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A Lone Texas Representative Is Stalling a Major Coronavirus Bill From Moving to the Senate

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  • The Senate is waiting for the House of Representatives to finish up details on an economic relief bill that would provide support to millions of Americans affected by the coronavirus.
  • The House passed that bill early Saturday morning, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are reportedly working to make “technical corrections.”
  • While there has been plans for the House to unanimously pass the bill before the corrections were finished, a lone representative has objected, keeping that bill in the House until it is done.
  • There were also conflicting reports about Democrats and Republicans trying to sneak abortion legislation into the bill, though it is unknown how much truth is behind those reports.

When Will the Senate Vote on a Coronavirus Bill?

Texas Representative Louie Gohmert is insisting on reading a series of “technical corrections” made to a bill poised to provide economic relief to Americans affected by the coronavirus. In short, that could keep the bill out of the Senate even longer.

At around 1 a.m. Saturday morning, the House of Representatives passed that bill 360-40 in a bipartisan effort.

Further details of the bill, which was designed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, are still being hashed out by Pelosi and Mnuchin. This is because there are reportedly “major differences” between the White House and Democrats over what gets adopted and what needs to be changed.

Still, the Senate, which announced last week that it would be canceling its scheduled recess, is expected to vote on the bill soon. 

“Senators on both sides are carefully reviewing the details and are eager to act swiftly to help American workers, families, and small businesses navigate this challenging time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. 

However, that process is now snagged with Gohmert’s hold up.

We still do not have a final draft of the negotiated changes being called ‘technical corrections’ and some of us believe that the newly worded laws should be finished before we pass them,Gohmert said on Twitter.

Essentially, the House would have voted to pass the corrections before they were finalized, but it would have needed unanimous consent. With Gohmert’s objection, that means a vote will have to wait until he’s read the changes.

Once in the Senate, one of the big questions regarding the bill is if senators will pass it in one go. While lawmakers will no doubt try to expedite the legislation as swiftly as possible, there is a fair chance that the Senate will amend some of the bill’s provisions and send it back to the House.

“Most of the measures in this bill are something that the senators will support, I believe,” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said on Fox & Friends. “But we worry that the bill setting up a new and complicated system relying on businesses giving paid sick leave and then getting a refundable tax credit that won’t move quickly enough and could put pressure on those businesses to lay workers off.”

What’s in the Bill?

The bill, which was supported by President Donald Trump, provides a series of measures including sick leave, free testing, boosted unemployment insurance, and food programs for children, the elderly, and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.

Notably, it does not include Trump’s original plan of payroll tax cuts; however, that’s not necessarily off the table. Both Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have indicated that there will likely be more relief measures. It’s possible payroll tax cuts could end up being put in those.

“This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump said in a series of Tweets supporting the bill nonetheless. “I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES! I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST. Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”

The bill has received some criticism for its policies around sick leave. 

As it stands, it would ensure that employers provide 14 days of paid sick leave at 100% of a person’s pay, as well as up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at no less than 67% of a person’s normal pay.

The caveat, however, is that it does not include all workers and pertains mainly to businesses with less than 500 employees.

The bill makes no mention of large companies with more than 500 employees, largely because both Pelosi and Mnuchin said they didn’t want to give those companies taxpayer subsidies.

“U.S. taxpayer money subsidizing corporations to provide benefits to workers that they should already be providing,” Pelosi said on Twitter.

On Sunday, Mnuchin echoed her thoughts by saying “big companies can afford these things.”

That means employees of those businesses have to rely on company policy, and different companies do things differently. Just because they can pay for it doesn’t mean they will, and that has been a major argument driving the criticism around this measure.

For example, Uber is offering two weeks of paid sick leave, but it is unclear how that will be calculated. Olive Garden is also offering sick leave to its hourly employees, but it’s only giving them 40 hours, which is notably less than what other companies will need to grant under this House bill.

Was Abortion Legislation Wrapped Up in the House Bill?

The House bill also reportedly hit another snag as Pelosi and Mnuchin were trying to reach a deal before its introduction.

Oddly enough, the debate was seemingly over abortion.

On Thursday, conservative news outlet the Daily Caller reported that “Pelosi sought to include a potential way to guarantee federal funding for abortion into the coronavirus economic stimulus plan, according to multiple senior White House officials.”

However, Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez painted a much different story.

“Right now, we are hearing that some of the fights and some of the gridlock is because people are trying to put pro-life provisions into this,” she told Brett Baier on Fox News.

Obviously, those are two very different testimonies, and as Snopes puts it, since the specifics of those negotiations are unknown, it’s hard to “untangle these competing narratives.”

However, “The hold-up appeared to have concerned the inclusion — or lack of inclusion —  of what is known as Hyde Amendment language.”

The Hyde Amendment prohibits the federal government from funding abortions except in rare cases.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (CNN) (Snopes)

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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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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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