The President and First Lady Have Coronavirus.

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By Terrance Turner

Oct. 1, 2020 (UPDATED Oct. 2)

The President of the United States has tested positive for COVID-19. He announced just before midnight that both he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive:

This development poses a risk not only to the president’s reelection campaign, but also to his health. He is a 74-year-old-man of considerable girth; older Americans are more likely to face complications from COVID-19. Houston affiliate ABC 13 cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in writing that “people in the 65-74 age range face a five times greater risk of hospitalization and a 90 times greater risk of death from Covid-19 compared to young adults between the ages of 18-29.”

Excess weight is also likely to cause complications from the virus; CNN reported in June that Trump weighed 244 pounds and is 6 feet 3 inches tall. “That gives him a body mass index of 30.5, making him technically, if mildly, obese,” ABC 13 added. Obesity triples the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19, according to the CDC. These factors would appear to place the president in particular peril.

Accordingly, his schedule has been adjusted. According to the New York Times, “The White House did not say how long Mr. Trump would have to remain isolated, but it canceled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday telephone call ‘on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors’.” If the president remains in quarantine for the recommended 14 days, he would have to miss a second debate with Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15.

Hope Hicks — one of the president’s closest advisers — tested positive for COVID-19 last night. Hicks flew with the President on Air Force One, both to and from the debate on Tuesday night. Then she flew to Minnesota with him on Wednesday for a rally (!). Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs delivered the news last night:

According to the Associated Press, Hicks began having symptoms while on the plane ride home on Wednesday. “Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was quarantined away from others on the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday,” wrote Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin in their AP column.

The president and first lady entered quarantine within hours. Trump tweeted last night that he and First Lady Melania Trump were awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. “In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process,” he wrote on Twitter. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” Trump said during a call-in interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night. “I just went for a test, and we’ll see what happens.”

Now we know what happened. The President has tested positive.

It is a stunning reversal for a man who routinely downplayed the severity of the pandemic. Jokingly referring to it as the “Kung Flu”, Trump blamed China for the virus. He mocked people for wearing masks (he did that just yesterday, the New York Times says). And he once claimed that it would disappear, “like a miracle”, from our shores.

The question now is how the president (and first lady) became infected. If the president’s exposure to COVID-19 was days ago, a positive test is still possible in the future. “If it was even five days ago, and he tests negative now, he still may end up testing positive tomorrow,” said Dr. Leana Wen. “And so this is why that quarantine period is so important,” she explained on “CNN Tonight” last night. The program aired footage of Hope Hicks and other advisers boarding the plane Marine One

During the broadcast, host Don Lemon pointed out that no one in the group was six feet apart OR wearing masks. Hicks was reportedly maskless during her flights with the president. White House spokesman Judd Deere stated that the White House will “incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for COVID-19 “to the greatest extent possible”. But nobody on Marine One was wearing masks.

Interestingly, both Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence have tested negative, per CNBC. “As has been routine for months, Vice President Pence is tested for COVID-19 every day,” said Devin O’Malley, the vice president’s press secretary, in a tweet. “Vice President Pence remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery,” he said.

UPDATE: Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, have both tested negative for the coronavirus. ABC News announced the news in a “Breaking News” update roughly an hour ago; the news has been confirmed by MSNBC.

UPDATE (5:10 pm, Oct. 2): The president is now being flown to Walter Reed Medical Center. He will be flown there aboard his Marine One helicopter, which is standard procedure (according to CNN). “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. 

The New York Times quoted two sources who said the president has been experiencing a low-grade fever, nasal congestion, and a cough. His doctor issued a memo, cited by the Times, that said Mr. Trump remains “fatigued but in good spirits”. The memo also revealed that Trump is receiving an experimental drug — an antibody cocktail developed by the biotech company Regeneron.

The president just boarded Marine One, according to NBC News.

UPDATE (10/5/2020): The President has left the hospital and returned to the White House. According to the Associated Press, “Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” After putting the mask in his pocket, Trump “gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.” Just yesterday, Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s doctor, said that he was still contagious and not “fully out of the woods” yet. But here he is, back at the White House.

This is a developing story. Please watch this space for further updates.

NBA Players Launch Historic Boycott for Jacob Blake

By Terrance Turner

The shooting of unarmed Black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday has led to a historic move. In response to the shooting, the Milwaukee Bucks — who play just 40 miles north of Kenosha — decided to sit out tonight’s Game 5. The Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, and Portland Trail Blazers all boycotted their scheduled games tonight. There will be no NBA playoff basketball tonight.

Moreover, the boycott may stretch beyond tonight. ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted earlier today: “Emotions are raw, players were already worn out of bubble environment prior to the Jacob Blake shooting and sources say discussions within teams [involve] postponing tomorrow’s three games too — and beyond. ‘The season is in jeopardy,’ one vet player here told ESPN.”

Tonight, players met in the NBA bubble to discuss the situation. NBA Insider Shams Charania said tonight that the Lakers and Clippers voted to end the NBA season. Lakers star LeBron James reportedly walked out of the meeting, joined by players from both L.A. teams. According to NBA writer Vince Goodwill, his frustration stemmed in part from the fact that the Bucks initiated the boycott without letting others know. Further action will be taken tomorrow, at the Board of Governors meeting.

Michelle Obama Issues Stirring Clarion Call To Voters At DNC

By Terrance Turner

Tonight, the first night of the Democratic National Convention closed with a stirring, substantive speech by former First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama spoke to the pain and fatigue many are feeling amid the coronavirus pandemic. But she also called for empathy and decency — emphasizing those qualities in candidate Joe Biden and underscoring their absence in the current president. Above all, however, she implored everyone to vote.

Mrs. Obama began by speaking directly to the American people. “I love this country with all my heart, and it pains me to see so many people hurting,” she said. “I’ve met so many of you. I’ve heard your stories. And through you, I have seen this country’s promise. And thanks to so many who came before me, thanks to their toil and sweat and blood, I’ve been able to live that promise myself.”

“That’s the story of America,” she said. “All those folks who sacrificed and overcame so much in their own times because they wanted something more, something better for their kids.” With that, she began to outline the taxing requirements of the American presidency.

“I am one of a handful of people living today who have seen firsthand the immense weight and awesome power of the presidency. And let me once again tell you this: the job is hard. It requires clear-headed judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues, a devotion to facts and history, a moral compass, and an ability to listen—and an abiding belief that each of the 330 million lives in this country has meaning and worth.”

“A president’s words have the power to move markets. They can start wars or broker peace. They can summon our better angels or awaken our worst instincts. You simply cannot fake your way through this job,” she said. “As I’ve said before, being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are. Well, a presidential election can reveal who we are, too. And four years ago, too many people chose to believe that their votes didn’t matter. Maybe they were fed up. Maybe they thought the outcome wouldn’t be close. Maybe the barriers felt too steep.

Whatever the reason, in the end, those choices sent someone to the Oval Office who lost the national popular vote by nearly three million votes. In one of the states that determined the outcome, the winning margin averaged out to just two votes per precinct—two votes. And we’ve all been living with the consequences.” (Jewell Porter, the mobilization director for the Michigan Democratic Party, says that Mrs. Obama was referencing Michigan.)

“When my husband left office with Joe Biden at his side, we had a record-breaking stretch of job creation. We’d secured the right to health care for 20 million people. We were respected around the world, rallying our allies to confront climate change. And our leaders had worked hand-in-hand with scientists to help prevent an Ebola outbreak from becoming a global pandemic.

Four years later, the state of this nation is very different. More than 150,000 people have died, and our economy is in shambles because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long. It has left millions of people jobless.” (At least 30 million, according to Forbes.) “Too many have lost their health care; too many are struggling to take care of basic necessities like food and rent; too many communities have been left in the lurch to grapple with whether and how to open our schools safely. Internationally, we’ve turned our back — not just on agreements forged by my husband, but on alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.”

“And here at home, as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office.” (On July 1, as “Black Lives Matter” was painted on the ground in front of Trump Tower, Trump lambasted BLM as a “symbol of hate”. The remarks came nearly three years after he referred to Nazis and white supremacists as “very fine people”. Meanwhile, the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor have STILL not been arrested.)

Mrs. Obama added that “whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy.” That, in fact, was the word of the night.

“Empathy: that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value, too. Most of us practice this without a second thought. If we see someone suffering or struggling, we don’t stand in judgment. We reach out because, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’ It is not a hard concept to grasp. It’s what we teach our children.

Barack and I have tried our best to instill in our girls a strong moral foundation to carry forward the values that our parents and grandparents poured into us. But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.

They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business just because of the color of their skin. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else. And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain.

They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists. They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protestors for a photo-op.

Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation.

So what do we do now? What’s our strategy? Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, ‘When others are going so low, does going high still really work?’ My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight.

But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.

And going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth.

So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.

It is what it is.

Now, Joe is not perfect. And he’d be the first to tell you that. But there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president. And his ability to learn and grow—we find in that the kind of humility and maturity that so many of us yearn for right now. Because Joe Biden has served this nation his entire life without ever losing sight of who he is; but more than that, he has never lost sight of who we are, all of us.

“So if you take one thing from my words tonight,” she continued, “it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can. And they will — if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”

Joe Biden Chooses Kamala Harris As Running Mate

By Terrance Turner

August 11, 2020 (updated Aug. 12)

Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden has chosen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate. Biden announced his VP pick on Twitter. In an email to supporters, he wrote:  “I need someone working alongside me who is smart, tough, and ready to lead. Kamala is that person.” Harris is the first Black woman AND first Indian-American on a Democratic presidential ticket. (Or any major-party ticket, for that matter.)

It is the latest of many firsts for Harris, 55. The daughter of an Indian scientist mother and a Jamaican economist father, she is the first person in her family born in the United States, according to ABC News reporter Terry Moran. Harris was the first woman to be elected as district attorney for San Francisco in 2003. She later became the first Black person and first woman to serve as California Attorney General in 2010. (Harris won re-election in 2014 with 57% of the vote.)

When she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, Harris was only the second African-American* woman to serve in that house. As a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committees, Harris earned attention for her tough, probing style of questioning, underscoring her record as a prosecutor. Those skills were on special display during the contentious confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Though she is the fourth woman on a presidential ticket (Clinton, Palin, Ferraro), Harris is the first non-white woman, according to The Sunday Times. Now, Kamala Harris could become the first Black woman (and first South Asian) to serve as Vice President of the United States of America.

Moran said today that Biden and Harris will appear together tomorrow in Wilmington (in Biden’s home state of Delaware). It is the first step in what once appeared to be an unlikely partnership. At a Democratic debate last year (in Miami), Harris went after Biden for waxing poetic about working with segregationist senators. “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” she said.

But Harris also went after Biden for his stance opposing federal funding for desegregated busing. Under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the federal government could withhold funding from districts that refused to integrate blacks and whites — integration including school busing. Biden opposed that approach, arguing that it would lead to racial unrest. He teamed up with segregationist Sen. Jesse Helms for a failed anti-busing amendment in 1975. The next year, Biden moved to bar the Justice Department from pursuing busing-related cases. The New York Times revealed that between 1975 and 1982, Biden introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at limiting courts and the feds from mandating busing.

Harris took Biden to task for that — and for working with senators like Helms. “And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she said, growing emotional. “And that little girl was me.”

Biden, apparently blindsided by the comment, argued Harris had mischaracterized his position. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, was also hurt, saying that Harris’ attack was a “punch to the gut”. But Harris endorsed Biden in March. And just two weeks ago, at a speech in Wilmington, Biden offered a telling clue. As he approached the podium, Biden’s handwritten notes were snapped by an Associated Press photographer. Sen. Kamala Harris’ name was scrawled across the top. Right under her name, Biden had written: “Do not hold grudges.”

Biden’s notes were captured by an AP photographer at a speech in Wilmington on July 28. (Photo via AP.)

Today (Aug. 12), the two made their first joint appearance as running mates in Delaware; both shed some light on what brought them together.

One key factor in Biden choosing Harris was her friendship with his son Beau Biden (who died of brain cancer in 2015). Harris and Beau Biden were attorneys general during the same time period. “They took on the same big fights together. Kamala in California. Beau here in Delaware — big fights that helped change the entire country,” Joe Biden said today. “I know how much Beau respected Kamala and her work, and that mattered a lot to me, to be honest with you, as I made this decision.”

“Beau and I spoke on the phone practically every day — sometimes multiple times a day,” Harris said in her remarks this afternoon. “Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves. He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, ‘Where’d you get that? Where did this come from?’ He’d always talk about his dad. And I will tell you, the love that they shared was incredible to watch.” 

Beyond their heart-tugging memories of Beau, the two bonded over mutual goals and mutual admiration. Biden praised Harris as smart, tough, and experienced. “She knows how to govern,” Biden said, “and she’s ready to do the job on day one.” Harris in turn praised Biden as warm and compassionate. “His empathy, his compassion, his sense of duty to care for others is why I am so proud to be on this ticket,” Harris said.

But they both also saw this election in dramatic, game-changing terms. Biden reiterated that the 2020 election is “a battle for the soul of the nation”. Harris was similarly sweeping: “This is a moment of real consequence for America,” she said. “Everything we care about — our economy, our health, our children, the kind of country we live in — it’s all on the line.”

And, of course, they both took aim at Donald Trump. Biden called out Trump for his low-blow attacks on Harris (he called her “nasty”, “phony”, and “disrespectful” yesterday). “Is anyone surprised that Donald Trump has a problem with strong women?” Biden said. He added some jabs at the president’s work with the economy, too: “Trump is on track to leave office with the worst jobs record of any American president in modern history.”

Harris, too, lacerated Trump’s economic record. “The President’s mismanagement of the pandemic has plunging us into the worst economic crisis since the great depression,” Harris said. “He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.”

“This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up for the job,” Harris said. “Our country ends in tatters and so does our reputation around the world.”

Of course, they both discussed the topic of race. Harris said that “we are experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country.” Biden noted that today is the third anniversary of the Charlottesville rally, which featured Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists marching down streets of Virginia. The event led to racially charged violence: a group of white nationalists beat up a black University of Virginia student and then sued him for assault. (Trump famously defended the white supremacists as “very fine people”.) That moment, which spurred Biden to enter the race, came into sharp relief today.

But Biden cited Harris’ presence as a racial balm. He painted her momentous VP nod as an opportunity for Black women. “And this morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and Brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities, but today — today, just maybe — they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way, as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents,” Biden said. 

“As a child of immigrants, [Harris] knows personally how immigrant families enrich our country, as well as the challenges of what it means to grow up Black and Indian-American in the United States of America,” said Biden. “Her story is America’s story.”  

Born in Oakland, California in 1964, Harris was the daughter of immigrants. Her mother was a breast cancer scientist; her father was an economics professor. What brought them together, Harris said today, was the civil rights movement. “And that’s how they met, as students in the streets of Oakland,” she said today, “marching and shouting for this thing called justice, in a struggle that continues today. And I was part of it.”

Harris grew up in Berkeley. She was in kindergarten when the second year of integrated busing began there in 1969. Berkeley undertook its busing program voluntarily, requiring both white and black families to travel into unfamiliar neighborhoods, per the Los Angeles Times.

Harris entered more unfamiliar territory when her family moved to Montreal in the seventies. She graduated from high school in Westmount High School, near the Canadian city. Her Westmount high school classmate Hugh Kwok remembered:  “She was a sweet, kind person. Very happy, very social.” Indeed, a survey of her Westmount colleagues in the Toronto Star revealed warm memories. “They remember the California senator, now 54, as an assured, cheery teenager who thrived both in school and on the dance floor,” wrote Washington bureau chief Daniel Dale in 2018. He wrote that Harris maintained popularity across a diverse student body, in spite of her presence in a brand-new country.

She entered new territory again by going to Howard University in Washington, D.C. She double-majored in political science and economics there. Before graduating from the historically black college, Harris was on the debate team and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She was even elected to the liberal arts student council. “Running a campaign at Howard was tough!” NBC News quotes her as saying. “I remember walking up to strangers, asking them to vote for me.”

Harris earned her juris doctorate from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Then she launched her career as a deputy district attorney (part of a D.A.’s team of prosecutors). It was just the start of what would be a star-making career. Now, she has a chance to not only advance her career but alter the course of history

*Carol Moseley-Braun was the first, in 1992.

Dear Kim Kardashian…

Met Gala 2018 Trend Watch: Golden Chalices | Met gala dresses ...
Kim Kardashian (West) at the Met Gala. (The theme was “Heavenly Bodies”.)

By Terrance Turner

Dear Kim Kardashian West,

It’s time.

I know you’re busy studying to be a lawyer and mothering four kids, but I need you to read this. I know this isn’t something you really want to hear, but you need to hear it.

Your husband needs help.

At this point, you and I both know that your husband, Kanye West, struggles with bipolar disorder. I know that must be difficult to deal with. As someone who serves as a caretaker for a parent battling mental illness, I know that it is a difficult job. I know sometimes it’s easier to just ignore the bizarre, problematic behavior and keep your head down and keep going. I know you probably wish that I would just mind my business. And normally, I would.

But things are different now.

Your husband has decided to run from president — despite having virtually no experience or knowledge required for the job. We are in the middle of a deeply fraught moment on race relations: protests continue over the death of George Floyd. And protests in Portland have taken a deeply troubling, authoritarian turn. We STILL haven’t arrested the cops who killed Breonna Taylor. This is a moment of real crisis, and Kanye is completely unable to meet this moment.

He still hasn’t apologized for saying slavery was a choice. Nor has he apologized to us for endorsing Donald Trump — a man who wouldn’t rent rooms to Black people in the 1970s, who said “laziness is a trait in blacks” in the ’90s, and who spent most of the late 2000s trying to destroy the first African-American president. (Nor, by the way, has he apologized to the 50 women — some black — he threw under the bus by defending The Artist Formerly Known As Cliff Huxtable. But that’s another topic for another day.)

Today, he threw gasoline on that simmering racial fire by (again) making insensitive comments about slavery. “Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves,” he told a crowd at a “campaign rally” in South Carolina today. “She just had them work for other white people.”

Why are Kanye and Nicki Minaj so obsessed with trying to discredit and disrespect an American heroine? (I guess in Nicki’s case, it’s to distract us from that career criminal she married. Or from the fact that she only got her first #1s by collaborating with self-loathing racists and pedophile snitches? Anyway, that’s beside the point.)

Worse yet, there are now questions about his mental fitness for the job. Today, Kanye added further questions to an already-growing concern about his mental health by breaking down at the event. West said that while he believes abortion should be legal, financial incentives to help struggling mothers could be a way to discourage the practice. “Everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Kim. Girl.

Really? This what we doing?

While at the event (to support a campaign whose website reportedly has no registration or RSVP information), Kanye burst into tears while discussing his parents and daughter. “My mom saved my life! My dad wanted to abort me,” he said. “There would have been no Kanye West.” And then he went several steps further.

“I almost killed my daughter!” he insisted, through his tears. “I almost killed my daughter.”

I’m going to assume he’s talking in the context of abortion, given the context and his (sometimes) pro-life leanings. But there is no amount of context that makes this OK.

Kim, you told Vogue in 2019 that Kanye taking bipolar medication was a nonstarter. “For him, being on medication is not really an option, because it just changes who he is,” you said. “Traveling a lot does set it off, so he doesn’t travel as much as he used to. But honestly, I never want to speak for him, because I am not in his mind.”

Clearly. But Kim: traveling is part of the job of any presidential candidate. How is he going to make it through stops in Florida? Or North Carolina? Or Iowa? Or New Hampshire? How is he going to function at nationally televised debates? Or cope with the pressures of being on the campaign trail? What if he slides into depression? Being bipolar presents an even greater risk for suicide than major depressive disorder, according to Psychology Today. According to the DSM-5, one-fourth of all deaths by suicide may be related to bipolar disorder (APA, 2013).

Continuing with this campaign — and unmedicated, no less — will likely lead to (at the least) embarrassing episodes for you and your family. But the outcome could be even worse than that. Please convince your husband to end his campaign and get professional help.

Please.

As Texas COVID Hits New Highs, Gov. Abbott Issues Mask Order

Image: Mike Pence
Photo from NBC News.

By Terrance Turner

July 1, 2020

The Texas Department of Safety and Health Services reported 8,076 new cases of COVID-19 today. That’s an all-time high for single-day cases. There were 57 deaths — the highest one-day total since May 14. According to KTRK, 6,904 hospitalizations were reported in the state of Texas. That’s also a record.

UPDATE (July 2):

The Texas Medical Center is now converting other beds into ICU beds because they have hit 100% capacity. They have now entered “Phase 2” of their ICU surge. That means they have 373 beds available, per KTRK. The TMC will certainly need those beds if today’s hospitalization numbers are any indicator.

Today, 7,915 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Texas. There are 44 new deaths. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have hit a new record high: there were 7,382 lab-confirmed hospitalizations today, up 56% from last Thursday. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations is up 389% since Memorial Day.

The dramatic spike forced Gov. Greg Abbott to take action. Today, the governor of Texas issued an executive order “requiring all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public places in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions.” Those exceptions include people who are eating, exercising, or driving alone. (Or driving with passengers from one’s own household.)

Those under 10 years of age are also exempted from the order. So are those who have medical conditions that prevent masks. Or those who are voting. Or assisting a voter. Or giving a speech via broadcast or to an audience. Or anyone swimming in a pool…or a lake, or “similar body of water”. Or “any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship”, per the order.

The governor’s press release noted that the governor is giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people. Under the order, people cannot be in groups larger than ten and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others. (That, too, though, includes exceptions.) Penalties entail a verbal warning (for the first offense) and a $250 fine for the second.

The Associated Press reported today that the mask order takes effect Friday. As of Thursday, 176 of the state’s 254 counties had reported more 20 or more confirmed COVID-19 cases; those counties include most of the state’s population. 

Texas’ Coronavirus Cases Hit New High (AGAIN)

By Terrance Turner

June 25, 2020

Texas reported another 5,996 cases of COVID-19 today. That’s a new record, and the 47 deaths reported today are the most in five weeks. As if that weren’t enough, the state is also reporting a record 4,739 lab-confirmed hospitalizations from coronavirus. This news comes as the Texas Medical Center today said 100% of its ICU beds are full. (About 30% of those beds are held by patients with COVID-19.) The hospital can convert other beds to ICU status, but that may or may not be enough: hospitalizations are up by 350 since yesterday.

The number of daily cases has surpassed 5,000 for the third straight day. On June 24, Texas reported 5,551 cases of COVID-19, according to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace. That same day, the Texas Medical Center — the largest medical center in the world — hit crisis mode. 97% of hospital beds in the Medical Center’s intensive care unit (ICU) were reported as full. At roughly the same time yesterday, news broke that Trump is ending federal funding for coronavirus testing at the end of this month. (WHY?!?)

On June 23, the state of Texas had 5,489 new cases of COVID-19, according to the Texas Medical Center. 28 deaths were reported. As of June 23, there have been 120,370 total cases in Texas state, and 2,220 Texans had died. Today, of course, those numbers have already increased dramatically.

The Texas Tribune uses data from the Texas Department of State Health Services to track the number of daily positive tests. Today, the Tribune revealed that some 32,066 positive cases have emerged in Texas over just the past week. Predictably, Harris County and Dallas County have seen the largest number of both positive cases and deaths. They’ve led the state in those categories for months.

But cases and deaths aren’t the only categories in which there’s cause for alarm. Texas Governor Greg Abbott often cites the positive testing rate and hospitalization rate in Texas to justify reopening Texas. Gov. Abbott has spoken encouragingly about them in press conferences, and he’s even displayed charts of the numbers. Admittedly, both metrics were relatively low. At least at first. From April to June, the hospitalization rate held steady below 2,000. But beginning around June 10, the cases began to climb. Within days, they broke 3,000, according to the Tribune. Today, the number of hospitalizations reached a new high of 4,092.

After weeks of rising numbers, the reality of the situation seems to have finally hit Gov. Greg Abbott. In an interview with KBTX News, he urged Texans to stay home. “Because the spread is so rampant right now, there is never a reason for you to have to leave your home unless you do need to go out,” he said. “The safest place for you is at your home.”

Yet when he was asked whether he’d consider another lockdown, Abbott said that was a “last option”. Why? And the president said today that he was in favor of “slowing down” testing. WHY? Cases in several states are beginning to surge, and in Texas, the situation has gotten dire: Texas Children’s Hospital is now accepting adults because of a lack of hospital bed capacity.

In response to this stunning rise, Gov. Abbott has authored an executive order banning elective surgeries in Harris, Dallas, Travis, and Bexar counties. To his credit, he also moved to limit the spread among children. The governor’s office also is working with the Texas Department of State Health Services to create stricter safety standards for child care centers during the pandemic, according to the Texas Medical Center’s website.

Gov. Abbott even ordered a “pause” on reopening Texas. In a statement, he said: “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.” But returning to a lockdown is apparently out of the question: “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” he said.

Given the rapid, continuous pace at which Texas reopened and the governor’s refusal to resume lockdown, frustrations with his leadership are growing. Earlier this week, ABC 13 reported that 16,000 users on Twitter had called for Abbott to resign. Today, local station CW 39 conducted a Twitter poll on Abbott’s leadership. The results speak for themselves:

Supreme Court Upholds DACA in 5-4 Verdict

By Terrance Turner

The Supreme Court today blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end DACA, a program that protects immigrants brought to the United States as children. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court found that the administration’s attempt to end DACA in 2017 was “arbitrary and capricious”.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created in 2012 under then-President Barack Obama. Under the program, immigrants brought to the U.S. as children could stay in the States temporarily. They could apply and file for a two-year “forbearance” that would shield them from deportation. They have to be within 15 and 30 years of age, with no felony convictions. They must also pass a background check. According to NPR, DACA recipients must also be currently in school, a high school graduate, or honorably discharged from the military. The fee to renew and apply is $495.

Obama was moved to create the program after activists staged sit-ins in congressional offices and protested outside the White House. It was launched after the DREAM Act, which had similar protections, failed to pass Congress. (It was blocked in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator John Cornyn.) The current president moved to end the program in 2017, after winning office on an anti-immigrant platform. But the Supreme Court today handed Trump his second defeat of the week, ruling that his administration acted capriciously in trying to dismantle the program.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion. He was joined by the Court’s left-leaning justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Clarence Thomas wrote the majority dissent, joined by Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh. (According to the AP, the latter two wrote dissents of their own.)

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed.”

The agency in question is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the text of the Court’s decision, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked then-acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke to rescind the policy. “The next day, Duke acted on that advice. Taking into consideration the Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court rulings and the Attorney General’s letter, Duke decided to terminate the program. She explained that DHS would no longer accept new applications, but that existing DACA recipients whose benefits were set to expire within six months could apply for a two-year renewal. For all other DACA recipients, previously issued grants of relief would expire on their own terms, with no prospect for renewal.”

The result was a number of lawsuits by those who argued that the administration had violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. One of those plaintiffs was the NAACP, which said that the administration unlawfully reneged on a promise to protect young, undocumented immigrants of color. “NAACP, whose membership includes DACA registrants across the United States, is filing this lawsuit to protect the hundreds of thousands of Mexican, Caribbean and African immigrants,” NAACP General Counsel Janette M. Louard said. (NAACP’s website says that while over 80% of DACA recipients are Mexican, 36,000 Africans are also eligible for the program.)

The text of the Court’s decision (DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ET AL. v. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA ET AL.) says the NAACP suit was in D.C.’s District Court. The District Court granted partial summary judgment to the NAACP; today’s verdict upheld that ruling. NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the decision “a tremendous victory for America”.

“Today’s decision is completely monumental,” said Krissia Rivera, a 27-year-old DACA recipient and fourth-year medical school student at Brown University. “This decision means that I will be able to apply to residency programs and hopefully achieve my dream of becoming a surgeon,” Rivera told ABC. The decision is a major victory for thousands of immigrants: an estimated 800,000 people have enrolled in the program. DACA shielded them from deportation while they graduated, started businesses, became doctors or nurses, bought homes, even married and had children.

Some of them are working for major companies. According to ABC News, 200 major corporations filed briefs in the Supreme Court supporting the DACA recipients. Among them Microsoft, which was a plaintiff in one of the cases that made it to the Supreme Court, and Microsoft President Brad Smith. “There are more than 30,000 DACA registrants working in the health space alone. We’ve never needed these people more than we do today,” he said. “Every time I meet with them, I have the same reaction. We are lucky as a country to have them.”

Former vice president Joe Biden praised the ruling, writing: “The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory made possible by the courage and resilience of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients…As President, I will immediately work to make it permanent.”

Supreme Court Rules That 1964 Civil Rights Act Protects LGBT Workers

LGBT employee protections by state: Map shows where gay workers can be
States in gray were states where one could be fired for being LGBT. (Photo via Fast Company.)

In a shocking, landmark ruling, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 this morning that the 1964 Civil Rights Act (and its Title VII) protects LGBT workers from workplace discrimination. This means that it is now illegal to fire an employee because he or she is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Believe it or not, it was legal in 29 states (including Texas) to fire someone for being LGBT. That ends today.

The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in motels, restaurants, movie theatres, and all other public accomodations. Title VII outlawed discrimination”on the basis of sex”. It reads: “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual […] because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

At issue was whether the question of “sex” applies to gay, bisexual, or transgender employees. The court says it does. “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII,” wrote Neil Gorsuch in the court’s majority opinion. (He was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Roberts, and Stephen G. Breyer. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented.)

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Gorsuch continued. “An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.

“Consider, for example, an employer with two employees, both of whom are attracted to men. The two individuals are, to the employer’s mind, materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other a woman. If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague.”

Gorsuch took it a step further: “Or take an employer who fires a transgender person who was identified as a male at birth but who now identifies as a female. If the employer retains an otherwise identical employee who was identified as female at birth, the employer intentionally penalizes a person identified as male at birth for traits or actions that it tolerates in an employee identified as female at birth. Again, the individual employee’s sex plays an unmistakable and impermissible role in the discharge decision.”

This ruling, coming from a libertarian justice on a court that Trump stacked with conservatives, is astonishing. Reading news of this shocked me in much the same way as the Court’s landmark 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage (which also arrived during Pride month). It’s also a major victory for the LGBT community, after a Pride month rocked by parade cancellations and widespread protests against police brutality. (Not to mention the Trump administration’s attempt to argue that workplace protections didn’t apply to the community.) In a year that’s been filled with bad news, today’s news comes as a welcome surprise for activists — and every LGBT employee in America.

Calls Mount for End to White House Briefings After Trump’s Tantrum

By Terrance Turner

The President of the United States held a press briefing on Thursday to update the public on the coronavirus. During the briefing, he touted the drug hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria and arthritis, as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Preliminary tests had shown promise for the drug. Trump called it a “game-changer” that could help thousands. He added that the drug would be made available “almost immediately” with a prescription. Trump even said people would have access to the drug “literally within a few days.” But the Food and Drug Administration begged to differ. That same day, the FDA released a statement saying that “there are no FDA-approved therapeutics or drugs to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19”.

The next day, at another briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci (the head of the White House coronavirus task force) was asked if hydroxychloroquine could be used as a “prophylaxis” against the virus. “The answer is no,” Fauci said plainly. “The evidence you’re talking about, John, is anecdotal evidence,” he continued, addressing the reporter by name. “But the information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled, clinical trial.”

Trump stepped to the mic, conceding that “what the doctor said is 100% correct.” He added. “We’ll see. We’re going to know soon.”

NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander pointed out that the president’s own words had painted a different picture. “Yesterday, Mr. President, you said that they were for, quote, ‘immediate delivery’.”

“Yes, we have millions of units ordered,” the president responded. “I am a man that comes from a very positive school when it comes to — in particular — one of these drugs. And we’ll see how it works out, Peter. I’m not saying it will, but I think people may be surprised. By the way, that would be a game-changer.”

“Dr. Fauci said that there’s no magic drug for coronavirus right now, which you would agree—”

“Well, I think we only disagree a little bit”, the president interrupted. (Crosstalk ensued.) “I disagree,” he said. Maybe, and maybe not. Maybe there is; maybe there isn’t. We’ll have to see.”

“Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” Alexander asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Trump answered. “Such a lovely question,” he said sarcastically. “Look — it may work, and it may not work. And I agree with the doctor, what he said. . .. I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling. I’m, you know, a smart guy.”

Alexander’s next question set off a powder keg. “What do you say to the people who are scared, though? Nearly 200 dead. 14,000 who are sick [in the U.S.]. Millions, as you’ve witnessed, who are scared right now? What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”

“I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say,” Trump fumed. “I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Comcast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it ‘Concast.’” He wasn’t done: “That’s really bad reporting, you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows? I’ve been right a lot.”

Watch the full exchange below:

This morning, the White House held another briefing. While Trump was talking about unity in our “beautiful, big American family”, his campaign was sending emails to supporters that further attacked Alexander. The Hill reported earlier today on the email’s contents: “President Trump was in the middle of delivering a positive, uplifting message to Americans who may be afraid, and Peter Alexander was triggered by it,” the email claims. “Perhaps if Alexander hadn’t been so determined to undermine the President’s message, he would have heard it.”

As for the briefing itself? This time, things unfolded rather smoothly, with the president deferring to experts and generally behaving himself. But the damage was already done. After yesterday’s exchange, many called for networks to end live coverage of Trump’s briefings. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explicitly called for the practice to end last night on The Rachel Maddow Show.

She has been joined by a chorus of voices who say that the president lies so frequently that it does a disservice to viewers: