👋 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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💌 Send me a handwritten postcard or letter with advice for the future generation about wtf has happened over the last four years and what needs to be done.
Not sure where to start? Consider the Trump administration’s impact on climate change, healthcare, immigration, education, civil rights, or whatever, like this goddamn pandemic, and how it’s changed you, your relationships, and your outlook for the future.
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🗳 How To Vote In The 2020 Election In Every State. Everything you need to know about mail-in and early in-person voting in every state in the age of COVID-19, including the first day you can cast your ballot in the 2020 election. (FiveThirtyEight / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~24,012,000; deaths: ~822,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~5,813,000; deaths: ~180,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
1/ The CDC abruptly changed its COVID-19 testing guidance to exclude people without symptoms who have been exposed to COVID-19. Previously, the CDC said testing was appropriate for people with recent or suspected exposure, even if they were asymptomatic, “because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.” The guidance now recommends that, for healthy people who have been within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, “you do not necessarily need a test.” Experts, however, questioned the revision, calling it “potentially dangerous” and saying “testing, even for asymptomatic people, is critical to keeping community transmission low since we know that presymptomatic transmission drives much of the spread.” The new guidance was introduced without an announcement. Instead, the CDC website was quietly updated. (CNN / New York Times / NBC News / ABC News)
2/ The White House pressured the CDC to change its guidance on testing asymptomatic people who have been exposed to the coronavirus. “It’s coming from the top down,” an official said. Another said the guidelines were not written by the CDC but were imposed. HHS Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir said the changes were “discussed at the last task force meeting and approved,” and that the idea had originated with himself and CDC Director Robert Redfield. However, Thursday was the same day Dr. Anthony Fauci was under general anesthesia for vocal cord surgery. Dr. Fauci confirmed that he was not part of the discussion. Trump has repeatedly suggested that the U.S. should do less testing. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg)
3/ The Trump administration threatened to withhold Medicare and Medicaid funding from hospitals if they don’t report COVID-19 data to the Department of Health and Human Services. Until now, some hospitals were voluntarily reporting this information. The new rules, however, make reporting a requirement for participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In July, the administration ordered hospitals to stop reporting coronavirus data to the CDC, but instead send results to HHS by way of a private vendor. Weeks later, HHS reversed course and returned the responsibility for data collection to the CDC. [Editor’s note: I’m admittedly confused here. Anyone able to clarify all of this for me?] (New York Times)
4/ The intelligence community said there is “no information or intelligence” that foreign countries, including Russia, are “engaged in any kind of activity to undermine any part of the mail-in vote.” The disclosure contradicts Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who have repeatedly falsely claimed that foreign adversaries are targeting mail ballots as part of a “rigged” presidential election. Senior officials, however, declined to discuss Russia’s efforts to amplify Trump’s attempts to sow mistrust and doubt about the legitimacy of the election. (NPR / Politico / CNN / Associated Press)
5/ Trump said he will send federal law enforcement and the National Guard to to Kenosha, Wisconsin to “restore law and order” amid protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, who was shot multiple times at close range and left paralyzed. Trump’s authority to send in federal resources, however, is limited without the direct invitation of the state government. Meanwhile, a white, 17-year-old police admirer was arrested and charged with homicide after two people were killed and another seriously wounded by gunfire. Kyle Rittenhouse traveled about 15 miles from Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha. He also appeared in the front row at a Trump rally in January. After three days following Blake’s shooting, Trump has not directly addressed it, but instead tweeted that he “will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets.” (Politico / Bloomberg / ABC News / NBC News / Associated Press / Washington Post / BuzzFeed News)
6/ The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to reinstate restrictions on an abortion medication that were temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. In July, a federal judge blocked the FDA from enforcing its rule on mifepristone, saying the restrictions were an undue burden and “substantial obstacle” on women’s access to abortion services. The administration’s request, if granted, would again prevent women from getting the drug unless they visit a hospital, clinic, or medical office, and acknowledge in writing that they have been advised of the drug’s risks. (CNBC)
7/ In 2018, Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection officials suggested deploying a microwave weapon against immigrants at the border. The “heat ray” was designed by the military to make people’s skin feel like it is burning when they get within range of its invisible beams. Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, told an aide afterward that she would not authorize the use of the device. At a separate meeting earlier in the day – and 15 days before the 2018 midterms – Trump directed his Nielsen and White House staff that “extreme action” was needed to stop the migrants caravans heading to the U.S. border. (New York Times)
poll/ 66% of likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin say they have serious concerns about COVID-19 – down from 69% two weeks ago. The share of respondents who said they have “very serious” concerns about the coronavirus dropped to 45% from 49%. (CNBC)
poll/ 49% of Black Americans say they are somewhat or very likely to get a flu shot this year, compared 65% of white Americans and 60% of Hispanics. 28% of Black Americans say they would be willing to take a first-generation COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 51% of white Americans and 56% of Hispanics. Overall, 62% of those surveyed say they are somewhat or very likely to get a flu shot, while 48% say they’ll take a first-generation COVID-19 vaccine. (Axios)
🌀 Dept. of Political Infomercials.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the RNC from a rooftop in Jerusalem, where he was on a government-paid diplomatic mission, even though State Department employees were expressly told to avoid political activity and not to attend political conventions. No sitting secretary of state had previously addressed a national political convention in at least 75 years. (New York Times / Politico)
Trump pardoned a man from the White House and hosted a naturalization ceremony for five others during the RNC. The full pardon for Jon Ponder, a man convicted of robbing a bank, aired during a segment in the first minutes of the RNC’s second night. Followed by Acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf administering the Oath of Allegiance for five new citizens in a pre-taped ceremony. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity inside federal buildings or while on duty. A White House official, however, claimed that because the naturalization ceremony was part of Trump’s official schedule and publicized on a public website, “there was no violation of law.” (Washington Post / NPR / The Guardian / New York Times / Los Angeles Times / Axios)
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows dismissed accusations that Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act by speaking at the Republican National Convention, saying “Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares.” Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Economic Director Larry Kudlow, and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, have all accepted speaking roles at the RNC. (Politico / Axios)
People who attended Melania Trump’s Rose Garden speech at the RNC were not required to get tested for COVID-19. A person who attended the speech said there were screening questions on the RSVP form, but no actual coronavirus tests or temperature checks were required or conducted at the White House. Most of the attendees also did not wear masks, and the chairs provided for attendees were not spaced six feet apart. (CNN)
The RNC canceled one of its scheduled speakers after she promoted an anti-Semitic and QAnon conspiracy theories on Twitter. Hours before Mary Ann Mendoza, a member of the Trump campaign’s advisory board, was set to appear in a video praising Trump’s efforts on immigration policy, she retweeted a threat containing nearly every anti-Semitic trope of the last century and claimed that Jewish forces in the banking industry were are out to enslave the world. Mendoza later deleted her tweet and posted an apology “for not paying attention.” (Daily Beast / CNN / CNBC / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News)
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