President Trump Selects VP Mike Pence to Oversee U.S. Coronavirus Response
- President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence will now head U.S. response efforts to fight the coronavirus.
- The decision that has been met with pushback from those citing Pence’s delayed response to a 2015 HIV outbreak in Indiana.
- In California, a case of “unknown origin” has seemingly appeared, suggesting a possible community spread of the virus and more undetected cases across the country.
- Internationally, China is beginning to see a decrease in new cases and deaths, but other countries like South Korea, Iran, and Italy are seeing spikes.
Trump Places Pence in Charge of U.S. Response
At a press conference on Wednesday, President Donald Trump placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the U.S. government’s coronavirus response team as the virus continues to spread internationally.
Trump said he was handing the role to the vice president because of Pence’s experience handling health crises in Indiana when he was governor, saying those experiences qualified him for this role.
“This team has been, at your direction, Mr. President, meeting every day since it was established,” Pence said at the announcement.
“My role will be to continue to bring that team together, to bring to the president the best options for action to see to the safety and well being and help of the American people.”
Pence also cited his response to a MERS—Middle East Respiratory Syndrome—outbreak in Indiana in 2014. Pence, however, was notably silent on a mention of a 2015 HIV outbreak in Austin, Indiana.
Pence’s response to that event has caused pushback with this latest announcement, with many citing his delayed response to that HIV outbreak.
“He just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who works for the World Health Organization, said of Trump’s appointment of Pence.
In that Indiana incident, 30 people were confirmed to have HIV after sharing needles to abuse the painkiller Opana. Health officials then asked Pence to supply the town with clean syringes to help prevent the outbreak.
At first, Pence refused because syringe exchange programs were illegal in Indiana and because he opposed any form of drug use. While he refused, though, cases continued to grow. After 29 days, Pence ultimately supplied those syringes as part of a needle exchange program. By that time, the number of cases had jumped to 80.
There has also been a significant amount of criticism aimed at the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus, with some critics pointing to the fact that Trump fired the U.S. pandemic response team back in 2018 to cut costs.
At Wednesday’s press conference, however, Trump defended the White House’s response during the outbreak, saying, “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low.”
Trump asked Congress Monday to release $2.5 billion to help fight the coronavirus. Half of that would then be directed as emergency funding. Then on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer followed up Trump’s proposal with an $8.5 billion counter-proposal.
Possible Community Spread in the U.S.
Also on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement confirming the possibility that a patient with the coronavirus may have caught it via community spread.
In this context, community spread would result when a person becomes infected without having traveled abroad (for instance, to China) and without coming into contact with anyone confirmed to have contracted the virus. The patient in question has not been out of the country and has not knowingly been around anyone with the virus.
If this case is later confirmed to be from community spread, that would suggest that the virus is currently circulating undetected in the U.S. since it is usually asymptomatic for the first 14 days.
However, the CDC still said it’s also possible that this person may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected, meaning it is also possible that this might not actually be a case of community spread.
That person is a resident of Solano County, California.
Several counties in California have also declared local emergencies. Those include San Diego, Santa Clara, and Orange counties. San Francisco, a city-county, also declared an emergency on Wednesday despite having no confirmed cases.
Of the decision, Mayor London Breed has said the move is an effort to be prepared for if/when the virus does hit the city.
Declaring an emergency in San Francisco, an international hub, will lead to several changes:
- It helps clear up funds so that the city can be reimbursed later by the state and federal governments.
- It allows staff such as public health nurses, case managers, and social workers to focus only on essential duties and focus on preparedness and prevention.
- It allows officials to look at shelters and other opportunities to expand as well as to assess the city’s capacity to respond to an outbreak.
What’s Happening Across the World?
Globally, as of Thursday, more than 82,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus. More than 2,800 people have died.
Similar to previous reports, the vast majority of cases and deaths still remain in China. Outside of the country, only about 4,000 people have been infected and about 60 have died from the coronavirus.
On Thursday, China announced 433 new cases as well as 29 deaths, which is in line with their numbers from recent days. In fact, the country has actually begun to see a drop in the number of cases and deaths, which had previously spiked to more than 1,000 cases and 100 deaths a day.
Outside of China, other countries are seeing a much different story as they work to contain fresh outbreaks. Over the past week, South Korea, Iran, and Italy have all seen a sharp spike in cases.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked schools on Thursday to shut down through March and until after spring break. Saudi Arabia has also banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Mecca.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “The advice we have received today is…there is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus.”
“And as a result, we have agreed today and initiated the…coronavirus emergency response plan,” he added.
As of right now, the COVID-19 outbreak has not been declared a pandemic.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (USA Today)
Disney Renders DeSantis-Appointed Oversight Board Powerless
The board is looking into avenues for potential legal retaliation, but Disney maintains its actions were “appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums.”
The Fight For Disney’s Special District
Disney has stripped powers from the board Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) installed to oversee its theme parks, board members claimed.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, board member Brian Aungst Jr. said Disney’s action “completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”
DeSantis has been waging a war against the House of Mouse ever since the company condemned his controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law, which heavily restricts the discussion of sexuality in classrooms. To retaliate against the company, he took control of Disney’s special status that allowed it to operate as a self-governing district with autonomy over the land encompassing and surrounding Walt Disney World.
Disney operated under that special status for decades under the Reedy Creek Improvement District, but after DeSantis took over, it was changed to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. DeSantis appointed all members of the board, prompting concerns that it could be used to silence and sway Disney on social and cultural issues, including its content.
The oversight board gets control over infrastructure, property taxes, issue bonds, road and fire services, and other regulations. When DeSantis seized it, it was considered a big loss for the entertainment giant, but now, board members say the company may have lost little to no power at all.
As first reported by the Sentinel, Disney and the previous board signed an agreement allowing Disney to retain control over much of its land on Feb. 8, the day before Florida’s House signed the bill that gave DeSantis power to stack the board. Disney now holds veto powers over changes to the park, and any changes must be subject to the company’s “prior review and comment” to ensure thematic consistency.
The agreement also bars the board from using Disney’s name or trademarked characters like Mickey Mouse.
The Board’s Plan to Fight Back
Board members reportedly did not become aware of this until recently and discussed the issue at a Wednesday meeting.
“This essentially makes Disney the government,” board member Ron Peri said, via Click Orlando. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”
The subject of the agreement that has perhaps caught the most public attention is its staying power. The declaration says it will remain “in effect until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England living as of the date of this Declaration.” That means that so long as direct members of the royal family are alive, so is this deal.
According to BBC News, this is known as a “royal lives” clause and its use dates back to the 17th century, though it is rarely used in the U.S.
The board, however, already has plans to push back against Disney and has voted to hire outside legal counsel to evaluate their options.
“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” Aungst said. “It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”
A spokesperson for DeSantis released a statement claiming that “these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law.”
Disney maintains everything was above board.
“All agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” the company said.
See what others are saying: (Orlando Sentinel) (Click Orlando) (The Washington Post)
White Supremacist Propaganda Reached Record High in 2022, ADL Finds
“We cannot sit idly by as these extremists pollute our communities with their hateful trash,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said.
White supremacist propaganda in the U.S. reached record levels in 2022, according to a report published Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center of Extremism.
The ADL found over 6,700 cases of white supremacist propaganda in 2022, which marks a 38% jump from the nearly 4,900 cases the group found in 2021. It also represents the highest number of incidents ever recorded by the ADL.
The propaganda tallied by the anti-hate organization includes the distribution of racist, antisemitic, and homophobic flyers, banners, graffiti, and more. This propaganda has spread substantially since 2018, when the ADL found just over 1,200 incidents.
“There’s no question that white supremacists and antisemites are trying to terrorize and harass Americans with their propaganda,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We cannot sit idly by as these extremists pollute our communities with their hateful trash.”
The report found that there were at least 50 white supremacist groups behind the spread of propaganda in 2022, but 93% of it came from just three groups. One of those groups was also responsible for 43% of the white supremacist events that took place last year.
White supremacist events saw a startling uptick of their own, with the ADL documenting at least 167, a 55% jump from 2021.
Propaganda was found in every U.S. state except for Hawaii, and events were documented in 33 states, most heavily in Massachusetts, California, Ohio, and Florida.
“The sheer volume of white supremacist propaganda distributions we are documenting around the country is alarming and dangerous,” Oren Segal, Vice President of the ADL’s Center on Extremism said in a statement. “Hardly a day goes by without communities being targeted by these coordinated, hateful actions, which are designed to sow anxiety and create fear.”
“We need a whole-of-society approach to combat this activity, including elected officials, community leaders, and people of good faith coming together and condemning this activity forcefully,” Segal continued.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (The New York Times)
Adidas Financial Woes Continue, Company on Track for First Annual Loss in Decades
Adidas has labeled 2023 a “transition year” for the company.
Adidas’ split with musician Kanye West has left the company with financial problems due to surplus Yeezy products, putting the sportswear giant in the position to potentially suffer its first annual loss in over 30 years.
Adidas dropped West last year after he made a series of antisemitic remarks on social media and other broadcasts. His Yeezy line was a staple for Adidas, and the surplus product is due, in part, to the brand’s own decision to continue production during the split.
According to CEO Bjorn Gulden, Adidas continued production of only the items already in the pipeline to prevent thousands of people from losing their jobs. However, that has led to the unfortunate overabundance of Yeezy sneakers and clothes.
On Wednesday, Gulden said that selling the shoes and donating the proceeds makes more sense than giving them away due to the Yeezy resale market — which has reportedly shot up 30% since October.
“If we sell it, I promise that the people who have been hurt by this will also get something good out of this,” Gulden said in a statement to the press.
However, Gulden also said that West is entitled to a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Yeezys per his royalty agreement.
Adidas announced in February that, following its divergence from West, it is facing potential sales losses totaling around $1.2 billion and profit losses of around $500 million.
If it decides to not sell any more Yeezy products, Adidas is facing a projected annual loss of over $700 million.
Outside of West, Adidas has taken several heavy profit blows recently. Its operating profit reportedly fell by 66% last year, a total of more than $700 million. It also pulled out of Russia after the country’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which cost Adidas nearly $60 million dollars. Additionally, China’s “Zero Covid” lockdowns last year caused in part a 36% drop in revenue for Adidas compared to years prior.
As a step towards a solution, Gulden announced that the company is slashing its dividends from 3.30 euros to 0.70 euro cents per share pending shareholder approval.
Adidas has labeled 2023 a “transition year” for the company.
“Adidas has all the ingredients to be successful. But we need to put our focus back on our core: product, consumers, retail partners, and athletes,” Gulden said. “I am convinced that over time we will make Adidas shine again. But we need some time.”