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  • Unauthorized immigrants who work on America's farms have been deemed 'essential,' but they say they feel expendable>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 3:55 PM:)

    migrant farmworkers

    • The unauthorized immigrants who plow, pick, and harvest America's crops have been deemed "essential workers" during the coronavirus pandemic, but say they still feel vulnerable.
    • One worker, Carmelita, told Business Insider Today she's been working illegally in the country for 13 years picking strawberries, and doesn't feel very "essential."
    • These workers weren't eligible for most of the federal assistance given to Americans amid the crisis, and Carmelita said she fears what could happen if she gets sick.
    • She also said a lack of education among her colleagues has contributed to misinformation — some workers think they can't catch the coronavirus because they eat spicy food.
    • But she said she's proud of her work, and hopes President Donald Trump will one day make it easier for workers like her to stay in the country legally.
    • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.

    The roughly 2.4 million farm workers who plant and harvest America's produce have been deemed "essential workers" during the coronavirus crisis, which has plunged the economy into uncertainty and raised fears about food shortages.

    But the "essential worker" label poses a dilemma for roughly half of those farm workers, whose work is both desperately needed and illegal.

    Carmelita is one of more than 1 million unauthorized immigrants who plow, pick, and harvest the country's fields, often for long hours and low wages, and in grueling conditions. She spends 12 hours each day picking strawberries in Southern California, and told Business Insider Today she's been working illegally in the country for 13 years.

    "I don't feel 'essential,' as they say, because we don't have the same privileges," Carmelita said in Spanish.


    She was referring to government programs and services available to Americans that she cannot access due to her immigration status.

    Carmelita did not receive a $1,200 stimulus payments like her American counterparts, and she's also ineligible for health insurance programs like Medicaid, which would cover the costs of her treatment if she grew sick with COVID-19.

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom has allocated $75 million to provide $500 cash to the state's unauthorized immigrants, but it will only cover 150,000 people.

    The fear of catching the coronavirus has made her job more difficult — especially since the social distancing measures many American workplaces have adopted don't translate well to farm work.

    migrant farmworker

    Carmelita said she's struggled to convey the severity of the coronavirus pandemic to some of her coworkers, who have not been educated about the threat, and who have even fallen prey to misinformation.

    "When I talk with them they say it's not true, that they're not scared," she said. "Some told me nothing will happen to us Mexicans because we eat spicy food, and when we eat spicy food, the sickness will not hit us."

    Irene de Barraicua of Lideres Campesinas, a group that works with women farmworkers in California, told Business Insider Today that one of her top concerns is the workers' lack of awareness about the disease, which could be solved by bringing more health care workers out to visit the farms and educate the workers.

    "That's definitely a concern that some people are going to work and they might have already more information than others in terms of what COVID-19 is," she said. "And so they worry when they're working next to someone else that hasn't read anything or isn't as informed."

    The immigrant farmworkers are proud of harvesting the produce that feeds Americans each day

    Farmworker advocates have expressed concern that that lack of education could leave workers like Carmelita susceptible to a major outbreak. That would not only wreak havoc on America's immigrant community, but it could disrupt food supply chains and cause shortages in grocery stores.

    "We're treated as essential workers right now because if we don't do this kind of work, the United States is not going to have food in supermarkets, food to feed the nation," Mily Treviño-Sauceda, cofounder of the farmworkers advocacy group Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, told Business Insider Today.

    Still, despite everything, Carmelita said she's proud of her work.

    "We are the ones who are harvesting the products, fruits, and vegetables so they get to the table of the people who have to stay home," she said.

    migrant farmworkers

    But she longs to one day not have to worry about losing everything she's worked for simply due to her immigration status.

    She says she hopes that one day President Donald Trump will give workers like her a "blue card," which Democrats have proposed for agricultural workers. The blue cards would provide the immigrants with a pathway to permanent, legal status in the US.

    Carmelita's sons are American citizens, but she said she hopes to one day call herself the same.

    "Right now what motivates me to work so hard is to help my children get ahead so that they can have a better life than I have," she said. "I know I can't give them everything, but at least they can get a better education than I did, so they'll be less likely to end up as farmworkers."

    SEE ALSO: A Trump border policy left thousands of migrants in limbo — now they're facing violence, poverty, and the coronavirus

    DON'T MISS: Palm oil plantations are under pressure to prove they're sustainable — but the process can have devastating effects on local communities and the plantations themselves

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  • 'The governor is a servant of the state. I am a servant of God': 3 pastors defend why they're leading the charge to reopen churches>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 3:54 PM:)

    churches coronavirus lockdown first amendment

    • While most of the country remains under phased social distancing orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some faith leaders across the US are making a First Amendment case to open up places of worship.
    • Three pastors explained to Business Insider why they're fighting to open up.
    • "I'm not afraid to get COVID-19 when I go to Home Depot and neither should anyone be afraid when they come to church," one pastor, Diego Mesa, put it.
    • On Friday, President Donald Trump said he would force governors to open up places of worship, even though he doesn't have the authority to do so.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Diego Mesa was driving in Southern California on Thursday evening when he passed shops selling donuts, clothes, and cannabis.

    It boggles his mind that these businesses were marked as essential and permitted to reopen on May 8, as Gov. Gavin Newsom's reopening plan moved into its second stage. Churches, however, were shelved until the plan's third phase — lumped in with personal care, exercise, and entertainment facilities.

    "Our ideals differ in what we view as essential," Mesa told Business Insider. "When we are deemed as non-essential, there's an agenda there."

    But this isn't about who's right and who's wrong, he added.

    "Opening church is not the issue," Mesa said. "It's about whether I have the right to open the church. And, according to the First Amendment, I do."

    As the pastor of the Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga, Mesa is among more than 1,200 religious leaders in California who've signed a Declaration of Essentiality for Churches, vowing to host in-person services on May 31, Pentecost Sunday, with or without Newsom's blessing. 

    churches coronavirus reopen 2

    Attorney Robert Tyler is representing the Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi in a lawsuit against Newsom, alleging that the state's public gathering ban violates religious freedom granted by the First Amendment.

    He told Business Insider that next Sunday's act of civil disobedience was sparked by religious leaders seeking recourse amid the pandemic.

    "They began to say that this order by the governor has gone too far and too long," he said. "The governor is deciding based upon his own subjective decisions as to what he thinks is essential and what is not essential. At some point in time, we have to be allowed to get over the fear and allow these essential ministries to meet again."

    'Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens'

    As of Friday, the coronavirus has infected 1.58 million Americans and killed 95,276, according to Johns Hopkins University.

    But, Tyler said, the disease and virus-related deaths are one part of this crisis. The other part encompasses unemployment, economic and financial hardships, isolation, depression, addictions, suicide, and other traumas.

    "The pastors are seeing a huge need and have decided that they need to take a stand and do what God's called them to do," Tyler said. "And they will do so using all appropriate safety precautions recommended by the CDC and local governments, just as Costco and Walmart are required to do."

    spain church coronavirus lockdown reopens social distancing

    In April, the Justice Department got involved in a federal lawsuit brought by a church in Greenville, Mississippi, over local officials' efforts to stop drive-in services in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. "Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens," Attorney General William Barr wrote then.

    If authorities allow concert halls, cinemas, and restaurants to resume business, they can't stop houses of worship from doing the same, he said.

    "Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers," Barr wrote. "Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity."

    On Tuesday, Eric S. Dreiband, the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, echoed the sentiment. Newsom's current plan to reopen California demonstrates "unequal treatment of faith communities" and "discriminates against religious exercise," he wrote.

    "Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights," Dreiband added.

    trump president donald white house

    In Europe, and elsewhere in the world, many places of worship have already been permitted to reopen with safety measures in place.

    But Tyler's legal efforts haven't been successful so far. In a ruling on May 5, a federal judge in Sacramento denied a request from the Cross Culture Christian Center to reopen.

    "Even in times of health, government officials must often strike the delicate balance between ensuring public safety and preserving the Constitution's fundamental guarantees," US District Judge John A. Mendez wrote in his ruling. "But during public health crises, new considerations come to bear, and government officials must ask whether even fundamental rights must give way to a deeper need to control the spread of infectious disease and protect the lives of society's most vulnerable."

    Tyler is now moving the fight to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court, where he's hoping the judges will weigh in his favor.

    "We're asking the Ninth Circuit to rule that the governor's order treats churches unlawfully by not allowing religious assemblies to meet on the same terms and conditions as secular organizations," he said.

    On Friday, President Donald Trump entered the cultural fray. He announced plans to designate houses of worship as essential services and told them they can open immediately — even though he doesn't have the legal authority to override state rules.

    "I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now ... These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united, the people are demanding to go to church and synagogues, go to their mosque," he said.

    coronavirus church reopen 1

    If a Walmart can do it, so can a church

    Several super-spreader events in the United States and South Korea have been traced back to places of worship, where large numbers gather indoors. In Texas, the Holy Ghost Catholic Church reopened its doors on May 2. But less than two weeks later, all services had been called off indefinitely after five members of the congregation tested positive for COVID-19 and a priest who died on May 13 may have had it as well. In Mississippi, the First Pentecostal Church was burned down on Wednesday after drawing criticism for violating stay-at-home orders by holding an in-person service on Easter.

    Asked if he's concerned by the possibility of parishioners contracting or spreading the virus during in-person services, Tyler said everything in life comes with some amount of risk.

    "I think it is probably more likely for someone to die in a car accident than of COVID-19 in many parts of California," he said. "The church isn't saying we want to meet just because we think we have a constitutional right to do so — we want to meet because there are so many important needs of the community that need to be addressed."

    "Individuals need to be able to come together, to love and support one other again, while taking all the same precautions that any secular enterprise would," he added.

    Pastor Paul Chappell of Lancaster Baptist Church told Business Insider that it's been over 10 weeks since he's been able to minister in person to the church's nearly 7,000 members.

    During the pandemic, he's used Zoom to livestream services, and the church's staff has prepared meals for elderly community members and dropped off lunches at local hospitals. Other services, like youth meetings and marriage and crisis counseling have been paused.

    church greece

    Hundreds of pastors across the state have been "very compliant" with the stay-at-home orders, Chappell said, because the Bible encourages them to "obey and support authorities." However, he said, it also contains "scriptural commands to assemble."

    "The general idea is that if the Walmart just down the street can have 300 shoppers," Chappell said, "then a church with similar square footage could use the same generally accepted practices and provide worship for the people. We believe that churches are as competent to accomplish this task as any other service industry."

    Next Sunday, churchgoers at Lancaster Baptist will be asked to wear face masks and gloves and will have their temperatures taken as they enter. Chappell said the church will enforce social distancing measures, allowing only up to 20% of the church's maximum occupancy, and that he'll host four instead of the regular two services. Also, he said, electrostatic sprayers will be used to sanitize the campus after each of the small services.

    Chappell said there's always concern about people falling sick, but they need to be weighed with the need to worship.

    "Our rights are concerning to us as well and we have a biblical mandate to worship," he said. "We've been patient, but we feel in our conscience that it's getting to a point where we would need to follow the scriptures."

    According to Chappell, a breakdown in communication between government leaders and clergymen has made this an increasingly politicized issue. But the goal, he said, isn't to make a fuss: It's to simply move forward with "humble resolve."

    "I would say to someone who opposes our decision that they have every right to abstain from worship and we have every right to worship — that's the greatness of this country," he said.

    coronavirus churches lockdown first amendment religion

    'As much as the governor is a servant of the state, I am a servant of God'

    For his part, Mesa has turned to technology to stay connected with over his church's over 15,000 members. Their viewership numbers have been "off the charts," he said. And a lot of that traffic is coming from people who have been affected by the coronavirus and are turning to religion for community, hope, and answers.

    However, Mesa said, there's a discernible difference between people "watching a screen where they see a fire log versus an actual fireplace."

    Many elderly longtime parishioners of Abundant Living Family Church don't have the digital know-how to be able to log into Zoom or Facebook Live. "Their relief has been cut off," said Mesa, who's been calling them on the phone every week and delivering groceries to their doorsteps.

    "Many of them go to their windows or balconies and say, 'It is just so wonderful to see your face,' or 'I'm a widow and I miss my spiritual family,' or 'I'm lonely, this is the highlight of my week,'" Mesa said.

    Others who are suffering in silence are healthcare workers who toil for long hours on the frontline of the pandemic, where they're inundated with sickness, trauma, death, and even suicides.

    Many are sleeping in hotels or garages, separated from their loved ones, in an effort to protect them from the virus.

    Mesa quoted one nurse, who told him: "I need my church community because I'm giving, I'm giving, I'm giving, I'm helping to pour into the lives of others, but my cup is running dry."

    churches coronavirus new york stay at home order lockdown.JPG

    So, Mesa said, he feels confident in the robust safety guidelines of his church, which mirrors Chappell's.

    "At the end of the day, I'm not afraid to get COVID-19 when I go to Home Depot and neither should anyone be afraid when they come to church," Mesa said. "Number one, the infection and mortality rates are down, and number two, we're exercising optimum cleanliness and sanitation that is far beyond what you would get anywhere else."

    Even though Abundant Living Family Church can seat up to 4,000 worshippers, Mesa is also planning to ask the congregation to reserve seats online because only 700 people will be allowed to sit in the pews on May 31.

    People who are over 65 years old or have underlying health conditions are being asked to stay home as are those who simply feel uncomfortable.

    "As much as the governor is a servant of the state, I am a servant of God," said Mesa. "As a governor, he has a term limit. We have signed lifetime commitments to serve the people that he is supposed to be working for, so he needs to allow us to do that."

    The tension isn't just brewing in California

    Religious leaders in California have garnered attention for turning to litigation and defiance over state moratoriums on religious gatherings.

    But this friction is showing up across the rest of the country as well.

    california church closed coronavirus

    Pastor Brian Gibson of HIS Church, which has two campuses in Kentucky and another two in Texas, founded the PeaceablyGather.com movement to speak out on behalf of religious freedom that's enshrined by the Constitution. On Sunday, he'll be in Chicago alongside Pastor Joseph Wyrostek at the Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church.

    "Every day a house of worship is closed, a little bit of liberty dies," he said. "We have a constitutional crisis in America and if Americans don't speak up and speak out, the fabric of our nation is going to be torn in a way that can't be repaired."

    Gibson described feeling enraged when he was stopped from hosting a drive-through Easter Egg giveaway service, where social distancing was going to be followed and church staff members were protected with masks and gloves.

    Meanwhile, he said, across the street and within viewing distance of the church, baristas were making lattes, fast food restaurants were serving fries, and people were buying liquor.

    "But the message to us was the church isn't smart enough to give kids candy in the name of Jesus," he said. "We started asking ourselves: Is this fair? Is this constitutional? Is this religious targeting? The answer is absolutely yes."

    The Bible says there's a time to be "lamb-like, to be quiet, to be meek, to be mild," Gibson added, but that moment has passed. Religious leaders now need to roar like lions and take a firm stance against "tyranny" and religious oppression.

    church closed france

    Gibson said he welcomes opposition from community members and government leaders, saying "That smells like liberty to me."

    He also issued a call to action to people who believe that big-box retailers and general merchandising stores are essential, but don't view churches in the same light. 

    "Those businesses operate strictly on the basis of cash in, cash out," he said. "Do you know what the church has done for 2,000 years?"

    "It's prayed for the sick, it's built hospitals, it's built universities, it's married people, it's buried people," he continued. "Go and see if the Walmart will bury your dead. Go and see if the Walmart will pray [for] and bless your children."

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  • The US government gave hydroxychloroquine to 1,300 veterans infected with COVID-19, despite evidence that the drug is ineffective and could increase the risk of death>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 3:08 PM:)

    hydroxychloroquine pill coronavirus

    • The US Department of Veterans Affairs has treated 1,300 veterans infected with the coronavirus disease with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
    • The VA said the drug was being administered at the final stages of a veteran's life.
    • But there's evidence suggesting that the drug is not only ineffective but harmful to patients and is connected to heart complications and a higher risk of death.
    • The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has given the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to 1,300 people infected with the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, despite evidence that the medication is not only ineffective but could be harmful.

    The revelation of the drug's use on veterans was made after Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer questioned the VA on its recent large order of the medication and its intended use of it, according to USA Today. The VA responded to the senator's inquiry and said the drug had been administered to about 1,300 of the 10,000 veterans that they are treating for the disease. The medication was also mainly given to veterans at the final stages of their life, according to the VA.

    Schumer posted a document on Twitter containing the VA's response.

    "VA, like so many medical facilities across this Nation, is in a race to keep patients alive during this pandemic, and we are using as many tools as we can," reads the document shared by Schumer.

    This shows the original VA study on hydroxychloroquine everyone was concerned over is just the beginning

    This drug may be useless or even harmful for COVID-19 patients, but the VA continues to administer it to hundreds of vets

    Why are we just learning this? We need answers NOW! https://t.co/7HXaIL9EDo

    — Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 22, 2020

    The drug hydroxychloroquine entered national discourse at the beginning of the pandemic as a potential treatment for COVID-19. President Donald Trump had repeatedly endorsed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine at his press briefings as an experimental treatment to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Last week, Trump said that he had been taking the drug in a bid to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

    But although the drug is approved to treat other ailments, such as lupus, it has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of the coronavirus disease.

    And a study of over 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients conducted by researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that the antimalarial drug did not benefit those infected with the disease. The study, which is the largest of its kind to analyze COVID-19 patients, instead found that the medication was associated with heart complications and a higher risk of death.

    In April, even doctors at the VA said the drug was ineffective in helping people fight COVID-19 and could even increase the risk of death, as Reuters reports.

    The VA said it will keep administering the drug. The agency also said that it was not swayed by the White House to dispense the medication.

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  • Dr. Birx urged Americans to 'be together socially, yet distant' amid states reopening and Memorial Day celebrations>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 2:27 PM:)

    deborah birx

    • Dr. Deborah Birx urged Americans on Sunday that reopening the country hinged on individuals following safety recommendations.

    • The White House coronavirus response coordinator appeared on ABC's "This Week" amid reports of crowded beaches for Memorial Day and widespread easing of lockdowns in states across the US.
    • Birx's comment came as the US marked more than 1.6 million coronavirus cases and 96,000 deaths.
    • Public health officials are working "to translate that learning into real change behavior that stays with us so we can continue to drive down the number of cases," Birx said.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Over the holiday weekend, as states eased lockdowns and many Americans broke quarantine to enjoy rising temperatures, Dr. Deborah Birx urged Americans to keep in mind that reopening the country to pre-pandemic activities hinged on individuals following safety recommendations.

    The White House coronavirus response coordinator appeared on ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning, where she responded to photos of crowded beaches full of Memorial Day revelers by emphasizing that measures to prevent spreading infection like social distancing are "absolutely critical."

    "If you can't social distance and you're outside, you must wear a mask," Birx said.

    "We've learned a lot about this virus, but we now need to translate that learning into real change behavior that stays with us so we can continue to drive down the number of cases," Birx said.

    Birx said public officials were continuing to "communicate" necessary measures as the pandemic wears on, to allow Americans to "be together socially, yet distant."

    Birx was speaking days after she gave a press conference ahead of the holiday weekend where she said activities like golfing and enjoying beaches weren't off-limits with social distancing. 

    The public-health expert told host Martha Raddatz that similar caution should be taken by worship leaders if they open their doors after President Donald Trump urged them to reopen.

    Trump said Friday he would designate houses of worship as essential services and "override" governors who did not open them for in-person services, though Business Insider's Grace Panetta and Eliza Relman reported that he likely does not have the authority to do so.

    "We all have made difficult behavioral changes and that needs to continue to happen," as public places open, Birx said.

    Birx said guidelines from the CDC remain available for those attending activities but urged caution that "if there is a heightened number of COVID cases, maybe they wait another week." 

    "This only works if we all follow the guidelines and protect one another," Birx told Raddatz. 

    Birx was speaking as the US counted more than 1.6 million cases of and 96,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus.

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  • Boris Johnson is set to shrink Huawei's role in building Britain's 5g network in a victory for the Trump administration>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 2:08 PM:)

    FILE PHOTO: The British flag and a smartphone with a Huawei and 5G network logo are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture taken January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

    • Boris Johnson is set to reduce Huawei's role in developing UK 5g, according to multiple reports.
    • The UK prime minister is expected to commit to eliminating Huawei's role altogether by 2023.
    • A growing number of MPs in Johnson's Conservative party want him to scrap the current deal, which would see the Chinese telecoms firm have a 35% market share by 2023.
    • There is anger in the Conservative party over Beijing's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
    • The Trump administration is also opposed the deal, citing concerns over China's threat to intelligence.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Boris Johnson is set to reduce Huawei's role in developing Britain's 5g network amid growing pressure from within his own party to scrap the current agreement with the Chinese telecoms firm.

    The UK prime minister riled Members of Parliament in the Conservative party when he granted Huawei a limited but significant role in developing Britain's 5g earlier this year.

    In March, he experienced a rebellion from Conservative MPs — and the first real challenge to his power since winning the UK's general election in December — when almost 40 voted against his government in Parliament.

    Johnson also angered allies in the Trump administration, with the President hanging up on Johnson in an "apoplectic" phone call. The US warned that the deal with Huawei would give China a back door into western intelligence sharing.

    However, the UK prime minister is expected to reduce Huawei's involvement in Britain's 5g, according to The Guardian, The Telegraph, and other outlets, by promising to bring the firm's participation in the network down to zero by the year 2023. Under the terms of the current deal, Huawei's role will be reduced to 35% by 2023.

    Johnson is set to revisit the deal amid fears in his government that he would almost certainly lose an upcoming House of Commons vote on the matter. The Guardian newspaper says as many as 50 Conservative MPs were prepared to rebel.

    Opposition to the deal with Huawei within Johnson's party has grown since the first parliamentary vote in March.

    Business Insider reported last month that a number of influential Conservative MPs set up a new parliamentary bloc called the "China Research Group," whose members want Johnson to look again at the Huawei deal.

    Tom Tugendhat MP, who chairs the group, predicted that Prime Minister Johnson would revisit the controversial agreement in light of anger in the party over China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

    "I can't see how it doesn't change that. Clearly, it's going to have implications," he told Business Insider.

    "It makes the Huawei position hard."

    Tom Tugendhat

    The development comes amid a general hardening of feeling against China within the Conservative party, and anger over how Beijing has approached the coronavirus outbreak.

    The First Secretary of State Dominic Raab, who deputized for Johnson while he recovered from the coronavirus, said that the UK's relationship with China could not return to "business as usual" after the pandemic.

    Dame Karen Pierce, the UK's ambassador to the US, said in April there "definitely" needed to be an investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 virus.

    China, for its part, has accused some UK MPs of wanting a "cold war" against China.

    Liu Xiaoming, Beijing's ambassador to the UK, earlier this month warned that British politicians could "poison" the UK's relationship with China. 

    "Regrettably a few politicians in the UK have been addicted to the cold war mentality to compare China to the former Soviet Union and urge a review of the China-UK relationship, and even call for a new cold war," he said.

    "If they go unchecked, they will poison the China-UK joint effort, and even international solidarity just as it's needed most."

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  • Oxford scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine say there is now only a 50% chance of success because the number of UK cases is falling too quickly>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 10:08 AM:)

    oxford vaccine group trial

    • Oxford scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine say the chances of success are now 50%.
    • They say that's because the number of people with the virus in the UK is falling too quickly.
    • "At the moment, there's a 50% chance that we get no result at all," scientist Adam Hill said this weekend.
    • His colleague Sir John Bell said vaccine scientists might have to "chase" COVID-19 around Britain.
    • Oxford scientists have teamed up drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to develop an experimental vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Scientists involved in one of the world's leading studies into finding a vaccine for the coronavirus say there is currently only a 50% chance of success because the number of people in Britain with the virus is falling too quickly.

    The Oxford University mission to find a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is in "a race against the virus disappearing, and against time," Adam Hill, director at Oxford University's Jenner Institute, said this weekend.

    Hill told The Telegraph newspaper that the number of people in the UK with the virus was falling at a rate that meant there might not be enough people to test the experimental vaccine known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

    "At the moment, there's a 50% chance that we get no result at all," he said.

    Hill's colleague Sir John Bell, an Oxford University regius professor of medicine, made the same observation in a weekend interview with The Times of London newspaper.

    "You wouldn't start [trials] in London now for sure," Bell told the newspaper. Cases of the coronavirus in England's capital are currently falling faster than anywhere else in the country.

    Read more: The untold story of Moderna as the biotech's coronavirus vaccine faces a test that could make it one of the most consequential startups of all time

    Bell said that scientists might have to "chase" the virus around the nation for the vaccine trials to be successful.

    "The latest figures show 634 confirmed cases in the capital in the past fortnight," Bell told the newspaper.

    "In contrast, there was an increase of 163 on Friday alone in the northwest of England, taking the total in the region to 24,295 confirmed cases.

    "The question is: can you chase the disease around the UK? Then there's the question about whether you chase it internationally."

    Scientists at Oxford are working with global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc to produce the vaccine. It's one of several studies around the world with the aim of developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.

    The Oxford Vaccine Group says it hopes to complete human trials on the hAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine in September.

    The first two humans were injected with the vaccine at the end of last month. About 1,100 people in the UK are expected to take part in the trial, which is funded by Boris Johnson's UK government.

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  • Trump refused to unveil Obama's White House portrait after the former president criticized his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are 8 other famous presidential feuds in history.>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 10:03 AM:)

    donald trump and barack obama

    • Earlier this week, President Donald Trump reportedly refused to host a White House ceremony to unveil former President Barack Obama's official portrait. 
    • Trump and Obama have traded barbs in recent weeks, particularly over Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
    • But they are far from the first American presidents not to see eye to eye.
    • Here are eight other presidential feuds, dating as far back as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. 
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    The bad blood between President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama boiled over this week when NBC News reported that Trump was refusing to hold a White House ceremony to unveil Obama's official portrait. 

    The ceremony is a long-held White House tradition, whereby the current president, usually in their first term, invites their predecessor back to the White House to see the painting unveiled. 

    But according to sources who spoke to NBC News, there is so much animosity between Trump and Obama that the ceremony is not likely to happen. Trump in recent weeks also been accusing Obama of committing a political crime, which he has called "Obamagate" without explaining what it is.

    With presidential power swinging back and forth between parties for decades, Trump and Obama certainly are not the first presidents not to see eye to eye. 

    Here are eight other major presidential feuds in American history, from Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. 

    John Adams and Thomas Jefferson's relationship soured as they fought for power in the wake of George Washington's presidency.

    Founding Fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had a tumultuous off-and-on friendship before both died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, according to CNN.

    Their friendship was first tested when the nation's first president, George Washington, decided not to seek a third term, and the two ran against each other. 

    Adams won that election, but things turned sour when Jefferson challenged him again four years later. 

    Supporters for Jefferson called Adams a "hideous hermaphroditical character," while Adam's supporters called Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow."

    Adams was so angered at losing to Jefferson in this race that he left town early and skipped Jefferson's inauguration.

    However, the two did reconcile somewhat about a decade later, when they started exchanging letters again. 

    John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson fought each other in one of the most heated presidential elections in 1828.

    Historians consider the 1828 presidential election to be one of the nastiest in US history, according to CNN

    The reasons for this date back to the previous election, in 1824, which was also between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

    Adams won, and many felt that Jackson had been robbed of victory because of a deal that Adams cut with another contender, Henry Clay, whom he later made his secretary of state.

    Adams and Jackson were also extremely different men.

    Adams was the son of the nation's second president, came from a prominent New England family, was Harvard educated, and had spent a good portion of his life abroad. 

    Jackson, meanwhile, had a tough upbringing, during which he was kidnapped and beaten by British soldiers, orphaned, and largely had to fend for himself in South Carolina. 

    During the 1828 election, Adams was called a pimp, while Jackson's wife was labeled a slut.

    According to The Atlantic, when Jackson eventually won, his supporters stormed the White House and Adams had to secretively escape.

    Andrew Johnson refused to attend the inauguration of his successor Ulysses S. Grant.

    While Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant was a member of Andrew Johnson's Democrat party earlier in his life, he switched sides after Johnson became president following Abraham Lincoln's assassination. 

    Grant and Johnson disliked each other so much that Grant refused to ride to his inauguration with Johnson in his carriage, as was the custom at the time, according to The Atlantic.

    As a result, Johnson refused to go to the ceremony and stayed at the White House. 

    Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt traded personal barbs during the 1932 election.

    The 1932 election was an extremely fraught battle between Republican President Herbert Hoover and his Democratic challenger, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as they argued over the best ways to lift the country out of the Great Depression. 

    During the election, the men launched personal attacks against each other, with Hoover calling Roosevelt a "chameleon on plaid" and Roosevelt calling Hoover a "fat, timid capon," according to The Atlantic.

    McCarthyism turned once-allies Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower into foes.

    President Harry S. Truman and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had a friendly relationship until the latter decided to run for president in 1952.

    Truman, who was supporting the Democratic nominee in the election, Adlai Stevenson, started to criticize Eisenhower, who was running on the Republican ticket.

    Among the jabs he threw at Eisenhower was an accusation that he didn't protect Gen. George Marshall from attacks by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, according to an article by an archivist at the Truman presidential museum.

    McCarthy's allegations of treason against Marshall put Eisenhower in a tough spot since McCarthy was a Republican and Marshall was one of his mentors.

    Eisenhower initially planned to condemn McCarthy and publicly support Marshall in a speech on the campaign trail in McCarthy's home state of Wisconsin, but eventually decided against it, according to PBS

    Nevertheless, he didn't like being criticized for it by Truman. 

    "Eisenhower, a relative newcomer to presidential politics, took Truman's campaign attacks personally and was bitter about them for years," Truman archivist Samuel W. Rushay Jr. wrote.

    John F. Kennedy had an awkward relationship with his vice president and successor Lyndon B. Johnson.

    While Lyndon B. Johnson was John F. Kennedy's vice president, the two weren't exactly best friends. 

    For one, Johnson did not approve of Kennedy's appointment of his brother Bobby as Attorney General. Johnson called Bobby Kennedy a "snot-nosed little son of a b----," according to Politico.

    In fact, when he became president after Kennedy's 1963 assassination, Johnson signed an anti-nepotism law making sure it wouldn't happen again.

    Johnson also did not like the limited power he was given in Kennedy's administration.

    In a later interview Johnson said that his private meetings with the president were extremely awkward. 

    ''Every time I came into John Kennedy's presence. I felt like a goddamn raven hovering over his shoulder," he said, according to The New York Times

    Richard Nixon also made an enemy out of Johnson when he subverted Vietnam peace talks.

    President Lyndon B. Johnson became furious with Richard Nixon after he found evidence that the then-Republican presidential nominee was trying to sabotage the Vietnam War peace talks. 

    Over the years it was revealed that Nixon had a representative convince the South Vietnamese to drop out of the peace talks, with the promise that they would get a much better deal under Nixon.

    Nixon was afraid that if peace was brokered under Johnson, then his vice president Hubert Humphrey would win the election.

    In tapes that were later declassified, Johnson said Nixon was guilty of treason and had "blood on his hands."

    Ronald Reagan's election made Jimmy Carter a one-term president, and the transition was less than friendly.

    Democratic President Jimmy Carter's time in office was cut short when Republican candidate Ronald Reagan beat him in the 1980 election, making Carter a one-term president.

    The transition between administrations was not a happy one.

    According to The New York Times, at a White House meeting about the transition, Carter got upset with Reagan for reportedly not paying enough attention or taking notes.

    It was also reported that Nancy Reagan asked if the Carters could move into Blair House — the president's guest house — a few weeks before the Inauguration so that the Reagans could get a head start on redecorating the White House.

    Blair House is usually where incoming presidents stay on the night before their inauguration. 

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  • Trump retweets Hillary Clinton is a 'skank' message and spreads sexist insults about other prominent female Democrats>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 9:57 AM:)


    • On Saturday, President Donald Trump shared a series of sexist insults and personal jibes about prominent female Democrats. 
    • The tweets, by a failed conservative congressional candidate, were aimed at Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams, and Nancy Pelosi. 
    • Trump has a long record of aiming sexist insults at female critics. 
    • His campaign has doubled down on spreading insults and conspiracy theories about opponents in the wake of the president's faltering response to the coronavirus. 
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    President Donald Trump on Saturday shared a series of messages containing sexist taunts and personal insults against prominent female Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.

    In one message shared by the president, John Stahl, a conservative who gathered only 3% of the vote in his bid for election to California's 52nd House district in 2012, called former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a "skank." 

    The president just retweeted someone calling the first woman nominee of either major political party in the US “a skank” a few hours after another Scarborough murder allegation on the weekend the country closes in on 100K coronavirus deaths. pic.twitter.com/5H2E63kWOn

    — Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 24, 2020


    Like Trump, Stahl is fond of referring to political opponents with insulting nicknames, a review of his Twitter feed reveals. 

    In another messages shared by Trump, Stahl aimed insulting jibes at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the mid-term race for the governor's office in Georgia, and is a leading contender to be nominated Joe Biden's running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket. 

    absolutely despicable pic.twitter.com/xfmpqW01SX

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 24, 2020


    Pelosi last week referred to Trump as "morbidly obese" after he admitted to taking hydroxychloroquine, to ward off the coronavirus, which has been shown to cause heart problems.

    But some critics have warned that Democratic leaders should not stoop to the name-calling that Trump has long indulged in, amid debate on how best to counter the president's insults and personal attacks. 

    With Trump under increasing pressure for his administration's faltering response to the coronavirus pandemic — which has now killed more than 100,000 Americans — he has doubled down on the personal insults, smears and conspiracy theories about opponents that distinguished his 2016 campaign. 

    The president has a long record of making demeaning and sexist comments about women, and his presidential candidacy featured the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tapes in 2016, where he boasted of groping women. 

    But some observers have noted that the president's incendiary comments and provocations are now getting significantly less attention than they once attracted, as America battles its worst public health crisis in decades. 

    The president in response to allegations of sexism has pointed to his record of promoting women to senior positions in his administration and businesses. 

    Some analysts believe that Trump's use of divisive rhetoric could cost him votes from women in November's election. 

    Polls have consistently shown a huge gender gap in how men and women view Trump, with a Gallup survey in March finding that while 49% of men approve of Trump, only 36% of women do. 

    And recent surveys show his support among one of the key demographics who helped propel him to victory in 2016, white working-class women, may be slipping. Many view him as impulsive and divisive, according to a report by McClatchy last November. 

    Republican advisers have warned the president that his low standing am0ng white suburban women has gotten worse during the coronavirus crisis, and presents a significant problem for his chances of reelection, reported theDaily Beast in April. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

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  • Angry MPs in Boris Johnson's own Conservative party are urging him to sack Dominic Cummings over new claims that he broke the coronavirus lockdown>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 8:13 AM:)

    Dominic Cummings

    • Boris Johnson is under immense pressure to sack his close chief advisor Dominic Cummings.
    • A former government minister told Business Insider that several Conservative MPs had written to government whips expressing anger over the latest claims facing Cummings.
    • Cummings and his family drove to a city 260 miles from London in March during the UK's lockdown, despite both him and his wife having coronavirus symptoms, it was reported on Friday.
    • It emerged on Saturday that Cummings was allegedly spotted in Durham and the surrounding area on two more occasions a month later.
    • Downing Street doubled down in its defense of Cummings, accusing The Guardian and Daily Mirror newspapers of publishing a "stream of false allegations.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under intense pressure to sack his chief advisor Dominic Cummings after fresh claims that he flouted the UK government's strict lockdown rules to travel 260 miles from London more than once.

    A senior MP and former government minister told Business Insider that several Conservative MPs had written to government whips expressing anger over the latest claims facing Cummings and urging Johnson to take action.

    The Daily Mirror and The Guardian newspapers on Friday reported that Cummings and his family in late March drove to Durham, a city in northeast England, to be near his family, despite Cummings and his wife both having coronavirus symptoms.

    Keir Starmer's Labour Party on Saturday led calls for an urgent inquiry into the incident. At the same time, other opposition parties said Johnson should sack his friend and chief advisor for breaking the government's lockdown rules.

    However, Downing Street and several senior UK ministers lept to Cummings' defense, claiming that the UK's lockdown rules permit people with COVID-19 symptoms to leave their homes in exceptional circumstances.

    Cummings said he traveled 260 miles to seek childcare support from his relatives, and acted "responsibly and legally."

    But two revelations on Saturday evening have put even more pressure on Johnson to sack Cummings, with Members of Parliament in Johnson's Conservative party expressing their anger over the latest developments.

    The Daily Mirror and The Guardian newspapers reported that Cummings was spotted in Durham on a different occasion, this time on April 19, days after he was photographed in London working for Johnson's UK government.

    The reports say that he was also seen a week earlier at Barnard Castle, a popular tourist town 30 miles from Durham.

    The ex-government minister said: "The new revelations make it worse. "We have had more emails this morning [from constituents] saying 'what are the rules?'" they said.

    "The line 'doing what I think is right' gives people carte blanche to say the same."

    Another Conservative MP said there emails inbox "was not a happy place at present."

    The UK government was on Saturday night, also accused of lying after Durham Police published a statement that contradicted Downing Street's explanation of Cummings' first trip to Durham in March.

    The UK government said the Police did not speak to Cummings or his family about the incident. However, Durham Police last night said that they had talked to Cummings' father about it.

    MPs in Johnson's own Conservative party urge him to sack Cummings

    Boris Johnson

    Downing Street doubled down in its defense of Cummings, attacking The Daily Mirror and The Guardian as "campaigning newspapers" publishing "inaccurate stories."

    "We will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers," an official Downing Street spokesperson said on Saturday night.

    However, now Johnson is under pressure from a growing number of MPs in his own party to act.

    Conservative MP Steve Baker on Sunday morning tweeted, "Dominic Cummings should go," saying he must leave his role "before he does any more harm to the UK, the Government, the Prime Minister, our institutions or the Conservative Party."

    He was followed by a number of Conservative MPs including Damian Collins, who said the UK government "would be better without him," and Simon Hoare, who said Cummings was "wounding" Johnson and his government.

    Former government minister Caroline Nokes tweeted: "I made my views clear to my whip yesterday. There cannot be one rule for most of us and wriggle room for others. My inbox is rammed with very angry constituents and I do not blame them. They have made difficult sacrifices over the course of the last 9 weeks."

    Roger Gale MP on Sunday afternoon told Sky News that Cummings was "dead in the water politically and said "he's doing damage to theprime minister he's supposed to be supporting — and none of us like that."

    He added: "How can I go on asking people to show self restraint when a very senior member of government isn't?

    Join the conversation about this story »

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  • Trump escalates Twitter fight with Jeff Sessions, says he 'had no courage, & ruined many lives'>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 3:19 AM:)

    jeff sessions

    • President Donald Trump and his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, traded barbs over Twitter throughout the weekend.
    • On Saturday evening, Trump urged Sessions to "drop out of the race" for Alabama's senate seat, saying his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation "ruined many lives."
    • On Friday, Sessions lashed out at Trump, saying, "Your personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do."
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    President Donald Trump continued a roughly 24-hour-long Twitter spat with his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, accusing him of having "ruined many lives" due to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

    "Jeff, you had your chance & you blew it. Recused yourself ON DAY ONE (you never told me of a problem), and ran for the hills. You had no courage, & ruined many lives," Trump tweeted Saturday evening. "The dirty cops, & others, got caught by bigger & stronger people than you. Hopefully this slime will pay a big… price."

    He continued: "You should drop out of the race & pray that super liberal [Sen. Doug Jones] … gets beaten badly."

    Jeff, you had your chance & you blew it. Recused yourself ON DAY ONE (you never told me of a problem), and ran for the hills. You had no courage, & ruined many lives. The dirty cops, & others, got caught by better & stronger people than you. Hopefully this slime will pay a big... https://t.co/AJPUBTPCnT

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2020


    One day earlier, Sessions had lashed out at Trump in a tweet after Trump urged Alabama voters, "Do not trust Jeff Sessions."

    Trump has endorsed Sessions' rival in the Alabama GOP Senate runoff, Tommy Tuberville.

    "Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did," Sessions tweeted Friday night, in response to one of Trump's tweets. "It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration. Your personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do."

    Trump has long complained about Sessions and his decision to recuse himself — even bashing him publicly while Sessions was still the attorney general.

    Trump ousted Sessions in November 2018, but Sessions has continued to praise Trump's agenda, and has campaigned on a platform of supporting him.

    The primary runoff between Sessions and Tuberville was initially scheduled for March, but has been delayed until July due to the coronavirus.

    SEE ALSO: 'Your personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their Senator': former Attorney General Jeff Sessions lashes out at Trump after he endorsed Sessions' political opponent

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  • A heartbreaking New York Times front page lists 1,000 coronavirus deaths — just 1% of the total US death toll>
    (Politics - May 24 2020 - 12:31 AM:)

    new york times front page

    • The New York Times prepared a powerful front page for its May 24 print edition, marking the somber milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States.
    • The newspaper listed the names of 1,000 people who died of COVID-19 — just 1% of the total death toll.
    • The newspaper staff combed through obituaries and death notices for people whose cause of death was listed as COVID-19, and listed people's names, ages, and facts about their lives.
    • An editor for the paper said she realized there was "a little bit of a fatigue with the data" among both Times journalists and the general public, and so the newspaper sought to visualize the extent of the loss.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    To mark the somber milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States, The New York Times prepared a devastating front page for Sunday's print edition, listing the names of 1,000 people who have died of COVID-19.

    Roughly five months after the first US coronavirus case was reported, the US was set to hit the grim death toll of 100,000 in a matter of days. The Times' front page represented just 1% of those deaths.

    Each of the names on the front page was accompanied with a miniature obituary, noting each person's name age, city and state, and brief facts about their lives.

    For 85-year-old June Beverly Hill of Sacramento, The Times noted that "no one made creamed potatoes or fried sweet corn the way she did."

    Orlando Moncada, a Bronxville man who died at 56, "left Peru and grabbed hold of the American dream." A 25-year-old Michigan man, Bassey Offiong, "saw friends at their worst but brought out their best."

    "They were not simply names on a list. They were us," a subheadline on the front-page read.

    The front page of The New York Times for May 24, 2020 pic.twitter.com/Mp4figjnQe

    — The New York Times (@nytimes) May 23, 2020

    But at least one of the names appeared to be listed on the front page incorrectly. Jordan Driver Haynes, 27, whose name was listed sixth from the top, was described on the front page as a "generous young man with a delightful grin." Haynes' death has been ruled a homicide, not a COVID-19 death.

    CNN reported that The Times will be running a correction and will remove Haynes' name in later editions.

    "They were not simply names on a list. They were us," a subheadline on the front-page read.

    The newspaper — a team of editors and three graduate student journalists — compiled the details from online obituaries and death notices that included COVID-19 as the cause of death, according to The Times.

    Simone Landon, an assistant editor on the graphics desk, told the newspaper it was important to reckon with the 100,000-person figure.

    She said she and her colleagues found that "both among ourselves and perhaps in the general reading public, there's a little bit of a fatigue with the data," and sought to create a front page that would visualize the extent of the loss.

    The chief creative officer of The Times, Tom Bodkin, noted that Sunday's newspaper is "certainly a first in modern times" to run a front page with no images or graphics.

    Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that one of the names listed on The Times' front page was a homicide death, not a COVID-19 death.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown

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  • Joe Biden wins Hawaii's Democratic presidential primary>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 10:19 PM:)

    FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2017, file photo Vice President Joe Biden listens during a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, where President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

    • Former Vice President Joe Biden won Hawaii's Democratic presidential primary. 
    • Hawaii's Democratic Party held the primary almost entirely by mail over the course of several weeks due to concerns over the novel coronavirus. 
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Biden won Hawaii's party-run Democratic primary 63% to 37% over Sen. Bernie Sanders

    Sanders officially dropped out of the presidential primary on April 8, making Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee.

    Though Sanders will stay on the ballot in upcoming primaries and earn delegates from those contests for his representatives to have a seat on important Democratic National Convention committees, he formally endorsed Biden on April 13.

    In the Democratic presidential primary, Hawaii allocates 24 pledged delegates to the Convention, with 15 allocated between the state's two congressional districts and nine allocated based on the statewide results. 

    While the breakdown of delegates based on the official results would come out to 19 for Biden and five for Sanders, the campaigns struck an agreement for Biden to earn 16 delegates and Sanders to win eight from the Hawaii primary. 

    Here's where Biden and Sanders currently stand in the delegate race, according to Decision Desk HQ and the University of Virginia Center for Politics: 

    Hawaii was initially slated to hold its primary, which is conducted by the state's Democratic Party, on April 4, but ended up holding the election almost entirely by mail over the course of several weeks due to concerns over the novel coronavirus. 

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  • North Dakota's GOP governor grew emotional discussing the partisan divide over face masks, asking residents to 'dial up your empathy'>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 9:00 PM:)
    • trump mask coronavirus
      • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, appeared to hold back tears when urging his citizens to show "empathy" and wear a face covering when in public.
      • "If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support," he said.
      • President Trump has repeatedly been photographed in public settings without a mask and has said he does not want the media to see him wearing one.
      • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday got emotional when urging his residents to wear a face mask and avoid turning the act into a political battle. 

    "I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through where they're creating a divide — either it's ideological or political or something — around mask versus no mask," Burgum, a Republican, said at a press conference Friday. 

    Burgum called the political debate over whether to wear a facial covering in public a "senseless dividing line," and he said he was asking his citizens "to try to dial up [their] empathy and understanding." 

    Masks are not presently required in North Dakota. There has been heated debate as all 50 states have begun to relax stay-at-home orders over whether facial coverings — and particularly their requirement in some areas — are necessary particularly among people who believe the COVID-19 pandemic is exaggerated or believe mandated masks are a violation of civil liberties, as The Associated Press reported.

    During a Friday visit to a Ford manufacturing facility in Michigan, the president was photographed without a mask, though he said he wore one during a tour of the facility but took it off because he did not want the media to see him wearing it. Trump similarly said he wore a mask "backstage" during a tour of a Honeywell factory on May 6.  Vice President Mike Pence was also photographed without a mask when he visited the Mayo Clinic at the end of April.

    In a tearful speech, Gov. @DougBurgum (R-ND) asks residents to skip the “ideological and political” debate on face masks. pic.twitter.com/BkTEDWxuYg

    — The Recount (@therecount) May 22, 2020


    The president reportedly fears wearing a face mask will harm his chances at reelection and make him look ridiculous. 

    It hasn't just been White House leaders stroking divisions surrounding the facial coverings. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson earlier this month defended his decision to go mask-free when visiting a thrift store for veterans in Joplin, Missouri. He said he didn't believe it was the "government's place" to determine whether residents should wear a face mask in public and it was up to the individual. 

    Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said last month that Ohioans would be required to wear face masks in reopened businesses, though — after protest  — he said it was just a recommendation and that his mandate went "too far." The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in April that facial coverings be worn in public, though US leaders had earlier said masks should only be worn by medical professionals or people who test positive for COVID-19.

    "If someone is wearing a mask they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they've got a 5-year-old child who's going through cancer treatments," Burgum said, as his voice began to shake and he took a brief pause. 

    "They might have vulnerable adults who currently have COVID and are fighting," he added. "So again I would love to see our state as part of being 'North Dakota Smart' also be North Dakota kind, North Dakota empathetic." 

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  • Trump gets into another feud with a powerful woman from Michigan: Attorney General called Trump 'a petulant child' for not publicly wearing a mask during Ford factory visit>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 5:27 PM:)


    Trump Ford blood

    • Michigan's Attorney General, Dana Nessel ratchet up an online feud with President Trump, calling him "a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules."
    • Nessel's comments come after the president was photographed not wearing a mask while on a public visit to a Ford manufacturing plant in the state on Thursday.
    • Before his visit, Nessel had sent Trump an open letter, in which she warned him that he had a "legal responsibility" to take precautions to prevent further spread of the virus.
    • Trump responded with a series of tweets, in which he called Nessel the "Wacky Do Nothing Attorney General of Michigan."
    • Nessel also sent a warning to Ford for allowing the president not to wear a mask in front of cameras, telling CNN that she will "have a very serious conversation" with the company.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Michigan's Attorney General, Dana Nessel called President Trump "a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules" after he would not publicly wear a mask during a tour of a Ford factory despite being asked to do so.

    The comment came after Trump was seen publicly without a mask during a Ford factory tour in the state on Thursday, disobeying executive orders put in place by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that require anyone to wear a facial covering when in an enclosed space.

    Nessel told CNN on Friday that the president is like "a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules."

    "I was infuriated and exasperated, because I know that for every person who goes into a place of business where they're told to wear a mask, and they see the president not wearing one, their reaction is going to be, 'The president of the United States doesn't have to wear one. Why should I?'" she said. "This isn't funny, these are people's lives."

    Do nothing A.G. of the Great State of Michigan, Dana Nessel, should not be taking her anger and stupidity out on Ford Motor - they might get upset with you and leave the state, like so many other companies have - until I came along and brought business back to Michigan. JOBS!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 22, 2020

    But Nessel fired back, tweeting that she was "impressed" he even knew her name — a reference to Trump having previously called Gov. Whitmer as "that woman from Michigan."

    Hi! 👋After struggling with our Gov & SOS, impressed you know my name. Seems like you have a problem with all 3 women who run MI-as well as your ability to tell the truth. The auto industry has been thriving for years bc of our incredible auto workers & companies. #UnionStrong https://t.co/qKDINknn2O

    — Dana Nessel (@dananessel) May 22, 2020


    The Attorney Generals' comments come after the president was photographed not wearing a mask while on a public visit to a Ford manufacturing plant in Ypsilanti on Thursday. However, Trump wore a mask as he toured the plant, but chose to remove it while he was around the press.

    "I did wear one. I had it on before; I wore one on in this back area," the president said. "But I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it."

    Before his visit, Nessel had sent Trump an open letter, where she asked him to wear a mask and warned him that he had a "legal responsibility" and a "social and moral responsibility" to take precautions to prevent further spread of the virus.

    Nessel also sent a warning to Ford for allowing the president to not wear a mask in front of cameras.

    Nessel told CNN: "I think that we're going to have to have a very serious conversation with Ford in the event that they permitted the President to be in publicly enclosed places in violation of the order."

    "They knew exactly what the order was and if they permitted anyone, even the President of the United States, to defy that order, I think it has serious health consequences potentially to their workers," she added.

    Attorney Dana Nessel,

    Nessel also suggested in her tweet that she believes Trump has been targeting Michigan's leadership because the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general are all women.

    "I guess if any one of us were doing Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo's dishes, he might be fine with us. But since we're not and we're actually running the state of Michigan, he seems to have a real issue," Nessel also told NPR.

    It is not the first time Trump has feuded with Michigan's leadership. He has attacked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on several occasions and nicknamed her "Gretchen 'Half' Whitmer" on Twitter.

    Earlier this month, the president tweeted in support of armed protesters who stormed the state's Capitol, demanding a suspension of its stay-at-home order.

    Trump took to Twitter to address Gov. Whitmer, writing: "The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."

    Whitmer has since extended the stay-at-home order until June 12 but has allowed parts of the state to reopen. 

    Although her strict coronavirus measures have sparked high-profile protests, polling has found that Michiganders are largely supportive of their governor and her administration's handling of the crisis.

    Earlier this week, the president was angrily tweeting again about Michigan after Jocelyn Benson, the secretary of state, announced that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the state's 7.7 million registered voters would be sent an application to vote by mail in the August and November elections.

    Trump responded by threatening to pull federal funding and made the unsupported claim that widespread voting by mail promotes "a lot of illegality." He called Benson a "rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!"

    Michigan is a key swing state in the 2020 presidential election in November. Trump trails the Democratic nominee Joe Biden, 51% to 45%, in the state, according to the survey by Public Policy Polling. 

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  • Texas' Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called vote-by-mail a 'scam,' saying it's 'laughable' that people under 65 would be scared to vote in person>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 4:26 PM:)

    vote covid

    • Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lashed out against attempts to expand vote-by-mail in the state amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, arguing people under 65 have no reason to be afraid to vote in person.
    • Patrick claimed Democrats would use the opportunity "greatest scam ever" to commit voter fraud and the expansion would lead to the destruction of the US.  
    • Democrats and voting rights advocates have supported expanding voting by mail before November, as health experts warn of a potential second wave in the fall and winter.
    • A federal judge this week ruled Texas must allow anyone to vote by mail, though an appeals court temporarily blocked the ruling.
    • President Donald Trump has also rejected measures to increase voting by mail, threatening to withhold federal funds from states that had expanded their vote-by-mail programs. 
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday lashed out at efforts to expand voting-by-mail in the state, calling them a "scam" by Democrats to steal the November election. 

    "There is no reason — capital N, capital O — no reason that anyone under 65 should be able to say I am afraid to go vote," Patrick said in an interview with Fox News.

    "Have they been to a grocery store? Have they been to Walmart? Have they been to Lowe's? Have they been to Home Depot? Have they been anywhere? Have they been afraid to go out of their house? This is a scam by the Democrats to steal the election," he continued.

    Any Texas resident over the age of 65 or with a disability is currently eligible to vote by mail, according to the Texas Tribune. States around the country have attempted to adopt more widespread vote-by-mail policies before the November election so people can cast ballots without having to risk in-person interactions amid the ongoing pandemic.

    Patrick claimed that an expansion of voting by mail would lead to the destruction of the country.

    "There will be Democrat activists going out there to find people and say, 'Hey, by the way, you got your ballot. Pay you 10 bucks. Can I handle it for you? This will destroy America if we allow it to happen," he said.

    As Business Insider previously reported, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled Texas must allow all voters to cast absentee ballots without an excuse in its upcoming elections, through an appeals court on Wednesday put that ruling on hold.

    As The Texas Tribune noted, doctors and nurses who signed on to a brief to the state Supreme Court argued that in-person voting in created a "heightened danger" for transmission of the novel coronavirus. 

    "This idea that we want to give you a disability claim because I am afraid to go vote — if you are under 65 — is laughable," Patrick said Friday. "You have more chance of being in a serious auto accident if you are under 65 on the way to vote than you do from catching the virus and dying from it on the way to voting. This is the greatest scam ever."

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began relaxing his stay-at-home order on May 1, despite a continued increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. As of Friday, at least 53,449 Texas have been infected by the novel coronavirus and at least 1,480 have died, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.  

    Democrats and voting rights advocacy groups like the ACLU have for months pushed for an expansion of vote-by-mail before. Health experts have simultaneously warned of a potentially more serious second-wave of COVID-19 that could impact the US in the fall and winter. 

    President Trump has opposed the measure over claims that an expansion of voting by mail would increase voter fraud. Earlier this week, he threatened to withhold federal funds from states that had expanded their vote-by-mail programs. As Business Insider's Grace Panetta noted, the move could backfire as there is little evidence that expanded voting by mail or an increase in voter turnout would benefit Democrats over Republicans.

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  • 'Ripe for a showdown': As Iranian tankers close in, the stakes are rising in Venezuela>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 3:44 PM:)

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Maduro has suspended flights to Europe and Colombia for a month, citing concerns for the new coronavirus. Maduro added in a national broadcast that the illness has not yet been detected in Venezuela, despite it being confirmed in each bordering country, including Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.  (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

    • Iranian tankers are heading to Venezuela with much-needed gasoline, a shipment the US has warned it may take action against.
    • Venezuela has found common cause with regimes that oppose the US, like Iran, Russia, and China.
    • The return of "great-power competition" has raised the stakes of the crisis in the South American country.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    The arrival of Iranian tankers carrying gasoline to Venezuela will be another link between two of the Trump administration's most implacable foes, but the exchange and the response underscore Venezuela's growing role as a venue for competition between the US and its rivals.

    The first of the five tankers will arrive in the next few days and the rest by early June. Their 1.5 million barrels of gasoline are enough for 52 days in Venezuela, where coronavirus-related restrictions have reduced fuel consumption, according to Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez.

    Venezuela needs gas because mismanagement of its oil sector, exacerbated by US sanctions, has diminished supply. Iran, which has supplied materials to help restart Venezuelan refineries, needs to ease a fuel glut caused by declining global demand and strict US sanctions on its exports.

    The US has said it is "looking at measures that can be taken" in response to the shipment. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday that if Iranian tankers in the Caribbean or elsewhere "face trouble caused by the Americans," then the US "will also be in trouble."

    Navy littoral combat ship destroyers Caribbean P-8A

    US officials told The Wall Street Journal this week that they were still weighing a response. Some reportedly argued the US should only act if the shipments become a regular occurrence. Others advocated confiscation through legal means or direct intervention with military forces in the Caribbean, where the US has a number of ships and aircraft deployed for a counter-narcotics campaign announced in April.

    At a UN Security Council meeting Wednesday, Russia said that the campaign was "troubling context."

    "What is the real aim of the American navy parade in the Caribbean?" a Russian official said. "We also hope Washington fully realizes the risks of incidents when deploying [Navy destroyers] USS Lassen, USS Preble, and USS Farragut in an area where Iranian oil tankers are involved in legal activity near Venezuela." 

    Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday that he was not aware of any operations or plans in relation to the oil shipment, which he said was a violation of sanctions on Iran and Venezuela and an issue of "global concern."

    Adm. Craig Faller, head of the US military command responsible for the region, declined to address the tankers on Monday during an online event hosted by Florida International University, saying only that he viewed "Iranian activity globally and in Venezuelan in specific as a concern."

    Venezuela's defense minister said Thursday that the country's navy and air force would escort the tankers once they reached Venezuela's exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 miles from its coast. At Security Council meeting Thursday, Venezuela's ambassador said Caracas would regard an attempt to block the tankers as an "act of war."

    'Ripe for some kind of showdown'

    venezuela cardon oil refinery

    Iran and Venezuela have longstanding ties, forged by Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, who sought alliances to counter the US.

    Tehran and Caracas are "both rogue regimes trying to kick dust in the face of Uncle Sam, finding common cause in their radical political programs but also their anti-American stances," Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson Center think tank, said Thursday during the Florida International University event.

    The likelihood of the Venezuelan and US militaries soon being in close proximity, along with Iranian tankers loaded with gasoline, has raised fears of escalation.

    The situation is "just ripe for some kind of showdown, for some kind of even electoral gambit by the Trump administration," Arnson said, adding that "rogue regimes" like Iran "have been critical ... to Maduro's survival, and I think we're headed toward a potentially very dangerous moment."

    Geoff Ramsey, the director for Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human-rights advocacy group, said escalation would be "wildly irresponsible" and that the best way to address the gas crisis would be a negotiated humanitarian accord that includes some sanctions relief and greater international assistance.

    Navy littoral combat ship Detroit Caribbean

    "These tankers have a month and a half's worth of gas supply, at most, so the best thing to do would be to sit back and point out that this shipment is not going to resolve the country's problems," Ramsey said, adding that resorting to importing gas from around the world isn't a win for Maduro "by any stretch of the imagination."

    Acting against the tankers is unlikely to achieve what the US wants in Venezuela, according to Heather Heldman, a former State Department official.

    "For the US, obviously the goal in Venezuela is regime change. But when you ask the question, does intervening in this shipment really advance that goal, I think the answer is uncertain at best and likely no," Heldman said.

    A clash with the tankers would likely draw retaliation against the US or its assets in the Middle East without affecting Maduro's hold on power or improving the humanitarian or economic situation in Venezuela, Heldman said, adding that it may distract from the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus but would give Iran a propaganda victory.

    "I think the best course of action is to assume a posture that prioritizes monitoring or surveillance and sends a message that that aggression is not welcome," Heldman said. "I don't think that there's anything to be gained by instigating any type of exchange of fire."

    'Return of great power rivalry'

    putin russia maduro venezuela

    The US and Iran exchanged fire in early January when the US assassinated a senior Iranian general in Iraq and Tehran responded by firing ballistic missiles as Iraqi bases, wounding US troops. That raised concerns about Iranian retaliation elsewhere, including in Latin America, where Iranian actors have long been active.

    Iran now deepening its involvement in Venezuela "makes a lot of sense from a narrative point of view," said Heldman, now a managing partner at strategic advisory firm Luminae Group.

    "Bringing these confrontations outside of Middle Eastern theaters ... and into the Western Hemisphere is a way to escalate broader tensions and force the US to engage with these powers much closer to home or in a different manner," Heldman added.

    Juan Cruz, a former Trump administration National Security Council staffer, said Iran's engagement with Venezuela was "made perfectly" for its foreign policy.

    "For a small investment, they get to stick their thumb in the eye of the US, and they played this piece over the gasoline with Venezuela brilliantly," Cruz said during the Florida International University event.

    Venezuela army national guard military exercise troops soldiers

    Iran is not the only one invested. Russia has given extensive political, military, and economic support, which has exposed it to US sanctions. China has given Venezuela military hardware and tens of billions of dollars in loans; while Beijing has stopped issuing new loans, it maintains diplomatic ties.

    Cuba, dependent on Venezuelan fuel, provides security assistance credited with keeping Maduro in power, and Turkey has been an outlet for the Maduro government's sale of gold.

    "The international dimension is absolutely critical" in Venezuela, Arnson said Thursday.

    "The broader strategic takeaway for me, and the way that I'm positioning this for my clients," Heldman said, "is that we need to start ... thinking about Venezuela as the theater of choice for broader geopolitical confrontation between various parties that are vying to challenge the US hegemony in a variety of arenas."

    Harold Trinkunas, an expert on the region at Stanford University, said the US would be unable to isolate Venezuela and that the growing geopolitical stakes there make it harder for the US to convince countries with interests counter to its own.

    "What we have to remember is that Venezuela is now caught up in the return of great-power rivalry," Trinkunas said Thursday during the Florida International University event. "As China, the US, and Russia compete around the world, Venezuela is just one more place where this is happening. Just as we see this happening in Syria or Libya or Southeast Asia, Venezuela is now part of this."

    SEE ALSO: Trump's handling of the coronavirus has another ally questioning the US's friendship

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  • Shortages of key goods during the coronavirus pandemic revealed America's dangerous dependence on foreign countries.>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 1:06 PM:)

    US coronavirus factory

    • Shortages during the coronavirus pandemic show the danger of US companies reliance on supply chains in foreign countries.
    • To ensure that this issue does not become a threat to our economic or national security, Congress need to study just how much of a problem these interwoven supply chains could be.
    • Tim Ryan is a Democrat representing Ohio's 13th congressional district in the US House. David McKinley is a Republican representing West Virginia's 1st congressional district in the US House.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Many Americans were shocked to find that the largest and most advanced economy on Earth was unable to find or produce enough face masks, ventilators, hand sanitizer, testing kits, hospital beds, sedatives, and other medical necessities in response to the COVID-19 crisis. But these supply chain limitations did not surprise those of us in Congress who have been sounding the alarm for many years about our nation's dangerous dependence on foreign countries.

    Without the development of a new national manufacturing strategy, the same forces that drove the United States to neglect our critical supply chains will continue to put our security at risk. 

    US companies depend on global suppliers too often

    Recent shortages of medical supplies and equipment are just one example of the risks we face due to US reliance on other countries for making many of our critical products.

    We rely on China and other countries to mine and process the rare earth materials that are essential to many high-technology products, including cell phones, satellites, and computers. We rely on Taiwan and other countries to build the most precise integrated circuits and microchips that are needed for complex electronics used in weapon systems, space systems, and a variety of consumer products.. We rely on Japan and Europe to develop the precision scientific equipment that will produce breakthroughs in nanotechnology, medicine, and future batteries for electric vehicles.

    While US manufacturers and domestic suppliers have substantial resources, some of our capabilities and expertise have fallen behind due to this reliance on the global supply chain. 

    Supply chain security and stability are necessary components of a prosperous manufacturing sector. The manufacturing sector already contributes $2 trillion annually to the US economy. The sector also drives innovation, receiving more than 90% of new patents annually. US manufacturers are essential to ensuring our national defense and homeland security, as they provide the tools, equipment, systems, and protective gear for our military and first responders.

    Shifting supply chains threaten US security

    But this critical sector is hampered by uncertainty around their overseas suppliers. Manufacturing companies must depend on reliable supply chains to be successful — they need to get the right products to the right place at the right time. Dependable and high-quality suppliers are crucial assets to any manufacturing company. 

    Critical supply chains are those where substantial harm would come to US economic security, national defense, or way of life if the supply chains were compromised or no longer available. 

    Imagine if the US could no longer obtain key life-saving medications, rare materials needed to make cell phones work, components for military aircraft or space satellites, precision equipment necessary for scientific study and breakthroughs, or equipment and technologies for power generation and storage. These risks and potential disruptions have been considered in the past but were largely discounted or not considered as primary drivers for business decisions.

    With the future of our country's economy and workforce in mind, we urge our colleagues in Congress to charter a Commission on Critical Supply Chains to study these issues and risks in depth and to make specific policy recommendations to the US Congress.

    This commission would be an independent entity that brings together national experts in a highly visible forum to give guidance on several complex and strategically important policy issues, including:

    • How can we predict future supply chain disruptions?
    • What can we do now to reduce future vulnerabilities and risks?
    • Can we make the supply chain resilient enough to protect our needed capabilities and resources?

    The Commission's recommendations and the answers to these and other questions will provide a foundation for Congressional debate so that consensus policies can be developed. 

    The COVID-19 crisis has been a terrible tragedy for our country and the world. Allowing our nation and the US Congress to go back to business as usual would be a disservice to the American people. This is a wakeup call for the United States.

    If we don't take the time now to fix the shortcomings exposed in our national manufacturing strategy, the next crisis—whether it's a pandemic, a war, or something else—may not afford us another a chance.

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  • An interactive map compares coronavirus outbreaks across US states, based on case totals, cases per capita, and test results>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 12:45 PM:)

    coronavirus science lab testing

    • The US has confirmed more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases, more than any country in the world. It has the third-highest number of cases per capita.
    • Some states' testing efforts still lag, however, meaning case counts alone may underestimate the scope of their outbreaks.
    • Considering case totals in the context of states' differing population sizes and testing efforts paints a more complete picture.
    • These maps show the total number of COVID-19 cases in each US state and territory, as well as cases per capita and the portion of tests conducted that have come back positive.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    The US has the world's worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 1.5 million cases.

    All 50 states have started easing lockdown restrictions. Some, including Michigan and New York — the epicenter of the US outbreak — have begun to see a drop in the number of new cases reported each day. Others, like South Dakota and Texas, are still reporting increases.

    Overall case counts in many US states paint an undeniably grim picture. But that single data point doesn't necessarily illustrate the full extent of their outbreaks or facilitate easy state-by-state comparisons. Looking at the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per capita and the share of test results coming back positive can help reveal crucial differences in outbreaks between geographical regions.

    South Dakota, for example, has 4,000 cases, a fraction of California's 80,400. But if each state had 1 million residents, South Dakota's proportion would jump to 4,600 compared to California's 2,000.

    The same goes for a measurement of cases per million tests conducted: Nearly 14% of South Dakota's tests have come back positive, while just over 6% of California's have. Experts have suggested that states aim to see less than 10% of tests come back positive before they reopen.

    The interactive map below shows how total cases, cases per million residents, and positive tests per million conducted compare across each US state and territory.

    However, even these numbers may not paint a completely accurate picture, due to discrepancies in how widely different states are testing for the virus and how they're reporting cases.

    At least six states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia — have reportedly fudged their numbers in ways that could justify decisions to lift stay-at-home orders.

    Miami public radio station WLRN also reported this week that an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data revealed "major discrepancies" between what 10 states are reporting and the agency's own numbers.

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    NOW WATCH: Why the Bronx has almost double the coronavirus cases as Manhattan

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  • Trump's ravings have either broken our brains or we're too exhausted to care>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 12:34 PM:)

    Donald Trump Michigan Ford Plant

    • Trump and his allies have been particularly on fire this week spreading baseless conspiracy theories. 
    • They might be turning up the heat because after three and a half years of his presidency, his critics are harder to outrage and his base is harder to excite. 
    • Or it's possible that Trump's failures in responding to the coronavirus pandemic have left us all so exhausted that we can't be bothered to forcefully react to genuinely shocking behavior from the president. 
    • Some of Trump's most prominent critics have countered his rhetoric by spreading unhinged conspiracy theories of their own, which is ... unhelpful. 
    • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    President Trump, members of his inner circle, and some of his most prominent media allies have been pushing outrageous and easily debunkable and conspiracy theories this week.

    If that sentence feels evergreen, it's because it is. 

    Trump's rise to political prominence was buoyed almost a decade ago by his "just asking questions" speculation that President Obama was actually born in Kenya and thus, not a legitimate president. 

    But in the past week, the president has obsessively railed against the fake "Obamagate" conspiracy, mused aloud on Twitter that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough might be a murderer, and said, "The Radical Left is in total command & control of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google," adding, "The Administration is working to remedy this illegal situation."

    Meanwhile, his son Eric said that the economy-destroying lockdowns are a conspiracy to ruin his father's electoral chances in November, after which he says all the concerns about a pandemic that has killed 80,000 Americans and counting "will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear." 

    Not to be outdone, Trump's other son Don Jr. shared a meme on Instagram calling former Vice President Joe Biden a pedophile

    It's old hat to note that this kind of behavior from a president and his surrogates (who happen to be his children) was once unfathomable, but there was something about the mouth-frothing lies and slanders of this week that stood out. 

    As Politico media columnist Jack Shafer put it, "both his supporters and critics have grown numb to his previous rhetorical excesses and need for him to cross new boundaries, violate new taboos, and break fresh panes of glass in order remain engaged."

    It's possible that the relentless noise produced by Trumpworld has finally broken the brains of the American people. But it's equally likely that with the world in disarray, our lives upended and futures uncertain, that we just can't be moved to care about Trump's unhinged fulminations. 

    This feels normal now, and that's a big problem

    I asked Anna Merlan, a senior staff writer for Vice and the author of "Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power," whether there was something exceptionally unhinged about Trump and Co.'s conspiratorial flailing this week. 

    Merlan said that Trump and his allies tend to ratchet up the conspiracy-mongering in times when Trump feels particularly besieged. This happened during rough patches for Trump during the Russia investigation. 

    Now that he's widely perceived to be failing in his response to the coronavirus pandemic, he's trying to change the subject to "Obamagate" and vote-by-mail, which the Trump-friendly website Breitbart has taken to calling "Cheat-By-Mail."

    The "Obamagate" conspiracy Trump and his allies are pushing — that members of the Obama administration, including Biden, inappropriately asked for former national security adviser Michael Flynn to be "unmasked" in intelligence reports — doesn't even appear to have a "crime" at its core. The Washington Post reported this week that Flynn was never "masked" in the reports to begin with. 

    But that doesn't matter to the base. They hear Obamagate and Biden and they've got their 2020 hobby horse. 

    Merlan said "it's a very strong indicator" that the campaign seeks to associate Joe Biden's name "to the supposed excesses or illegal acts of the Obama administration, even though Trump can't effectively explain what he thinks was illegal and what happened." She added that the campaign likely thinks this would "be a fruitful campaign strategy. And honestly, it probably is."

    Trump's media opponents haven't exactly been helpful in fighting back against his conspiracy theories

    MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is the doyenne of #Resistance cable news media. She's also over the past three years unapologetically spread wild theories about Trump, Russia, and the Steele dossier that have either never materialized or been fully proven to be false. 

    In an environment where Trump and his allies are relentlessly spreading misinformation and innuendo in the hopes that some of it sticks in the minds of voters, the fact that media personalities with huge platforms engage in many of the same tactics contributes to a cacophony of nonsense that makes it hard for basic facts to be understood. 

    It also contributes to a cynicism about politics and confidence in the media. 

    "Rachel Maddow and other folks on the left engaged in the same kind of broad conspiracy claims about, for example, Trump being a Russian puppet, like a literal Manchurian candidate," Merlan said. They also "made suggestions that Trump will not transfer power if he loses the election. Those are claims that I literally heard from the right about Obama in the lead-up to Trump's inauguration."

    Another MSNBC host, Mika Brzezinski, fought back this week against Trump's insinuation that her "Morning Joe" co-host and husband Joe Scarborough was a murderer by demanding that Trump's Twitter account be banned

    Trump tweeted that his long time ally Roger Stone, who was convicted of crimes including witness tampering and obstruction of justice, was "treated very unfairly" and asked why "guys like Low Ratings Psycho Joe Scarborough are allowed to walk the streets? Open Cold Case!"

    Trump's actions are inexcusable, but hardly surprising at this point. 

    What is surprising and disturbing is that a journalist would demand a corporate executive to censor an elected official, as though setting such a precedent couldn't possibly lead to greater censorship against people who are not Trump down the road. 

    Merlan described Brzezinski's response as "completely insane behavior," and also noted that Brzezinski and Scarborough — who for a long time were friends of Trump's and hosted him for many cordial interviews — are creating an "insane cable news drama, which none of us actually have to pay any attention to." 

    "It's not complicated," Merlan adds. Trump will regularly claim an ally of his "has been treated unfairly and then says, what about this person supposedly on the left? He does this every time and it manages to distract us even in the middle of a life-altering pandemic. It's extraordinary, but to some extent it works."

    Conspiracy outrage fatigue

    It's not like conspiracy theories aren't part of the American cultural fabric already. 

    As Merlan exhaustively documents in "Republic of Lies," in just the past century millions and millions of Americans were convinced they were being lied to about the moon landing, the Kennedy assassination, and the cause of the World Trade Center's collapse on 9/11. 

    What's novel about our current moment is that the president is one of the most ardent propagandists of nonsense conspiracies. 

    It's no surprise that Trump is frequently incoherent and lies with ease

    But as Conor Friedersdorf put it in The Atlantic, "many of the most glaring untruths that he has uttered during this crisis could be explained by ignorance and lack of foresight as easily as mendacity."

    The same could be said for his spreading of conspiracy theories. Trump wears his ignorance as a badge of authenticity. He doesn't need to read those fancy books written by globalist elites, and he regularly repeats information he "heard" somewhere. 

    Whether there's any truth to it or not, he doesn't bother to check. And it's entirely possible he believes there's at least some truth to every fantastical alleged plot, he is a big Alex Jones fan after all. 

    Should Trump win or lose in November, he's personally contributed — and inspired his opponents to help the effort — to making Americans as unlikely as ever to reject grand conspiratorial falsehoods. 

    Just as he's convinced his base that there's a "Deep State" agent lurking around every corner, many of his critics see Russia in every shadow. 

    In the epilogue to "Republic of Lies," Merlan writes, "We have to find a way to flag and debunk disinformation even as we try to avoid promoting it." 

    Three and a half years of a Trump presidency and a pandemic that's destroyed life as we know it are fair enough reasons to be too fatigued to muster up much outrage at the constant purveyance of bald-faced lies and slander. 

    Whenever it's possible to get back to "normal," we as a country shouldn't follow Trump's lead — or his adversaries' wrong-headed reactions — in tossing off half-baked paranoid fantasies. We should demand evidence and stick to facts. 

    SEE ALSO: Trump is using the coronavirus as a cover to bully the government's watchdogs into submission. It's shameful and dangerous.

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    NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths

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  • Boris Johnson's top adviser broke coronavirus lockdown by driving 260 miles to visit his parents, and now faces growing calls to resign>
    (Politics - May 23 2020 - 8:16 AM:)

    FILE PHOTO: Dominic Cummings, special adviser to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain October 17, 2019.  REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

    • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's most senior adviser is under pressure to resign after it emerged that he broke coronavirus lockdown to visit his parents.
    • The adviser, Dominic Cummings, reportedly drove himself and his family 260 miles from London to his hometown, Durham. At the time, he and his wife were displaying symptoms of the virus.
    • When Cummings made the journey, official government advice was that no one should make any non-essential journeys.
    • On Saturday morning, Johnson backed Cummings and said he behaved "reasonably" in driving to Durham.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's most senior political adviser is under growing pressure to resign after it was reported that he broke coronavirus lockdown rules and was subsequently investigated by police.

    Dominic Cummings drove 260 miles from London to his hometown, Durham, in late March to visit his parents, according to a joint report by The Guardian and Daily Mirror newspapers, published Friday night.

    At the time, Cummings and his wife were displaying symptoms of the coronavirus, the reports said.

    Days before, Prime Minister Johnson had tested positive for the virus, and he was self-isolating in Number 10 Downing Street.

    When Cummings made the trip, official government advice was that no one should make any non-essential journeys and only leave home to buy groceries, exercise, and provide supplies to those vulnerable to the virus-like the elderly or disabled.

    Cummings was investigated by police after he was seen in Durham, a historic university town in England's north east, by a local resident, who then called police, The Guardian reported.

    "On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware of reports that an individual had traveled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city," a statement from Durham Police said.

    "Officers made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house."


    On Saturday morning, Johnson backed Cummings, saying his adviser acted "reasonably and legally" in driving to Durham.

    "Owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for," a statement from Number 10 Downing Street said.

    The statement also denied the assertion from Durham Police that Cummings' family were spoken to about his behavior.

    "At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported. His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines," the statement reads.

    Senior political figures from the British opposition were quick to call for Cummings' resignation over the reported indiscretion. A spokesman for the Labour Party told the BBC: "The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings."

    "If Dominic Cummings has broken the lockdown guidelines, he will have to resign. It's as simple as that," Ed Davey, the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats said, according to the Guardian.

    Cummings is not the first senior British official to face scrutiny over alleged breaking of lockdown. In early April, Catherine Calderwood, the chief medical officer for Scotland, resigned after breaking lockdown to visit her second home.

    Then, in early May, Neil Ferguson, a senior epidemiologist and member of the government's top scientific advisory groups, was forced to resign after reports he broke protocols to meet his married lover.

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