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Viral Mask Disputes Continue as States Slow Reopening Plans

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  • As coronavirus cases across the country increase, more viral videos show mask confrontations escalating. 
  • At least 36 states have reported a rise in cases, with around 12 pausing or slowing reopening plans, especially ahead of the holiday weekend.
  • Meanwhile, the biopharmaceutical company Gilead has finally released its pricing plan for the drug remdesivir, which many believe sets the bar for the cost of future coronavirus treatments. 

Trader Joes Mask Incident 

Despite repeated calls from health experts for Americans to wear face masks in public, more and more videos from all over the country continue to surface of people going on tirades over mask requirements.

One incident that went viral this weekend involved a woman in North Hollywood, California who caused trouble at the grand opening of a Trader Joes on Friday. 

Viral video shows the shopper, with an empty handbasket, screaming at a store employee. It appears that she’s being asked to leave to store for not wearing a mask. “You f*cking b*itch!” she shouts as she slams the basket down. 

“You’re fucking Democratic pigs. All of you!” she adds before saying she was harassed by a man for not wearing a mask. 

According to another video from before the screaming ensued, a customer allegedly said, “F*ck you leave,” to her.

In a third clip, the woman screams at customers, saying she has a breathing problem. “My doctor will not let me wear a mask, so anyone harassing me to wear a mask, you guys are violating federal laws,” she says. 

However, a Facebook post from an alleged witness later suggested that the woman went to the store with the intention of making a scene. The witness pointed out that she went to the store with a mask on and took it off once inside. 

She never put anything in her basket, the Facebook user wrote, “Instead she was roaming the aisles and getting up in people’s faces, getting as close as possible,waiting for someone to inevitably tell her to put her mask back on.”

The user also expressed doubt in her claims of having a medical condition, noting that she must have waited in line for at least 30 minutes in the heat with her mask on to get inside.  

Fiesta Market Mask Incident 

Based on a video that is circulating online, it seems that a Fiesta Market in Dallas, Texas also recently found itself dealing with a similarly angry shopper. 

In this video, the shopper is seen throwing the grocery items out of her cart while also shouting obscenities. “Over a dumbass f*cking mask,” she says along with, “I don’t give a f*ck about Dallas and these dumb ass motherf*cking rules.” 

Especially following the Trader Joes incident, many are wondering if the shopper was looking to cause a scene because she actually had a mask in hand. 

Coronavirus Cases Surge

These mask disputes are continuing to emerge at a time when coronavirus cases across the country are rising. The United States broke another record Friday, reporting the highest number of new cases in a single day with at least 45,300 new infections.

As of now, at least 36 states have reported a rise in new cases. At least 12 have halted or rolled back on reopening plans like Arizona, Texas, and Florida, which are quickly becoming new epicenters for the virus.

Vice President Mike Pence has even postponed appearances in Arizona and Florida set for this week “out of an abundance of caution” due to the spikes. Pence is still expected to travel to those states to meet with governors and local officials, but the visits will no longer include campaign events.

With 4th of July weekend just around the corner, many are fearful of more potential spread, especially in Florida, after the state broke its single-day case record again Saturday with 9,585 new coronavirus cases. Another 8,530 new cases were recorded Sunday. 

In an effort to deal with the weekend rush, officials have ordered beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach to be closed for the weekend. Miami- Dae County’s Mayor added parks into that order as well, warning that the closure could be extended if conditions don’t improve. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday took his most drastic action yet in response to the post-reopening coronavirus surge, shutting bars back down and scaling back restaurant capacity to 50%.

Just a few hours later, Florida also shut down bars with an announcement from Halsey Beshears, Secretary of Department of Business & Professional Regulation.

Other states are moving to do this same in specific counties, especially in anticipation of the weekend festivities.

Drug Pricing 

At the same time, new reports about pricing for the drug remdesivir have emerged based on an open letter from Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day. 

Remdesivir is the first antiviral drug shown to effectively help treat coronavirus in a major clinical trial and it was authorized for emergency use in May. The benefits are limited of course, and it hasn’t lead to a statistically significant drop in deaths, but a government study found that remdesivir shortened coronavirus recovery time by 31% — 11 days on average versus 15 days for those given just usual care.

The biopharmaceutical company Gilead previously donated its supply of the drug to the U.S. and other countries, but people have been waiting to see what it could charge after that supply runs out. 

O’Day said government price will be $390 per dose, or $2,340 per patient for the shortest treatment course of five days and $4,290 for a longer treatment course of 10 days.

Nongovernment buyers will pay around $520 per dose for patients with private insurance, or approximately $3,120 for the shorter treatment and $5,720 for the longer treatment.

Around 90-95% of patients currently receive the shorter five-day treatment plan, O’Day told the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. is the only country for which Gilead has set tiered pricing. It will charge the government price in other developed nations with public insurance programs.

This pricing plan is a huge deal because many feel like Gilead is setting the bar for how future treatments will be priced. According to Politico, the numbers are in line with what many analysts had suggested. 

However, consumer advocacy groups criticized the pricing as high, particularly because Gilead received about $70 million in taxpayer dollars and assistance from the National Institutes of Health to run clinical trials. Others say the pricing is too high for a drug that has not been shown to reduce mortality.

O’Day, for his part, has said that shortening hospitalization saves about $12,000 per patient and said Gilead will have spent $1 billion on developing and making the drug by the end of this year. 

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (CNN) (Wall Street Journal)

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Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG

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AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.” 


Lawsuit Filed Against Trump 

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.

Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses. 

“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,”  a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed. 

The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan. 

“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint. 

Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief. 

 The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation. 

“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media. 

“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”

Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets

According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”

“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued. 

Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time. 

For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million. 

Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million. 

Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”

“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,”  the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth. 

The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday. 

“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”

For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”

Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition. 

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (Reuters)

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Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power

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While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.


Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.

Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.

Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”

He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.

Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.

Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.

Continued Issues As Storm Rages On

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.

The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.

While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.

The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.

He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.

After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN

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Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows

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The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.


Largest Drop in Half a Century

The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.

From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.

In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.

The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.

Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.

Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.

According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.

But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.

Poverty Before COVID

Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.

They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.

It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.

The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.

They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.

Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.

The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.

Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.

See what others are saying: (Vox) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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