“Since Trump himself voted by absentee ballot in Florida’s presidential primary two months ago, you might wonder why he wants to deny Michigan and Nevada voters the same opportunity, especially at a time when COVID-19 fears might make people reluctant to gather at polling places. And why those states specifically, when five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) conduct elections almost entirely by mail, while 28 others require no special justification for absentee voting? You also might wonder why Trump views voting by mail in those states as illegal, cheating, or a form of voter fraud. In any case, why does Trump think he has the authority to punish states for election procedures he does not like by withholding federal funding?”
“Are Democrats more likely to vote by mail than Republicans? Trump certainly seems to think so. In a March 30 interview on Fox News, he criticized COVID-19 legislation proposed by House Democrats that would have required states to allow “no excuse” absentee ballot applications and, if an election is held during a national emergency, to send every registered voter a mail-in ballot. “The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said. “They had things—levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Notwithstanding that dire prediction, the evidence concerning the partisan impact of voting by mail is mixed. Pantheon Analytics found that switching to mail-in ballots in Colorado gave a slight advantage to Republican candidates in 2014, while that change in Utah gave a slight advantage to Democrats in 2016. In both cases, voting by mail increased participation in the election, as you would expect. But contrary to the fears often expressed by Republican politicians, that turnout boost does not seem to consistently favor Democrats. In 2016, for instance, 15.5 percent of registered Republicans who voted in North Carolina used mail-in ballots, compared to 8.8 percent of registered Democrats.”
“What about Trump’s claim that absentee ballots enable voter fraud? The issue is a personal obsession for Trump, who implausibly blamed massive fraud for costing him his rightful popular-vote victory in 2016. Even if we charitably treat that concern as distinct from the unsubstantiated fear that mail-in ballots favor Democrats, there is little evidence that voter fraud is a substantial problem, regardless of how people cast their ballots.
While it’s true that voting by mail is especially vulnerable to fraud, such incidents are still highly unusual. “Election fraud in the United States is very rare, but the most common type of such fraud in the United States involves absentee ballots,” Rick Hasen, an election expert at the University of California, Irvine, law school, told the Times in April. “Sensible rules for handling of absentee ballots make sense, not only to minimize the risk of ballot tampering but to ensure that voters cast valid ballots.” The five states where voting by mail is the norm “report very little fraud,” the Times notes.”
“In a recent short video for PragerU, Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican running for Congress in Florida, suggested that one third of the immigrant kids coming over our southern border are being sex trafficked.
She said it in a kind of garbled way—conflating the fact that some kids aren’t related to their smugglers, with the fact that “sex trafficking exists”—but her conclusion was clear: Separating kids from the adults bringing them over the border is for their own protection, because otherwise they are being sold into prostitution.
This notion is preposterous”
“in 2018, the government started doing DNA tests on a limited group of people crossing the border who had aroused particular suspicion. “It wasn’t a random sample of people coming over the border,” she says.
Indeed, many of them were not related to the people they said were their relatives. But that was only a small subset of migrants, and the results were neither surprising nor damning. Unrelated groups often cross the border together, because many times the biological parent is already in the U.S. They left their child behind to be raised by an aunt or grandma until the child was old enough to come over, or the parent was well-established enough to provide them a decent home. The parent then pays for the child’s passage north. Maybe the child is accompanied by an aunt, or even a neighbor who is also migrating. This person might lie about their relationship to the child, but that doesn’t mean their true purpose is sex trafficking.”
“In any case, the government has currently come up with a new excuse for separating children and sending them back across the border: COVID-19. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the feds are deporting hundreds of migrant kids and teens without any chance to plead their case. The government is citing a 1944 law that lists disease-prevention as a reason to bar foreigners from entering the country, but many of these kids were already here when the pandemic began.”
“The administration of President Donald Trump promised to “restore deterrence” against Iran when it assassinated Iranian spymaster Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad International Airport on January 3. But months later, the Iraqi militias formerly armed, trained, and advised by Soleimani seem undeterred, and American troops in Iraq find themselves in an escalating cycle of conflict with no end in sight.
In March, militia forces fired a barrage of Katyusha rockets at Camp Taji, killing a U.S. Army soldier, a U.S. Air Force airman, and a British servicewoman. A local militia close to Iranian intelligence services called Kata’ib Hezbollah appeared to take credit for the attack in a social media diatribe invoking the “right to resist” America’s “malicious project of occupation.”
American forces responded with what the Pentagon calls “precision defensive strikes” against five Kata’ib Hezbollah weapons depots. Iraq accused the U.S. military of killing Iraqi soldiers and civilians instead of Kata’ib Hezbollah members during the raids, aggravating already strained U.S.-Iraqi tensions. The following weekend, Katyusha rockets slammed into Camp Taji again in broad daylight.”
“The number of babies American women are having continues to fall”
“The total number of births for the United States in 2019 was 3,745,540, down 1 percent from 3,791,712 in 2018. The report notes that this is the fifth year that the number of births has declined after an increase in 2014, and the lowest number of births since 1986.”
“The U.S. TFR is now similar to that of many other countries, including those that make up the European Union (1.543), Australia (1.74), New Zealand (1.71), Japan (1.42), South Korea (0.977), Brazil (1.73), and China (1.69). This mirrors the decadeslong global trend of women choosing to bear ever fewer children over the course of their lifetimes. Global total fertility stood at more than five children per woman in 1964 and is well on its way toward below replacement levels, having now dropped to 2.415 children per woman as of 2018.”
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation-adjusted median weekly earnings for American workers have increased by 17 percent since 1995, when the WTO was founded. Meanwhile, American manufacturing has never been more valuable than it is now, as the country’s industrial production last year was 48 percent higher than in 1995, according to the Federal Reserve.”
“Withdrawing from the WTO would leave America cut off from the lower tariff rates that member nations grant to one another, effectively raising barriers to American exports and harming American manufacturing and farming. The global trade that’s possible because of America’s membership in the WTO boosts the U.S. economy by $2.1 trillion every year”
“the WTO did not simply materialize in the mid-1990s nor can it be easily replaced. It was the result of a decadeslong experiment in expanding the economic co-dependence of the world’s largest economies. That experiment increased prosperity and reduce major wars across the planet.”
“The Trump administration’s dismantling of independent federal watchdogs continued late last Friday, as Trump removed State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was reportedly conducting at least two misconduct probes into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Politico also reported today that Linick had recently finished an investigation into a Pompeo aide and concluded she had likely failed to report allegations of workplace violence.
On Friday night Trump also replaced the acting inspector general at the Department of Transportation, who was investigating Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao—the wife of Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.)—for alleged favoritism in awarding contracts.
Friday’s moves follow a string of dismissals that congressional Democrats and government accountability groups say is a purge of the inspectors general system by the Trump administration. The president has then filled those watchdog positions with political allies.”
“In April, Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community. Atkinson’s referral of a whistleblower complaint to Congress launched the Ukraine investigation and eventual impeachment of Trump, and the firing was widely seen as retaliation.
Trump also replaced Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, who was supposed to oversee the $2 trillion coronavirus aid package passed by Congress.
Inspectors general are independent offices that investigate waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies. They regularly audit agencies’ compliance with mundane rules and record-keeping, as well as investigate whistleblower complaints about misconduct.
Their investigative powers give them access to records and officials that the public and reporters don’t have, and as such, they fill an important role as watchdogs within the federal government.”
“To do their job, inspectors general are supposed to be insulated from political pressure. They don’t report to agency heads, and although they’re appointed and can be fired by the president, the president must give Congress 30 days’ notice before any firing, along with reasons for the removal. (Trump subverted even this modest requirement in Atkinson’s case by placing him on immediate leave.)”
“But the Trump administration, despite the president’s pledge to “drain the swamp,” is hostile to any oversight and has no use for inspectors general except as toadies and rubber stamps. Trump said he fired Linick at the request of Pompeo, but so far the administration has not given any detailed explanation, except that the president “lost confidence” in him.
And congressional Republicans, once champions of oversight and accountability during President Barack Obama’s administration, have become mute or blasé on the subject.”
“If Congress wants to maintain any vestige of respectability—or even any indication that it’s still a functioning branch of government rather than the executive’s doormat—it needs to reassert its power to protect independent inspectors general, regardless of which political party holds the White House.”
“Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease that results if a sufficiently high proportion of a population is immune to the illness. Some people are still susceptible, but they are surrounded by immune individuals, who serve as a barrier preventing the microbes from reaching them. You can achieve this through either mass infection or mass vaccination.”
“Most the evidence so far suggests that people who recover from a COVID-19 coronavirus infection do, at least for a time, develop immunity to the microbe. If that’s true, what is the disease-induced herd immunity threshold for the COVID-19 coronavirus? Various epidemiologists offer different answers, depending upon their estimates for the disease’s R0 and other variables, but most have converged on a threshold at around 60 to 70 percent.
More recently, some researchers have suggested that this threshold may be too high. In a new preprint, three mathematicians from Sweden and the United Kingdom, using an R0 of 2.5, calculate a reduction in the herd immunity threshold from 60 percent to 43 percent by incorporating some assumptions with respect to populations’ social activity levels and age structures.
A couple of new reports speculatively lower the possible herd immunity threshold for the coronavirus to just 10 to 20 percent of the population. This conjecture depends chiefly on assumptions about just how susceptible and connected members of the herd are.”
“There are no solid estimates for the percentage of the U.S. population that has already been infected by the coronavirus, but Youyang Gu and his team at COVID19-Projections estimate that right now the number is between 2.2 to 4.7 percent. That would mean that somewhere between 7.3 and 15.5 million Americans have been infected. A similar result emerges from a very rough calculation that multiplies the number of confirmed cases at 1.4 million by a 10-fold factor of undiagnosed cases and infections. (The 10-fold factor is derived from data recently reported by Indiana University researchers.)
The upshot: The U.S. as a whole is not yet close to achieving even the speculatively low estimate of the herd immunity threshold.”
“If COVID-19 precautions are mandatory, they must at some point be legally enforced, with all the risks that entails, including violence and racial discrimination. The public health payoff might justify those risks in certain contexts—if a dense crowd happens to gather in Central Park, for instance, or if subway riders refuse to wear masks (although that was the situation in the video that the Times cites as evidence of overkill). But the risks cannot be eliminated if voluntary compliance is less than perfect, as it always will be.”