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Administration Clarifies Trump’s Inaccurate Comments About the Upcoming European Travel and Trade Ban

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  • President Donald Trump announced that all travel and trade with Europe will be barred from entering the United States for 30 days starting Friday as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the United States.
  • Trump also announced that he has instructed the Small Business Administration to provide loans to affected businesses and people.
  • The Department of Homeland Security later clarified his comments by saying that trade will not be affected and this measure will only apply to foreign travelers.

Trump Bans U.S. Travel Between Europe

In an address from the Oval Office Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced that all travel and trade between the United States and Europe would be suspended starting Friday.

Within an hour after his address, Trump and the Department of Homeland Security then had to walk back those claims with additional statements clarifying that the travel ban only applied to foreign travelers.

“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” Trump originally said in his address. “There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.”

“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States,” the DHS clarified. “This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.”

Additionally, about an hour after his address, Trump announced on Twitter that the ban will not affect trade between the U.S. and any European country.

Notably, these travel restrictions will not be imposed on the United Kingdom.

This was also only the second time Trump has addressed the nation from the Oval Office, only implementing it once last year to speak on the 2018-2019 government shutdown.

Health Insurance and Warning to Older Americans

In his address, Trump continued by detailing a meeting between his administration and some of the nation’s top health insurance companies. He then said they have agreed to waive co-pays on coronavirus testing and cover treatment for those who have the virus.

Thursday, Trump’s comments were later again clarified by those health insurance providers, who said while they would cover testing, they have not agreed to cover far more costly treatment. 

Trump also warned older Americans to be careful and avoid travel after advising nursing homes to suspend all non-medical visits.

In a warning to all Americans, Trump said people should brace for even more disruptions such as school closures and cancellations to more large gatherings. Later on Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for all public gatherings of more than 250 people to be canceled.

Economic Measures

Trump also announced that he has instructed the Small Business Administration to provide loans in affected states and territories, also asking Congress for an additional $50 billion in assistance.

“To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief,” Trump said. “This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus. I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.” 

Other emergency actions include instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for certain businesses and people affected by the virus, with Trump saying such a move would put $200 billion of liquidity back into the economy.

Regarding his push for Congress to pass payroll tax cuts, Trump once again doubled down on his calls for the government to provide relief to workers affected by the virus.

“This is not a financial crisis,” Trump said. “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.” 

Stocks Stop Trading

If that statement was meant to assuage investors, however, it did not work. 

Following Trump’s address Wednesday night,  Dow futures fell by 1,100.

Even before his address on Wednesday, stocks had already begun entering bear market territory, which occurs after those stocks drop 20% or more after recent highs. 

Just six minutes after opening on Thursday, those drops were so big that investors stopped trading for about 15 minutes. That is the second time this week such an instance has happened. Outside of this week, stocks haven’t been temporarily halted since 1997. 

For some context, however, those breaks meant to help investors slow down and think about their decision on where or not to invest in a stock.

Still, stocks for businesses in the travel industry plunged Thursday. Shares for cruise lines like Royal Caribbean shares dropped nearly 27% while Carnival was down 19%. Airlines such as United, Delta, and American all down more than 12%.

Other Reactions to Trump’s Oval Office Address

Thursday morning, the European Union condemned the Trump Administration’s travel suspension, saying the decision “was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”

Others, including many analysts, argued that the suspension probably came a little too late, many pointing out that the coronavirus outbreak has already reached American soil and seen community transmission.

In a heated exchange with Ohio Governor John Kasich, CNN Anchor Don Lemon blasted Trump for sending mixed messages and providing the public with inaccurate information during his address. 

“This has been going on long enough for them to get it straight,” Lemon said. “We need straight, accurate information for this president, and this administration we’re not getting it, and I don’t understand why you are tiptoeing around it. He came out, gave an address that happens very rarely, and he doesn’t get it right?!” 

Kasich then fought back, saying the president had finally taken the coronavirus seriously, alluding to criticism that Trump has downplayed the threat of the virus by recently comparing it to the flu and using it as an opportunity to talk about the border wall. 

House Dems Propose Paid Leave Legislation

After Trump’s address, House Democrats unveiled a sweeping coronavirus release package that consisted of a number of measures, including national paid sick leave program, free coronavirus testing, food security assistance, and expanded unemployment benefits.

Very notably, that proposal does not include a payroll tax cut. According to reports, both Democrats and Republicans rejected the proposal, arguing that payroll tax cuts do not help those hit the hardest and are largely aimed at helping the wealthy.

Thursday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the House is expected to vote on the legislation later in the day before leaving for a 10-day recess. According to reports, Pelosi is still hashing out the details with the Trump Administration, but not everyone is on board.

“The legislation that Speaker Pelosi introduced at 11pm last night—written by her staff and her staff alone—and plans to vote on just 12 hours later is not only completely partisan,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “It is unworkable.”

McConnell Slams House Bill, Senate Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Mitch McConnell slammed the House bill, calling it an “ideological wish list.”

I hope Senate Democrats will not block potential requests from our colleagues today to pass smaller, non-controversial pieces of legislation today,” he said.

While some Republican senators have expressed support for at least some parts of the bill, it’s unclear what the Senate will do. It may decide to consider the package or just propose one of its own.

Thursday morning, McConnell announced that the Senate will cancel its plans for the scheduled recess next week and will instead work through that.

To make matters worse, senators are now facing another problem that could complicate things even more. Wednesday night, Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) office confirmed that one of her staffers tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first case on Capitol Hill.

Cantwell later announced that she was closing her D.C. office to have it deep-cleaned. In response, other Senators closed their D.C. offices as well.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Axios) (The Guardian)

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Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices

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A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.


As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits

American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.

In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers. 

To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.

But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.

ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.

According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above —  earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.

“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.

Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.

Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices

To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.

In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.” 

The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.

The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.

During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.

“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”

“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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