Grim Outlook: Covid-19 deaths in the United States are predicted to reach almost 300,000 by December 1, the Associated Press reports. A University of Washington model is forecasting 295,011 deaths—135,000 more than the current toll of just over 160,000 confirmed fatalities. The model assumes that many states will enforce new stay-at-home orders as the death toll rises. It’s one of about 30 forecasts monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Together, these models predict between 168,000 and 182,000 deaths by August 22. At least 1,036 new deaths and 57,128 new cases were reported Thursday, according to The New York Times. Confirmed cases in the U.S. now top 4.8 million, about 25 percent of the global total of more than 19.1 million infections. U.S. deaths account for more than 20 percent of the world total of more than 716,000 people killed by Covid-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.
- Also: A Times analysis found that 41 percent of those killed in the U.S. have been residents or workers at nursing homes and long-term care centers, where more than 362,000 people in 16,000 facilities have been infected.
Stalemate: As of this writing, Congress has not reached a deal on a new Covid-19 relief package. The last relief legislation, which included an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on certain evictions, expired at the end of July. Nearly 1.2 million people applied for jobless benefits in the past week, a decline from some recent weeks. Still, it was 20th straight week of more than one million unemployment filings, reports the Associated Press. Frustrated by the stalemate and down in the polls with just 90 days to go before the November election, President Trump appears ready to take unilateral action if Congress cannot come to an agreement, according to The Hill. “At some point you have to understand that they’re not willing to make a deal. And that’s why the president is prepared to take executive action,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters.
- Also: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, then tested negative later in the day, according to CBS News. Before the initial positive test, the 73-year-old Republican had been scheduled to meet with President Trump, who was in Ohio to visit a Whirlpool plant and speak about the economy.
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Three in one: Over the last week, the Covid-19 pandemic, a hurricane on the East Coast and a wildfire in California have provided a preview of “life under climate change: a relentless grid of overlapping disasters, major or minor,” The New York Times reports. Hurricane Isaias killed at least 9 people, according to USA Today, making landfall in North Carolina, before being downgraded to a tropical storm and moving north, where it left more than 1.2 million people in New York and New Jersey without power. Meanwhile, a wildfire dubbed the Apple Fire has charred more than 28,000 acres east of Los Angeles. It was sparked by a malfunctioning diesel vehicle, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “What makes climate change so insidious is that it alters hazards, like flooding, just enough to turn what otherwise could have been just an emergency into a disaster, and disasters into catastrophes,” Samantha Montano, an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, told The New York Times. “Not only does this lead to more damage but also traps people in a cycle of recovery.”
Titanic blast: A massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, killed more than 155 people, injured more than 5,000, left 300,000 people homeless and gouged a crater more than 400 feet long. The blast, which coincided with observations of the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, was triggered by a fire that ignited 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port after arriving in 2013 on a damaged Russian-owned cargo ship. As NBC News reported, Lebanon was already grappling with a devastated economy—the unemployment rate is above 30 percent—when Tuesday’s deadly explosion occurred. Ammonium nitrate is mainly used as fertilizer, but also employed as an explosive by the mining industry. It has been used in terrorist attacks, including the deadly bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The New York Times has told the grim story of the leaky ship and its deadly cargo in fascinating detail.
- Also: An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity uncovered flaws in regulation of ammonium nitrate in the U.S.
Showdown with the NRA: New York Attorney General Leticia James has filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association, alleging that NRA insiders diverted tens of millions of dollars from the organization to personal use and contracts benefiting friends and family, in violation of the state’s nonprofit laws. NRA President Carolyn Meadows called the lawsuit “a transparent attempt to score political points and attack the leading voice in opposition to the leftist agenda,” while President Trump said it was a “terrible thing.” At a press conference, James said that she “follow[ed] the facts and the law.” The NRA, which has over 5 million members and dates back 148 years, responded by suing the attorney general’s office in federal court, arguing that James’ suit was politically motivated and violated the organization’s First Amendment rights. Karl Racine, the attorney general of Washington, DC, also filed a lawsuit against the NRA and its charitable foundation, which is based in the city, alleging that the NRA misused the foundation’s funds, The Hill reports.
Notable pledge: Energy giant BP announced that it would cut its oil and gas production by about 40 percent and increase its investments in low-carbon energy ten-fold, to $5 billion a year, by 2030. Over the last year, the world’s biggest oil and gas companies have been making increasingly ambitious pledges to address climate change, but BP’s announcement marks the most detailed and significant yet, according to InsideClimate News. “BP has radically changed the game,” Andrew Grant, head of oil, gas, and mining at the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think tank that has closely tracked the industry’s climate change plans, told InsideClimate. Mel Evans, a senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, which has been critical of BP, said its announcement was “a necessary and encouraging start.”
Shady trees: An investigation by The Oregonian, Oregon Public Broadcasting and ProPublica reveals that a public agency created to educate people about forestry became a de facto lobbying arm of the timber industry. In 2018, researchers found that the state could drastically shrink its carbon footprint if trees on private land were cut less frequently. This conclusion alarmed the state’s forest industry, challenging its approach of cutting trees at a young age to maximize profits. Thousands of internal emails reviewed by Rob Davis of The Oregonian and Tony Schick of OPB show that the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, a state agency, assembled lobbyists and scientists to challenge that study and its authors. Funded by tax dollars, the institute is barred by law from attempting to influence policy. Erin Isselmann, the institute’s executive director, told the reporters that she has operated “under the highest ethical standards.” However, a spokesman for Oregon Governor Kate Brown said, “It is clear that they have openly disregarded the idea that OFRI is a public entity that should serve the interests of Oregonians.”
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