National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 14 (April 19–25)
This week, I spent considerable time wracking my brain to come up with a better summary than “This week sucked.” But you know what? The news this week sucked. Sometimes you just gotta call it like you see it. (Here’s hoping next week is better.)
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a sea turtle!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corner:
True to form, this week all of the Disregard of Governing Norms stories have a particular flavor, as leaders on state and national levels just refuse to listen to experts. It’s a form of willful disregard that would be impressive if it weren’t so terrifying. Here’s what I have for you:
- Reopening Rodeo. Despite medical recommendations to the contrary, several states are either reopening now or reopening imminently, and the public discourse does not inspire confidence. Georgia took an initial step on Friday and reopened restaurants, tattoo parlors, gyms, movie theaters, and massage parlors–you know, those businesses that you think of first when you hear the phrase “social distancing.” South Carolina is also reopening some retail stores and beaches, and several other Southern states are opening retail stores as well. Experts say this is very risky, a fact underscored by 40 new COVID cases in Wisconsin traced back to their recent primary election. But the Texas lieutenant governor responded to this by saying that “there are more important things than living,” a quote so yikesworthy that Andy Borowitz barely had to change it in his satire column.
- Trump’s Messed Up COVID-19 Response. Trump really outdid himself this week, and I know I say that every week but seriously, this week was a whole new level of longing for the 25th Amendment. The real nadir was likely when he publicly asked about injecting bleach into people as a way of treating COVID-19 during Thursday’s press conference, forcing the good people at Lysol and health experts everywhere everywhere to tell people not to do that. Trump apparently got the idea from prominent snake oil salesman Mark Grenon, who wrote to the President a few days before praising the virtues of “wonderful detox” product chlorine dioxide. (Spoiler: Chlorine dioxide is exactly as bad to ingest as you think it is, and the FDA had already publicly warned Grenon to knock it off when he sent the letter.) Trump tried to backpedal by claiming he was being ‘sarcastic,’ which might have even worked, except that he immediately went on a tear on Twitter the next day. The whole thing capped with Trump threatening to stop doing coronavirus pressers, calling them not worth “the time and effort”. We should be so lucky, dear readers.
- COVID Cover. One trend we should definitely be keeping an eye on is this administration’s tendency to use COVID as cover for other things, which doesn’t appear to be slowing down in the slightest. One major example of this is the immigration executive order Trump signed earlier in the week, which he says is in response to coronavirus but really just seems to limit family reunification. He also used the fourth COVID response bill to lash out at the postal service yet again, though he did ultimately sign the bill on Friday (and more on that below). All things considered, it’s not surprising that the House wants to investigate his administrative response to the crisis and super PACs are zeroing in on it as a campaign strategy.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- North Korean Speculation. Speculation is starting to mount after two weeks of absence from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, but nobody can agree on what it means. Some outlets are focused on likelihood of COVID infection, and TMZ is touting the rather dubious claim that he has died, while South Korea is saying there is nothing unusual happening at all. No matter what else is going on, the speculation itself may have potential implications for North Korea, and might forecast a closer look into whether there is COVID infection there in general. (Boris Johnson, in contrast, definitely returned to work this week.)
- State of the COVID-19. The overall COVID news this week is not exactly uplifting. At the time that I type this, over 55,000 people in this country have lost their lives to the virus, and nearly one million people have been infected. The FDA has cautioned against hydroxychloroquine use to treat COVID, noting that it has been linked to heart rhythm problems and there is increasing indication that the virus impacts the blood. New York is also reporting high fatality rates among patients on ventilators, derailing medical expectations about treatment methods. Nurses are starting to organize in response to inadequate workplace protections, bringing three lawsuits against the state of New York and multiple hospitals. And the United States is not participating in a WHO global initiative to develop a COVID vaccine, which may reflect growing antagonism towards the global organization as our administration seeks a scapegoat.
- Market Mess Continues.* The fourth COVID response bill did pass this week, making it through the Senate on Tuesday and the House on Thursday before being signed by Trump on Friday. The bill contains more money for the small business loan program, which relaunched today, but is already rife with problems. Meanwhile, another 4.4 million people filed for unemployment, bringing our total to over 26 million people since this crisis started. The IRS was in the news for sending stimulus payments to dead people, and state and local governments worry about major budget shortfalls while Mitch McConnell tells them to just file for bankruptcy.
- “If You’re Sick, Still Come” (Part II). More news has come out about the “grassroots” movement encouraging people to go protest at city capitals, which unsurprisingly has a lot of money and power behind it. It also had several legislators helping the movement, which at least contextualizes the GOP trying to force Congress to vote in person. When all of this is over, I hope none of these people have the audacity to call themselves “the pro-life party” for at least a decade.
- Recent Court Resilience. The Supreme Court had some promising cases come down today. They opted to punt on a second amendment case, which given the current court constellation I’m considering a win–especially because the decision made Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito unhappy. But the real good news from SCOTUS today is that the court decided 8–1 that it wanted to leave the ACA standing, at least when it comes to risk corridors. That majority is nearly as encouraging as Sotomayor’s excellent majority opinion, which pointedly notes that “The Government should honor its obligations.”
- Turtle Triumph.* We may not be enjoying the stay-at-home advisories, but apparently they are good news for turtles. Outlets report that the leatherback sea turtle has begun to experience a comeback in the wake of reduced beach traffic in places like Thailand and Florida. We’re also seeing a positive impact on manatees for similar reason. At least somebody’s having a good month!
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve these adorapathetic sad wolves and these Studio Ghibli Zoom backgrounds and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me a Time-Turner; I swear I’ll use it responsibly!