accusers during live hearings to challenge their credibility. The new regulation also offers a narrow definition of sexual harassment, requiring that it be severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / Washington Post / CNN / Axios)
7/ Trump ordered Jared Kushner and other aides to move forward with painting his border wall black, which is projected to add at least $500 million in costs. Federal contracting estimates show that costs for a premium “powder coating” could exceed $3 billion. While the White House has not picked a grade of paint, Trump has insisted that the barrier be black to discourage climbers, because of its heat-absorbent properties. Military commanders and border officials, however, consider the black paint unnecessary, costly, and a maintenance burden, which is why they left it out of the original U.S. Customs and Border Protection design specifications. (Washington Post)
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