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‘He Remains a Convicted Felon’: Mueller Defends Russia Probe as Trump Commutes Roger Stone’s Prison Sentence

12 juillet, par ERIC TUCKER / AP[ —]

WASHINGTON — Former special counsel Robert Mueller sharply defended his investigation into ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, writing in a newspaper opinion piece Saturday that the probe was of “paramount importance” and asserting that a Trump ally, Roger Stone, “remains a convicted felon, and rightly so” despite the president’s decision to commute his prison sentence.

The op-ed in The Washington Post marked Mueller’s first public statement on his investigation since his congressional appearance last July. It represented his firmest defense of the two-year probe whose results have come under attack and even been partially undone by the Trump administration, including the president’s extraordinary move Friday evening to grant clemency to Stone just days before he was due to report to prison.

Mueller said that though he had intended for his 448-page report on the investigation to speak for itself, he felt compelled to “respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office.

“The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so,” Mueller wrote.

Mueller did not specify who was making the claims, but it appeared to be an obvious reference to Trump, who as recently as Saturday derided the investigation as this “whole political witch hunt and the Mueller scam.”

The mere publication of the op-ed was striking in itself for a former FBI director who was tight-lipped during the investigation, refusing to respond to attacks by the president or his allies or to even make public appearances explaining or justifying his work.

In his first public appearance after the conclusion of his investigation, Mueller had said that he had hoped his report would speak for itself. When he later testified to House lawmakers, he was similarly careful not to stray beyond the report’s findings or offer new evidence.

But that buttoned-up approach created a void for others, including at the Justice Department, to place their own stamp on his work. Even before the report was released Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page summary document that Mueller said did not adequately capture the gravity of his team’s findings.

President Trump Wears Face Mask in Public for First Time During Pandemic

12 juillet, par JONATHAN LEMIRE / AP[ —]

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wore a mask during a visit to a military hospital on Saturday, the first time the president has been seen in public with the type of facial covering recommended by health officials as a precaution against spreading or becoming infected by the novel coronavirus.

Trump flew by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in suburban Washington to meet wounded servicemembers and health care providers caring for COVID-19 patients. As he left the White House, he told reporters: “When you’re in a hospital, especially … I think it’s expected to wear a mask.”

Trump was wearing a mask in Walter Reed’s hallway as he began his visit. He was not wearing one when he stepped off the helicopter at the facility.

The president was a latecomer to wearing a mask during the pandemic, which has raged across the U.S. since March and infected more than 3.2 million and killed at least 134,000. Most prominent Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, endorsed wearing masks as the coronavirus gained ground this summer.

Trump, however, has declined to wear a mask at news conferences, coronavirus task force updates, rallies and other public events. People close to him have told The Associated Press that the president feared a mask would make him look weak and was concerned that it shifted focus to the public health crisis rather than the economic recovery. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private matters.

While not wearing one himself, Trump has sent mixed signals about masks, acknowledging that they would be appropriate if worn in an indoor setting where people were close together. But he has accused reporters of wearing them to be politically correct and has retweeted messages making fun of Democrat Joe Biden for wearing a mask and implying that Biden looks weak.

The wearing of masks became another political dividing line, with Republicans more resistant to wearing them than Democrats. Few masks were seen at recent Trump campaign events in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Phoenix and South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.

The only time Trump has been known to wear a mask was during a private part of a tour of a Ford plant in Michigan.

On its website, Walter Reed carries this recommendation: “Whenever you’re out in public, like at your local grocery store or pharmacy, where it’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of social distance, you should wear a cloth face covering.” The facility also notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.”

As Confederate Statues Fall in the U.S., Puerto Rico Confronts Spain’s Painful Legacy

11 juillet, par Dánica Coto / AP[ —]

(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — Statues, street names, plazas and even the body of conquistador Juan Ponce de León himself: Spain left a nearly indelible legacy in Puerto Rico that attracts hordes of tourists every year, but some activists are trying to erase it as they join a U.S. movement to eradicate symbols of oppression.

Dozens of activists marched through the historic part of Puerto Rico’s capital on Saturday, some wearing traditional Taino clothing as they banged on drums and blew on conch shells to demand that the U.S. territory’s government start by removing statues including those of explorer Christopher Columbus.

“These statues represent all that history of violence, of invasion, of looting, of theft, of murder,” said an activist who goes by the name of Pluma and is a member of Puerto Rico’s Council for the Defense of Indigenous Rights. “These are crimes against humanity.”

Columbus landed in Puerto Rico in 1493 accompanied by Spaniard Ponce de León, who later became the island’s first governor and quelled an uprising by the native Tainos, a subgroup of the Arawak Indians. Historians and anthropologists believe that up to 60,000 Tainos lived in Puerto Rico at the time, but they were soon forced into labor and succumbed to infectious disease outbreaks.

Centuries later, local government officials honored both explorers by erecting statues and naming streets and plazas after them across Puerto Rico. The Columbus Plaza is located at the entrance of Old San Juan and bears a statue of Columbus unveiled in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his arrival. Meanwhile, a nearby statue of Ponce de León stands facing south with his left hand on his hip and right finger pointed toward the first settlement he founded. The ruins still mark the spot of the island’s first Spanish capital and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The statue made of melted steel from British cannons also points in the same direction of the nearby San Juan Bautista Cathedral that bears Ponce de León’s remains and is a popular tourist spot.

Activists on Saturday demanded that both statues be removed as the first step in taking down symbols of oppression across Puerto Rico.

“No, it won’t be easy,” acknowledged activist Francisco Jordán García, who helped organize the march. “It’s going to be a long process.”

But he quickly offered alternatives: “We can melt them and create a different statue of someone who truly deserves it.”

Activists recently contacted the office of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and said an assistant told them officials would evaluate the cost of taking down the statues. A Cruz spokesman did not return a message for comment.

The march comes as Puerto Ricans’ interest in the territory’s indigenous past continues to grow. In the 2010 Census, some 42,000 of the 3.7 million people living on the island at that time identified themselves as at least partially Taino.

Statues of Columbus have been removed or toppled elsewhere in the U.S. mainland following an uproar over racism after the police killing of George Floyd. Protesters in Baltimore threw a Columbus statue into a harbor, while they beheaded another one in Boston. Meanwhile, officials in states including New York, Ohio, California, Missouri and Connecticut have removed similar statues.

However, one colossal statue of Columbus remains upright and rooted in U.S. soil. The creation, titled “Birth of a New World,” rises defiantly along Puerto Rico’s north coast, a 660-ton statue that is more than twice the size of the Statue of Liberty without its pedestal. It was once homeless for two decades as several U.S. cities refused to accept it for reasons ranging from cost to appearance until Puerto Rico’s government accepted it as a gift in 1998 and used $2.4 million in public funds to bring it to the island.

Police Search Mansion of Viral St. Louis Couple Who Pointed Guns at Protesters

11 juillet, par Associated Press[ —]

(ST. LOUIS) — Authorities executed a search warrant at the St. Louis mansion of a white couple whose armed defense of their home during a recent racial injustice protest drew widespread attention, their attorney confirmed Saturday.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who are personal injury lawyers, were caught on video brandishing guns as demonstrators walked past their Renaissance palazzo-style home on June 28 while headed to protest outside of the mayor’s home nearby. The video showed Mark McCloskey, 61, wielding a long-barreled gun and Patricia McCloskey, 63 standing next to him waving a handgun.

Joel Schwartz, the couple’s lawyer, said a search warrant was served Friday evening and that the gun Mark McCloskey was holding in the video was seized. Schwartz told The Associated Press that arrangements have been made to turn over to authorities on Saturday the gun that Patricia McCloskey had been holding, adding that her gun was inoperable at the time of the protest and still is.

The couple has not been charged, and Schwartz said charges against them would be “absolutely, positively unmerited.”

“A search warrant being executed is clear indication of what the circuit attorney’s intentions are. Beyond that, I can’t comment,” Schwartz said.

Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, who is St. Louis’ top prosecutor, issued a statement after the June 28 incident in which she said she was “alarmed” by what happened and that “any attempt to chill (the right to peacefully protest) through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated.” Calls to Gardner’s office on Saturday ran unanswered.

Schwartz said that under Missouri law, people who are in reasonable apprehension or fear have the right to take necessary steps to defend themselves.

“In this particular situation, people not only broke the law and trespassed on private property, but they committed property damage,” Schwartz said, adding that a St. Louis business was burned down and a retired police captain was killed in the week leading up to the confrontation.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday that public records and interviews show the McCloskeys are almost always in conflict with others, typically over control of private property.

They filed a lawsuit in 1988 to obtain their house, a castle built for Adolphus Busch’s daughter and her husband in the early 20th century. At the McCloskeys’ property in Franklin County, they have sued neighbors for making changes to a gravel road and twice evicted tenants from a modular home on their property.

Mark McCloskey sued a former employer for wrongful termination and his sister, father and his father’s caretaker for defamation.

The McCloskeys and the trustees of Portland Place, the tony private street in a St. Louis historic district where they live, have been involved in a three-year legal dispute over a small piece of land in the neighborhood. The McCloskeys claim they own it, but the trustees say it belongs to the neighborhood.

Mark McCloskey said in an affidavit that he has defended the patch previously by pointing a gun at a neighbor who tried to cut through it.

Justice Department Seeks to Overturn Order Halting First Federal Execution in Nearly 20 Years

11 juillet, par Michael Balsamo / AP[ —]

(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department filed an emergency motion with a federal appeals court on Saturday seeking to move forward with the first federal execution in nearly two decades.

Daniel Lee, 47, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday at a federal prison in Indiana. He was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.

But Chief District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled Friday in Indiana that the execution would be put on hold because of concerns from the family of the victims about the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 130,000 people and is ravaging prisons nationwide.

The Justice Department is seeking to immediately overturn that ruling. In the emergency motion to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, it argues that the judge’s order “misconstrues both federal and state law and has no basis in equity” and asks the appeals court to permit the government to carry out the execution on Monday afternoon.

“The capital sentence at issue here — imposed for the murder of an eight-year-old and her parents during a robbery to fund a white supremacist movement — has been repeatedly upheld by federal courts, and the inmate’s own efforts to halt its implementation have very recently been rejected by this Court and the Supreme Court,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

The Justice Department also argues that while the Bureau of Prisons has taken measures to accommodate the family and implemented additional safety protocols because of the pandemic, the family’s concerns “do not outweigh the public interest in finally carrying out the lawfully imposed sentence in this case.”

The relatives would be traveling thousands of miles and witnessing the execution in a small room where the social distancing recommended to prevent the virus’ spread is virtually impossible. There are currently four confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates at the Terre Haute prison, according to federal statistics, and one inmate there has died.

Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press this week that he believes the Bureau of Prisons could “carry out these executions without being at risk.” The agency has put a number of additional measures in place, including temperature checks and requiring witnesses to wear masks.

The injunction that was imposed late Friday delays the execution until there is no longer such an emergency. The court order applies only to Lee’s execution and does not halt two other executions that are scheduled for later next week.

The decision to resume executions has been criticized as a dangerous and political move. Critics argue that the government is creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency around a topic that isn’t high on the list of American concerns right now.

The federal prisons system has struggled in recent months to stem the exploding coronavirus pandemic behind bars. As of Friday, more than 7,000 federal inmates had tested positive; the Bureau of Prisons said 5,137 of them had recovered. There have also been nearly 100 inmate deaths since late March.

Three Weeks After Trump’s Tulsa Rally, Oklahoma Reports Record High COVID-19 Numbers

11 juillet, par Madeleine Carlisle[ —]

Oklahoma health officials reported record number of COVID-19 cases in the state this week, three weeks after President Donald Trump held a controversial rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20.

On Saturday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reported 687 new COVID-19 cases had been confirmed in the last 24 hours. It was the second highest increase only coming after Tuesday’s 858 confirmed cases, per the Oklahoman. As of Saturday afternoon ET, Oklahoma had at least 19,779 confirmed cases of the virus, according to OSDH.

According to a reporter for local news channel KOCO 5, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases is nearly six times what it was in early April. Officials also reported five new COVID-19 related deaths on Saturday. There have been at least 421 confirmed deaths in total from the virus in the state, according to OSDH.

Oklahoma began re-opening its economy in late April and entered phase three in early June. Retail stores, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues are open under certain guidelines.

The surge of new cases comes just weeks after President Trump held a campaign rally in an indoor arena in Tulsa, where many of the attendees reportedly did not wear masks. The event was criticized as being unsafe and a local newspaper ran an editorial asking the President not to hold the rally. On the day of the event, it was revealed that six staffers on the Trump campaign tested positive for the coronavirus.
In the following weeks Tulsa County has seen a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the area. As of Saturday afternoon ET, the county has at least 5,005 confirmed cases, according to the Tulsa Health Department.
On Wednesday, Dr. Bruce Dart, the director of the Tulsa Health Department, said the President’s rally and subsequent protests “likely contributed” to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the county, per the Associated Press.

“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said on Wednesday, according to the AP.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment. But Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told the AP that the campaign took numerous steps to keep the rally’s attendees safe.

“There were literally no health precautions to speak of as thousands looted, rioted and protested in the streets and the media reported that it did not lead to a rise in coronavirus cases,” Murtaugh said in a statement to the AP on Wednesday. “Meanwhile, the President’s rally was 18 days ago, all attendees had their temperature checked, everyone was provided a mask and there was plenty of hand sanitizer available for all…It’s obvious that the media’s concern about large gatherings begins and ends with Trump rallies.”

A week after the rally, the Washington Post reported that the Trump campaign had removed thousands of stickers within the arena placed to promote social distancing during the event.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced on Tuesday that all visitors coming from Oklahoma must quarantine for 14 days.

Coronavirus Cases Spike in South Africa and India, Exposing Inequalities in Virus Treatment

11 juillet, par Cara Anna / AP[ —]

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have doubled in just two weeks to a quarter-million, and India on Saturday saw its biggest daily spike as its infections passed 800,000. The surging cases are raising sharp concerns about unequal treatment in the pandemic, as the wealthy hoard medical equipment and use private hospitals and the poor crowd into overwhelmed public facilities.

Globally more than 12.5 million people have been infected by the virus and over 560,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the pandemic’s true toll is much higher due to testing shortages, poor data collection in some nations and other issues.

Some of the worst-affected countries are among the world’s most unequal. South Africa leads them all on that measure, with the pandemic exposing the gap in care.

In Johannesburg, the epicenter of South Africa’s outbreak, badly needed oxygen concentrators that help COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe are hard to find as private businesses and individuals are buying them up, a public health specialist volunteering at a field hospital, Lynne Wilkinson, told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s public hospitals are short on medical oxygen — and they are now seeing a higher proportion of deaths than private ones, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases says.

South Africa now has more than 250,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including more than 3,800 deaths. To complicate matters, the country’s troubled power utility has announced new electricity cuts in the dead of winter as a cold front brings freezing weather. Many of the country’s urban poor live in shacks of scrap metal and wood.

And in Kenya, some have been outraged by a local newspaper report that says several governors have installed intensive care unit equipment in their homes. The country lost its first doctor to COVID-19 this week.

“The welfare, occupational safety & health of frontline workers is a non-negotiable minimum!!” the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union tweeted after her death. On Saturday, the union and other medical groups urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to implement a promised compensation package to ease the “anxiety and fear that has now gripped health care workers.”

More than 8,000 health workers across Africa have been infected, half of them in South Africa. The continent of 1.3 billion has the world’s lowest levels of health staffing and more than 560,000 cases, and the pandemic is reaching “full speed,” the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Many parts of the world are facing fresh waves of infections as they try to reopen their economies.

In India, which reported a new daily high of 27,114 cases on Saturday, nearly a dozen states have imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas. Cases jumped from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. People are packing India’s public hospitals as many are unable to afford private ones that generally uphold higher standards of care.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged top officials to improve infection testing and tracking, especially in states with high positivity rates.

Officials on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa said dozens of U.S. Marines have been infected at two bases there in what is feared to be a massive outbreak. The officials said the U.S. military asked that the exact figure not be released.

“We now have strong doubts that the U.S. military has taken adequate disease prevention measures,” Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters.

In Australia, the beleaguered state of Victoria reported 216 new cases in the past 24 hours, down from the record 288 the previous day. It hopes a new six-week lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city with a population of 5 million, will curb the spread.

“We cannot pretend that doing anything other than following the rules will get us to the other side of this,” said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.

In Latin America, where inequality is sharp and Brazil and Peru are among the world’s top five most badly hit countries, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping through the continent’s leadership, with two more presidents and powerful officials testing positive in the past week.

Yet developing countries are not the only ones overwhelmed. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have hit 3 million, with over 130,000 deaths — the worst outbreak by far in the world. The surge has led to equipment shortages as well as long lines at testing sites.

Texas is among the U.S. states setting records for infections, virus hospitalizations and deaths almost daily after embarking on one of America’s fastest reopenings. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday extended a statewide disaster as the state surpassed 10,000 hospitalized patients for the first time.

“Things will get worse,” Abbott told Lubbock television station KLBK. “The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”


John Hopkins University Sues to Defend International Students Against Trump Administration Decision

11 juillet, par Associated Press[ —]

(BALTIMORE) — Johns Hopkins University has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration’s decision to make international students leave the U.S. if they intend to take classes entirely online starting this fall.

The Baltimore private institution filed the lawsuit Friday against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in federal court in the District of Columbia, the Baltimore Sun reported. It argues that the agency’s decision “completely upended” the university’s reopening plans for the upcoming semester.

ICE notified colleges Monday that international students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools operate entirely online this fall. New visas will not be issued to students at those schools, and others at universities offering a mix of online and in-person classes will be barred from taking all of their classes online.

The guidance says international students won’t be exempt even if an outbreak forces their schools online during the fall term.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have also filed a lawsuit to prevent federal immigration authorities from enforcing the rule. Neither school plans to offer in-person classes this fall.

About 5,000 international students are enrolled at Johns Hopkins.

The school has plans for hybrid semesters with a mix of in-person and online classes. It also intends to shift to online-only classes after the Thanksgiving break.

The lawsuit characterizes the Trump administration’s decision as “arbitrary and capricious” and argues it puts the university in the “untenable dilemma” of either following its reopening plans or attempting to offer in-person instruction to allow international students to remain enrolled.

“The adverse consequences of this sudden displacement are devastating financially and personally,” according to the complaint.

ICE did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.

In a statement earlier this week, the U.S. State Department said international students are welcome in the U.S., but the policy “provides greater flexibility for nonimmigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while also allowing for proper social distancing on open and operating campuses across America.”

After Months of Decline, U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Surge in the South and West

11 juillet, par Mike Stobbe and Nicky Forster / AP[ —]

(NEW YORK) — A long-expected upturn in U.S. coronavirus deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West, according to data on the pandemic.

The number of deaths per day from the virus had been falling for months, and even remained down as states like Florida and Texas saw explosions in cases and hospitalizations — and reported daily U.S. infections broke records several times in recent days.

Scientists warned it wouldn’t last. A coronavirus death, when it occurs, typically comes several weeks after a person is first infected. And experts predicted states that saw increases in cases and hospitalizations would, at some point, see deaths rise too. Now that’s happening.

“It’s consistently picking up. And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher.

According to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the U.S. has increased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10 — still well below the heights hit in April. Daily reported deaths increased in 27 states over that time period, but the majority of those states are averaging under 15 new deaths per day. A smaller group of states has been driving the nationwide increase in deaths.

California is averaging 91 reported deaths per day while Texas is close behind with 66, but Florida, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina also saw sizable rises. New Jersey’s recent jump is thought to be partially attributable to its less frequent reporting of probable deaths.

The impact has already been felt by families who lost kin — and by the health care workers who tried to save them.

Rublas Ruiz, a Miami intensive care unit nurse, recently broke down in tears during a birthday dinner with his wife and daughter. He said he was overcome by the number of patients who have died in his care.

“I counted like 10 patients in less than four days in our ICU and then I stopped doing that because there were so many,” said the 41-year-old nurse at Kendall Regional Medical Center who lost another patient Monday.

The virus has killed more than 130,000 people in the U.S. and more than a half-million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true numbers are believed to be higher.

Deaths first began mounting in the U.S. in March. About two dozen deaths were being reported daily in the middle of that month. By late in the month, hundreds were being reported each day, and in April thousands. Most happened in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the Northeast.

Deaths were so high there because it was a new virus tearing through a densely populated area, and it quickly swept through vulnerable groups of people in nursing homes and other places, said Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Jersey.

Many of the infections occurred before government officials imposed stay-at-home orders and other social-distancing measures. The daily death toll started falling in mid-April — and continued to fall until about a week ago.

Researchers now expect deaths to rise for at least some weeks, but some think the count probably will not go up as dramatically as it did in the spring — for several reasons.

First, testing was extremely limited early in the pandemic, and it’s become clear that unrecognized infections were spreading on subways, in nursing homes and in other public places before anyone knew exactly what was going on. Now testing is more widespread, and the magnitude of outbreaks is becoming better understood.

Second, many people’s health behaviors have changed, with mask-wearing becoming more common in some places. Although there is no vaccine yet, hospitals are also getting better at treating patients.

Another factor, tragically, is that deadly new viruses often tear through vulnerable populations first, such as the elderly and people already weakened by other heath conditions. That means that, in the Northeast at least, “many of the vulnerable people have already died,” Halkitis said.

Now, the U.S. is likely in for “a much longer, slower burn,” Hanage, the Harvard researcher, said. “We’re not going to see as many deaths (as in the spring). But we’re going to see a total number of deaths, which is going to be large.”

In Houston, Gregory Compean, who owns the Compean Funeral Home, is already seeing the effects. He says it’s odd when he receives a call for someone who didn’t die from the coronavirus.

Families these days, he says, aren’t pushing back on restrictions placed on services.

“Their eyes are wide open, and they’re afraid,” he said. “They’re wanting to cooperate, and I think everyone is concerned at this point because the numbers are going through the roof.”

Kristin Urquiza is worried things may get dramatically worse soon, in at least some cities. Like Phoenix, where her 65-year-old father died recently.

When the dangers of the virus first became known, Mark Anthony Urquiza, a quality assurance inspector, took precautions such as wearing a face mask and staying home as much as possible, his daughter said.

But that changed after Gov. Doug Ducey ended Arizona’s stay-at-home order on May 15, eased restrictions on businesses, and initially blocked local lawmakers from requiring residents to wear masks.

By June 11, the elder Urquiza had developed a fever and cough. He was hospitalized and eventually placed on a ventilator. He died June 30.

“His life was robbed. I believe that terrible leadership and flawed policies put my father’s life in the balance,” Kristin Urquiza said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Ducey, a Republican, has more recently changed direction, closing many businesses and allowing mayors to make mask-wearing mandatory.

But Kristin Urquiza is worried. Her father received the care at a time when beds in intensive care units were readily available. Now some Arizona hospitals ICUs are becoming swamped.

“Other families are not going to be reassured the hospitals will have the capacity to give (coronavirus) victims the dignity and the health care that they deserve. And that breaks my heart,” she said.


Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

Amid Calls for Diversity, Biden Tops Trump on People of Color in Senior Campaign Staff

11 juillet, par Darlene Superville / AP[ —]

(WASHINGTON) — Amid a summer of racial unrest and calls for more diversity in leadership, President Donald Trump lags Democratic rival Joe Biden in the percentage of people of color on their campaign staffs, according to data the campaigns provided to The Associated Press.

Twenty-five percent of the Republican president’s senior staff are nonwhite, compared to 36% of Biden’s senior staff. Biden’s overall campaign team is 35% nonwhite; Trump’s campaign did not provide a comparable number.

And neither campaign provided racial breakdowns for their nonwhite staff, nor the total number of staffers who are on their payrolls, including senior staff.

Advocates for minority groups say staff diversity is necessary to ensure political candidates hear a full range of voices and viewpoints to help them understand the concerns of various communities and interest groups — especially at a time when racial injustice is front and center in the national conversation. And while Biden has an edge on Trump, there is plenty more to be done in presidential campaigns overall.

Jennifer Lawless, commonwealth professor of politics at the University of Virginia, said “there are still a lot of milestones that haven’t been hit” by political campaigns, such as a Black man or woman directing — and winning — a presidential campaign. And she said having diverse staff at lower levels in campaigns can help increase the pool of future managers, finance chairs and others.

“It’s all part of the pipeline,” Lawless said.

Trump’s campaign makeup got a double-take in June when Vice President Mike Pence tweeted — and later deleted — a photo from his visit to campaign headquarters. The photo at first drew attention for the lack of social distancing and use of face masks among the staff. But it also was notable for the sea of mostly white faces.

Eric Rodriguez, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at UnidosUS, said the Biden team had more Latinos in senior positions than Trump.

“You need people from those communities to be able to make those connections,” said Rodriguez, whose organization used to be called the National Council of La Raza.

The rival campaigns fared better — and are about even —- on employing women, with females filling more than half of all jobs overall, and more than half of all senior positions.

The president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, who is white, former White House aide Mercedes Schlapp, who is Cuban American, and Katrina Pierson, who is Black and worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, are among the highest-profile senior female staffers working to help him get reelected.

Others include former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, now a top fundraiser for the reelection effort and the girlfriend of Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and Hannah Castillo, a Latina and the campaign’s coalitions director. Guilfoyle’s mother is Puerto Rican.

Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders, who is Black, is the campaign’s highest-ranking person of color and, at 30, is the youngest member of his inner circle. The candidate also recently brought on several African Americans who worked for President Barack Obama, including Karine Jean-Pierre, formerly an NBC News and MSNBC political analyst.

Jamal Brown, a spokesperson for Biden, said the former vice president’s campaign reflects the “diversity, breadth and promise of America.”

“He believes our democracy is strongest when people see themselves reflected in their government,” added Brown, who is Black.

The killing in May of George Floyd, who was Black, by a white Minneapolis police officer sparked nationwide protests against racial injustice and calls for greater minority representation across the board in society that brought fresh scrutiny to the presidential campaigns.

Biden had faced questions earlier in the campaign about the lack of diversity on his staff. Along with adding more people of color to his campaign, Biden has promised an administration that “looks like America” if he is elected on Nov. 3.

The U.S. population is about 60% white, 19% Latino and 13% Black, according to Census Bureau estimates.

Trump has not made a similar pledge about a potential second term. His campaign declined to discuss minority representation on the campaign staff.

Four women currently serve in Trump’s Cabinet: CIA Director Gina Haspel and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, both of whom are white; Jovita Carranza, a Latina who leads the Small Business Administration; and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan.

Housing Secretary Ben Carson is the only Black member of the Cabinet.

Rodriguez summed up the Biden campaign strategy as focused on winning support from a diverse pool of voters, especially in battleground states where large numbers of Latino and Black voters live. He characterized Trump’s strategy as being “really all about the base” and attempting to replicate his successful 2016 campaign playbook, which used immigration as a wedge issue.

“The strategy is to run on racial division,” Rodriguez said of the president, who has begun to use the racial tensions that surfaced after Floyd’s killing in his reelection pitch.

Still, Trump and his campaign make regular appeals to Black and Latino voters.

The president regularly cites employment gains for these groups before the coronavirus pandemic struck, and he continues to showcase legislation he signed to overhaul criminal sentencing procedures and provide permanent funding for historically Black colleges and universities.

This week, Trump was surrounded by Latino American leaders as he announced a new advisory commission to help Hispanic Americans with economic and educational opportunities.

But the event also highlighted how far Trump has to go in winning support from people of color. Critics of Trump’s record with Hispanics called for a boycott of the Goya food company after its president praised Trump at the event.

The president does have strong support among some people of Cuban and Venezuelan descent, though, because of his tough stance against authoritarian leaders in those countries.

The Biden campaign said LGBTQ staff and staff of color hold such positions as senior advisers, deputy campaign managers, national coalitions director, chief financial officer, chief operating officer and national press secretary, among others.

Trump’s campaign defined its senior staff as “senior leaders who meet regularly to make decisions. People with authority,” and did not elaborate.

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