CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 2,114,026 and the death toll stands at 116,127, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. Vice President Mike Pence faced heavy criticism yesterday after he falsely told reporters that Oklahoma has flattened the curve ahead of President Trump’s scheduled campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday. Last Saturday, Oklahoma reported 225 new cases in its highest one-day total since the pandemic began. On Sunday, Tulsa County reported 89 new case in its largest single-day increase.
PROTESTS CONTINUE… Peaceful protests and violent encounters continued in cities nationwide yesterday among social unrest over systemic racism and police brutality. President Trump is expected to make a minor concession today by signing a modest police reform order that helps law enforcement agencies better track excessive uses of force. There has been more outrage added to the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Police department recordings and transcripts released yesterday revealed that a dispatcher and two 911 callers voiced concerns over officer use of force. Also yesterday, a confrontation in Albuquerque turned violent when the son of a New Mexico Sheriff’s deputy shot a protester trying to tear down statues of Spanish Conquistadors. The shooter was reportedly a member of a right-wing militia that calls itself the “New Mexico Civil Guard.” Finally, the Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney is weighing charges for both officers involved in Friday’s fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s restaurant. The coroner ruled the death a homicide and Atlanta police have released the disciplinary records for the two officers.
RECENT HANGINGS INVESTIGATED… Federal authorities have agreed to review local investigations into the hanging deaths of two black men in Southern California to determine whether federal law was violated. Local authorities claimed the deaths of Robert Fuller in Palmdale and Malcolm Harsch in Victorville were suicides. A third death by hanging occurred yesterday in Houston, where the death of a Hispanic man was again called a suicide.
SUPREME COURT DECISIONS… The Supreme Court ruled in defiance of the Trump administration in three major cases yesterday. The High Court ruled 6-3 that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited under federal civil rights law. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch in the majority opinion. The Supreme Court also left in place a lower court opinion upholding one of California’s so-called sanctuary laws that limits cooperation between law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The High Court also declined to hear eight cases involving a legal defense that can be used to shield government officials from lawsuits, including seven involving police accused of excessive force or other misconduct. In six of the seven cases involving police, plaintiffs who sued officers were challenging actions in lower courts that protected the defendants through qualified immunity. The other one involved two officers who argued they deserve such protection but lost in a lower court.
WILLIAM BARR BRINGS BACK FEDERAL EXECUTIONS… Attorney General William Barr yesterday directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the first executions of federal death row inmates since 2003. Barr ordered the executions of four men convicted of murdering children. The Death Penalty Information Center says there are currently around 60 federal inmates on death row.
FDA DE-AUTHORIZES HYDROCHLOROQUINE… The Food and Drug Administration yesterday ended its emergency-use authorization for hydroxychloroquine in treating severe COVID-19 patients following worldwide concerns about its safety and effectiveness. The Trump administration has been pushing the drug but large clinical trials showed that the drug was “unlikely to produce an antiviral effect,” according to the FDA’s chief scientist, Denise Hinton. The agency first provided the authorization in March for COVID-19 patients, but opted to revoke it, along with another emergency use authorization for chloroquine, following a request from the acting director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
ACADEMY AWARDS PUSHED BACK… The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced yesterday that it is moving the 93rd annual Academy Awards from February 28 to April 25 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Academy also extended the eligibility period for 2020 films to February 28. The submission deadline for films to be considered is January 15.
KENNY CHESNEY RESCHEDULING TOUR… Country star Kenny Chesney is rescheduling his summer tour to 2021 after postponing it during the coronavirus pandemic. The “Chillaxification” tour will kick off May 1, 2021, in Tampa, Florida. The tour features Florida Georgia Line, Old Dominion and Michael Franti & Spearhead.
BASEBALL COMMISSIONER UNSURE OVER 2020 SEASON… Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred angered the players’ union yesterday when he walked back his confidence that there will be a 2020 baseball season and expressed frustration with the union for a lack of dialogue. “I’m not confident. I think there’s real risk, and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue,” Manfred told ESPN’s Mike Greenberg. Last week Manfred told ESPN that “unequivocally, we are going to play Major League Baseball this year.” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark responded with a statement that declared “Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told Players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season. Any implication that the Players Association has somehow delayed progress on health and safety protocols is completely false, as Rob has recently acknowledged the parties are ‘very, very close.’”