- President Donald Trump announced Monday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine daily for the past couple of weeks.
- Currently, the drug is not approved for use in COVID-19 patients or for preventing COVID-19, though several clinical trials are underway.
- In April, researchers working on one trial warned that they had found higher rates of death in Veterans Affairs patients taking hydroxychloroquine.
- Late Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed concerns about Trump’s use of the drug, citing a risk factor, “especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group… morbidly obese, they say.”
Trumps Says He’s Taking HCQ
After continually touting hydroxychloroquine as treatment for COVID-19, President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he’s been taking the drug daily for about two weeks.
That announcement was immediately met with concern among many because hydroxychloroquine has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe and effective treatment against COVID-19. The most notable reaction, however, came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who described Trump as “morbidly obese.”
“He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group…morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi said in an interview with Anderson Cooper.
Hydroxychloroquine, along with chloroquine, is being investigated as a possible treatment for patients with COVID-19. Another study is also looking into whether hydroxychloroquine can be used to prevent frontline healthcare workers from contracting the coronavirus.
While announcing he was taking the drug, Trump referenced the fact that it’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean it works against COVID-19 or that it’s safe for people to take to prevent getting COVID-19.
In fact, on April 24, the FDA said as much when it issued a safety alert on the drug, saying both it and chloroquine could have serious side effects. In the alert, it warned people only to take hydroxychloroquine under the close supervision of a doctor in a hospital setting or in a clinical trial.
In that warning, the FDA also said it is aware of reports of “serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine.”
One study that may have played a role in this alert published preliminary findings several days earlier. That study, conducted on hundreds of Veterans Affairs patients across the country, found higher rates of death in patients taking hydroxychloroquine as opposed to those who weren’t.
To be clear, this study still hasn’t been peer reviewed and published in a medical journal, but its research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Trump dismissed that VA study on Monday when talking to reporters, saying that the researchers weren’t big fans of him.
“And if you look at that phony report that was put out, that report, all that hydroxy was given to people that were in extraordinarily bad condition, extraordinarily bad,” he claimed. “People that were dying.”
In their study, researchers did say they adjusted for comorbidities. That’s because patients averaged around 70-years-old and many of them had other pre-existing conditions. Still, that doesn’t mean they were necessarily in “extraordinarily bad condition” during the study.
As far as why Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine, it seems to be more of a preventative measure than anything. In fact, Trump even said he approached his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, about taking the drug.
“I asked him, ‘What do you think?’” Trump said. “He said, “Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.’ A lot of people are taking it.”
Later in the day in a memo, Conley alluded to another reason why he might have put Trump on hydroxychloroquine, referencing that two weeks ago, Trump’s personal valet tested positive for the virus.
“After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks,” Conley said.
Fox News’ Cavuto: “[HCQ] will kill you.”
Even with this, several notable people have pushed back against the president’s use of hydroxychloroquine. In fact, on Fox News, anchor Neil Cavuto blasted the decision and implored people not to take the drug to try to prevent contracting the coronavirus.
“If you are in a risky population here,” Cavuto said, “and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or in a worst-case scenario you are dealing with the virus, and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress enough: This will kill you.”
“So again, whatever benefits the president says this has,” he added, “and it certainly has had for those suffering from malaria, dealing with lupus, this is a leap that should not be taken casually by those watching at home who are assuming, well, the president of the United States says it’s OK.”
Cavuto also said that the VA study Trump dismissed wasn’t a political one and that it should be taken seriously.
Even with Cavuto’s warning, after his show ended, “The Five” host Greg Gutfeld encouraged viewers to take the drug.
Still, that didn’t seem to be enough to stop Trump from going after Fox News Monday night as he later lobbed what has become an increasing amount of criticism at his former favorite news network.
“@FoxNews is no longer the same. We miss the great Roger Ailes,” he said, referring to the former Fox News CEO who resigned in 2016 after multiple sexual assault allegations. “You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet!”
Pelosi Calls Trump “Morbidly Obese”
Pelosi’s comment seemed to start a firestorm on Twitter, many applauding her for fighting fire with fire and hurling what seemed to be an attack on Trump’s age and weight. Trump has repeatedly been known to attack his dissenters for their looks.
Others were much less enthusiastic, saying that Pelosi was fat-shaming Trump.
“Y’all would be TIGHT (and rightfully so) if a Republican called a Democrat ‘morbidly obese,’” one Twitter user said. “If you’re not someone’s doctor, you have no business commenting on their mental or physical health, because all you’re doing is pushing stigma and inviting bigotry disguised as wokeness.”
y’all would be TIGHT (and rightfully so) if a republican called a democrat “morbidly obese”. if you’re not someone’s doctor, you have no business commenting on their mental or physical health, because all you’re doing is pushing stigma and inviting bigotry disguised as wokeness.— maybe: diane (@dianelyssa) May 19, 2020
So far, neither Trump nor Pelosi have publicly responded to the situation any further.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Hill) (CNN)
Biden Policy Pushes for Electric Cars To Make Up Half of U.S. Auto Sales by 2030
While the country’s largest automakers have signed onto the plan, experts say the goal will be difficult to achieve.
Biden’s Car Emissions Plan
President Joe Biden unveiled a new multi-pronged policy Thursday aimed at reducing vehicle emissions that has been described as one of his administration’s most significant efforts to combat climate change so far.
The first part of the plan directs relevant agencies to restore and strengthen mileage standards that were implemented by former President Barack Obama but rolled back under former President Donald Trump.
The Trump administration estimated that its own standard would lead cars produced during the term of the rule to emit nearly a billion more tons of carbon dioxide and consume around 80 billion more gallons of gas over their lifetime.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the U.S., composing around 29% of the country’s total emissions.
As a result, the second part of Biden’s new plan aims to address a more long-term goal through an executive order that sets a new target to make electric cars half of all new vehicles sold by 2030.
A White House factsheet published Thursday morning outlined a series of proposals for the president to achieve his goal, which included:
- Installing a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.
- Implementing consumer incentives to encourage manufacturing and union jobs.
- Funding changes and expansions to domestic manufacturing supply chains.
- Developing new clean technologies.
The 2030 target is voluntary, but America’s “Big Three” automakers — Ford, GM, and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) — issued a joint statement announcing “their shared aspiration to achieve sales of 40-50% of annual U.S. volumes of electric vehicles by 2030.”
The United Auto Workers union has also backed the plan, though it said it was more focused on ensuring its members maintained jobs than it was on setting specific goals and deadlines.
While the plan has the backing of major auto industry players, there are still many hurdles. Experts say it is impossible for electric vehicles to become half of all cars without making electric charging stations as common as gas stations.
But the bipartisan infrastructure plan that Congress and Biden have painstakingly negotiated for months only includes $7.5 billion for vehicle chargers — just half the price tag the president initially called for to build 500,000 recharging spots.
Given the stalemate in Congress, as well as the significant lobbying power of Big Oil, it is unclear how much can be achieved legislatively.
Even key members of Biden’s own party have expressed hesitancy.
For example, a budget plan recently proposed by Democrats includes provisions that would provide new tax breaks and subsidies for buying electric vehicles. Democratic leaders have said they want to pass the budget through reconciliation, meaning they only need a simple majority and thus will not require any Republican votes.
However, in order to do so, the party needs all 50 senators to agree to the package. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who recently said he has “grave concerns” about Biden’s desired speed to adopt electric vehicles, has already signaled that he will not support increased subsidies for the cars.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium
The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.
Eviction Freeze Set To Expire
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.
The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.
While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.
In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress.
“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Delays in Relief Distribution
The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.
Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.
A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires.
The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape.
Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.
According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 — including New York — had not spent any funds at all.
Slim Chances in Congress
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.
However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.
While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.
Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.
“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”
With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.