By Robert A. Vella
The U.S. has suffered its second day in a row of record new COVID-19 infections with the southern, southwestern, and western states reaching crisis levels following weeks of easing social restrictions intended to restart the nation’s collapsed economy. Younger people are now being seriously impacted by the contagion, hospitals are reaching or have reached their capacity, businesses are re-implementing shutdown operations, local officials are once again closing bars and restaurants, and even Republican governors are resorting to mandating safety protocols and other restrictions.
At the federal level, medical experts are desperately trying to mobilize the government’s response to the pandemic despite continuing interference from President Trump and his lackeys. Today, Vice President Mike Pence led his “coronavirus task force” to a press conference held not at the White House but at HHS headquarters. Inauspiciously, Trump did not attend. However, Trump did file a new briefing with the U.S. Supreme Court in another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act which, if successful, would deprive millions of Americans of healthcare coverage at the very time they need it most. Also, Trump got caught admitting yesterday that he wants to reduce COVID-19 testing in order to conceal the scale of the crisis; and, he is retaliating against his niece Mary for a tell-all book scheduled to be released next month.
Meanwhile, The New York Times has published the most detailed account yet of Attorney General William Barr‘s systematic corruption of the DOJ to obstruct justice on Trump’s behalf. In fact, he did so from the very moment he took office which is raising suspicions that that was his intent all along.
The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan police reform bill yesterday which could be so effective that the GOP leadership will undoubtedly try to block it in the Senate. Finally, an illuminating analytical report by FiveThiryEight explains why available statistics are grossly inadequate to quantify the obvious problem of racial injustice in law enforcement.
The United States on Thursday reported more than 40,000 new coronavirus cases, a record total for the second straight day, as a nationwide sense of urgency grew and caseloads soared in Southern and Western states that were far removed from the worst early outbreaks.
In an apparent sign of that urgency, White House officials said that the coronavirus task force planned to reconvene on Friday afternoon for its first briefing in nearly two months. The last briefing took place on April 27.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Friday that the White House coronavirus task force is “seriously considering” pool testing for Covid-19 and acknowledged to The Washington Post that the Trump administration’s current testing strategy has proven inadequate.
The proposal is still in the discussion stage and is not expected to be announced at the task force briefing later on Friday, Fauci told CNN.
WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) – Government experts believe more than 20 million Americans could have contracted the coronavirus, 10 times more than official counts, indicating many people without symptoms have or have had the disease, senior administration officials said.
The estimate, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based on serology testing used to determine the presence of antibodies that show whether an individual has had the disease, the officials said.
The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late on Thursday to overturn the Affordable Care Act, telling the court that “the entire ACA must fall.” The administration’s argument comes as hundreds of thousands of Americans have turned to the government program for health care as they’ve lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded to the brief by saying there is “no moral excuse for the Trump Administration’s disastrous efforts to take away Americans’ health care.” Dismantling the ACA would leave more than 23 million people without healthcare plans, according to a recent analysis by the liberal-leaning think tank Center for American Progress.
“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Pelosi, who on Wednesday filed a bill to expand the ACA, said in a statement.
President Donald Trump on Thursday said he had “sarcastically” claimed that a decrease in coronavirus testing would lower U.S. infection rates, adding a new twist to the weeklong scramble by the White House to clarify the president’s comments on virus testing.
“I don’t kid,” Trump said when pressed by reporters on Tuesday. “Let me make it clear.”
“If we didn’t do testing, we would have no cases,” Trump said at the town hall on Thursday in Wisconsin, echoing statements he has made over the last week on Twitter.
Now her silence could be coming to an end. Her book about her uncle — “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” — is slated to be published next month. The book is so potentially explosive that the Trump family is seeking to block publication, citing a confidentiality agreement that Mary Trump signed as part of a settlement about her inheritance. Mary Trump’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous Jr., said the president is trying to “suppress a book that will discuss matters of utmost public importance.”
The publisher has not revealed specifics, and Mary Trump, 55, declined an interview request. But clues to her dark view of her uncle can be seen in lawsuits, and interviews with former colleagues and teachers, academic papers and a series of now-deleted tweets, including one that said her uncle’s election was the “worst night of my life.”
Shortly after he became attorney general last year, William P. Barr set out to challenge a signature criminal case that touched President Trump’s inner circle directly, and even the president’s own actions: the prosecution of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer.
The debate between Mr. Barr and the federal prosecutors who brought the case against Mr. Cohen was one of the first signs of a tense relationship that culminated last weekend in the abrupt ouster of Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan. It also foreshadowed Mr. Barr’s intervention in the prosecutions of other associates of Mr. Trump.
By the time Mr. Barr was sworn into office in February, Mr. Cohen, who had paid hush money to an adult film star who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, had already pleaded guilty and was set to begin a three-year prison sentence, all of which embarrassed and angered the president.
In addition to prosecuting Mr. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, the office has also been investigating his current one, Rudolph W. Giuliani, over his actions in Ukraine.
Other points of contention included how to proceed against a state-owned Turkish bank that was eventually indicted in an alleged scheme to avoid U.S. sanctions on Iran, and the Justice Department’s decision to assign the United States attorney in Brooklyn to oversee all investigations into matters related to Ukraine. Mr. Berman’s office successfully fended off that oversight.
Mr. Barr’s role in the Cohen case also presaged his involvement in two other high-profile prosecutions of Trump associates: Michael T. Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, and Roger J. Stone Jr., a political operative close to Mr. Trump who was convicted of lying to Congress and other crimes.
WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday passed an expansive policing overhaul bill aimed at combating racial discrimination and excessive use of force in law enforcement, as Democrats sought to respond to a nationwide outcry for racial justice and pushed through legislation that is doomed in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The bipartisan vote was 236-181 to approve the measure, the most sweeping federal intervention into law enforcement in years. It would eliminate legal protections that shield police officers from lawsuits, make it easier to prosecute them for wrongdoing, impose a new set of restrictions on the use of deadly force, and effectively ban the use of chokeholds.
Related story: DC statehood bill posed to pass House on Friday
Across the U.S., demonstrators have spent the past few weeks protesting against racial disparities in the country’s criminal justice system. There’s plenty of data to back them up: Black and Hispanic people are stopped more frequently, including traffic stops, and are more likely to be arrested. Once stopped, police are more likely to use force against, shoot and kill Black citizens. And then once in jail, Black defendants are more likely to be denied bail, which in turn makes conviction more likely. And when convicted, sentencing is also biased against Black defendants, with Black defendants more likely to be incarcerated.
The data seems to overwhelmingly point to a criminal justice system riven by racial bias. But, remarkably, it could be even more overwhelming than some studies make it seem. That’s because of a statistical quirk called “collider bias,” a kind of selection bias that means that the crime data that shows racial bias is, itself, biased by racist practices. If you thought crime data showed clear evidence of racism before, understanding how collider bias affects these analyses might make it even clearer.
There are two main ways that researchers approach this problem — by using a “population denominator” and an “encounter denominator.”
The former, for example, compares the fraction of Black people in the general population who are arrested or harmed to that same statistic for white people. That’s how you get studies that show 96 out of 100,000 Black men and boys will be killed by police over the course of their lifetimes, compared to 39 out of 100,000 white men and boys — a risk that is 2.5 times higher. Seems straightforward enough. But because Black and white people encounter the police at different rates to begin with, using population denominators might not lend itself to an apples-to-apples comparison; being more likely to encounter police means that you’re more likely to encounter police force, too.1
For this reason, many researchers choose to look at the set of people who have encountered the police. This is the “encounter denominator.” The setup is simple: You look at all the people who had recorded encounters with police — data which is not always easy to obtain — and calculate the proportion that involved the use of force. But this approach has a different issue, as a recent paper pointed out — if there’s bias in who gets stopped in the first place, then looking at discrepancies in the resulting interactions won’t give you the full picture. This is because of something called “collider bias.”2
“The vast majority — 99.9 percent of the data — we never get to see,” said Dean Knox, a professor of politics at Princeton and one of the authors of the study.