July 22, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 3,902,058 and the death toll stands at 142,066, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… President Trump warned during a White House briefing that the pandemic in the U.S. will probably “get worse before it gets better.” Florida recorded a new high for hospitalizations yesterday, as an additional 518 hospital admissions were reported. The 9,440 new cases reported marked the first time in seven days that the state’s total was below 10,000.

HOUSE PASSES DEFENSE BILL… The House yesterday passed a $741 billion annual defense spending bill by a bipartisan 295-to-125 vote. The bill is expected to pass in the Senate but faces a possible veto by President Trump, who has object to its provision calling for the removal of Confederate leaders’ names from U.S. military bases. The bill also includes a 3 percent pay raise for U.S. troops.

BIDEN UNVEILS ECONOMIC PLAN… Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden yesterday unveiled a $775 billion economic plan that would build thousands of new child-care centers nationwide and include new tax credits for children, seniors and disabled Americans. The plan offers $8,000 in tax credits for most families with one child and $16,000 for those with two or more children. It would also expand after-school, weekend and summer care programs for children and provide free pre-kindergarten education.

OHIO HOUSE SPEAKER ARRESTED… Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested by FBI agents at his rural farm. Yesterday for his role in a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly involving state officials and associates. Householder, a Republican, represents a district east of Columbus. He and four others were each charged with “conspiracy to participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of an enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity,” which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. The charges are related to a law passed last year that bailed out two Ohio nuclear power plants while gutting subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency. According to a federal complaint, Householder and his associates conducted a years-long bribery campaign to build support for Householder’s bid to become House speaker and help get the nuclear bailout law passed.

14 WOUNDED IN CHICAGO SHOOTINGS… A mass shooting targeting people attending a funeral in Auburn Gresham community of Chicago left at least 14 people wounded. Witnesses say occupants inside a black vehicle opened fire at attendees gathered at a funeral home for a solemn ceremony to remember a victim of gun violence. Police reported that at least 60 shell casings were found at the scene.

… HBO announced yesterday that actress, comedian and singer Bridget Everett has signed on to star in a new comedy series. “Somebody Somewhere” follows a story inspired by Everett’s life growing up in Kansas. Everett plays a woman who is “a true Kansan on the surface” but secretly struggles “to fit the hometown mold.” She recently co-starred in the HBO series “Camping.”

MADDOW INTERVIEW OF MARY TRUMP SETS MSNBC RECORD… Rachel Maddow’s one-hour interview with President Trump’s niece Mary Trump last Thursday was the most-watched regularly-scheduled show ever on MSNBC. According to the Nielsen Company, 5.2 million people tuned in to view the discussion about Mary Trump’s memoir about her uncle’s family. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” pre-sold nearly 1 million copies and first-week sales figures are due later this week.

… The NFL’s protocol for thorough COVID-19 testing this season will cost “about $75M,” Sports Business Daily reported yesterday. According to the report, BioReference Laboratories will be charging a flat fee covering up to 120 tests per team per day, with extra tests available at $125 each. The teams will pay 1/32nd of the total fee, and they will individually pay for any extra tests that they require.

The Rundown for July 17, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 3,576,156 and the nation’s death toll stands at 138,358, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. Florida, which trails only Texas for the highest death rate in the country, reported a record 156 new deaths, along with record highs in cases and hospitalizations… Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced yesterday that he is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over the city’s mask mandate, claiming the measure violates his emergency orders… Target and CVS announced yesterday that they will join other large retailers in requiring customers to wear masks. CVS will require masks starting July 20. Target’s requirement takes effect August 1.

MANHATTAN DA SAYS TRUMP IS DODGING SUBPOENA… The Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance yesterday accused President Trump of dragging out the court battle over eight years of his tax returns. Vance told a judge in federal court that Trump is trying to shield himself from criminal investigation by challenging a subpoena served at his accounting firm and pushed for an expedited review. Trump’s lawyers argued that the subpoena was vague and a politically motivated attempt to harass him.

UNEMPLOYMENT FILINGS… 1.3 million more American workers have filed for unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department’s weekly report released yesterday. The claims were down 10,000 from the previous week and left the unemployment rate at 11.9 percent. More than 50 million U.S. workers have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic, although many have since returned to jobs.

RUSSIA ACCUSED OF HACKING CORONAVIRUS VACCINE RESEARCH… British, Canadian and U.S. security agencies say a “cyber espionage group” associated with the Russian intelligence services has attempted to hack into coronavirus vaccine research. The Western intelligence agencies say they believe the hackers are part of the same Russian group that hacked Democratic Party emails in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Russia has denied the accusation.

MARY TRUMP MEMOIR SETS SALES RECORD… Mary L. Trump’s memoir about life in the Trump family and its effects how it shaped her uncle into the current president sold 950,000 copies on its first day of release on Tuesday, setting an all-time high for publisher Simon & Schuster. The author says she published “Too Much and Never Enough” to help end her uncle’s presidency because “a second term … would be the end of American democracy.” During an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” last night, Mary Trump characterized her uncle as “virulently racist” and claimed she heard him use the N-word and anti-Semitic slurs.

… Jon Hamm has signed on to star in and produce an upcoming “Fletch” reboot based on Gregory Mcdonald’s “Fletch” mystery novels. The 49-year-old Hamm will play an investigative reporter popularized by Chevy Chase in the 1985 film “Fletch” and its 1989 sequel, “Fletch Lives.” In the new story, Fletch becomes a prime suspect in multiple murders and must find his fiancées stolen art collection.

MAROON 5 BASSIST STEPS AWAY FOLLOWING ARREST… Maroon 5 founder and bassist Mickey Madden has announced that he is stepping away from the band following his arrest two week ago on domestic violence charges. The 41-year-old Madden was released from jail with a September 29 court date. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

… An explosive report in yesterday’s Washington Post detailed the experiences of 15 women who claim they were the victims of sexual harassment and verbal abuse while employed by the Washington Redskins. Those accused of misconduct were members of owner Dan Snyder’s inner circle. They included former director of pro personnel Alex Santos and former assistant director of pro personnel Richard Mann II. Former president of business operations Dennis Greene and former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman were also named in allegations spanning from 2006 to 2019. Santos, who was fired this week, is accused by six former employees and two reporters who covered the team of commenting about their bodies and making unwelcome overtures. The team has hired attorney Beth Wilkinson to review the organization’s protocols, including its culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct.

The Rundown for July 14, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 3,363,056 and the death toll stands at 135,605, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. A spike in cases in California has prompted governor Gavin Newsom to re-close indoor dining, bars, movie theaters, zoos and museums. 30 California counties will be forced to close gyms, churches, hair salons, malls and other businesses. Meanwhile, California’s two largest school districts have announce plans to start the fall semester with online-only classes in defiance of the Trump administration’s calls for schools to reopen for in-person instruction. Los Angeles Unified, the country’s second-largest school district with roughly 700,000 students, will begin instruction August 18; San Diego Unified, which serves more than 100,000 students, is set to start August 31.

JUDGE RULES GEORGIA ABORTION LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL… A federal court yesterday permanently blocked Georgia’s “heartbeat” abortion law. The law outlawed most abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, or about six weeks into a pregnancy. In his ruling, District Judge Steve C. Jones wrote that the law violated a woman’s constitutional right to access to the procedure as established by the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. Governor Brian Kemp signed House Bill 481 into law last year.

LAWSUIT FILED OVER VISA RULE… Seventeen states and the District of Columbia, along with dozens of universities, have joined in a lawsuit that challenges the new federal rule that strips international students of their visas if their coursework is entirely online when classes resume in the fall. 18 attorneys general say the Trump administration’s rule “cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students amidst the pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States.” The lawsuit names the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as defendants.

MARY TRUMP CLEARED TO PUBLICIZE MEMOIR… A New York Supreme Court judge yesterday lifted the restraining order that would have prohibited Mary Trump from publicizing her memoir about her uncle Donald Trump and his family. “Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” is scheduled for release today. President Trump’s brother, Robert Trump, had tried to stop the book’s publication on the grounds that it violated a confidentiality agreement Mary signed as part of an inheritance settlement from her grandfather in 2001. Judge Hal Greenwald ruled that the confidentiality clause in “what appeared to be somewhat nasty [intrafamily] litigation” was “so overly broad, as to be ineffective.”

TEXAS SUPREME COURT SHUTS DOWN STATE GOP CONVENTION… The Texas Supreme Court yesterday struck down an appeal by the Republican Party of Texas that would have allowed the group to host its convention in Houston this week. Mayor Sylvester Turner had ordered the event to be canceled over coronavirus concerns last Wednesday prompting the state GOP’s executive committee to file suit. The state supreme court court ruled that though the party has the right to hold a convention, “those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the (convention center).” State Republican Party officials are now planning to host a convention virtually.

… Authorities in Southern California announced yesterday that they have found the body of “Glee” star Naya Rivera five days after she was reported missing at Lake Piru in Ventura County. The 33-year-old actress and her boy were last seen renting a pontoon boat at the lake’s marina. The boy was later found sleeping alone on the boat and told investigators that he and his mother had been swimming and he got back into the boat but she didn’t. Authorities said the following day that they believed Rivera had drowned and shifted from a rescue mission to a recovery operation.

4 CHARGED IN MURDER OF POP SMOKE… The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced yesterday that two men and two teenagers have been charged in the murder of rapper Pop Smoke. The rapper was fatally shot during an alleged robbery in February. The 19- and 18-year-old men are eligible for the death penalty since the alleged murder occurred during an alleged robbery. They also face gang and gun charges.

SCIENCE-SHOW HOST GRANT IMAHARA DIES… Grant Imahara, an electrical engineer and roboticist who hosted the popular science shows “MythBusters” on Discovery Channel and Netflix’s “White Rabbit Project,” died suddenly yesterday following a brain aneurysm. He was 49. Imahara joined “MythBusters” in its third season and left the next year with co-hosts Kari Byron and Tory Belleci. The three reunited in 2016 for “White Rabbit Project.”

… The Washington Redskins made it official yesterday by announcing that they will replace their nickname and logo amid decades-long complaints that they are racial slurs. Pending trademark issues will determine when the new nickname is revealed. Team owner Dan Snyder had vowed for years that he would never change the team’s name but apparently changed his mind amid recently applied economic pressure from investors, sponsors and vendors.

The Rundown for July 8, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 2,996,098 and the nation’s death toll stands at 131,480, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. President Trump revealed yesterday that he plans to pressure state and local lawmakers to reopen schools in the fall months. Meanwhile, New York and New Jersey have added Delaware, Kansas and Oklahoma to their lists of states being put under quarantine rule. The rule requires travelers from the states to undergo 14 days of quarantine and also applies to travelers from 16 other states where positive test rates have exceeded 10-per-100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or the positivity rate is 10 percent or greater.

U.S. MOVES TO WITHDRAW FROM W.H.O… The Trump administration has taken the first step toward withdrawing the U.S. from the World Health Organization by notifying Congress and the United Nations. The withdrawal comes amid a rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the nation. The notice of withdrawal lists the effective date as July 6, 2021.

FBI DIRECTOR WARNS OF CHINA ATTACKS… FBI Director Christopher Wray yesterday accused the Chinese government of carrying out espionage and cyberattacks against the U.S. as part of “one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.” During an address at the Hudson Institute, Wray admitted he didn’t know how much of an economic impact the attacks have had, but said “every figure I’ve seen is breathtaking.” Prior to Wray’s comments, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited national security concerns in threatening to ban TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps.

DEUTSCHE BANK FINED… New York state regulators have fined Deutsche Bank $150 million for its role in enabling convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services Linda Lacewell said the bank failed to act on warning signs that Epstein was carrying out suspicious payments, among other violations. The bank processed millions of dollars in transactions that the department said should have prompted “additional scrutiny” because of Epstein’s criminal history, according to Lacewell.

DETAILS EMERGING IN TRUMP TELL-ALL BOOK… Journalists are reporting salacious details from their advance copies of the tell-all memoir written by President Donald Trump’s niece. In “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” Mary Trump claims that her uncle is a “narcissist” who now threatens the life of every American. She describes her uncle as a fraud and a bully to whom “lying was primarily a mode of self-aggrandizement meant to convince other people he was better than he actually was.” The author claims Trump hired a man to take his SAT prior to entering college, developed a world view forged by trauma at home and lacked the “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” When questioned about the revelations, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered,”I have yet to see the book but it’s a book of falsehoods.”

… Johnny Depp’s libel trial in the U.K. got underway yesterday and brought him and ex-wife Amber Heard face-to-face for the first time in years. Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, owner of the Sun tabloid, and the tabloid’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which called him a “wife-beater.” Heard claimed to have been the victim of domestic abuse in over 13 incidents from 2013 to 2016, which Depp denies. The 57-year-old Depp and 34-year-old Heard met filming 2011’s “The Rum Diary” and were married for 15 months beginning in February 2015. Depp has filed a separate $50 million defamation suit against Heard in the U.S. over claims she made in an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post.

TOM HANKS TALKS COVID… While promoting his upcoming film “Greyhound,” Tom Hanks has been relating the film with his recent battle with the coronavirus. The 63-year-old Hanks said during an appearance on the “Today” show yesterday that the struggle and survival in the film’s story line could just as easily apply to the current pandemic. The film, which premieres Friday on Apple TV+, tells the story about a U.S. Navy commander leading a convoy of Allied ships during World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic. Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive for COVID-19 in March but have since recovered. He encourages people to help stop the spread of the virus by wearing a mask, social distancing and washing their hands.

… Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who co-owns the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, has expressed her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement and wants the league to put an American flag on every jersey when play resumes later this month. Loeffler said in a letter she wrote to the league commissioner that the BLM movement “is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.” The letter prompted a number of current and former WNBA players to demand Loeffler’s removal as Dream co-owner.