- President Trump has faced widespread criticism for sending federal agents to Portland to crackdown on ongoing protests against racial injustice.
- On Monday, Trump said he wanted to send agents to a number of cities, “All run by liberal Democrats,” including Chicago and New York.
- Administration officials have said deployments to Chicago are already in the works, though they are to deal with gun violence.
- Illinois officials initially rejected the plan, but yesterday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she supported help from the feds as long as it was a partnership between them and local officials, unlike in Portland.
Portland as a Test Case
As violence clashes between protestors and federal law enforcement agents continue to shake Portland, President Donald Trump is threatening to send feds to more U.S. cities, despite widespread objections from numerous mayors.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration deployed federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Marshals to Portland in order to respond to the protests against racial injustice that have been ongoing for over 50 days since the death of George Floyd.
The move reinvigorated the protests, which had largely died down before the arrival of the federal agents. As a result, state and local leaders in Oregon have accused the federal agents of escalating the violence and demanded that they be removed.
Numerous leaders across the country have also condemned the move and questioned its legality. Some have called the deployment of the federal officers to Portland a political stunt for Trump’s own political gain as he falters in the polls heading into the November election.
However, Trump and his administration have remained steadfast in their decision, and according to a DHS official who spoke to Bloomberg on Tuesday, even more agents have been deployed to Portland as the clashes have grown.
Other critics and experts have also expressed concerns that what is happening in Portland is just a test case, and that Trump is simply trying out these tactics there before moving on to other cities.
“My sense is they chose Portland because if they had rolled this out in, say, Minneapolis, it would mean to come in direct confrontation with many more Black activists,” Joe Lowndes, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon told USA Today. “With Portland, it’s a whiter city and they can demonize Antifa or the idea of anarchist looters and kind of take race out of it in a direct way, and make it seem more sympathetic.’’
Trump Threatens to Send Feds to More Cities
Regardless of the political incentives, the idea that Portland is just a trial-run seems to become more and more realistic.
On Monday, reports began circulating that DHS was making plans to deploy about 150 federal agents in Chicago this week. Later that day, Trump himself told reporters he was considering expanding the deployments.
“I’m going to do something,” he said. “Because New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these, and Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”
On Tuesday, an administration official told Bloomberg that a formal announcement on more deployments is expected to be made at some point this week. Meanwhile, preparations are already being made to send officers to Chicago.
However, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the plan, rather than being sent to crack down on protests, the feds are being deployed to Chicago to focus on gun violence which has surged in the city over the last year.
While no official public announcement has been made by the Trump administration, state and local leaders in Illinois have still pushed back against the alleged plan, with many top officials also seeming to indicate that this is already something in the works.
During a press conference Monday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker slammed the move.
“This is a wrong-headed move on the part of Donald Trump, on the part of Homeland Security,” he said. “I have put a call into the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security. He has refused to call us back.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to prevent them from coming, and if they do come, we’re going to do everything we can from a legal perspective to get them out,” he added.
Those remarks also appeared to echo similar ones made by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot the day before.
“Our democracy is at stake, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let anybody – even if their name is Mr. President – bring those kind of troops to our city and try to take on our residents,” she told reporters. “That’s not going to happen in Chicago. And I’m going to use every tool at my disposal to stop them.”
Also on Monday, Lightfoot, along with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and the mayors of several other cities, wrote a letter to the administration rejecting the deployment of federal forces in their cities, and demanding they be withdrawn.
“We write to express our deep concern and objection to the deployment of federal forces in our cities, as those forces are conducting law enforcement activities without coordination or authorization of local law enforcement officials,” the mayors wrote. “The unilateral deployment of these forces into American cities is unprecedented and violates fundamental constitutional protections and tenets of federalism.”
“Furthermore, it is concerning that federal law enforcement is being deployed for political purposes,” the letter continued. “The President and his administration continually attack local leadership and amplify false and divisive rhetoric purely for campaign fodder.
But in a press conference Tuesday, Lightfoot also said that she welcomed a federal partnership to crack down on gun violence, though she reiterated that the federal deployment cannot mirror that of Portland’s.
“What I understand at this point, and I caveat that, is that the Trump administration is not going to foolishly deploy unnamed agents to the streets of Chicago,” she said. “We have information that allows us to say, at least at this point, that we don’t see a Portland-style deployment coming to Chicago.”
“Unlike what happened in Portland, what we will receive is resources that are going to plug in to the existing federal agencies that we work with on a regular basis to help manage and suppress violent crime,” she added. “I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership, but we do not welcome dictatorship.”
DHS Officials Speak Out
However, it is not just mayors that have voiced their opposition to the deployments. On Tuesday, Buzzfeed News reported that interviews they conducted of 17 DHS employees who requested anonymity “reveal that many at the agency disagree with the show of force.”
“This administration’s utterly transparent fearmongering of sending federal officers out against peaceful protesters in Portland and Chicago has no purpose other than to support Trump’s reelection bid,” one employee said.
“It is blatantly unconstitutional and an embarrassment to the agency and the career civil servants who work here.”
Others also told the outlet that the move harms the public’s perceptions of the DHS, thus hampering its effectiveness, with one employee saying the deployments “absolutely hurts the reputation of the agency. Most people have no clue what we do, but now they will have this ham-fisted response in their mind as they think about CBP.”
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (USA Today) (The Wall Street Journal)
Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices
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)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
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)
U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide
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.