Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues cash in on the pandemic; Spain plans to enact a permanent universal basic income as part of its effort to recover from the pandemic; Wisconsinites risk their lives to vote; and much, much more. If it’s a day ending in “y,” there’s lots of pandemic news.
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Each installment is cross-posted to www.geov.org , where there’s both a full archive from late February and a PayPal button at the bottom of the right-hand column.
There’s lots more today, but I need to go to dialysis, so there will likely be another update tonight, including the outcome, if known, of Wisconsin’s fked up election today.
* Governor Jay Inslee announced a new statewide fund, the WA Food Fund, to raise money for food banks and other food assistance programs during the pandemic and its economic impact. The fund will be managed by Philanthropy Northwest
* The Seattle nonprofit Fare Start has already provided about 80,000 meals to local people in quarantine. Support them!
* The state’s Department of Labor and Industries is offering a grace period for premium payments, along with payment plans for employers facing financial difficulties during the pandemic.
* Early reports indicate long waits in infection-spreading lines of people waiting to vote in today’s election in Wisconsin. When the resulting pandemic hits home in about three weeks, the Republican leaders who pushed hard for this public health disaster – because they thought it would be to their political advantage – should be prosecuted for as many counts of manslaughter each as is appropriate. And here’s to the true patriots of this grim situation, the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who are literally risking their health and perhaps their lives to vote. It should never, ever come to this again.
* It couldn’t last. Today I have to invoke the name of the President Nero.
* Last week, an umbrella group of inspectors general of various federal agencies named the acting Defense Department IG to lead an effort to monitor the $2 trillion federal emergency relief bill’s implementation. So today trump fired him. Trump also attached a signing statement to that bill rejecting its oversight. #MostTransparentScratchthatCorruptAdministrationEver
* This comes amidst increasing evidence that Trump is using the pandemic response to enrich himself and his friends. Turns out there’s another reason, beyond gut instinct, that Trump has been so adamant, against all medical advice, about promoting the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for COVID-19.
* On March 26, Job Creators Network – a Big Pharma front group founded and run by a major Trump donor, Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, who funneled $7 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign, and who is putting even more money into his 2020 campaign – launched a petition, a series of Facebook ads, and a blast text message campaign calling on Trump to “cut the red tape” and immediately make hydroxychloroquine available to treat patients. On Sunday, March 29, the FDA gave emergency approval for the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treating COVID-19, an eyebrow-raising move Trump later took credit for pressuring the FDA to do.
* Job Creator Network’s hydroxychloroquine campaign has been run in partnership with Physicians for Reform, a nonprofit lobbying group which works with FreedomWorks to promote health care deregulation. FreedomWorks, a Koch brothers outfit, also gets big money from Big Pharma. It’s one big, incestuous family. Trump has bragged that the federal government has stockpiled 29 million doses of the drug, which there is now a shortage of for the malaria and lupus patients who actually need it. h/t Ellen Jablow
* Remember that insider stock trading scandal a week or so ago, involving the aftermath to an all-senators, closed door briefing on the coronovirus in late January, that five US senators were named in?
* Yesterday”s Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed the March stock trades of Georgia senator David Perdue – one of the senators named in the January scandal – and found “…112 transactions, including 76 stock purchases costing as much as $1.8 million and 34 sales worth up to $825,000. Compared with the 26-month period before the coronavirus swept across America, Perdue’s [March] portfolio activity increased nearly threefold.” Perdue, a CEO-turned-politician, sold shares in a casino company, bought shares in Netflix and in a chemical company that produces components used in addressing the pandemic. The Senate passed three different pandemic spending bills during that period. Perdue is facing a tough reelection fight this year.
* Another senator named in the January scandal, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler – whose husband heads the Securities and Exchange Commission, the body that regulates stock markets – didn’t look so good in March disclosure reports, either. She bought shares in a company that makes protective gowns for medical personnel, and sold over $18 million in stocks in the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange and other financial markets, just before last month’s market collapse. Loeffler also sold stock in major clothing just before widespread stay at home orders that shut those businesses down in much of the US and Europe. Loeffler, who was appointed last December to fill the seat vacated for health reasons by Sen. Johnny Isakson due to health issues, also faces an election this year to try to keep her seat. She’s apparently wasted no time trying to cash in on what may be a short-lived gig.
* And then there’s Donald Trump himself. The New York Times reports that Trump has “a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.” No details on the actual size of his investment, or whether it has, you know, increased a lot recently. So…how “small,” exactly, is “small” to a billionaire president who only thinks about himself and money, even during the greatest crisis the country has seen in generations? #MostCorruptPresidentEver.
* And Trump’s energy remains focused on his primary concern: his image. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham apparently reached her mandatory quota of lies and has been replaced by Kayleigh McEnany, who becomes Trump’s fourth press secretary, not including himself, in a bit over three years. Grisham goes back to her old job as Melania Trump’s chief of staff and communications director; she was apparently pushed out by the brand new Trump chief of staff, reactionary zealot Mark Meadows, who replaced the disgraced Mark Mulvaney last week as trump’s fifth chief of staff.
* McEnany was formerly the press secretary for Trump’s reelection campaign. The only Kayleigh I’ve ever personally known – platonically, mind you – was a dominatrix. Hadn’t thought of her in years, but this administration does conjure odd memories…
* And Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly – who was widely criticized for removing the truly heroic captain of the infected aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt last week for trying to save his sailors – has resigned. Seppuku would be more appropriate – for Trump, even more so – but, baby steps…with this administration, any burst of public shame or accountability is a welcome surprise. It’s less surprising in the military, where personal integrity still means something.
* Meanwhile, the virus marches on, oblivious to the humans charged with stemming it and the humans, often the same humans, trying to profit from it.
* More racial disparities: About 70 percent of Louisiana’s COVID-19 deaths, largely in New Orleans, have been African-American. Nearly twice as many blacks as whites have tested positive in Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County.
* A union representing some 13,000 carpenters in Massachusetts has called for a strike starting today to protest Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s refusal to shut down all construction across the state. (h/t Paul Cienfuegos)
* New York state reported 731 new deaths today, that state’s highest one-day death toll yet. New York’s hospitalization rate has fallen for several consecutive days, a hopeful sign amidst the awfulness – however, that rate could be influenced by hospitals simply having no beds available.
* As Spain’s brutal pandemic, which has eviscerated its economy, reaches what is hopefully its peak, Business Insider reports that the Spanish government is planning to introduce a plan for a permanent basic universal income. Levels would be differentiated based on family income, but details haven’t been finalized yet. One government minister called the plan “a permanent safety net for the most vulnerable.”
* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care today as the country debated who should take his place if needed. Another senior Tory minister, Michael Gove, self-isolated after a member of his family tested positive.
* For a week, Turkey’s infection rate has become a source of increasing concern even as its authoritarian government downplayed the outbreak. Now, Turkey has ordered all residents to wear masks “when shopping or visiting crowded places” – there’s still no public social distancing order, although there is a new curfew for people over age 65. The government announced it will begin delivering masks to every family, free of charge. Apparently Turkey has enough masks to do that, unlike the US. Turkey already has more than 30,000 confirmed cases, including 1,300 medical workers, after limited testing. Opposition leaders, led by the mayor of hard-hit Istanbul, have been pressing for a nationwide lockdown.
* China reports its first day since January today with no deaths. Wuhan, the city where the pandemic began, lifted its months-long lockdown effective tonight.
* Europe continued to also see encouraging signs, particularly in those Western European countries that took early social distancing measures. Both Italy and Spain appear to have already peaked in their outbreaks, and other hard-hit countries, including France, Germany, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia, are showing similar indications.
Gotta run. More tonight, including all the numbers. GO WASH YOUR HANDS!!