Just 13% of Americans in new poll say infrastructure is best use for new coronavirus spending

Americans would rather see any future coronavirus bailout focus on needed health supplies rather than a massive, new infrastructure push, according to the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen 
Just 13% of registered voters surveyed said infrastructure was their top spending priority for a new coronavirus package. Voters in the Just the News poll placed “medical research and prevention” (36%) and putting “as much money as possible into the pockets of Americans hurt by the downturn” (28%) as their top priorities for new relief spending.
“American voters have clearly recognized that we are in an emergency situation,” Rasmussen said. “Only 13% object to the idea of the federal government spending big on something to address the crisis. However, the data suggests people are looking for a response focused on the immediate problems. The top response — 36% — shows a desire to attack the problem directly with medical research. The second most popular response —with 28% support — is to put money into the pockets of people hurt by the pandemic. That reflects the reality that the various lockdowns have put millions out of work and shuttered countless businesses. People are very supportive of the many aggressive actions taken by governments and private organizations to fight the pandemic. But they realize some people are paying the price for it — bartenders, waitresses, retail clerks, and small businesses. It makes sense to voters that those hurt by the government orders should receive help.”
President Trump, along with some members of Congress, have said they’re interested in possibly including infrastructure in any new stimulus package.
“The lack of enthusiasm for the infrastructure projects probably comes from a number of factors,” Rasmussen said. “First, it’s not as high a priority as medical research or helping people thrown out of work. Second, though, most voters still see the pandemic as a relatively short-term phenomenon. They expect it to last another month or two, but not years. And infrastructure projects take years. Voters also know better than to believe ‘shovel-ready’ projects exist that can meet immediate needs. So the infrastructure push doesn’t really fit the national moment.”
Respondents were asked: “Congress is considering another major spending package to stimulate the economy. Which of the following actions would you prefer?” Responses ranked below:
36% Congress should spend whatever it takes on medical research and prevention to limit the damage from the coronavirus
28% Congress should put as much money as possible into the pockets of Americans hurt by the downturn
13% Congress should repair and expand America’s infrastructure by investing in roads, bridges, the utility grid, and wireless networks.
13% Congress should stop spending money the country doesn’t have
10% Not Sure
The national survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted April 2-5, 2020 by Rasmussen, a polling veteran. Margin of sampling error: +/- 2.8% for full sample. To see the full demographic cross-tabulations for this polling question, click below:

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Top 6 picks for Biden's running mate

Who will be Joe Biden’s running mate now that he’s the all-but-certain Democratic nominee?
Speaking to donors during a virtual fundraiser Wednesday, the former vice president virtual attendees that he reached out to President Barack Obama for advice on picking a running mate, and was told to look for someone who has experience in areas where he is lacking.
Meanwhile, California senator Kamala Harris, 55, is currently a top pick.  She just made two fundraising moves likely to raise speculation about her as a VP pick. She set up a joint fundraising operation with the Democratic National Committee, and she made a surprise appearance at a virtual fundraising event Wednesday for Biden.
Biden said during the event, “I’m so lucky to have you be a part of this partnership going forward,” he said of her. “I’m coming for you, kid.”
But look at the video above to see other potential picks. 

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Amid coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabia plans for a cease-fire in Yemen

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia says it will temporarily suspend military operations in Yemen.
In the announcement Wednesday, Saudi officials expressed hope that the move will encourage a dialogue among Yemen’s warring parties as they battle the novel coronavirus.
Yemen has been engaged in a bloody civil war for the better part of a decade. Presently, an Iranian-allied rebel group called the Houthis retain control of Yemen’s capital.
The Saudis have been involved in the conflict for over five years and but are now increasing efforts to remove themselves from the conflict.
While no coronavirus cases have officially been reported yet in Yemen, the country is impoverished, and its medical system has been ravaged by years of war. Aid workers are concerned that the spread of the virus would destroy the nation already in turmoil.
“If they have 200 ventilators in the country, I’d be stunned,” a United Nations aid worker told the Washington Post.
Officials are hoping the pandemic will provide an opportunity to bring an end to some of the deadliest clashes of the ongoing war. Violence in the region over the past 10 days has killed upward of 270 people.
Yemen’s government has agreed to Saudi Arabia’s cease-fire proposal, but it is unclear whether the Houthis will also agree. Several cease-fire offers in the past have failed.

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California fishing season becomes a flashpoint in the state's coronavirus response

Recreational fishing has became an unlikely flashpoint in California’s emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic, as angry anglers protested possible closures of their favorite fishing holes.
The California Fish and Game Commission reportedly abruptly canceled a teleconference Thursday morning amid cries of “make fishing great again!” and “fascists!” before it could consider authorizing a limited ban on sportfishing in some areas.
Speaking at a daily press briefing Gov. Gavin Newsom tried to allay fears that there was no statewide ban on fishing.
“We are not ending the season, we just want to delay it a little bit and work with the counties to address the surge of interest,” he said.
Earlier this week, some politicians and sheriffs signaled their alarm that Newsom’s administration was planning to outright cancel the fishing season statewide because of COVID-19.
Some, like the sheriffs from Shasta and Modoc Counties, sent letters of concern to the commission expressing concern over restricting these activities because they said outdoor recreational activities are needed now more than ever for both physical and mental well-being.
Others agree with a partial or temporary closure, fearing too many out-of-town anglers would import the new coronavirus and infect residents.
About 1 million licensed anglers regularly fish California’s waterways through the year, making the state one of the country’s most active fishing states.
The Fish and Game Commission said the emergency meeting, originally organized to give powers to Charlton Bonham, Newsom’s appointee overseeing the Department of Fish and Wildlife to close fishing season in certain areas, will be schedule for next week.

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3-D model shows how aerosol cloud travels in air after person coughs

If there’s already enough to give you pause about going food shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic, researchers in Finland have released a video that models how COVID-19 could spread from a single cough in a supermarket.
Aalto University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the University of Helsinki studied how aerosolized particles spewed from the respiratory tract when coughing, sneezing — or even talking – flow through the air.
“Someone infected by the coronavirus, can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus,” Aalto University Assistant Professor Ville Vuorinen said.
According to preliminary results, tiny particles carrying the coronavirus can linger in the air longer than was originally thought  so it is important to avoid busy public indoor spaces, said the report. This also reduces the risk of droplet infection, which remains the main path of transmission for coronavirus.

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Pelosi on vote by mail: Less people at the polls is ‘healthier for everyone’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday addressed President Trump, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans opposed to adding “vote by mail” provisions to a future coronavirus stimulus package, arguing that having less people at the polls is “healthier for everyone.”
“No surprise (they) might dismiss opening doors of participation as something that is a plus, especially in a time of a pandemic, especially in a time of pandemic when elections are postponed because of the threat of people coming together,” she said on a conference call with reporters.
“We do want to have vote by mail because we think, again, it removes obstacles for participation but it is also healthier at this time. So, again, some people may prefer to go to the polls but the lower that number is the healthier for everyone,” she also said. 
Pelosi has recommended adding up to $4 billion for vote-by-mail efforts in the next stimulus package, which some lawmakers are referring to as CARES II. The first CARES Act had $2 billion in funding for expanding vote by mail in states.
“This is a matter also though of public opinion. Why should we say to people – ‘stand in line for hours when we don’t even want you leaving the house in some of these primaries that are taking place’?” Pelosi asked.
Last week, the California Democrat said she supports expanding voting by mail for the November election.
McCarthy objected to including vote by mail provisions in any other coronavirus legislation.
“I don’t see the need for that right now,” he said Thursday. “I’m not focused on that right now. I’m focused on the health of the American public.”
McCarthy warned that there is “a lot of fraud” with voting by mail and slammed funding requests for vote by mail expansion during coronavirus. 
He also mentioned that the Senate was unable to pass an additional $250 billion for small businesses with unanimous consent on Thursday due to objections from Democrats who wanted a broader bill. 
The California Republican argued that Pelosi should not hold up future legislation to address coronavirus over trying to change election law.
“I think you’re concerned about the wrong thing,” he said at Pelosi. “You want to hold a bill up because you want to change election law for November because somehow you think it gives you some political benefits. That’s disgusting to me.”
Trump recently said universal vote by mail in states would ensure that no Republicans get elected nationally.
Pelosi disagreed.
“Have more confidence in what the Republican Party stands for. It had been a Grand Old Party. It has been hijacked,” she said. “I can say with some knowledge as a former chair of the California Democratic Party, the largest party in the country, that we would always do much better on Election Day than we did with the vote by mail.”
She continued, “Republicans know how to vote by mail. (Trump) should not belittle the ability of Republicans to make their voices heard for the candidates they support and not be afraid of the voice of the people but they are and that’s one of the reasons they want to stand in the way of a more open Democratic system at a time of a pandemic.”

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Thousands of migrants expelled from U.S. amid coronavirus crackdown

Thousands of migrants have been sent away as the U.S. takes steps at the border to protect the homeland amid the coronavirus health crisis.
The border actions come as the Trump administration uses rules that permit barring the entry of people who could disseminate illness within the U.S.
Almost 10,000 Central Americans and Mexicans have been sent to Mexico since March 21 when the rule came into effect the Associated Press reported, citing U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“What’s happening right now is a public health crisis driven by a global pandemic, which has resulted in a national emergency declared by this president to protect the health and safety of every American in this country,” acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said according to AP.
Fewer than 100 people are in CBP custody the CBP reported according to AP.

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Coronavirus Update: Concerns about Easter, weather sending people outdoors

Officials in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world are expressing concern about people bending or breaking the coronavirus stay-at-home rules this Easter weekend and as the warmer, outdoor weather arrives. 
“We are flattening the curve because we are rigorous about social distancing,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. “But it’s not a time to be complacent. It’s not a time to do anything different than we’ve been doing.”
New York remains the epicenter of the virus, with roughly 178 countries around the world now reporting cases of infection. New York on Wednesday reported 779 deaths in the past 24 hours, though virus-related hospital visits are down. 
There are now nearly 1.5 million reported virus-related cases worldwide and 89,733 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 
Keeping people from gathering in public during the Easter weekend could be especially challenging in hard-hit Italy, which appears to be recovering from a massive outbreak, considering the holy city of Rome is part of the country, 
Italy has a total 139,422 cases, second only to the U.S. with more than 430,000. 
Britain is reportedly having a surge in deaths as Japan and India report more infections. 

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Markets rise as Federal Reserve pumps another $2.3 trillion into the economy

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 300 points as markets opened this morning. The S&P 500 gained 1.1%.
The Dow opened with agains despite a Labor Department jobless report showing an additional 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total number to over 16 million. 
Stock futures were down ahead of trading this morning, in anticipating of a brutal jobs report – but staged a comeback upon news of the Central Bank’s loan rollout program. 
The Federal Reserve rolled out details of its aggressive $2.3 trillion lending program, as it continues to move swiftly to fight off an economic depression. The program, which includes Main Street lending and payroll protection, will aid small businesses impacted by the pandemic. The program is targeted at businesses with up to 10,000 employees.
European markets had a good day and oil prices continued to rise.
Unlike most of the rest of the world, China has yet to announce a government spending package to help mitigate the economic turmoil inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak. The Chinese Government has encouraged state-owned banks to increase their lending, but no broader package has been announced.
The Dow is currently up almost 30% from its record low in March. 

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Withheld evidence: Papadopoulos told FBI informer Trump campaign wasn't involved in DNC hack

Shortly before the 2016 election, former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos told an FBI informant that the Republican’s campaign had not been involved with the Russian hack of Democratic National Committee emails, according to a transcript kept from the court that approved surveillance warrants targeting the president’s campaign.
Just the News has reviewed the conversation between Papadopoulos and the the FBI informant in October 2016. The transcript, first reported by CBS News, can be viewed here:

The pertinent moments in the 171-page transcript commence on page 159, when the confidential human source (CHS) begins to prod Papadopoulos about Russia’s role in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
CHS: You think Russia’s playing a big game in this election?
Papadopoulos: No
CHS: Why not?
Papadopoulos: Why would they?
CHS: Don’t you think they have special interests?
Papadopoulos: Something like that. [Banging sound] I don’t think so. That’s all bulls–t. No one knows who’s hacking— [Phone notification] —them.
CHS: You don’t think that they, that they hacked the, the DNC? Who hacked the f–king DNC then?
Papadopoulos: Could be the Chinese, could be the Iranians, it could be some Bernie, ugh, supporters. Could be Anonymous.
Multiple FBI applications seeking a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant targeting the Trump campaign failed to note Papadopoulos’s clear denial of any involvement in the DNC email hacks.
When applying for a FISA warrant, or a warrant’s renewal, the FBI is required to submit all verified information as well as any evidence undermining agents’ theory of the case. That would include denials, such as the one made in the Papadopoulos transcript.
The FBI’s now closed probe into alleged Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 election is riddled with examples where exculpatory evidence and problems with the bureau’s case were withheld from the judges who approved the warrants, the Justice Department inspector general has reported.
Sometimes with salty language, Papadopoulos repeatedly denied in the transcript any involvement by the Trump campaign in the DNC email hack or Russian election-rigging. 
CHS: You don’t think anyone from the Trump campaign had anything to do with f–king over the, at the DNC?
Papadopoulos: No.
CHS: Really?
Papadopoulos: No. I know that for a fact.
CHS: How do you know that for a fact?
Papadopoulos: ‘Cause I go, I’ve been working with them for the last nine months. That’s [UI]. And all of this stuff has been happening, what, the last four months?
Later in the transcript, Papadopoulos said that he told a more senior political player that the Trump campaign had nothing to do with the DNC hack. “It’s illegal, you know, to do that sh-t,” Papadopoulos said to the FBI confidential source. 
In his December 2019 report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticized the FBI for failing to include evidence that could undermine its FISA warrant applications. But he also noted that the FBI had discounted Papadopoulos’s denial for a number of reasons including believing it to be rehearsed. However, Horowitz maintained that all evidence should have been presented.
Under the direction of Director Christopher Wray, the FBI has undertaken a large-scale review of the FISA process. Wray has ordered the implementation of more than 40 corrective suggestions based on Horowitz’s report. 

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NASA and Russia crew launch to the International Space Station amid coronavirus

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, successfully launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday.
The planned launch comes at a time when many events have been postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Trump touts new possible Pfizer coronavirus treatment currently used to treat SARS

President Trump on Thursday praised the potential of a possible Pfizer drug with compounds currently used to treat SARS that could also work on the coronavirus.
“Pfizer revealed today that it has found a promising new treatment that might prevent the virus from replicating and it hopes to begin testing in clinical trials very soon,” Trump said today at a White House coronavirus task force briefing. “It’s going to be very, very soon. They have great, great feelings for this particular therapy. They think that a lot of good things are happening.
Trump said the Food and Drug Administration’s coronavirus treatment acceleration program had 19 therapies and treatments are now being tested and 26 are in the active planning or clinical trials. 
“That’s a big statement, that’s a lot,” Trump said. 
The companies that manufacture hydroxychloroquine are massively ramping up production. As you know, many people are recommending strongly the z-pack be added and also zinc. And the federal government continues to build our stockpiles and distribute millions of doses for doctors to use as they see fit.”
Trump said that the country had surpassed the mark of 2 million tests. 
“It’s a milestone for our country, it’s a milestone anywhere,” Trump said. “Nobody’s done anywhere close. Our tests are highly sophisticated and highly accurate.”
Trump said he also held a call Thursday with 400 executives and leaders caring for mental health. 
ABC News reported that “Last month the ‘Disaster Distress Helpline’ at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) saw an 891% increase in call volume compared with March 2019.” The increase from February to March was 338%.

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Iraq's new prime minister will be former head of intelligence services, Mustafa Al Kadhimi

Iraq President Barham Salih announced Thursday that Mustafa Al Kadhimi will become the new prime minister of the Middle East nation. Al Kadhimi, a rumored frontrunner for the position, is the head of Iraq’s intelligence service. He will now have 30 days to form a Cabinet to present to parliament. 
The future prime minister wrote on twitter:

Al Kadhimi is known for his strong relationships with regional powers, as well as the United States. He is the third candidate to be nominated for the position since Iraq’s prime minister resigned in November of 2019. The first two failed to assemble Cabinets that parliament would approve.
Al Kadhimi was born in Baghdad. He earned a law degree and has published several books. Prior to accepting his role at the National Intelligence Service, he wrote frequently about the need for reform in Iraq.

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Pentagon to pay contractors unable to continue working amid pandemic

The Pentagon will continue paying contractors who are blocked from working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement from DoD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews.
The move comes because the CARES Act, a massive emergency package recently passed by Congress, allows the government to reimburse contractors who pay employees who cannot continue working amid the health scare.
“This deviation addresses section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which allows agencies to reimburse contractors for payment to workers who are prevented from working due to COVID-19 facility closures or other restrictions,” the DoD press release notes.
Much of the U.S. economy has been been crippled by the coronavirus crisis, leaving millions of workers unemployed. 
The Department of Labor on Thursday reported about 6.6 million people filed for unemployment during the week that ended April 4.

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U.S. intelligence official disputes news report about military warning about coronavirus in November

A top U.S. military intelligence official is refuting a report by ABC News and others that states his agency issued a report back in November 2019 warning about a deadly, fast-spreading novel coronavirus in China posing a risk to American troops in the region. 
The ABC report was purportedly issued by the National Center for Medical Intelligence, part of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, and cited unnamed officials with knowledge of the assessment.  
Information for the report was purportedly gathered through intercepted wire and computer transmissions.
“As a matter of practice the National Center for Medical Intelligence does not comment publicly on specific intelligence matters,” wrote NCMI Director Col. R. Shane Day. “However, in the interest of transparency during this current public health crisis, we can confirm that media reporting about the existence/release of a National Center for Medical Intelligence Coronavirus-related product/assessment in November of 2019 is not correct. No such NCMI product exists.”
China reported the first case in late December 2019. 
Just the News requested a comment Thursday morning from ABC News on Day’s statement. The news gathering agency did not respond before this story was posted. 
The ABC News report also states the White House and top officials throughout the federal government were briefed several times about the report, based on the news gathering agency’s sources. The report also states President Trump was briefed on the report in January.

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Russia case footnotes to be declassified, exposing FBI concerns about Steele disinformation

U.S. intelligence has decided to declassify several redacted footnotes from a recent Justice Department report that will expose more problems with the FBI’s investigation into President Trump’s campaign, including that agents possessed evidence their main informant may have been the victim of Russian disinformation, Just the News has learned.
The previously redacted footnotes are likely to raise new concerns that the FBI ignored flashing red warning signals about the informant Christopher Steele and gave a false picture in briefing materials supplied to Congress.
The declassified sections from Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December review of FBI FISA abuse could be made available to key Senate and House committees as early as the end of this week, according to people familiar with the effort.
The unredacted footnotes are expected to provide new data points in the timeline showing when the FBI learned, or should have suspected, that its key evidence suggesting Trump was colluding with Russia was erroneous and how high up those concerns were known, the sources said.
The new information “will make clear the FBI possessed information at multiple levels that undercut the evidence it was using to sustain a collusion investigation” and will be specific enough to renew a debate in Washington over “whether the FBI intentionally ignored red flags or simply was blinded by ambition from seeing them clearly,” one source with direct knowledge said.
The evidence could also raise new questions about whether statements made to Congress during the Russia probe were false or misleading, and whether the intelligence community’s official assessment that Vladimir Putin was solely trying to help elect Trump was contradicted by some evidence in FBI files, the sources said.
The declassification was prompted in part by a letter sent in January by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., that requested four footnotes from the Horowitz report be declassified.
Grassley and Johnson are two strong allies of Trump who played a key role in debunking the false collusion allegations the FBI investigated. Johnson’s investigators flagged the redacted passages during a review of the Horowitz report and worked with Grassley’s team to escalate to Attorney General William Barr.
“We are concerned that certain sections of the public version of the report are misleading because they are contradicted by relevant and probative classified information redacted in four footnotes,” Grassley and Johnson wrote Barr. “This classified information is significant not only because it contradicts key statements in a section of the report, but also because it provides insight essential for an accurate evaluation of the entire investigation.”
The two followed up with a letter earlier this month to the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Ric Grenell saying the release of the classified information would provide “insight essential for an accurate evaluation of the entire investigation.”
Sources said DNI and Justice Department are planning to declassify those four footnotes as well as others in the report that will provide new understanding about failures in the FBI’s now-debunked Russia collusion probe.
One of the key revelations will be the unmasking of footnotes that show specific red flags raised inside the bureau’s intelligence files that Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent whose anti-Trump dossier played a key role in the collusion probe, could have been the victim of Russian disinformation through his contacts with Russian oligarchs, the sources said.
Horowitz’s report in December concluded that most of the allegations Steele included in the dossier he gave the FBI were inaccurate, uncorroborated, or internet rumor and that the FBI falsely represented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that Steele’s intelligence had been verified in securing a FISA warrant to target the Trump campaign and former adviser Carter Page in fall 2016 in an investigation code-named Crossfire Hurricane.
Horowitz’s report also raised concerns the FBI failed to fully evaluate evidence in its intelligence files that suggested Russian disinformation was flowing to Steele, who was working during the 2016 campaign for the opposition research firm trying to help Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party defeat Trump.
Those concerns were echoed in the report by former FBI counterintelligence chief Bill Priestap and former Justice Department lawyer Stuart Evans.
“In view of information we found in FBI files we reviewed, and that was available to the Crossfire Hurricane team during the relevant time period, we believe that more should have been done to examine Steele’s contacts with intermediaries of Russian oligarchs in order to assess those contacts as potential sources of disinformation that could have influenced Steele’s reporting or, at a minimum, influenced Steele’s understanding of events in Russia that furnished context for the analytical judgments he used to evaluate the reporting,” Horowitz wrote at the time. “We agree with the assessment of Priestap and Evans that this issue warranted more scrutiny than it was afforded.”
While Horowitz raised the issue broadly, a detailed set of footnotes laying out what actually was in the FBI files was completely redacted. That footnote is expected, along with other information, to be declassified.
Persons familiar with the effort said the new declassifications also may raise questions about representations FBI witnesses made in classified briefings and briefing documents to Congress in 2017.
Horowitz’s report flagged one such possible episode, recounting a memo that the FBI provided in December 2017 to congressional leaders that claimed to have dismissed the notion that Steele was the victim of disinformation.
“According to an FBI memorandum prepared in December 2017 for a Congressional briefing, by the time the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was transferred to the Special Counsel in May 2017, the FBI did not assess it likely that the [Steele] [ election reporting] was generated in connection to a Russian disinformation campaign,” Horowitz noted.
Such a claim may have dismissed or overlooked evidence sitting in the FBI’s own files, the report suggested.
When pressed by the IG about the possibility that Steele had been the victim of Russian disinformation, Priestap, the former counterintelligence chief whose supervised the lead case agent Peter Strzok, offered an uncertain answer.
“I’m struggling, with, when you know the Russians, and this I know from my Intelligence Community work: they favored Trump, they’re trying to denigrate Clinton, and they wanted to sow chaos. I don’t know why you’d run a disinformation campaign to denigrate Trump on the side,” Priestap answered.
Steele broadly defended his work in an interview with the IG. And after Horowitz’s report was issued, the former British spy issued a statement through his lawyers and his company Orbis Business Intelligence disputing many of the IG’s findings, including the allegation that Steele’s primary sub-source had disowned or denied much of the information attributed to him in the dossier.
“Public discussions about a source are always fraught with danger for the source and the source’s sub-source,” the statement said. “Had Orbis been given an opportunity to respond in a private session, the statement by the primary sub-source would be put in a very different light.”
Horowitz isn’t the only government official to raise concerns that Steele may have been victimized by Russian disinformation. One of the Democrats’ star witnesses during President Trump’s impeachment investigation, government Russia expert Fiona Hill, testified about Steele that she had “misgivings and concern that he could have been played” by Russian disinformation. Hill had previously worked with Steele when he was with MI6.
“Their goal was to discredit the presidency,” she testified in an October deposition. “Whoever was elected president, they wanted to weaken them. So, if Secretary Clinton had won, there would have been a cloud over her at this time if she was President Clinton. There’s been a cloud over President Trump since the beginning of his presidency, and I think that’s exactly what the Russians intended.”
The new evidence from the declassified footnotes will give the American public a first chance to evaluate whether the FBI dropped the ball on evaluating Russian disinformation in the Steele dossier.
Whatever the final verdict, the upcoming declassifications are a poignant reminder that the public still has much to learn about what did, and did not, go right in the Russia collusion probe.

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Gasoline drops below a dollar per gallon in Minnesota

Gasoline prices at some Minnesota stations have fallen below the $1 per gallon mark seen in the 1970s, according to the Gas Buddy website.
An article from WCCO earlier Thursday reported prices on Gas Buddy as low as $0.78 per gallon.
Other states also have stations with prices of less than $1, according to Gas Buddy.
The national average is under $2, according to AAA, which places it at just $1.895 as of Thursday. That is well below the $2.748 average it lists for a year ago. AAA’s Minnesota average price on Thursday was just $1.716.
As many Americans practice social distancing and hunker down at home amid the coronavirus crisis, they are driving less.
Fox News also notes the recent oil price conflict between Russia and Saudi Arabia as a reason for the low prices.

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Boris Johnson moved out of intensive care

According to a Downing Street spokesperson, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved out of the intensive care unit on Thursday evening.
“The Prime Minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery,” said the spokesperson. Adding, “He is in extremely good spirits.”
The Prime Minister was transferred to the hospital on Sunday after his symptoms worsened following more than a week at home. He was moved to the Intensive Care Unit on Monday evening, but was not put on a ventilator. 

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US Jobless Report: 6.6 million Americans filed last week

According to today’s report from the Labor Department, another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment claims last week. 
This follows nearly 10 million Americans applying for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks, bringing the total to over 16 million people filing for first-time benefits. Even the total number is likely a few million below the actual number of Americans who lost their jobs as the economy abruptly shuttered last month.
Beyond the hardest hit professions including the restaurant industry and travel-related fields, the new report includes hundreds of thousands of retail workers who are now out of a job. 
Economists believe the unemployment rate could hit double-digits this month, up from March’s rate of 4.4%.
The $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress last month includes part time and furloughed workers among those able to apply for claims.
The CARES Act also opened up unemployment claims to include the self-employed and independent contractors.

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Market ralliers: Mnuchin says economy could reopen in May, Fed chairman says recovery to be 'robust'

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Thursday that he thinks the U.S. could reopen the economy sometime in May.
CNBC host Jim Cramer asked Mnuchin specifically if he thought the country might be “open for business” next month amid the coronavirus shutdown, to which the secretary replied, “I do.”
At the end of April, President Trump will decide whether to soften or extend the social-distancing guidelines – which have slowed virus spread but also shuttered stores, restaurants and other so-called non-essentially parts of the economy. A new Labor Department reports shows the U.S. economy has lost about 16 million jobs as a result of the virus. 
“I think as soon as the president feels comfortable with the medical issues, we are making everything necessary that American companies and American workers can be open for business and that they have the liquidity to operate their business in the interim,” Mnuchin continued.
Trump and his coronavirus task force have expressed cautious optimism this week about the number of reported viruses slowing and that the numbers will begin to plateau and drop in the coming days.
Models throughout the pandemic have consistently been inexact, but some experts say the domestic death toll from the virus is expected to peak on Saturday. U.S. cases are currently hovering at around 430,000.
Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell made remarks on Thursday morning during a webinar for the Brookings Institution indicating that he expects the post-coronavirus economic recovery to be “robust.”
“At the Fed, we are doing all we can to help shepherd the economy through this difficult time,” he said. “When the spread of the virus is under control, businesses will reopen, and people will come back to work. There is every reason to believe that the economic rebound, when it comes, can be robust.” 
“We have to be on that down side of that slope and heading to a very strong direction that this thing is gone,” said President Trump at his afternoon briefing on Wednesday. “I think we will be sooner rather than later. But we’ll be sitting down with the professionals,” he continued.

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Kavanaugh nemesis Alyssa Milano goes mum on sexual assault allegation against Biden

Few celebrities speak louder on behalf of the #MeToo movement than Alyssa Milano.
The “Charmed” alum uses her massive Twitter flock, some 3.6 million strong, to slam Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, proclaim “Believe All Women,” and demand better conditions for women in and out of Hollywood.
That made her silence on the sexual abuse allegation lobbed last month against former Vice President Joe Biden both unexpected and, to some, troubling.
The progressive star’s silence suggests partisan politics are as much a factor as the credibility of allegations, according to several right-leaning voices. Even some fellow liberals have denounced Milano’s inability to call out a key member of her own party.
Former Biden staffer Tara Reade claims Biden sexually assaulted her back in 1993, a story she’s been trying to share for years without success. The media has covered the allegation sporadically, with major outlets giving it scant attention.
Milano, an early Biden backer, initially stayed mum on the allegation. Earlier this week she gave an exclusive interview to Andy Cohen, saying men deserve due process before any punishment can be meted out.
“I just don’t feel comfortable throwing away a decent man I’ve known for 15 years in this time of complete chaos,” she told Cohen. Later, on Twitter, she declared she would no longer discuss the matter.
Back in 2018, Milano Tweeted this as a “Tuesday Thought:”
“You can’t pretend to be the party of the American people and then not support a woman who comes forward with her #MeToo story.”
Julie Gunlock, author and policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum, applauds the #MeToo movement’s initial triumphs, including Hollywood’s efforts to rally for the cause.
“It has helped to illuminate this important issue,” Gunlock says, but adds Hollywood’s connection to the cause worried her from the start.
“They no doubt knew this was happening,” Gunlock says of convicted movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior. 
“There were open jokes about this in Hollywood,” she adds, including a jab by Seth MacFarlane during the 2013 Academy Awards telecast. Addressing the five nominees for the best actress award, the Oscars host quipped: “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”
“At the time they were quiet about things they knew and saw,” Gunlock says, including members of the industry’s #MeToo activist vanguard.
Gunlock praises Milano for admitting sexual abuse allegations deserve a robust hearing — with a presumption of innocence. The actress’ timing, though, is troublesome.
“Too bad she couldn’t afford Kavanaugh any of that same sentiment,” she says.
Gunlock doesn’t think the silence from Milano, or from her Hollywood peers, will do much damage to the movement, though.
“The media doesn’t hold anyone accountable,” she says, noting that such stars will get nothing but softball questions on the subject from a friendly industry press content to give them a pass on their apparent double standard.
To date, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Deadline.com haven’t covered Milano’s Biden response.
To her credit, Milano crossed party lines to say Sen. Al Franken should resign after the former “Saturday Night Live” star’s own #MeToo scandal broke late in 2017. “Avengers” star Mark Ruffalo echoed Milano’s thoughts at the time.
Professor, radio personality and Denver Post columnist Krista Kafer suggests Milano’s apparently selective outrage mirrors our partisan age.
“It’s human nature,” the right-leaning Kafer says. “When the other tribe does it, it’s really awful. It’s a tribal response. People decide, ‘Hey I’m gonna have dual standards.’ I’m sure they’re coming up with some sort of justification.”
Kafer points to similarly politicized standards on the other side of the aisle.
“People who were disgusted with Bill Clinton could care less that Trump had allegations also of impropriety and loutish behavior,” Kafer says.
Milano’s Biden stance drew elements of the left and right together.
Progressive journalist Glenn Greenwald called the actress’ casual dismissal of Reade’s claims “astounding.”
Krystal Ball, a progressive journalist and co-host of The Hill’s “Rising with Krystal & Buck,” also decried Milano for having two sets of rules on sexual harassment.

Milano’s former “Charmed” co-star, Rose McGowan, roasted the actress as a “fraud” for breaking from her “Believe all women” mantra.

Messages seeking comment from the National Organization for Women and Women in Film weren’t returned.
Teri Christoph, co-founder of the right-leaning Smart Girl Politics community and podcast, says Milano’s about-face on “Believe all women” reflects a history of Hollywood stars believing select women. She cites as one example the discrepancy between the secular sainthood accorded Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill compared with the blithe dismissal of President Bill Clinton’s “bimbo eruptions.” 
Christoph prefers to see more bipartisan efforts, applauding a rare example of that from Milano herself. Last year, the actress joined Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a friendly but heated debate on gun control and afterwards had some “very nice things to say” about him, Christoph recalls.
“It was a really brave thing for her to do,” Christoph says, noting the senator’s past as an undergraduate debating champion. “Very few of us have the brain power to take on a Ted Cruz.”
Christoph, too, doubts Milano’s apparent double standard will impact Hollywood’s #MeToo agenda. 
“I doubt she’s out there changing hearts and minds,” she says, adding most Americans tune out Hollywood messaging, be it about sexual abuse or climate change.
Christoph suggests Milano’s comments reflect a cold reality within her Tinseltown milieu.
“How could she survive in Hollywood if she said, ‘Maybe we should listen to this Tara Reade woman?’” she asks.None of this means the #MeToo movement should end, or that it’s work is complete, says Kafer. 
“I think there’s a still a cleaning going on in different fields — politics, business, law, Hollywood, the music world,” Kafer says. “A new standard is being set. You don’t get to do this anymore.”
She hopes Milano’s now-discarded mantra gets left behind in the cultural melee.
“The idea you ‘believe all women’ is ridiculous,” Kafer says. “You can’t believe all of one group of people. There are people who make false accusations.”

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Democrats stop McConnell's attempt to pass $250 billion for small businesses

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempt to pass an additional $250 billion in small business coronavirus, saying such legislation should also include billions more for hospitals and state and local governments and fails to address the immediate needs of small businesses. 
Democrats block the proposed legislation in the GOP-controlled chamber by objecting to McConnell’s attempt to pass it on a voice vote or unanimous consent – which do not require senators to return to Capitol Hill for a recorded floor vote. 
“I’m afraid that this unanimous consent is basically a political stunt because it will not address the immediate need of small businesses in the legislation that we have passed,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said on the Senate floor. 
Republicans wanted to pass the legislation as quickly as possible to expand the Paycheck Protection Program, created in the previous stimulus package and that is running out of money.
The small-business program gives companies with up to 500 employees, and in exceptions more, loans to cover payroll and overhead. The loans will be forgiven if they don’t lay off workers.
The Senate adjourned until Monday after Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) objected to holding a unanimous voice vote.
Cardin argued that there are other programs in the previously passed CARES Act that are running out of money, while the funding for the Paycheck Protection Program has not been completely spent yet.
“The emergency disaster relief program, which provides funds for businesses and we allow businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus to file those claims, that has run out of money,” he said.
McConnell said the measure would amend the CARES Act by raising the Paycheck Protection Program funding to $600 billion for small businesses.
He also asked Democrats to pass the “clean” legislation without anything else attached. 
“Please do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose just because you want something more,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Nobody thinks this will be the Senate’s last word on COVID-19. We don’t have to do everything right now. In fact, our posture of needing unanimous consent does not even permit us to try to do everything right now.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also gave a floor speech in opposition to McConnell’s attempt.
“We didn’t have to come in at all if not for the decision to try to ram this through,” he said. “We knew this wasn’t going to get through so I see people are frustrated and want to leave but let’s get it done and let’s get it done right and let’s have another 96 to nothing vote.”

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Last century’s polio outbreak lessons may guide America’s return from coronavirus

From the offices of mayors and governors to the back rooms of the White House and Center for Disease Control (CDC), officials are scrambling to devise a strategy that would allow Americans to gradually emerge from home quarantine to work and life as normal.
President Trump has made clear that the safety of Americans is tantamount although he pulls no punches that he wants to get the economy up and running too. “This country was not built to be shut down,” he has said often during his COVID-19 White House briefings.
The CDC in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus-19 Task Force is working on a plan, as are many local officials. The theories guiding these discussions range from restarting gradually in regions with low incidences of the virus to continuing the quarantines until a vaccine is ready.
Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a cancer doctor in Chicago and former adviser to President Barack Obama, said on MSNBC that he does not think the economy should be re-opened until a vaccine is approved, which could take as long as 18 months.
Alternatively, Knut Wittkowski, Ph.D, the former head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research at the Rockefeller University in New York, said the only thing that “stops respiratory viruses” like COVID-19 “is herd immunity” where there is a high percentage of the population infected serving as a natural immunity. He believes the social-distancing ban should be lessened.
Dr. Yonatan H. Grad, an infectious disease specialist and Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said “no one has the political will or public health interest yet for emergence.” So Grad recommended, “This time is better used for figuring out which mitigation measures work and that information should be used to figure a plan.”
Nevertheless, Grad said that if and when the economy opens he believes it will be “by location because of the fragmented reaction to the virus. Emergence may not be uniform.”
On Tuesday, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “We cannot restart life as we knew it without testing,” while Democratic Gov Phil Murphy of New Jersey said getting the economy going needs to be “careful.”
From Colorado to Massachusetts, governors are discussing how to monitor their citizens to figure out who is immune to COVID-19. Other governors in Texas and Maryland are working to set up task forces to get their citizens back to work.
Gradual emergence and lessening isolation during pandemics in hotspots is not a novel concept in America. That model was used during the polio and measles epidemics in the 20th century.
Polio outbreaks have ebbed and flowed through the last centuries. How America handled the polio epidemics in the early 1900s, which lingered into a polio epidemic spanning the 1940s and 1950s until a polio vaccine was discovered in the 1950s, is instructive.
Very young children were inflicted and the sudden onslaught of polio shocked communities. First, it was a cough and then a child was paralyzed days later. It was a travesty because polio hit so fast and inflicted for no reason. Schools and pools were closed, playtime among children was forbidden, families were terrified of having their children exposed because no one knew what was causing polio paralysis and what could cure it. 
Just like during the measles outbreak in the 20th century, fear gripped America. These were hard times for families because of the unknowns and no initial cures of these contagious diseases. Notices were put on family doors to inform the outside world that those inside the homes were gripped with disease and quarantined. When individuals did survive they were given certificates but the intention was never to stigmatize the individuals but to inform others because fear so gripped society.
One of the champions leading the fight was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was a polio victim himself. After he died, President Harry Truman picked up Roosevelt’s mantle, calling upon America to remind the public that everyone was together in the fight against polio.
“The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman said during a White House radio broadcast to the nation, “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.” 
Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump’s pandemic coordinator, praised Americans this week for their commitment to changing their behavior to help not only themselves but others. “Full mitigation will be reflected in coming weeks in regard to mortality rates,” she said.
In a moment of optimism, Birx reflected upon Americans’ response. “Today will change how people look at respiratory diseases,” she said. “We are still in awe of the American people’s strength in following through.”
The plans for re-emergence are still being written, and they are certain to be informed by changes in what scientists learn about the coronavirus and potential remedies. But if history is any lesson, patience is going to be a necessary part of the plan.

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White House accuses taxpayer-funded Voice of America of spreading Chinese propaganda

The White House took the extraordinary step of publicly rebuking Voice of America, the government-funded media outlet with a wide foreign audience, accusing it of siding with the Chinese government over the coronavirus pandemic. 
The timing of the attack in an official White House newsletter coincides with the arrival of Mark Meadows, President Trump’s new chief of staff who was famous for his political tactics as founder of the U.S. House Freedom Caucus and has already reshaped the White House communications team. 
“Voice of America spends your money to speak for authoritarian regimes,” reads the headline of an item in Thursday’s “1600 Daily,” an online newsletter and email produced by the White House. “Voice of America is a global news network funded by American taxpayers. It spends about $200 million each year on its mission to ‘tell America’s story’ and ‘present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively’ to people around the globe. Today, however, VOA too often speaks for America’s adversaries—not its citizens.”
Meadows has already swiftly moved to replace White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham and bring in his own bench of communication advisers. The 1600 Daily article, which had no byline, said that VOA “amplified Beijing’s propaganda” by calling China’s Wuhan coronavirus lockdown “a successful ‘model’ copied by much of the world.”
“Even worse, while much of the U.S. media takes its lead from China, VOA went one step further: It created graphics with Communist government statistics to compare China’s Coronavirus death toll to America’s,” the blistering 1600 Daily article continues. “As intelligence experts point out, there is simply no way to verify the accuracy of China’s numbers.”
The 1600 Daily article accused VOA of straying from its founding purpose during World War II: “’VOA will represent America,’ its guiding Charter reads. And for years after its founding during World War II, VOA served that mission by promoting freedom and democracy across the world for audiences who longed for both. Today, VOA is promoting propaganda instead—and your tax dollars are paying for it.”
Besides the 1600 Daily post, Dan Scavino, White House director of social media, tweeted out a VOA video he accused of amplifying “China’s very own propaganda” by showing a celebration of Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus, after that city ended a 76-day lockdown to slow the virus.

VOA Director Amanda Bennett quickly responded to Scavino, posting a five-part thread on Twitter.
“Our team works hard to fact-check and hold authorities and leaders accountable for what they say. We have a whole department dedicated to this effort,” Bennett tweeted. 
“And we call out China for hiding and obfuscating some facts and their lack of transparency in articles like this,” Bennett wrote before linking to a VOA article accusing the Chinese government of lying about when its first coronavirus case was detected, saying that “Scientific reports have said the first cases of what turned out to be the novel coronavirus behind the disease COVID-19 were detected weeks earlier.”
“We believe a healthy democracy means having an #Independent and #FreePress, so we love a good dialogue. Please read more about how we are totally independent here,” Bennett also tweeted, while linking to an article from the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors.

 “All of the networks–Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV & Radio Sawa) – are considered vital, objective news sources and are frequently cited by major media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and CNN, for their high-quality reporting on topics ranging from the tragic self-immolations in Tibet to human rights issues in Iran,” the article states. “This is testament to the quality and range of reporting that our journalists produce.”

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Coronavirus likely came to New York from European travel, not Asia, report

Two new research reports show that the coronavirus was likely spread by European travel and that the contagion began to spread in the state weeks before the first case was confirmed in mid-February. 
The first confirmed U.S. case was in Washington state, but New York, with Manhattan one of world’s biggest tourist destinations, quickly became the epicenter of the pandemic. 
The separate research by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine was first reported by The New York Times. 
The findings appear contrary to the general assumption that the virus came to the U.S. from Asian travelers, considering the virus was first detected in China, in late-December 2019. 
The study suggests that as least some of the European travel was from New Yorkers going back and forth. 
President Trump on Jan. 31 banned most travel from China. Meanwhile, European countries didn’t experience major outbreaks until late-February, after which the president put a travel ban on most of those countries. 
The studies purportedly looked at the genetic material of viruses in thousands of patients.

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Dow Jones gains more than 280 points on Thursday

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 285.8 points higher on Thursday while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq each gained 1.5 percent and 0.8 percent respectively.
While the gains came as the Federal Reserve announced plans to provide as much as $2.3 trillion in loans to support the economy. The announcement was made on the same day the Labor Department reported that about 6.6 million people filed for unemployment during the week that ended April 4.
The Dow has been on an upward trajectory for most of this week, posting a more than 1,600 point gain on Monday and a more than 700 point gain Wednesday, punctuated by a small 26 point decline Tuesday.
Much of the U.S. economy has been crippled amid the coronavirus crisis, but there is some hope that the situation will soon improve.
“Well as you correctly reported the number of deaths on a given day continue to increase,” Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday on Fox News. “You know at the same time, seemingly paradoxically but not, we’re saying that we’re starting to see some glimmers of hope, because the deaths generally lag by a couple of weeks behind what’s fueling the outbreak, namely the number of new cases and the number of hospitalizations.”

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Cuomo: New York can't handle worst-case scenario

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned Thursday that although data suggested the state was “bending the curve,” the state cannot handle the “worst-case scenario” if people begin to ease social distancing rules to slow the spread of the outbreak.
“We can’t handle the worst-case scenarios.  We can’t even handle moderate-case scenarios,” Cuomo said. 
Worst-case scenario models show the state could need between 110,000 and 136,000 beds at the peak of the outbreak. About 18,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state right now, he said.
Officials are seeing positive signs in New York that indicate the outbreak may be slowing, including falling rates of hospitalizations and intensive care admissions. 
But the governor stressed it would be a mistake to interpret the slowing of the outbreak as a sign that people can go back to their normal lives.

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White House task force sounds alarm about African Americans hit hardest by coronavirus

African Americans are disproportionately suffering from the coronavirus, compared to the rest of the U.S. population, raising concerns within the White House task force on the pandemic. 
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that infection rates are similar across U.S. populations, but more African-Americans need Intensive Care Unit help because so many have underlying health conditions.
“Yet again, when you have a situation like the coronavirus, they are suffering disproportionately,” said Fauci, who also called the situation “unacceptable.”
The country’s African-American population has a high rate of diabetes, hypertension and asthma, health conditions that Fauci said are sending people to the ICU and that “often lead to death.”
An analysis by The Washington Post, based on available data and census demographics, found U.S. counties with a majority-black population have three times the coronavirus infection rate and almost six times the rate of deaths, compared to counties in which white residents are in the majority.
The Post analysis also found that in Louisiana roughly 70 percent of the people who have died were black, though African Americans make up 32 percent of the state’s population.
In addition, black residents in Chicago have died at a rate six times that of white residents. 
Dr. Deborah Birx, another member of the White House coronavirus task force, said officials are trying to improve efforts to inform members of black communities about the risks of the virus.
“We don’t want to give the impression that the African American community is more susceptible to the virus,” Brix said Tuesday, echoing what Fauci said. “We don’t have any data that suggests that. What our data suggests is they are more susceptible to more difficult and severe disease and poorer outcomes.”

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White House continues comms shop shakeup, Pentagon spokeswoman moving to West Wing

President Trump on Wednesday announced more changes into his communications shop, with Alyssa Farah joining the White House as director of strategic communications, a move from her current role as press secretary for the Department of Defense.  
The White House also announced that Ben Williamson, currently senior adviser to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, will work as a senior communications adviser. 
Just the News reported Tuesday that White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham will leave her position as President Trump’s chief spokesperson and be replaced by Kayleigh McEnany, who had served as the national press secretary for the Trump 2020 campaign.
Grisham will return to the East Wing of the White House to work for first lady Melania Trump, for whom she worked prior to her present role. Grisham has been in her current position for less than a year, she maintained a lower-profile throughout than her predecessors Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Sean Spicer. She did not hold a press briefing during her tenure in office. 
Trump had recently voiced his displeasure at White House messaging around its coronavirus response, stating that negative media coverage could possibly be partially as a result of failed efforts by the White House. 

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Even some religious freedom advocates say Louisiana pastor was wrong to keep holding church services

Some faith leaders are warning worshipers not to disobey state-issued stay-at-home orders during Holy Week, saying religious freedoms have nothing to do with the shuttering of faith-based gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. 
“What’s happening in this jurisdiction is not an issue of religious persecution or restriction of religious freedom,” Tony Perkins, president of the Christian lobbying organization the Family Research Council, told The Pod’s Honest Truth’s David Brody.
Perkins warned that leaders, such as Pastor Tony Spell, the leader at Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, were hurting, not helping communities, especially during Holy Week and on Easter Day, which is April 12.
Spell defied Louisiana’s ban on gatherings of more than 10, and held services at church for Palm Sunday, in which some 1,220 followers gathered.  He later told CBS News that: “We derive our inalienable rights from God, not any government,” and reportedly told worshipers there was “nothing to fear.”
“This is an issue of endangering the community. Louisiana has one of the highest rates of death, in fact, second only to New York per capita in terms of to the deaths from the COVID virus,” said Perkins.
Other pastors who have defied state orders have met similar fates, including Tampa’s Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who was arrested, but said after his release that he would move future worship online. Pastor Alvin Gwynn Sr., of Baltimore’s Friendship Baptist Church, reportedly said that he still plans to hold in-person Easter services, citing the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of worship and assembly.
Each state has taken a different approach to allowing exemptions for religious services.  Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, Delaware, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia have allowed some exemptions, while states such as Virginia and Maryland are requiring places of worship to limit in-person services to 10 people or less. Other states, such as Illinois, Maine and Kentucky have not labeled church services as essential.
Many Christian religious leaders have taken the lead and issued their own guidelines. The Episcopal Church said in a statement that suspending in-person public worship. The Mormon church announced that it has temporarily suspended all public gatherings worldwide until further notice.  Many Catholic archdioceses, including Washington, D.C., Seattle and Lansing ordered the cancellation of public masses.
Sam Brownback, the president’s special envoy for religious freedom, said Thursday that “religious groups should practice social distancing.” Vice President Mike Pence said this week that churches should not host groups bigger than 10 people.
Perkins said he’s helping organize a “drive-in” worship for Easter services in his Baton Rouge, Louisiana community to help maintain social distancing with a sunrise service at a stadium parking lot.
“And we’re going to bring everybody and then we’re going to broadcast it on a local FM station so people can listen from the comfort of their car on the radio station.”

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Trump taunts Biden for lack of Obama endorsement

President Trump at Wednesday’s coronavirus task force press briefing spoke about the Democratic presidential primary, touching on Sen. Bernie Sanders withdrawal from the race and Joe Biden’s lack of an endorsement from former President Barack Obama.
“It does amaze me that President Obama hasn’t supported sleepy Joe. It just hasn’t happened,” he said. “When is it gonna happen? Why isn’t he? He knows something that you don’t know, that I think I know, but you don’t know.”
Trump predicted that Obama will eventually offer an endorsement, saying that the former president “certainly doesn’t want to see me for four more years” and that “we think a little bit differently.”
Sanders on Wednesday announced the suspension of his campaign and acknowledged that Biden would be the eventual nominee. But Sanders also said that he will remain on the ballot in upcoming states and will continue amassing delegates in order to wield influence at the party’s convention.
“He didn’t really drop out,” Trump remarked, noting Sanders’ decision to keep delegates and collect even more.
“That’s not dropping out, when you keep your delegates and then you want more delegates before you get to the convention, that’s a weird deal going on there,” Trump said.
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The Bernie Sanders lesson: America still isn't keen on socialism

According to the playbook by which presidential candidates win, Bernie Sanders seemed to check most of the boxes.
He had money ($180 million through February), primary state infrastructure, core voter enthusiasm and strong appeal with America’s most populous generation, the millennials.
But in the end he succumbed to Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat who had two prior failed presidential campaigns on his resume, a knack for tongue-tying, half the money ($86 million through February), and some uncomfortable baggage with his conduct among women in the midst of the #MeToo movement.
So how did that happen?
The short answer, experts say, is that the broad democratic socialist vision Sanders advocated – from free tuition to Medicare for All — had appeal among a small, ideological base on the elitist coasts but never resonated in middle America or the South.
Yes, he could win Vermont or California, but failed to carry the Midwest and the Southern States or the cities with big black populations that Biden gobbled up on Super Tuesday and afterwards.
In short, the majority of Americans – including establishment Democrats — aren’t keen on socialism where a big, central government funds a lot of new big things, where felons get to vote, fracking that provides good energy jobs is totally banned and borders are kept mostly open.
“Sen. Sanders’ campaign failed largely because he advocated policies that attract fervent support from a small base but repel most voters,” the famed pollster Scott Rasmussen told me on Wednesday, shortly after Sanders announced his was suspending his campaign and ceding the nomination to Biden.
“A candidate who wants to ban private health insurance and fracking while believing felons should vote from prison is simply unelectable,” he added.
When history looks back, the story of Sanders two colorful but failed campaigns for the White House in 2016 and 2020 is one that may ultimately be judged by another candidate’s record: Hillary Clinton.
Clinton’s high negatives made Sanders an unusually strong anyone-but-Hillary candidate in 2016. But with the former first lady out of the picture and a more affable Biden there for establishment figures to embrace, Sanders’ limitations were exposed.
“Many overestimated his appeal because of his relative success in 2016,” Rasmussen said. “However, much of his 2016 support came from Democrats who wanted anybody but Hillary.”
That said, Sanders has a legacy to carry into the fall election where Biden must battle incumbent President Donald Trump. He managed to force a wounded Biden, while the former VP was falling in the polls, to embrace some of those left-leaning policies. The question for voters in November is will Biden’s embrace become a millstone around his electoral neck.

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Pompeo details historic State Department repatriation efforts

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the State Department carried out an effort “without parallel,” bringing home more than 50,000 Americans stranded in more than 90 countries because of the coronavirus.
Pompeo, the U.S.’s top diplomat, said at a daily White House coronavirus briefing that the State Department’s repatriation task force helped arrange more than 490 flights from around the world and worked with hotels, airlines, medical units and local officials to organize the return of tens of thousands of stranded Americans.
Travel began increasingly difficult as local airports were closed as national governments tried to quarantine their countries against the fast-moving virus. Meanwhile, airlines had massive service cutbacks.
“They’re proud to know that their country wouldn’t leave them stranded,” he said.

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CDC considers easing safety guidelines in some cases of coronavirus exposure, report

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is purportedly considering as early as Wednesday changing its guidelines for self-isolation for the coronavirus. 
The change would make returning to work easier for those exposed to someone with the virus but without symptoms, according to the Associated Press. 
The CDC and the White House coronavirus task force purportedly would jointly announce the change. 
Those meeting the guidelines would also have to test their temperature twice daily and wear a face mask, a person familiar with the proposal under consideration told the wire service. 
The effort is purportedly an effort to get employees of critical jobs back to work and help the U.S. economy recover as soon as possible.

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Sen. Loeffler to make investment changes after criticism over her stock selloff

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler announced Wednesday that she and her husband will make changes to their investments following revelations that she and three other senators sold millions of dollars worth of stock as Congress was being apprised on the growing coronavirus outbreak.
Loeffler and her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange and the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, came under scrutiny for stock trades conducted after Sen. Loeffler attended a coronavirus briefing on Jan. 24. 
The Republican lawmaker says accusations that she sold stocks based on privileged information are nothing more than “baseless attacks.”

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Loeffler, who noted that she donates her congressional salary to charities, pushed back against the allegations of wrongdoing, saying that she and her husband had managed accounts and did not intervene in the handling of the accounts.
“Although Senate ethics rules don’t require it, my husband and I are liquidating our holdings in managed accounts and moving into exchange-traded funds and mutual funds,” she wrote.
“In its hunger to place blame, the media fixated on a fantasy of improper congressional trading, stemming from a Jan. 24 briefing I and other senators attended with health officials,” she wrote. “But based on contemporaneous reporting and public statements by the officials who provided the briefing, there was no material or nonpublic information discussed. All we did was meet public-health leaders and ask them questions about the emerging virus.”
Markets have fallen sharply under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic that has choked out much of the nation’s previously vibrant economy.
The three other senators who sold stocks as the virus threatened the global economy were Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)

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Poll: 65% of American believe FBI likely breaks law when spying on Americans

Nearly two-thirds of American say the FBI likely violates the law when spying on Americans, a stunning statistic from the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen that shows the work ahead that FBI Director Chris Wray faces to re-gain the public’s trust.
“It’s also important to note how widespread this belief has become,” Rasmussen said. “The distrust comes from 66% of men and 64% of women; 72% of Republicans, 62% of Democrats; and 61% of Independents; 72% of black voters, 70% of Hispanics, and 63% of whites.”
The FBI has come under fire after by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who warned that the FBI is failing to follow its own rules when pursuing surveillance warrants in sensitive intelligence and terrorism cases, confirming that problems first exposed in the Russia collusion probe extend to other cases.
“It would be a mistake to conclude that all this is the result of the investigation into President Trump’s campaign,” Rasmussen cautioned. “Distrust in government and government agencies runs deep in America. It’s been nearly half a century since a majority of voters trusted the federal government to do the right thing even most of the time. So, the latest disclosures highlighting abuse of the FISA process might be seen as confirming what voters have long suspected.” 
Though strong majorities from both parties and among independents indicated widespread mistrust of the FBI, Rasmussen pointed out the strong distrust among Republicans in the poll.
“The partisan dynamics are interesting,” he said. “The fact that Republicans are more suspicious than Democrats is almost certainly the result of the FBI’s Russia investigation. In other settings, Republicans would be slightly more trusting of law enforcement.”
Respondents were asked, “How likely is it that the FBI routinely breaks the law and illegally spies on American citizens?” They responded as below:
30% Very Likely
35% Somewhat Likely
18% Not Very Likely
7% Not at All Likely
10% Not Sure
“The question wording was very strong,” Rasmussen said. “We included the phrase ‘routinely breaks the law’ and also ‘illegally spies.’ In so doing, we made clear that we weren’t asking if mistakes were occasionally made or if some rogue agents periodically crossed the line. That 65% of voters find such behavior is likely and routine is a stunning indictment of the FBI.” 
The national survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted April 2-5, 2020 by Rasmussen, a polling veteran. Margin of sampling error: +/- 2.8% for full sample. 
To see the full demographic cross-tabulations for this polling question, click below:

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WHO director to world leaders including Trump: Stop 'politicizing' coronavirus

The director of the World Health Organization sent a message Wednesday to world leaders – “quarantine politicizing COVID.”
The remark by WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus came one day after President Trump said that the White House was “going to look into” cutting off funding to the group. The United States is the single largest contributor to the WHO.
Trump had previously accused the WHO of being “very China centric,” and said the group “really blew it,” on its initial response to the virus.
Ghebreysu told reporters that the United States and China should “come together and fight this dangerous enemy … and that the rest of G-20 should come together to fight it, and the rest of the world should come together to fight it.”
“We will have many body bags in front of us if we don’t behave,” he said. “When there are cracks at [the] national level and global level, that is when the virus succeeds.”
The global organization also issued a message in January that downplayed the severity of the illness and a criticized Trump’s ban on travel from China.

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Trump ally Grassley sends bipartisan letter seeking more details on watchdog's removal

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, a close ally of President Trump, led a bipartisan letter from fellow senators asking the White House on Wednesday to provide a more detailed explanation why Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson was fired.
The senators wrote they believed the firing Friday of Atkinson, the watchdog whose work led to impeachment proceedings, did not provide the required detail or 30-day notice to Congress.
Their letter asked Trump to “provide more detailed reasoning for the removal of Inspector General Atkinson no later than April 13, 2020” and to “provide your views on how the appointment of an acting official prior to the end of the 30-day notice period comports with statutory requirements.” 
In addition to Grassley, the seven other signatories on the letter include two other Republicans and five Democrats: Sen. Gary Peters, (D-Mich.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Grassley, R-Iowa, has been a three-decade ally of inspector generals and their independence inside federal agencies, where they are entrusted with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse and protecting whistleblowers.
He also played an essential role in exposing FBI wrongdoing in the investigation of now-debunked Tromp-Russia collusion allegations.

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Laffer 'perfectly willing to accept the higher risk' of dying from coronavirus to reopen economy

Economist Arthur Laffer will turn 80 in August, and as an older male, he’s in an endangered demographic for catching the coronavirus. Data from New York, Italy and China suggest men are possibly twice as likely to die from coronavirus than women, due to weaker immune systems and more underlying health problems and behaviors like smoking.
Laffer, who advised former President Ronald Reagan, is reportedly under consideration to head a possible new task force aimed at re-opening the U.S. economy as soon as possible after containment of the coronavirus.
Laffer said in a recent interview with Just the News that the government’s widespread shutdown of society to slow the spread of coronavirus was medically necessary and fit within “reasonable limits,” but reopening the economy should be based on calculated, fact-based risk rather than irrational, widespread fear.
“What they should do is try to get the economy back as fast as possible in a medically-safe way and get this pandemic over with,” he said. “Now when you look at it, when you look at the numbers for the pandemic, where are all the deaths? Over half the deaths are 65 and older. We know where the real problems are medically. Should other people be required not to work if they are not at risk?”
Laffer, who earned a Phd. in economics at Stanford University, was an adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump awarded Laffer the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.
“Let me tell you how I feel,” Laffer said. “Now I’m 80. I’ve got six children, 13 grandchildren, and I have four great grandchildren. Really cool people. People I love more than life. I am perfectly willing to accept the higher risk of mortality, of dying, if I can feel better about their economic futures going forward. I do not want to sacrifice their opportunities going forward, just to have me live another week. We have to be very careful about the tradeoffs and make damn sure you don’t ruin the country’s future. That’s what smart people do.”
Laffer acknowledged the pain felt by millions of Americans as businesses, schools, houses of worship and other public venues shuttered in mid-March and are likely to remain closed at least through the end of April. 
“Everyone is suffering from this pandemic, all the way across – in economics, in physical terms, family cohesion,” he said. “Child abuse is way up, suicides are way up. There are all sorts of ways this virus is doing a hell of a lot of damage to our society and to our economy. They have a perfect right, role and responsibility to respond to that pandemic.” 
With staggering unemployment figures mounting, including 6.6 million more new unemployment claims last week, Laffer says the government shouldn’t make one-size-fits all decisions about who should go to work and who shouldn’t since people’s circumstances vary greatly.
“Males have much more likelihood to get the coronavirus and have it be serious than are females – that’s a fact,” he said. “And if these facts are rolling out, you use them to make good decisions. That’s what scientists do. And that’s what the government should do … . You know, you’ve gotta use brains. I do understand keeping 80-year-olds, me, out of work, that I understand totally.”
Laffer is wary of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package adopted last month, worried it could have the opposite of its intended effect and in fact slow down the economy by discouraging workers from re-entering the workforce. 
“It is not compassionate to give away other people’s money,” Laffer said, referring to redistributing money rather than creating economic growth. “Let me just give you the dimensions. That’s a $2.3 trillion stimulus package, we’re running well over a trillion dollar deficit now. Well over, probably a trillion and a half. Let’s say we add the two together, we get $3 trillion. Then they’re planning another $2 trillion one. You add all that together, you got $5 trillion. The U.S. GDP is $20 trillion, let’s say. It’s a little less than that. Five trillion over $20 trillion, 25%. Already our national debt, as a share of GDP is 82%. After this little round of spending within the year, our debt will be 115% of GDP. Which puts us up in the upper echelons of countries with the most debt in the world, that are the slowest growing, the most stagnant countries. Is that what you want?”
Laffer said members of Congress should take a pay cut just as millions of Americans are feeling economic pain as the economy contracts due to coronavirus.
“Look at Congress. What’s happened to their pay?” he said. “This whole big stimulus package, they’ve taken taxpayer money and they’ve given to all sorts of people around as goodies. That’s all they’ve done. Has Congress shown its solidarity with the rest of people and cut their pay by 15%? Have they? Hell no.”
Larry Kudlow, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said Thursday that a decision has yet to be made on whether to create a task force on restarting the economy. 
President Trump and many lawmakers have called for infrastructure spending to be part of any future coronavirus stimulus package, and Laffer thinks the president is correct that America needs some new infrastructure projects. However, he’s worried about how hurried the analysis is to date. 
“I’m not critical of an infrastructure package,” he said. “I am critical of an infrastructure package that is precipitated by a stimulus motive. If you need a new bridge, we sure as heck need to put in a new bridge. But it shouldn’t be dependent upon the state of the economy, up and down coronavirus, or anything like that. It really shouldn’t.”
However, Laffer acknowledges having not researched infrastructure enough to give precise recommendations right now.
“I have not looked at it in a detailed technical way,” he said.
Just 13 percent of registered voters said infrastructure was their top spending priority for a new coronavirus stimulus, according to the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen released Thursday.
Registered voters in the Just the News poll placed “medical research and prevention” (36%) and putting “as money as possible into the pockets of Americans hurt by the downturn” (28%) as their top spending priorities.
Laffer repeated his suggestion he’s frequently made elsewhere – that a payroll tax cut would be a much better approach to encourage businesses to hire and keep employees and for workers to remain employed.
Trump has said repeatedly he wants a payroll tax cut in any future coronavirus stimulus package. Such a cut was proposed by congressional Republicans but blocked by Democrats in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law signed by Trump in March. Democrats have said they supported such a cut a decade ago but did not believe it provided enough impact.
“Frankly, it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s common sense economics,” Laffer said of a payroll tax cut. “I have no bone to pick with Schumer or Pelosi. I have a bone to pick with bad policies.

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India prepares to supply hydroxychloroquine to America during the pandemic

Recent reports suggest that the drug showing the most promise in the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic is hydroxychloroquine. India is currently the largest global manufacturer of the drug, typically used as an anti-malarial. Developed nations rarely produce the drug because of non-existent malaria concerns.
Last week, India decided to add the drug to a list of pharmaceuticals that cannot be exported, as officials in the country figure out how much of the supply they will need for their fight against the virus.
On Tuesday, however, India agreed to lift the ban on the drug, following a request from President Trump for a U.S. supply.
Today, the President tweeted to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, thanking him for his cooperation and willingness to supply the U.S. with the life-saving pharmaceutical.

One initial purpose of the ban was to minimize speculative buying and hoarding of the drug, and ensure that patients and areas of the global population that need treatment are able to receive it.
India is responsible for the manufacturing of about 70% of the world’s hydroxychloroquine, and has a production capacity of 200 million tablets of the drug per month because of its common usage in treating diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The secretary general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance says the the country’s production capacity is able to meet current demand for the drug, and companies are committed to meeting production needs.
The active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) that India requires to produce hydroxychloroquine is made in China, as are roughly 70% of all APIs needed by India to manufacture drugs. This reality has opened up some concerns about the Chinese supply chain during a time when global tensions, particularly between the U.S. and China, are mounting.

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Trump's big choice: Reopen economy with 'big bang' or just less-infected areas

As President Trump strategizes beyond the pandemic, he’s wrestling with whether to open a post-coronavirus economy nationwide with a “big bang” or more gradually with less-infected zones jump-starting the effort.
“We can do it phases, we could go to some areas, which you know, some areas are much less affected than others, but it would be nice to be able to open with a big bang and open up our country– or certainly most of our country–and I think we’re going to do that soon,” Trump said Wednesday evening.
“I would say we’re ahead of schedule. Now you hate to say it too loudly, because all of a sudden things don’t happen. But I think we will be sooner rather than later.” 
Trump said he would not move to re-open the economy without consulting with his medical advisers. “I would rely very heavily on them,” he said. 
Multiple lawmakers, as well as Trump, have spoken favorably about passing an additional coronavirus stimulus package, including one focused on rebuilding infrastructure.
However, just 13 percent of registered voters said infrastructure was their top spending priority for a new coronavirus stimulus, according to the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen set for release Thursday. Voters in the Just the News poll placed “medical research and prevention” (36%) and putting “as money as possible into the pockets of Americans hurt by the downturn” (28%) as their top spending priorities.
Former Ronald Reagan economic adviser Arthur Laffer, a critic of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress and quickly signed into law by Trump in March, is concerned that infrastructure packages and prolonged government payments to citizens and businesses will slow growth. 
Laffer warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that “all this spending will decrease the number of Americans who return quickly to work after the crisis.
“A much simpler and more effective stimulus would be a pro-growth tax cut, such as a suspension of the payroll tax. In addition to boosting take-home pay, it would give 27 million small businesses an incentive to hire rather than fire,” he wrote.
Laffer, whom the president called “a brilliant man,” has spoken multiple times with Trump and his economic advisers. 
“Mr. Trump would be wise to learn the lessons from Barack Obama’s $830 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” Laffer wrote in the Journal. “In the wake of the housing meltdown and financial crisis, Congress passed the largest stimulus-spending package in American history. The economic spark and job creation were supposed to appear almost immediately, as money flowed into ‘shovel ready’ construction projects. Vice President Joe Biden barnstormed around the country in 2010 promising a ‘Summer of Recovery’ that never came.”
Rather than adopting new cash and loan stimulus packages–for infrastructure and other programs–Laffer says a payroll tax cut would do more to jolt the economy back to life. 
“I would love to see a payroll tax cut,” Trump said at a press briefing Tuesday. “And I think, on behalf of the people, it would be quick. Now, it’s a longer term — you know, it’s a longer time, because it’s over a period of a year or whatever you want to make it. But I would love to see a payroll tax cut.  There are many people that would like to see it as a permanent tax cut — payroll tax cut.”
A payroll tax was proposed by congressional Republicans but blocked by Democrats in the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill. Democrats have said they supported such a cut a decade ago but did not believe it provided enough impact.
“You know, I don’t know if maybe they think it’s good politics to stop it,” Trump said. “The Democrats are stopping it, but I think it’s — I think there’s a certain flexibility.  I think it’s something that we should do both for business and the people.
“But this would get money into the hands of small business immediately, money in the hands of people — the workers and people — immediately.  And it would be over an extended period.  And it would be simple to do.  It’s so easy to do.  It’s a great tax cut, and I’d love you to speak to the Democrats, and let’s get it done.”

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Dow surges more than 700 points

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 779.71 points on Wednesday, the same day Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ended his Democratic presidential primary bid – setting up an almost certain Joe Biden vs. President Trump matchup in November.  
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq increased by 3.4 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.
The Dow started the week by posting a more than 1,600 point gain on Monday, but its upward momentum was halted by a 26 point decline on Tuesday before it rose sharply again on Wednesday.
This week’s increases come as the markets have recently faced steep declines amid the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled much of the nation’s economy.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed optimism on Fox News Wednesday.
“Well as you correctly reported the number of deaths on a given day continue to increase,” he said. “You know at the same time, seemingly paradoxically but not, we’re saying that we’re starting to see some glimmers of hope, because the deaths generally lag by a couple of weeks behind what’s fueling the outbreak, namely the number of new cases and the number of hospitalizations.”

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Gov. Cuomo pledges more testing for minority communities

Gov. Cuomo pledges research and testing for minority communities, as new data show Hispanic and black New Yorkers dying at rates that exceed the city’s demographics.
“It always seems the poorest people pay the highest price,” Cuomo said during his daily press briefing Wednesday.
The governor vowed to have researchers delve into data as to the cause, but speculated that minorities often work in industries deemed “essential,” such as public transportation and food, and are often in more densely populated neighborhoods.
Cuomo also announced that 779 people had died from the virus since the last count, marking the state’s highest daily death toll yet.
“If we stop what we are doing, you will see that curve change,” Cuomo said. 

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U.S. planning strategic discussions with Iraq this summer

With a new prime minister being installed inside Iraq, U.S. officials are making plans for a round of talks in Baghdad this summer to help stabilize the war-torn country’s politics and economy.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the diplomatic dialogue this week, days before the expected announcement of a new Iraqi prime minister.
“With the global COVID-19 pandemic raging and plummeting all revenues, threatening an Iraqi economic collapse, it’s important that our two governments work together to stop any reversal of the gains we’ve made in our efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the country,” Pompeo said Tuesday.
The secretary said the “strategic dialogue” will be led by Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale. 
“All strategic issues between our two countries will be on the agenda, including the future presence of the United States forces in that country, and how best to support an independent and sovereign Iraq,” Pompeo said.

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San Bernardino, California orders all residents to wear masks, all religious services moved online

California’s San Bernardino County on Wednesday issued a formal order that everyone must wear a face covering when leaving their home. Approved masks must cover the mouth and nose.
Dr. Erin Gustafson, the California County’s acting Public Health officer, also included in the order that faith-based services must be conducted electronically only.
Curt Hagman, chairman of the Board of Supervisors said: “We understand that this is an important time for Christians around the world and it is natural to want to worship and celebrate with our families. … We can still celebrate this time from the safety of our individual homes while wee help flatten the curve and save lives.”
Wednesday night also marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
San Bernardino now has 530 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 16 deaths that have been associated with the illness.
Any violation of the health officer’s order is a crime punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

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Fauci: World Health Organization boss 'really an outstanding person' done 'very well' on coronavirus

The World Health Organization has landed in President Trump’s crosshairs for its handling of the coronavirus, yet Dr. Tony Fauci, a senior adviser on the White House’s coronavirus task force, has recently praised group’s top leader.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under fire for allegedly failing to warn the world about the speedy, lethal nature of the coronavirus originating in China.
Multiple U.S. lawmakers, as well as Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, have called for Ghebreyesus’s removal. A Change.org petition has garnered nearly 780K petition signers urging Tedros’ ouster. 
“Tedros is really an outstanding person,” Fauci said during the March 25 coronavirus task force briefing. “I’ve known him from the time that he was the minister of Health of Ethiopia. “I mean, obviously, over the years, anyone who says that the WHO has not had problems has not been watching the WHO. But I think, under his leadership, they’ve done very well.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), praised Ghebreyesus’ handling of the coronavirus epidemic. 
“He has been all over this,” Fauci said. “I was on the phone with him a few hours ago leading a WHO call.”
Neither the White House nor NIH returned requests for comment from Just the News.
“The W.H.O. really blew it,” Trump recently tweeted. “For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
A University of Southampton study suggests the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% had China moved to contain the virus three weeks sooner. 
“We will look at ending funding,” Trump said at Tuesday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing. “We give a majority of the money that they get. They really called it wrong. They called it wrong. They really missed the call. They could have called it months earlier, they would have known. They should have known, and they probably did know. So we’ll be looking into that very carefully, and we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold, and we’re going to see. It’s a great thing if it works. But when they call every shot wrong, that’s no good.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said decisions about funding and personnel changes at the World Health Organization should wait until after the heat of the coronavirus pandemic cools.
“This is not the time for retribution, but it is still the time for clarity and transparency,” Pompeo said Wednesday at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing. “We’re still working on this problem set. There’s still data these good people need so that they perform their analysis of how to both develop therapeutics and a vaccine, and to understand where this virus is … It started in China, and so they have that special responsibility to get it right quickly and fast … We’ll leave for another time to evaluate how everyone did in that.”
As doctors in China began to warn about coronavirus spreading, the WHO adopted China’s official position that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.” The WHO congratulated China for “setting a new standard for outbreak response.” 
On February 15th, the WHO claimed China was “slowing the spread to the rest of the world,” and despite serious concerns doubting the data being put out by China, the WHO defended China once again.
“I didn’t see anything that suggested manipulation of numbers,” Ghebreyesus reportedly said.
Global health experts have strongly criticized the WHO’s failure to issue a warning for months during West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, calling it an “egregious failure.”
TIME magazine reported that “Top leaders at the World Health Organization (WHO) have admitted to being ‘ill prepared’ to handle the Ebola outbreak and released a comprehensive list of agency failings as well as suggested reforms they and global policymakers must realize moving forward.”
During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, WHO was accused of inaccurately portraying the situation to member states and potentially costing billions of dollars for wasted vaccines that weren’t used. In 2004, medical experts said the WHO allocated millions of dollars to malaria medicines that were no longer effective against the disease.

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Things you touch at the grocery store that could transmit coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has upended many aspects of daily life, especially the mundane task of food shopping.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is spread mainly from person-to-person through virus particles that are transmitted when someone coughs or sneezes. Currently, there is no evidence of the coronavirus disease being transmitted through food.
But is the virus lurking on food packaging or produce, or even on shelves and other grocery store equipment?  Many grocery stores are implementing new measures such as installing plexiglass shields at cash registers, closing down hot food bars, offering hand sanitizer to customers.
However, it’s more important than ever to implement safe shopping techniques.
Watch the video above to see items that require extra vigilance.
Related stories:
Coronaviruses: How long can they survive on surfaces?
Weather and the coronavirus: Understanding the cycles

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The launch will go on: Amid pandemic, U.S., Russian crew to blast off for space

Undeterred by pandemic, isolation, and an inter-governmental dust-up over an alleged plot to hijack the galaxy, American and Russian space travelers will embark Thursday on a joint mission to live in orbit around Earth. The expedition will launch from the Baikonor Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, April 9, when one astronaut and two cosmonauts commence their journey to the International Space Station.
The crew includes NASA’s Chris Cassidy, along with Roscomos space agency’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. 
First launched in 1998, the International Space Station has hosted 239 people from 19 countries, placing mixed-national crews aboard the orbiting research station, according to NASA. 
Mixed American-Russian crews are common. In recent years, they have weathered an aborted launch and the appearance of a mysterious hole in the side of the spacecraft. The failed launch ended well, with the astronaut-cosmonaut team unharmed and eager to head back to space. The hole incident, which briefly raised the specter of sabotage aboard the ISS, was resolved at least to Russia’s satisfaction (Roscomos officials said they would not tell NASA how the hole was created). 
On Tuesday, the Russian space agency bristled in response to an April 6 White House executive order affirming among other things that the United States can mine the moon and asteroids for mineral resources. Without referencing Russia’s 2014 capture of Crimea from Ukraine, Russian space officials objected that the United States aimed to hijack outer space.
“Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries (on course for) fruitful cooperation,’ said Roscosmos Deputy Director General on International Cooperation Sergey Saveliev in a statement. “The history knows examples of a country starting to seize territories for its own benefit – everyone remembers the outcome.”
The intrigue both past and present is positioned against a background of a viral disease outbreak on Earth.
One currently orbiting astronaut, Expedition 62 flight engineer Jessica Meir, addressed the pandemic last month from space.
“It is very strange and a bit surreal for us to see it all unfold when we’ve been up here for the entire duration of what’s going on down on the ground and it seems that we will be completely going back to a different planet,” Meir said.
Both the American and Russian space agencies have taken steps to stop the virus from spreading aboard the ISS, officials said.
“We already take steps to prevent the crew from bringing illnesses like the cold or flu to the International Space Station,” NASA spokesperson Brandi Dean told Just the News. “All of our crew must stay in quarantine for two weeks before they launch. This ensures that they aren’t sick or incubating an illness when they get to the space station and is called ‘health stabilization.’ ”
This includes not allowing outsiders into Kazakhstan to witness the launch. Astronaut Chris Cassidy, who normally would be able to invite up to 15 people to watch the launch in person, now will march to the launch site without being able to wave goodbye to on-scene family and friends.
“We’re being really super vigilant so that I can remain healthy,” Cassidy said last week in a video interview. “I will have no guests at launch.”
Russia, for its part, enhanced its standard launch-side search-and-rescue military presence to include teams to fend off the coronavirus.
Helicopters, transport aircraft, amphibious vehicles, 150 troops, plus search and rescue equipment, arrived in Baikonour this week, according to the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.
“Upon arrival, all military personnel underwent barrier thermometry, and ground and aviation equipment was treated with disinfectant solutions,” the Ministry said in a statement. “Also, all personnel of the search and rescue group are provided with individual protective equipment and antiseptics.”
The launch takes place mid-day in Kazakhstan, at 4:05 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The flight from Earth via Russian spacecraft will take six hours. The launch will be covered live by NASA Television and the agency’s website. 

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U.S. to block Iran's IMF bailout request

The United States will block Iran’s request to the International Monetary Fund for $5 billion in emergency funding to help fight the coronavirus.
The Trump administration maintains that Tehran has access to a considerable stockpile of billion-dollar accounts that it should use to fight the virus outbreak. U.S. officials predict that if the aid request was approved, Tehran would use the additional funding to offset the damage being done to their economy by U.S. sanctions, or to finance militant attacks in the Middle East.
The pandemic is taking a particularly rough toll on Iran, adding further damage to its economy in the wake sanctions resulting from the administration’s “maximum pressure campaign.”
The U.S. is the biggest contributor to the IMF, giving it a large say in approving requests for aid and bailouts. As a technical matter, IMF member nations could overrule any U.S. desires with a majority vote, but that outcome is unlikely.
According to the State Department, Iran has sufficient funds available to fight the coronavirus outbreak, including billions of dollars stockpiled from oil and gas revenue in its National Development Fund.
State Department officials have also suggested that Tehran might re-allocate money its spending on military operations in Syria and Iraq toward the coronavirus outbreak at home.
During the previous administration, Iran was caught issuing fraudulent invoices for humanitarian spending, which is exempted from much IMF scrutiny, to skirt sanctions.

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Linda Tripp, whistleblower in Clinton-Lewinsky scandal dies at 70

Linda Tripp, who recorded her conversations with Monica Lewinsky about her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton, died Wednesday, according the her family. Trip was 70.
Tripp died after suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Lewinsky tweeted best wishes for Tripp earlier in the day, writing, “no matter the past, upon hearing that linda tripp is very seriously ill, i hope for her recovery. i can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.”
Tripp met Lewinsky at the Pentagon where they both worked after Lewinsky, then 22 years old, left her job at the White House.
Tripp’s daughter Allison Tripp Foley posted on social media Tuesday that her mother was dying.
“My mommy is leaving this earth,” Foley said in a Facebook post since made private. “I don’t know myself if I can survive this heartache. Please pray for a painless process for the strongest woman I will ever know in my entire lifetime.” 

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Coronavirus Update: NYC death toll exceeds 9/11 number, Wuhan reopens

The number of coronavirus deaths in New York City has exceeded the death toll there from the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The number of confirmed, virus-related deaths in the city is now 4,009, compared to 2,753 in the 9/11 attacks.
The city had a one-surge in related deaths of 731, city officials said Tuesday. 
In Wuhan, China, where the pandemic started, officials have relaxed their 76-day stay-at-home ban, allowing those who test negative for the virus to return to work and travel. 
The number of confirmed virus cases worldwide is now 1,446,577, with the related death toll at 83,149.
The U.S. now has 399,9229 reported cases and 12,911 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. 

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Some undocumented immigrants will receive coronavirus stimulus checks

Some undocumented immigrants will receive COVID-19 stimulus checks under the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that President Trump signed into law, Just the News has learned.
In the CARES Act, the IRS sends direct payments of $1,200 to anybody who files a tax return for 2018 or 2019 using a Social Security number, not an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
Many undocumented immigrants use an ITIN in place of a Social Security number to file income tax returns. A group of Democratic lawmakers want to amend the CARES Act so that every illegal immigrant who filed tax returns with an ITIN could receive a $1,200 check but not all illegal immigrants are without a Social Security number.
Some non-citizen immigrants obtain Social Security numbers with certain types of work-eligible U.S. visas. Department of Homeland Security data shows that almost 667,000 immigrants overstayed their visas in 2018. The agency’s 2019 report has not been released yet.
In addition, there is a case now before the Supreme Court dealing with undocumented immigrants’ use of other people’s Social Security numbers to gain work in the U.S.
According to congressional staffers close to the stimulus direct-payment process, any taxpayer who filed a tax return for 2018 and/or 2019 with a “work-eligible” Social Security number will receive a direct $1,200 stimulus payment from the IRS regardless of their current immigration status.
If someone filed taxes in 2018 and/or 2019 under a Social Security number that was originally issued with a U.S. visa application, they would qualify for a COVID-19 stimulus check even if their immigration status is expired and no longer valid at this time, according to a congressional source on the House Ways & Means Committee.
A group of immigration attorneys with offices in multiple cities assisting immigrants with the COVID-19 stimulus said that “an individual’s method of entry into the United States, current immigration status, and other immigration factors are not considered when determining eligibility for a stimulus cash rebate.”
The Senate Finance Committee describes the qualifications for a payment as “all U.S. residents or citizens with adjusted gross income under $75,000 ($112,500 for head of household and $150,000 married), who are not the dependent of another taxpayer and have a work-eligible Social Security number, are eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 married) rebate. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. A typical family of four is eligible for a $3,400 recovery rebate.”
The committee also states that “no action” is required on the part of most taxpayers to receive their payment “since the IRS will use a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return if filed, or their 2018 return if they haven’t filed their 2019 return. This includes many individuals with very low income who file a tax return despite not owing any tax in order to take advantage of the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.”
Committee staffers referred additional questions about the direct payments to the IRS. The Treasury Department and the IRS did not respond to several requests for comment.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told Just the News that there is “no question” that some undocumented will receive stimulus checks.
“Some legal temporary workers who became overstayers use the same Social Security number they got legally because Social Security does not cancel your Social Security number when your visa expires,” he said. “If you overstay, your Social Security number doesn’t turn into a pumpkin. You just keep using it.”
Krikorian said there are a variety of ways certain illegal immigrants would be able to receive checks if they use Social Security numbers to file taxes.
“There’s no system in place that would enable Social Security or IRS to screen out people who shouldn’t be getting these checks,” he said. “You could have been in status for several years and your Social Security number doesn’t expire. Social Security doesn’t check whether you’re still lawfully in the United States.”
Krikorian said he certain that people who are now illegal immigrants are still using Social Security previously issued to them. However, U.S. officials have no idea how many are doing that because officials would have to match Social Security numbers with Department of Homeland Security numbers.
“And Social Security doesn’t want to have anything to do with immigration,” he said.
The IRS expects to start sending out the direct payments by mid-April.

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Wisconsin not expected to declare winner in Biden-Sanders primary until next week

The winner of the Democratic presidential primary in Wisconsin on Tuesday will likely not be declared until at least next week, the result of at least one of several court cases related to the balloting. 
The primary between frontrunner Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders was thrown into uncertainty on the eve of the race when Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order to postpone in-person balloting for two months, after the Republican-controlled legislature said no to his plan. 
However, the state Supreme Court ruled Evers didn’t have the authority to postpone such voting. 
Some polls had long lines of voters, many standing close, amid efforts across the country to limit people from public gatherings. 
The results of the in-person voting in Wisconsin amid the virus could impact how states with upcoming primaries try to address balloting.
The outcome of the race is perhaps of less importance to voters, with Biden, a former vice president, with a likely insurmountable delegate count toward securing the nomination.
Biden has 1,196 delegates, compared to 883 for Sander, a Vermont Independent and democratic-socialist running on the Democratic Party ticket, with 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination.

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California details plan to buy millions of masks

Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday laid out his plan to purchase millions of masks a month amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“All of us are working, in some cases collaboratively, in other cases, across our respective jurisdictions and sometimes against each other in the open market to compete to procure, through a supply chain that is global, more PPE,” he said, speaking at the daily briefing.
Newsom announced Tuesday announced a consortium of nonprofits and acquired technology will provide 200 million medical masks a month for his state and possibly others in the U.S. The state is getting N95 masks, designed to protect against particles in the air, as well as surgical masks, which protect against fluids.
Answering reporters questions Wednesday about whether this procurement move was due to frustrations working with FEMA and the federal government, Newsom say no, and thanked the Trump Administration for its cooperation.
“This is an opportunity for me to thank our federal partners, thank the Administration, the Task Force, FEMA, the incredible work of Tom Fenton and the entire FEMA team, the chain of command, the President of the United States, himself.  We thank them for their collaborative spirit.”
The governor said 442 individuals have now died from the novel coronavirus in the state of California, which represents an 18 percent in the state’s COVID-19 death toll since he last briefed the press on Tuesday.

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U.S. stocks rise modestly as markets open

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 300 points as market hours began Wednesday morning. The S&P 500 was up 1.1%.
U.S. stock indexes were also up in pre-market trading this morning. The overnight session saw renewed volatility with most indexes undulating between losses and gains, as the coronavirus continues to impact the global economy.
Asian markets on Wednesday generally closed with losses, followed by European indexes, which also closed 1%-2% lower.
The Central Bank of France reported its worst quarterly contraction since the aftermath of WWII.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday announced positive news for investors and others — that U.S. virus death tolls are lower than initially thought and that Americans should perhaps expect a turnaround in the numbers after this week.
Oil prices continued climbing, as OPEC+ prepared to meet virtually Thursday to discuss possible production cuts.
China lifted Wuhan out of lockdown on Wednesday. Residents will be allowed to exit the city’s borders, provided they pass inspection via a government app to make sure they are not a risk for contagion.
The European Union has discussed implementing use of a similar app to track the progression of the illness. While China’s app uses the private information of citizens, like medical records, the European Union’s version would focus on respecting the individual privacy rights of people.
Minutes from the March 15 emergency Federal Open Market Committee meeting will be released this afternoon. Investors will gain a better understanding of the Fed’s decision to slash the benchmark interest rate to nearly zero.
Current count has U.S. coronavirus cases hovering at 400,000 and fatalities at 13,000.

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Senate seeks to pass more COVID-19 stimulus for small business by 'unanimous consent or voice vote'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says chamber leaders are looking to pass an additional $250 billion in stimulus funding for small businesses by “unanimous consent or voice vote” on Thursday so each member would not have to travel to Washington to vote in-person due to coronavirus.
The Senate passed the largest stimulus bill in U.S. history known as the CARES Act last month. The House passed the $2.2. trillion bill by a voice vote, which didn’t record each member’s vote.
In the past, McConnell ruled out the idea of changing the Senate rules to allow each senator to vote remotely. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House is not prepared for remote voting at this time.
According to the Senate rules, “a senator may request unanimous consent on the floor to set aside a specified rule of procedure so as to expedite proceedings. If no Senator objects, the Senate permits the action, but if any one senator objects, the request is rejected.” For a voice vote, “the names or numbers of senators voting on each side are not recorded.”
McConnell said that Senate Republicans want any “potential further action” on coronavirus to reflect “the actual needs of our nation, not plucked off preexisting partisan wish lists.”
The Kentucky Republican was referring to provisions of the CARES Act not directly related to the economic impact of COVID-19.
“Even as the CARES Act continues to come online, one such need is already clear: The small-business Paycheck Protection Program needs more funding. This bold legislation from Chairman Marco Rubio, Chairman Susan Collins, Senator Ben Cardin, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen is providing emergency liquidity to Main Street businesses nationwide to keep paychecks coming,” McConnell said Tuesday.
“In just a few days, this program has become overwhelmingly popular. Thanks to the hard work of small businesses and lenders, billions of dollars have already landed and tens of billions more are already in the pipeline. Jobs are literally being saved as we speak,” he added.
McConnell called on Congress to provide “more funding or this crucial program may run dry.” 
“Congress needs to act with speed and total focus to provide more money for this uncontroversial bipartisan program. I will work with Secretary Mnuchin and Leader Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday,” he said.

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President Trump says Boris Johnson's condition is improving

President Trump said Wednesday that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition has improved.
Johnson, who is trying to recover from the coronavirus, was admitted to the hospital Sunday and moved to intensive care on Monday. He was reportedly moved to intensive care because of breathing problems associated with the deadly airborne virus. 
“I just spoke with the representatives of the UK and I think that their great prime minister is doing much better today, or at least better,” President Trump said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing. “But certainly he’s had a tough bout, and he’s still going through a tough time but he seems to be doing better and that’s good.”
The president also had kind words for Johnson, calling him “a very popular prime minister” and saying that, “he’s doing an excellent job. He loves their country he loves our country, so we appreciate everything he’s done and hopefully he’s gonna be OK.”
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Pompeo cools anti-WHO rhetoric for now: 'This is not the time for retribution'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said decisions about funding and personnel changes at the World Health Organization should wait until after the heat of the coronavirus pandemic cools.
“This is not the time for retribution, but it is still the time for clarity and transparency,” Pompeo said Wednesday at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing. “We’re still working on this problem set. There’s still data these good people need so that they perform their analysis of how to both develop therapeutics and a vaccine, and to understand where this virus is … It started in China, and so they have that special responsibility to get it right quickly and fast … We’ll leave for another time to evaluate how everyone did in that.”
Lawmakers, President Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, and hundreds of thousands of petition signers on Change.org have called for WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus to be removed for what the say was his failure to fully alert the world about the deadly, fast-spreading virus that started in China. 
“This is not the time to be doing that kind of change,” Pompeo said when asked if he supported call for Ghebreysus’ resignation. “There’ll be a lot of time to look back and see how the World Health Organization performed. In the meantime, what our task is to preserve and protect the American taxpayers and make sure that our resources don’t go to places that aren’t going to deliver on behalf of the American people and the world, and President Trump and I are determined to do that.”
Ghebreysus told world leaders on Wednesday to “quarantine politicizing COVID.” 
The remark by Ghebreysus came one day after Trump said that the White House was “going to look into” cutting off funding to the group. The United States is the single largest contributor to the WHO.
“At this point, we’re re-evaluating our funding with respect to the World Health Organization,” Pompeo also said Wednesday. “Now this is very consistent with what President Trump said since the beginning of his campaign. Organizations have to work. They have to deliver the outcomes for which they were intended … . With respect to the World Health Organization, here we are. It hasn’t accomplished what it was intended to deliver.”

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China lifts travel ban on Wuhan

China officials on Wednesday ended their lockdown of Wuhan, the city in which the first case of novel coronavirus was detected. The Chinese government sealed off the city of 11 million people in January, in an attempt to limit the disease’s outbreak.
Just past midnight on Wednesday, outbound travel ban in Wuhan was lifted. Residents can now exit the city after presenting the authorities with a government-sanctioned phone app that indicates, based on a variety of personal data, whether they’ve been exposed to the illness recently or are potentially contagious.
Though travel estimates are high, many Wuhan residents will remain at home for the time being. Schools remain closed, and authorities are continuing to suggest residents should stay at home as much as possible.
Still, most everyday life is beginning to return for Wuhan residents.
Families have been spotted walking along the Yangtze River, and older residents have begun re-uniting to play Chinese chess in local parks. Companies have begun calling employees back to the office, and businesses have set up curbside windows so that residents can buy cigarettes, alcohol and snacks without entering physical shops.
Wuhan will now become a test case for what happens when a city infected with the virus reopens. 

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Maryland Governor Hogan creates National Guard strike teams to combat coronavirus in nursing homes

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is forming special strike teams using members of the National Guard to help battle the coronavirus outbreak in nursing homes.
The Republican governor has described the effort as the first of its type in the nation. 
The number of coronavirus cases in the Virginia, Maryland, D.C. area has been rising rapidly.
Maryland is experiencing cluster outbreaks of the virus at 90 nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The special strike teams will provide triage and emergency care, in addition to supplies for overwhelmed nursing facilities.
Nursing homes and similar facilities across the country have been hard by the virus, in part because because of their older population with pre-existing health issues. 
The Trump administration has already issues several recommendations to such facilities and warned those who don’t comply about losing federal money. Among the recommendations are separate quarters for health and sick residents and limiting non-essential people from entering such facilities. 
Hogan, who is the head of the National Governor’s Association, outlined several types of teams. Testing teams will identify individuals who have been in contact with confirmed cases and provide fast testing.
The second type of team will assess the situations on site and decide on equipment and supply needs. These teams will include National Guardsmen.
The final kind of team will be made up of doctors and nurses pulled from major hospital networks. They will be the on site medical triage team, working to stabilize nursing home residents in an effort to avoid unnecessary transports to larger hospitals.
Hogan has successfully urged the Trump administration to designate the Washington-Baltimore corridor a priority area, considering the large number of federal employees who live and work in the geographic region.
The governor has directed the health department to publish all available information pertaining to racial and ethnic demographics surrounding the virus. This includes testing data, hospitalization statistics, and mortality rates.
Maryland currently has just under 5,000 reported cases of the virus, and just over 100 deaths.

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Trump: coronavirus 'social distancing' gives time 'to focus on our personal relationship with God'

As Americans maintain their physical distance to combat coronavirus, President Trump said Wednesday that this Holy Week for Christians and Passover for Jews is a time that Americans can increase their faith.
Trump also said he spoke on the phone earlier in the day with 10,000 American faith leaders to ‘thank them for raising the spirits of our people during these very difficult days.” 
“While we may be physically apart, we can use this time to pray, to reflect and to focus on our personal relationship with God,” Trump said at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing. 
Trump had previously hoped that the “social distancing” imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus would end by this Easter Sunday, April 12.
“We’re going to have many Easters together in churches in the future,” Trump said. “We’re getting closer, you see the numbers, we’re getting much closer to getting our country back to the way it was.”
Trump also said two more countries announced they had coronavirus cases, bringing the number to 184 countries “attacked.”
“But we’ll all win,” he said. “At some point, we’ll all win. We’re going to do it sooner than people think.”

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Top Democrat: Trump wants 'people kissing his ass,’ pandemic ‘hasn’t changed him' one bit

House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Adam Smith says the coronavirus pandemic “hasn’t changed” President Trump “one tiny little bit” and that demoting the inspector general overseeing the $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus funding shows Trump only wants people around him “kissing his ass.”
President Trump on Tuesday removed Glenn Fine as the Pentagon’s acting inspector general.
“He wants people who are loyal to him, who will praise him, first and foremost. That is what he wants in every position that he can control, he’s going to try to expand what he can control,” Smith (Washington Democrat) told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
Smith explained that he understands the president cannot have people “criticizing” his actions, “sniping at” him and “going off message” every day but said Trump “doesn’t want any information he doesn’t like.”
Smith told reporters he thought acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly sounded like he was doing a “half-ass imitation” of Trump when speaking to the crew of the USS Roosevelt about firing Capt. Brett Crozier – a speech that resulted in Modly resigning later in the day. 
Smith, who had called for Modly’s removal, mentioned a recent interview Modly gave about the situation on the USS Roosevelt and described what he viewed as the “most chilling aspect” of it.
“He seemed to be saying that look, ‘I know what I should have done. But what I had to do is I had to think: What would President Trump want me to do? How would I react in a way that would be in keeping with his leadership – and I use the word very loosely — style’ ” Smith said.
“The president — this [coronavirus] crisis hasn’t changed him one tiny little bit. He is approaching it the same way he has approached everything else. What he cares about is people kissing his ass. Whether the job gets done, that’s secondary.”
Addressing the leaked audio of Modly speaking to the crew on the ship, Smith described the remarks as a “half-ass imitation” of Trump giving a speech.
Smith added that there’s no evidence he’s aware of that suggests Trump directly interfered with the Modly and Crozier situation but thinks the “creeping influence of Trump’s approach” is “undermining the decision-making process” at the Department of Defense.
“When I listened to the speech that acting Secretary Modly gave, it was almost like he was trying to do, sort-of, a half-ass imitation of how Donald Trump would have given a speech. It wasn’t what I would have expected from the Thomas Modly that I know, OK? So now he’s trying to figure out, OK, forgive me for this line but I’ll throw it out there, what would the narcissist do?” Smith said, described what Modly might have been thinking.
“Competent capable people are trying to figure out how to exist in a world where they are lead by someone who is neither competent nor capable. And yes, I’m worried that’s causing problems and that was what really troubled me was, what on earth would cause the acting secretary to think that speech was a good idea?”

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House Armed Services chairman calls for Trump to fire Navy secretary

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is calling for acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly to resign for his criticism Monday of ex-Capt. Brett Crozier, who Modly fired last week for his handling of a coronavirus outbreak on his ship.
Modly told the crew of the USS Roosevelt, that their former captain “native and stupid” for having wrote a letter requesting assistance due to coronavirus cases on the ship.
“There is no, no situation where you go to the media, because the media has an agenda and the agenda that they have depends on which part of the political aisle they sit,” Modly said in the leaked audio recording. “And I’m sorry that’s the way the country is now, but that’s the truth and so they use it to divide us. They use it to embarrass the Navy.”
Smith characterized Modley’s decision to remove Crozier “at best an overreaction to the extraordinary steps” that Crozier took to “protect” his crew on the ship. “Acting Secretary Modly’s decision to address the sailors on the Roosevelt and personally attack Captain Crozier shows a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis,” Smith said in a statement. “I no longer have confidence in Acting Secretary Modly’s leadership of the Navy and believe he should be removed from his position.”
Other Democrats including Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have called for Modly to resign or be removed.

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Coronavirus Update: Japan declares state of emergency, New York considers mass graves

More than 175 countries now have confirmed coronavirus cases, with Japan declaring a month-long state of emergency for Tokyo and six other regions to slow the virus spread. 
The worldwide scope of the deadly virus hit home for many around the world Monday with the announcement that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to intensive care as he tries to recover from the infection.
New York remains the epicenter of the virus, with projections that the peak infection date for the state – and elsewhere around the country – will be April 16. 
The number of virus-related deaths is now at 10,938, with 4,786 of them in New York alone. New York city, densely populated with roughly 8.6 million people, has been the hardest hit city in the U.S.
Temporary hospitals have been set up across the city to help treat the sick, with officials considering mass graves to help morgues attend to the hundreds of dead bodies as a result of the virus. However, U.S. officials and health experts have expressed optimism about the rate of infection slowing in New York. They also project that the number of deaths in the country could reach 150,000 to 200,000. 

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Atheists upset that churches, other faith-based organizations can get coronavirus stimulus aid

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan, also known as the CARES Act, provides $350 billion for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, and atheists are upset that religious institutions qualify for loans and grants to fund payroll and other operations.
Churches and other faith-based organizations have seen donations dry up amid a national economic crisis and “social distancing” keeping people from gathering in pews.
“The government cannot directly fund inherently religious activities,” Alison Gil, legal and policy vice president of American Atheists told NPR News. “It can’t spend government tax dollars on prayer, on promoting religion, [or] proselytization. That directly contradicts the establishment clause of the First Amendment. This is the most drastic attack on church-state separation we have ever seen.” 
Yet even though religious organizations do qualify for the loans, there was some initial confusion about whether this was the case. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., was upset that the SBA reportedly was denying churches CARES Act loans.
“I am furious to hear that the SBA is WRONGLY telling churches and lenders that churches and religious nonprofits don’t qualify for the new #COVID19 relief program,” Hawley wrote on Twitter. “This needs to be fixed immediately, or this program will not work.”

“The SBA needs to step up for the sake of the small businesses, churches, synagogues, charities and more who are depending on the SBA relief approved by Congress,” Hawley wrote in a follow-up tweet. “The Administrator needs to fix the disinformation about eligibility and issue clear guidelines immediately.”
Hawley attached a letter he’d sent to to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. Read Hawley’s letter here:

“Section 1102 of the CARES Act is unambiguous on this matter,” Hawley wrote on Thursday to Carranza. “Unaffiliated non-profit entities with under 500 employees that are structured as 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for assistance. This includes churches and other religious non-profits. I urge that you move to immediately correct this misinformation and clarify to your local and regional offices that they must not arbitrarily disqualify churches and other religious non-profits from eligibility under the Paycheck Protection Program.”  
The SBA issued a statement Saturday quoting Carranza to “clarify” that churches and other faith-based organizations would be allowed to apply for relief “without restrictions based on their religious identity or activities.”
“Following the passage of the emergency economic relief assistance, the Administration and Congress acted to ensure that small businesses and non-profits alike have access to critical funds to keep their workers paid and employed,” Carranza said. “Faith-based organizations have always provided critical social services for people in need, and SBA will make clear that these organizations may access this emergency capital.”

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Warning for Biden: former VP near bottom in survey ranking Democratic leadership during coronavirus

In a warning sign for Joe Biden, the former vice president finished near the bottom of a survey of American voters looking at which Democratic leaders have shown leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen.
Just 6% of Americans surveyed ranked Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, as the top Democratic official for coronavirus leadership, compared to 30% for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 12% for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, 9% for Biden’s main primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and 7% for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Governor Cuomo has been front and center on the coronavirus story since New York is the epicenter of the U.S. caseload,” Rasmussen said. “He has worked with — and periodically praised — President Trump. Despite the highly partisan nature of 21st century politics, Cuomo is seen by 30% of voters as the best Democratic leader during the crisis. That includes 35% of Democrats. In fact, Cuomo leads the field among just about every measured demographic group (though Sanders edges him by 2 points among voters under 35).”
Some observers say that Biden is lagging behind Cuomo, who called for a post-partisan response to coronavirus, in part because the former VP was late to shed his strident voice in opposition to President Trump’s leadership in combatting COVID-19 in favor of a more cooperative tone. 
“Biden does best among African-American voters, trailing Cuomo by just four points (20% to 16%) and leading all other contenders,” Rasmussen said. “In most demographic categories, he trails his top competition for the nomination, Senator Sanders. Normally, a political party’s nominee becomes the chief spokesperson for the party, the voice of the party. So far, in the eyes of voters, Biden has failed to fill that role.”
Cuomo’s favorability rating sharply rose to 71% among New Yorkers during the pandemic — an increase of 27% from the prior month. President Trump has even quipped that Cuomo would be a more formidable presidential campaign opponent than Biden.
“The poll highlights one of the reasons some Democrats are pining for Cuomo to become the Democratic nominee,” Rasmussen said. “However, it is hard to see that happening in 2020.”
Respondents were asked: “Which of the following Democratic officials has provided the best leadership in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?” Responses were ranked as below:
30% Governor Andrew Cuomo
12% Governor Gavin Newsom
9% Senator Bernie Sanders
7% House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
6% Former Vice President Joe Biden
2% Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
34% Not Sure
The national survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted April 2-5, 2020 by Rasmussen, a polling veteran. Margin of sampling error: +/- 2.8% for full sample. 
To see the full demographic cross-tabulations for this polling question, click below:

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Senator Rand Paul now tests negative for coronavirus, will now volunteer at hospital

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday that he’s now tested negative for the coronavirus, after contracting it in March, and that he is now volunteering his services at a hospital.
“I have started volunteering at a local hospital to assist those in my community who are in need of medical help, including coronavirus patients,” the senator and ophthalmologist wrote in a tweet that included a picture of him wearing a white doctor’s coat and sporting a three-day beard. 

Paul, a Republican, tested positive last month despite being asymptomatic. He is one of several members of Congress who have tested positive for the virus. 

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Harlem Hospital nurses protest over lack of protective gear

Dozens of health care workers rallied outside Harlem Hospital in New York City on Monday, demanding better protection from COVID-19.
“This isn’t a sob story. This is not a story about desperation,” said Sarah Dowd, a registered nurse at the hospital.  “This is a story about the fight for our lives.”
Standing six feet from each other outside the municipal hospital, nurses accused hospital management of limiting their access to personal protective equipment, including N95 masks. The group outlined other demands, including longer sick time for health care workers and adequate staffing, including respiratory therapists, technicians and social workers.
“Patients before profits,” read a sign.
“Who will care for you when we are dead?” said another.

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Small government governors steadfast on not issuing stay-at-home orders

Despite calls for action to the contrary, President Trump has resisted issuing a nationwide shelter-in-place order, stating repeatedly that he prefers to put such decisions into the hands of governors.
As of last week, about 90% of the U.S. population was under some type of state- or city-mandated stay-at-home order, but nine states have issued no such order.
Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming are all holding out on shutting down completely, as residents take it upon themselves to be careful about spreading the novel coronavirus.
None of the states resisting shelter-in-place orders are considered hotbeds for the infectious disease. All are governed by Republicans, who, to some degree campaigned on belief in small government.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem spoke last week about her state’s response to the pandemic.
“The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety,” she said. “They’re free to exercise their rights to work, to worship and to play. Or to even stay at home, or to conduct social distancing.”
Noem has also tried to draw a distinction between her state and geographic locations being hit hard by the virus.
“South Dakota is not New York City,” she said. “t’s so important not to turn on the news and look at NYC and think that that’s what Lemmon, South Dakota, is going to face in a month, it’s absolutely nor true.”
Noem has also been critical politicians who act as though the pandemic is hitting all states equally.
“The calls to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to this problem is herd mentality, not leadership,” the governor said. 
Supporters of some states not having stay-at-home orders argue they’re holding up the U.S. economy, which has largely, otherwise shuttered. Another argument is several of the states are agriculture based, helping keep the U.S. food supply running.
Nevertheless, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams this past weekend asked states without a 30-day, shelter-in-place plan to consider a 7-day order. 
“Ninety percent of Americans are doing their part, even in the states where they haven’t had a shelter-in-place,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But If you can’t give us 30 days, governors, give us a week, give us what you can so that we don’t overwhelm our health care systems over this next week, and then let’s reassess.” 
Though none of the governors has yet to change course, most businesses in their states have modified their business plans to observe social distancing.
Restaurants have largely converted themselves to take-out and drive-through only. Childcare centers that remain open are only supervising the children of essential workers. Car dealerships are requiring their employees to remain six feet away from customers.
Precautions are being taken without direct state intervention. An end date for the pandemic is not yet in site, with that in mind, these governors are attempting to ensure that life for the residents of their states remains cautious but tenable for the foreseeable future.

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Federal appeals court allows Texas to block most abortion procedures amid coronavirus pandemic

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Texas can block most abortion procedures amid the coronavirus crisis.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last month issued an executive order blocking non-essential medical procedures in an effort to save hospital space and needed supplies for health care workers amid the pandemic.
The order applied to a a variety of procedures, including abortions “not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother,” according to state Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday issued a 2-1 decision upholding the abortion restrictions.
The case could continue on to the Supreme Court, or those challenging the Texas order could seek for the appeals court to reevaluate the case with more judges involved.

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Trump looks to freeze U.S. funding for World Health Organization for its coronavirus actions

President Trump said the United States would consider putting a freeze on taxpayer funds going to the World Health Organization (WHO), saying Tuesday that the organization misled Americans about the threat posed by the coronavirus.
“We will look at ending funding,” Trump said at a daily White House coronavirus task force briefing. “We give a majority of the money that they get. They really called it wrong. They called it wrong. They really missed the call. They could have called it months earlier, they would have known. They should have known, and they probably did know. So we’ll be looking into that very carefully, and we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold, and we’re going to see. It’s a great thing if it works. But when they call every shot wrong, that’s no good.”
Trump said that the WHO had a track record of being too “China centric.”
“If you look back over the years, they’ve very much, everything seems to very biased toward China,” he said. “That’s not right.”
“The W.H.O. really blew it,” Trump tweeted earlier today. “For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
The WHO’s ties to China have come under scrutiny by The Wall Street Journal and others.
“Taiwanese officials warned WHO on Dec. 31 that they had seen evidence that the virus could be transmitted human-to-human,” the Journal’s editorial board wrote. “But the agency, bowing to Beijing, doesn’t have a normal relationship with Taiwan.
On Jan. 14 WHO tweeted: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.’ The agency took another week to reverse that misinformation … China’s influence over WHO has been organized and consistent, whereas the U.S. response has been haphazard. Washington needs a quarterback to lead the fight against Chinese dominance at WHO and other international organizations.” 

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Navy Secretary issues apology, following incendiary comments aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt

Just hours after harshly worded comments from acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly were leaked to the press, the Naval leader issued an apology to ex-Capt. Brett Crozier and the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Modly’s comments were reportedly broadcast over the ship’s speaker system, addressing the firing of Crozier following a leaked letter he had written about the ship’s struggle with a coronavirus outbreak.
Modly had initially said that Crozier’s actions were either “naive” or “stupid,” or a deliberate plot to cause a media frenzy over conditions on the ship.
The head of the Navy clarified, “Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid … I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming emailing with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship.”
“I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused,” Modly also said in his apology.

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McConnell planning on Thursday vote for additional aid to small businesses

Despite most of the Senate being away from Washington, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is attempting to prepare a bill for an additional $250 billion to help small businesses across the country. 
“It is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry,” McConnell said Tuesday. “That cannot happen.”
The $2.2 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed last month included $350 billion for small business relief under the Paycheck Protection Program.
The bill may be brought to the floor as soon as Thursday.
Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, chairman of the Small Business Committee, estimated that the additional package will cost $200 billion to $250 billion.
There are already talks in Washington about a fourth stimulus package focused on a variety of issues including the health care system and American infrastructure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the phase four bill will “easily” top $1 trillion.
President Trump as recently as Monday expressed interest in infrastructure-related legislation. 

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Trump suggests funding restrictions to WHO, calling it too China-centric

President Donald Trump suggested he may restrict funding to the World Health Organization on Tuesday, accusing it of being too focused on China and issuing bad advice during the coronavirus outbreak.
“We‘re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we‘re going to see,“ Trump said at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. However, he didn’t confirm the funding cut to the United Nations organization, after being pushed by reporters.  “I mean, I‘m not saying I‘m going to do it, but we are going to look at it,”
Trump didn’t elaborate on what he believes the organization is doing wrong, however he has in the past been critical of the WHO for contracting the travel ban from China and Europe. “They’ve been wrong about a lot of things,” Trump said. “They seem very China centric.”
Earlier Tuesday, the president sent a similar tweet.

The U.S. is the single largest contributor to the WHO.

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'Violent, ruthless' al-Shabaab leader killed by U.S. strike in Somalia

American military forces killed a key al-Shabaab terror group leader in an airstrike in Somalia last week, U.S. Africa Command said Tuesday.
The leader, Yusuf Jiis, was one of three enemy fighters killed in a joint, April 2 strike with the Federal Government of Somalia. The strike took place near Bush Madina, about 135 miles west of the capital city of Mogadishu.
Jiis was a foundational member of al-Shabaab and held key positions within the group, according to AFRICOM.
“This individual was a key leader in the al-Shabaab organization,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who leads the command. “He was violent, ruthless, and responsible for the loss of many innocent lives. His removal makes Somalia and neighboring countries safer.”     
Another AFRICOM official, Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, said that the terrorist, fundamentalist jihadi group continues to present a significant threat to peace in the region.
“Al-Shabaab remains a disease in Somalia and is an indiscriminate killer of innocent people and their only desire is to brutalize populations inside Somalia and outside of Somalia,” said Gayler, the AFRICOM director of operations. “Putting pressure on this network helps contain their ambition and desire to cause harm and destruction.”
“Al Shabaab is the largest and most violent of al Qaeda’s branches worldwide,” Townsend said earlier this year at the African Land Forces Summit in Ethiopia. “They have attacked innocent civilians throughout the region and have a desire to attack Americans and U.S. interests in the world. It’s our job to prevent that.”
The missions against al-Shabaab continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic, AFRICOM leaders said.
“While we might like to pause our operations in Somalia because of the Coronavirus, the leaders of al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and ISIS have announced that they see this crisis as an opportunity to further their terrorist agenda so we will continue to stand with and support our African partners,” Townsend said.                 
Roughly 500 American troops are now in Somalia. Among them are special operations troops who train the Danab Brigade of Somalia’s special forces. Others launch the air strikes.
“American air support is key,” Somalia’s ambassador to the United States, Ali Ahmed, recently said. “The drone attacks have increased under (President) Trump.”

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Pence praises food industry workers, exhorts them to continue working

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday praised workers producing and distributing the country’s food supply during the coronavirus outbreak, but also urged them to continue to “show up and do your job,” amid some reports of absenteeism. 
“It’s been these heroic Americans, from the farm to the fork, that have made it possible for Americans to have one less worry, and they are truly inspiring heroes,” the vice president said at a daily White House coronavirus task force briefing.
Pence said he heard from the industry leaders earlier in day about some plants cutting capacity as a result of workers having concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus. And he vowed the administration will continue to work with those leaders to improve worker safety amid the pandemic. 
“Some plants have actually been forced to close temporarily,” he said, without specifying those to which he was referring. 
However, he mentioned earlier in his remarks that he had spoken to “some of the most prominent CEOs” of the country’s meat and grain industries including those at Tyson Foods and Hormel.
“You are giving a great service to the people of the United States of America,” Pence also said. “And we need you to continue as a part of what we call our critical infrastructure to show up and do your job and know that we’re gonna continue to work tirelessly in working with all of your companies to make sure that that workplace is safe.”
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N.J. Gov. Murphy further tightens restrictions on day of highest-ever coronavirus deaths

Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday he’s extending New Jersey’s coronavirus public-health emergency by 30 days.
Murphy, speaking at a daily COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, said that he ordered all state and county parks closed and extended the closure of all public schools “indefinitely.”
“We want to make sure this continues our current footing,” Murphy said.
New Jersey — a state of 9 million residents — now has at least 44,416 cases and at least 1,232 deaths, Murphy announced.
New Jersey has the second highest COVID-19 cases, after New York and more than all but eight countries. Federal officials have identified New Jersey as a coronavirus “hotspot” in America.

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You Vote: What should President Trump do about the World Health Organization?

President Trump on Tuesday suggested it may be time for the United States to freeze its funding for the World Health Organization, suggesting it may favor China over America.
The U.S. is the largest donor to the global health organization, which has been roundly criticized for a weak response to the current pandemic.
Here is your chance to weigh in on what Trump should do:

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Wisconsin voters go the polls Tuesday in Biden, Sanders primary, after dramatic day of legal moves

Polls are open Tuesday for the Wisconsin presidential primary, following a dramatic day in which the governor and the country’s highest court intervened as a result of the coronavirus. 
Voters will pick between Democratic candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and front-running Joe Biden, the former vice president who has a seemingly insurmountable delegate-count lead.
The race for the Democratic presidential nomination has in recent weeks and months faded from the national attention, as the fatal coronavirus sweeps across the country and Americans stay indoors trying to slow the spread and largely focus on other news like the virus death tolls and whether their city might be the next hotspot. 
On Monday, Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tried with an executive order to postpone in-person voting by two months – as a result of stay-at-home mandates. But within hours, the state Supreme Court ruled Evers does not possess the authority to delay such voting, so the state’s primary will still be held on Tuesday. 
The ruling was followed by the Supreme issuing a 5-4 ruling that Wisconsin cannot have extended absentee voting. The decision overturns a U.S. district judge’s ruling that added six days to absentee voting for the state.
Biden leads Sanders in the officials delegate count 1,196 to 883, in the race to 1,991 to win the nomination at the party convention in Milwaukee, which has been postponed from mid-July to August 17.

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Trump said he had 'no role' in acting Navy Secretary resigning

President Trump said Tuesday that he had no part in the resignation of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who stepped down after he fired, then public scolded a warship commander who alerted military brass of a coronavirus outbreak on his craft. 
“I had no role in that,” Trump said at a daily White House coronavirus task force briefing. “He didn’t have to resign. I wouldn’t have asked him to.”
The president suggested Modly resign earlier Tuesday to end a controversy hurting the country. 
The ship commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, of the USS Roosevelt, informed the Navy officials about the outbreak in a letter that he purportedly let get into the hands of the media.
Moldy last week fired Crozier, then fueled the controversy Monday with a speech to the Roosevelt crew in which he said Crozier was either “too naive” or “too stupid” to command a warship. 
Trump again on Tuesday praised Crozier but made clear that the letter – and allowing it to be made public – were mistakes. 
“The whole thing was very unfortunate,” the president said. “The captain didn’t have to write a letter. He didn’t have to be Ernest Hemingway. He made a mistake. He had a bad day.”

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Cuomo reports New York has its largest one-day increase in deaths since pandemic

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday the state saw it largest daily increase in coronavirus deaths — the largest single-day increase in deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic.
But there are signs the outbreak is slowing. 
He reports another 731 coronavirus deaths in New York, and comes even as the three-day average of hospitalizations and intensive care admissions are dropping, Cuomo said.
“Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a brother, is a sister. So, a lot of pain again today,” he said at a press conference in Albany.
In total, more than 5,400 New Yorkers have died from the virus. In all, there have been more than 138,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the state.

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Songwriter John Prine dies from coronavirus infection at age 73

John Prine, the gravely voiced singer with a generational touch for songwriting, died Tuesday from complications from the coronavirus. He was 73.
Prine entered the hospital in his adopted hometown of Nashville on March 26 due to his coronavirus symptoms, his family announced. 
His wife Fiona Prine tweeted on March 20 that she had the virus and she later announced on March 30 that she had recovered.
Prine rose from the 1970s folks music scene in Chicago to become one of the country’s most revered songwriters in Nashville, a musical storyteller often compared to Mark Twain. Over the years his hit songs were covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, Bonnie Rait and the Everly Brothers
Though he suffered from cancer and lost a lung to illness, he continued to perform regularly from New Year’s Eve at the Grand Ole Opry to festivals like Bonaroo. Earlier this year. the Recording Academy of Music Artists awarded him a lifetime-achievement award.
Prine’s ability to tell a story that connected with everyday Americans won him praise far and wide over five decades. 
“If God’s got a favorite songwriter, I think it’s John Prine,” Kris Kristofferson declared in 2003 when Prine was inducted into the Nasville songwriters’ hall of fame.
In addition to his wife, Prine is survived by two sons, Tommy and Jack; stepson Jody Whelan; and his brothers, David and Billy, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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The pandemic ‘sugar pill’ hospital executives sold the Trump administration in 2018

As a new flu season was approaching in fall 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general issued a report telling the Trump administration there was good news on the pandemic front: Long-struggling hospitals had fortified their preparedness for an infectious disease outbreak.
Just a few short years after 71% of American hospital executives warned they were ill-prepared for a disease outbreak like the 2014 Ebola virus, 86% were reporting they were prepared and ready, the department’s inspector general declared.
The report boasted: “Hospital actions to improve preparedness included updating emergency plans, training staff to care for patients with EIDs (emerging infectious disease), purchasing additional supplies, and conducting EID-focused drills. Hospitals also used a wide range of resources provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.”
As for readiness, the report added, “administrators from only 14% of hospitals reported their facilities were still unprepared for emerging infectious disease (EID) threats such as Ebola.”
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic exposed that 2018 expression of confidence as grossly misplaced, laying bare a U.S. hospital system that did not stockpile adequate supplies, did not calculate enough ICU beds or ventilators or develop triage strategies for staffing for an outbreak of a virus that quickly spread across a mass population.
“The survey was, in hindsight, a sugar pill that simply told HHS what we wanted to hear without substantially changing the equation of resources and strategies needed to respond to a mass infection,” said a U.S. official involved in the 2018 review. The official was not authorized to speak to the press and agreed to an interview only on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, the same office of HHS inspector general issued a new report from the frontlines of the COVID-19 epidemic painting a drastically different portrait of American hospitals scrambling for supplies they did not stockpile and distressed to the point of breaking.
The new report relays stories of respirator masks that were outdated or ruined by dry rot being distributed from stockpiles, and hospital executives frantically outbidding each other to find dwindling supplies on the open market.
The report quotes hospital executives as saying they were struggling with “widespread shortages” of protective gear for doctors and nurses, unable “to maintain adequate staffing levels,” and that “shortages of critical supplies, materials, and logistic support that accompany more beds affected hospitals’ ability to care for patients.”
The contrasts in reports issued just 18 months apart confirm the obvious: Like the federal bureaucracy that mismanaged early parts of the pandemic such as virus testing and failed to resupply respirators from the national stockpile after a 2009 swine flu pandemic, hospital bureaucracies were ill-prepared for the outbreak and provided far too rosy an assessment beforehand.
The problems, experts say, were exacerbated by the speed and intensity with which COVID-19 swept the country, particularly in New York.
“Hospitals all had pandemic preparations rehearsed, but no attempt of preparedness would have prepared them for a pandemic of this magnitude,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease and preventive medicine expert at Vanderbilt University.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has already promised hearings after the virus threat subsides into how America got so much wrong after spending tens of billions of dollars to prepare for a disease outbreak. The goal, Johnson said, was not to place blame but to fix the system to avoid a repeat.
Former congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who during two decades in Congress oversaw several major oversight investigations, predicted Tuesday what the post-action probes will likely find: Bureaucracy simply accepted a pandemic was inevitable.
“Don’t let a domestic bureaucracy rely on a global bureaucracy that has essentially given up,” Issa told Just the News in an interview on the John Solomon Reports podcast.

The report from October 2018 underscores what experts have opined: that hospitals increasingly owned by mega-chains and worried about bottom lines weren’t willing or able to both stockpile and prepare for occasional pandemics and still keep profits healthy. So they chose the latter.
“Nearly all hospital administrators (95 percent) reported that their facilities had too many other obligations to afford substantial time on EID preparedness in the absence of a current threat,” the report warned.
“The financial cost of preparedness,” it added, “can also divert needed resources from other important hospital efforts. Administrators noted that many of the specialized protective items, such as air-purifying respirators, were not only costly but also expired after a given date, meaning that regulations require hospitals to discard them. … Another hospital official commented on the difficulty of “budgeting funds for the ‘what ifs’ when there is only so much money available and there are other priorities you know will happen.”
Beyond profits and competing priorities, hospital administrators were aware of supply chain problems that could emerge in a crisis that they failed to fix before 2020.
“Administrators found that vendors in their communities with the proper credentials and capability often contracted with more hospitals than they could actually service if multiple hospitals were to require services at the same time,” the 2018 report flagged.
Closing such gaps will be essential to the next pandemic plan. The reason was made clear in one quote from a hospital administrator that was highlighted in the 2018 report about the culture of medicine when practiced on tight profit margins with competing demands.
“We deal with whatever is the ‘hot topic’ of the day, and nothing can stay on top of list ongoing,” the administrator declared.

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Bias Watch: CNN's Jake Tapper retweets comment calling Trump '100% insane'

CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Tuesday retweeted a tweet that described President Trump as “100% insane.”
Tapper retweeted George Conway, the outspoken anti-Trump husband of Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, who was responding to a post from Mother Jones Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery.
“Either nobody in the Trump administration has the balls to tell Trump the truth or he is 100% insane. There’s really not a lot of middle ground,” Jeffery tweeted.
“He’s 100% insane, and nobody in the administration has the balls to tell him that,” Conway responded.
When Tapper retweeted Conway’s remark, he described it as a “Noteworthy comment on folks in the administration from a Trump critic who knows a lot of them.”

Tapper later defended his decision to share Conway’s post after George Washington University Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley said that Tapper’s retweet “further undermines the media” by confirming some people’s view that the media is biased against President Trump.
“I RTed Conway, a conservative attorney and Trump critic, because he wrote that no one in the administration has the courage to stand up to the president which seems newsworthy given how many people in the administration he knows,” Tapper explained, adding that retweets do not automatically indicate an endorsement of the content being retweeted.

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White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham to leave post: report

White House press Secretary Stephanie Grisham will reportedly leave her position as President Trump’s chief spokesperson.
Grisham will reportedly return to the East Wing of the White House to work for first lady Melania Trump, for whom she worked prior to her present role, according to Politico.
Grisham has been in her current position for less than a year, she maintained a lower-profile throughout than her predecessors Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Sean Spicer. She did not hold a press briefing during her tenure in office. 
President Trump’s new Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is fielding several candidates for the position. Top contenders reportedly include Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for the Trump 2020 campaign, and Alyssa Farah, the current spokeswoman for the Department of Defense.

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