👋 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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😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~13,671,000; deaths: ~587,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~3,550,000; deaths: ~139,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
1/ Another 1.3 million people filed unemployment last week – the 17th straight week that news claims exceeded 1 million. Continuing claims totaled 17.4 million and another 14.3 million people claimed Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which brings the total number of people on all programs to 32 million unemployed. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the record for weekly unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982. (Washington Post / CNBC / CNN / ABC News / NBC News)
2/ The U.K., U.S., and Canadian governments accused hackers from Russia’s intelligence services of attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine research. The U.K. National Cyber Security Centre said the Russian hacking group, known as APT29, “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear,” is targeting vaccine research and development organizations, and therapeutic sectors. The National Security Agency said the Russian hackers are using malware and fraudulent emails to trick people into turning over passwords and other security credentials in an effort to access the research. The hacking group is one of the two Russian intelligence groups that hacked the Democratic National Committee servers during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg)
3/ Previously public data disappeared from the CDC’s website after the Trump administration directed hospitals to submit information on COVID-19 patients directly to the Department of Health and Human Services, rather than through a longstanding CDC reporting system. The information removed from the website includes the current inpatient and intensive care unit bed occupancy, health care worker staffing, and personal protective equipment supply status and availability. Since the pandemic began, the CDC has published data on availability of hospital beds and intensive care units across the country. [Update: Hours after the data disappeared, HHS directed the CDC to re-establish their public hospital data.] (CNBC / NBC News / CNN / Vice News)
- 📌 Day 1272: The Trump administration ordered hospitals to bypass the CDC and send all coronavirus patient information to a central database maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS will collect daily reports about patients each hospital is treating, how many beds and ventilators are available, and more. Officials claimed that the change will streamline data gathering and assist the White House coronavirus task force in allocating supplies. The HHS database, however, will receive information that is not available to the public, which could affect the work of researchers, modelers, and health officials who rely on CDC data to make projections and public health decisions. The Trump administration has also asked governors to send the National Guard to hospitals to collect data about coronavirus patients, supply, and capacity. Hospital industry leaders say any issues with data collection lie primarily with HHS and the administration’s constantly changing instructions. (New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)
4/ A White House coronavirus task force document shows 18 states are in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week. The document, dated July 14, suggests that more than a dozen states should revert to strict protective measures, limit social gatherings, close bars and gyms, and require residents to wear masks at all times. (Center for Public Integrity)
A national mandatory mask mandate for employees of public-facing businesses could have save 40,000 lives. The study by MIT and the Vancouver School of Economics estimated that mandating masks for employees in public would have reduced the death toll by 40%, with a 90% chance that the actual number would have been from 17,000 lives to 55,000 lives. (Bloomberg)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp explicitly banned cities from requiring people to wear masks in public to stop the spread of COVID-19, insisting that the state’s less-stringent guidelines take precedence. Kemp’s order voids existing mask mandates in more than a dozen cities or counties, calling mask mandates “a bridge too far.” On Wednesday, Georgia reported its second-highest new coronavirus case count to date. (NPR / Washington Post / Associated Press / Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
5/ Trump replaced his campaign manager with four months to go before the presidential election. Brad Parscale, who became Trump’s campaign manager in February 2018, will continue to work for the campaign as a senior adviser for data and digital operations. He will be replaced by deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien, who was expelled from former NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s administration following the intentional lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 — an episode known as Bridgegate. He was never formally accused of any wrongdoing and ended up joining Trump’s 2016 campaign team. A senior campaign adviser said Trump, Pence, and top campaign advisers have been discussing the Parscale move for a number of days. Parscale had been marginalized in the campaign following Trump’s rally in Oklahoma and lagging poll numbers. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Axios)
- The Republican Party will hold a scaled-back convention in Jacksonville. The new plans will mean smaller crowds, fewer speeches, and the use of indoor and outdoor venues. Attendance will be limited to the 2,500 regular RNC delegates for the first three days of the convention. For the final day, when Trump attendance will be capped at 7,000 people. (Washington Post / CNN)
6/ The White House’s presidential personnel office has been conducting “loyalty tests” with health officials and political appointees across federal agencies. White House officials said the interviews are a necessary exercise to determine who would be willing to serve in a second term if Trump is reelected, but officials called for the interviews say the exercise is to root out threats of leaks and other potentially subversive acts months before the presidential election. (Politico)
poll/ 72% of voters say the country is on the wrong track — a 16-point jump since March. 51% of voters say that if the election were held today, they’d vote for Biden while 40% said they’d vote for Trump. The poll’s margin error was 3.3 percentage points. (NBC News)
poll/ 50% of Americans identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared to 39% for the Republican Party. In January, 47% of Americans identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, compared to 45% for the Democratic Party. (Gallup)
Trump’s new Postmaster General said mail deliveries could be delayed by a day or more under a cost-cutting effort. In a memo, Louis DeJoy said that if distribution centers are running late, “they will keep the mail for the next day” and as a result “we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks. The change comes a month after DeJoy, a major donor to Trump, took over the mail service. Meanwhile, more than 18,500 Floridians’ ballots were not counted during the March presidential primary because they arrived by mail after the deadline. (Associated Press / Washington Post)
The Trump administration is considering banning travel to the U.S. by members of China’s Communist Party and their families. The draft presidential proclamation under consideration would cite the same statute in the Immigration and Nationality Act used in 2017 to institute a travel ban on a number of Muslim countries and could also authorize the U.S. to revoke the visas of party members and their families who are already in the country. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
A top Trump administration official violated federal contracting regulations by directing millions of taxpayer dollars in contracts that ultimately benefited Trump– and GOP–aligned communications consultants, according to an HHS inspector general report. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Seema Verma only halted the contracts after an investigation by Politico raised questions about their legality. The agency had already paid out more than $5 million to the contractors by the time the contracts were stopped. A 15-month audit by the HHS inspector general found that CMS “improperly administered the contracts and created improper employer-employee relationships” with the contractors. At least eight former White House, presidential transition team, and campaign officials for Trump were hired as outside contractors and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. (Politico / Kaiser Health News)
Trump posed for an Oval Office photo with several Goya Foods products one day after Ivanka Trump tweeted support for the company amid boycott calls after its CEO praised Trump. (HuffPost)
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