By Robert A. Vella
U.S. stock markets dropped sharply for the third consecutive day amid growing fears that the coronavirus pandemic will trigger an economic recession. The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its largest single day point loss in history (although not its biggest percentage loss). In response to the developing crisis, President Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead his administration’s messaging strategy in a vain attempt to conceal scientific information about the outbreak by silencing the federal government’s medical professionals.
Aside from the fact that Pence is a devout Trump loyalist who only follows orders, he also has a terrible record in public health emergencies. As Indiana governor in 2015, he opposed a clean needle exchange program for intravenous drug users because he thought it would encourage such behavior. Consequently, the state experienced its worst AIDS outbreak ever (see: Pence criticized for response to HIV outbreak as Indiana governor).
Trump’s appointment of Pence is also a political slap-in-the-face to Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alexander Azar who apparently wasn’t aggressive enough in keeping government health experts quiet.
Reports from inside the White House conveyed Trump’s great anxiety about how an economic downturn would damage his reelection chances.
Here are today’s news stories including another fascinating and informative Nova documentary which explores the purpose and importance of sleep.
Stocks ended sharply lower after a volatile session Thursday as traders worried that the coronavirus might be spreading in the U.S. A slew of corporate and analyst warnings on the virus also dragged down the major averages.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 1,190 points, or 4.4%. The S&P 500 also plunged 4.4%, while the Nasdaq Composite sank 4.6%.
Those losses put the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq in correction territory, down more than 10% from their record closes.
The Dow and S&P 500 are also on pace for their worst weekly performance since 2008. Through Thursday’s close, the Dow was down more than 11% week to date while the S&P 500 had lost 10.8%.
WASHINGTON — The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach.
President Trump announced Wednesday evening that Mr. Pence would coordinate the government’s response to the public health threat even as he played down the immediate danger from the virus that is spreading rapidly across the globe. Mr. Pence was scheduled to lead a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force on Thursday.
The vice president’s first move appeared to be aimed at preventing the kind of contradictory statements from White House officials and top government health officials that have plagued the administration’s response. Even during his news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Trump rejected the assessment from a top health official that it was inevitable that the coronavirus would spread more broadly inside the United States.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.
Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint.
The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, who is a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS.
The whistleblower is seeking federal protection because she alleges she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated.
The Trump administration will pay for the coronavirus response in part by cutting funds from other health programs, including one that pays for heating and cooling assistance for the poor.
Of the $136 million the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to transfer from other health programs to bolster the coronavirus response, $37 million will come from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, according to a notice sent to Congress Tuesday night by the agency and obtained by The Hill.
HHS will make several other transfers, including $63 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $4.9 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which funds mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention.
The Aging and Disability Services Programs will lose $4.2 million.
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Two state policies that stopped some refugees and children of immigrants from getting driver’s licenses in Ohio have been struck down by a federal judge.
The separate rulings will affect an estimated 4,000 people in Ohio, most of them teenagers who are U.S. citizens and were blocked from getting driver’s licenses because of the immigration status of their parents, said civil rights groups behind the lawsuits.
The organizations that challenged the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ policies said both were discriminatory because they denied licenses or state identification cards to people who are lawfully living in the U.S.
Watch PBS Nova documentary: Mysteries of Sleep – Why do we sleep? And what does sleep have to do with memory, trauma, and our emotions?
From fruit flies to whales, virtually every animal sleeps. But why? Why do we need to spend nearly a third of our lives in such a defenseless state? Scientists are peering more deeply into the sleeping brain than ever before, discovering just how powerful sleep can be, playing a role in everything from memory retention and emotional regulation to removing waste from our brains. So why are we getting so little of it? (Premiered February 26, 2020)