[guest post by Dana]
Good morning. Feel free to share anything here that you think will be of interest to readers. Please make sure to include links. Here are a few news items from the week to get you started.
First news item
President-elect Biden is planning to take a dramatic step aimed at increasing the amount of vaccine available to states.
His transition team says he’ll change a Trump administration policy that kept millions of doses in reserve, only to be shipped when it was time to administer people’s second doses.
Instead, the Biden administration plans to send most of the currently reserved doses out right away, allowing more people to get first doses. For people who’ve gotten initial shots, the Biden team is making a bet that new doses could be manufactured in time to keep booster shots on schedule.
Second news item
Reports of a highly contagious new coronavirus variant in the United States, published on Friday by multiple news outlets, are based on speculative statements made by Dr. Deborah Birx and are inaccurate, according to several government officials.
The erroneous report originated at a recent meeting where Dr. Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, presented graphs of the escalating cases in the country. She suggested to other members of the task force that a new, more transmissible variant originating in the United States might explain the surge, as another variant did in Britain.
Her hypothesis made it into a weekly report sent to state governors. “This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges. This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50% more transmissible,” the report read. “Aggressive mitigation must be used to match a more aggressive virus.”
Dismayed, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to have the speculative statements removed but were unsuccessful, according to three people familiar with the events.
Third news item
A Black woman in California said a group of nearly 40 pro-Trump demonstrators attacked her and called her the n-word following a rally in downtown Los Angeles.
Police said they are investigating the incident as a hate crime after speaking with the woman…
The woman, Berlinda, 25, said she was walking when she saw the large group on Wednesday, according to NBC Los Angeles, which noted that she asked that her last name not be used. Earlier in the day, a protest was held, with many demonstrators carrying “Stop the Steal” signs.
Berlinda said that several people in the group told her to take her face mask off. She told NBC Los Angeles that the crowd started following her after she flipped them off.
“A bunch of women and men started yelling, ‘take off your mask, don’t wear a mask,'” she said, telling the outlet that she asked one man in the group to leave her alone. “And that’s when the guy went and took his hand, clawed me in the face. And then just smacked my phone in my face.”
Berlinda said others shoved her and she was called a racial slur.
The assault was captured by photographer Raquel Natalicchio, 29. She told NBC News in an interview Thursday that she saw Berlinda walking by herself and heard the protesters heckling her and asking if she voted for President Donald Trump. It is unclear whether all those shown in Natalicchio’s photos were involved in the alleged assault.
Berlinda told them no and flipped them off and kept walking, Natalicchio said.
“They kept kind of heckling her for that, and then she told them to put on a mask,” Natalicchio said, noting that many people who attended the rally did not have a face mask on. “As soon as she told them to put a mask on, they swarmed her and circled her and started pushing her around amongst them, and trying to intimidate her.”
Natalicchio said one woman snatched Berlinda’s hair extensions out “and began assaulting her.” Berlinda tried to defend herself and several men started hitting her with metal flag poles, according to Natalicchio. The woman was also believed to be pepper-sprayed in the eyes.
One man came forward to help. He was captured in an image grabbing Berlinda from behind to pull her to safety.
Fourth news item
An unidentified man wearing a sweatshirt reading “Camp Auschwitz” was among the violent mob that entered the U.S. Capitol Wednesday after a series of rallies that involved antisemitic conspiracy theories.
The man was visible in video stills from inside the Capitol, including a report from ITV, a British television channel. He was wearing what appeared to be a hooded sweatshirt with “Camp Auschwitz” printed above an image of a skull and crossbones, with the phrase “work brings freedom” printed below.
The phrase is a translation of “arbeit macht frei,” a slogan that appeared above the entrance of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
And let’s not forget this “very special” individual proudly marching the Confederate flag through the Capitol building and the group chanting in unison “hang Mike Pence”. Very special people everywhere!
Fifth news item
He was a veteran who later lamented America’s involvement in Iraq. He lived in suburban Virginia but hailed from a small town in New Jersey, the youngest of three brothers. And he was serving in his dream job as a police officer when he met his death this week in the chaos and violence that unfolded in the nation’s capital.
U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, 42, died Thursday from injuries he suffered during the pro-Trump riot that breached the U.S. Capitol. He had served overseas in the New Jersey Air National Guard in support of the war in Afghanistan, eventually attaining a lifelong goal of becoming a police officer.
Police have not confirmed the circumstances of Sicknick’s death but said he “was injured while physically engaging with protesters” Wednesday. He returned to his division office and collapsed, then was taken to a local hospital where he died around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. According to two law enforcement officials who spoke to the Associated Press, Sicknick was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher.
Sixth news item
Fifty-seven percent of Americans want Republican President Donald Trump to be immediately removed from office after he encouraged a protest this week that escalated into a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Most of them were Democrats, however, with Republicans apparently much more supportive of Trump serving out the final days of his term, which ends on Jan. 20.
The national public opinion survey, conducted Thursday and Friday, also showed that seven out of 10 of those who voted for Trump in November opposed the action of the hardcore supporters who broke into the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.
Seventh news item
“This unhinged president could not be more dangerous,” Pelosi said of the current situation.
The Democrats are considering lightning-quick action. A draft of their Articles of Impeachment accuses Trump of abuse of power, saying he “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol,” according to a person familiar with the details who was granted anonymity to discuss them.
The articles are expected to be introduced on Monday, with a House vote as soon as Wednesday.
Eighth news item
“Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and having to open church gyms to serve as hospital units,” [Los Angeles] County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “Our health care workers are physically and mentally exhausted and sick.” Solis called the situation a “human disaster.”
Almost 7,900 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 in just Los Angeles County. And 21% of them are in intensive care units, officials said Tuesday. The number of hospital patients grew by more than 200 from Monday.
On Tuesday, another 224 deaths were announced, bringing the total in the county to more than 11,000.
Now, ambulance crews in LA County have been told not to take patients with little chance of survival to hospitals.
“This order that was issued by the county emergency medical services really is very specific to patients who suffered from a cardiac arrest and are unable to be revived in the field,” said Dr. Jeffrey Smith, chief operating officer of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
“Those patients have a very low rate of survival each if they are transported to the hospital. So at this time, it is deemed to likely be futile.”
In season or out, more of this, please: